I don't seem to recall much of anything that happened before I was 14. I think everything happened that year. A girlfriend, finally. John moved to town and the adventures began. We went to the beach with the church youth group and roamed Emerald Isle all night. Every school night we watched Johnny Carson until 1:00 a.m., and then I crept home in the darkness to find my bed. Didn't hurt me one bit, I guess.
That was the year Winfrey Settles lit up our chemistry class. Winfrey was a tall gangly kid who was a little short in mind, or presence of mind, at least. That day in science class we had our pegboards set up and Bunsen burners roaring. Fire is a dangerous thing to put in the hands of a 14 year old. My memory begins with the teacher shouting "Winfrey, Winfrey, stop, stop!," and Winfrey was blowing for all he was worth, the flames engulfing the pegboard, him almost hyperventilating. It was fun for everyone but Mrs. Sessions and Winfrey. He disappeared for the rest of the day. And, well, I have no idea what happened to him and don't plan on attending my 30th high school reunion this year to find out.
I remember Winfrey because, you see, Settles comes before West and he was always near me in our alphabetically arranged classes. That's me, between Zimmerman and Settles, consigned to be between two morons for all time. (Sorry if that's uncharitable, but it's true, and I told them that then so I'm not going behind their backs. Zimmerman is another whole story.) They're probably brain surgeons or in charge of the Transportation Safety Administration. I don't even want to know.
I don't know the eternal, enduring significance of that moment we all shared with Winfrey, but when I think of it, I smile. And that's worth something.