(to a novel I may never get around to writing)

By Tyler Barton


In which I do away with, once and for all, those subjects that may well be expected of my literature, having lived where I had lived during the time in which I lived there. Those matters, which to an outsider, I may seem not only uniquely qualified but inherently responsible for commenting on are none other than 1) Innocence itself and 2) The Kid Cult, as it has come to be nominated. Herein I shall make my report of both and then at once begin my story, which in fact deals with subjects and issues removed from the aforementioned by a rather polar distance. 

(My novel is a dystopian romance, intergalactic, satirical, and quite cloyingly comical. So, stay tuned.)

Although I dread my transcription of the tragic and stupefying events of that night in Scranton, I assure you my analysis is nothing but spot-on. Given my proximity in both age and street address to the child in question, one Cory Salmon, as the country knows him, I must begin by saying that I understand better his course of action, his psychology, and his effort than any of the swarming reporters, parents, or school-boards who've analyzed him thus far.

Lastly, I feel this prefatory unburdening will be a comfort and a catalyst to the writing of my forthcoming novel.  I must free myself of the anxiety of having been brought up in that American smalltown now driven into the collective conscious of our citizenry. Here goes.

I'll say it: too much of the heroic credit has gone to the then sixteen-year-old Cormac Ryan Salmon. Yes, Cormac preferred, in interviews, to go by Cory, being that it possibly came easier off the tongue, but I assure you his proper name is Cormac.

And as for his lumbering mute of a father, the man my thesis centers around, he was in fact called, by anyone who knew him, Daddy.

Daddy Salmon is the one who put it in motion. Without the, what some have called, obsidian parenting tactics he used that night, his son would never been compelled, or convincing enough, to get those backers-out to back out. Daddy turned the kid who saved those kids. As I put it: he saved.

Daddy Salmon was a big man, and tech-savvy. He was no doubt aware of the Facebook Event, which to the proprietors seemed to be a private, invite-only affair, a final act of solidarity and trust. Assuredly, it was not, at least not for someone who knew a thing or two about getting around a proxy, or one simply adept at stealing passwords. Daddy knew what was going on that Wednesday night, in the Fall of 2009. And, as it would've been contrary to his undemonstrative nature to have confronted his troubled son, he simply blew up his Civic.

This was originally what brought me, at near midnight, to my window, to put a face to the sound of woofing fire and splintering glass. And that is when I saw Daddy jouncing back to the garage, a can of gas swinging from his glistening fist. And there was Cormac on the grass, hands over his head, burying what looked like sobs into the soft ground. The rain began to fall and the car simply burned there like an overcooked hamburger of sorts. It is said that, in the garage, Cormac's skateboard was broken, his bike chain snapped, and the wheels of his rollerblades melted together, torched. I cannot attest to these facts but I can assume that Cormac's bolt to the garage and succeeding, deflated return to the yard is proof that his father knew exactly how his son thought.

With no forseeable transportation, no means of getting to the site of the ritual besides on some unearthly footspeed, Cormac gave it his best and made a straight, albeit muddy B-line through the yard to the field behind the house that Daddy owned and likely, if not only spiritually, built.  I watched him run, watched him get smaller, watched past the flames of his burning car, which by the way, was a gift from Daddy to Cormac on the day he got his license anyway, and if you're going to throw yourself away, you might as well expect that people around you are going to take back what's there's.

I waited at my window for the firetrucks, ambulances, the pajamaed neighbors to stroll out and gape. I waited for the story, which I myself saw unfolding, as Cormac dissipated into the hillside: He shows up, nick-of-timeish, and yells, waves, stomps, screams, cries. Tells them not to do it. They stare at the panting godsend, shocked and nearly caused to drop the cup-plus-pill they hold.

He's seen the proverbial light, albeit the illumination of gaseous flame, and felt the proverbial heat of Truth on his face. He proclaims some kind of, "We need to live", some "We need not do this", some "It gets better" sentiment. This oration, though likely brief and steeped in cliche, strikes a major 5th chord with at least four of the six angst-ridden, mislead youth. Those four drop their cups, let their pills fall down where they are regally snuffed out into the dirt like dying cigarettes.

Of course, there are two who are unmoved by the speech. Tragically, and for god's sake hopefully not consequently, they instead pop each their pill into their mouth and drink down the contents of the cups.

And everyone knows the story henceforth.

So, I ask, what if Cormac's father was like John Ulnas's, out at a bar, or driving around aimlessly, or away from the house for any reason? What if he never knew enough about his son to know he needed to explode his car, in front of him, to get through to him, to shake loose some goodness that was buried there in his head, that stuff that came out as if released by the water of tears? So what if Daddy were not Daddy and we were five more short?

Or what if Cormac was headed there with his little speech all along, you ask? What if his intentions were static, only his mode of transportation took a turn?

You must take it from someone who was there, across the street for teenaged lifetime. I saw through the flames what changed in my friend's eyes, how in a moment they became much older--that blunt reminder of where he came from.

Okay now I've done it. It's over.

On with the novel. 


Tyler Barton lives in Mankato, Minnesota where he's pursuing an MFA in fiction. His stories can be found at and his jokes can be found @goftyler

© 2015