My kid brother, Mark Inglish Moody, was obsessed with heaven and hell and the figure "8," which had neither a beginning nor an end. He was the firstborn, and by the time he was three he still hadn't spoken, though he cried and cried until the family doctor recommended my parents just leave him alone and the crying would stop. Sure enough it did, though my father took it, like other things in life he didn't have control of, personally.
By the time I was a young child my father had left us and Mark began living in the state hospital. The medical establishment had just started putting together an understanding of Mark's symptoms: his fits of screaming, loss of coordination. He avoided eye contact as his nervous system spasm'd like a series of earthquakes, tearing away his safety, shocking him, causing him to disappear into a far away world.
Strangely enough, most of my memories of Mark are as an insatiable talker. One weekend a month my mother and I would visit and Mark would usually be upbeat. My mother liked to say he "talked a blue streak." Sometimes I had a hard time keeping track of his rapid chatter and random jumps back and forth between ideas. He fidgeted. He smiled. He wouldn't look at us. But same as me he loved cats. Would chase them any chance he had. Pick them up by the tail, fascinated by their fur, swiping paws, and swiftness. I sometimes spent hours staring at him, trying to decipher what exactly was so different about him.
At thirteen, Mark shot up over six feet. My kid brother who once hid in a tree in order to hoot like an owl and scare away realtors and their clients, had grown into the body of a gaunt asthmatic with shadowy eyes and large features. I began to wonder if he would have looked different under better circumstances. Had he not been subjected to the regime of the state hospital, perhaps he would have filled out more, maybe his eyes would have burned warmer. His large Greek nose, maybe it would have been bent crooked from a school yard fight and made him more than a caricature. His cartoons, maybe they would have helped him fit in and make friends, or become famous. He saw humor everywhere, even though he lived in a never ending world of repetition.
My mother said he didn't form attachments like we did. That he didn't miss us the same way. Though once in a blue moon, cooped among the shrieks and doped up open mouthed "O"s of his insular world, Mark would duck out of the state hospital and make a b-line for the nearest gas station where he would ask for money and catch a bus to Burbank. In Burbank he always ran to our stepfather's house where he would sit around eating doughnuts until it was time to go back.
I read somewhere recently that one out of every 91 children is affected by autism. Although it doesn't have any impact on life expectancy, many early autism cases like my brother's that ended up at the state hospital where, disconnected from the outside world, they lived relatively short and insular lives. Similarly Mark, caught in his infinite ways, passed away at seventeen from a bad drug interaction that eventually became part of an ongoing investigation: not quite another one of his outrageous stories, but eerily close to the keeper of all the rooms and mythologies he would fit into his figure eight worlds.
Cameron Scott graduated from Whitman College and received an MFA from the University of Arizona. His work has appeared in High Country News, The Drake, The Fly Fish Journal, and The Mountain Gazette. If you have leftovers, he will eat them.