Clem was abducted by a meth-crazed central michigan couple when he got out of his father’s
Stretch Hummer to go potty in Lake City.
They intended to ransom him but, in their drug and alcohol fueled mania, they instead embarked upon
a chaotic road trip that ended with a slowly sinking car.
In a swamp.
At the end of a two-track. In Alabama.
The couple wandered off into the swamp and were never heard from again, leaving little Clem to fend for himself.
Which he did. Rather well. For several weeks.
Young Clementine had been a cipher to his family. They thought and hoped he might be bright, but he did not talk and appeared to do nothing most of the time. This was because Clem was very easily overloaded by people’s attention. His particular brain was almost 50% busier than most everybody else’s. People were tremendously complicated and their emotions and expectations and promptings and standing too close and looming and expressions and noises and smells made him wish he was a snail, with a big strong shell he could pull back in.
So they didn’t know about his reading, or his youtube videos; or his relentless, unstoppable curiosity.
Among the many many books he secretly read were all of his big brother’s books about living in the woods, and about animals, and plants you could eat, and how to find things that were good and useful and how to avoid things that were not.
He read them all sequentially according to date of publication. Then he read them again in reverse order; then alphabetically by author.
He read one book that said you could learn things by talking with plants, and that if you pay attention to the things around in the world they will help you figure out what to do. Clem was particularly excited by this last part, on account of often being at a loss as regards what to do. He liked the idea of taking a break and letting the world figure things out for him.
So eleven-year-old not-talking Clem was, all things considered, in pretty good shape when the doctor found him.
The doctor, when he was not a very dangerous delusional psychopath from drugs and alcohol, was a painfully kind man.
He sewed up a big gash in little Clem’s calf – which he noted with curiosity had been stuffed with some kind of plant material that appeared to have been chewed. It was miraculously free of infection.
His nerves having been badly eroded by years of bad chemistry, and being generally loathed by the populace, the doctor did not like going into town. Town was only three miles away, so little Clem would walk there with the doctor’s grocery list and a small wagon.
And so it went for the next seven years; though clem, and the wagon, got bigger. Then the doctor got a new girlfriend.
The new girlfriend was very nice to Clem, but the first time they met a flock of crows circling far above her told him to beware. Also, her attention felt like a giant screwdriver and smelled like marmalade.
The new girlfriend wanted to go on trips, so the doctor used some of the gazillions of dollars he still had, even after the lawsuits and trials, to spruce up his yacht.
Clem became a deckhand.
The ocean had different ways of telling him things than on shore. Clem watched the waves, and the patterns the wind made and what kind of animals were around. He had his own good feeling about which way was right to go.
Sometimes Clem noticed that the captain of the boat was not exactly going the right way. Usually, when Clem noticed that sort of thing, things did no go particularly well.
One of these times they strayed into a large navy exercise and a big grey helicopter came over to tell them to get the hell out of their and, for good measure, to show them the way and stay with them until they were good and gone. On the helicopter was a Marine with a video camera to document the incident, which made the six ‘o clock news. Which is where Bernadette, Clem’s big sister – who loved him more than anything, spotted him; rooted to the deck of a big Yacht called ‘The Arc of Indifference’ and staring in absolute fascination right at that helicopter.
Clem’s family being wealthy in the extreme (there was a 10 million dollar reward for information leading to his return), and very well connected, it was a small matter for elements of a marine recon unit that was part of the exercise to be re-tasked and to pay a visit to the Arc of Indifference. Which they did.
Unfortunately the doctor had been in his cups, and pills, for quite some weeks when the assault boats pulled up and the helicopter returned. Thinking they were carnivorous aliens he threw himself into the sea which was, at that particular moment, teaming with it’s own carnivorous aliens.
So it was that Clementine Delacourt was returned to his family. They gave him back his favorite sweatshirt (except bigger) and he wore it when he had to be on TV with his Mom and his Sister while his dad said thank you to the Marines.
It was a lot of people and lights and things but Clem did not feel like a snail. A soft breeze, a cloud and three pigeons told him that things were okay, and that he could just take it easy and let everything else do the thinking.