Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Marsh, The Convict, And The Mysterious Parentage Of Phil Collins

Just an ordinary, quiet, proper, British post-war childhood: that's what Phil Collins seems to have had. Until now.

Wikipedia tells us that "Collins was born and raised in Hounslow, London, the son of Winifred M. 'June' (née Strange), a theatrical agent, and Greville Philip Austin Collins, an insurance agent" - but don't be fooled. In truth, the Collinses found young Philip abandoned on the doorstep of a cathedral roughly three kilometers from their home, and raised him as one of their own. Rumour has it that he was the biological son of Sir Geoffrey Kindlingsworth of Cambridge and notorious brothel madame Liza Beth Quainsley, but this has never been substantiated. Collins never suspected any unusual circumstances behind his birth until one misty evening shortly past his fifth birthday:
It was a damp, dreary dusk out in the marsh, just after supper. I was skipping pebbles out by the dock, when I heard a terrible, rattling noise from the thickets. Rabbits didn't usually venture out that far from the meadow, and besides, I'd left my shotgun back in my father's barn. Before I could even inspect the reeds, a hand reached out and covered my mouth.

"Now, now, shush boy! You wouldn't tell a soul about old Jack, would ya?"

His grimy face was covered with scars and warts, although I could see that, perhaps in his youth, he might have been handsome once.

"Oh no, sir, I ... I wouldn't tell nobody."

"Good! And you wouldn't tell nobody about these chains, then?"

"Oh, sir, I - I ain't even seen those chains. I was just supposin' you were a fella who liked chains - a chain collector."

"Quiet, boy, quiet! Now you see that little house over there? You know that house?"

"Yes sir. It's where I live."

"Ah, splendid! Now what you're goin' to do is to go into that house, and fetch me a file, and some wittles. You have wittles, dotcha boy?"

"Oh, yes sir."

"Because if you don't feed old Jack, I'll tell ya all about your father."

"But I know all about my father, sir. My father's Greville Philip Austin Collins, of Hounslow."

"Is that what they tell ya?"

"Why yes. He's one of the most distinguished insurance agents in all of London. Ain't he?"

Jack flashed a hideous, gap-toothed grin.

"Ain't he?"

"Nevermind, boy, just fetch me that file and wittles, and you won't have to worry about crazy old Jack any longer."

I ran back to the house in a feverish daze, swiped the pastries from the cupboard, and swiftly brought them to Jack.

"Ah, beautiful, my boy, beautiful!" He ate with a desperation the likes of which I have never seen. "You don't know what you've done for old Jack. I'll make it worth your while, my boy. Have mercy on my soul, I will! It don't look so good for me now, but when I climb my way out of these chains, boy, you'll never know a better man in your life!"

"Please, sir, I'd rather we forgot all about this."

"Nonsense, my boy! Why, God help me if I know how I'm to do it, but I'll make you gentleman, I will. Not just a gentleman, but ... a drummer! And not just a drummer, but a drummer with ... gated reverb! But no time for that now, they're after me, son!"

And with that, he darted back across the marsh, and crawled away through the mist. From that moment on, I couldn't put the sentiment into words, but somehow, I knew then that whatever strange, troubling, circuitous path my life took, it would not be an ordinary one.

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