Chapter 3 Oswald Cobblepot
The first day for Oswald Cobblepot at Gotham High went disastrously wrong. Firstly, his mother, who had become very fussy over him in her later years, had insisted he wore the eye patch his optometrist had prescribed for him on the very last day he had outlined. Oswald had a myopic right eye. His name didn't help either. With a name like that he became an instant target for ridicule and abuse.
- Coppertop, Sozzled Coppertop ! ... Oscar Wobblepot ! ... or just simply the kid with the weird name !
Little could any of those who engaged in such cruel games have known, that many American citizens and their families owed their lives to that strange name, and would do again.
His flat feet didn't help either, nor did a bit of a long nose, nor his background, coming from the poorer end of town, and what was perceived, even by his teachers, as a backwater elementary school. As he overheard one say to another one day :
- ( Whispering ) He's from that Porterfield School downtown.
- Sure nothing good has ever come out of there !
" Nothing good has ever come out of there," Words that would stick in the young Oswald 's ears forever !
He had had no chance to impress anyone with his incredible sense of humor and comedy ( He did incredible humorous impressions of past Presidents of the United States, notably Abraham Lincoln ! ) or with his incredible intelligence. O yes, of course, that would have been a major handicap too in the eyes of his peers, and it definitely was ! From the very outset of his most formative years, he felt like an outsider. He was made to feel that way.
Yet his background was indeed remarkable. His father was English, suffered with a pronounced stutter, but a man of remarkable intelligence. Oswald was a real chip off the old block. He was an only child. And, as they say, an only child is a lonely child. He was also born quite late to parents, that had met relatively late on in their lives, and had found it hard to have children, until little Oswald came along.
Theirs was indeed a most remarkable story, and top secret too, ... very hush hush old boy and all that ! For they had met during World War Two, at a top secret military establishment called Bletchley Park. His Mother was an administrative assistant with the American Military, typing out top secret enemy communiques at lightning speeds, a talent that would stand her in good stead when looking for employment back in the States, and his Father a top Code Breaker, working on Nazi German intercepts, crucial in the planning of the Invasion of France and the D-Day landings. He was a hero, some of his most important work certainly saving half a Division of American Paratroopers, But he could never talk about what he did in the War, a real hindrance when the couple settled in Gotham, after it was over. He was legally bound by the British Official Secrets Act. No one wanted to employ a stuttering Englishman for anything other than part-time tutoring in mathematics.
The young Oswald never knew about his Father's heroic past, until his very last year, when, finally, he felt he could reveal to his son the nature of his work at Bletchley. It involved computers !
- Computers ? What are computers, Dad ? he asked.
Little did he know, but, from that moment on, his life would change forever, and the fate of his career path would be forever set.
- They are massive machines that can make mathematical computations at miraculous speeds. We were reading the enemy's communications faster than they were ! Our biggest achievement was cracking the German Lorenz Code. We called it Fish. I worked on a long detailed analysis of German defences sent in code by none other than Erwin Rommel himself. This revealed that the planned Drop Zones for the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions would have landed them right on top of Rommel's Reserve Panzer Corps ! We used a massive machine called 'Colossus' to decipher it. It was the world's very first programmable computer ! Computers have got to be the future Son, they have just got to. Only remember this, Oswald, I used computers in a way that caused many people to die. You should use them in a way that helps them to live !
It was strange, but his Father never stuttered when he got excited about mathematics and computers !
Yet, for Oswald to succeed in a career he chose from that moment on, he could not talk about these secret machines to anyone. But he did love to experiment with electronics, valves and transistors, putting together devices ,that soon were able to perform the mathematical abilities of a ten year old child !
His was a secret life, and a solitary one. There was someone, however, he longed to impress, and draw into his secret world of computers. The most beautiful girl he had ever seen, at least in his eyes, and intelligent like him too, but a girl who seemed beyond reach nonetheless, ... because of football. Yes, football, or rather footballers. She was absolutely captivated by them, and had joined the High school Cheerleaders Team. Belinda Gordon, the lovely Belinda Gordon..ahh!
Now, Oswald loved football, and, like so many other boys his age, had dreams of making the team, and then the big college side, then on to the Gotham Giants stage ! Given the fact that he might open himself up to even more ridicule, he had never quite had the courage to put himself forward at the team practice, until now. For, ' Faint Heart Never Won Fair Lady,' and for Oswald to win his fair lady's heart, he was going to have to play football, and make the team. O how love can make fools of us all !
He genuinely wanted to make the grade. He had a strong arm, and a mind for tactics on the field, that the team coach could never have conjured up in ten lifetimes ! If given a chance, there was real potential there for someone like Oswald to break the mould !
- ( Captain of the Team ) Well look who it is ! It can' t be. He can' t be serious, .. not Wobbletop ! The guy can hardly walk straight let alone run straight !
- Look give the guy a chance ( the voice was Harvey Dent 's ). Football is a game for everyone, after all. Give the guy a trial. What 's fifteen minutes ?
- ( Captain o the others ) We could always have a bit of fun with the guy, rough the geek up a little. That would teach him that he can't cut it in a hurry !
And so, with the lovely Belinda looking on, Oswald walked on to the field, dressed in the School's training colours, and ready to impress !
- What position do you want to play ? asked Tom Wayne.
- Quarterback, came the reply.
- You cannot be serious, man ! laughed one of the others, that'd make you a playmaker, and you'd have to be real tough to take real heat, you geek !
- Anyway, you can't run. It's like you waddle like a duck, dude !
- With a conk like that, geek, more like a penguin !
- Yeah, right, he does look more like a penguin.
- Just cool it guys, said Harvey. Just give the guy his shot, and see what he can do.
And so, the young Oswald describes the play to his would-be team mates. an incredible play, and yet ludicrously simple.
- Wow, said Tom, that is so outrageous it might just work ! Harvey, you act as receiver, and take up your position.
Well, as soon as the play begins, Oswald gets swamped, but still manages to let loose a pass, that flies true and fast through the air, too fast for Harvey to connect with !
- Hey, Oswald, that is some great arm you've got there ! shouted Harvey.
( Oswald could see Belinda sit up and take notice ! )
Oswald announces the second play, very like the first, only tweaked a little here and there ! This time the opposition pile in on him, to the advantage of Harvey, who now has room to make the play and gain position. Oswald can't use his throwing arm. They are grabbing it, but he uses the advantage of his flat feet, and kicks the ball, giving it a torpedo spin, again fast and true, and this time straight to Harvey !
- Touch down, O yes ! says Harvey.
- Wow, straight down Harvey's throat ! says Tom.
- Hey, you can 't do that, Geek, says one of the others, it's against the rules, man !
- ( Tom ) Ah, but what a play guys, come on !
- No, the guy's a freak, ... ( To Oswald ) Geek, Freak, Penguin Freak ! ... Geek, Freak, Penguin Freak !
Harvey appeals to the Coach:
- Hey, Coach, you saw that first play, and the second, can't we give him a chance on the team ?
- No way kid, look that last move was illegal. As for his so-called plays, he just got a bit lucky with a few odd ball ideas !
- Oddball, said one of the others, yeah, he's an oddball alright !
And they started to laugh. And, as the player Belinda was sweet on was laughing the most, she felt inclined to laugh too !
This almost destroyed Oswald.
From now on, his peers in school would almost all call him the Penguin !
Now, and Tom Wayne felt this about Oswald, a lesser young man might easily have become greatly embittered at thispoint, ... with the world of football, with girls and even with life in general, but not Oswald Cobblepot. It would take a whole lot more than that to make him bitter .. with the world of football, with girls and with life in general !
He did start to stutter though.
OK, he couldn't find his way onto the team. That course of action was now blocked. But he still wanted to play some role in the running of the team. So he tried to join the support team, the wet sponge brigade, the drinks guy, stretcher bearer, anything ! But no, at every turn, the way was blocked. As a mathematician and a student of mathematics, both normal and higher, he was without equal, even for his age. He was the best, probably, that Gotham High had ever seen, or would ever see. Even to support the team, and cheer it on, was barred to him, as the crowd of Gotham High supporters were just as keen to shout insults at him, as they were at the opposition !
The irony was never lost on Oswald, when more than half the team had to come to him, and ask for extra tuition, something that Oswald was prepared to do all too willingly. But, as a person, as a human being, Oswald Cobblepot simply did not figure on the radars of his peers. He simply did not exist, except as a figure of ridicule.
It had broken his heart to see what had happened to Belinda. A girl, who could have been almost his equal in Maths, slumped and flunked in almost all her subjects, especially Maths. She became so infatuated with members of the football team, that she got more and more behind in her work, even consciously so, because a girl, intellectually, would have to be just like the lowest common denominator amongst the entire team, if she was to be popular with its players !
The extra tuition sessions he found saddest of all would be with Belinda, for she had become so much less than what he dreamed she could be with him, and, despite the fact that he could spend a few hours a week in her company, she no longer had eyes for him. Those were always on the clock, to count down the minutes, when she could escape, and meet up with the latest team member she was dating !
But, even now, he still could soldier on. His dream for computers, his humanitarian ideals for how they could be used, fuelled who he was as a person, and gave him the reason to go on, ... until the night of the Prom !
Would Gotham as a City of people ever be the same, after what was to unfold that night ?
It was a night that Oswald long had dreaded. If any form of dress would make him look like his enforced alter ego, it was the formal attire that was traditional for male students on Prom Nigh. Only in Gotham High, did the boys have to wear top hat, bow tie and tails !
And yet, it was as if his Mother had lived for this moment.
- Of course, you have to go to the Prom Oswald. You can't miss your Prom Night. Oh, your Father would be so proud. I remember seeing him for the very first time in his bow tie and tails. Oh, he was so dashing at those Bletchley Dances. Look, I have spruced up your Father's old suit especially. I even found his old spats !
And so the doting Oswald just didn't have the heart to let his beloved Mother down. He was even prepared to wear what still looked like an old suit for her sake. He would attend the Prom !
But the Football Team, and a number of their girlfriends were waiting. In fact they couldn't wait ! They had been waiting for this moment more or less from that day they first coined his nickname, the Penguin ! They were going to have the greatest night of fun at someone else's expense in the history of Gotham High. For, despite all, that most of them owed to Oswald, their very graduations in most cases, they despised him, and hated the fact that he was progressing on to the most prestigious mathematical and technical college in the country !
They kept it a secret from Harvey and Tom, of course. But they grabbed him after the main festivities were over.
A noble, motley horde orchestrated events: Crawford Spratt, Cadbury Hawkes, Press Gutter ( Press short for Preston ), Caspar Furey and Cameron Scrape, all from Gotham's wealthiest elite !
- Look, guys, here he comes now. And look what he's wearing, man ! Would you look at those spats, dude ?
- Hey, Oscar, Pe pe pe Penguin my old chum, you don't mind if we tie you to this post, now, do you ?
- And you won't mind if we stick my Aunt Matilda 's Cigarette holder in your mouth either ! Ha Ha !
- And now, for the piece de resistance, my old ch ch ch chum. And he covers his top hat with pink paint, then fills it with the paint, and sets it on Oswald 's head.
- Hey guys, where did you get this paint, a junk shop ? It must have been dirt cheap. It's bright pink, and runs like water, man !
- Smile Penguin ! Ha Ha ! ( He takes a picture. ) This is going to every guy in the year, Oscar !
Needless to say Oswald was mortified. He was humiliated beyond words. Now he was embittered beyond words. Now he hated the football scene beyond words. Now he hated life beyond words !
Meanwhile, Tom Wayne and Harvey Dent had been elsewhere, talking more with their soon-to-be former tutors. Though one had been strangely in a hurry to leave that night.
- O Doctor Fries ! shouted Tom.
- Congratulations, congratulations to you both, on coming first and second in Chemistry, my boys. Apologies, I am in a rush to leave. I have another engagement planned, and I must not be late !
Strangely enough, that was the last time that Tom, or many, would ever see of Victor Fries, at least for a long time !
But, as they were leaving the Banquet Hall, they were horrified to see what had been done to Oswald. They shouted to the remaining crowd to leave, and they cut him loose, trying to clean him up as best they could.
- How could anyone do something like this to someone on their Prom Night ? they both asked themselves, as did Oswald, himself.
But Oswald gave no answer. All they could see in his eyes was hate, hate and a blind rage that neither would ever see epitomised more, ... ever, ... ever !