Alexander Christian Centro (31 September, 1873 – 31 April, 1907) was an English novelist, poet, painter, and matchstick building designer, amongst other designations.
Born in the town of Centropolis on the remote North Sea island known as Bloated Heifer to direct descendants of the Roman Empire, Alexander Centro grew up in the most localized of communities – when his father died of gravity in 1877 (having plunged from the island’s only cliff while attempting flight), the town’s population was reduced by one third. The young Centro lived with his mother on Bloated Heifer, where they subsided on bird eggs, pine cones, and sea lettuce until 1892, when his mother secured work in a London brothel. This brought the 19 year-old Centro into his first contact with the scientific and literary world, where he quickly established a reputation as a fool, a dolt, and a clown. In some circles he was regarded as a birdbrain or a featherhead. Despite this, he was able to gain employment in early 1894 on a manure farm outside of Dover, and took leave of his mother.
Middle Years and the Manure Trilogy
Most of the work we now know from Centro originated during his time at Johann Droppingsmith’s manure farm, situated just east of the famous White Cliffs of Dover. There, Centro became a general farm hand, spending his days trudging manure from field to field and dispersing it with a wide rake known as a “manure spreader.” In his off-hours, Centro began writing poems in his distinctive rhyme scheme, in which rhyme took precedence over meter, meaning, and motive. This early work is considered formational to what would become Centro’s lifelong habit of listing rhyming words, though some critics debate whether any these works are even poems at all.
Centro began his first novel, On Omens and Manure, during the afternoon of December 14th, 1899 after a long day of manure hauling. He claims that the famous first line, “Unto a man’s unfettered soul is a load of manure but a sparkle in a rushing river,” came to him in a dream-like state. He completed the entire novel that evening. It was published by Droppingsmith, an amateur printer, and sold approximately three copies. His second novel, Droppings of the Earth, took substantially longer to write; despite his working on the novel for six years, however, it ended up being a word-for-word replication of the first, except for the title. It too sold approximately three copies.
Centro’s third and final novel was a complete departure from his previous work. Entitled The Cliffs of Despair, it is today regarded as a reverse-allegory, ostensibly about his father’s death but in actuality about his daily life on the manure farm. It sold seventeen copies, though four were bought by his mother.
Later Years and Death
In his later years on the Droppingsmith farm, Centro undertook watercolors, focusing mainly on still life paintings of apples. It is unknown whether he chose rotten specimens or was an unaccomplished painter.
During this period, Centro also built over thirteen model houses from matchsticks. Today, these models are revered by matchstick builders as most elaborately designed, but of questionable structural integrity. In 1993, one of these models was sold at auction for well over fifty dollars.
Perhaps Centro’s most compelling contribution to modern science came during his voyage on the HMS Daschund. After abandoning the art and literary world in 1906, he stowed away aboard the scientific vessel headed for South America. On board, he began a sketchbook, the famous Southward Ho, which amounted to a number of lists of rhyming words, sketches of rotten apples, and a 3,000 word introduction to his last written work, which he entitled, The Last Days of a Civilized Man. It seems that Centro had no intent on returning to England, though his exact plans remain unclear. What is known is that Centro, almost immediately upon landing just south of Tierra del Fuego, drank some bad water and contracted a ravenous stomach parasite. He expired within the hour. Accompanying scientists decided not to describe this particular malady, but stayed clear of that water hole, and later discovered a new subspecies of pelican.