Death in the Super Family

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Death in the Super Family

A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” -Christopher Reeve

“What did you do?!”

The window that had formerly sat in the door to Forgotten Acquaintances shattered.  The shout that had emanated from the muscular and mask-clad character echoed off the walls threatening to knock the numerous pictures off the wall.  The people in the photographs were unspoken legends.  They had paved the way over the past century for the current generation.  Stories were still swapped about the narrow victory they had almost grasped or the hero that they had narrowly escaped from.  Forgotten Acquaintances had a reputation, a feeling that no other bar in town could match.  Only this bar could lay claim to hosting the cleverest and most infamous villains that Prosper City had to offer.

There were civilians in attendance, but one didn’t need to be a criminal mastermind to recognize the hulking figure of The Do-Gooder.   His white uniform; decorated by a blue utility belt and cape, with white domino mask to match; had been spread over countless broadcasts and newspapers over the years.  Fittingly enough, the fair-haired hero often spoke of fighting fair as well.  He was adored by young children throughout the city and even parents smiled when he flew by.  Any other person with the abilities of flight and super-strength would have frightened a populace within days.  But there was something about The Do-Gooder.  He wouldn’t punch super-villains below the belt, he operated in daylight, and he even took time to attend school assemblies.  It was his squeaky-clean reputation that made his outburst in the bar that much more unsettling.

All in attendance had the urge to whisper, however they could only cower and stay out of the way of his rampage.  The Do-Gooder had the ability to float, yet his legs took powerful steps and almost smashed through the floor.  A thin man with a moustache to match sat at the bar.  He felt the beer in his hands slosh out of the cup just enough to be noticeable.  He set down his beer, gulped down the nervousness that was building in him, and tried to maintain some composure.  Ned Neener could tell that the hero had come here for him.

“Well, Mr. Do-doo”, he tried to joke.  “What brings you to the bowels of the underworld?  Come to slum a little?”

“What did you do, Neener-Neener?”  The Do-Gooder’s voice had become eerily calm.  There was a focus behind his voice that was frightening.  It was clear the conversation was not going to end until the hero got the answers he wanted.  “What did you do to her?”

Neener sighed.  “I’ve told you before, I changed my alias.  For one thing, that childhood taunt wasn’t me.  Who wants to be robbed by a guy that goes by a playground jeer?  Just because I’m born with an appropriate name doesn’t mean I have to be saddled with it for the rest of my life, am I right?”

Neener’s attempt to diffuse the situation with humor only seemed to make The Do-Gooder angrier.  A table stood in the path between The Do-Gooder and Neener.  The occupants had abandoned it and ducked over the bar as soon as they had seen that they were in the route of possible destruction.  Without looking, and with no effort whatsoever, The Do-Gooder grabbed the table with one hand, ripped it free of the bolts that had previously held it to the ground, and threw it across the room.  There were no obstacles between The Do-Gooder and Neener now as the massive bulk of white menacingly loomed right over his nemesis.

“Fine”, The Do-Gooder said through clenched jaw.  “What did you do to her, Ne’er-Do-Well?”

“You’re going to have to be more specific”, the thief said as his voice started to audibly crack.  “There are a lot of ladies who hang out with me.  I’m a dangerous guy.  I attract lots of women’s attention; lots and lots.  Don’t I, fellas?”

Needer looked around the bar but could find no one to take his side.  All of his former drinking companions had either fled in terror or were choosing to remain silent.  Whatever Needer had done to get himself on the wrong side of The Do-Gooder, the man was on his own.  It was his fight to win or lose.  The bar was full of disreputable types.  They had been henchmen and thugs, so they all knew a “Super-Brawl” when they saw one.  There was a saying in the underground of Prosper City.  “You can deal with another guy’s B.S., but don’t ever get near another guy’s S-B.”

“You know who I’m talking about Needer”, The Do-Gooder snarled through gritted teeth.  “You killed the woman I love.”

“Killed?!”  Gone was the act of composure and posturing that Needer had employed up until that moment.  “Are you nuts?  I don’t kill!”

Grief At Cemetery by Petr Kratochvil

“You told me, the last time I put you away, that’d you make me pay.  You swore you’d take away everything you hold dear to me.”  The Do-Gooder’s rage came out in the form of a massive arm gripping Needer by the neck.  “I don’t know how you did it…”

“Wait”, Needer gasped.  “You’re making a mistake.  That isn’t my style and you know it.”

The Do-Gooder paused, a flash of doubt appeared across his masked face.  The grip around Needer’s neck softened.

“Look”, Ne’er-Do-Well said as he tried to pull the hero’s hands off of his neck.  “I steal from people.  That’s it.  I want a little more bankroll in my wallet.  But I don’t kill people!  Who do you think I am, Hangman?  C’mon, that guy belongs in whatever lunatic joint can hold him.  I’m greedy, nothing more.  Sure, we have our games back and forth.  I tease you, you catch me, but we don’t actually hurt anybody.”

“Last time… your threat”, The Do-Gooder stammered as he took his hands off of Needer.

“I was toying with you.  I meant I was going to steal your Do-Gooder Go-Cart and sell it for parts.  I already got a fence lined up; ask around.  I embarrass guys like you; I don’t off ‘em.  Really, it’s business between you and me.  I may not like being roughed up or tossed in the clink; but that doesn’t mean I’ve turned into a killer.  How would I sleep at night if I got all dark like that?  How’s a guy supposed to enjoy his own private island with blood on his hands?”

“So, you didn’t give Martha cancer?”  The whispered tone that had crept into The Do-Gooder’s throat showed how unsure he really was.

“Who’s Martha?”

“She was…” The Do-Gooder hesitated.  He knew what kind of place he was in and he knew that he had already revealed too much.  “She was someone close to me.”

“Oh man.  Look D-G, I’m sorry to hear that.  I really am”, Needer said.  “I wouldn’t give anyone cancer, though.  Life’s hard enough without that stuff.  Besides, I don’t really have access to anything medical or radioactive, y’know?  I think you might be giving me a little too much credit.  I’m a schemer, sure.  Only not on the level you’re talking about.  I’ll spend hours cooking up stuff in my secret laboratory.  You gotta remember though, I’m a gadget kinda guy.  The extend-o-arms that reach across a building?  The nanites with miniature hammers that chip away at a building overnight?  Those’re my kind of devices.  And they’re all non-lethal.”

“That’s it?  I didn’t bring this on her?  You’re serious?”

“Aw, man”, Needer looked at The Do-Gooder’s face and felt sorry for the large man.  All the powers he had, his never-ending feeling of justice; both had failed the hero in this fight.  “Look, why don’t you let me buy you a beer?  I mean, you can’t just go around tearing things up and scaring people like you are.  Do you realize you almost pulverized those two guys in the corner when you threw that table?”

“I wasn’t… I mean I didn’t…”

“I know, I know”, Needer said as he tried to console the man.  “Listen.  I’m going to tell you something.  This is between you and me and the room.  You ever mention this to anybody else and we’ll all flatly deny it.  You hear me?  This all sinking in, Do-Gooder?”

The man clad in white nodded solemnly.

“Okay.”  Needer took a deep breath.  He surveyed the room, made eye-contact with those left in attendance, and then turned back to The Do-Gooder.  “The truth is, we all respect you.  We want you to be better than this.”

“Hold on”, The Do-Gooder said.  “I’m confused.  You want me around?”

“I don’t want you around me”, Ne’er-Do-Well said quickly.  “But yeah, we like having you in Prosper City.”

“That doesn’t make any sense at all.”

“Sure it does”, Needer replied.  “If the dam breaks and our town might get flooded, you’re our best bet.  Whenever Hangman or somebody like him comes to cause trouble, we want you on the scene.  And if I’m being completely honest, my kid looks up to you.  Other heroes; like the ones with all the guns and facial piercings?  They scare the living daylights out of him.  He’s got you on a t-shirt.”

“Really?”

“Yeah”, Needer said with a touch of annoyance.  “I haven’t really told him about the whole Ne’er-Do-Well thing.  He thinks I’m an account representative for a textile company.”  Needer closed his eyes and shook his head from side to side.  “If that little guy knew how many heists I’ve pulled to get him what he wanted…”

“So, you want me to catch you?”

“No!”  Needer looked The Do-Gooder square in the face and commanded his full attention.  “I want to be left alone to do my thing.  All these fellas do.  However, there are times when life gets a little too dangerous around here.  There are days when the city needs a hero to believe in.  And for Prosper City, that fellow is you.  Right boys?”

The Do-Gooder turned his attention to the rest of the room.  They had been a captive audience to the entire conversation, but none of them had dared to leave their hiding spots.  They remained unsure as to how to proceed.  Yet, as The Do-Gooder turned to look at them one-by-one, they all nodded their affirmation of Needer’s statement.  “You’re A-O-K”, one man replied.

“All right, all right”, Needer said.  “There’s no need to butter the guy up.   He’s still gonna arrest you and wrap a light pole around your gut the next time he sees ya.”

Needer sized up his supposed enemy.  Normally there was an immense strength about the man’s stature, but today his shoulders were unmistakably drooping.  The fight that had raged so strongly when The Do-Gooder had burst in the door had now drained out of him.  He was, to put it mildly, in a sad state.

“What do you say I buy you a beer and you tell me all about her?”

“I’m surrounded by troublemakers.  I should be stopping crime or arresting most of you.”

“Yeah yeah”, Needer replied as he waved off the idea.  “You can catch us tomorrow.  Take a day to mourn the woman you love.  Everybody needs a day off, am I right?”

“I guess”, The Do-Gooder replied as a pitcher was slid towards him.

“Good.  Besides, you’re not in any condition to take on the newest invention I got cooked up for ya.  I tell ya D-G, this one’s really a pip.  I’m gonna make my fortune off of this one.”

“Needer…”

“Sorry”, he replied with a sheepish grin.  “It’s not the right time.  Pull up a seat and tell me all about her.”

That night, the police would comment on how quiet it was in the city.  It was almost as if the criminals had occupied themselves with something other than heists and devious plots.  Unbeknownst to the police the city’s less-desirables were sitting around a man and helping him deal with his sorrows.  Crime continued to be a problem in the days that ensued, but not onr that somber evening.

Early Dawn

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Early Dawn

There is nothing comparable to the endurance of a woman. In military life she would tire out an army of men, either in camp or on the march.” -Mark Twain

The alarm clock roused Dawn from her peaceful sleep.  She lifted her head from the warm flannel-clad pillow to confirm the time.  To her disbelief, it was time to get up.  She let her face collide with her pillow and let out a slow moan of frustration that was muted by the fabric.  Dawn’s cat, Chaos; laid by her waist, unmoving.  The cat was used to it all and was undisturbed by his bedmate’s protests.

After she had allowed herself an extra minute or two of pretend sleep, Dawn slowly counted to five.  She had learned the old trick in a drama class and it worked well.  She told herself that she was becoming more awake as she counted to four.  She told her arms and legs to start getting blood flowing through them as she reached three.  She adjusted her neck and fingers ever so slightly as she counted to two.  When she reached one, she sat up and opened her eyes.  It had mostly done the job, but she still felt sleepy.  She rolled out of bed, doing her best not to disturb Chaos, and let her legs hit the floor.  The rest of her body followed suit and she found herself standing on the carpet.  She stood at full height and reached her fingers to the ceiling.  Chaos lifted his eyes just enough to survey the terrain.  No food was in sight, so he stayed on the warm comforter.  Dawn looked at the cat enviously and then plodded into the bathroom.

Flipping on the light switch, Dawn was met by the blinding lights above her mirror.  She had never wanted three bulbs above her mirror; she had even unscrewed one of them, but the two remaining lights filled her sleepy eyes with splotches.  Dawn blinked away the intrusion and let her eyes adjust to the light.  She took a comb in her hands and began her brief routine.

Dawn was an attractive woman.  Most people seemed to think so at least, and several fellows had been forward enough to express that opinion in myriad ways.  Dawn thought she was all right and liked to keep it that way.  When she had brushed all of her long brown hair back, she pulled it into a loose ponytail behind her.  It was hardly a fashion statement, but it would do for the morning’s routine.  She took her glasses from their nightly perch by the sink and placed them on her small nose.  Her brown oval-shaped eyes still had tired lines and a hint of redness.  Dawn sighed in annoyance but reminded herself that it was four in the morning; what did she expect?  The dimple on her chin agreed, but felt it wasn’t its place to speak without being spoken to first.

Dawn returned to the bedroom and went towards her dresser.  Chaos hadn’t moved an inch.  His tail had been bothering him, so Dawn wasn’t surprised that he lacked any vim or vigor.  She was confident that he would remain the sentinel of the mattress until he heard the can opener leap into action, then he would do the same.  Dawn opened the second drawer, pulled out a pair of black yoga pants, and put those on in place of her plaid shorts.  Her U2 t-shirt was regrettably abandoned as she pulled on her snug green tank-top.  She threw the shorts at the laundry basket, missed, and threw the shirt in.  She felt that one out of two wasn’t so bad and headed towards the living room.  She decided on her way that the shorts added contrast to the brown carpet and therefore it was a fashion choice, not her laziness; that allowed them to remain where they had landed.

Dawn found her yoga mat just where it always was.  The corner of her living room was quiet.  There were no decorations here, simply her mat and the window.  A serene view of the lake was visible and Dawn was once again pleased that she had picked this apartment.

Before her workout, she looked down at her belly.  She had a few more pounds on her than she liked.  Most of it was due to her pool schedule.  She used to like to go in at six a.m. and avoid any of the crowds.  The water buoyed her, calmed her, and drowned out the outside racket that life often brought.  Recently though, her gym had added a morning class.  She wasn’t sure exactly what they were doing, but it seemed like some sort aquatic jazzercise.  Dawn had considered joining in so that she could be in the water, but she wanted calm and quiet while the group preferred bouncing and flailing to boy bands from the nineties.  Dawn hadn’t swum in months and she missed it.

Also, Dawn liked carbs.  Most of all, she enjoyed doughnuts.  People would bring them to work, they would sit there and look inviting while she shopped for bagels; it was as if they were calling to her.  If she didn’t eat a few maple bars, then clearly she was depriving them of their purpose.  She couldn’t sleep knowing that she hadn’t done her part to help out the hard-working doughnut population.  Also, the pizza shop that had opened in the lobby of her office was not helping matters.

Dawn was still in fine shape.  Her years of yoga had honed her arms and legs into slender shape, even if her lack of exercise had caused to her lose some of her tone.  She could feel the muscles in her stomach waiting to come forth; she just needed to help them along.  Dawn liked to be in shape.  She was always happier when her body was ready for anything.  She had to admit that winter had slowed her down.  It was hard to go jogging when the thermometer wouldn’t reach above the thirties and without her pool she had found herself rather couch bound.  She still did some yoga, she still went hiking, but her routine was lazy.  Winter had come and gone, spring was in full force, and Dawn felt summer rapidly approaching.  One extra bit of motivation to get back to her former physique was Louis.

Louis and Dawn worked together and they had just clicked.  They were from two different states, two different backgrounds; two different upbringings. Somehow the two had fallen into synch almost immediately.  She liked how casual he could be in an office of stodgy coworkers while he liked the insights that she offered that no one had ever recognized before.  They had spent lunch together, gone on a few hikes together, and even been to see a play together.  He was just tall enough for her to put her head on his shoulder and he always made an effort to open doors for her.  She liked his style and had been expressing herself in frisky ways recently.  Louis was often telling her how nice she looked or how beautiful she was, so Dawn wasn’t afraid of him being too reserved in his displays of affection.  Still, if she could regain the stomach she had at this time last year…  Dawn smiled to herself.  It would be fun to see Louis’ jaw drop; the poor guy.

Dawn pulled her exercise ball close to her and pretended she was going to do a push-up on it.  She placed her legs shoulder-length apart and lifted one knee up to her chest.  She repeated this several times and then switched legs.  Then she lay on her mat, let her arms go loose at her side, tucked her stomach in while she breathed through her chest and let her knees fold.  She tightened the muscles in her core as she lifted her waist up into the air, lowered it, and repeated the motion as much as she could.  She then laid on her side, her out-stretched body taking up the length of the mat.  She told herself that she was looking pretty good, and turned onto her side.  Each leg got its time to be lifted into the air in a long, graceful line.  As Dawn wrapped up, she started thinking she should probably cut back on the doughnuts.  If nothing else, they were getting expensive.  She decided that she would limit herself to two of them a day.  Or maybe three…, she considered.  There was no need to make rash decisions, after all.

Dawn felt a few beads of sweat drift down her face and welcomed the cooling trickles of moisture.  She reached for the water bottle that she hadn’t finished yesterday and took long, refreshing sips.  She needed to remember to drink more water too.  She added that to the running to-do list that was constantly asking for her attention.  If there was one thing Louis brought to her life, it was that he distracted Dawn from her list of endless tasks.  She appreciated that about him.

Dawn sat on the mat, her legs crossed and intertwined.  She put the water bottle aside and put her hands on her knees.  As she took deep breaths she tried to block the world from her mind.  She pushed away her work day in front of her.  She discarded the car repairs she needed to have done.  She fought to remove any thoughts of her pregnant sister who was far too young to be having a kid.  Finally, and with a bit of regret, she stopped thinking about Louis and how he looked when he wore that blue shirt and hadn’t shaved for a day.  It took her a minute or two, but soon it was just Dawn and the quiet.  Chaos would bother her soon enough.  Her pet would demand to be fed soon enough.  For now, she simply breathed in and out, focused on nothing, and enjoyed this tranquil moment as the sun started to shine through her window.

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