Stanley’s Super-Heroic Feat

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.

Stanley’s Super-Heroic Feat

Lord knows, kids like Henry need a hero.  Courageous, self-sacrificing people. Setting examples for all of us.  Everybody loves a hero.” –Spider-Man 2

Stanley didn’t like change.  He didn’t like it when he was out of his favorite chocolate-crusted flaky cereal and had to settle with “boring ol’” puffed rice.  (The inclusion of freshly sliced strawberries wasn’t enough; Stanley’s breakfast needed chocolate.)    Stanley didn’t like it when his favorite rocket-ship pajamas were being washed.  Once upon a time he might have been okay with robot pajamas, but those could never be as cool as his rocket ship pajamas.  As he often pointed out to anyone who he thought might listen, the rocket ship ones has padded feet.  Stanley liked things how he liked them.  He was not a child who ran off with a backpack full of treasures to seek out far away perils.  He liked his own little world the way it was.

Thus it should come as no surprise that Stanley’s parents were not looking forward to telling him about the move.  Stanley’s father had been transferred to Arizona, which meant leaving behind their New York lives.  They had some family out in California, but they knew it would be a challenge to adjust their son to a life without the friends and loved ones he’d known all his life.  Even at eight years old, Stanley had become very accustomed to the way things were.

Knowing that they couldn’t put it off any longer, the parents fed Stanley his favorite dinner of macaroni and cheese.  They hoped that the familiar taste and a gentle approach would help smooth things over.  Stanley, forgetting the table manners that had been instilled in him, played with his favorite action figure.  He kept putting down his fork and turning his thoughts to the super-hero in his hand that he was flying and vrooming over the plate.

“Stanley”, his mother said.  “We need you to put down your toy and listen to us for a minute.”

Stanley was perplexed.  He wasn’t sure what could possibly be more important than zooming over mountains to save people.  Still, he stopped moving the toy about and held it with both his hands in front of him.

“Stanley”, his father began, “we’re going to be moving to a new house.”  Immediately Stanley’s father could see the worry consume his son’s face.  “It’s going to be okay, though.”

“We’re just going to take everything and put it somewhere else”, Stanley’s mom offered.  “All your toys, your father and I; we’ll all be together.  We’re just going to it all in a different house.

“Where?”  It was all Stanley could say. 

“Do you remember Uncle Frank?” Stanley’s father asked.  “We went out to see him two years ago?”  Stanley looked back with the same confused expression.  “He had that horse he let you ride?”

Stanley nodded quietly.  He remembered the horse, but he couldn’t understand what it had to do with him.  The horse could come over and visit if it wanted, but he and his toys were quite happy here.  Stanley hugged his toy closer to his chest in case some of the bad news was meant for his favorite hero.

“We’re going to move out there and be close to him”, Stanley’s mother said.  “We’ll be able to see him more often.  And your father has a new job out there.  He’s going to learn how to do more things.  You know, like how your teacher shows you different things at different times of the day?”

Stanley only nodded.

“It’s just like that”, his mother continued.  “Let’s say that your dad has been learning to read all this time.  Well now we’re all going to a different place so he can learn how to do math.  And we don’t want your father to be lonely, so we’re going to go with him.”

“I like it here.”  Stanley put his head down and looked at his hero.  He could only see the lines that made up the hair on top of its blonde head and its broad shoulders.  He thought about lifting the muscular arms up in a defiant flight position, but he knew he would have to let go of the toy to do that.  Stanley wasn’t about to risk that for anything so he kept staring down, unmoving.

“We all like it here”, Stanley’s father replied.  “Y’know what, though?  We think we might like it out there.  We might have all kinds of fun there.  It’s a lot warmer out in Arizona.  You know how it gets dark and cold and snows out here?  Well they have lots more sun in the dessert.  You could be outside and talk to iguanas.”

“What’s an iggana?”

“It’s a lizard.  You know what lizards are, don’t you?  They’re like little dinosaurs”, Stanley’s mother offered. 

She had hit the magic word.  “Dinosaurs?”  Stanley’s eyes lit up.  “I get to live with dinosaurs?”

“They’re really small, but kind of.  They aren’t exactly dinosaurs, but they have green skin and they’re scaly, and they crawl around on tree branches.  Oh, and they have long tails too that they can sweep back and forth.”  Stanley’s mother could see her excitement was transferring over to her son.  He was no longer looking at the floor.  Now Stanley was staring off into space pondering the possibilities.


Image“Yeah, isn’t it?  Think about it”, Stanley’s father continued.  “Your little guy there could have all sorts of adventures.  He’s already saved New YorK City… I dunno… How many times Stanley?”

“A gabillion!”  Stanley was very proud of all the help he had provided his hero with in their never-ending mission.

“Don’t you think he might get a little bored of saving the same old buildings?”  Stanley’s father had shared his love of super-heroes with his son and knew exactly what approach to take.  “What if we take all your heroes to a new world?  They could have trips to alien worlds and see weird creatures.  Do you think they would like that?”

“Yeah”, Stanley answered.  “But when are we coming back?”

“Not for a long time, honey.”

“Oh.”  The reply Stanley got from his mother wasn’t the one he had hoped for.  “We can’t come back?”

“We might”, she answered.  “Don’t you think we should try out the new place first?  See how that goes?  We can’t give up too quick.  That wouldn’t be right.”

“I guess not.” 

Stanley’s father saw the sadness returning to his son’s face.  An idea hit him.  “Hey Stanley, you like your heroes, right?”

“Yeah”, he replied quietly.

“Well you like how brave they are, don’t you?  How they stand up for their friends and take on danger to help others?”

“Uh huh.”

“That’s what we need you to do.  We need you to be brave.” 

Stanley didn’t respond.

“Here’s what I think”, Stanley’s father continued.  “I think we should get you a mask.  And every time we start getting caught up in things that make you scared, you put on the mask.  That way you can be brave like your hero, there.”

“Can I have a belt too?”  Stanley’s voice held a hint of cautious hope. 

“I think that makes sense”, Stanley’s mother said.  “That way you could have pouches to put your toys in.  We wouldn’t want you to stare down trouble without your friends by your side.  Don’t forget though, we’ll both be there the whole time.”

“Do I get boots?”  Stanley was getting excited.

“Would I let you go stomping off into wonderful new worlds without boots?”  His father feigned injury at the suggestion.  What super-hero, or even sidekick, would go out without their boots?”

Stanley grinned.

“What do you say, Stanley”, his father asked.  “Can you be brave for us?”

Stanley nodded and vigorously shook his head up and down.  His parents looked on, quietly interlocking fingers and breathing a shared sigh of relief.  Stanley, back to his normal self, played with his toy in one hand and ate his macaroni with the other.  He could almost feel his belt and boots making him stronger already.

Dexter and The Desk of Doom

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

Dexter and The Desk of Doom

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” -Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10

Dexter always considered himself a nice enough fellow.  He was pleasant to folks at work, tried to control his temper with customers, and generally didn’t destroy anything within his reach.  All in all, his was a quiet and well-mannered existence.  Little did he know, it would be a simple desk would task him and his patience.

Looking back on the event, Dexter could have said it was Nikki’s fault.  Nikki worked with Dexter and she had a certain effect on him.  Nikki was a very remarkable woman.  She was older, naturally kind, and quite lovely.  There were plenty of women around that had a nice smile, average height, and dressed in a professional, but not off-putting manner.  Though somehow, Nikki pulled it off better than others.  Dexter had befriended Nikki around work and the two made a habit of going for coffee whenever their schedules allowed it.  Most days Dexter just enjoyed her company.  However, there were days when she would laugh just so at one of his jokes when I wanted very much to impress her.  He didn’t want to rush things; theirs seemed to be a workplace friendship.

The desk changed all that.  Nikki had just moved into a new place.  Dexter had secretly hoped that she would ask him to help move so they could at least have some time together without a time clock ticking away.  She hadn’t, but now she had a task just for him.  She had gone shopping at a store and purchased a few things.  Nikki asked if he wouldn’t mind coming over and helping her with some assembling.  Dexter brightened at the opportunity to assist this lovely woman.  They made plans to build and have some dinner at Nikki’s place on Friday night.  “This’ll be fun”, Dexter offered. 

A few days later, work had been finished for the week and Dexter had driven Nikki home.  It had been a rather agreeable commute.  The cars themselves had been rude and plentiful, but that just gave the two more time to talk.  Nikki regaled Dexter with memories of summers in Louisiana as a small kid while Dexter discussed the bike trip across country that had gone horribly wrong.  Soon enough, they were in Nikki’s fifth floor apartment.  She excused herself to change out of her work clothes while Dexter was shown her office.

The box looked entirely harmless.  There was no indication from its rather bland white-cardboard exterior that any trouble would be had.  The only markings on the box were a glued-on piece of paper that showed a simple desk standing peacefully in a model room; flowers and a few perfectly organized notebooks lay about.  The box promised nothing but tranquility. 

Dexter took off his jacket, tossed it in the corner, and laid the box on the floor.  He took out his car key and sawed through the plastic band that held the box closed.  He lifted the lid, tossed it across the room, and was introduced to the pieces of wood that aspired to be a household decoration.  It all looked simple enough.  There were three large planks of wood, a few shorter pieces for the shelves, and a rather unimpressive bag of screws and a few quickly-fabricated, single-use tools.

Nikki reappeared, wearing jeans and a college sweatshirt.  She asked if he needed her help and Dexter confidently replied that he should be okay.  Nikki apparently expected this response for she told him she had started some water boiling and she was going to get dinner started.  He nodded, assured her he would ask for help if the situation demanded it, and then watched her leave the room.  With a sigh, he returned to the task at hand.

At the onset, the task proceeded as planned.  The right desk leg inserted neatly into the top right side main plank exactly as the instructions had stated.  Dexter took a handful of screws and tightened them.  Then he went to work putting the left desk leg in.  Again, everything proceeded fine.  As Dexter started to put the tracks for the sliding keyboard shelf in, the complications set in.

 Dexter stood the desk up and found that the two legs alone didn’t provide much in the way of stability.  However he was sore from sitting in the same position and thought the desk would hold shape long enough for him to screw in the metal tracks.  The cracking sounds that started to come from the right desk leg proved him wrong.  He heard the screws trying to pull free and quickly set the desk flat on the floor.  He looked at the damage, decided it wasn’t considerable, and then went back to work.

The sliding tray was a snug fit, to put it mildly.  When he looked back at the instructions, Dexter found he was supposed to assemble the tracks before he put the second leg on.  He rolled his eyes, annoyed at the inconvenience, and took the left leg off.  After a few minutes of putting the tracks on and adding the supports for future shelves, Dexter reattached the left leg.  Nikki returned and asked how it was going.  She saw the pile of wood taking on a three-dimensional shape and congratulated him on his progress.  Dexter admitted that there had been a surprise or two, but it was coming along.  Nikki went back to the kitchen to stir the pasta.

Adding the sliding tray to the desk filled Dexter with confidence and he felt sure that the desk would stand on its own much better this time.  He lifted the desk so that its legs stood on the floor.  Suddenly, the left leg started to excuse itself.  Dexter rushed to lay the desk back on the carpet, but the leg was too fast for him.  It gave the same cracking noise as before, but this time from another screw.  Once again flat on the floor, Dexter discovered what had gone wrong.  When he had put the leg back on, he had accidently used one of the shorter screws instead of the long ones and the leg had pulled it loose.  He replaced the screw with the right size one, reassessed the damage, and continued on. 

Had the desk been a one layer piece of furniture, things would have ended well enough.  The desk would not have been perfect, but it would have functioned.  However, much to Dexter’s chagrin, there was a second level.  There was to be a shelf that allowed for compartments along one side and over the top of a computer monitor.  Nikki came in and asked how much longer he needed since dinner was ready.  Dexter, beginning to feel frustrated, was conflicted.  He could probably use a break, and he certainly didn’t want to keep Nikki waiting, but he knew if he stopped he would never want to return.  He knew it was especially true with Nikki as his conversation partner.  “Would you mind if I took just a little more time with this?”

After Nikki had excused herself to go pay some bills, Dexter shifted up a gear.  He looked at the instructions with fierce intent.  He laid out all the pieces that he would need for the second phase of his mission.  He stayed kneeling over his work on the floor, determined not to assemble the two pieces until he was sure that the top shelves were all combined and stable.  Twenty minutes later, everything had gone according to plan.  To be safe, and since it was her furniture that he was building, Dexter called in Nikki for a little help.  She hurried in, happy to be of some assistance.  The two of them pushed the pieces together and got ready to affix the top shelves to the lower half.  It was then that Dexter realized that he couldn’t get to the screw holes with the top shelf fully assembled.  He would either have to undo the top part entirely, or take off the legs and the sliding shelf for a third time. 

Dexter felt his vein pop out of his forehead.  Whenever he had a customer that overly irked him, underwent long periods of exercise, or had to talk to his brother on the phone, the vein appeared over his right eye and shot up to his scalp.  The vein was in full bloom.  He decided that the main plank and its legs had suffered enough, so with a quick swear word he started to take apart the top section. 

“Do you want to take a break?”  Nikki’s voice was calm and understanding, but Dexter didn’t respond.  She reached over and put her hand on his shoulder.  Surprised at the soft touch, Dexter stopped and looked at her.  “Dexter, it’s fine.” she commented.  “It’ll be fine.”  Dexter sighed, felt his jaw unclench, and relaxed.  The hand on his shoulder made him want to work harder, but less frantically this time.  He nodded to Nikki, gave a small smile, and turned back to the desk.

In no time at all, the two had finished the desk.  Dexter had some scrap pieces of wood in his car and he offered to go down and use them to reinforce the lower pieces.  Nikki said that she appreciated the thought, but insisted that they eat dinner first.  The two laughed and talked, sometimes forgetting the pasta entirely.  They joked about the desk, did their best to forget about work, and found themselves still talking at nine o’clock.  Nikki went to the window and pulled the curtains back.  Dexter took in a marvelous view of the last moments of sunset.  The city and the lake below them were lit up in a wonderful orange-pink glow that offset the surrounding areas of darkness.

Dexter got up and went to the window to join Nikki, but found that she walked back to the kitchen.  Dexter thought that he had misread a social cue and wondered if he should apologize for crowding her.  But Nikki returned with two wine glasses in her hand.  She gave one to Dexter, took a sip from her glass, and let her head rest on his shoulder.  “Thanks for coming over tonight”, she said quietly.  “I like having you here.”

“Thanks for being patient with me.  Sorry my construction skills are little… um…”

“Creative?” she offered.

“Something like that”, he replied.Image

“We’ll call it practice”, Nikki said kindly.  “We still have one more to go.”

“Wait, what?”  Dexter was confused.

“Yeah, no one’s going to look under that desk.  It’s the dining room table that will be out here for people to see.”  Nikki pointed to an imposing box taking up half of the opposite wall.  “Remember, I said I had some tables I’d like help with; plural.  I could have built that little desk myself.”

Dexter felt like he was going to cry.  Then an idea struck him.  “What if I come over tomorrow?  Then we could spend the day, take our time with it; maybe talk a walk after?”

Nikki lifted her head off Dexter’s shoulder and smiled.  “I think that’s a pretty solid idea.”

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