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The Orchestrals (Illustrated)

The Orchestrals (Illustrated)

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Published by F. Simon Grant
Herbert Heart wants to be a stand up comedian. What happens when his controlling, abusive father wants him to attach his head to the crotch of a giant monster to fulfill the family's superheroic legacy? Hilarity and depression? Perhaps.
Herbert Heart wants to be a stand up comedian. What happens when his controlling, abusive father wants him to attach his head to the crotch of a giant monster to fulfill the family's superheroic legacy? Hilarity and depression? Perhaps.

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Published by: F. Simon Grant on Jul 09, 2013
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07/23/2013

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Grant/“Orchestrals”/
1
The Orchestrals :or: One Among Many FailuresWhere does a six hundred pound crocodile sleep?Anywhere he wants to. That will be my last thought, hethought as the metal chord tightened around his neck and themetaltoed boot pushed his face harder into the snow and harder into the concrete under the snow, the soft of his face and thesoft of the snow the only things yielding between hardness of  boot and ground.
But that wasn’t his last thought.
He thought, What is that kind of harness they use onwild animals with the pole and the loop? Could it tighten
enough to choke a man to death? Shouldn’t they have
safeguards?It was that bargaining stage, the last scrap of hope
 – 
butall pointless, a waste of depleting brain time.B
ut his brain wasn’t built for the glorious.
 
His mother always told him he’d be a star, literally, she said,
like one of those twinkling up there, in her weird joking way. Now he was only flesh expiring, an exterminated animal.He only always wanted to be a standup comedian.The first full sentence listed in his baby book: Wheredoes a six hundred pound crocodile sleep? His childhood hero:Howie Mandel, of course,
Walk Like a Man
, the rubber glove,the whole nine yards. He was working on decent catalogue of  jokes for the one day wh
en he’d get the balls to
go on stage andlet people judge him in silence.But then one day at the kitchen table after supper his parents, Hank and Helen Heart, after getting him to clean off the table in their imposition of discipline and decency, sat himdown and
told him, “
Herbert
,” his mother started, “
We have
 
Grant/“Orchestrals”/
2
something to tell you. We’ve shielded you from
something
about ourselves. It’s
 
for your own safety, but you’re sixteennow. We think you’re mature enough.”
 
“Cut to the chase, Helen,”
his father cut in.
 No needdelaying this. Look, Herbert
, we’re superheroes.
Your mother 
and I. That’s what we’ve done our whole lives. So … there it
is.
 Herbert
didn’t reply
. H
is parents’ faces went from
sternseriousfurrowedbrowfaces to happyhopefulhalfsmiles back to serious again in the mystery of his silence.
“What
,
are you serious?”
Herbert finally said.
“Yes. It’s a family business,” his mother said.
 
“Family legacy really,” his father 
corrected.
“We wantyou to … to be part of that legacy.”
 
Wait, what
?”
Herbert said, laughing a little.
“You’re
superheroes, like, did you have radioactive accidents or 
something?”
he laughed again
. It wasn’t very funny.
 
“No
.
His mother breathed in deep to prepare for thenext bit:
“We are bonded to creatures
called Orchestrals, across between an orca and a kestrel. Invisible to all but our family,
they must bond themselves to humans or they’ll float
up into the sky and die in outer space, drowning really. The physics are hard to explain.
 
“Are they aliens?”
 
“No
, just a species
,” his mother said, smiling.
 
A very
special species of … of creatures.
A cross between an orca anda kestrel, as I said.
 
“I’
ve never heard of anything like that. This isridiculous.
Herbert was still laughing. None of this laughingor smiling had much happiness behind it.
“Like I sa
id, only our family can see them, so really noone else in the world knows about them.
 
 
Grant/“Orchestrals”/
3
“I can’t get past the idea that you guys a
re playing somekind of joke.
 
“Have you ever known us to be anything other thanserious?”
 
his father said. “Look,
Herbert
, don’t take this thewrong way. We’ve been worried about how
sharp
… how
 
observant you are … especially considering your destiny to
fulfill the family legacy. I fully expected you to catch on thatwe were superheroes in sixteen years of living in this house.
What exactly did you think I did for a living?”
Hank Heartstood there staring at his son now, one eyebrow raised, one fiston him like half a superhero.
“You’re a … a scholar,”
Herbert said.
“Yes.”
 
“And a
n inventor 
.”
 
“Yes.”
 
“And an artist
and an engineer 
and a ‘Captain’ of some
sort
.”
 
Yes, I am all those things, but surely as a young boy
the fact that I’m a superhero would have stood out somewhat.
For example,
your uncle …”
 
“Uncle the Broken?”
 
“You never noticed he was … well … a supervillain?
He and his partner, Old God, would go out robbing banks, and
I’d stop them.
 
They’re my archenemies in fact.
 
It didn’t seem
strange I was always going out to fight your uncle and his partner?
 
“I just thought you hated them because they were gay.”
 
“They’re not gay … They’re … they’
re supervillains.
That’s beside the point. We need to get you started training assoon as we can. Don’t want to fall behind. Tenen
-
Bomb’s kidacross the street has already started his independent study.”
 
But
, sir, I can’t be a superhero for a living. Y
ou know
what I’ve always wanted to
be when I grew up
.” H
e waited for 

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