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“….there was no hope. He died on the scene.” That got my attention. I walked from the kitchen into the living room. The banner across the bottom of the TV screen read: “John Tucker star of Captain Incredible dies.” The red sports car was wrapped around a tree in the dead of night. The lonely road stretched on and on, as if threatening to engulf all happiness. The Captain of the local fire department just couldn’t say anymore. He turned away. The coverage cut to a live conference with up and coming actor Duncan Worshire. I was actually a little taken aback. I mean, I know the show must go on, but did it ever slow down – for anything? He sat there, behind a backdrop with the Captain Incredible logo, surrounded by people. He dared not make eye contact too long with the sea of reporters before him. He took a deep breath. “I know you don’t know me very well, but everyone knows Captain Incredible. He is a source of courage and inspiration.” Mr. Worshire looked up briefly from his prepared statement. “He symbolizes the potential we all have; the potential to make this world a better place. John was a perfect fit for the role because he was a great human being and…a great friend.” Mr. Worshire paused for a moment. “I am deeply honored to continue the legend of Captain Incredible and I will do everything in my power to…..make everyone proud. That’s all I can say at this extremely sad moment.” “I think the next movie will be different, but I’m hoping that it will be just as good as the last one.” A teen outside a mall seemed unaffected by the tragic news. The wreckage had been cleared just hours ago, and the flowers and well wishes were beginning to blanket the site. Many people walked away in tears. In a world that had too few heroes, who could blame them?
My cell rang. “How’s the state’s newest lottery winner?” I could hear the happiness brimming on the other end. “Just fine dad.” “That storm was pretty bad last night, huh?”
“Boy was it ever.” “How are things over at your place?” “A few branches here and there, nothing to worry about.” “Well, I just wanted to make sure you’re OK.” “I’m in one piece dad.” “Good.” Now to everyone else, that sounded like an ordinary conversation, but I knew better. After doing some errands, I stopped by dad’s house. I sighed. The old elm had fallen; luckily dad’s house was undamaged. “I don’t know dad, this is a pretty big job.” He grinned. “Let’s get to work.” That meant I would work and he would supervise. You would think chopping up a tree is a simple thing, but with dad, nothing was simple. God I love him, but sometimes he drove me crazy. “No, no, no! This branch first. You’ve got to look at the big picture. The BIG picture, got it?” “Yes father.” “And what’s this I hear about tonight?” He winked. Oh God. Now even dad knew. Why, why did I tell Maggie? “I’m having dinner with a friend.” “Oh. ‘Dinner with a friend’. In my day they called it a date. That isn’t a dirty word nowadays, is it?” “We’re just gonna hang out and enjoy some good food and some good music.” “Is this the first or second date?” “Dad!” “Mitchell, I changed your diapers. Don’t get all bashful on me now.” “Father. It is a first date. I plan to have her back by 10:00 PM. If I kiss her I will say ten ‘Hail Mary’s’ and ten ‘Our Father’s’.” “Just don’t blow it Mitch. That’s all I’m tellin’ you. It’s very hard to find and keep a good woman.” “I know a very good woman who’s free tonight.”
“No, no, no. We never saw eye to eye on the important things. Your mother and I just never had the same take on life. Just you remember that Mitch; find the right one.” And the Cold War went on.
The sun was setting and the dry leaves swirled down the street. I opened my car door and hopped in. I heard a beeping from across the street and saw Jess wave her hand out of her car. She beeped again. I got out and walked across the street. Jess had just bought a yellow 2014 Stinger. The name itself sounded like something from a sci-fi movie. But it was sleek, sporty – and looked a little dangerous. As I approached her, she smiled and gripped the leather steering wheel with pure lust. “You know, it’s traditional for the man to pick up the woman.” “Just get in. I can’t wait to drive this baby.” “OK. Are you sure it’s safe?” She winked. “Definitely not.” I thought she was just kidding, but she actually took me on quite a ride. I’m surprised that we didn’t get a ticket. Is that why the restaurant was so far away? “It’s yellow.” “We can make it.” “It’s a shame what happened to poor John Tucker.” She grinned. “I’ll get you home in one piece.” The restaurant was quiet and dimly lit. Outside, a small waterfall churned and gurgled over mossy rocks. The candle between us flickered, making the wine glasses sparkle. I looked at the menu and saw the prices; they were outrageous. I could afford them easily – for the first time in my life money wasn’t a concern. “I’ll have the Manhattan Clam Chowder and the Steak.” I looked up at the waiter. “And how would you like it cooked?” He smiled at me. “Well done please.” “I’ll have the Mandarin Chestnut Soup and the Sautéed Octopus.” Jess put down the menu and looked me straight in the eye.
“What?” “No reaction? No ‘ewwww?” “If that’s what you like.” “Maybe it’s still alive. I hope it doesn’t wriggle off the plate.” “Are you trying to get a reaction out of me?” She got up and walked over to me. She kissed me long and hard. Then she sat back down. “If I was trying to get a reaction out of you, I would’ve done something like that.” “Well, that was nice.” I saw this look of panic in her eyes. “No, no. I just didn’t – expect it. We’re just pals, right?” Ooops. Way to play it cool Mitch. “Pals can kiss, can’t they?” “Well, yeah, sure.” We spent the rest of the night talking about career, family, and life in general. What was funny was that, although she said a lot, I didn’t learn a lot of details about her. In this world of crazy cyberstalkers I guess this was the new normal: talk but don’t reveal. I, on the other hand, had lots to talk about: Eagle Crest, my crazy family, high school, and my former job. “So how’s your Uncle Barry?” Jess was eating that octopus with gusto. “He has good days and bad days. They vary his chemo regimen or change his diet and everything goes haywire.” I cut into the steak and wondered if it was going to start screaming in an alien dialect. “I thought he had gout.” “I did say that, didn’t I?” Uh-oh. “That’s under control, but the cancer isn’t. Sorry, cancer isn’t a topic I really talk about. How’s your octopus?” “I’m sorry Mitch. My meal is great. How’s your steak?” I laughed. “Pretty tame.” “Tame?” “Not exotic like your meal. I guess I’m not very adventurous.”
Why she parked so far away I’ll never know. But, the parking lot was well lit and the autumn breeze wasn’t that chilly. I put my jacket around her.
“What a gentleman. Thank you.” “You’re welcome.” “I thought all those years of chemo would’ve made you more susceptible to the cold.” “Nah….I’ve been through a lot worse.” “Really, like when?” Like the time on Salandar 5 when I got my head cut off three times. “Swimming lessons were a lot tougher than this.” “Don’t turn around punk!” I could hear a gun cocking behind me. Jess was facing me. “Mitch, just give him what he wants.” “Shut up @#@%^@%!” “Hey, hey. Let’s not get too excited, OK buddy?” I reached for the artifact. “Your money! And your watch! Little %$%#@@!” “Look: I’ll make you a deal. I’m gonna flip my lucky coin. Heads, I win. Tails, you win.” The artifact had run out of power two days ago; it would be at least another three till it was up to full power. “Your money! You try somethin’ and I’m gonna shoot this @#$@#$#$#$@ gun and $%#^#%@@ you up!” “I know. I’m counting on it.” I tossed the artifact in the air. I heard a gunshot and an odd “tang!” I turned around and knocked my would be mugger out. The artifact was on the ground, with the bullet stuck to it. After a second, the bullet simply fell off and rolled away. “Heads, I win.” “Oh my God! Are you OK?” Jess gave me a hug. “It’s a miracle.” I held my hand behind my back. The disc zipped right into my palm. “You’re a pretty special guy Mitchell Calvin Harrison.” She gave me a kiss on the cheek. “What’s that grin for?” “Let’s just say – I’m impressed.”
© 2014 Benjamin F. Kaye
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