8FOLD: Speak! # 3
twopointthreefivefilmwerks at yahoo.com
Thu May 5 05:22:58 PDT 2005
[Posting early because we're moving the computer over to our new house today. Not sure when I'll be able to post it later this month. But, don't worry-- this does not indicate the resumption of a Teenfactor-like pace.]
DISCLAIMER: This series uses profanity, sexuality, and acts that some may consider morally offensive in order to present the characters truthfully and maturely.
EIGHTFOLD COMICS PRESENTS
Speak! # 3
by Tom Russell
"Things are things."
HARRY'S IN THE SHOWER WHEN you call Sandy.
"Hi. How are things?"
"Things are things, I guess. Things are fine."
"Well, my boyfriend up and ran away from me. I'm alone. He won't tell me where he is or why he left. But other than that, Greg? Other than that, things are fine. Things are things."
"Has... has anybody come looking for me?"
"Is that why you called?"
"No. I called to talk to you."
"Yeah. To talk to me about the police."
"Did they come?"
"No. Can you tell me why you're scared of the police, what you did?"
"No one's come looking for me?"
Strange. Better not ask again. It'll piss her off. "Okay. If anyone comes looking for me..."
"What? Call you? For that, I would need a number. Oh, don't tell them anything? Well, since I don't know anything..."
"Did I do something?"
"Cassandra." Say her full name. Say it again. Tenderly. Like a chant: "Cassandra."
"Because if I did something to make you leave, just tell me what I did. And I won't do it again."
"You didn't do anything. Don't worry about it."
"I just want to know what I did."
"Sandy, come on. Don't be like that. Just, look. I'm going to be gone for awhile, I got some shit to do, some thinking to do, so I got to do it, okay?"
"You need to be alone for this?"
"I need to be alone."
"Will you call me?"
"Every night. Promise."
"Okay, okay. Every night. I promise."
"You better call me. I'm going to stay up until you call."
"Okay. Good-night, baby."
"Oh, Sandy. Wait. Did you want me to...?"
"What? Oh. That."
"Yeah. You know."
It comes as something of a shock, doesn't it? "Are you sure?"
"I just don't feel like it tonight, Greg. Maybe tomorrow night. Call me."
"I'll make you come twice tomorrow. To make up for tonight."
"No, that's okay. Good-night."
THE NEXT MORNING HARRY TALKS.
"HERE'S HOW WE DO THIS.
"There are two ways to make it in this game, Mr. Dingham: you fly solo or you fly for hire. Flying solo means you stake out a bank, you rob that bank. You stake out a museum, you rob that museum, you find a fence to take the goods. Whether there's one of us or two of us or eight of us, that's flying solo.
"The other way to do this thing, is to do it for hire. You won't believe the number of rich sons-of-bitches out there who will hire us. There's always somebody looking for a supervillain, and if you're good, you've made a name for yourself, they'll come looking for you."
"Mr. Cash, I'm not a supervillain."
"It's just a term. It's just a label. It don't mean anything, Mr. Dingham."
"I mean, villain, to me, that means evil, that means twirling your moustache. I'm not evil."
"Well, neither am I! You see, Mr. Dingham, personally? I perfer the term supercriminal. I mean, I ain't pretending I'm on the straight-and-narrow, on account of I ain't, but the simple fact of the matter is, supercriminal hasn't exactly entered the parliment of everyday discourse."
"Thank you. Yeah. You see, the problem is that, we came after. First, there were these guys, these vigilantes and what-not, in tights and capes and jumping around, and they got this great label, superhero. Just conjures up an image, you know? Mom and pop and apple pie and sun-shining day-light stuff. Superhero. Say it, Mr. Dingham."
This feels stupid. "Superhero."
"That's right. That's a damn good word. The problem is, we came after, and being their opposite number, we got the opposite label. Opposite of a hero is..."
"So the opposite of a superhero is a supervillain, you see?"
"Well, I don't like calling myself that. You start to do that and it warps your brain, I think."
"Maybe it does a little. I dunno. And, like I said, I would perfer supercriminal. But the opposite of a supercriminal would be a superpolice, or a supercop or something, and unfortunately, they're called superheroes and so we're supervillains. Don't think about it too much, Mr. Dingham.
"Anyway, I was saying, you can do it solo or you can hire yourself out, like an independent contractor. Now, see, if you work for them exclusive-like, you know, like a henchman, you have to damn well do what you're told to do, on account of you're an employee, right? But as an independent contractor, you can just walk away from a job if you don't want to take it. There's freedom in it. And being hired out means you're getting more money usually for less work, on account of these guys that would hire you, they've got cash to burn and they're more than willing to pay a couple of clowns in long underwear to distract-- just distract!-- some hotshot hero while someone else does something else, and you get a lot of cash for it. Or they ask you to kidnap somebody. You do a kidnapping yourself, you got to get the ransom. Kidnapping is an incredibly stupid crime. You know why?"
"How are you going to get the ransom? Yeah. But, you kidnap someone for somebody, you turn them over, you get your cash, and then it's their problem, you know? And you skip town with the money as soon as you can, so that when they get caught, you're too far away to get roped in. That's how you make it in this game.
"The thing is, of course, the question is, how do you get yourself hired? I mean, there ain't exactly ads in the paper. Though there was this one guy I knew, and he did just that, put an ad in the paper for someone to do a job for him, I dunno what it was, rob some jewelry or something, and he put that right in the ad, on account of he wasn't too bright. He gets a call from a couple of guys calling themselves the Danger Duo, and of course it's a couple of federal agents there to arrest him, and he went to prison for a long time. Last I recall, he was puttings ads on the internet for someone to kill the federal agents, and the same damn two federal agents answered the ad, came to the prison to see him. They got a big kick out of it, but he didn't, Jameson was his name. And, poor guy, he hung himself that night, on account of he couldn't take the embarrassment."
"But, you were saying...? About, uh, how to get yourself hired?"
"You make a name for yourself, that's how. You do something that demands attention-- and the top dollar. Any guy with the money to pay you what you deserve, they'll find a way to get in contact with you, even if the law can't. Now, every once in a while you hear about a couple of supervillains that do a job for someone and they get stiffed, or worse, they get stiff. That's a little bit of wordplay there, Mr. Dingham. I wish I could say it was my own, but it's not. That little bit of phraseology came from Lincoln Mudd, the old gunslinger, one of the first of our number. He was born in eighteen-sixty, at the cusp of the Civil War between the states or whatever you call it, depending on which side of the fence you whizzed on. He was still alive during my long stretch that just recently ended, on account of his body aged very slowly, and was very resilent-like. He knew the game, and most of what I'm passing down to you now, I heard first from him, and from some of the others. I guess the
first lesson is always to listen."
"I'm listening." Some sarcasm must be creeping into your voice when you say that, because he takes umbrage.
"If I'm boring you, Mr. Dingham, I apologize. I'm just an old man, and while I know a bit I don't know everything, and if I'm boring you then, like I said, I apologize, I'm sorry. We're almost there..."
"Mr. Cash. Please, continue."
"But Lincoln Mudd knew the game, and he reasoned that anybody who was going to kill you or stiff you, he wouldn't be able to hire anybody again. And so it stands to reason, that anybody who has hired a supervillain in the past, he ain't going to kill you, on account of he probably would have killed them first. And so you only work with those so-called masterminds and millionaires that have worked with others."
"But if you only work with those who have proven themselves, what happens when they die? How does anybody else prove themself?"
"That's their problem, Mr. Dingham, not ours. Our only concern would be the job, and getting that job, and doing that job. So let's start on getting one of these. Let's go out and make a name for ourselves."
"And how do we do that?"
He smiles at you, and you can tell that he's been wanting to say this for thirty-some years. "We're going to unmask a hero."
"Really? No shit. That's ballsy. Do you think we can do it?"
"I don't see why not."
"I dunno, kid. I've been in prison some thirty-odd years. I don't keep up on who's who these days. We'd want someone big, someone with his own lunchbox and everything. But someone we can handle, you know, on account of we're you and I and while I think there are big things ahead of us, I wouldn't want to pit ourselves against some muscle guy, some powerhouse. And we don't want anyone too new, a newbie or any of these wimps or pretty-boys-- they still have the pretty-boys, don't they?"
"That seems to be all they have these days."
"And the women with the big titties. Let me tell you, I've fought a few women in my times, and the ones that were the hardest to fight, my toughest opponents, they were what people would consider these days somewhat homely. But back then, it didn't matter as much. The flighty ones, on the other hand, the pretty ones, the ones with the fan clubs and the hips and the big... well, they were very easy to defeat, no challenge at all. On the other hand, they do look nicer on the lunchbox and they were a lot more fun to battle." He chuckles. "When I was in prison, I knew this guy, the Century Man, who got ahold of the spear of destiny. No shit, the spear of fucking destiny."
"They stabbed Jesus with it, right?"
"That's right. And that fucker Hitler had it during double-ya double-ya two, so no one could touch him, on account of anyone who had the spear of destiny, they could not be defeated, on account of it is the most powerful weapon known to man or some such, on account of it stabbed Jesus in the side."
On account of rambling, you try to get him back on track: "So, the Century Man had it?"
"Yeah. Now, he was a hero, right, fighting supervillains and everything."
"But I thought you said you knew him in prison."
"No, I said I knew him while I was in prison. Do you want me to finish the story or not?"
"Well, this guy was undefeated, because of the spear of destiny which was in his possession. And this is the story of his sole defeat. There was this stripper, name of Jane the Train, on account of a particular sexual practice of which I'm too delicate to mention in any kind of incriminating detail. Well, there was some kind of demonic going-ons in the strip place, and so Century Man, who usually spends his time fighting demonic menaces of one variety or the other, goes to investigate. And Jane the Train, while Century Man is en route, she becomes the bride of some demon, some name she told me a thousand times that I can't pronounce, always used to piss her off. Anyway, and so she gets this demonic power and using said power, starts burning off people's limbs and everything, and the Century Man shows up and, as they say, battle is enjoined, good versus evil, yadda, yadda, yadda. And during the course of this battle-- you see, Jane, being a stripper, I forgot to tell you this, but she
was pretty well-endowed, I mean, top-heavy, you know? Which is why I was reminded of this story earlier, since we were talking about women supers who had similiar, uh, chestal porportions." He seems a little embarrassed, the old guy, but you can tell he's also enjoying himself.
You nod, and he continues: "Well, basically, Century Man and Jane the Queen of Hell, nee the Train, are battling, and Century Man just can't stop staring at her chest. I mean, these things are huge. And, she being a stripper, she's pretty scantily-clad as it is. So she's throwing fireballs and demonic energy, and here is this guy, with the spear of destiny, the most powerful weapon ever to fall into the hands of man, and he's adjusting his crotch on account of severe woodage. And she's floating around, jumping about, and they're bouncing, and he's losing his focus, he can't stop staring. Even supers are men, you know? And she summons this massive flame and it's too hot and, though her body is protected, demon like, her top burns right off and poor Century Man, he's finished, man. His eyes just zero in on their naked glory, and the next thing he knows, he's trapped in a pit of hell, having been knocked out in between while distracted on account of knockers. How he got out and all that
isn't nearly as important, suffice to say that he did, and Jane was divorced from this prince of fire and took on again her maiden name and profession. But the whacky thing is, Jane and the Century Man start dating, and as far as I know, they remained married until his dying day. What happened there is that he lost the spear of destiny, and when it is no longer in someone's possession, that person dies. Legend has it that's what happened to Hitler; Patton got the spear and Hitler committed suicide. But they were nice enough, and I knew them on account of Jane's brother was a supervillain, the All-Mighty Leaf. He was a bit of a nut and had no powers to speak of, but he was my cell mate for a couple years and a very friendly sort, and so when they visited him, he wanted them to meet me and so we sometimes, the four of us, had lunch together in the visitor's room. And, I tell you, I ain't no Century Man, but if I was, yeah, I probably would have gotten knocked out too, staring at those
For some reason, this is the funniest part of the story, and you start laughing. He smiles.
"You like that one, Greg?"
"Yeah. You know, Harry, you're all right."
"It's, it's not exactly the kind of story you hear in a super-history class."
"No, it's not. I know dozens of them, hundreds of them, you know? When you're in prison for a long time, especially with supervillains, they like to talk, and each of them has a story, if not twenty of them. And if you listen, then they're your stories, for you to tell and to pass down generations." He looks impish for a moment and adds: "But you want to be careful when you pass down that last one, on account of the age and disposition of the recipient. Doesn't go too well with the under-twelves, or more specifically, their mothers."
"Do you have any kids, Harry?"
"Yeah, I had one."
And so he tells you the story.
"I WAS DATING THIS WOMAN.
"We were dating for maybe five months when she starts acting real strange, crying at the drop of the hat, not so sure anymore if I loved her. And I did, I do, to this day I do, as this is the one who became my wife. Her name was Lydia, and she had dawn in her eyes and dusk in her body. That's what I said to her when we were, you know, courting. We got along real well, and this is, of course, before I became the Gas-Man, and let her down. But that's another story, you know?
"So, something's wrong. She gets real worried, and one day she finally tells me that she missed her period, that it's been two or three weeks late and her whole life, it's been real regular, on the dot, twenty-eight days apart every single time, never missed one, never been a day late and now, two or three weeks. And I should have noticed, on account of the blood didn't exactly inspire my ardor, so I should have noticed that we've been, you know, uh... pretty regularly and without that particular interruption. So, she says that she thinks she's pregnant, and she was worried now that I would leave her.
"Now, I heard about guys that did that, but that wasn't me, and to top it off, I loved her, and meant to, intended on spending the rest of my days with her. And so I told her, I said, Lydia, I love you. Nothing's going to change that. If we're going to have a baby, than we're going to have a baby, and I will get a job (I was unemployed at this point, times were bad) and take care of the both of you, and that's a promise, and you know me, this I'm saying to her, to Lydia, I say: you know me, and when I make a promise, I keep it.
"The weekend was pretty pleasant, she had love in her eyes again, and we came up with different names for the kid. This is in '64 or so. It wasn't until the next year that I became the Gas-Man. And on Sunday, I surprised the both of us and proposed. I never intended on it. I figured, I love her and she loves me and so we don't need a piece of paper or a man in a church that says that. But out of the blue, I proposed, and we intended on skipping down the week after and doing it real quick, real intimate like, and we were very happy. I was a little worried, though, you know? I mean, I'm twenty-four years old and I'm about to have a kid? Jesus, you know?
"Monday morning, when I wake up, she tells me that her period's started after all. She seemed a little sad, but we were both kind of relieved, you know-- false alarm. And I prayed to God after she left for work and said, God, thank you. We weren't ready for this yet. And I know that when we are ready, you'll bless us, so thank you.
"I was at a buddy's house that day when she called me, and she said something was wrong with her period. It was really thick, and there were clots in it, like tissue. It came pouring out when she went to the bathroom at work. And I told her I would call the doctor and set up an appointment and I did just that, I call my doctor and she gives me the number of a, a lady-doctor."
"Yeah. A doctor for ladies."
"Yeah. A lady-doctor." It's funny: here is a man that has no trouble throwing "fuck" around liberally and talking about big-titted stripper queens of hell, and he turns red when he says, a lady-doctor. But you don't laugh.
"I tried to make an appointment, explained it was an emergency, and the lady-doctor said it sounded like a, like a miscarriage but that she couldn't get in till Friday. Friday! It was Monday. I called Lydia and told her about it, and about what they had said, and she asked for the number of the lady-doctor. She called them and got an appointment in an hour. Never figured that out, but I don't think too much on it. I told her I'd go over with her, and so we were going to meet at home and then I'd drive her over.
"She... she got home first, and when I got in the door, she stood up from the couch and stood there in the middle of the room, shaking, the sun behind her in the window. I'll never forget that. She looked beautiful and sad at the same time, man. Never forget. And I walked to her and held her, and we both cried. There's no shame in that, in a man crying with his wife-to-be.
"No shame. And she said, she sat in the bathroom for maybe an hour, looking at it, looking at the clumps in the toilet, and she said, that was her little person. She couldn't flush down her little person, it felt like she was killing it. So she just left it in there, and then she called me. And whenever I hear the words little person, you know, I cry. I'm getting a little misty-eyed myself. Old bastard getting misty-eyed forty, fifty years later.
"We went to the doctor, to the lady-doctor, and I sat in the room and waited, and waited, and wondered what she must be going through. When she finally came out, I said, why don't we go to dinner? Whenever she was feeling blue, it helped to get her out of the house, to take her somewhere to eat. I didn't have much money, on account of I didn't have a job, so we just went to some little chink place.
"And the damndest thing happened. We're sitting there, eating the chink food, and there's this group of women in their sixties or so, sitting at a table behind us, talking about someone's daughter, how the daughter had a miscarriage and that there was something wrong with her. Oh, it started all over again. Lydia had been calm but then, whoosh, here comes the tears, you know? And I, before I started running around in my metal suit, I was never big on confronting people, strangers, you know? But there wasn't, this wasn't the time to be meager. Not meager. Uh, to be afraid, whatever the word is. I had to be a man, for Lydia, you know? And so I went over to the table, and explained that she was my wife, though she wasn't actually at that time, but I said it, she's my wife, and she had a miscarriage this morning and if they could refrain from talking about it, please? And they said okay, and I went back to the table. I kind of expected Lydia to thank me, to notice that I had done
something I don't usually do, and I did it for her, but she was still kind of morose, you know?
"But then this woman comes over, from the table, and sits down right next to Lydia, and I want to strangle this woman. She starts talking about, do you believe in Jesus? Because if you believe in him, he'll watch over you, and you will be blessed again. And Lydia did believe in it, she was a Catholic if not exactly a devout one, but this is the last thing somebody wants to hear in a situation like this. And the woman gives her a card, I never saw what was on it, but I think it was a church group of some sort, or a lady's aux or something, I don't know. Lydia and I never talked about that day, because anytime I needed to talk to her about it, she would get upset and so I would just shut up.
"We still got married the next week, though I never did get a job, times were tough and I eventually just gave up and became the Gas-Man. Not that you can blame her for that, or poverty, exactly. But times were desperate and so was I. And you know what, Gregory, you know the funny thing? The funny thing is, the next day, the day after all this happened, we got a call from the lady-doctor, and he said that Lydia was never pregnant at all.
"I don't care what he says. I mourned my son."
NEXT TIME: Heroes, Heroes, Everywhere, and Not
(C) Copyright 2005 Tom Russell.
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