Thursday, January 24, 2013

Superhero Chapter Three Second Half

            I didn’t tell Mike that Alexandra friended me. I thought he might be jealous, and that’s stupid since it was just facebook. It’s not like we were real friends, much less anything else. It was kind of dumb to protect him from the fact that she friended me. It wasn’t like he had any special rights to Alex.
            At lunch, Kyana made an attitude face, and said, “Oh, look, Doogie’s sitting with us!”
            “What’s your problem,” I said.
            “Now you got different friends; now you a big deal.”
            “I’m not acting different, I just did something that impresses people. I moved from being a five point five to an eight. Hey, I’m eligible for you now. You want to be my girlfriend?”
            She said, “I don’t give a shit about soccer, which is just a sport for white people anyway. You might think you’re an eight, but to me you’re still a five point five.”
            I was going to explain that everybody in Africa, Asia, and South American played soccer passionately, but the way she was vigorously dissecting her sandwich, it seemed like a bad idea. I said, “Why are you so mad?”
            Kyana said, “This table okay. I mean, maybe you and Mike the biggest dorks in the school, but sometimes Mike funny, and you got a lot of theories that I like listening to, cause they’re so stupid.  I like that we all have Miss Farr’s class. Now you gone hang with white people and talk about mayonnaise.”
            I said, “It’s not like that. I wanted to play soccer. My dad wants me on the team. I’m not going to go sit anywhere else. I hate mayonnaise.”

            Maybe the conversation made me a little guilty, though I don’t know why, but I got back to thinking about how my powers could help people. That night I looked up opportunities for superheroes. Well, first I was playing Illumen’s Children, and I got to the part where the grolf destroys this army of Fels, and I was thinking how the grolf (a big hairy monster that lives on mountain tops) was a type of superhero, since he saves the kids. That made me think about whether I was supposed to be using this power for something, “With great power, comes great responsibility;” blah blah blah.
            Turns out that the main people looking for superheroes are willing to pay money to meet them but they also expect sex.
            “Super-girl seeks Super-man to fly her away.”
            “Robin looking for Batman to hit a home run.”
I wondered how that never happened to Batman- you’d think people would be shining bat logos all over, ready in their sexiest lingerie, trying to jump his bones. Maybe I’m the only one who would try this. I wonder whether Batman prefers plaid boxers, or uniform color. He’d probably go for my Union boxers.
            Sorry, tangent. So I couldn’t really go to the folks who were seeking super help. I would have to be more creative. I looked up “Philadelphia Crime Bosses”. Philadelphia used to be run by Garfo, who managed to murder thirty of his guys during his tenure as cappa don. After him came Bobo Santino, who was so much of a smart ass the FBI had to get him. Now, the family is run by Mike Licambi, who the FBI says, “Stabilized South Philadelphia and created an atmosphere of professionalism after the years of chaos and bloody division.” That’s pretty crazy right, when the FBI is endorsing a crime boss? But it proved my point. It’d be pretty dumb if I went down there, beat up Licambi, threw him off a roof, and destabilized South Philly and introduced a new era of terror and bloody civil war.
            Sokay. You’re thinking, what about drug dealers? They provide bad stuff to people just so they can get paid. They seem like real bad news. Why don’t you do something about them? Go around, pull people off corners, give the here’s how, and I’ve had a enough bit.
It’s all a lot more complicated than that. I saw this article about some drug dealer getting arrested for kidnapping in Philadelphia. The guy had tied up some wanna-be robber who broke into his house. The cops caught him with the house breaker stripped, boiling a pot of water he was about to pour on the guy. Here are some of the comments.
            “Anyone who says they (code pronoun for black people) ain’t the problem is retarded. Don’t teach their kids, got no job, committing crimes.”
“There is no job, no opportunity for these young people. They want to make money because that’s the way to be productive as an american. We need to provide opportunity if we wantt the drug dealer culture to die.”
“Why he ain’t hide his stash? Then he tell the popo he just making spaghetti for his house guest. Hide u stash, dumb ass trappers.”
“These ignorant people (you know the code) shouldn’t be policed. They should be allowed to kill one another off. No respect for the law.”
“Without jail time, with these courts that let felons go with a slap on the wrist, it’s no wonder things like this happen.”
“On my stoop, I got five young men, dealing drugs. I ask them to stop, and they say, ‘Shut the ---- up, Grandmom.’ How can they call me Grandmom, and say that? Is that what they say to their grandmom?”
            Okay, there’s a lot of ignorant people on the message boards but also, nobody knows what to do. Even the police argue with the chief about how to stop crime. As long as there is demand, there’s going to be a supply.
            So being strong and fast is nice but not really useful in the crime fighting sense, but the best application is sports. So I went out to play the next day. I left my seventh period class and strolled down the South lawn across the street to the clubhouse. There was this nervous energy in there, I knew how they all felt, the game is coming, will I get time? Or if they knew they were going to get time, they worried about playing well. I felt nervous energy, but I felt good too. I was pretty sure I could turn in a nice performance. It was a home game, and any number of Central kids would be there to watch it. This was my chance to shine.
            Coach talked some bullshit about playing hard and had the nerve not to start me. He still can’t admit that somehow he cut the best player. I shouldn’t be bitter that it’s taking him awhile to process an event that no scientist would believe. A ball of light turned a subpar soccer player into a superstar super hero- I should drop the hero, because as I said, heroism was too complicated. Super kid.
            Well, twenty minutes into the game, I get subbed in. I guess the other coach hadn’t read the stat box on Rally because I didn’t get man marked. One of our defenders saw me lined up with their last defender, and smashed the ball downfield. I should say that I played at half speed. If I broke records for human speed out there, I might have gotten kidnapped by the CIA. I was still fast enough to dust the defense, and it was me and the goalie, who was rushing out to block the angle. I lean back, and flick the ball over his raised hands, lightly, so it comes back down, bounces, and crosses the goal line. It looked pretty, I could tell by the screams. I ran to the corner flag and did the celebration I had worked out, which was throwing an imaginary blue fireball (I don’t think anyone got it. Mike told me the only thing more boring than playing sports was watching them).
            I scored another goal that game, and after that, I tried to contain myself and not score another. After showers, a group of kids surround me, Alexandra and Aiden among them. Aiden says, “Hey, we’re going to go the diner, my dad’s treat. You want to come?”
            Kyana wouldn’t have approved, but it wasn’t like she was offering to hang out with me that Friday night, and all I had at home was “Alturban Adventure”, which is the most depressing level, because one of the kids betrays their tree person friend. So I said, “How am I going to get home?”
            Aiden said, “Catch the twenty three.”
            There were a couple of Alexandra’s friends there, Jean in a tank top that showed some nice skin, and Morgan, both eights. I said, “OK.” Okay, Miss Farr, I’ll stop referring to girls with numbers, but I bet you rate guys. “Lives at home, can’t be higher than a four.” “Rates girls with numbers, can’t be higher than a two.”
            We sat in a booth at the trolley car diner over on Germantown. Jean was next to me and she wasn’t shy about schooching all the way in so her smooth leg was against my hairier, and in my opinion, despite its super kid powers, uglier one. She said I had a good game, and how did I get so good?
            I told her the truth that it was more luck than work, and made a joke about how I wish I’d see the same improvement with schoolwork, which had her laughing really hard, like it was a good joke so then I thought I was the funniest guy in the world and made fun of our Indian Biology teacher’s accent, which we all know is the best possible form of humor. No, but it worked for her, so I felt great. At some point Alexandra interrupted us, “Doogie, did you go to a camp or something?”
            I said, “I was always this good, but my confidence just went up.”
            I walked outside at around six thirty, figuring I had to catch the buses back before the transpass wouldn’t work at seven thirty. Aiden walked me out and he said, “Hey, thanks for hanging out. You kicked butt today, man. By the way, I think Jean likes you.”
            This was the sort of thing that you think I’d have figured from the physical contact she created, and how hard she laughed at my stupid jokes, but hearing it said explicitly was good. I wasn’t used to being liked. Aiden gave me Jean’s number. On the bus home I thought all about everything that had happened and the other people on the bus were looking at me like this white kid must be high the way he’s smiling.
            I got home and my mom was watching fat people try and lose weight. I could tell by her expression that dad was at the bar. I went up to my room, and saw the game system there. That made me think about Mike. I could have called Mike and had him talk me through level three, but I wasn’t into it. I wanted to call Jean, and get back that feeling when she was laughing at me, her leg touching mine from thigh to ankle, but I was too nervous. What if I called, and she didn’t want to talk?
            Being nervous made me think about Hamlet, and how he felt about killing Claudius. His whole thing is, “I’m not going to kill him when he’s praying,” but maybe he can’t get his head around killing somebody. Miss Farr would like that. Basically he’s working through social expectations, instead of just going for it. I think he wants to kill him then, but he’s nervous about murdering, so he over thinks. He needs to be himself and kill.
            Which probably meant I should call the girl. Easy for you to say.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Superhero Laundry List, Chapter Three Part One

If you haven't go back a couple entries to Chapter One.

            Maybe you’re thinking, “Doogie, what’s wrong with you? Don’t you remember Spider-man, and how he tried to make money with his super-powers, and all that happened was his uncle got killed?” I’ll tell you right away that story was bull$h*t. How many random homicides happen a day? How many people have their primary care-giving male adult, who is law-abiding, killed in a random car-jacking? Not that many. All that was just Stan Lee (the comic writer) forcing Spider-man into a life of crime-fighting. I’m not worried about my dad. And if I bump into a criminal, I’ll smack him upside the head, but it’s a little more complicated than that.
            Just cause I could beat people up didn’t mean I could stop a crime. You ever notice how every time Clark Kent goes to the bank it’s getting robbed? I don’t see many crimes. I’ve never seen a person abducted or killed. People get beat up sometimes, but usually they said something they shouldn’t have, or walked down the wrong block. I mean, when I tested my powers, when I went for these long jogs that were more like sprints, and punched holes in things (or dents, it’s not like I could punch a hole in everything) I would have loved to run across some thug trying to steal a woman’s purse. I’d beat him up, and she’d thank me. “How old are you, teenage hero? Let me thank you.” Kisses and eroticness ensues.
            Miss Farr said that Hamlet is a chauvinist, that once Ophelia breaks up with him, he has no use for her, he becomes dishonest, and mean, and calls her a whore, and that was the way every man was back then, and still was. The men around Ophelia all sought to control her sexuality. She said anytime we made a woman a sex object, like in my little fantasy, we were chauvinists. I didn’t say it, but I was like, “You’re saying I’m not supposed to have sexual fantasies about women? Why does the internet exist then?” I didn’t like what she said, but I still thought about it. My fantasy did kind of suck for the woman. I mean, she was supposed to recover from the drama of being mugged by hooking up with a fourteen year old kid.
            So anyway, superpowers. Yeah, there weren’t a lot of crimes. Maybe people started committing obvious crimes in broad daylight just so they could meet Spiderman or Superman. “Yo, the coolest thing happened. I pretended to take this old lady’s purse, I’d have given it back, and Spiderman showed up and kicked my ass. Don’t worry, I landed a good shot.” It’d be worth it, I think, the ass-kicking for the story.
            Coach felt weird putting me in. I had only practiced for half a day, and the other kids had been working out for a month. We were playing against Northeast away and we’d been undefeated in the public league up to that game, and so was Northeast. Their team was bigger, and faster than us and we’d get a couple of good passes before one of their players would bump us off the ball, hit it down the field, and we’d scramble back. One of these times their forward, a lean Haitian kid got the ball and scored. Then he did it again. Everyone on our bench was relieved when the whistle blew for half time.  
I knew Coach was thinking about putting me in up top in the second half. We hadn’t generated any chances of getting those two goals back, and pulling out a win, He was wrestling inside between his ideas of fair, because I’d only practiced for half a day while the other kids had been working for a month, and I’d be taking their playing time, and his desire to win. He looked at me, and I knew winning won in his small and coachy heart. “Doogie, go in for John.”
I went in like I did in every little league game I ever played in. Butterflies in the stomach, worried how’d I do. I ran around the field, worried my first touch on the ball would be crappy. It was. Aiden hit me a pass from the wing, and too eager, uncalm, I hit it too far from me and their goalie picked it up. If I didn’t do something soon Coach would pull me out of the game.
The next chance I got, I made a diagonal run, and the ball was slid through to me. My first touch was better, and in two strides I unleashed a shot that powered past the goalie.
  The stopper pretty much rode my butt for the duration of the game. He was a senior and twice my size (but he had no super-powers). The second goal came off a through ball that a kid on our team just kicked up field, then I turned on the jets, and if I didn’t have superpowers, the goalie would have had it, but I got there first, took it around him as he dived at me, and passed it into the net. Tie game.
            At that point they double marked me. Everywhere I went, these two big seniors were banging into me, throwing elbows, and grabbing my jersey. We set up for a corner, and they were basically both hugging me. I shook, bringing up my super-powered elbows and swinging them into one of their groins, and throwing my shoulder into the other’s gut (they were a lot taller than me). That gave me the space to run, and I took off in time to see the ball curling in. I leapt way up, heading the ball into the net.
I could hear the bench screaming. The parents rooting for Northeast shook their heads in disgust. After the game, Coach said, “Doogie, you played well.” Well? Coach that was better than you ever dreamed of playing. I was spectacular.
            The other kids congratulated me on the hat trick, but they were half-hearted. They had hoped they’d become the kid who scored a hat trick against the best team in the league, then I showed up out of nowhere and took that job.
            The next day in advisory I tried talking about the win, but nobody in my home room cared about soccer, so it didn’t matter. I was starting to regret the sport I picked, thinking football would be a better way to become cool, when I got to fourth period. Mike looked over at me and said, “Heard you turned into a soccer god.”
            I said, “What do you know? Illumen remembers the weak.” It was a quote from the video game when Shyheem prayed to get his flames that helped him defend the little guys.
            Mike said, “He forgot about me.”
            I said, “You’re more like Burt.” That’s the sidekick character.
            Miss Farr had us opening up Hamlet. It was a little later, when we got put in pairs, and were discussing the text that my achievement on the soccer field started to pay off. My pair was pretty much done, and Alexandra leaned over and said, “Hey, Doogie, Aiden told me you had a great game.”
            “Yeah,” I said. I tried to think of anything to add to that, but I couldn’t, so I said it again, “Yeah.” Fortunately she was ready to talk for the two of us.
            “That’s great. Aiden said the team really needed a good striker and you just came out of nowhere.” I was mad at myself that Alexandra talking to me and even complimenting me, made me this happy, but it did. I had to duck a little to hide the grin.
            I said, “Yeah. I’ve been training.”
            She said, “Keep doing whatever you’re doing.” There it was. A hot girl, approving of me, complimenting my performance.
            At lunch that day, Mike was like, “You were talking a lot with Alexandra.”
            “Yeah, she heard about my game. She was impressed.”
            Mike said, “Did you tell her about my impressive record of completing “Illumen’s Children” without dying once? I bet that would impress her.”
            Kyana, who had her Bio textbook open and was preparing for the test next period looked up and said, “I don’t know why you like her, Mike.” I knew why, I just didn’t know what the point was. I didn’t even dream about myself having a chance, and I had superpowers.
            Mike said, “How’d you get so much better so fast? Maybe if you show me how I can become a star too.”
            I mumbled some stuff about soccer being a life-long pursuit, and how the skills are hard to pick up. I didn’t want to tell him, because he wouldn’t believe me, and also because he’d tell me I needed to go stop crime. I couldn’t believe he would consider playing sports to get her attention. This is a kid who told the gym teacher that he is allergic to spherical objects. It bothered me because I’d had a similar crush in eighth grade. I lost a lot of sleep over Sara Mills.
            Sara was the prettiest girl in Mayfair Elementary. She didn’t talk to any of us boys except Max, and the rumor was that she and Max cut school some days and had sex at his house. Sara wore a lot of make-up, but the thing that really was amazing was that she had the breasts of a full grown woman. Somehow they showed up over the summer between sixth and seventh. Now, all the guys were amazed by this, and found our heads swiveling away from math problems to try and take in this bigger problem--where did these grapefruits (they seemed that momentous) come from? Why were they so powerful to us, inspiring our imagination, drawing our attention like the tractor beam pulling in the Millennium Falcon?
Over the next year, the other guys developed a strain of realism I couldn’t understand. They made out with the girls that would make out with them, and who were developing their own lower powered tractor beams. Maybe I didn’t think any of them would make out with me. Maybe I was just stupid, but I stayed in love with Sara Mills. I’d stumble out the door after her, walking behind her, hoping she’d drop something so I could pick it up. After a few weeks she said, “Doogie, stop following me,” and I said, “Sara, I need to follow you.”
            “What a loser,” she pronounced. You can imagine how I felt at that moment. Until she said that, I believed that the strength of my feeling about her would convince her, that she’d turn around and say, “Doogie, you keep following me and I can tell you must love me more than anything. I’m so overwhelmed by your passion. I want to see what it feels like to be with a crazy in love person.”
At that moment, I knew she was right, and more importantly, that she wasn’t going to change her opinion. I’m not going to say that I cried that night, just in case my dad reads this book. The summer after eighth grade I considered my passion for Sara. I decided that the other boys had it right. “If you can’t be with the one you want, love the one you’re with.” It pained me to see my friend make the same mistake I had made, following his desire, with no respect to reason, or his own feelings.
            Usually Mike and I would hang out and play Illumen’s Children at my house after school. I was scared to go to his house, and he was kind of scared to take me. He explained that he didn’t have a lot of respect as it was, and showing up with a loser white kid would just make him a bigger target. I had practice, so I told Mike maybe we could hang on Saturday but he frowned, because our transpasses only works on weekdays.
            After practice I got home, and found another big surprise. Alexandra had friended me, so had three other girls, and about half the guys on the soccer team. I accepted all the requests, and then clicked through Alexandra’s photos. For the first time I thought about what it would be like to be with Alexandra. Sorry, Aiden, sorry, Mike.
            Miss Farr asked us when we were through Act III and Claudius had just given it all away by losing his cool in response to Hamlet’s play, what Hamlet should do. The kids from the tough neighborhoods are like, “Kill Claudius.” The rest of the class kind of agreed, though they were not used to saying characters ought to kill other characters in English class. It’s usually more about peace and stuff.
Miss Farr started to point out how complicated it all is. “It’s not easy to fix bad situations. The king is guarded. The king is his step-dad uncle.” She went on and explained how English people at the time of Shakespeare, after a bunch of civil wars, wanted clear lines of succession. They didn’t want kingship called in question because that meant civil war, which is basically a shit show for everyone.
She said to us, “But the real point here is, Hamlet never says, ‘I should be King. He never even brings that problem up.’ You really have to see that Hamlet doesn’t view himself quite as an adult in this situation. He thinks he’s a kid, and he’s waiting for someone to show up and take responsibility. That’s part of the challenge here. At what point do Ophelia and Hamlet move beyond trying to sort through all the expectations, and be themselves, and live for themselves and choose what they will be responsible for? When do they be?”
            I hear you, Miss Farr. I’m taking responsibility for who I am. I’m about to go score four goals today, and have all the girls scream my name.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Super-hero Laundry List Chapter Two

Chapter Two

            Mike talked about how hot Alexandra was, and I tried to point out to him that she was out of his league, and already had a boyfriend. Her boyfriend was a sophomore, who lived in Chestnut Hill, which is a rich neighborhood. He wore hipster shoes that were part of this line of green, eco-friendly not the color, shoes that cost a couple hundred dollars. Also, he made the soccer team.
            The second week of school a girl from our English class walked by. She was a short girl, a black girl who didn’t talk in class, but she had that look of a kid trying to pretend they’re going somewhere.
            “Kyana,” Mike yelled.
            “Hi, Mike,” she said.
            “Come over here,” he yelled.
            She walked over.
            “You need somewhere to sit,” Mike asked.
            “No,” she said. This was an obvious lie. I scooted over, and patted the faux-wood surface of the table bench. She shrugged and sat. She agreed that Miss Farr was her favorite teacher. She didn’t know anything about Illumen’s Children, or Zelda, but she was a girl and cooler than us.
            She didn’t really take my side in the discussions about Alexandra, saying things like Alexandra would be lucky to have Mike, but she was probably too stupid to know it.
            I said, “The world is in tiers. I might think Beyonce is super hot, but she’s a nine point five on the hotness scale, and I’m a 5.5- medium looking, intelligent, my family is not rich. It’s not going to happen, I don’t care what Miss Farr says.”
            Mike said, “Beyonce is a ten. You are a four.”
            Kyana said, “I think couples are based on who is right for who. Some people just want a hot girl, like me, and some people want a nice girl, like Mike.”
            Mike said, “Thanks for calling me nice, but I think you’re not so much hot as luke-warm.”
            Kyana said, “You’re shaped like the big gym ball, the one they play crab soccer with.”
            I said, “I like that gym ball. You guys stop fighting.”  
            Kyana said, “I don’t belong here with you nerds.”
            I said, “Yeah, you’re like an eight, and me and Mike are fives, which proves my point.”
            Kyana didn’t respond, she was busy picking the pickles out of her lunchroom hoagie. She would break down the hoagie, searching amidst the shredded lettuce and meat slices for the pickles. When she found one, she ate it in three or four tiny bites. I thought liking Kyana, a girl who actually talked to us, would be a better plan for Mike, but I never talked to him about that. I knew her family wasn’t rich from the way that she dressed in gym clothes half the time, but her butt looked cute even in sweats. I thought that she was like us, not a total loser, but without any clear friends at that period, she made sure she found somewhere to sit, or more importantly, someone to sit with. I wondered what the week was like before she found us. Did she wander the whole school during her fifty two minute period, trying to appear as if she was going somewhere the whole time?


            Monday Mike came over to my house.
            Mike said, “How are you, Mrs. Foley.”
            My mom said, “I’m fine, Mike. How was school?”
            “We got a lot of English homework.”
            She laughed because I talked about English homework all the time. We went upstairs and got situated. Mike played as Shyheem, this kid who has these fire powers that he recharges by praying, and I was Seketeme, a tree person who shoots arrows straight as lasers. We were playing for a while, I defended Mike while he prayed up his energy bar, and then he purged the screen of enemies with holy fire bursts. We were so into it, we didn’t realize what time it was. “Shit,” Mike said.
            “It’s eight o’clock.” The school district gives us transpasses to get to and from school, but they expire at seven thirty. Mike had no way to get home. We sat there for a moment.
            “You think I could sleep over?”
            “I don’t know, probably not on a school night.”
            I found my mom. “Mom, Mike missed the transpass time. Can you give him bus fare?”
            She said, “I’ll drive him, it’s late to be taking the bus.”
            Mike said, “Mrs. Foley, you don’t need to do that.”
“I’m not letting you ride the bus now, Mike. It’s no big deal.” My mom really liked Mike because a) Mike’s existence saved me from being friendless, b) he was respectful, and c) having him around made her feel less bad about my dad’s racism, so she wasn’t going to miss this chance to help out. We got in the car.
            Mayfair, where I live, it’s not great, but it mostly has lawns, and twins, two houses built together. You don’t see a lot of litter, and to me the houses look kind of small and stupid. We drove down the boulevard, past the shopping center that my mom says has too many people in it. The houses got closer and closer together, and exited at Broad St. We drove through the streets to Mike’s house, and I could see my mom was tensed up a little at the groups of young men on the corner, half of their shirts off. Some of them were slap-boxing, and one group was cursing at the other. One saw my mom and started walking toward the car, “Got that hot tip!” he shouted. Mom drove off, even though it was a red light.
            The house windows were covered in plywood, or had no glass, and little kids where running around like no-one cared, even though it was eight thirty and dark out. Trash pooled in the gutter and the whole place looked like no-one cared about anything.
            Mike said, “Welcome to my neighborhood.”
            “Nice,” I said.
            “Douglas Regan Foley!”
            “What, mom?”
            “Don’t make fun of his neighborhood.”
            Mike said, “It’s okay, Mrs. Foley. This place sucks. I’m getting out of here as soon as I can.”
            She didn’t know what to say to that because it was true, but she thought it was rude to agree. We dropped Mike off and he was really thankful. My mom didn’t say anything on the ride home, but she was thinking the same thing as me, how come a nice kid like Mike had to live in such a bad place.
I was doing my homework, reading Hamlet, and writing my paraphrase, when my dad yelled upstairs. “Where’s the fucking remote.”
            “I don’t know, ask mom,” I said.
            “I’d rather ask Satan.”
            My mom yelled, “Why don’t you go see him then.”
            My dad concluded, “I”m going to the bar.”
            She shouted, “You might find him there!”
            He slammed the door going out, and my mom started banging stuff in the kitchen. I don’t know why they talk that way. They’re nice people to everyone else.
            I got up and walked downstairs, wanting to get outside before my mom brought me in to the conversation. I grabbed my coat, and she yelled, “You going out too?”
            “I’m just going for a walk, Mom.” 
            “Fine, I’ll stay here by myself.”
            “Steve is here.” Steve is my little brother.
            She dried her hands on her butt and stepped out of the kitchen. “Doogie, I just want him to stay home one time. Why does he go to the bar every night?”
            My mom used to be hot, I’ve seen the pictures where my dad and her are going to senior prom. They’re gazing into one another’s eyes like they belong on the cover of a romance novel. I stared at it a long time, because it doesn’t make sense, how they used to be that, and now it’s how it is. She’s mom-butted now, and her cheeks have these red spots but that’s not why, I mean, my dad grew a big belly since then. They used to be seven point fives, now they’re both fours. I don’t understand how you go from love to what they do now. I wished I knew why they went from love to hate, but I don’t and it just depressed me to even think about it so I said, “I don’t know, mom.” I walked out the door before she said anything else.
            I walked up toward the R8 tracks. It was icey and there was still snow on the ground but I got up on the tracks. It was quiet up there. A half-moon hung above the trees and I could see my breath. The tracks reflected the moonlight.
            This is where my story gets weird. Or maybe I should say, this was when I actually became all I could be. Basically, imagine I just gave you a really good sentence that let you know that what is coming up is really momentous. I was thinking about Hamlet’s parents and mine, about how angry he gets when he thinks about his mom having sex with Claudius, and how I felt the same away about my mom and dad not giving a shit about each other, and how helpless I was to do anything about it. “Oh that this too too solid flesh would melt . . .” I couldn’t help but feel that Miss Farr didn’t really understand Hamlet. It wasn’t as if he could just run away to school, become all, be all he wanted to be, and not listen and not care about what was happening. Gertrude was still his mom, even if she pissed him off. Here I was, only a couple hundred steps away from my mom, and feeling guilty about that. Imagine how guilty he’d feel when he was an ocean away.
            I thought I heard a train, it was loud, and whirring, and then light like super-powered headlights came flooding down. The problem was, whatever was shooting the light all around wasn’t on the tracks, it was above them, coming down toward them. Peeling off it, like a comet, were sparks. I stepped back, maybe to get out of the way, but mostly just amazed. The lights turned toward me and swallowed me.
            Okay, that sounds weird. All I know is, it came toward me and then surrounded me and I heard voices. I could see light all around me, and beyond, and kind of dimly was the rest of the world, like the people I knew were there. I could hear two voices, I thought, and I thought I saw two golden figures in the midst of the lightning showers of light.
            I thought I heard them say, “Who then will wear the mantle?”
            “This is the one.”
            “But he has not the strength.”
            “That is for the mantle.” I’m going to interrupt the story. The next day I asked Miss Farr what mantle meant. She said it was like a cape, but that it was also used metaphorically to mean a role of responsibility. She said, “I’m old, and I find a young teacher to take my spot, and I say, ‘I’m passing the mantle to you, young teacher.’” So that’s what the weird golden dudes were talking about, some sort of garment of a responsible role. Yeah, it didn’t make much sense to me, either.
            “The mantle has been salvific before, but never for one such as this.”
            “Such is the will.”
            I couldn’t say anything, too much shock, and looking back, I wonder if the conversation was just made up in my head.
            The light seemed to turn from yellow bright to blue incandescent, and then it took off, a ball of shimmer and spark, leaving me on the tracks. Then the light lifted, and zoomed off up through the air, dwindling like a shooting star.
            I looked down at myself to check that I was alright. Light was shooting out of my fingertips, and my arms were glowing. It seemed that brightness was boiling out of my collar, and under my pant cuffs, like I’d been filled up, and now it was leaking out.
            “Shit,” I said. The same moment I said that I felt strong, and I just took off running. There I was, zooming down the tracks, jumping over ten or fifteen ties at a time, choosing when to put my foot down. Then I leapt up and started running on the rail, and even though I was running twice as fast as I ever had, I had no problem running on that thin metal ledge.
            I started laughing, and then I jumped in the air and did a full flip. I never did that before, but I landed lightly on two feet. I felt fantastic like just about anything was possible for me.
            Now, you probably want to ask a bunch of questions about the weird light. You’re figuring, either this guy is cray cray, or I want to find that light for myself. I wish I could tell you more. I don’t know what it was all about, why the aliens, or spirits, or whatever, decided to give me super-powers. That’s a question I found myself returning to later on, but at the time all I could feel was what it was to be a boy squared. I thought a lot about that moment, and what it meant to me and what it might mean to others.
            Miss Farr, she’d probably have scientifically investigated. Any adult would have been careful, even terrified of the unexainable event. Me? I was still half boy, and I still loved to run and jump. The wind going by my ears was excuse enough for sprinting, and the thing that stopped me before, running out of breath, barely happened that night. When I leapt into the air, it was with so much power- I was thrown, catapulted up. There in the air, I calculated flips and turns, before landing as easy as a cat. Every so often I punched things.
            If you have never been, or don’t remember being one, I’ll explain: boys punch things. Even things that are harder than human flesh, like concrete and trees. I guess boys think that maybe, one time, their fist will prove harder than these things, or maybe, they just want to show they can stand the pain. Well that night.
            I punched a plastic wall in Fox Chase station. It shattered. I punched a steel girder going over a bridge. It didn’t hurt that much. I shook my hand and forgot I hit it. I punched a tree, the bark came off. Sorry tree.
Those train tracks run out past Fox Chase, I zoomed along them, leaping tie to tie, racing along the rails. I raced through the trees of the parks, behind the backs of houses, imagining people looking out and seeing only a blur. Next thing I knew I was on a steel girder bridge looking down at the green glinting waves of the Delware, almost in Trenton, New Jersey. That river looked like I felt, a mighty mass, a multiplicity of movements, a murmuring of energy. (That’s alliteration for you, Miss Farr.)
I turned home, not because I needed to, but because somewhere in the back of my mind was the thought that tomorrow was a school day. I started to walk when I was a mile from home. I was a little tired, but mostly I had something to think about, beside how hopelessly uncool I was.
I asked myself what I could do with it.
            Then it hit me. I wasn’t a five point five guy anymore. I was a nine point five, maybe a ten. I could run faster, hit harder, jump higher than any other guy at our school. All the girls would like me when I became an athletic hero. I was going to be on the soccer team. I was going to be a star. Here I come, Beyonce.
            It always bothered me that superheroes never used their abilities to get money or become superstar athletes. Didn’t any of them want what every kid wants, which is to be liked, admired, and seen as insanely sexy? I was going to live the dream, go back to Wittenberg, and use my talents to get what I wanted. Miss Farr would be proud.
            When you’ve already been cut from a team, and a surprise alien visitation gives you superpowers, you can’t walk into the coach’s office and tell him, “I’ve got superpowers, let me on the team.” I wandered down the staircase to the coach’s office. I was confident about it, although there was no reason to be. I walked into the coach’s office and I said, “Coach, I’ve been training really hard. I think, when you see what I can do, you’ll want me on the team.”
            He shook his head. “Doogie, there’s only one try-out. You want to try-out again, wait until next year.” He looked down at some paper, pretending he knew how to read so I’d leave.
            My next step was to go out to practice. I stood on the sidelines with my own ball. Some of the guys said hi, others made comments, “Wasn’t he cut?” I ignored most of them. When coach set the team to juggling the ball, I dropped the ball onto my right foot, kicking it up with small taps. It was as if time had slowed down, the ball moved slower, and I moved faster. I flicked it to my left foot, and kept it up there for a while. Then I passed it to my head, and with small headers kept it up. I walked over to the coach doing the seal (bouncing it on the head) dribble. If you don’t know, this takes a lot of skill.
            “See,” I said.
            He said, “How’s that going to help in the game.” Once I had him in a conversation I knew I was going to get on the team.
            I said, “This is just some of what I’ve learned.” The ball was still bouncing on my head. You need to see me in a game.”
            He put me in the practice scrimmage later. The first time down the field, I took a bad touch, a little too much power, and the sweeper cleared the ball. I imagined Coach thinking, that kid still sucks. The second time down the field, the winger put in a cross that was behind me. I took two steps back to where the ball was falling, a couple yards behind the eighteen. I twisted into an acrobatic side volley, basically kicking the ball while doing a back flip, my feet behind me and above my head, my right foot connecting perfectly with the ball, cannoning it into the upper ninety of the goal.
            It was so amazing a play that no-one said anything for about three seconds afterward. Then they all started clapping. After the scrimmage, Coach came up to me. “I’m willing to put you back on the team. We’ve got a game tomorrow.”