The Cast: Chris (new), Erich (Tiger), Myself (Praying Mantis).
Our target was sitting in his car. Did he know we were watching? Could he see us?
If you have been following this post, first: Thank you!, second: You probably know that, as a teenager, I did my best—along with some friends—to be a superhero. Sometimes it worked out great, other times… Well, not so much so. Anywho… This week I will tell of the mesmerizing tale of… STOP! Nope. I can’t lie to you. It’s not mesmerizing. Well, it could be. If I write it that way… Hmmm…? (sorry about all the ellipsisises) I know what I wrote
As it does almost every week, Friday rolled around, once again. And, once again, I and my fellow superheroes were getting ready for patrol. This week, however, was different. There was another friend that wanted to join us—sort of.
“What’s the big deal? I’ll just walk around with you guys.”
“It doesn’t work like that, Chris,” I responded. I was mildly irritated at the gall of his claim that he could ‘just walk around with us’ and at the idea that he thought that he could keep up with us. Erich, Richard, and I had been doing this for about three years. We had moves. A system. Costumes. Secret identities. We were cool. No. No, we weren’t. It was pretty sad actually.
If you troll enough of the internet you can find a nonstop rabbit hole of jokes about how Batman tells everyone his secret identity all the time. So, essentially, he has no secret identity. It was kinda the same thing for us. There were a few people we had told, a few who had figured it out (honestly, it wasn’t that hard). I’m pretty sure we were the butt of many a joke told behind our backs. I say that because plenty were told to our faces and all we could do was pretend we didn’t know what they were talking about). Looking back at it all, it is terribly funny. Back then, it was serious. A big deal. Nothing to be laughed at. And, that just makes it sorta laughable now. Again, it was a big deal back then. And, it still sort of is.
We actually did take it seriously. We trained as best we could. We worked hard at trying to prevent crime—as much as we could in our small farming community. We wanted to make a difference. So, when our friends—that we trusted with our secret—made light of it, it hurt. So, yeah, it is funny. But, it’s not. It is part of why I took the path I did in life. I became a U.S. Marine. Now, I teach. Erich became a firefighter, and now he works at a place whose name will not be spoken (not because it’s irreputable or anything. it’s just that it’s a whole nother story—and some other things). Richard fixes tech. I oversimplified what he does, but it is what he does. We wanted to help then, we like helping now.
“Why can’t I just drive around and meet up with you guys later then, when you’re done?” Chris had a valid point, but at the same time, he did not. Also, this was the age before cell phones were common. Now, there was a telephone booth in town. And still, Superman never came to use it…?
My response came out as if it were rehearsed, even though I had never imagined having to justify why having a clandestine meeting, late at night, while wearing my superhero getup with anyone before, “Because we don’t know when we will be done. Also, if anyone sees us near your car, they’ll know who Erich and I are.”
“Everyone already knows who you are.”
Ouch. That stung. “No, they don’t.” If I said it, it would make it true. The look in Chris’s eyes told me he didn’t believe me. That he knew that I knew that he was right. However, like the good friend he was, he didn’t say anything. He let me have that.
“What if I make my own costume? What if I make up my own superhero identity?”
“It’s not that easy, Chris. You can’t just make one up. You gotta plan. Prepare. You need weapons and gadgets and such.” I knew all this firsthand because it’s true. Watch any Batman movie.
“But what if I do…?”
“Okay. Fine. Erich and I will meet you at…” And I disclosed the location of where it would be best to meet. It would provide plenty of cover and was central to all three of our houses. The deal was struck: If Chris could invent a superhero identity, make a costume, and fashion some sort of weapon (not necessary but preferable), then he could join us.
All this was a result of wanting to hang out with my friends. However, the dedication to superheroing was not easy. One just wanted to hang out and watch a movie or something, however, it had been a few weeks since Erich’s and mine last patrol. Crime surely thought we had gone soft and was rampantly growing exponentially (I know what I wrote). We needed to cover the dark alleys and secret, illegal meetings with a smothering blanket of justice and put an end to them all—so long as they happened on Fridays, in the evenings, and ended shortly after midnight. (you gotta sleep sometime) (except, crime never sleeps…) (DANG IT!)
Later that day I met with Erich and let him know of the newest edition to our crime-fighting family. Sort of like a half-cousin, twice removed, on your mother’s sister’s husband’s side of the family, that you only hear about, but never meet. It would be interesting.
“What if he doesn’t come through?” Erich wondered. It was a fair question. It was possible that in the few hours between afterschool (3:30 p.m.) and evening patrol (9:30-10ish, depending on the time of year), Chris might not be able to craft the appropriate required materials for crime-fighting that took Erich and me weeks to perfect. It looked like it was going to be just us two. Richard—at this point—had been working to earn money so that he could devote a couple of years of service to God. Richard was busy. (no sarcasm intended here. Erich would later do the same thing. they did good work)
Evening came. Tiger (Erich) and Praying Mantis (myself) secretly climbed down from The Turtle Tower and made our way to the meeting location. It was a spot known well to both of us. Chris could park his car in a safe location and nobody would see.
“When did they put a light up?”
“This is why we need to go on patrol more often.”
During the past couple of weeks, a working lamppost had been installed and activated. Chris’s car, Lisa—an awesome classic Camaro—was bathed in artificial illumination. Tiger and I stayed in the slight shadows of my mother’s dance studio and attempted to conceal ourselves as well as assess the situation.
“Is he in the car?”
“I think so.”
“What’s he doing?”
“I don’t know. It’s hard to tell.”
Eventually, the two of us walked out of the darkness and into the light. Chris, on the other hand, just got out of his car. In costume. Weapon in hand. Okay, so, he had done it.
“Okay, so, he did it,” I admitted.
The three of us gathered together to appraise what lay before us. Chris had crafted a simple hood that draped over his chest and upper back. It was purple with a pretty nifty logo stitched onto the front. Admittedly, I was a little jealous. Tiger and I didn’t have logos—per se. His logo was a sun, being eclipsed by the moon, and a lighting bolt going through them. The sun and moon made perfect sense. I don’t recall the rationale for the lightning bolt. Although, I do recall it was a good one.
Chris also had a sorta makeshift ball and chain kinda thing. It was a hard rubber cylinder that had a rope running through it that attached to a handle. “That way it’ll hurt, but not kill ‘em.” was Chris’s thought process. Not bad.
Before we began, for reasons I cannot recall, we decided that we needed to define roles. I don’t want to say that it was my idea, but I think it was. As silly as it may sound, when you work as a team, you need to have clarity. You need to know what each other is about and capable of. Working in a group—much like fighting—operates differently than when solo—again, much like fighting. As a trio, we felt it best to… I still don’t know what to call it: Define our jobs. I guess.
“I have the best night vision.” Tiger chimed in. And, he did. He could spot details, quickly and readily from great distances. That left only two senses, really. Now, I have recently talked with Erich about this next point because I can’t tell if what I think I remembered is what really happened or what I think I thought happened is what really happened. Regardless, somehow, it was declared that I had the better hearing (which—as an adult—was verified by a doctor to have once been true). Chris was given the glorious title of ‘Best smeller’.
Yup, Best Smeller. He could smell the best! I have no idea why we thought odor transmission tracking valuable and considered it necessary to create a title for and certify—as it were. Best Smeller, indeed…
That night ended in a rather spectacular failure. After the assigning of chores, we had all kinda become bored. We patrolled a couple of blocks. Checked on our regular hot spots. Changed clothes and watched a movie. Chris never joined us for patrol again. Long live the short life of Eclipse. Like his namesake, he was there and then gone…
There are times when I have no idea how I could have thought I was cool. But, I did. Maybe I was. Maybe I wasn’t. But, at least I didn’t smell…?
Author’s Note: It may seem as though Chris was in disfavor with me. This is untrue. All through High School, he was one of my best and truest friends. Sadly, over the years we have lost touch. However, I want it known that any accidental extra negativity that may be implied towards him is strictly for storytelling’s sake.