Story 'bout a villain who finds that out the hard way.
Revised October 2012.
When I started out, I spent a long time saving things from trees. When people tell the story, it's always a cat. I think the whole practice started in the south. Cats matter more; they're living things. And people would say puppies if they could, but puppies don't often climb trees.
If you want big stories you have to do big story things. There are only so many cat-and-tree incidents that a paper can write about. But I guess if you do it for the paper, you're in the wrong business.
One time, I was sitting at the little corner bistro with those grilled million-cheese sandwiches, and the tv was switched to the news. They were showing videos of some crash, or explosion or something; whoever was piloting the helicopter didn’t understand that he could get a better view if he was outside the column of smoke. I waited to read the halting closed captioning to catch up. While the anchors grinned at some cat video, and while I began to resent cats, the captioning read that...Well, I forget exactly. Train derailed? No, a house-fire. I don't know, but I'll tell you about the plane crash.
I sloshed the rest of my coffee down my throat before pocketing my sandwich. A million cheeses don't come out cheap and that day I decided I'd be damned if I waited in that kind of line to leave it all on the table. Let me tell you, a scalded esophagus makes it hard to believe it's any better than just eating the money itself. Though, I'm sure my intestines don't appreciate exact change as much as I do.
I flew down the highway, passing at least one cop. I think I went fast enough by him that he gave up the chase before it started. I respect his ability to prioritize. The smoke appeared to my left, but I had to give up on my Garmin because it refused to let me know where to go unless it was in the loop too. I know now that there was a more direct route, but making a U-turn would have put me in a sour mood.
When I got to the site, there were more cops so I played it cool. They don't really take kindly to non-cops. I could see the firefighters were making slow work of the wreckage. They were at that point of having to consider endangering their lives and making heavy decisions. Heroism stuff.
The plane had been split in two, lying a good distance apart, but close enough to be considered a single disaster area. One part had the majority of the passengers, and other was about to explode. One options weighed a lot more so I went for it. I hadn't gotten to eat my sandwich yet.
And it turned out that the other part did explode. The entire field shook and everyone dropped to their knees. I found myself clutching my pocket.
As I worked through the main part of the cabin I was thankful for that boost of caffeine, throat be damned. I like it when things work out.
My story was in the paper, but I didn't know it until the next day when I caught my name in print before it drained into the sewer.
I took a few weeks off after that. I tried some painting, ate some tacos, caught up on my cartoons. It was a good vacation, and I deserved it.
Eventually I found my way back to the bistro and read about a robbery in progress down the street. I was blessed with convenience. It was even a nice day so I drove with the windows down. Garmin took me to a bank where I rolled my eyes. I mean, haven't they figured out a better system for this? And by 'they' I mean either the burglars, who always get caught, or the banks, which always get robbed.
When I stepped out of the car, there was a guy. A guy in charge. And in costume. Just taking charge. So I approached him.
And he said to me, “Stop right there, Villain.
I did stop. I turned slowly to the gathering crowd, all looking to the other guy in expectation. All I got were nervous glances, like I was that spider crawling up the wall you can't help but keep an eye on. If it gets any closer, suddenly it's filled with malicious intent.
And then it did fill me with malicious intent. I balled a fist imagining the feeling of his trachea. I imagined the shooting pain in my knuckles as they connected with his jaw. He had a strong jaw; it would hurt like hell, but it would be worth it.
“Say what now?” That's what I said to him. I leaned over to see past him and watch two men in ski masks peer out of the bank. They're in luck; all eyes are on 'Hero' here in front of me. I thought to myself, maybe I am the villain he's lecturing about because at this moment, all I want is to see them drive off with the money while he harangues for the next few hours.
“I think you planned the whole thing,” he pointed a finger at me.
“The conspiracy route?” I nodded to myself. Could pique some interest.
That's when it hit me. I am in it for the papers. I mean, look at me now, here with you. Listing off my story.
Sorry, I don't mean to laugh, it just hit me now too that this is kind of a monologue. You know, a villain thing.
Anyway, he continues. “Trying to make yourself look like a hero. Have the city in the palm of your hand,” he accuses, I should say. Actually, that sounds more annoying than anything.
“Exploit people, manipulate them to get what you want.”
“Well, as long as no gets hurt...” I mean, is it totally immoral?
“It's an intricate plan. And subtle. A clever disguise.”
“You might even consider words like diabolical.” I remember thinking that I shouldn't joke. Story of my life.
“But you don't realize how many people you hurt.”
I'm trying to think, but I don't have any permits for weapons, and I'm pretty sure my only jailtime was related to alcohol. I guess I have thought about hurting people. But very certain people. I squinted at him to really get my point across. “You've lost me.”
“It was months ago,” he inhaled a long breath.
He could definitely see the pain on my face.
“There was a fire uptown,” he looked off in the distance and I started thinking about how life stories might be my kryptonite.
“And you were there. Impossibly fast.”
I was squinting again. I'm pretty sure that was when my bistro was under construction. That stupid place uptown boasted it was better but it sure as hell never satisfied any cravings.
“And you jumped in like you'd been there a hundred times. Somehow you knew exactly what you were doing.”
Now I'm angry at that place. I wonder if it's out of business yet.
“That little house that I grew up in.”
And I'm so thankful for my usual bistro. I'm having a vague craving for a sandwich. At that point I was hoping he wasn't asking me questions.
“And now they're dead.”
What do you say to that? “Listen, man, I'm not who you think I am.” Thinking back, I wonder if that came out wrong? “Blaming me isn't going to bring your family back.” Yeah, still wrong. Maybe worse.
“It doesn't matter. I'm here to make sure no one suffers you the same way.”
I knew something was about to happen. Thank the stars, right? “Maybe I just like to climb ladders. Stand stoically on precarious ledges. Get in fights with jerks.” Or conversations.
“You think you're fearless.” I liked the look on his face as the thought resonated.
“Better yet, I’m feelingless.” I offered.
He stood there pondering the meaning of life for a while.
I couldn't take it anymore. I just went for it, you know? “Hey,” I suggested, “you need someone to chase, I need an adrenaline rush. We can help each other out.”
“What does that mean?” He could have been scratching his head, I don't know.
For the love o’—. “These folks need a show. You gonna avenge your family or what?”