The greying man wearing Silver Surfer pyjamas sets down his microphone and his beer and shakes his hairy, grizzled head.

     'Oh, Moonwalker; you charmer you,' he mutters to the monitor. 'I've never been officially respected before.'

    "Whatcha say, Dad?" calls nine-year old Jake from his nest of Playstation wires. "You're not talking to yourself again, are you?"

     "No, no. I'm reading my e-mail. I was just telling Mommy that I'm expected by four."

     "But Mom's at work," says Jake suspiciously while hopping The Hulk over a strafing helicopter.

     "I know that," he says firmly, secretly wondering when exactly his wife began working again, and what else may be going on in the house while he sits like a troglodyte in the basement; writing, warbling, and mumbling. "Better watch out for The Abomination there, Jake." The diversion works, and he's free to reflect again on his new friends at Protagonize.

     Like the earnest Moonwalker, he too is grudgingly impressed by the talent of the young pens. The artful Olius Brightwell, the prose passion of Dysphemism, and the muscular style of Kevichella provide hours of delightful reading. "My stuff at that age was bulky and overblown," he mutters to Moonwalker's profile.

    "Talking to yourself again, Dad?" asks Jake.

     "No; I was telling you it's tough to rage with Hulk's cover blown," he replies testily. As he grunts and runs a clawed hand through his patchy beard, he wishes that Jait - he of the poet's soul and camera's eye - would write more. He reflects on Bill Hartzia's workmanlike strength, and Eloosive's wide range.

     Then he permits himself a daydream and another beer.

     He envisions the sturdy RiverTalker on a screened veranda, lovingly tapping out his thousand daily words while sipping a lemonade and pensively watching the pelicans glide over small whitecaps. He can almost see the graceful Tasha Noble in an airy room under the eaves, where she embroiders her delicate prose between moments of smiley reflection.

     "I like to pretend I'm right there," he says aloud.

     "Me too," says Jake, shattering an army tank with Hulk's fists.

     "I also like to pretend I drink beer in my pyjamas, live in the basement, have a scraggly beard, and am a writer," he says, confusing Jake enough for him to look up and take a direct gamma ray blow to Hulk's midsection.


The End

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