Saturday, October 30, 2010


I spent the day today really trying hard to write something for a reading I have coming up. I didn't write one word. Not even one. I stared at my computer for 8hours.

So then I started to think "I don't need to write anything new. I have a deep well of short stories to draw from over on the blog." I have nothing. Five years of nothing. Beyond having a general disdain for most of the things I've written - the things I like aren't finished.

I spend 45 minutes or so googling "Why can't I finish anything" and then decide that I need professional help. Phooey.

I roped Amanda into the situation. We've written up a contract.

I will finish these Five Stories:

1 - Sherpa
2 - Spinning Disc
3 - Gravity
4 - Shoebox
5 - Sharpshooter

By 2/9/10.

For each story I do not finish, I will pay Amanda one hundred dollars. She is not allowed to use this on anything that I will benefit from.

I also need to work on Penny during this time and work out something for the Flat Earth Collective reading next month.

$500 in the pot. I just need to not be a fucking waste to get it back.

- one foot feet.


Another half of a thing. I wrote this for a friend's magazine, and then didn't give it to her because I hate it.


Walking is impressive. It doesn’t feel that way because you are young and you are good at it, or you are old and you are angry at it. Walking is falling. Your weight shifts forward and somehow when you were very young you gathered the bravery to let that weight go, and trust that your legs would catch you before you fall, collapse in a heap, hit your head, die. You let the momentum of that bravery propel you across the carpet and into a laughing parent's arms, who held you way up high and let you see all that danger below that you’d finally conquered and it was horrifying but they brought you into their arms again and put your head next to their neck, to ground you in the thud of a heartbeat excited as yours. You forget all this because you were very young and it was all very traumatic.

You get older and you flaunt your prowess over your own body. You run. And then it’s impressive, but then it’s sad. Everything eventually eases down into sad. And then you're seventy something. You really should have moved before now. Before worrying over the staircase. I meant to move. But there aren't many reasons to go out and the elevator is going to be fixed next month, or last, or the one before last. Pay the rent - they’ll come and bang on the door. But the stairs. The stairs are just outside the door, about four feet of eventuality and twenty seven of them deep and straight down and all of the pieces of person that need to move forward cannot possibly situate themselves in any proper way that will move down the stairs in any organized fashion. Should be simple enough. Straight down and out into January and so afraid of being held so way up high. And you should have moved. You should have let them take you wherever they’d wanted to because there are twenty six stairs and your hands look as though you baked them overnight and have perhaps never been strong enough to keep you from careening down the stairs and out into January where you'll bleed to death if your heart doesn't crack. Which it would and might anyway.

Weight shifts to the side and underneath all the aching and popping there is to be done you always think of how easy things were, and you hate it. You hate that it’s so much of your time and how heavy all of you has become, all the better to shatter the stairs, all those bones and not an ounce of trust. The left can’t be lifted, not above the height of the last stair, so it just slides off and thuds down and it's enough to make echos in the stairwell and sparks in your eyes. The stairwell is cavernous and gray green paint flakes off and flits down like dead leaves above the dizzy bottom of everything. Your cane clicks and you have heard children racing up them before they shake your whole room as they run by. It’s just stunning - that’s everything shaking. The whole room. That's everything shaking. All the bits you managed to keep anyway.

Condensing. There wasn’t much work done. Mostly you laughed with your feet up and hoped someone else would catch whomever did whatever to whomever. Once you’d run down a purse snatcher, and it felt like a ticker tape. People came out of everywhere and applauded, like you’d done it for show. Like he’d been wearing a striped shirt and raccoon make up. It was horrible and when you hit him he hit the ground and his face scraped along and there was red on her purse that red did not belong to her but she carried it home like it was something to mark the occasion. When good triumphed over evil and my bag it got wet with the justice of it all. His elbow went into your ribs and they went

Thack. You bought a gold tipped cane after the knee went, salvage your dignity in a stylish thing. And it says Thack on the stairs. The cane wasn’t much but an attempt to be dignified and it's just holding you for ransom for it. One slip and you're over. Flitting down like dried paint and landing quietly in the powdered leather of your remains. Or it's a racket. Your knees knock out the banister and the edges of the stairs crack off and the kids erupt from every blank door and yell in different languages for their mothers and it all clatters down after you. Hard to say. Depends on if you're there for it or not.


That lady. With the bag. She got a handle on your address. Pretty. Tommy found her. It went sideways from there. It never felt like it was in your hands. She kept the bag. You wish that she hadn't. It reminded you of all the horrible things you did then. There would be more. You wind up having more of those than you'd think. Probably everybody does.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Spinning Disc

I wanted to stash this here - wrote it a while back, it's not finished, because I don't finish things. It got way off track and I don't really remember what it's about now, only that I want to read it later, so I'm putting it here.

EDIT: It sucks that it ends where it does. I got caught up in it.

Ms. McDermott was in her late thirties. She'd been seeing Dr. Waxler for five years now. Dr. Waxler was happy for the business. She was a steady patient, always on time, always paid her bills. She arrived at 3:45 on Tuesday. Climbing off her bicycle just under his second floor office window. She was kind to the receptionist when Mrs. Wilson was still around, still affordable; she brought them both presents at the holidays and was always so polite about ending the world. And now that Mrs. Wilson had been let go, she would sometimes arrive early for her appointment and tidy the office while Dr. Waxler was in with another patient. Dr. Waxler insisted "Please don't clean the office, you're here for you." "There were napkins all over the floor in the kitchenette." "Please leave them be." "I brought you magazines, they're new. About the movies and famous people. I got them from the drug store."
Ms. McDermott wore shin length skirts, scarves even in warm weather, high boots and pulled her hair back. Most of her clothes were from her Mother's estate. Some from thrift stores. Covered head to toe in old fabric and old jewelery, the clasps were forever breaking and she would spend hours retracing her steps for this lost thing or that. There were little red scratches on her neck from the places where the metal had pulled and worn into finer points.

At the end of every session: "Is that our time already, Dr. Waxler? Oh my, thank you for your time, and again, I'm sorry about ending the world."

Remarking upon the photos in the waiting room, during Mrs. Wilson's tenure: "Are those your children, Mrs. Wilson? Oh. Oh my I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. But I suppose it did have to happen some day."

And on and on. To the man at the corner store. To passers by when locking her bicycle outside of Dr. Waxlers office. Letters of apology to friends and family, to the local news, to government officials, to international heads of state, famous celebrities, prominent scientists and so on. Finely written letters in beautifuly attetive handwriting, she dutifully looped each letter onto fine stationary, spending her time alerting everyone to, and apologizing for, the end of the world that she was sure she was responsible for.

Dr. Waxler's first question: "How is it that you're going to end the world, Ms. McDermott?"
"I'm not sure just yet. I think fire is part of it. Wouldn't it have to be, though? I really can't say."

"How do you know that you're responsible?"
"I have dreams. I was in the middle of it, in white. It's all bright white. People were shouting."
"And this is a premonition? This dream, you're at the middle of the end of the world. People are shouting. And it's the future?"
"Yes. I suppose so."
"Do you know when it will be."
"I'll bet it's a Tuesday."
"But which Tuesday?"
"That I don't know. I wish I did, honest. I'm so sorry about all of this Dr. Waxler, you seem like such a nice man."
"Oh that's alright, Ms. McDermott."

Ms. McDermott deflected more personal questions about her past, her family, her personal life. She would bounce things back towards the end of the world, or something nice she'd rather talk about.

"Let's talk about your family for a moment."
"Oh my family is just fine, thank you for asking."
"I'd like to learn more about them, how many brothers and sisters, are your parents still married, that sort of thing."
"Oh that reminds me, I passed a nice wedding on my way here. I wanted to talk about that, they were all outside throwing rice. Do you know why they do that? I've never quite figured that out. I've heard it's bad for the birds though. That the birds eat it and it's poison to them. That's a shame don't you think, for the birds?"

Dr. Waxler was not regarded kindly in town. He was a small man, he walked with a limp from an old car accident. His face was wrinkled where walking made him wince. Drunk driver. It never healed properly, he was too proud for a cane. He would die falling down, he thought. Someday he would just fall down and there'd be noone around to find him and he'd die there. Maybe kicked apart by the kids. Rail thin and white haired around the peak of his bald head, his nose was unfortunately proportioned and the children in his building were afraid of him. Called him Dr. Buzzard.

He was not a kind man. He did not enjoy his profession, it was tedious and dull and it deprived him of time outdoors. Occasionally he would insist on meeting a patient at a coffee shop or a park bench on particularly nice days. Mrs. Wilson's salary was eventually consumed by his constant vacationing. She was expendable, it was not difficult to fill an appointment book and most days he sat in his office and waited for someone to arrive. It didnt matter who. This was a small town, the problems were simple. Overeating. Family councilling. Alcoholism. Mostly he was fed by the small, inferior court system. Petty criminals and morons. It was an easy business. He had a boy come in on Mondays to fill his office with snacks and enough fresh coffee to last the week, and then he would sit and wait to hear the door while he poured over crosswords or detective novels and toe tapped to easy jazz.

Dr. Waxler at least enjoyed his time with Amanda. She was interesting and youthful. Her nerosis was interesting, he'd not heard of this condition before. He recorded all their sessions and planned to write a series of articles regarding the condition. It was a fine layering of Megalomania, depression, repression, self-hatred and delusion. Delightfuly interesting and all in such a lovely young woman, just a peach of a lady he thought. A shame, really.

Eventually, in Ms. McDermott's letter writing campaign, she wrote to Judge Harold Feinman. Harold was the Judge Presiding over Bridgewater County.

The letters were brief; uncomplicated but elegant. They were written on very fine stationary with a very fine pen filled with very fine ink. The paper had a watermark, the pen had heft and the ink a pleasant aroma. The World Wide Paper Company's watermark was a globe, the pen was marble, the ink was red. Her writing desk was meticulously organized from left to right, envelopes, paper and stamps. Above the paper, an address book open to that day's recipients. Each of them, with luck, would receive a personalized letter of apology.

For Example:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Leonard,

I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing to send my most sincere apologies for my part in the coming unpleasantnesses that I'm sure you've heard about by now. Everyone in town seems to know, which is nice. I thought it was best to let everyone know. Doesn't hardly seem like the kind of thing you should keep to yourself. I'm sorry I can't say I know when it will happen, or why, or how. I don't want you to think I'm the type to keep secrets. I've recently done some reading on the subject and boiling seems to be a likely occurrence but I really couldn't say for certain.

I just wanted to let you know, before it's all over, that I quite enjoyed your bakery. Mrs. Leonard, your cinamon buns have been a weekly indulgence for me, they are truly delightful. I've enjoyed my time in your store and all of your wonderful goodies. Please convey my apologies to your two young sons, unless you feel it's best that they do not know.

Sincerest apologies,

Amanda McDermott.


Judge Feynman recieved a similar letter. It was a bit more vague. She'd never met the man, but asked that he use his political ties to spread the word about the end of the world. To apologize to as many people as he could. "Tell them I don't want it to happen either" she said "I don't know what I did." Judge Feynman had, of course, heard of this woman. She was a local oddity, but harmless. She even seemed pleasant from all accounts, but crazy as a loon. Mrs. Feynman , however, did not know this woman until she'd recieved Mrs. McDermott's letter in the mail and it rattled her constitution. Mrs. Feynman was a religious woman, she enjoyed the supernatural, believed in signs, drank tea for it's portents and held hands with the spinsters to summon the spirits. Judge Feynman indulged her in her hobbies, but asked her to keep it out of the local paper, the society section and the like. He'd built a seance room in the northernmost section of the house so she had someplace to enjoy her peculiarities, far away from his study where he'd smoke cigars with local luminaries. The luminaries were sparse, it was a small town, but luminaries loomed larger in small towns. It was easier to be known by everyone, easier to promote your importance.

Mrs. Feynman's startle at the news that the world was ending was an irritant for the Judge. She'd locked herself away in the back room and it turned Miss McDermott from a person of mild irritation to a person of serious interest. He responded to her letter in this way:

Dear Miss McDermott,

I have read, and been disturbed by, your letter. I thank you for calling this to my attention, I would like to request that you visit me in my office on Wednesday at 8 AM. I would like very much for you to bring any ideas you have to the meeting so we can set to fixing whatever problems you see.

In Kindest Regard,


Two days later, she rode her bike to Judge Feynman's office.

"Miss McDermott, have a seat". And so they talked.

"You're scaring people, Miss McDermott."
"I'm sorry about that. I'm sorry about everything."
"My wife, she's locked herself in her room, Miss McDermott."
"Well that certainly won't do any good."
"No?" Judge Feinman pinched the bridge of his nose and shut his eyes.
"No. It's enormous."

"Are you ok, Miss McDermott?"
"Just worried, is all."
"You should speak to a friend of mine, Dr. Waxler. Whenever I'm worried I go an speak with him."
"Mr Waxler, on Dewberry Street?"
"Yes, that's him. I'll call him today and you can go see him tomorrow morning, how does that sound?"
"That sounds nice. I'll save myself a stamp."

They talked for an hour. Judge Feynman decided that she was a nuisance, but harmless. A soft spoken kook. Later, on the golf course, he would tell his cronies that she was a psychopath, a real looney, that he took pity on her and sent her over to that pansy quack Waxler. She was lucky she was pretty, he said, why if she were a man, Judge Feynman would have driven her there himself. She was a little bedraggled, clearly a bit disurbed, but she seemed to genuinely feel sorry about it. Pretty, even. Maybe that quack could set her right. Be a shame to lock her up. His friends agreed, and then said lewd things. And then they laughed and told lewd stories and golfed. Life was back to Plane Jane Normal.

Miss McDermott did not get the impression that this was a mandatory meeting, but was charmed to meet Dr. Waxler just the same.

Judge Feynman had called Dr. Waxler and explained the situation to him over the phone in less careful and polite tones as he did Miss McDermott.

Waxler? Feynman. Look, I'm sending a crazy your way. I don't know, Miss McDermot. Says she's going to end the world. No no, she seems fine, she's nice. Just crazy. I'm going to send her your way, you need to make her stop writing the letters. Nevermind, ask HER about the letters. I can't talk I have to try to get my wife out of the back room. No, no seance this afternoon. What? I don't think -- No -- no you can't see her, you stay out of my business Quackzler and do what I say. Get Miss McDermott to stop with her craziness or I'm sending her upstate. Click.

Upstate was where they kept the looney bin. A big white, welcoming building surrounded with green grass and treetops. It hardly looked like a prison at all.


Waxler wasn't sure of the threat. He didn't know this woman, he didn't particularly care if she went upstate or not. It was very possible she needed to go upstate, but Feynman had gotten to his position by making threats and it had warped his personailty to the extent that he was now threatening people for everything. No matter. Waxler looked forward to the work. Being a therapist in a small, religious town was difficult work. There were stigma's attached to seeing a therapist. People in these parts still thought it was just for crazies. In the first few months, the people seemed to think it was very cosmopolitan, a taste of the big city, a psychiatrist in our own town. But then Mrs. Jenkins saw Mrs. Peatie in the waiting room and Mrs. Jenkins told her hairdresser and it spread as these things do. Quickly Mrs. Peatie stopped coming by, and then how did Mrs. Jenkins know Mrs. Peatie was there? Hm? Interesting. And so Mrs. Jenkins stopped coming by as well. There were more instances and slowly things started crumbling. Waxler hoped this was not a sign of things to come, he didn't want all the town misfits. The rich ladies paid better.


Amanda arrived as she would for the next few years, ten minutes early, enough time to lock her bike to the post out front, come inside, exchange plesantries with the receptionist and come in and get settled on the sedan. The first meeting was always about establishing trust. Or, establishing the intention to establish trust. Sometimes it would be years before trust. Amanda, though, seemed to trust everyone. It's why she found it so difficult to understand why nobody believed her, but also why she always saw the best in people.

Why don't you have a seat over here, Miss McDermott.
"Oh, thank you." She was chatty from the start. "Judge Feynman sent me over here, he said that we should speak. I guess you are friends?"
"We're acquaintences."
"Did you go to school together, well no I suppose not, he's much too old. But did you know him from town or are your wives friends --"
"Just from the town, you know how it is."
"Oh of course, everyone seems to know everyone so well here. I think I've met just about everyone. Everyone seems to know everyone, and what they're doing and when somebody new comes to town. It's nice to live in such a nice place, have people looking out for you."
"Yes, I suppose so. I like it here" He didn't, but he was trying to be comforting and easy going. This was years ago. He had more effort then.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I was young and working below my potential. I think It’s hard for that not to be the case - for most people anyway. My friend got me the job. He read poetry at a cafĂ© I hung around at. He said it was quiet, a good place to think, easy work, no real hierarchy, just make sure the place is clean when they open the doors in the morning. If it takes an hour, or 10 hours, the pay was the same. It typically took about four hours. He talked me into it. I wasn’t looking for this sort of work, but he talked me into it.

I just cleaned up. After the machines were shut off, after all the other people were gone. It was just me and sometimes a mop, mostly I just straightened things. I waited to be accused of stealing something important. I never did, but I’d be the person they would have blamed if something went missing. In four years I never spoke to a soul. I just made sure things were where they belonged, I made sure the trash cans were emptied. I did an ok job at it. Nobody complained. I would occasionally do a half ass job and sleep on the roof. I figured out how to get up onto the roof. It was quiet and cold and whatever the roof was coated with was rocky and bumpy and left impressions in my back.

I was horribly sad and lonely. It takes a while to get used to that. To get used to being the sort of person who’s just sad and lonely, even when there’s people around. Even when everyone knows your name. Even when people are clapping you on the back. Even when people are afraid of you and second guess your motives. Even when people wonder where you’ve gone, or when people find you, and come to your door and ask why you won’t come out of the house.

I was on the roof. I fell asleep. The building caught fire. It wasn’t my fault. They blamed me, afterwards, but it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t start any fire. It was something electrical and – just one of those things. It’s just one of those things.

It all went to rubble. I was on the roof. I woke up after the fire. I was under, or in, I suppose, the rest of the building. It was cold and dark and uncomfortable. I thought I was dead. I thought that’s what death was. I thought I was in whatever death was. It was perfect black and there were no sounds apart from those that I created. But then I could see. Light red. Kind of an electric pink. It came from everywhere. I would never understand it. But, I wasn’t thinking then. With the light – something I thought was part of death – I could see enough to see that I was pinned under a large grey slab of concrete. It obscured my legs and I imagined them crushed. I couldn’t move. I was afraid. I screamed and lashed out.

There’d been amazing things lately. Dawn of the Atomic Age. It was raining monsters. Men could fly. Men were on the moon. Men awoke deep and terrible horrors from the ocean, and then we fought against them. Men lept from tall buildings and rent tanks apart and launched German tank men into the depths of the Atlantic ocean. They were lots of things to lots of people, and now, suddenly, me too.

I lashed out and the rubble flew everywhere. I hurt a few firefighters. They were putting out the smoldering holes of chemical green flames that were still flickering underneath the collapse. And then there was flying, flaming debris. And then I crawled out from under it all. I burned in a chemical fire and fell 3 stories. I was unharmed. I cannot be harmed.

They sprayed me with the hose. I crackled with pink light. Some of the water boiled off, some of it touched me but most didn’t. Most of it was destroyed or diverted. It is something that I would have to get used to. I immediately wished I’d died instead. It was my first thought. I knew immediately what I was. I knew I was now one of the people they’d expect to tear tanks apart and track down murderers. My clothes were torn and I was crackling pink energy from my hands and the firefighters were too frightened to speak and I am standing reborn and powerful and I am sad and I am lonely and I haven’t even the slightest idea of what had happened.

I would learn this much: The chemical fire changed me. I do not know how. No one would learn how. That’s how these things go. I can deduce that it happened before the fall, because I would be dead if it hadn’t. I can jump straight up about sixty feet. I have not encountered anything which I cannot pick up and carry. I have carried the cross town bus across town when it broke down. I can produce a small electric charge. I can see for miles. I cannot be harmed. I cannot be harmed. I cannot be harmed.

When this is the case, vagaries in your moral code show themselves in ways you do not expect. Life on this planet is a function of death on this planet. You need to eat. You have to buy food. You need to drink. You have to pay for water. You need shelter. You need to rent a small apartment that you barely afford. Everything costs money. You must work. I cannot be harmed. It breaks things down. This was apparent almost immediately. I walked home from the fire. They said I should stay. I decided it would be best to go to my apartment, and go to sleep. I should call my mother. I should tell her I am safe. I should tell her that I am glowing pink electricity. I should tell her that I am leaving footprints in the sidewalk. I should tell her that I leaned against a post and it broke in half. I should ask for her advice even though she does not have these problems. Even though there are only eleven or so other people on earth that might have these problems. She is a kind woman and loves me. She tells me to be careful, to get a good night’s sleep – that it will work itself out. It will probably just go away. But I crush the phone accidentally. I go next door to use Mr. Alan’s phone. He apologized and looked afraid. I do not know why he apologized. He said “Oh I’m so sorry” and tried to block my way. But I needed to call. I needed to speak with her. So I removed his door and I handed it to him and apologized too. I regret that, but I wasn’t in my right mind just yet. I would make it up to him later.

I decided not to leave my apartment for a month. I took Mr. Allan’s phone. I suspended receiver from a rag when I used it, so that I would not crush it. I spoke to my mother every day. My rent came due and went unpaid. It was not important. Also, I had no money. I had no job – it had burned down and killed me. One month turned into several. I had groceries delivered. I ran a bill. This also went unpaid. I decided that I had no reason to leave, except for food. And that I could take that. I could go and take it. I was owed something. I did not ask to be this. I did not ask for chemicals to be made for their war. I did not ask to be burned in them. If I am now an accident. If I must endure their accident forever, then I do not need to participate.

I was young.

I left my apartment. I was as unsure of what I was about to do as what I’d been red hot certain of the night before. It didn’t matter though. None of it mattered. I was different now. I could not be harmed. It removed the weight of decisions. It clouded up morals. None of it mattered.

First national bank is a small stretch of sidewalk footprints away. I walked behind the counter and they screamed and hit the alarm. I was quiet. Melancholic, really. I opened the drawers and filled up a sack. There were no endorphins. There was no excitement. I left. The police were late. I gave everyone a regretful, eyebrows raised ‘what can you do’ smile as I walked through the door.

I stopped at the grocer and paid my bill.

The police came around a corner when I arrived back home. “Freeze!” and all that. I went upstairs and went to sleep. When I woke up they were still there. When they saw me moving the announced “We have the building surrounded.” I didn’t expect this. I didn’t think I’d have to explain it. But I did. So I jumped out the window. When I landed, lock kneed and bolt upright, I only cleared out a small patch of sidewalk under my feet, it shattered, but not much. I am not very heavy. They shot at me. I let off a pink light, and the bullets were deflected or destroyed. Sometimes they crumbled to dust, sometimes hot liquid, sometimes they froze and shattered, one turned to gas. It smelled terrible. I let them finish.

“I’m keeping the money. When I run out, I will take more. I will not take more than I need. I’m not going to hurt anyone. I would like to be left alone now. Please go home.” I jumped back up and swung through my window. They went and got bigger guns. A rifle man on a nearby building shot me while I slept. I found out about it in the morning when I stepped on the slug. I turned up my television so I could hear it over the sirens, over their scrambling.

There are protocols for bank robberies. There are even protocols for someone like me who tears a building down, or holds the world to ransom. I don’t want that. I just want to be left alone. It went on for far longer than I’d anticipated. They sat outside for a week before I went downstairs again. I thought jumping out the window would have made my point, but it didn’t. So I went downstairs and sat on the stairs. They aimed at me again. They yelled questions and demands. I sat. I watched them speak into black boxes and call other people for answers. Maybe their mothers. Someone must know what to do. I sat on the stairs for three days. Not speaking. Just waiting. One man, a sergeant I think, came out from behind the cars. He had his gun holstered. He walked slowly and cautiously and talked a lot about not doing anything dangerous. He was nervous but brave.

“I’m not doing anything.” He said.
“I know.”
“What do you want?”
“I want you to go away.”
“We can’t do that. There are laws. You broke the law.”
“You can’t arrest me. You have to know that.”
“Yeah, we’re starting to get the picture.”
“You tried to kill me. You shot me while I was sleeping.”
“That wasn’t me.”
“It doesn’t matter. Just go away.”
“Give us the money.”
“It doesn’t belong to you.”
“It doesn’t belong to you either.” I was young.
“It belongs to someone.”
“I’ll give it back if you go away. But I’m just going to take more when I need it.”
“I’ll have to see what my boss says.”

Another week passed. I just let them mill around outside. I had enough food to last a little while longer. I didn’t get hungry very often. Eventually, a man in very tight clothes and a party mask woke me up early in the morning. He was hovering. He cleared his throat until I stirred. He looked like he was anxious to punch me. They always seem so anxious to punch you. I said hello. He said hello. I was groggy, but managed “Coffee?” and he did.

I made coffee. I’d been drinking out of a cast iron pan. It was bent, but didn’t break. I made the effort and delicate and used regular mugs for my guest. It was awkward. I’m not good with people. Becoming very strong can either make you very confident or very uncomfortable. This masked man was the former, I am certainly the latter.

“What are you plans?” he asked.

It’s why they sent him. They want him to make sure I’m not going to kill everyone, or that I’m not building a bomb up here. I’ve seen him on television. People think he’s from outer space. He’s got a new jersey accent. He’s some nobody - like me. Got struck by lightning, won the lottery, had a weird day. But he ran with it. Good for him, I guess. It seems silly to me. It always seemed so silly to me.

“I don’t have any plans. I might need to go shopping tomorrow. They won’t let the delivery guy through anymore. I’m almost out of food.”
“That’s it?”
“That’s it. Yes. That’s it.” There was a moment where he stared at me. He didn’t believe me. He wanted to punch me. “Look. What’s your name?” I said.
“I am The Avenger.”
“Right. Good. See, my name is Tom, Mr. Avenger. My name is Tom and I’m from Indiana and I moved here about six years ago after my parents died. I thought it would be nice to be by the ocean. I had a job and there was a fire, Mr. Avenger. And then I woke up like this.” My hand flashed on cue – he tensed and almost punched me. “I’ve been drinking out of that pan over there because it doesn’t shatter when I touch it. I took that money because I needed it. Because I’m out of money and I can’t work like this. I break everything I touch. I stole that money and I bought cereal and coffee with it. I paid my rent. I never hurt anyone in my whole life. And I won’t, if I can help it. I like to read the newspaper when I’m not in it. I root for the home team. You know? I’m not – I’m not crazy. I’m just like this now. That’s all. I just want to try to forget this happened. But my life got taken away, and then they blamed me for it and so I took something for myself. Kind of rude, I guess, but there it is.”
“The money. The bank wants the money back.”
“Ok. If it means everyone goes away – they can have it back. But I don’t know what to do, after that. I’m not going to jail, if they sent you here to take me there, I’ll walk right out the second you leave. You’ll spend your whole life collecting me from this apartment and driving me back to jail. And that’s ok by me. I’ll be nice about it. But I’m pretty sure it’s not going to do anybody any good.”

There is a moment.

He drank his coffee and I looked at his mask through the steam. It looked like felt. He stared at me. I think he still wanted to punch me. I’d have let him. It wouldn’t have mattered.

But he didn’t. He made a point of vanishing. I blinked and he was gone. The curtains flapped where he flew out. If he’d beaten on his chest with his fists and stomped his feet it would have been the same display. Just “I’m bigger than you.”

He left the money. He told the police to leave me be. That I’d been through a lot – which was true, and it was nice of someone to finally say it. But, looking back over his shoulder a bit, he said he’d be keeping an eye on me. I learned later in life that his name was Reggie. Got mutated when his science whiz little brother made some mistakes in the basement. He dressed up and tipped over tanks. He had a massive heart attack when he was 45 years old. If it came to it, I could have beaten him in a fight.

The police left me alone. I eventually found work. Occasionally the mayor would call about something super heroic. The lobstermen were invading the city, or some other nonsense. But I don’t like killing things. If they came near enough, I’d lend a hand. But that never happens. Reggie was enough. The police would occasionally ask for help on a case. But I would remind them that I wasn’t a detective. I couldn’t locate missing kids or find stolen jewels. It was ludicrous. Instead, I broke ships. The war wrapped up quicker than anyone expected - thanks Reggie - and the big destroyers came home en masse and I was cheaper than dynamite. It was fun. I think they were tracking it. Recording me. I spent some time being paranoid about that. I don’t know how paranoid, but it made me nervous for about a year before I came to the conclusion that it didn’t mean much. They weren’t any threat. If they were watching me punch holes through iron and steel, or walk on the bottom of the bay and jump through ships like a balding torpedo, then so be it. I used to bow when they sank.

I did that for a while. I knocked things over or apart to pay the rent, so I didn’t have to hit the bank again. After Reggie died, it would have been the easiest thing in the world. But people mostly forgot about me and I wasn’t looking to get involved again.

There are still folks like Reggie. They’re a nuisance. Reggie at least had some sense. I think his kid brother helped him with those things too. Mike, I think. I only met him once. At the beach. He introduced himself. He was wearing a watch that was almost comically over-sized. I imagine it was full of ‘secret’ gizmos to talk to, or summon, Reggie.

My mother was wrong. I grew old inside of whatever this is. I haven’t gotten less strong but I have arthritis. Whatever the pink junk is. That’s what’s strong. I’m still just me in here. When I realized that I panicked. I was trapped inside something that barely let me eat. I punched myself, threw myself down, tried to use it to break it. I did it for an hour. I had enough sense to do it away from everyone, but I altered the coastline. They were angry with me. I explained and they pretended to understand. “I’m stuck inside of this. I have no idea how to get out of it. I haven’t touched anyone in fifteen years.” I didn’t elaborate. But I made it make sense. It made them think I was a pervert. It’s easy to be honest when you cannot be harmed. You’re still mostly just afraid of yourself. It was at the police station. I always went to them when I needed to talk after that first week. I tried to only speak to them once every few years.

I am seventy three years old. It is another series of misfortunes that my health has sustained through this process. Doctors can’t get to me either, after all. I live in the building across the street from the one I’d started in. Better view. I made out OK with the business. I’m retired. I could still do it, but there aren’t any more ships. I was good.

Two weeks ago I tripped and ripped through the floor of the bus when I put my arms out to catch myself. I’d have broken my hip, probably, or done some other damage to myself if I were normal, but I’m not, so I fell through the floor and into the street and the bus went up and over me and spread lit gasoline all over the street. People got hurt. None too bad. Nobody even seemed too mad. There’s more than enough pity for me, it turns out. Bright pink old man burning a hole in the sidewalk, sitting in the fire he started because his old limbs aren’t quick enough to catch him when the bus lurches.

One of the new kids picked me up. Dunked me in the ocean. One of his friends put out the bus fire. He set me on the beach and spoke to me slowly like I was deaf but he was still stupid. Told me I needed to be careful. I told him to take me home or to just go away. He tensed, said something about responsibility and wanted to punch me. I laughed and then he got embarrassed and left. I was ten miles from home.

I spent a part of the night on the side of the road. It turns on when it’s cold and keeps me warm. The cops saw me and gave me a lift around 2am. I apologized for the commotion, but they weren’t angry with me. They understood, I think.

When I got home I went to the roof to look at everything. I have spent all of my time very carefully trying not to destroy everything I get my hands on. But it happens anyway. It is dark before it occurs to me that I have no idea how high I can jump, or how far. I could leave this building in rubble beneath me and maybe hit the middle of the ocean. Maybe I’d make it the whole way across. But it’d be all rubble beneath me.