“With great power comes great responsibility.”– Somebody’s Uncle Ben
My name’s Xavier, like the professor from X-Men. I’m not super smart, like him, though. Then again, I can walk, so it’s kind of a draw.
Not including my ability to go up and down stairs, I do have something else he doesn’t…
Like, really strong.
When I was seven years old I scared the Holy Spirit out of my Grandma when I accidentally lifted her four door sedan over my head in search of a Tonka truck that had rolled underneath. When I put the car down, Grandpa was white-knuckling the steering wheel with eyes wider than my fist.
At that particular moment nobody gave me the, “With great power…” speech. No, they thought I was possessed. Next thing I know, Father Fairfax is stopping by, sprinkling water in my eyes and wielding a Bible over his head like a battle ax.
It didn’t take.
The exorcism, that is. Probably on account of the fact that there was nothing to exorcise. My family adopted a fine strategy of group amnesia with a side of denial, and a healthy heaping of if we don’t talk about it, then it didn’t happen mixed in for good measure.
I can’t pretend not to have noticed their watchful eyes boring holes through my psyche, though. When you’re a kid, you notice when people look at you like you’re different. It’s a kid sixth sense bordering on superpower.
What caused my super human strength, you ask?
Short answer is: I don’t know.
Long answer isn’t much longer.
I don’t remember any radioactive spiders, that’s for sure. Maybe it was an alien?
In the end, it doesn’t really matter ‘cause I’m stuck with this curse, or gift, depending on which way you decide to look at the thing.
Ok, so imagine you’re me, sixteen years old, sitting in the movie theater watching Spider-Man—the one with Toby McGuire—when Uncle Ben comes on screen with his bullet riddled body and squawks out a nugget of wisdom before his eyes rolled back in his head and he made that gurgling noise signifying death. It was a sad moment. I teared up.
If you haven’t seen it, watch it at your own risk. Bring a few tissues to be on the safe side.
So, if you’re me, watching poor Uncle Ben gasping for his last breath, and you’ll probably thing the old man’s talking directly to you.
Or at least, I did.
I saw Spider-Man and all he stood for and thought, I owe it to the people of Danderville Ohio too be all I can be.
No, I didn’t join the army. I did something better.
I made a costume.
It was a little rough, but it came together in the end. I had a blue cape fashioned from an old faded blanket given to my parents when my baby brother was born. Here’s something I learned in all of this…canary blue is not an intimidating color for a masked avenger.
But you make do with what you got. And anyways, my sparkling red tight were definitely enough to let the bad guys know I meant business.
Here’s something they never tell you in the superhero movies. Lycra is a relatively weak material. It rips incredibly easy. When you’re running in and out of burning buildings, sure, it breathes well, but you might as well be naked.
Oh, ad choosing a superhero name? Not as easy as you might think. I wanted something cool. Something to show that I was out to protect the innocent people of Danderville. More than anything, I wanted something badass.
And what’s more badass than, The Hit Man!!
I don’t know, but I’ll tell you what is not bad ass. I sent my orange and green shirt to the seamstress. Sewing letters was outside my ability. Unfortunately there was some sort of mix-up. When I got it back it said, The Hi Man!!
Seriously, say that five times fast and you’ll realize it’s a different kind of innocence I’d be protecting. I almost gave up right there. The seamstress must have hit her busy season cause it would take a couple weeks to get it fixed.
Whatever, crime waits for no man.
And anyways, most crime happens at night. Nobody would even notice. Most degenerate criminal types can’t read anyhow.
So, there I am: ragged canary blue cape with white spots from my brother’s baby vomit. Red spandex that made me glow in the dark with a dark green/neon orange long sleeve shirt that said The Hi Man across the chest.
It was a Tuesday night the first time I snuck out of my bedroom window. The air was crisp in all my tender regions as I leaped from the second story to the ground. I landed with a loud thud, crouched low as the motion light to the backyard came on, and hid behind my dad’s barbecue.
I waited a couple minutes until I was sure the guards, aka my parents, hadn’t noticed anything before melting into the shadows. I re-emerged on the other side of the house, gunning for freedom on my 12 speed Huffy, mashing the peddles like my life depended on it.
I put as much ground between The Hit Man and my secret identity. It’s the only way to protect the ones we love.
I wasn’t operating with much of a plan, but in a cesspool of 2,000 suburbanites, how hard could it be to find some nay-do-wells. The streets were quiet as I peddled down Main street. The humming of my tires across the black asphalt was the only sound. I glanced at my watch. It was already 10:34.
Prime crime time, I told myself. Better stay extra alert.
As I rounded the corner of 1st and Main my spider senses started tingling. There, at the end of the street, a man dressed in dark clothing was loading boxes into the back of a white panel van. I’d seen enough movies to know he was likely robbing the place of high end electronics.
Vaulting from my bike, I sprinted the remaining distance. Which, even with the benefit of adrenaline and super-strength, was substantially slower than if I had remained on my bike.
What can I say, I got caught up in the moment.
“Hey, you! Stop what you’re doing!” I yelled. Behind me, my cape flapped in the wind with the prerequisite amount of awesome.
The guy must have been guilty ‘cause he dropped the box with a loud thud, paused like a frightened jackrabbit, and then sprinted back into the building like a determined jackrabbit.
I pulled on the door to the building, but it was no use—he’d locked it from the inside.
“You’re not getting away that easy,” I said, taking a few steps back. With a running start, I lowered my shoulder and plowed into the front door. Shards of wood exploded out in all directions. I hurdled through the entrance with a grunt.
What remained of the door rattled off its hinges and fell, filling the darkened foyer with dust as it slammed into the floor. The criminal stood across the room, eyes wide with guilt. He turned and sprinted up the stairs leading to the second floor.
I crested the stairs moments after him. A door slammed shut at the end of the hall. In the darkness I stalked towards the sound. My heightened senses detected something, a soft scratching from the other side of the wall.
My mind jumped to the only logical conclusion given the circumstances—this nefarious villain was holding innocent people captive inside the walls. I pummeled the bricks and drywall with my bare hands, filling the hall with debris.
I poked my head through the hole I’d created and peered into the darkness. No sign of the prisoners.
Oh, what a fool I’d been. I fell for the oldest trick in the book—look a distraction. And distracted I was. Not anymore. I wouldn’t be fooled again.
I barreled through the door the villain had closed moments before my fight with the wall. I pursued him up a spiraling stair case to the roof.
There would be no escape this time, I told myself.
I paused at the top landing. The metal stairs were welded into place, but it was no match for my super-human strength. The metal twisted and snapped beneath my irresistible grip. I ripped the stairs from where they were fastened to the wall. With a mighty kick I dislodged the staircase and sent it tumbling into the darkness.
The man stood, cowering and yet defiant, on the opposite end of the roof. He pleaded for mercy, but there would be none.
“I’m taking you in, bozo.”
“For what?” Please, take my wallet, my keys… please, just don’t hurt me!” The man tried dropping to his knees as if that would help his case.
“You can’t barter with Justice,” I said, stepping closer.
The man was in his late thirties. Moon light shimmered off his sweaty bald head. His suit and tie were dirty from all his evil-doings.
I yanked him up by the collar. As I did, the floor swayed under foot.
“What have you done?” I pulled the man’s face closer to mine. “Did you rig this place to blow?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. You’re crazy!”
“If you call justice crazy, then yeah…I’m crazy.”
The ground shuddered once more. Time was running out. I scooped up the man in my arms and jumped on top of the wall. Perched atop the narrow walk-way, the ground swayed thirty feet below.
“Please, put me down.”
“I’m not leaving you here to die. Death is a mercy you don’t deserve. You’re going to jail.”
I stepped off the roof and we dropped into the darkness of night. A high pitch shriek pierced the air, mingling with the cool breeze whizzing past my face. I held the man tight in my arms and landed on the sidewalk.
I absorbed the impact with my legs, but the man’s body twisted oddly in my arms. Something like a whip cracked. The screaming became a muffled whimper.
I looked down at the man lying mangled in my arms. His back bending awkwardly against my biceps.
Holding the broken man in my arms, I realized jumping had been a bad idea. While I was strong enough to withstand the fall, even in my arms, he was not.
A couple lights flickered on in the homes across the street. No doubt they had heard the man’s cry moments before. I knelt down and placed the man’s gelatinous body in the grass.
The wind cut through my blazing red spandex and my canary blue cape fluttered in the wind as I ran away.
Maybe I’m not cut out to be a super hero after-all.