Smoke started coming out of the Corolla’s vents on the freeway and I was still in my costume. To make matters worse, I couldn’t fly. Since Mom kicked me out I had been living at the Sunrise Motel and spending days posing for pictures with tourists on Hollywood Boulevard. It was rough in the beginning. Then I took over a small area of sidewalk on the Walk of Fame by shocking a guy dressed up as Superman in front of a family from Omaha. After that, the out-of-work actors left me alone.
I pulled off the freeway and called a tow truck. The service call was $53.00. The money that I made in Hollywood was going to have to go toward that and back rent at the Sunrise. I still had a cheeseburger in the mini fridge. Half of it would be my dinner.
“What’s with the getup, buddy?” the driver asked as he hooked my car to the truck.
“Oh, I’m in a commercial.”
“Yeah? For what?”
“Insurance. It’ll be out in a couple months.” It was the first thing that popped in my head. My brother sold insurance. I think the last straw for my mom was when I refused to call him for a job.
The truck dropped me off at the Sunrise a little after dusk. There was a note on the door of Room 206 reminding me that the rent was late and that failure to pay would result in forfeiture of my belongings. I knew.
The police scanner was its usual jumble of voices and static as I sat by the window eating. There’s no guide to this kind of work. The origin stories about murdered parents and radioactive bugs are tacked on after decades of comic books, movies, cartoons and breakfast cereal tie-ins, but the lawyers usually write that stuff. Reality is, everyone has to learn the trade as they go along.
I was about to pour myself a drink and call it another wasted evening when I deciphered a lady cop’s voice saying something about Meadowlark Liquor. A robbery. Five blocks from the Sunrise. My nerves tried to stop me from doing anything, as they always did. And always succeeded.
This was it. It was time to do something or continue life as it had been for all these months, posing with tourists and wasting these powers I had been given as a strange novelty.
I breathed. I concentrated. I slipped out the window and climbed onto the roof. I tried to forget everything as I ran across the rooftops in the direction of Meadowlark Liquor.
“Citizen! Are you harmed?!” I gasped as I burst through the door.
The clerk was yelling into his cell phone. He looked up at me, confused. “Who the hell are you? Get outta here!”
“Citizen, I’m here to help! I am… I am… Thales! Which way did the criminal go?”
He pointed to the back door. “I don’t know! That way?!”
Sirens were approaching. I ran out the back door as the clerk yelled, “I don’t know! Some freak in a costume!”
He was close, but so were the police. If they caught him this would have been for nothing. I climbed back onto the roof and looked in every direction. A small figure moved in the distance. I sprinted toward it. My legs were going to hurt in the morning. This was a secondary power, and I was out of practice.
I was half a block away when he turned down an alley. “Stop, criminal!” No response. I kept running. “Stop!”
I was above him. I jumped. It hurt, but there was no time. I reached out and blasted him with a bolt of lightning; not enough to kill him, but it would really hurt. He dropped a paper bag as he fell to the ground.
“Criminal! I am Thales! Scourge of…” I forgot what to say. I was panting. “Criminal…” I took the bag, not knowing what to do. It was full of small bills with some twenties. My mind spun with adrenaline. “You… are…” The police were beginning to comb the neighborhood. “You.”
I could have been a hero. I could have proved my mom and brother wrong.
Instead I ran, back to the Sunrise with a bag of someone else’s money.
Gene Hart is a delivery driver who writes when he’s not working. He lives in Thousand Oaks, California.