Isn’t He Fantastic

Indie Writers’ Deathmatch Runner-Up 2009

“Have you seen my cell phone charger?” I screamed over the industrial strength hair dryer. “The battery is almost dead.”

“The phone isn’t the only thing I’d like to see die,” she yelled.

“It was on the kitchen table last night,” I continued, ignoring her eleventh wish of premature death this week. (P.S. – It’s only Tuesday.)

No response. It didn’t hurt to ask.

My cell phone charger has vanished. Much like my favorite shirt, important work documents and even my showerhead. I can only hope the charger met a much kinder fate than my favorite Burberry tie that was jammed down the garbage disposal or my laptop that died of an overdose of sugar to the disc drive. The guys at the Apple store had a good laugh at my expense.

When we started dating almost five years ago she had no problem with my way of life. I was ‘semi-retired’ when we met but she knew I was planning to go back to work. There are two types of people in my field; those who have no choice but to follow the path into this line of work and those who are born with a gift for it.

I was chosen. Destined. Then I just stopped. Not by choice.Quitting the life cold turkey was not easy. You still get the feeling. An itch that is never scratched. You miss it. I’ve known guys who walked away, claiming it was forever, only to return after a few

months. It’s usually something strange that pulls you back into the game. An idea or motivation, perhaps even a chance encounter or opportunity.

Eventually you can’t ignore the urge.

I made promises I couldn’t keep. The secret calls. Hours down the basement. The locked drawers. The unexplainable past. The casual mentions of going back to work. I let her know some things but not everything. The rest she pieced together from snooping and research. It all led to a huge blowout. We fought. Words were exchanges. It ended. Badly. Threats were made. She promised to tell everyone my dirty little secret. I promised to get rid of her permanently. The breakup hurt almost as much as it did with all the others. Maybe a little more.

I let her stay until she found a place to live.

“Listen for the doorbell,” she yelled. “I am expecting someone.”

If she were expecting a girlfriend or a pizza, she’d answer the door. She is expecting a date. Her third, with a different guy this month. She made a point to schedule dates when she was positive I’d be home. Like last Friday evening when a guy with a blonde-tipped blowout and a slight stink of body spray, picked her up for an evening of Sake and a bento box at our favorite sushi joint. As if the matchbook she left in the kitchen weren’t enough of a hint the restaurant owner made sure to mention the date when I picked up three rolls for Sunday dinner. I asked him if she put him up to it and he conveniently forgot English.

I refuse to put my hand in the kitchen garbage. I can buy another charger. The hair dryer snapped off. She raced around the bedroom, back and forth from the full-length mirror to her closet, each thud shaking the ceiling above my head. The doorbell rang like an alarm through the earth quaking house.

“Get that!” she yelled.

I opened the front door to find the most handsome man I’d ever seen in person. He had perfect, Chicklet-white teeth. His black hair-helmet swooped across his forehead stopping just above his eyebrows. He stood at least 6’8 with massive shoulders almost touching each side of the wooden doorframe.

“Is Chloe ready?” he asked, staring through my skin and getting a good look at my organs.

“Yeah. Almost,” I stammered in shock. “Can I tell her who is asking?”

“Fantastic Pete.”

I knew I’d eventually come face to face with Fantastic Pete. Even though I imagined this moment a million times in my mind, it never involved my front door, me in a sweat suit, and my ex-girlfriend.

“Have a seat. Chloe should be ready in a minute.”

“I can see that” he said, bringing his X-ray stare off the ceiling and looking around for a place to sit. The giant FP in a bold IMPACT font on his powder blue onesie was like a wearable business card. He grabbed his cape and pulled it to the side of his muscular ass and sat down. I guess his only fear is an expensive dry cleaning bill.

“Beer?” I asked, pointing towards the kitchen.

“I don’t drink and fly” he laughed, regurgitating a joke he probably used more times than his super strength. He glanced towards the kitchen and asked for a glass of the iced tea. The iced tea, in the closed fridge, hiding behind the milk and Coffeemate. The x-ray vision trick has surpassed creepy and reached borderline obnoxious in a matter of minutes.

He was much bigger in person. Much more intimidating. You hear stories from guys. What Pete can do physically and what he has done. It’s not until he is bending the frame of your expensive couch with his superbutt that you truly appreciate his strength. I had to hand it to her. She found the only man to date that would make me pay attention.

Pete crossed his leg, grabbed his meticulously shined boot, and pulled it towards his pelvis. My father, a military man who took pride in the shine of his footwear and the fact that his shoes always reflected like miniature mirrors, would have marveled at those suckers. The butt-kissing would have continued because the guy was an American hero but dad would have really focused his praise on those boots.

“So I heard you got your own comic book. How does that work?”

The Fantastic Pete is in my living room, picking up my former girlfriend, and I have to make chit chat. I had thousands of questions but no idea how to ask them. Comic books were the first thought that popped into my head.

“I inspired a comic book.”

“Is it factual?”

“Parts of it. The story of my life and my arrival on earth are true. The rest is fiction based on real events. Because of legalities and court cases… you know there is a gray area… so it’s loosely based on the truth.”

“Do you get paid for something like that? I’d imagine that is good cabbage.”

“Cabbage?”

I guess English expressions are difficult for every type of alien.

“Oh. Um… money. It’s a funny way to say money.”

Funny to most people.

“As the Roman philosopher Cicero said ‘Endless money forms the sinews of war.‘ All of the proceeds from the comic go to different charities. I really don’t have a need for material possessions or money even.”

I hope that line works on Saito tonight when the bill for dinner arrives.

“How do the writers get the information?”

“I have an assistant.”

“Like Robin?”

“No, Robin is fictional and he actually fought crime in the comics. Stephen doesn’t get involved physically. He just observes and brings notes back to the writers.”

Fantastic Pete pointed out the front window towards a young man peering inside the house. I concluded this was Stephen, but I couldn’t be positive, because he didn’t have any letters on his chest like ole’ F.P.

“Well that is good he doesn’t get involved. Steve probably doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of many criminals. The name alone is kind of funny. Look out fellas! It’s Steve! Run!

Super strength. Blazing speed. A scream that could move mountains. Absolutely no sense of humor.

“I am sure Stephen could take half of them,” he replied. “What he lacks in strength he makes up for in intelligence. Criminals usually aren’t the brightest bulbs. If they were they would be a little more successful at their chosen career.”

He finally laughed but I didn’t find any humor in the comment.

“Sorry, I should probably know this stuff but I was never really a funny pages fan. I don’t know your whole story.”

“Well you don’t have to be a comic book fan to know my story,” he explained “you just have to read a newspaper. I’ve been featured hundreds of times in interviews and profiles. I am sure you read the newspaper.”

“Nope.”

Much like every other citizen of the world, I knew everything about the Fantastic Pete. I read the newspaper religiously. It becomes a necessity in my line of work. It’s the only way I get any feedback on my job, whether success or failure, and a way to keep up with former acquaintances. I’ve read thousands of articles about Pete; saving a bus full of high school basketball players from skidding into a frozen Ohio lake, rescuing every tenant of a forty-story high-rise before it burned to the ground and, Pete’s greatest accomplishment to date, foiling a perfectly planned plot to execute the President by the ruthless mastermind Abaddon. It not only saved the life of the President but sent Abaddon into hiding, never to be heard from again.

“I don’t read the newspaper,” I continued. “With all the murder, crime and tragedy in the world it could really put a person into a deep depression. The front page is just about moving papers. Sensationalism sells. It’s got to be tough on you though, I mean having super powers and whatnot. You can only do so much. You can only save one person at time.”

He fidgeted in his chair and took another X-ray peek upstairs. Our first encounter is teaching me something new about F.P.; something that people couldn’t learn from all the books, movies and now comics about “humanity’s savior.” Pretending to know nothing about Pete really got him agitated. Agitation is an incredibly human emotion. Perhaps even a weakness.

“I’ll glance over the business section,” I continued. “Occasionally a Dr. Gott if the headline catches my eye. The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers. Thomas Jefferson.”

Take that, quote boy.

“Is this odd for you? It must be odd.”

“Well, I mean a person doesn’t get to rub elbows with the Fantastic Pete everyday but I meet quite a few famous people in my line of work so…”

“I mean,” he interrupted, “the fact that I am here to take your ex-girlfriend on a date. That has to feel odd.”

The conversation twisted quicker than a steal bar in his palms. I got up to get that iced tea.

“It was kind of interesting really,” he yelled into the kitchen, “the way we met.”

“How’s that?”

“It was late evening and I found her ready to jump from the Burlington Bridge. I flew her to safety and she wouldn’t let me leave. She was upset, distraught, and incredibly well dressed and better looking than most suicide attempters. We talked and ended up having a great deal in common. I asked her out. She told me her living situation and I suggested we meet at neutral location, preferably not the top of a bridge, but she said it would feel more genuine if I picked her up at her place.”

Naivety seems to be another character flaw of Pete’s. A woman dressed up, alone and on a bridge at night is either looking to find herself a john or a superhero. Suicide is the last thing on her mind.

“That’s a great first time story,” I said. “They say the more interesting story about how you met the more chance the relationship will last. She is a great girl. Things didn’t work out. It was my own fault. I’m kind of a workaholic. It happens. We are all human. Well, most of us.”

“Well, don’t worry” Pete smiled. “I’ll be sure to show her a super time. Pardon the pun.”

Now I was positive he had no real sense of humor.

“So you’ve mentioned work. What is it you do…ummm…”

“Abe. My friends call me Abe.”

“What do you do for a living Abe?”

“Oh, you know” I said “a little of this, a little of that. Just another 9 to 5 grunt with master plans for a corner office and eventual world domination.”

This time we both laughed.

There was so much I wanted to say. I wanted to rattle off the laundry list of my accomplishments and everything that happened before he showed up. I wanted to tell him it was only a matter of time before his perfect world came crumbling down. I wanted to mention he looked like a freak from Mardi Gras in that getup and that when he turned a certain way he had an immense camel toe. I wanted to let him know that Chloe dating a superhero was no big deal.

* * *

There were only two things stopping me from taking a verbal, or physical swipe, at Fantastic Pete; mortal strength and Chloe’s incredible timing.

They left for their date, flying straight up into the air and out of sight in a flash. I’ll give him a B+ for showmanship. I am sure he gives every woman the Lois Lane treatment on the first date. Stephen jumped into his Accord and raced off in the same direction. I took mental note of his license plate.

Hundreds of images crisscrossed my mind. I thought about them arriving at their destination, and how once she got a peek at her fantastically blown wind helmet, Pete was in for an incredibly long evening of brooding. I thought about their dinner, the countless drinks, them hitting it off, and what could possibly happen afterwards. I thought about the Fantastic Pete pleasuring my ex-girlfriend and hoped he wasn’t fantastic at everything. I thought about how in the moments after sex she would gush out something incredibly chick-flick like “I feel like I’ve known you forever” and he would follow with something John Cusack like “Me too. I feel like I can bare my soul.” She will admit to feeling the same way. The booze and post-sex euphoria may make her spill her guts. She might love nothing more than to reveal everything about her ex-boyfriend.

This wasn’t the epic first meeting of the Fantastic Pete and Abaddon that he, nor I, nor the world had hoped for but I am sure the newspapers and comic book writers will find a way to rework it for the subscribers and Fanboys. When Pete replays the moments of our encounter in his head I’m sure he’ll feel like a super fool for not putting all the pieces together.

He will be back tonight. I will be waiting. I need to prepare. It’s been five long years. I just needed that motivation. Never did I imagine it would come in the form of a woman.

I unlocked the basement door and headed into the pitch black with just my cell phone and charger.

It was buried in the bag of cat litter.

At least I should be thankful for one of his super powers.

Chris Illuminati is an online content editor and freelance writer. He normally writes about all the amazingly embarrassing moments in his life like the time he peed on the cat or the time he pulled a penis lollipop out of a bag in front of his father. Then he realized he could write all those stories but pretend they happened to someone else. This is his first attempt at fiction.

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