THE POWERS THAT FLEE PREVIEW
Posted on July 26, 2016
"So Excited" would be how I'd describe this blog entry if it were a chapter in my new book. I started The Powers That Flee yesterday and cranked out two chapters of this 80s YA superhero novel. I leaned heavily on my own experiences to color it with elements from the time period. I'm having a ball. Here are rough versions of the first two chapters.
Everyone has a nemesis.
Dylan Forrester's steadfast wrongdoer was Eric Siegel. Eric, with his puffy, acne-riddled face and bleached white, Howard Jones up do, glared at him from the other side of the office waiting room. Principal Motts would see them after he'd finished his lunch―likely fast food he'd sent his secretary to fetch when he'd realized the tomato and cucumber slices his diet-minded wife had packed for him weren't going to cut it for a third day in a row. Everyone at Mayfield High knew the large administrator regularly cheated on his diet. He definitely knew where the beef was. He was losing the battle of the bulge.
Dylan lightly touched his side, flinching at the pain. Under his t-shirt was a large scrape thanks to the bully pushing him off a brick wall not even ten minutes ago. I can't even eat my lunch alone in peace.
He held onto the comic he'd been reading when Eric had shoved him off the wall. The issue of Rom Spaceknight was no longer in mint condition thanks to the incident. Why had he crinkled it so on the way down? He should've let it go, trusting it to sustain less damage plummeting the eight feet or so. He stared at the Dire Wraith on the cover and shot Eric a look. So much could be explained away if those who hassled him did it because they were secretly an alien force bent on conquering their tiny blue planet. But that was the easy way out. Darin had never discerned why Eric picked on him. His motives were indecipherable and certainly had nothing to do with enslaving weak humans for some distant intergalactic empire keen on bodysnatching.
Darin eyed his adversary's Rolling Stones concert shirt. The bulging graphic lips and tongue were deemed much more acceptable to the in crowd than Dylan's powder blue apparel depicting his favorite bounty hunter to be digested off camera by a rubbery pit monster.
Eric leaned forward and whispered, "Say it was an accident, that I slapped you on the back as a greeting. I didn't mean for you to scrape yourself up, nerdball."
He wanted them to be chums. Darin grimaced. Eric has been hounding him since seventh grade, his persecution running the gamut from sabotaging his English muffin pizza in Home Ec to surreptitious punches to the gut on the basketball court. Three years of dealing with his name calling and teasing along with all the physical knocks was enough.
In his mind, Darin responded with a perfect comeback. In reality, he just looked away.
The principal's door opened, and Motts gave them each the stink eye. Darin did his best to ignore the ketchup smear on both of the man's chins.
Eric grabbed a tissue from a box on the table next to his seat and handed it to the administrator. "Got a little of your lunch on your chin, sir."
Motts thanked him and dabbed away the evidence of a Whopper or Quarter Pounder. Definitely not a Big Mac. It's secret sauce is more a pale orange.
The bully, all smiles and transparent brown-nosing, walked in first, calm and composed.
Darin was a wreck. He'd been sent to the principal back in fifth grade for throwing a snowball at a mean neighborhood dog roaming unleashed on the playground and been a blubbering idiot when faced with authority back then. His confidence hadn't exactly blossomed over the ensuing years. If anything, he was even more anxious as a teen, his self-esteem seeking shelter deep down rather than face the light of day when faced with socializing or contending with bullying, which was the extent of his socializing, truthfully.
Eric sat up straight in his chair and reached out to him. "Hey, bud, you want some help? Careful with your side. I know it must hurt." He repositioned the padded chair with mock concern.
The principal took his seat. From his sympathetic look, he bought Eric's act as totally legit. "So, gentlemen, tell me what happened out in the cafeteria courtyard?" He swiveled his chair to face Eric. "Why don't you go first, Mr. Siegel?"
This was rich. No way would the truth work here. Just the same, Darin was fed up and refused to go along with the bully's story. It was a useless stand, but one he had to take.
Pretty much being thrown to the sarlacc, here, Darin thought as he slid into his seat, favoring the side that wasn't scraped up and awaiting his turn to be heard but not actually listened to.
A trip to the Inner Harbor was a real treat. Darin saved up for it. They went about every four months to Baltimore's reinvigorated downtown area because his dad loved ordering crab cakes at Phillip's Seafood in one of the modern shopping plazas overlooking the water.
It also meant a chance to secure any missing issues of his favorite independent comics at the Geppi's Comic World on the second floor―he kept up with his Marvel and DC titles thanks to combing the spinner racks at the local used book store and various convenience stores in nearby Frederick. He was big into Pacific Comics along with American Flagg! and Grim Jack from First Comics. If he didn't break down and purchase Marvel Fanfare #1, the elusive back issue with Michael Golden art was still too pricey, he'd come home with quite a haul. Despite its jacked up price, he always checked to see if they had copies. Maybe today he would pull the trigger and spend more than cover price for it. With most comics hovering around a dollar, he had enough allowance and lunch money socked away to cover almost thirty books if he didn't break down and buy the Marvel Fanfare.
He stared at the cover of the Star Wars comic, willing the single crease down its middle from being folded to fit into his mailbox to magically heal itself. He received three comics by mail each month: Star Wars, The Micronauts and Ka-zar the Savage. None of them arrived in good condition thanks to having to fit in the small mailbox. His still tried to sway his dad to get a bigger mailbox so the books would lie flat, but he never budged. Still, he loved the thrill of receiving comics by mail even if they were sent in just a flimsy brown paper sleeve and often arrived damaged. It was something to look forward to three times a month.
His sister sat in the back seat with him, looking through some glossy magazine about the Aussie band she worshipped: Duran Duran. If Darin heard one more juicy detail about John Taylor that made Katie's heart go pitter patter, he'd throw himself to the hungry wolf they always squawked about. Their only good song, as far as he was concerned, was "Lost Boys" from the awesome movie of the same name.
"I want to go to the aquarium this time. Don't you, Darin Darin?" Katie sent him a goofy smile. She repeated his name to drive him crazy, an awkward reference to her favorite band.
Mom looked back at them. "Not today, dear. We went just a few months back. We're just going to eat and walk through some of the shops."
"And let me check out comics, right?" Darin said.
Dad didn't even try to hide his annoyance. Darin caught his eye roll in the rear view mirror as he turned off the interstate, easing their Torino station wagon up to the light at the end of the exit ramp. "Yeah, you can but make it quick."
My sister didn't even look up from her magazine. "You're in high school. Who still reads comics? Act your age, Darin Darin."
She wanted him to respond, but he didn't take the bait.
Mom turned around and looped her arm around the back of the head rest, her trademark pose that meant she wanted to have a heart-to-heart. "Don't listen to your sister. If it interests you still, that's fine."
Dad mumbled, "At least they're an investment. When he gets older he can sell them for a pretty penny."
And that was the only reason he let Darin indulge in comic books. He thought they would earn back their value and then some. He never discouraged this thinking as it allowed him to keep gobbling up comics. He had already filled two long boxes with a third halfway there.
Mom glanced down at the comic. "When we get home, how about you don't hole up in your room to read your comic books and let me take you to the mall? You can walk around and do what teens your age do, hang out."
Dad cursed out a car that cut in front of him. Darin cringed at the traffic tirade. His father had a mouth when riled up. For the longest time, he'd called lugnuts that refused to budge when they did their father/son bonding ritual of rotating tires together colorful expletives. Darin always wondered to what end. The lugnuts didn't give any easier after being sworn up and down at.
"I'll even give you money to get one of those big pretzels." Mom didn't waver in her crusade to get her shut-in son out and about.
Dad inspected Darin's face in the mirror as he drove. "If you go, make sure you wash your face and do something with that hair."
Aye-aye, captain. Certainly will. Follicle advice from the man who took him for the first dozen years of his life to a barber who could only ever muster up one hairstyle, a hideous bowl cut. Darin now wore his hair parted down the middle, feathering it on the sides the best he could given that it was altogether rather straight and limp. He used some gel to hold it in place but didn't like the hassle of fussing with it much.
"Can I come too? I want to go to Waxie Maxies and look through their new releases." Katie clapped her hands together, producing a great deal of noise with all her bracelets clashing into each other.
"Do I have to? I really just wanted to stay home after this trip?"
Go out," Dad said with firmness. "It's a Saturday night. Don't hide from everyone. Go and get noticed. Maybe buy a cute girl an Orange Julius or something."
Dad worried that Darin didn't have an active social life. He fretted that his son should be more interested in the opposite sex.
Darin never offered that he was completely on board with having a girlfriend, someone who would respond to his announcement that he had a crush on them with something other than the patented you're-a-nice-guy-but retort. The three times he'd put himself out there with a girl had all been crash and burn moments.
"I'm taking a laid back approach in that area, Dad. Going to let them come to me."
Dad snorted and devoted his full attention to navigating the busy downtown streets.
He knows when he's facing a losing battle.
"What about that Mindy girl who's in all your art classes?" Mom said.
"No thanks." Darin knew to mention that Mindy Wasserman was annoying would earn him a lecture about being open-minded from her.
"Just go, nimrod," Katie said, knowingly jabbing him with her rolled up magazine in his scraped up side.
He stiffened and grunted in pain.
Mom sent my injury a look and frowned. "That still bothering you? Should we have that looked at?"
"No!" Darin half-shouted.
"Still don't know how you wound up with two days of lunch detention over that," Mom said. "You sure I shouldn't walk into Mott's office Monday and tell him that Siegel boy is a big fat liar?"
He looked away so she couldn't see his eyes roll. "No, Mom. I don't want to make a big deal of it." Bad enough that he had detention with Eric to look forward to next week.
Since neither of them had been willing to change their stories, and they'd tied up a good hour of the principal's Friday afternoon, Motts had handed down punishments for the both of them. Wonderfully effective consequence there.
"Fine, I'll go, but Katie's not going to tag along with me. You march her around." He'd go, but spend the money she'd hand him for food on tokens. He'd spend his time in the Alladdin's Castle across from the movies. It'd been a while since he'd been there. Time to check out if he still held the top three slots on Dig Dug. Pumping burrowing dinosaurs full of air until they burst worked just fine for him. It was safe and would guarantee he'd stay clear of running into any classmates of the female persuasion.
Dad pulled into a parking spot and shoved the gear shift into park. He thumped the car seat and said, "Let's eat first then let you kids roam around a little." He wagged a finger at Darin. "Think you're old enough to keep an eye on your sister by yourself today while you mom and I get some dessert?"
Knowing that was likely the best deal he would get, Darin slipped out of the car and gave his dad a thumbs up.
He eyed the Inner Harbor in the distance, his attention not at all on the tourist attractions like the USS Constellation but on the second floor of the pavilion that held his comic oasis. A wave of giddy anticipation came over him―new comics to read, new adventures offering escape.
Katie grabbed his hand and gave him an earnest smile. He grinned back. As frustrating as he sometimes found his twelve-year-old sister, she at least shared his fanaticism for something. Although, his dedication to four-color fantasies on glossy Baxter paper surely trumped her Duran Duran fixation. Simon Le Bon and his made-up bandmates couldn't hold a candle to Doctor Strange or the X-Men, especially the Claremont/Byrne run of the mutant mag.
So there you have it. I'm hoping a lot of readers will dig this nostalgia-fueled, power-tripping take on super powers.