by Terry Hargrove
The new Batwoman is gay. Really. I don’t have an opinion about that, since I don’t read comic books anymore. Still, I can remember when she carried her crime fighting equipment in a purse.
When I was a kid, video games were called comic books. They were great because they were filled with superheroes who didn’t require an emotional investment, they were very cheap and they were full of advertisements. The ads were the second best part of the comic book. We all wanted some X-ray glasses, or free chameleons, or a Charles Atlas guide to beating the crap out of beach sand-kickers. Every guy in my neighborhood wanted to win the huge chest of plastic army men, over 288 pieces, that could be yours if you only sold a few Grit magazines or packs of seeds or boxes of Christmas cards. And when it came right down to it, who didn’t need magazines and seeds and Christmas cards?
But the best thing about comic books was the dream, intoxicating almost to madness, of being a superhero. I was hooked as were we all. More than that, we believed superpowers were attainable, and already enjoyed by a lucky few of us.
Wayne was The Splinter. He could get a splinter in his finger without trying. I once saw him pick up a splinter from a roll of paper towels. Then there was Jeffrey, who we dubbed Cast Boy. He broke both his arms twice, his leg once, and the big toe on his right foot three times. You see the problem we faced. The Splinter and Cast Boy weren’t much good in a fight against evil doers. Heck, they were afraid of my sisters. But we tried, and when things went horribly awry, I was called upon. My Superhero name: The Forgiven.
Yeah, I know. It sounds kind of lame, but my brother would have given anything for my super power. I never got into trouble. It’s not that I didn’t do anything wrong, no, no. I did bad things all the time, but there was something about me, some magical aura, so that I could confess to even the most heinous crimes, and cruel authority would shrug and tell me to be better in the future. And are you asking if I ever used my superpowers for personal benefit? Of course I did. I was The Forgiven, not The Idiotic.
My brother would scowl at me over the breakfast table. He was thrashed for misbehavior all the time, and it burned him mightily that I was never punished for anything. One morning he was in a particularly surly mood, grumbling and muttering.
“Something on your mind, brother?” I asked.
“It’s not fair,” he growled through clenched teeth. “I got daddy’s belt last night for coming in at 8:00, and you sashayed in at 9:45 and nothing happens. It’s not right! I’m the older brother, dang it.”
“I can tell you’re upset,” I said, trying to calm him. “But I think the reason you got daddy’s belt last night was because you came home without your shirt and shoes. Not only that, you couldn’t remember where you lost them. Who loses clothes and shoes? Clothes are expensive, brother. You should consider mom and dad before you start throwing away things they worked hard to pay for.”
“One day,” he whispered. “One day, you’re going to get it.”
“Get what?” I asked.
“You know what!” he screamed. “You know what and you’ll deserve it and I can’t wait! I want to be there when Terry gets the belt.”
“You know,” I reflected soberly. “I don’t think I’ve ever gotten the belt.”
“I know! I know! I…” and he broke down and began to sob.
I should add here that I felt a great deal of pity for my brother just then. It didn’t last long, but it was there for a moment. What Glenn didn’t understand, maybe what nobody understands, is that it’s easy to be forgiven. All that’s required is an honest and earnest desire to BE forgiven. Any fool can say “Sorry,” but it takes real talent, super talent, to look someone in the eye and ask for forgiveness in such a sincere way that the offended person feels obligated, almost relieved, to forgive you.
“Would it make you feel better if I did something to get in trouble right now?” I asked. “I’ll do it for you, if you want.”
“Ahhh, ahhh,” Glenn struggled for words to convey that if I were to get in trouble, in real trouble, with him right here to see it, it would indeed make him feel better. He rubbed his hands together like Dracula’s Renfield, and smiled a lunatic smile. I casually picked up a glass of milk and dropped it onto the floor. It shattered into a thousand shards. The milk was everywhere. From the next room, we could hear our father’s heavy footsteps, followed by a muttered curse, pregnant with wrath.
“Who broke that goddamn glass?” he demanded.
“I did that, dad,” I replied, meekly. “I was reaching for the syrup and accidentally knocked it over. I’m sorry. Really, I am.”
“Well,” said The Dad. “Try not to step on any glass. Let me get the dust pan.”
“I’ll get it, dad,” I said. “I’m through eating, anyway.”
“You’re a good boy,” he said. “This won’t take but a minute. Just sit there and talk to me while I clean it up. I‘ll make you some pancakes.”
Glenn’s eyes rolled up behind his forehead. His mouth opened and closed like a carp’s. His hands began to shake. Before I could stop him he picked up his own glass of milk and threw it against the wall.
“I done it! I done it!” Glenn screamed. “And I want some pancakes, too.”
“Boy, have you lost your goddamn mind?” asked The Dad. “Where’s my belt?”
Alas, the years have rushed past, and I wonder if I will ever lose my superpower? I’ve never been arrested or charged with any crime, never gotten a speeding ticket, never made an honest enemy outside of my family. But I’ve had some close calls. Just last year, Nancy found the anniversary card I was supposed to give her on December 21.
“What is this?” she asked. The room became very silent. The lights dimmed.
“I didn’t forget our anniversary,” I said, before she could level an accusation. “And if you think I did, I’m very sorry. I was just waiting for the right moment. We were so busy at Christmas, and I know you didn’t have a chance to buy me a card or anything else. So why don’t we celebrate our anniversary on Mother’s Day? We could call it Annimother’s Day? What do you say?”
She liked the idea. My hair is a little grayer, my midsection a little wider, but my superpower is as strong as ever. And all the great stuff I got on Annimother’s Day was worth the wait. I wonder what I should ask for next year?