Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Meet Mark -- Part 2 -- "What's So Funny About Funnybooks?"

Hey, folks! This is not the "Theme Thursday" post! That will be posted at 11 AM today (Thursday, April 9th). This part -- Part 2 -- was posted at 11:15 PM on Wednesday, April 8th!

Last time: We began our tale in the waiting room of a temporary employment agency, where we met Mark Arthur (a self-proclaimed psychic) and John MacArthur ("Jack Mac" to his friends, or so he insists). While Mark politely answered questions about his psychic abilities from skeptical Jack, Jack casually mentioned having enjoyed comic books (and superheroes) as a boy. Mark then told Jack that "when I was a much younger man... I almost became one."

* * * * *

"You almost became a superhero?" said Jack, eyes and mouth agape. "What woulda been your super power?" he asked, mentally answering his own question even as it escaped his lips. "D'oh!" (And yes, Jack actually said "D'oh!") "The psychic thing. Of course."

"Of course."

"So, why didn't ya?"

"Slow down, slow down. Don't you want to hear anything about my childhood, and about how I became aware of my powers, and my... ?"

"Actually, Mark, I'm mostly interested in the superhero thing. But if you insist on givin' me the whole 'secret origin' bit, I... "

"My what?"

"Your secret origin. All the comic book superheroes got 'em. It's how and why Bruce Wayne became Batman, and Hal Jordan became Green Lantern, and Barry Allen became the Flash... "

"Wow, Jack, you must have read a lot of funnybooks when you were a kid."

"You mean comic books, and... uhhh... yeah. I guess so. Anyway, when did these 'powers' of yours hit? When you reached puberty?"

"Puberty? That's a strange question. Why on earth did you ask that?"

"I dunno. That's usually when mutants like the X-Men discover theirs." Another comic book reference. Mark just stared at Jack. "Okay, I'll shut up now."

"I was incredibly young when I first started getting these visions. So young, I can't recall exactly when they began. But the first one I remember clearly happened when I was only three."

"Three?"

"Yup. My Dad was a big-time Red Sox fan. He placed a ball and glove in my hand while I was still in my crib. He put in a lot of overtime hours at work, and pulled every string he could pull to insure that he and I got to attend all four home games of that year's World Series, along with my cousin and uncle."

"Lemme guess: The '67 World Series? Wow!"

"Of course. My thirteen-year-old cousin held up a sign that said 'YAZ for Mayor' during one of the early games. We had a great time, right up until sometime during the seventh game, the tie-breaker. It was during the second inning, before either team had scored, and I started crying, uncontrollably."

"Aww, no. Cuz of a vision?"

"Yup," Mark said, nodding. "I started screaming, 'They're gonna lose, Daddy, they're gonna lose!' Over and over again, until my Uncle Bob finally yelled, 'Hey, will you shut up, you little jinx?' Man, it was awful! But as young as I was, I knew what the outcome would be after 'watching' that grounder roll through Buckner's legs!"

"Buckner? Buckner? That wasn't the '67 series, that was... Oh. My. God." Mark just nodded again, grimly. Jack literally got chills.

Neither man spoke for almost a minute.

Finally, Mark broke the silence by saying, "When you said my abilities aren't very useful, you didn't know the half of it. If anything, they've set up a series of stumbling blocks for me, all my life."

"How's that?"

"There've been a lot of times when I was about to do something, or go somewhere, or otherwise try something that a vision told me wasn't going to work out in one way or another. So I ended up not bothering to finish the job, or whatever it was I was doing. A lot of people thought I'd just chickened out. I mean, it's not like I could possibly know something was going to screw up, right?"

Jack laughed sympathetically.

"Then, when I was around twenty, I was this close to joining the Navy" -- Mark was holding his right hand in the air, thumb and index finger almost touching -- "and I got an intense, horrible image of myself, drowning. I broke into a cold sweat and left the recruiter's office before he could put the paperwork in front of me to sign."

"Boy, that was close!" said Jack. "I mean, if you'd actually signed up, you might never have had the chance to prevent... " Jack's voice trailed off, as he and Mark suddenly realized the same thing.

"You're really starting to believe me, aren't you, Jack?"

Jack sighed. "Maybe I am."

"Well, try to imagine how I felt after running out of there like that. I'd wanted to join the service to do something productive while I could still direct my life in a positive way. Maybe that sounds corny and old-fashioned... "

"Maybe to some people. Not to me."

"...but my Dad was very 'gung-ho America,' the type who backed the man in the White House regardless of his party, a fan of John Wayne movies, and a lover of baseball, the All-American sport... The hippie '60s and the Watergate years weren't good to him, or my family in general. My Uncle Bob's son, Bob Junior -- we always called him 'B' -- ran off to Canada during the 'Nam years. And now my dad's only son wasn't turning out to be anything special. It bothered him; I could see it. And it bothered me. And with powers like mine, I figured I shouldn't be such a loser. If anything, I should be better than other people! Well, not 'better,' exactly, but... "

"It's okay, Mark, I know what you mean. 'With great power comes great responsibility,' and all that."

"Huh? Yeah... I guess so. Whatever. Anyway, to make a long story short... Did you ever hear of a comic book shop called That's Entertainment, on Chandler Street?"

"You're kiddin', right? Of course I have! But they haven't been on Chandler for... I dunno... fifteen, twenty years." Jack suddenly realized that Mark was staring at him. And smiling. Jack shook his head and chuckled. "Okay, okay, I'm busted. I didn't just read comics when I was a kid. I still do. Ah, hell, lemme show you somethin'," Jack added, rolling up his right sleeve. On his bicep was an absolutely beautiful tattoo of Spider-Man.

"Wow, that's... pretty impressive."

"The guy who did it traced it from an old Romita illustration. I wanted Ditko, of course, but he didn't have any in his shop, and I wasn't about to let him trace any of my original comics. It was either Romita or McFarlane. Of course, I thought of some of the Marvel Tales Ditko reprints later, but... " Mark was staring again, this time blankly. "You don't have the slightest idea what I'm talkin' about, right?"

"Riiiight."

"Fine. Then you tell me about That's Entertainment."

"Okay. I was about twenty, twenty-one. It was a Sunday morning. I'd stopped at a little convenience store to pick up a few things so I could make a late breakfast. Walking home, I saw a sign made up of individual letters, saying something to the effect of, 'We buy comic books, records, baseball cards... ' Like I said, something like that. And I thought of the comic books I'd read when I was a kid. Mighty Samson, Magnus, Dr. Solar, Turok, Tarzan, Space Family Robinson... "

"Holy... ! Those are all Gold Keys!"

"If you say so. Who cares? I just liked their covers better than the other ones."

"Where the hell did you shop?"

"Can we please stay on the subject?"

"Fine. Sorry. Geez!"

"So I started thinking about superheroes. And super powers. And I figured, what have I got, if not a super power? But what kind of superhero would use nothing but his mind?"

Jack was almost bouncing up and down in his chair. "Ah-hah! See? If you'd read DCs or Marvels, you wouldn't even have to ask that!"

"Oh, for... ! Will you calm down, Jack?"

Between Jack's enthusiasm, and Mark's exasperation, neither of them had noticed that the dividing door between the agency's waiting room and the main office had opened. Several members of the agency's staff were standing there, staring at the two men who were having such an animated conversation.

Mark looked pointedly at Jack. "Umm... Maybe we should finish this discussion elsewhere?"

"You read my mind," said Jack. Mark just shook his head.

* * * * *

Next time -- in only a few hours! -- a "Theme Thursday" entry, the "secret origin" of Golden Mask... and I get to appear in my own story!

9 comments:

  1. great story. the dangers of psychic abilities. what would we do if we could see the future? would it scare us or would we attempt to change it? great mix in of superheroes as well. always a plus in my book. enjoy your writing. will be back later for the TT post.

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  2. Rockin' second installment of your story. T minus 43 (or however you say that in rocket-launching talk) to your Theme Thursday posting!

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  3. Interesting story. I'll have to admit I was here looking for eggs. I must come back later for your eggy post...

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  4. Sorry, folks, not trying to hit you with a Bait & Switch! I was just working on a really long Part 2 last night, and decided it'd be better to split it up... and unfortunately, the "eggy" part comes later in what would have been Part 2... !!!

    Oh, well, at Easter time, aren't you supposed to have to hunt for your eggs? [ducks]

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  5. By the way, Brian, I hope you see this. I read your TT post, and enjoyed it, but for some reason your page or my PC or Blogger wouldn't let me leave a comment!

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  6. David,
    Very enjoyable. Fast moving and interesting!

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  7. David - I'm a little slow in catching up since my parents just left town, but so far I really like this. You continue to be a wonderful story-teller. I look forward to reading more.

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  8. Blunoz, I hope you like the last two chapters. I'm just sorry you didn't get to "vote" on whatI was going to write about.

    By the way, the fact that Mark almost joined the Navy was a little tribute to you and SubTorp, two of my regular commenters who didn't vote, as was my sending Mark's cousin "B" to Canada, home of another regular of mine who kinda missed the boat this time.

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  9. I'm just starting to try to catch up.

    Funny books, ha ha ha. My grand used to say that.

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