Saturday, April 11, 2009

Meet Mark -- Part 4 -- "Do-Over"

A little aside:

At the tender age of three, Mark Arthur -- the almost/kinda/sorta hero of our story -- attended the 1967 World Series with his dad, with his Uncle Bob, and with Bob's thirteen-year-old son.

We can safely assume two things here. The first is that Bob is Mark's uncle by virtue of his being Mark's dad's brother. The second is that Mark's cousin is "Bob, Junior," which would explain why Mark, referring later to that cousin, said "we always called him 'B'." (Families do weird things like that. Both Bobs are actually Roberts, but "Bob, Junior" gets shortened to "B," etc.)

If those two assumptions end up being true -- and I'm the writer, so I say that they are -- the upshot of all this is that Mark Arthur's cousin is actually...

"B" Arthur.

I wasn't sure if anybody caught that.

Anyway, gang...

Previously: Our story has dwelt on the budding friendship between Mark Arthur, a self-proclaimed psychic, and John MacArthur (a/k/a "Jack Mac"), a lifelong fan of comic books. After being brought home to meet Jack's family, Mark has just explained his claim that he was once -- almost -- a real-life superhero.

Almost twenty-five years ago, after a vivid premonition showed Mark that he would literally die if he followed through with his plans to join the Navy, Mark decided on a whim to try to use his psychic powers as a comic book character would. He planned to become a costumed hero called Golden Mask! While doing research of a sort in a local comic store called That's Entertainment, Mark actually ended up foiling a haphazardly-constructed robbery.

* * * * *

Jack was incredulous. "Lemme get this straight: You caught up with this junkie who tried to rip off the comic shop, and the police arrested both of you?"

"Well, I suppose I can't blame the arresting officers. Upon their arrival, they saw two guys sitting on a lawn. One was a barely-winded golden boy -- me -- and the other was a disheveled, dope-sick disaster covered with egg! And I was the one holding an almost-empty carton of eggs."


"Yup," Mark answered, nodding. "I'd only had to use eleven to stop the guy in his gooey tracks."

"But once they got your statements, plus the one David at T.E. must've given 'em, didn't they just let you go?"

"That's where it got... complicated. Seems there is -- or at least, was -- a law on the books about the hurling of 'projectiles,' with an attendant five-hundred-dollar fine... per offense..."

"And a dozen eggs..."


"Would be 5,500 smackers! But what about self-defense?"

"Technically, it wasn't self-defense, because at that point, I'd followed the junkie out of the store. Evidently the Worcester police frowned on vigilante justice, so someone decided to make an example of me."

"Geez. I can only imagine how much opposition you woulda got from the cops if you'd actually gone ahead with the whole Golden Mask idea," Jack said, shaking his head. "So, what happened with the court case?"

"Well, once Paul Howley, the owner of That's Entertainment, got involved, and hired a high-priced lawyer for me, out of gratitude... the whole matter quietly went away."

"Well, I can still see how it woulda soured you on the whole deal. No wonder the Golden Mask thing never happened."

"Oh, that had nothing to do with it. I never did become Golden Mask for real, but that's not the reason."

"No? Why not, then? Did you find out there was a comic character named Golden Mask? Cuz you coulda come up with another name."

"I know. But think, Jack."

Jack did so. "Ohhh, another vision?"

Mark nodded. "You got it. One day, I was preparing my outfit..."



"Costume. Or even uniform. But... not outfit."

"What earthly difference does...?"

"Guys don't wear 'outfits,' is all."

"Oh, really. More words of wisdom from some comic book seller?"

"Now that you mention it..."

"Whatever. Anyway, I was preparing my uniform, and wondering how I was going to announce Golden Mask to the world... if at all. I was also considering operating as secretly as possible, especially at first. I was getting my suit ready. I'd gotten ahold of a William Shatner mask and painted it a metallic gold, and..."

"A William Shatner mask?"

"Yeah, he played..."

"Don't you dare insult me by finishin' that sentence."

"Right. Of course. Anyway, I thought it would be funny to use one of him, because I'd read somewhere that..."


"How'd you...?"

"Please. How could I be a stereotypical comic'n'fantasy geek if I didn't know they used a Shatner mask for the movie Halloween?"

"I guess you're right. Anyway, I had the mask, I had the outfit... I mean, the costume... and was admiring it where it was hanging in my closet, and all of a sudden I got this vivid image of myself chasing two guys into a corner at the end of a dark alley."

"As Golden Mask, you mean?"

"Yup. And man, did it seem real! I could feel my own sweat building up between my skin and the inside of the mask. My heart was pounding. I was practically on top of them; they both turned around to face me. One looked panicked. The other pulled an automatic out of his jacket, shoved the barrel of the thing right up against my chest... and pulled the trigger."

"Ouch," said Jack.

"Ouch? Ouch? In real life, I screamed! I dropped to my knees, as if someone had belted me in the stomach. But it wasn't my stomach that hurt, obviously. I felt like I was having a heart attack, or... " Mark paused, then took a couple of deep breaths to regain his composure. "It was ten times worse than seeing myself drown. I don't curse much, but I just looked up at that costume hanging there in that closet and said 'fuck it' under my breath. I closed the closet door before even getting up, and although I wore the other clothes in that closet for years afterward, in terms of that costume... I closed the door forever right then and there."

"When you say you 'wore those clothes for years afterward,' do you...?"

"Well, I don't still live there. It's been twenty-five years."

"Right, I get that. But what did you do with the costume?"

"I kept it. Not sure why. I almost wore it to a Halloween party once, but decided against it at the last minute."


"I thought back to the feeling of being shot, and figured that with my luck, I might be wearing it to go to a party, and get shot for real by the same guy from my vision."

"That's dumb. You said the visions that you let come true always happen like you saw them happen in your premonitions. All you'd have to do is just go to your stupid party, and not chase any crooks into alleys. Geez."

"Whatever. I've still got it. But I'll never wear it, Jack."

"That's dumb."

"It isn't 'dumb.' "

"It's dumb! Look, Mark, you said yourself, you're still in pretty good shape..."

"Did I say that?"

"And you've been whinin' about a wasted life..."

"When did I...?"

"So you need to pull that thing out o'mothballs, and air it out, and put it on, and make a freakin' difference in the world while you're still young enough to do it!"

"And you need to...!" Mark caught himself before saying something he knew he'd regret later. He stood up and started walking to the door. "This conversation's over."

Jack got up and started following Mark. Mark was halfway down the hallway before Jack reached the door. "It's not over!" Jack yelled at Mark's back.

When Mark reached the kitchen, he almost turned right. That would have aimed him toward the kitchen door, which connected to a breezeway which opened in turn onto a driveway shared by the occupants of the building's two first-floor apartments.

Instead, Mark turned left, exiting the kitchen's back door. He was now standing in the small back yard which was also shared by the tenants of the two first-floor apartments. Several feet away from the house was a swing set with three swings. Jack's daughter Shari was pushing her two-year-old daughter on the middle swing.

Nodding and smiling a mute greeting at Shari, Mark sat down on the little girl's right. "Want some company, kiddo?" The girl smiled and nodded.

All the while Shari pushed her daughter, the girl stared at Mark. Finally, she raised her head to look up at Shari. "Mommy, stop?" Shari stopped the swing.

The girl looked at Mark. "You want Mommy push you?" Mark laughed, as did Shari. He shook his head, and kicked off, swinging like he hadn't done in thirty-five years, at least. Shari resumed pushing her daughter, keeping up with Mark's relaxed pace.

"She's a pretty child," Mark said to Shari. He'd forgotten the two-year-old's name from their shared supper a couple of hours ago. "What was her name again?"


Mark recalled an incident from about twelve years earlier, when the label on a bottle of "7 Up" briefly morphed -- in Mark's mind alone, of course -- into a label reading "Sierra Mist." This was a good three years or so before the latter product was introduced. Mark thought it was a strange, off-putting name for a soft drink.

But he thought that Sierra was just fine as a name for an adorable little girl.

"Now, you see there?" called Jack's voice from where he was standing, just outside the kitchen doorway, "I just knew you had it in you to be a swinger!"

Without turning to face him, Mark spoke to Jack. "That's a pretty lame joke, even coming from you."


"How long have you been standing there?"

"Long enough to come up with a question."

"Which is?"

"How old were you when you got... I mean, when you chased those guys into the alley?"

"I didn't really..."

"I know that!" Jack snapped. His voice was getting closer. "You said it was 'vivid,' wasn't that the word?" Mark nodded. Jack was now standing on Mark's right, next to the swing set. Mark's peripheral vision couldn't help but spot Jack as Mark's body drifted back and forth on the swing. "You said you could feel your sweat, and the poundin' in your chest... So how old were you, in that... scenario?"

Mark finally understood. He answered Jack in a way that he hoped wouldn't tip Shari off as to what they were really talking about. "Not much older than I was when I envisioned it. Twenty-three, twenty-four maybe... no more than that. Why?"

"Cuz you're a lot older than that now. It didn't happen. You prevented it just by waitin' two or three years. That's all it woulda taken. But you waited an extra... what? Twenty years?"

Mark lowered his feet and brought himself to a stop. He stared at Jack, open-mouthed.

Jack was staring back, shaking his head with an odd mix of disappointment and anger. "But it wasn't just a matter of waitin' twenty years, was it? No! It was more like wastin' twenty years. But it's still not too late! Not if you get off your... swing."

* * * *

Several weeks later, Jack and Mark were together in Jack's library. Jack stared briefly at his cell phone, before closing it and shoving it unceremoniously into his right hip pocket. "Well, that was a waste of time."

"What did your Mr. Lynch have to say, then?" asked Mark.

"All sorts of things. He's just as wordy as ever. Bottom line was, he says that if I'm literate enough to read comics, I oughtta be your 'Dr. Watson,' cuz he don't have the time... unless we're gonna pay him."

"Which isn't too likely, because I need a job... you need a job... "

"All God's chillen need jobs!"

"Cute. Do you really think we can make any money at this?"

"You're askin' me?"

"Jack, I keep telling you, I can't just conjure up visions of whatever I want to see."

"And I keep tellin' you that we're gonna try to work on that!"

"Great. So you're going to be Professor X, and I'll be one of your students?"

"Sorta. Heyyy... I thought you didn't follow comics."

Mark grinned in spite of himself. "I saw the movie." He looked away from Jack, almost guiltily. "Okay, I saw all of the movies." Mark reached into a backpack and pulled out a plastic bag containing a brightly-painted mask.

"So, Jack, what do you think? Will anybody be able to figure out that this was originally supposed to be William Shatner?"

* * * * *

Ahhh, done! And I hope it was not too obvious that I had absolutely no idea where this story was going when I began it. I only knew that I was determined to include everything my readers voted for in the comments section of "I Dunno... Whatta YOU Wanna Do?" and even some stuff that they didn't vote for... but mentioned!

I hope you like(d) Mark and Jack. We'll see them again, sooner or later.

And here's some good news for those "Theme Thursday" bloggers/followers who may have resented last Thursday's EGG theme being shoe-horned into a larger storyline... That was only a one-time thing, necessitated by Theme Thursday's being suggested in that wacky "voting" I keep mentioning! And I will do more Theme Thursday entries in the future, as the whim strikes me.

S'awright? S'awright!

Thanks for riding shotgun with me on this one, buckaroos (and... buckarettes? buckarines?)!


  1. David,
    Fun story...but if the "fine" was $500 for each occurrence, and he threw 11 eggs, wouldn't the fine be $5500 instead of $550?

  2. Wow... Ya think? {Razzer-frazzer] late-night marathon writing sessions!!!

  3. "I hope it was not too obvious that I had absolutely no idea where this story was going when I began it."

    --Nope! At least it wasn't obvious to me at all--it just ran along smoothly (high-velocity eggs and all).
    --Did Paul Howley hire a $550/hour or a $5500/hour lawyer for Mark?
    --I did like Mark and Jack! Although I naturally feel like I know more about the Mark character than the Jack character. Hope they show up again.

  4. I can a fairly good handle on the Mark character when I began. Jack was a total blank, until I realized that he could be a closet comic/fantasy fan (as opposed to someone who only read them when he was a kid), and the impetus for Mark to become Golden Mask for real. Also, I ended up thinking of someone very specific whom I know personally, who comes off a bit rough around the edges at times, but is very intelligent, extremely well-read, etc.

  5. "I can a fairly good handle" should have been "I had a fairly good handle"! More late-night writing! SHEESH!

  6. David,
    Still playing catch up. I really enjoyed parts 3 and 4 of Meet Mark. That was an awesome cliff-hanger ending about BOTH of them getting arrested. Makes me glad I am reading these time-late so I didn't have to wait with baited breath for the "to be continued" part of the story. :-)
    I really liked the way you tied in the "egg" theme. That was pretty creative. I thought you were going to say something about him having eggs for breakfast nearer the beginning of the story, but that would've been a pretty lame cop-out, and I apologize for the thought even crossing my mind.
    I was intrigued how you wove yourself into the background of the story, too. How much (if any) of the story about you was truth? Did you ever really have some idiot try to rob you with a knife at That's Entertainment? Did he really threaten the comics with a bic lighter?
    Keep up the good work!


  7. Blunoz: Thanks for the in-depth review. Seriously. I love that kind of response.

    Also, I've had a couple of people send private emails asking the same question about the "robbery," so I'm going to put up a brief (Yes, brief! Who'da thunk it?) post dealing with that.

  8. I liked it. And leave it to you to put yourself into your own fictional


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