By Caitlin Carr
Staring didn’t accomplish much. And by that, I mean anything. No matter how hard I glare at the wall, wishing for some sort of latent superpower to awaken and allow me to disintegrate it or pass through it or I’d even take invisibility, although I’ve heard some horror stories about that one, nothing happens. I’m still in Super Hell—or in this case, Super Therapy—with the other Super Losers. That might not be the PC term, but that’s what we are. Super Losers. And everyone knows it.
You’re probably wondering how exactly I wound up sitting in a “safe place” circle at Super Therapy with someone I’m pretty sure is a serial killer, the muscly-est man I’ve seen outside of spandex, a girl with medusa hair (seriously her hair is hissing at me), and someone with a snake wrapped around their wrist. Well, to answer that question, we’re going to have to rewind a bit.
But you should know (spoilers), it was all Captain Civility’s fault.
It had been a generally crappy Tuesday, which had been preceded by a typically shitty Monday and really, all I wanted was to leave Paulina Street Market with my salmon and make said salmon, since according to the calendar my mother taped to the refrigerator, I had kitchen duty on this particularly crappy Tuesday. But instead, I was trapped, halfway to freedom, in a revolving door, while Captain Civility and his ladylove had a convo. He was also keeping her trapped in the revolving door, which didn’t seem very civil, but maybe the rules didn’t apply to him.
Standing there, ineffectively kicking the reinforced glass door, I realized something important: if this was a sitcom, I was the comic relief side character trapped in a revolving door while the main characters sorted out their VERY IMPORTANT ISSUES. I was not okay with this.
“Hey. Jerkface.” I banged on the glass with my fist. “Let me out.” No reaction. Even if the practically swooning leading lady couldn’t hear me, I knew Captain Civility could, with his stupid perfect superhero EVERYTHING. I kicked the door again, which just made my big toe throb inside my Converses. Maybe I could annoy him into leaving? I hummed, thinking it over, before I shrugged and started yelling random insults:
“Spandex makes your ass look big.”
“Have you considered a uniform that makes you look less like an over-sexualized American flag?”
“Your name is stupid!”
“I’ll tell all the parents what really happened to the turkey during the Thanksgiving Debacle of 2015.”
That last one apparently did it (I was going to have to remember that for future blackmailing purposes). The revolving door spun so fast it basically spit me onto the sidewalk. “Ow,” I complained, rubbing my arm where it’d gotten banged into the door. I knew he could hear me. “Hey, jerkface,” I said, before he could make some sort of dramatic exit. He shifted from foot to foot. His footwear did look super uncomfortable. “Instead of holding people against their will in a revolving door like a paternalistic dickhead, maybe have your conversations in like coffee shops in the future? You know, like a normal person? Just a suggestion.”
“There’s no need to be rude.” He almost sounded offended, which was kind of hilarious. “Captain Civility frowns on that.” He stretched out his hand and flew off into the sunset.
“Also, maybe don’t talk about yourself in third person!” I called after him.
Superheroes and dramatic exits, were like mint ice cream and chocolate chips, they just go together, which of course left me with the swoony lady. Her eyelids were all fluttery, like she had something stuck in her eye. I was about to suggest she go flush it out with water, when she sighed, “He’s so….”
She didn’t seem able to find the next word, so I offered a few suggestions,
“Annoying? Overbearing? Self-righteous?”
“Not the word I would have gone with.”
“I just…feel like our souls have this connection, you know?”
“Not really,” I said edging away from her. If I had a useful superpower, I’d vanish right about now. Unfortunately, I had to exit this scene the awkward way. “So have fun with all that boyish-charm and repressed everything.” I made a general all encompassing hand motion. “I’m gonna go be not here anymore.”
After that, the day, of course, got worse.
Sitting on the pan where my salmon had been, was a cake. I’d been muttering darkly about a certain superhero while I prepared dinner and hadn’t noticed my power rising up in me, spilling over like an overfull glass, splashing everything it touched. It wasn’t enough that I had a lame superpower; I also had to have poor control. My power got away from me at the worst times. Like now.
I closed my eyes and opened them again. There was still a cake sitting there. An unfortunate cake, but a cake nonetheless.
My sister walked in, heading towards the fridge when she froze, startled. “Oh. You baked.” Cora eyed the perfectly circular two layer (salmon) pink cake with white rosettes around the edges and a sprig of rosemary in the center. “Weren’t we having salmon tonight?”
“That’s a salmon cake isn’t it?”
Mom walked in, dropped her keys on the counter, took one look at the cake and sighed, “Again? Sorrel that’s the third time this week.”
“I can’t help it. It’s not like I wanted a fish cake.”
She picked her keys up again. “I’m picking up sandwiches from the deli on Main. Text me your order.”
Five minutes after she left, the doorbell rang. “Not it!” Cora called from the couch. I opened the front door and found myself standing face-to-face (mask?) with Captain Civility.
I sighed. “Aren’t you supposed to be saving treed kittens? Walking little old ladies across the street? Telling hoodlums to watch their language?” He could have texted. Like a normal person. Not that I would have responded but still, showing up in full regalia was a bit much.
He transferred his weight from foot to foot, managing to look both affronted and embarrassed at the same time.
For a moment, the movement looked familiar and I wondered if I knew him from superhero high school. I refused to call it high school for “powered and gifted youth”, which just made us all sound really smart, and let me tell you—having a superpower does not make you a super genius. I went to school with some people who were dumb as rocks. Also, people who could like turn into rocks, which was cool.
When your power got strong enough and you passed the superhero test, you got a secret identity, known only to the school staff and the government – all superheroes and superhero powers had to be registered. But no one else was supposed to know, besides, like, your immediate family. Of course, some people had really bad control or really weird superpowers, so everyone who went to school with them kind of knew who their superhero alter ego was, but you were supposed to pretend that you didn’t.
But I honestly had no idea who Captain Civility was under that mask. I knew he was around my age, and I’d seen him with some of the other superheroes from my class, but I tended to avoid him at the costumed community superhero gatherings, like Thanksgiving. He exuded sincerity in such vast quantities that interacting with him in any manner made me nauseous.
That didn’t mean I don’t know what happened to the turkey though, the Wolf told me and he knew everything, even if he didn’t quite understand the humor of the situation or the blackmail potential.
Captain Civility shifted again. Dude had to get some more comfortable footwear. I wondered if that was an untapped market. Superhero footwear? I should suggest it to Scott.
“You’re upset,” he said.
I rolled my eyes. “No shit, Sherlock. Now, what exactly are you doing here? Come to take me to task for being rude in front of your lady-love?”
He scratched the side of his face. “Do you smell cake?”
Another downside of having a shitty Super power—I smelled like cake when I was angry. Not just any cake. I smelled like your all time favorite cake. That birthday party you had when you were eight with the Lord of the Rings cake that had a hobbit hole made of frosting? You didn’t remember the actual taste of the cake anymore, but you remembered the feeling. That’s what I smelled like and it’s hard to take anyone who smelled like your favorite cake related memory seriously. “Leave. Or I will maim you.”
“The attempt would only injure you, as I am invincible.”
“It’s an expression.”
I made a shooing motion with my hand. “Go, Captain Literal.”
“There’s something…” he paused, like he couldn’t remember what he was doing here in the first place. “You’re right. I do have better things to do than be harangued by a sub-par powered and—”
“Wow,” Cora said, stopping by the door, a piece of the salmon cake on a plate, “Captain Civility is kind of a d-bag. I wasn’t really expecting that.” Her fork scraped against the plate as she dug into the cake. She stuck it in her mouth and chewed thoughtfully. “You know,” she said conversationally, “It’s not bad. Weird. But not bad.” Cora had yet to find something she wouldn’t eat.
I glanced back at Captain Civility, who was still standing there. And I had the overwhelming urge to deck him in his disturbingly white teeth, but since that would probably break my hand, I settled for picking up the rest of the cake on Cora’s plate and flinging it at him.
It hit him straight in the chest with a satisfying splat. He stood there long enough that the cake started to slide down his body, leaving pink streaks on his blue spandex. I knew from experience that powered cake was a bitch to get out of fabric. But I felt justified. He had, after all locked me in a revolving door and then showed up at my house to berate me.
Cora blinked. “That was awesome. Also, a terrible idea. No. Wait.” Her eyes went vague and cloudy, the way they did when she had a vision. She smiled, “It’s all good.”
Then the Super Cops showed up and everything went to hell.
Because anything involving Supers is taken super seriously by the government, I was escorted (i.e. arrested) to the police station and questioned by the good cop/bad cop duo from every terrible cop movie ever.
“Assaulting a super hero with a super power is a serious crime,” bad cop said, his face serious.
I sighed in disgust. “It was a cake.”
“That you made using your super power,” good cop pointed out gently.
“It was a fluffy pastry,” I repeated, crossing my arms. “And Captain Civility is invincible – so I don’t see what the big deal is.”
Good cop raised a placating hand, “We understand that failed superheroes have trouble adjusting to lives as ordinary citizens….”
“Excuse me?” I interrupted. “I am not a failed anything.”
“Were you or were you not rejected from every superhero college in the Midwest?” bad cop asked.
“How do you know that? That frankly seems rather stalker-ish.” I turned my attention to good cop. “Can you take him into custody?”
Good cop sighed and rubbed a hand over his face like I was giving him a headache. It was a common reaction to long-term exposure to me. “Since this is your first offense, we’re going to recommend the court give you a warning and six months at Super Therapy.”
Swearing felt like an appropriate response, but I restrained myself to dark mutterings.
So, in conclusion, it was all Captain Civility’s fault. And I’m now trapped with a bunch of other Super Losers for the next six months while some dude with a savior complex tries to convince me that my life doesn’t suck. Good luck with that.