David Tolkien wanted to die. Not through suicide by any means, just through an accident. Maybe he could push someone away from a bus or fall asleep on the tracks of the El to its vibrating rhythms. Maybe he’d be blessed with a sudden heart attack after many more of the cheeseburger he now chomped down on.
Pigeons danced with each treat the wind carried to this cluster of tables and chairs under the interconnecting building passageway labeled Chicago Board of Trade. No cloud crossed the pathway of sunshine pulverizing the eyes of the pedestrians a good distance away from David and his McDonalds. Everything smelt fresh but him.
Since he could find no Wi-Fi, he stared at the flimsy posters for Omni, PowerLady, and The Ares, all coming soon to theaters. He really didn’t want to job-hunt today. He’d much rather be on the computer doing that, but no one in the family believed that sloth excuse anymore. The hanging weight over his head made it impossible to choose any iPhone music to listen to, music to glide through the day with.
Wrapper placed in the crumply bag, he felt how ill fitting his shirt was as his flabby legs stood. After a stretch and a rub of his eye, David slumped on down under Chicago Board of Trade away from the noontime crowds. Since there was no more money for food, maybe he could find a bench to waste time on until he returned home with a dejected report. At least he now had the shade of the above railway and the tastes of others’ cigarettes to assure no one would come wandering by to recognize him.
As he wandered, he wondered where it might have gone wrong. How he emerged from the greatest part of his life to a college flunkout. He knew he was the only honest person he knew anymore, because he was the only one not tossing himself baseless compliments. There was everything to fear these days.
Headphone-less ears picked up grunts and thuds traveling from an alleyway. Cautiously, David put his back to the dirty store, mindful of the tabloids the wind had brought to the ground, and peered over into it. Two men, in all black shirts and shorts, leaned over a brown lump: one on his knees punching the pile, another kicking it from a safe distance. The lump had boots and texture, and twitched with each blow. Even without the rushing train above to distract, only the faintest of sound could wheeze its way out of the alleyway… David couldn’t explain how he heard it.
Though he never dreamed he’d have to actually remember this, childhood stranger-danger lights flared in his eyes. The smart choice would be to leave. This would be the only time he ever needed to make that kind of choice, and the only time he’d ever have to.
But that poor creature on the ground couldn’t have had a 911 call’s worth of time left. Then, a swelling in David’s gut tightened his fists. This would be that chance to prove to everyone, to himself, that he still had some worth left in this world. All that was at risk was his life: if he didn’t make it out with that, he wouldn’t have to prove himself like this again.
Suddenly, as David stepped into clear view of the alley, the lump flew onto its boots, raising its arms into two magnificent punches that knocked away its attackers. They covered bleeding noses on the ground, as stunned as David was by this man donning dark brown body armor and bright red combat gloves. The boots turned around in one stomp into a fighting mode, and David beheld the brown ski mask concealing the hallowed-faced old man challenging the abusers in the alley. Fiery ski goggles were the eyes of this lean one.
David had no idea what to do until the kicking man launched an uppercut that the costumed one easily caught with his bulging glove. This gave the second one all the time he needed to grab the old man’s thick pants and yank him to the ground, causing the armored back to sound off a CRACK as it slammed into the ground. Without another thought, David rushed past the dumpster in his way and attempted to grab the standing one’s arms to no avail. That man nearly turned around, but a spraying sound and a shriek of pain later, he writhed on the ground sobbing. The masked man was still clutching the pepper spray as he continued to swat at the attacker on the ground.
It was no trouble for David to pin the man to the shaded cement. He of the brown ski mask stood, and fiddled with his misshapen pocket belt until his smudged hand emerged with a pair of handcuffs. While latching them on the arms David held in place, he spoke in a booming voice:
“I now place you under citizen’s arrest for charges of criminal assault and battery. You will now be brought to the nearest police station, where you will reflect on and admit your sins.
He repeated this verbatim to the other one, who was still crying as handcuffs were placed on his thick wrists. One casual pull from each arm was enough to bring up each captor. Before emerging onto the road, the brown-clad man turned to David.
“I thank you for your valorous actions,” he demanded. “If you could grace this alley with your presence until I return for the ceremony, that would be most kind.” With that, he marched out, dragging along the two criminals into the street of small shops. He carried no sign of injury with him.
It took David a while to unfreeze his jaw. Everything was quicker than he could have ever guessed; it was only now that he realized his heart was shrieking wildly. He collapsed and leaned his tired shoulder blades on the rough dumpster, a small cluster of joy emitting from his sigh.
Nearly everything about that man was a mystery to him. Though a quick check revealed there was still no Wi-Fi to use, he could hazard a guess that he just encountered a real-life superhero, like a movie one. Though the use of the word ‘sin’ intrigued him and kept flashing in bright red lights in his head…
He peeked behind him, and the masked man already returned down this canyon imprisoned by shadows inside. Upon arriving next to David, he knelt. Though very thin, a surprising amount of tamed muscle lay inside the dirt-smeared red undershirt.
“I shall not rise,” he stated, “until you have granted me that which I seek: the title of a superhero from a superior to another.”
Before he could stop himself, David panted out, “But I’m not a superhero.”
“Your modesty is admirable, yet who else could have aided one such as I on the true genesis of my career through my first victory?”
“Your… hang on, you haven’t won a fight on your own?”
“They have all been victories in spirit. Occasionally, the combat last long enough for the noble policeman to stop us both and detain the guilty. More often than not, these superstitious and cowardly criminals flee and disappear before apprehension! So I am truly humbled by your presence, you soft-spoken warrior, for it has lead me to triumph and my own dubbing.”
His body itched to move away, but David’s gaze remained fascinated. “Ok, you’re a superhero. Rise.”
The man did not move his bowed head. Some pedestrians were looking down the alley as they moved past, a few trying to contain grins.
“Sigh… didn’t I do it right?”
“Well, it is customary for the hero to be granted a name by those he has served! I believe both of us lent a hand to one another in this glorious and terrible combat.”
“So what would you like to be called?”
His masked head looked to the sky, and he clasped his hands over his stained knee. “If I were to be so blest to choose my own identity, there could be only one name for me. I wish to be known in the hearts of those who crave hope (and the hearts of those who detest the light) as CICADA-MAN, a guardian of Chicago and an eternal servant of the Lord!”
“Right, right.” David pulled out his phone and clunked it clumsily on the armored shoulders one by one. “Ummm, having proven your worth this day, mighty hero, I hereby dub thee Cicada-Man. Go forth and, and do your thing.”
Cicada-Man’s wrinkled lips hung open in silent prayer. If the goggles weren’t there, David would guess he was on the verge of tears.
“Look, I hope the fact that I’m not a superhero gets in the way of this.”
Cicada-Man towered over the dumpster when he reached his full height. “It is of little concern, now that we have both shown our courage on the field of battle. I bid thee well, sir…”
“Sir David Tolkien, may the Lord bless you. Now I must depart.” He shook David’s hand, than began a stride towards the smell of burning hot dogs in the street outside.
“Wait!” cried David, and Cicada-Man turned in an instant. David had promised he would think before he went through with this, but the prospect seemed better and better the longer the new superhero stood in confused pause. This could be the end of all his troubles, both long and short term.
“…are you hiring?”