I will be sending this story off for editing. But I decided to post it here in its current entirety. I recently cut out about 1500 words, so it is leaner at about 5000 words.
Comments are very welcome! In my critique groups, I alway say, tell me what you like, and tell me what you don’t like.
SUPER HOLLY HANSSON IN: SUPER BAD HAIR DAY!
SURFVILLE, CALIFORNIA. THE BARBERSHOP “LASH’S PLACE.” LATE AUGUST. 4:32 P.M.
No matter how vicious her battles with the latest war god of the month, Wonder Woman never had bad hair days. She was in comic books. I was real. And I was hideous!
The blue-supersuited and red-caped medusa in the barbershop wall mirror held my gaze like a starship tractor beam. Blonde knots and tangles poked out of my thick asphalt helmet. I forced my fists to stay at my sides. If I tore off that icky oobleck, my super-strength would take half my hair with it.
“Holly, you look like you got into a fight with a cement mixer and lost!” My old barber put his slim hand on my shoulder. His hair and mustache had a bit more brown than grey, but his bespectacled eyes were bright. And aiming lower than they should!
“LASH! My eyes are UP HERE!” With my superpowers had also come a super bosom. I was used to the former.
Lash raised his gaze. “Sorry, I was … um … just gonna ask why you don’t have an ‘S’ on your chest.”
Yeah, right, and he read those Playgal magazines in the back of his man cave for the articles! My super-logo was a yellow arrow pointing up. It didn’t work very well. I should have known that he’d also see me a super babe … wait! Up on the shelf! It was a bat! It was a graphic novel! It was … “Did you finally read it?”
Lash gave me his Groucho Marx smile. “That old Batman book you kept shoving at me? Yeah, I liked it! But the comic book you wrote is even better. Funny and sad.” He prodded the ebony octopus strangling my scalp. “It’s been over a year. You look different. Are you really blonde under there?”
I swallowed a happy lump in my throat. “Yeah. Can you fix me by five?”
His eyes bugged out so far I was scared he’d ruin his old cataract surgery. He blurted, “I’m a barber, not a road repairman!”
I pleaded, I’d beg if I had to! “Please? He’s coming for me! He’s dark, he’s grim, there’s no escaping him.” I loosened my super-strong tear ducts just enough to let one drop flow. “Help me, Lash. You’re my only hope.”
Lash gaped. “But … who’s he … and you … you …” He shook his head. “You and your big blue eyes. Lemme think.” He scanned the dozens of customer photos checkerboarding the walls, spirits of haircuts past. Then he smiled like Lex Luthor putting the last screw into the ray-gun that would shred Superman into sub-atomic particles. “That’ll do it.”
I followed his gaze to a photo of a hard hat guy on an oil rig. Hmm.
Lash pulled out his phone and texted. “This is a job for my hairdresser.”
I said, “You always do my hair.”
He pointed to a chair near a giant metal sink. “You always say that. Have a seat.”
The customer in the barber chair that Lash had abandoned when I’d staggered into the shop said, “My beard’s not symmetrical.”
Lash handed him a TV remote. “Watch cartoons, Dave.”
I sat down. “When did you put in the extra sink?”
Lash fumbled on the shelf above me. “Few weeks ago. A twenty-foot super-ninja ponytail takes a quart of shampoo.” He pulled out a blow torch. “I use this to style the Human Flame’s mohawk. Now tell me all about it, little Miss Storyteller.”
I put on the pompous voice I used at my open mic readings. “Brave and bold Super Holly Hansson received a clarion call that the horrible Harry Headbutt was jumping in quarter-mile bounds toward downtown, leaving fear and potholes in his wake! She hurtled through the blue summer sky …”
SEASIDE CITY, CALIFORNIA. 3:37 P.M.
… staying just under the speed of sound to avoid getting another sonic-boom speeding ticket. She checked her Wonder-Woman-esque e-bracelet, which she used not to deflect bullets—she was already bulletproof—but to make phone calls and see where she was flying. Her jaw clenched. Why couldn’t the map app project her destination show a dot on the city streets below? She faced front again, toward danger, toward duty, toward— SHPLLLPTT!
Holly sputtered and spat and wondered why bugs never splat in Superman’s face. She reached to wipe.
“Oops!” And lost her aerodynamic pose! City streets, windowy tall buildings, and bright summer sky churned into a 600-mile-per-hour kaleidoscope!
“ULP!” Afternoon iced coffee leaped up her esophagus. She flipped feet forward and dug her heels into the air. It was silly, but she hadn’t found a better way to midair stop, STOP, STOP!
Her heroic heart hammered as she hovered. A foot from her face stood tall tenth-floor lettering: FIRST COASTAL BANK. She wiped icky insect guts off her face and looked down.
Now THAT was a dot! In the street before the bank, a dozen cops formed a dark blue mound that rippled like a walrus corking a geyser. If Harry was under there, he could mash those cops into meatballs! A hundred riot-geared boys and girls in blue surrounded that mound, along with abandoned road work, a terrified road crew, and some parked cars. Shops were shut tight. Fearful pedestrians cowered behind the police line. Paparazzi crowded closer to the action, spotted Holly, and zoomed their cameras at her chest. Holly longed to zoom her finger.
She landed and stood hand-on-hips heroic. Cops liked that. Ugh, her costume had ridden up her butt again. Paparazzi liked that. She tugged under her cape, then yelled, “Give up, butthead! Or get beaten up by a girl again!”
From under the pile erupted a gorilla growl. “YELLOW HAIR? HARRY HATE YELLOW HAIR!”
All at once! Car alarms blared! Dogs howled! Windows shattered! Windows computers crashed, wait, they always did that. And the pile of cops exploded like …
LASH’S PLACE. 4:42 P.M.
“… ants from a firecrackered anthill!” I looked at the clock and did not like what I saw. I wished for an iron bar to chew, like my dentist recommended instead of grinding my teeth.
Lash had softened and scraped most of the asphalt off my head. He’d been ever so careful not to bump my bosom. But he hadn’t kidded me about my beaky nose, a misfit on my Swedish face. I wished he would.
Ann the hairdresser—still so slim, her makeup was perfect—had brought in two five gallon jugs from Hardware Hanks. Which I poured into the metal sink. “Lash, what …” what time was it? “… is this stuff?”
Ann and Lash donned filter masks. Lash stuck a broom handle into the sink and stirred. “Oilman Ollie guy told me how he cleaned drills fast. Hydrocarbon dissolver and a hint of acid.” His eyes lit up like a wicked warlock’s. “Double, double, toil and, um, crumple? Darn, forgot my Shakespeare.”
No mere solvent could harm me, but the fumes tickled my nose. “Is there anyone in town you don’t know?”
“The bald-headed bowling league.” Lash blinked at the smoking stub he’d pulled out of the bubbling brew. He and Ann put on arm-length rubber gloves. They looked like mad doctors about to install a brain into a soon-to-be reanimated corpse.
Lash pointed to the sink. “Go soak your head.”
Ann said, “How long can you hold you breath?”
“Super long,” I said, and plunged my head into solvent. I must have looked like a ostrich, except I had better looking legs.
Twenty fingers kneaded my scalp. The BLURBLE-SLURGLE-FFFSSSHHH of sizzling solvent muffled Lash and Ann’s conversation, but not my writer imagination. “Hee hee, Henchwoman Ann, see how we melt the superheroine’s brain with my evil bubbling brew! Soon, she will be my obedient, brain-bleached bimbo!” “Yes, Master Lash, yesssss! Hahahahaha!”
After minutes that passed like hours, Lash tapped my shoulder. I stood up. He asked, “You okay?”
My sinuses seltzered like I’d snorted boiling dandruff shampoo. Childhood memories of summertime pollen itched my nostrils. “Yeah, but … SNIFF! … feels like my hay fever’s coming back … AHHH-CHOO!”
Dang my super-sneeze! I reached out fast! With the giant, translucent hands and arms that extended from my flesh-and-blood hands and arms, I caught barber and hairdresser before they bashed into the ceiling and lowered them to the floor. “Sorry.”
Ann frowned. “Cover your mouth next time.”
Lash chuckled. “So that’s what your super-telekinesis looks like! Let’s rinse.”
I leaned over the sink again. “It comes in handy. Lets me bench-press army tanks without ripping off two fistfuls of armor.”
With a hose extension, Lash washed solvent off my head. “Yeah, you’ve said comic books were wrong for years and years. ‘Human-size hands can’t lift a whale-size battleship,'” and Ann chorused with him, “‘even if you’re Superman!'”
I pouted. Why don’t non-geeks think of that? “Well, he can’t!”
Lash turned off the water and waved a tissue at my face. “Need to blow?”
I straightened up and wiped my nose. “No.” I sniffed. “Maybe. This day sucks. I even had to do sports.” Behind Lash, dozens of tribalistic football banners and baseball caps lined the apex of wall mirror and ceiling. I continued my story.
THE STREET BEFORE THE BANK. 3:49 P.M.
Holly was a double-mitted baseball catcher, fielding high and outside pitches, her giant telekinetic hands scooped up flying, flailing cops before they splashed into the ocean or splatted on buildings! She set them down behind the surrounding police line and whirled to face the jerk at ground zero. “You lumbering lummox! You coulda killed them!”
Harry stood like he owned the road. Seven feet tall, five feet wide, a musclebound brick wall with a matching I.Q. Tree trunk arms and legs. Battleship armor pectorals. Cauldron of a belly. Moon of a head fronted by a stupidly pleased face. Close-cropped hair so no one could grab it during fights, he had a lot of those. Torn white shirt falling off. Ripped black pants thankfully staying on. No shoes or socks on those fee-fie-foe-fum feet.
Harry laughed like a burping foghorn. “BUH-WAH HAW HAW! HARRY HURL PUNY COPS!”
BANG! A young cop shot Harry in the mouth. PAH-TOOEY! He spat the bullet back. DOINK! PLOP! Hitting the cop on the forehead and knocking him out.
An older cop said, “Damn rookies.”
Harry looked down his nose at Holly. “HARRY GONNA ROB BANK! GONNA GRAB MONEY, BUY TEN POUND STEAK, AND NOT LEAVE TIP!”
Holly snarled one of her catch phrases: “Talk to the hands!” She punched twice. Two big translucent fists cannonballed at Harry’s big mouth.
And missed! Harry had bent way, way back like a hippo doing the limbo. When had he learned how to do THAT?
KERR-RUNCH! SKKKKKTT! A parked car behind Harry had skidded onto the sidewalk, its driver-side door caved in. Holly clenched her teeth. Good thing her super-job had liability insurance.
“BAH-WAH HAW HAW! YELLOW HAIR MISS!” Harry stuck out his tongue at Holly: “NNNNN!”
Holly boxer-posed, she was fine with up close and personal. “Fine! You wanna rob the bank, you gotta go through me!”
Like an Imperial Walker with an angry face, Harry stomped toward Holly. Then he winced, like a tiny thought had burst in his B.B. of a brain. He stopped next to a heap of fresh asphalt. He crossed his arms. “NO.”
Holly kept her guard up. “What do you mean, no?”
Harry lifted his chin. “HARRY NOT LISTEN TO YELLOW HAIR. YELLOW HAIR JUST A GIRL.” He snorted, a derisive truck backfiring. “LITTLE GIRLY GIRL. PUNY. TINY. EXCEPT …” His eyes found Holly’s chest. And widened. “… WHERE SHE BIG AND ROUND.” He licked his lips.
Holly’s intestines curdled. She closed her mouth in time to stop her jaw from dropping past her knees. Oh, no. Please, no. Not him. Anybody but him.
Harry’s head bobbled as he rollercoastered his leer over Holly’s every curve. “YUMMY, YUM YUM! LONG LEGGY! HOURGLASS WAISTY! BOUNTIFUL BOSOMY! WANNA DATE?”
For a moment, Holly wondered how Harry had expanded his vocabulary to three-syllable words. Then she shuddered. “Ew! No!”
Harry bodybuilder posed, flexing his biceps with a base drum sound: BOM, BOM! “BET YELLOW HAIR LIKE BIG MUSCLE! CUMMERE AND GIVE HARRY A LITTLE SMACK! KISSY, KISSY!” His smacking lips sounded like a toilet plunger working on a clog.
A few cops stifled laughter. Paparazzi zoomed their lenses.
Holly gagged. “Stop that!” She reared up her stance to heavyweight boxer. “Or I’ll give you a smack, all right!”
“WHY DON’T YELLOW HAIR MAKE HARRY STOP? IS YELLOW HAIR, UH, YELLOW? BAH-WAH HAW HAW!” He blew a motorcycle-revving super-raspberry: “BBBBBTTTHHHHHPPPPP, BBBPPPP, BBBPPPP, BBBTHHHPPPPPP!”
Bullseye. Holly’s face tried to crawl out from under a pint of super spittle. Gasping, trembling, she wiped—gross, gross, GROSS—and flicked gooey saliva off her hand—ew, ew, EW! Her steely muscles trembled. Her telekinesis quaked road and atmosphere to make Darth Vader jealous. Inside her mind, she composed, Get on your knees, hands behind your head, and … OH TO HECK WITH IT! Out of her mouth, she yelled, “Mff, glerk, snrt, RRRRRAAWLLL!”
She leaped twenty feet, rocketing her fist at Harry’s face as …
LASH’S PLACE. 4:48 P.M.
“… steam rocketed out her nose!” I sighed. “That happens now when I get really mad.”
Lash toweled my head. “Maybe you shoulda asked yourself why Harry was hitting on you instead of hitting you.”
I leaped up and faced the wall mirror. “Hindsight is easy … oh no. NO!”
It was worse than Phyllis Diller changing hairstyles by sticking a wet finger in a wall socket. The asphalt was gone, but my hair was a knotted, tornado-twisted haystack. Dry gasps scraped my throat, my pulse pounded my eardrums. Calm down. My e-bracelet’s clock slammed onto my retinas: 4:49:11, 4:49:12, 4:49:13, CALM DOWN!
I pulled out my steel wire brush out of my hip purse. “I gotta comb NOW!” I super-strength YANK, YANK, YANKED!
Ann scowled at me. “Holly, you need detangler first.”
An icky memory itched. “No I don’t!” YANK, YANK YANK YANK! I backed away, bounced off a barber chair, whew, didn’t break it. “I can do this!”
I was doing it! Knot after knot came out! Okay, just the smaller knots, but if I used a tougher tool … I grabbed a huge pair of scissors and stuck it into the largest, nastiest knot on top of my head, and I pulled and pulled and grr, GRR, GRRRRRED!!!
Lash barked, “Those’re my favorite … okay, they’re old, but they’re still my scissors! They’ll mess your hair!”
“My hair’s stronger than steel!” I bumped into the barber chair where the previous customer was watching cartoons. It spun like a top.
Lash grabbed it, pointed the customer back to the TV, and got into my face. “Then how come your hair hasn’t grown past your feet?” For an old man, he did good super-battle banter!
“My hair only grows when it has to, just like Supermn’s! And yes, I shaved my legs just before I went super!” I drilled scissor blades into the knotted hairy fist crowning my cranium!
Ann rushed at me with fire in her eyes and a bottle in her hand, bobbing and weaving like a boxer looking for an opening. “You hold still or I’ll spank you!”
I pried on the knot as my lips skinned back. Ooo, those bullies who’d ambushed me in fourth grade and held me down and broke my nose and rubbed cow patty into my hair, but I’d busted all their noses too! Then Uncle Pops took me to Lash, who washed away stinky poop and my angry tears. Then Ann poured that goopy detangler on my hair, its stink slimed into my nostrils like two slugs, I’d punched her nose, she’d spanked my butt, and I’d vomited! “You’ll just hurt yourself! I’m twenty five and I’m SUPER now!” I YANK, YANK, YANKED, harder, harder, HARDER!
Ann and I ping-ponged about the shop. Lash was a spry referee, blocking us from mirrors, decorative beer bottles, sports trophies, and other breakables. He was smiling. I should have known he’d like girl fights.
SWAT! Ann had spanked me! BLP, PUPFFFFFT! And gooped me! Grease slithered down my scalp. The smell hit hard. I reigned in my retching reflex. If I vomited with my super-strength, I could blow a hole in the wall.
Ann grasped her hand in pain and looked daggers at me.
I stiffened my lips at her. “Sorry! But I told you what happened,” YANK YANK YANK, “when Pa Kent tried to spank Superbaby! YANKYANKYANKYANK TWKK-FFT-TWAAAANNNG!
Oops. Really big oops. Lash’s left sideburn was half an inch higher than his right, the victim of a broken-off scissor blade embedded in the wall. He glared at me so hard I was grateful he didn’t have heat vision.
Shame tidal-waved me. “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry! I never wanted superpowers, I hate my super-job, I hate my supersuit climbing up my butt, I just wanna be a writer again!” I stomped my foot: THOOOOOMMMM!
Lash steadied shampoo bottles about to fall off the shelves. “You’re worse than Herman Munster.”
Ann asked, “Why don’t you get a new supersuit?”
My heartbeat slowly stopped base-drumming my ears. “This is the only one on Earth tough enough for my job.” When I’d stopped a giant heat ray from frying a bunch of fanboys, I’d worn a cotton T-shirt and jeans. That had been embarrassing.
Lash took my hand. “Your little fangirls always want to see this.” He pointed to the wall, where amid photos of actors, actresses, cops, cheerleaders, radio hosts, football players, sports announcers, and Lash’s kids and grandkids, was a photo of a gawky, pre-teen girl. Short brown hair, convex arching nose, excited smile, big blue eyes, and a Batman T-shirt. She had her arm around Lash’s waist. He had his arm around her shoulders. With her other arm, she thrust forward a book titled, “Stories of Super Gals!” The photo was signed, “My first sale! Holly Hansson!” And in different handwriting, “My favorite geek girl. Lash.”
I sighed deeply. Getting superpowers, my graphic novel going bestseller, saving the world, they had all been thrilling. But I’d never forget the joy of selling my first short story, “Batty Girl Boxes a Bully.”
Lash said, “Holly, you’re not a little tomboy anymore. You’re a grown-up woman, and you need my grown-up hairstylist. Now face the music.”
Ann’s schoolteacher stare hit me like a shrinking ray. I slunk into her hairdressing chair. “I’m so sorry. This bad hair day really messed me up.”
Ann’s voice went Yoda. “It’s more than that! Your temper, your temper, you must control your temper!”
I nodded. “I should have done that earlier today. But instead,” I took a deep breath, “Holly and Harry slugged and snorted like …”
THE STREET BEFORE THE BANK. 3:53 P.M.
… two heavyweight boxers with a two-decade grudge! Harry pachyderm-pounded Holly’s face, knocking her a few feet with each blow. And each time Holly yo-yoed back and clobbered him with five! THOOM! POW POW POW POW POW! THOOM!! POW POW POW POW POW!! THOOM!!! POW POW POW POW POW!!!
Harry laughed like a schoolyard bully. “BAH-WAH HAW— FMMMFF!” A bully with a fist in his kisser. “YELLOW HAIR HIT LIKE GIRL! KISSY KISSY— OOF OOF OOF!”
Holly’s right-left-right jabs to a big pot belly stoked the fire in her gut. She hopped back and bent her legs.
A cop blared through a bullhorn. “THE SUPER-STUN CANNON IS HERE! BACK OFF AND GIVE US A SHOT!”
“HE’S MINE!” Holly uncoiled her left leg, adding every iota of ultra-super-duper power to her right-leg kick. Her telekinetic foot—ten times actual size—slammed into Harry’s crotch. Feedback ran up Holly’s leg and roiled her rump. Thor’s hammer harpooned her ears: BLOOOOOOOOOOMMMBBBBBB!
Holly shook ringing out of her head. That hadn’t sounded right.
Harry’s eyes crossed. “HARRY … FALL …” He timbered back and dented the pavement: KER-KRUMMMP!
Holly flexed her toes. Hadn’t felt right, either. She leaned over the mound of muscle. Whose arms were spread. Eyes shut. Split lip. Shiny chest … which wasn’t moving!
Holly leaned closer. She’d clobbered him before. But never on THAT bullseye.
She looked to the cops. “Is there a doctor in the house?”
A cop bullhorned, “LOOK OUT!”
A meaty arm clamped onto her neck. Holly twisted, but was held praying-mantis tight. A mantis that needed deodorant.
A thick voice thundered in her ear. “BAH-WAH HAW HAW! YOU DUMB! HARRY HELD BREATH! YOUR KICK NOT HURT HARRY! HARRY WEARING SUPER-ARMORED JOCKSTRAP! SEE?” CLANG, CLANG!
Holly did NOT try to see. That better have been his finger! She pawed at the vise on her neck, but could not grip its sweaty skin. Wait, not sweaty, it was oily! Who oils up for— wait a minute. “Where’d you learn these moves?”
“WRESTLERS!” Harry crowed the word. “THEY LOUD. RUDE. MEAN. FUN!”
Of course, that slab of beef had hidden amid other slabs of beef. Holly couldn’t aim a punch or kick. But she could flex! She tensed her arms and shoulders, sending out a telekinetic blast that could shatter a steel girder!
Harry’s arm stayed firm as an elephant’s leg. “BAH-WAH HAW HAW! YELLOW HAIR’S STRENGTH SLIP OFF OILY SKIN!”
“Then how come I can’t slip out?”
“GLUE INSIDE ELBOW!”
Holly bent her legs for a bound-over-a-building leap, to be followed by her copyrighted bash-herself-and-big-bully-into-the-street landing. “Up, up, and—”
She flexed her legs. But she stayed earthbound. She looked down.
Harry’s toes were dug into the road like oak tree roots. That loudmouth was just full of ideas today! “BAH-WAH HAW HAW! YELLOW HAIR CAN’T MOVE HARRY! HARRY LIKE ROCK OF GIBRUH, GIBBER, GIB-UH-WALTER, UH …”
Holly hollered, “Rock of Gibraltar, you moron!”
Harry hollered louder. “STOP THAT! BIG WORDS NOT FIT IN HARRY’S HEAD!”
Holly slammed her head back. KRRRMP! Yes! Feedback from butthead nose to the back of her cranium felt REALLY GOOD!
“FNUFF!” snorted Harry. His oily titanic torso slickly twisted on her cheek, EW, as his free arm reached toward the nearby asphalt heap. Then his boxing-glove hand smacked Holly’s skull, ouch, felt like when that big wave had slammed her headfirst into the beach and she couldn’t look over her shoulder for three days.
Tar vapor smoked into her lungs. TAR?!?!? Her eyes nearly leap out of their sockets. NO, NO! NOT MY HAIR! She raked super-fingernails on Harry’s arm. “rrrrRRRR!”
“YOU CHEAT! NO SCRATCH!” Harry’s bicep ballooned, compressing Holly’s windpipe so air molecules trickled down single file. “NOW HARRY USE MOST BIGGEST WRESTLING MOVE OF ALL TIME!”
Holly’s mind raced. Sleeper hold? Elbow cracker? Eye gouger? Belly bopper?
A fist bashed atop her head and twisted. The knuckles were pounding pile drivers. Harry howled, “NOOGIE NOOGIE NOGGIE NOOGIE NOOGIE!”
Holly convulsed and screeched like a cat in a blender! She tried and failed to bite Harry’s arm. Oh well, it would have taken gallons of mouthwash to gargle away the taste of butthead.
A low growl: “HARRY KNOW YELLOW HAIR LOVE HER YELLOW HAIR.” A loud roar: “NOW HARRY DESTROY YELLOW HAIR’S YELLOW HAIR! NOOGIE NOOGIE NOOGIE NOOGIE NOOGIE! HARRY LIKE REVENGE! NOOGIE NOOGIE NOOGIE!”
LASH’S PLACE. 4:54 P.M.
“It felt like Shrub Oil was drilling into my brain, with the usual lack of safety regulations.” I settled back into her chair. The knots were gone. The detangler had softened them, and Ann had guided me. “Grab the base of that last big nasty knot. Dig the comb in above your fingers. Now use your super-strength, gently but firmly, and pull. Easy, steady, steady!” I only broke three combs.
I sniffed like a cat whiffing catnip. A bouquet blossomed in my nose. “Oh, Ann. You remembered my favorite.”
Now Ann worked in pink strawberry suds and sang, “Gonna wash that jerk right out of your hair, gonna wash that jerk right outta your hair.”
Mmm, those magic fingers, that sweet scent, that angelic tune … I closed my eyes and let my tension melt.
“Gonna wash … um …” Ann trailed off.
I sighed dreamily. “Could you massage my neck?”
The hairdressing chair softened into a cloud. “Mmm … my muscles … SIGH … are steel …” Strawberry pillows forever! “But if you knead real hard …”
My eyes snapped open. I was floating a couple of feet high. I fell and plopped onto the chair.
“HA!” said Lash as he counted the cash register’s daily take. “You use a seat belt at bedtime?”
“Ever since I sleep-floated out my window and a police helicopter woke me up with ‘ATTENTION, UNIDENTIFIED SNORING OBJECT,’ I tuck myself in at night.” I checked my e-bracelet. 4:56. Yes! We’re gonna make it!
Warm water soothed my scalp; Ann’s tune soothed my soul. “Gonna rinse the soap right out of your hair, while you end your story with your usual flair!”
I winked at her. “You’re picking up on story structure. Holly thrashed and screamed …”
THE STREET BEFORE THE BANK. 4:05 P.M.
… “STOPPIT STOPPIT STOPPIT STOPPIT STOPPIT!”
Harry’s knuckles bobbled Holly’s brain. “NOOGIE NOOGIE NOOGIE NOOGIE NOOGIE!” He shoved his face into hers. “HARRY DIDN’T REALLY WANNA DATE YOU! NOOGIE NOOGIE NOOGIE!” He needed a five-pound breath mint.
The police line split open, revealing a howitzer of a ray-gun, massive muzzle glowing and ready. Holly had never been so happy to be looking down a gun barrel. She waited, waited, waited, where was the big boom? She super-shouted as her teeth rattled, “What are you awaiting for? Sh-sh-sha-shoot!”
A cop bullhorned again. “YOU’LL BE KNOCKED OUT TOO!”
Asphalt grit ground into her pores. “I can take that, but I can’t take this butthead for another nanosecond! Do it!”
The cop sounded excruciatingly sad. “YOU HEARD THE LADY. HIT IT.”
THA-THOOOOOOMMMM!!! A flash of light, a clap of thunder, a bulldozer slamming the air out of her lungs. THA-THOOOOOOMMMM!!! THA-THOOOOOOMMMM!!! THA-THOOOOoooo …
LASH’S PLACE. 4:58 P.M.
“I was unconscious for a few minutes.” I sat up straight, making my head a better target for Ann’s humming blowdryer. “The cops hauled off Harry. I felt my hair and screamed. A cop comforted me with a hug, hankies for my tears, and a wisecrack. ‘Anything I can do? Iced mocha? Batman comic books? Bullets in some paparazzi?’ I told him, ‘Thanks, but only one man can save me now.’ Then I flew here, and the rest is history.”
Ann finished the last brush strokes and pointed to the wall mirror. “Look at the lovely superwoman.”
So beautiful! I ran my fingers through my long, lustrous, sunshiny, silky soft, full-and-bouncy blonde hair. I stuffed a fistful to my nose—SNNNMMFFFFFF!—grateful that my deviated septum still let me inhale so much sweet strawberry scent. “HAHHHHHHHHH!”
I leaped out of the chair and hugged Ann. “Thank you!”
I kissed Lash on the cheek—”MMM-WAH!”—while lifting him off his feet with a super-hug. “And thank you, you old goat!”
“You’re welcome,” Lash wheezed, “please put me down.”
I did. “Sorry.” I checked my e-bracelet.
Three seconds to five o’clock.
A jet-black specter filled the front doorway like John Wayne’s ghost.
Goose pimples scampered on my thighs and forearms. I set myself between the door and the innocent bystanders.
Light dimmed. Air thickened. The shadow slid forward, silent as smoke. Its Dracula eyes seared my soul, its Shakespearian voice shivered my spine. “Holly Hansson. I have come for you.”
Through the open door, from a clear blue sky, a bolt of lightning KRACK-KOOMED!
The dark shape spread its cape into devil wings emerging from hell’s deepest pit.
I reached out to the cowled man in the black body-armor costume, complete right down to bullet-proof six-pack abs. He embraced me with a flutter of his cape. We kissed with a flutter of my heart. Oh, his arms! Yum, his lips! Ooo, that kevlar!
Lash made the moment perfect. “Careful, Holly, your nose might poke his eye out!”
Cal “The Intellectual” Critbert broke the kiss. “I am your teacher. I am your critic. I am … YOUR DATE!”
I grinned giddily. “Yes, Cal.” I still didn’t know how he loomed over me when he was two inches shorter. “First, let’s pick up my weekly comic books at The Geek Guy’s. Then some Pancho Villa bean soup. Then a long walk on Moonbeam Beach, then watch the sunset. Then, at my place …” I batted my eyes at my Batman.
Lash and Ann harmonized. “Holly’s gotta boyfriend!”
“And an occasional janitor,” Cal said. He withdrew a pill from his utility belt and tossed it into the solvent-filled sink. “My Intellecta-anti-pollution pill.”
Lash walked over to the sink, took a whiff, and stared hard at Cal. “Smells like roses. Thanks. But how did you know about the gunk in my sink, and that Holly would be here? How’d you do that lightening without a magic hammer? And how you gonna keep your ribs from getting smashed if Holly gets frisky?” He rubbed his chest.
Before Cal could begin his Sherlock Holmesian exposition, the dashingly handsome gentleman whose haircut was so rudely interrupted at the start of this story turned away from the television. “Lash, you’ll find that answer in my upcoming novel. Holly’s superheroic origin story! I was thinking, ‘Fanboys Shrugged!’ Or maybe, ‘The Comic Book Code!'” His eyes gleamed with J.K. Rowling glee.
“Dave, will you ever finish writing that?” asked Ann.
“Tell your cover artist my hair’s darker!” said Lash.
“Alfred Hitchcock did classier cameos,” said Cal.
I grabbed Dave’s shirt and lifted him overhead. “Dave M. Strom! So it was YOU who put ‘bountiful bosomy’ prose into Harry’s mouth! Why, I oughta …” I aimed my fist.
Sweat beaded on Dave’s forehead. He gulped.
I dropped the not-worth-it author. I tossed a few bills beside the cash register. “Thanks again, Lash.” I scooped up Cal and carried him outside. “Take me away in your big black Intellecta-car!” And I glared over my shoulder. “And Dave, don’t break the fourth wall!”
Dave faced this story’s readers. “Anyone who says characters can’t push their authors around is an idiot.”