Hang Up The Cape

My shoulder aches something fierce today, signalling an impending change in the weather. I reach up with my gnarled, arthritic hand in a futile effort to massage the pain away, but doing so exacerbates both my shoulder and my finger joints. I inhale sharply at the sudden tinge and reach over for my bottle of over-the-counter pain medicine to help chase the pain away. My hand shakes as I grip the bottle with knotted fingers and twist the cap off. I shake four little blue pills (not those pills; my body may be going to hell, but I don’t have to worry about that, thank the maker) into the palm of my hand and pop them into my mouth. I swallow without taking  a drink of water and feel the slugs slowly creep down my esophagus.

My stomach rumbles. I look at the clock on the wall; 6:00 p.m. It’s past my dinner time. The older you get, the earlier you eat. I brace myself against the arms of my easy chair and gently lift myself up, my knees and hips popping as I do so. Another perk of getting older.

I slowly walk down the hallway and pause at a photo hanging on the wall. It’s of me as a much younger man; I’m maybe 25. It seems like a lifetime ago, and it is. I can see a slight resemblance in the man I am today in the picture. My heart hurts for my youth. Oh, to be that age again. The photo was taken after I had stopped an evil villain by the name of The Madman (real original name, guy) from trying to take over our city with an army of mutated monkeys. Think Wizard of Oz flying monkeys. The Madman also wasn’t very bright. A truckload of bananas from the local supermarket and boom, case closed. Granted, that was one of the more easy plots to foil, but it got me a lot of positive attention from the press, so of course, I milked it for all it was worth.

Oh, I should mention I’m a former superhero. Captain Yellow Hawk is(was) the name. It’s a pleasure to serve you, citizen.

Those were the days, I tell you. Admiration and adoration from everyone around you, celebrity status anywhere you went, VIP treatment, the works. Plus, a pretty cool costume. As Captain Yellow Hawk, I wore a costume similar to Batman’s. That guy…we bickered back and forth for years over whose original design it was–mine or his. I say it was mine, he says his. Okay, Batman, you keep thinking that, fella. Never mind that there’s photographic evidence of me wearing my costume months before he’s shown flitting around the city in his, but that’s irrelevant now, I suppose. He’s ten years in the grave now, may be rest in peace.

I reach up and adjust the frame, even though it’s perfectly straight to begin with, and lightly touch the glass covering the photo. A half-smile comes to my lips as memories of being in the costume overtake my mind.

I then decide I can wait to eat for a while longer and turn to go down the other end of the hallway toward my study. I shuffle down along until I reach the door and enter the password into the keypad. Yes, keypad; being an ex-superhero, you can’t be too careful. I keep all of my old equipment and other paraphernalia in my study. The last thing I need is some stupid, young show-off break into my house and steal my weapons. Like the little bastard would know how to use a sound grenade anyway, but you can’t be too careful these days.

Standing in the corner of the room, in a steel and glass display case is my uniform in all of its dark grey and yellow glory. The lights I had mounted inside illuminate the logo on the chest piece–a hawk, of course. The difference between my and Bruce’s costume was the head wear. He chose the full cowl, I opted for a simple black mask, like Zorro. I never understood why Bruce did that. I tried a cowl once, but I sweat so damn bad in the thing during a particularly harrowing case, I almost blew the whole thing due to sweat trickling into my eyes, so after that, I switched to the mask.

I open the door to the case and run a calloused hand over the hard bullet and knife-proof material. It’s slightly iridescent, like fish scales, which really got the ladies goin’, if you know what I mean. The dames loved that.  I stand in front of the costume and have the wild idea to try it on. It’s been decades since I’ve been inside this thing, might as well give it one more go. Aside from being fifty years older, my physique hasn’t changed that much.

I press a button on the side of the case that causes the costume to come forward on a hidden track at the bottom. It slowly extends until it’s about a foot in front of me and then stops. I reach forward and carefully take it off the stand, grunting a little as I do so; I don’t remember this thing being so heavy, but I manage. I start to take off my clothes, growing impatient at how long it’s taking me to unbutton my shirt. I get stripped down to my skivvies and carefully put the costume on, relishing at the old, familiar way it hugs my body. I put the cape on last, confused at first about why it’s so long and dragging on the ground behind me, but then I remember I’ve shrunk a few inches over the years, thanks to osteoporosis.

Once fully suited up, I strike a pose like I used to: left arm bent at the elbow, held up in front of my chest. Right arm straight beside me. Left leg behind me slightly, right leg extended out to the front. I look like I can conquer anyone or anything, and I have. Oh, the stories I could tell you if given half a chance! You’d be beyond impressed, let me tell you what.

As I stand in my study, hamming it up for my own benefit, my stomach rumbles loudly once more, reminding me, hey dummy, we’re dyin’ in here! so I decide it’s best time to eat. I’m thinking beef stew sounds good tonight. It’s getting chillier outside and a nice can of Dinty Moore will hit the spot nicely.

I walk down the hallway to the kitchen and open the pantry door. Rats. The can of stew isn’t up here and must be in the basement in canning room. I walk over to the basement door and flip the light on. I take each step carefully because I’m not as young as I used to be, you know. I make it down the steps and find my dinner and make my way upstairs, looking up at the open door at the top and thinking the stairs look like I’m about to climb Machu Picchu. I grab the railing on the side and haul my old butt up.

I get halfway up the stairs when my cape gets tangled around my ankles and I loose my footing and fall backwards, hitting my head on every step I’ve climbed up. I hear bones snap and break and know this isn’t going to end well for me.

And it didn’t. I’m laying in a rumpled heap at the bottom of the steps, blood pouring from the gash on the back of my head where I just smacked it against the cold concrete as I land. I try to bring my head up to assess the rest of my damage, but cannot. My spine screams as I try to do so, so I  move my eyes around as best as I can to see. From the corner of my eye, I see my left leg splayed out in an unnatural angle next to me, a bone poking out of my calf muscle. I look at my other side, my vision starting to blur, and see the same with my right arm: ungodly angle, bone jutting out, blood. I feel dizzy and close my eyes to try to focus, but doing so makes me more dizzy, so I try to open them again, and my eyelids flutter in protest.

With any luck, I’ll be dead soon and with even more luck, I won’t be left rotting down here too long. My oldest son comes to visit me every other day, and he’s due tomorrow, so the poor kid will have to see his old man, dead at the bottom of the basement steps. I feel bad for that, but there isn’t much I can do now.

As I die, my last thoughts are of him, his mother, and my life as a superhero.

I couldn’t have wished for a better life. Captain Yellow Hawk, out. Be well, citizens.

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