This is a few opening pages to ‘Redleg’. comapred to ‘Skid Style’, it is darker and less light-hearted.
Archer ‘Archie’ Gunnison woke that morning to the strident buzzing of his watch. The cicada-like screech jolted him from sleep and his hands flailed about, seeking the offending noisemaker. His right hand finally caught up with his left and pressed the delay button, giving him a ten minute window to wake up and turn the alarm off for the day. Archie sat up in bed, letting the beige comforter droop into a pile on his lap. The dark blue curtains over the small bedroom window were closed, but the sharp, crisp air of autumn swirled through the open window, ruffling the cloth, and letting peeks of gray morning flit across the bed. He yawned, then stretched his arms and good leg for a moment, enjoying the sensation of muscles waking up. He turned in place, dropping the right leg over the edge, then leaned down and picked up his prosthetic left leg.
The leg was a marvel of engineering, fitted with self adjusting spring tensioners that adjusted to the weight he put on it. The covering for the prosthesis was something else again. Bright, fire-engine red painted scales covered it, like some monstrous creature from the Red Lagoon. There was no way to ignore it, which was the reason Archie had it decorated. No one would mistake it, or him, for anyone else. Archie gazed at the leg as he rubbed the stump of his left thigh. He’d been a marine. Hoooah! All the way. He was proud of his service, proud of his buddies, and proud, maybe a little envious of the ones who made it home in one piece. He left part of himself in a Hummer after an IED had blown it through one and a half revolutions before it had come crunching back to earth. He didn’t remember any of it. The medications he took kept him from screaming in his sleep and stopped the terrifying flashbacks that occurred when he got stressed.
Others kept the red-hot phantom pains at bay. There was no telling when they’d strike. The pain seemed to happen most when he tried to do something like dodging an obstacle without thinking. His leg would seize up and drop him screaming to the ground. He’d learned to think about the prosthesis before trying to do anything sudden. But the pain still caught him unawares. Finishing pulling the leg on, he strapped it in place, then bent over again to pull the blue jeans from the floor. He slid them over his prosthesis first, then his real leg.
A rumpled green t-shirt was next. he pulled it over his head, then stuck his arms through the sleeves. He looked down at the car-toon on the front. It was a coffin with a raised back, with two large tires on the rear and two small ones up front. The cab was black except for two yellow eyes and a toothy smile from inside the cab. A cigar clamped between the teeth, and the words ‘Coughin’ Coffin’ were spelled out in smoke behind it. Standing up, he clumped awkwardly to the small storage drawers that served as his dresser. Next to it were his ankle-high sneakers.
The black Converse were made of canvas, so they wore a little better around the fake foot, with just enough cushion to make walking feel like semi-natural. He laced up the sneakers, grabbed the belt off the top of the left stack of drawers, then finished sliding it through the loops. He finished up by grabbing the pack of cigarillos off the top right set, and sliding one out of the top. He grabbed the lighter, and lit the brown tube of tobacco. That first inhale centered him, and got him ready to face the day. He slid the pack in his back pocket, the lighter in the front left, and plucked his wallet off the drawer and shoved it into the left rear pocket. Another long inhale and exhale soothed the nicotine jitters and he was ready for breakfast.
Two words in writing have so much power. ‘What if’. These crystallize and encapsulate all that is possible, might be possible, or already is happening. It’s the impetus to see what follows the question. For me, they are my favorite words to start a story in my mind.
Another favorite thing is ‘And to think I saw it on Mulberry Street’.
If there is any story or poem that displays the imagination so thoroughly about writing, I’m not certain what it is. It is boundless imagination starting with a simple beginning, and it builds, and builds until a horse and cart becomes a three ring circus and show on Mulberry Street.
Sadly, and accurately, it also shows how imagination is stifled. How a disapproving word can kill an imagination. All I can leave you with here is:
Let your imagination ask ‘what if’, and let yourself take flight.
Charlie ‘Skid’ Moore sat on the edge of the warehouse roof. To the north of Pier 17, a few areas were still unloading containers for transport. Boston Harbor never stopped, it just slowed down in the evenings. Charlie, in his bright red and blue costume, was impatient for something to happen, yet oddly comforted that nothing had.
I don’t think I’d have ever thought I’d be here. Charlie had always been fast. Fastest in his grade school, then in middle school, then in high school. There was talk of scholarships for college. Even though he was still a junior, recruiters had stopped by and talked to his folks. Then, a short while after the recruiting started, Charlie got fast.
It happened at a school crossing. Classes had just let out. The students were queuing to load up on buses. A line of primary students were crossing the street. As Charlie watched, a red sports car with a driver talking on a cellphone whizzed past him, and towards the line of children. He heard the car’s tires screech as the driver realized, too late, that there were children in her path. Charlie’s heart was in his throat as he started to run. I’m not going to make it! Those kids are dead!
The world blurred. Sharp images stretched and blended into a chaotic display of color. His ears were assaulted by a loud roaring like a jumbo jet taking off right next to him. An impact knocked the breath out of him. His eyes cleared at the sudden stop, everything returning to sharp focus. The red sports car spun wildly away, the right front side crumpled like cardboard, the right front tire blown and half off its rim. It skidded across the oncoming lanes and hit the curb, blowing both right tires. With a screech of grinding metal the car ground to a stop on the sidewalk. The children were untouched, the driver had fractured ribs, whiplash, and a concussion. Charlie had bruises, and a new life.
Overnight he went from promising athlete to something he’d barely ever thought about: super hero. He was no longer a candidate for a scholarship to college. Now, he was a metahuman. A person with power to change things. To stand up to those who used their power for terror and personal profit. Charlie, being the young, idealistic high-school student, and raised on morning cartoons, embraced his new life.