–– The Sentinel throws Rico right through the window! ‘See how you bounce offa the sidewalk!’ He screams ‘AAH!AAH!’ Then The Sentinel times it… just… right… and BAM! He catches him just before he hits the pavement!
Ollie’s superhero voice is still perfect. A bit more gravel, a bit more experience, but it’s there. He relaxes his arm from the superhero grandiosity.
–– Butbut before he’s hauled away by the policeman, Rico yells ‘No! The Scarab! The Black Scarab! He’ll kill me in there! You gotta protect me Sentinel!’
Ollie puts his hands together, mimicking handcuffs, and shuffles to and fro at the foot of Toby’s bed. He switches to his superhero voice and places his fists against his hips –– superheroicus maximus.
–– ‘But the Scarab’s dead. Killed by his own weapon!’ says The Sentinel.
Back to a panicked thug voice.
–– ‘No! No! He’s coming for you Sentinel! You’ll see! YOU’LL ALL SEE!!’ Bumbadumdumdum! Music kicks in and whoosh to be continued!
Toby blinks and rolls over to his side.
–– The Black Scarab dies a bunch.
Ollie pulls the blanket over him.
–– Well… these are the big episodes. The big ones. Episodes 1137 to 1139. 1949. Did you take your medicine?
–– The big episodes.
–– Changed my life when I was your age. Couldn’t believe my ears. But that’s enough for tonight.
–– The big episodes.
• • •
Walking down the hallway, Ollie remembers how the place looked when Olivia was no more than Toby’s age (before the ex-wife went batshit and kicked him out). Doilies and Nixonian domestic conservatism replaced by bursts of color and flowers. The decorations weren’t his then either –– he was never much for decor; figured it would be taken away anyhow. He prefers Olivia’s decorative sense. There’s a joy to it.
Hearing the happy couple not sounding so happy, Ollie presses his ear to the wall of Olivia’s room, taking care not to send the peony arrangement to a crashing doom.
–– I’m not ready.
–– But what good does he actually do here? Let me come in. I’ll make sure you and Toby have it all. Things are turning around.
–– I’m not kicking him out. Don’t make me choose. I’ve made that mistake before.
Ollie proffers a proud fist pump. Good girl.
–– You’re not making a mistake.
–– He’s family. We’re family. I love you, but you have to respect what I want too. I want you here. But it’s on my terms.
–– But what good does he do you? Toby?
Ollie clenches his fist. The Decoder Ring digs deep.
• • •
He grips the broken pencil. His hand trembles. Graphite stains form under his overgrown thumbnail.
The paper is blank. Nothing. Pristine. He replays The Sentinel’s swashbuckling derring-do in his head. Protecting the innocent. Longing for Belmont. Ripping doors from the car. It has to be exact.
The kinetic linework of Whiz!Bam!Pow! Comics #7 floods back to him. He remembers the way the pages felt between his hands. The pain when they were taken from him. Each half-tone dot a character, a rocket ship to a new world. The comic is as fresh in his mind as when he was a boy. It’s been there every day of his life. Every day of every wrong thing he’s done. Every day of everything right.
He grips the pencil tighter, fidgeting around to avoid the protruding wooden stakes sticking up from its broken body. He spins the Decoder Ring. Fear. Ambitious paralysis. He closes his eyes.
To fly, you just have to jump.
He touches his pencil to the paper. He draws a swirl. And then it hits.
Skritches and scratches as pencil hits paper. He never pauses. He is in the zone.
Never before has he felt so alive, so vital. He’s Dr. Frankenstein, bringing life to lifelessness, his memories the lightning storm giving new life to the four-color relic that shaped his life. Possession defined him, separation scarred him.
He puts the pencil down.
He opens his eyes, hoping to see rebirthed from his hand the powerful and iconic images that shaped his youth, the first page on his million-dollar journey. Instead: stick figures, boxes with circles and smudged graphite. A bit of saliva.
Ollie crumbles the paper into a ball, his knuckles cracking. He hurls it across the room, aiming for his Rocketbolt wastebasket. The paper bounces to the floor from Greg’s leg.
–– You missed.
To be continued.