Today I am Wretch

The Story

I stood a guy up tonight.

I also attempted to take over Atlanta with a gigantic laser robot I built by hand, but honestly I feel more guilty about the first thing.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t make it to the date. Or that I was running late, or ran out of hair gel. I did not even have a cool evil genius plan that needed tinkering with that evening. There was not an emergency in sight, none of that. It’s just that I didn’t feel a spark during the first date, but I still accepted the offer of a second because I don’t like conflict.

…unless the conflict has lasers. Then I’m all for it. Because I have to be; that’s my thing.

So this poor, perfectly kind and mildly interesting dude is sitting at a tapas restaurant on Westgate St, either still naively waiting, or cursing my existence while paying for his single glass of wine. Just because I’m a coward.

If I wanted to use my schedule as an excuse, I certainly could: There are deadlines at my regular job (villainy does not pay well, despite what you may have heard), I have friends’ baby showers to attend, my aging uncle to look after, and top that off with being an aspiring villain. After doing all that, I do not have much energy, let alone time, left for the world of dinners and dates, flirting and finding the right person for you.

And it’s not like I’m the lonely kind of single.

I have Baby, my calico. She’s a mutt, so not quite as fluffy as my film-personas would have wished, but sweet and soft all the same. She doesn’t sit and purr in my lap either. She more sits at my feet and screams when it’s bedtime. Which is actually really nice! If it weren’t for her, I’d work long into the night, as well as part of the morning, planning the world’s demise on my mini-Mac.

I have my Uncle Stew, a retired artist and full-time drama queen. He should be in hospice at this point, but refuses to leave his fancy apartment. He says it’s because all his paintings would never fit into a room in “one of those old-people prisons.” I’m sure it has nothing to do with missing his independence and the crazy neighbor lady he pretends to complain about. I don’t argue because he’s awesome and he makes the best gluten free muffins anyone has ever made in any world ever. So instead I just stop by, make sure he’s on his meds, clean up a bit, and listen to the retelling of his dramatic past in exchange for pastries.

I have my big sister, Martha. She is a totally normal member of society, an electrical engineer, great problem-solver. A few years ago she married LeAnne, another brilliant lady I’m proud to call my sister-in-law. They’re very inclusive, and make sure to invite me around for any festivities, from 4th of July cookouts to their National Cereal Day celebration, which was just bowls of fun.

But I have never been comfortable lying to my family about my alter ego. I’ve never been especially good at it either. There was one particularly uncomfortable conversation we had at their Tweed Day party, a day already made awkward by my misunderstanding that they meant the fabric, and I’d stumbled on an article that indicated the holiday was for the mobster.

“Did you see that asshole Queen of Diamonds set the court house on fire?” LeAnne tsked, “It burnt all the current trials, ’cause it was the weekend and they hadn’t been transcribed yet. I’m going to have to wait forever for that settlement from my fender-bender now.”

“Oh, dear,” I mumbled into my drink, “Maybe yours had already gone through that afternoon?” It had, I checked. I’m a villain, not a monster.

“I doubt it, we have the worst luck with those things. Refill, sweetie?” She took my glass and though I was happy with the refill, I was desperate for something to do with my hands!

Martha shrugged, “I mean, it was just the courthouse, not like she got anything big, no one was hurt.”

Yeaaaaaah, that’s crazy right? Let’s hope she isn’t just testing stuff on a small scale before escalating to make sure it works! Ha ha! Ha…

Martha’s neighbor Drew was rolling his eyes, “What a stupid name anyhow. Like, could’a been an Ace, or Queen of Hearts like in Alice- but the diamonds?”

“Well, I mean, diamonds are the hardest thing out there, right?”

Oh yeah that made them all look at me. Good job. Way to stay undercover, genius me.

“Also shiney though!” I continued, thankful LeAnne had returned with my glass and quickly taking a large swig as the group laughed, “Probs some girlie thing using daddy’s money to be naughty!” 

That sent them into another round of laughter, and I felt like I’d recovered the moment of uncertainty.

“You’re really onto something though!” Martha said after a moment “I just don’t think she can be that bright, she just hasn’t done much. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we don’t have a big baddie, but she’s just not that impressive to be calling herself a queen.”

The next month, I burnt Parliament to the ground. Whose the family disappointment now, hmmmm?

No deaths there, though. Damn you, Conley.

Yes I have Conley too, my counterpart, and my muse. That beautiful son of a bitch.

Conley Curtain is the real name of the superhero that continues to thwart my endeavors. You may know him as Sir Steam. Other than the little smoke-screen trick he can do, he’s just a glorified version of The Flash, in my opinion that I share with no one. Most of these modern superheroes are. Lots of mixed genetics and hanky-panky in the Tower of Justice to blame, I’m betting.

But to me, he’ll always just be Conley, because we didn’t start here. We didn’t start by staring at each other across smoke and flame, his glare striking against my straight smile. Worse, we didn’t start as star crossed lovers or long lost twins, none of that cliche’ shit.

We were just friends. And then he went and messed everything up by becoming a “hero.”

More specifically, a boring hero. I mean you should’ve seen him when he first started- it was like a pilot episode of a CW show that doesn’t even make it to air. His costume was pretty good, as the girl he was dating at the time was an avid cosplayer. But realistic leg guards and sharpened vambraces (my idea, actually) weren’t going to hide the fact that he had only 1 of SuperMan’s many talents.

He caught a couple robbers, stopped a few muggings with his speed and endurance. Took a couple stupid races with Ferrari for the publicity. Sure, he was a star, but not a shiny one.

He was a hero without a reason: No tragic backstory, no catalyst, no horrific coming-of-age moment. People don’t like that. They can’t root for that, or feel sorry for it, or even pretend to feel a connection. After a few small saves and maybe a city-level parade, he would have petered out, and his alter-ego 9 to 5 would become his regular day. Maybe his natural speedy nature would come in handy tracking down toner for the company printer? What a waste. He was going to die a nobody. Or worse, a sidekick!

Conley taught me the streets and lingo of London when my family first moved here. He bought me my first order of chips, and only laughed for a few minutes when I stared at the pile of fries in front of me. Then Conley stayed up late with me when I had physics papers due- entertaining me with one-man renditions of SNL sketches. It was Conley that introduced me to my boyfriend, when I was too afraid to dance with the cute guy I’d been eying for weeks. It was Conley again who held me when that same boyfriend left me for a bartender from our favorite pub. Conley’s parents sent me Hanukkah presents, and mine fed him too many tamales on Christmas Eve.

He was basically my brother, and he needed something. Our group of friends rallied around him as best we could and got to brainstorming. We couldn’t lie about his past and make it more dramatic- the internet would destroy that in a matter of seconds. The bigger guys helped him bulk up at the gym, which helped his look a lot, and some others knew a few interview/marketing tricks, but these were only getting us so far- he couldn’t just magically grow more powers. Finally, a key ingredient occurred to me: an arch-nemesis. An enemy could arrive at any moment to foil a hero. Someone to stir the public into a frenzy so his comforting power would be more impressive, more necessary.

I couldn’t… I couldn’t just let him fail. He was my bro. He was my best friend. And any of us would do anything for a friend… right?


(To be continued)

The Word

Wretch (noun): 1. An unfortunate or unhappy person. 2. (informal) A despicable or contemptible person.

WhoooHOOO! I finally fixed this story!

I have been wrestling with this one for a while! Those of you that have alerts turned on (thank you! makes me feel extra special!) have had to deal with seeing this pop up occasionally and then the link will not work. This is because I keep getting really close to liking this story and then pulling it, adding it to its 2nd piece, pulling it, blah blah blah. Well, I’m finally happy with this 1st piece of it, so I’m sharing it with you.

Writers and readers have always been obsessed with the antihero, like all the way back to Greek Chorus days, but lately that convention has gotten lost among attractive villain personas. Guys? Marvel’s Loki* is actually a bad boy. Naughty. Not good. Misbehaves. One save maketh not up for everything-eth. Not an antihero. An actual example of an antihero in popular culture would be Captain Jack Sparrow from POTC because despite constantly wanting to do the wrong thing and care about only himself, he does the right thing because he can’t help but care about people. Good boy. An antihero.

Just wanted to say that out loud because it’s been getting to me for years 🙂

My challenge to myself with the Queen of Diamonds (ha HA that’s right you don’t know their name yet) is to write someone who is definitely a villain but could aaalso be an antihero? Now I know Megamind kinda already covered something like this but a) …I hadn’t seen that movie when I started writing this but like whatever shut up there are only 6 real stories in the world anyway** and b) I still think it’s important to challenge ourselves as writers/artists to create in our own ways, to build from the scraps our minds  and see where they take us, even if those paths have been trod before! So here’s my go at it, I hope you enjoy!

And whether you’re a hero, or an anti-hero, you’re a hero to somebody, and I thank you for that!

Happy hero-ing, reader!

*and like, actual Norse Loki might be too. But one can argue that he’s just doing exactly what his job is, so like is that bad? Ehhhhh that’s not my call

**take this link as you will! I think it’s interesting, and I was part of the generation that was taught that all stories did boil down to 8 different plots, but I’m mostly just being sassy.