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Public Service

Julie Reeser is the unintentional straight man to life's comedy. She spends her free time crafting tiny books for patrons and spying on birds for poetry. You can get a tiny book or a poem at her Patreon or find her on Twitter @abetterjulie.

The Superhero saved us at the last moment. That sounds cliche, but it's true. My dad was probably going to lose his job. My mother was crying about how to make the mortgage payment. We live paycheck to paycheck, splurging a bit on Saturday to go eat out at the steakhouse, and then having to eat rice and beans or eggs and toast for the last two days before the next check gets deposited.
We aren't unhappy, though. We sit around and watch TV in the evenings as a family. Sometimes my dad and I play video games together, and my mom's at every practice game. But without my dad's job as a correctional officer, the debt would have gone higher. I know about debt. My whole generation is facing a mountain of it. The Superhero is going to save us from all of that.
He's dark and mysterious, tall and broad with a wave of inky hair swept back from his forehead. His mask is yellow and black and reminds me of a hawk. We see hawks when we go fishing out at Dam Number 3 early on summer mornings. He's like them, all eyes and silent stalking. It's pretty badass. At the Dam, we shield our eyes from the rising sun to watch the hawks glide past hunting for vermin. The Superhero is the same.
Oh, he can't actually fly, but he glides from the top of one building to another with his giant cape. Criminals can't escape him even if they have fast cars because his car is faster. It's bullet-proof too, I think.
Most of the bad guys are people I know from school. A lot of them graduated a year or two ahead of me. The Superhero is good at catching them doing dumb shit that most of us do and regret. It's okay, though. I mean, without him catching them, the prison where Dad works would start to empty, and I'm looking forward to getting a job there when I turn twenty-one. Dad says they could always buy prisoners from other states, but it's not the best solution.
The prison was built when I was in elementary school. I remember when Dad got the job and came home with his first big paycheck. We went to dinner to celebrate. They drank champagne and tickled my nose with the bubbles. They'd invited our neighbors, Adelaide and Martin Stevens, to come along. I think Dad wanted to show off. Martin is a contractor and his firm built the prison complex. Ever since then, my parents have been trying to keep up: new car, flowers in the front garden, small fishing boat--nothing outlandish--just enough to show that we can live that lifestyle, too.
The Stevens' never had kids, so when Mom and Dad are feeling inferior they send me over to borrow something. It's a game I understand 'cause I play it with the kids at school: who saw the latest action movie first, who has the best sneakers, which kid has an older brother to take them joy-riding.
Dad said Jaden's older brother, Micah, was captured by the Superhero for speeding. He'd probably had a beer or two, and possibly marijuana stashed in the car somewhere, at least that's what Dad guessed. I could imagine it. Micah had always been trouble, as anyone would tell you now. Obviously, or he wouldn't be sitting in prison after being caught! If you are captured by the Superhero, you've been doing wrong.
Well, not everyone has that opinion. My girlfriend, Mary, has hippie parents. That's what my dad calls them. Socialists. Mary's mom works for the city as a legal advocate. Her dad is a psychologist and does some volunteer work for the prison population. They both talk a lot about how the Superhero is a vigilante who thinks he's above the law. My dad says that's BS, and the Superhero is doing what needs to be done. The police don't mind, and some of the guys who work with him used to be cops, so they would know. Mary says she thinks it's sad, which I don't get. How is it sad to lock up the bad guys and make the city safer? Sometimes I think my dad is right about her parents, but I'd never say that. I try to be respectful like Mom taught me.
Anyway, I guess I don't need to be respectful much anymore. The Superhero single-handedly apprehended Mary's mom last night when she was coming home from the Mall. Apparently, she has a shoplifting problem. Mary denies it, but of course she would; it's her mom. It does seem like the clothes her mom wore were a lot nicer than they should be able to afford. My dad agrees. I'm not saying that to Mary, obviously. I'm trying to be supportive, but she's awfully angry about the whole thing.
My dad says the Corporation is building a second wing to house females, since that criminal population is on the rise. The complex will bring one hundred forty-seven new jobs to the city, and with the tax revenue they'll be able to build a stadium.
How can Mary not think the Superhero is saving us?
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

Author Comments

I wrote this in a flurry of feelings after watching the Sunday news. Some of my best writing happens that way, a cascade of emotion blowing the blocked channels clean.

- Julie Reeser
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