The facts? The facts are these: I am wholly ordinary. Black hair, caramel skin, no extraordinary features, no super powers, although I’ve gotten pretty good at karate lately. Self-defense, you know. I am a city girl, after all, born and raised in the shadow of the tenements.
I make my living dyeing and designing special order fabrics for customers far more interesting than I am. I drink Folgers coffee and I don’t eat meat. My favorite channel is TCM, and I would consider my life complete if I could shake Gregory Peck’s hand. Considering he’s been dead over a decade, I’ve had to make peace with incompletion.
These are the facts. But sometimes reality is bigger than facts. Sometimes reality births a legend. And if the legend makes the world a better place, I’m all for that, too.
It began in the alley, where I found myself one muggy afternoon being used as a human shield by a punk who’d gotten himself cornered by the police. His foul-mouthed screams deposited spatters of saliva on one cheek while his revolver–sometimes the barrel and sometimes the muzzle–crushed my opposite temple.
Put the gun down, the officers kept yelling, but I was Punky’s only chance, and he wasn’t about to blow it. Unless, of course, he managed to blow my head off with his twitchy trigger finger.
Best I could tell, the conflict seemed to be over some piece of property Punky swore was his, but the officers believed belonged to a jeweler on Second Avenue. Not even a diamond. A pocketwatch, or something. It seemed a damn fool thing to die for. Even worse if it was me doing the dying. The only thing I could do was stand as still as possible, so I didn’t accidentally set him off. I’ve never felt so helpless in my life.
I tried to distract myself by looking for variations in the rigid columns of windows and tenement faces that boxed us in. I’d never seen–or perhaps I’d just never noticed–how some fire escapes spiraled at the end of each flight. A sound pierced the clamor of the city and the shouting near at hand: Someone had hung wind chimes from the balcony.
Outside my little bubble, things were escalating. I could see the police officers had twitchy trigger fingers now, too. Nobody was going to save me except me. I might get my head blown off, but there was no point in standing there waiting for it to happen.
I closed my eyes, got my bearings in space, and when the muzzle of the gun waved away for a split second, I seized my chance.
I ducked and ground my heel into Punky’s toe. He flailed wildly, and I shoved and twisted and ran. Gunshots ricocheted off the brick. I hit the ground. The screaming stopped.
Footsteps approached. “Miss?” A police officer took my hand and helped me up. “Are you all right?”
I pulled out a handkerchief and wiped my cheek clean. Are you freaking kidding me? What kind of question is that? That’s what I wanted to say. What I said instead was: “I’m fine, thank you.”
And inside, I added:
I will never be a victim again.
A few weeks ago Alex asked me what story I was writing. I told him I was plotting a new story based partly on a true story that had always made me cry. I told him that story and then told him what I was thinking of doing with it to make it fiction. Like a typical third-grade, superhero-obsessed boy, he said, “Why don’t you ever write adventure stories?”
Alex, this one’s for you. A superhero is born. 🙂
Concrits always welcome!
Grabbed me from the beginning!
Wow – a gripping story that sucked me right in. I loved how the narrator checked out of the conflict by noticing and describing the surroundings.
A compelling story that I would love to see more fleshed out.
And I’d love to shake Gregory Peck’s hand too.
Until one of the other commenters mentioned it, I didn’t even realize I hadn’t named this protagonist. But I know some of her story already and sooner or later I’m going to write a novel on her. 🙂 As for Gregory Peck, I’m astonished that more people aren’t in love with him. Why does everybody go for Carey Grant? Gregory Peck must be one of the handsomest men God ever put on the face of the earth…and what a voice!
Nice! I enjoyed this from beginning to end. The pacing was good, and the descriptions detailed enough but no too much. Very very good story.
The birth of a superhero is always an interesting tale!
I love the backstory on a hero, especially one whose everyday life seems so mundane. She’s got grit!