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Unsung Hero

Chapter 1

By Rosie Ford Published 3 months ago 8 min read
Top Story - December 2023
12
Unsung Hero
Photo by David von Diemar on Unsplash

I hung out at Madigan Park all the time when I was a kid. Back then it wasn’t Madigan—it was just the park, the place my friends and I went to get stoned under the bigass birds-of-paradise that sang after a few joints. Now it’s nothing. Those birds-of-paradise—most of them older than I am—burned in the fight. The stinky torreya the mayor planted for his birthday is black and barely standing. Faulkner’s founder is flat on his face with a broken nose, which my partner has been trying to slip into my pocket for the last ten minutes. Even the playground is now a McDonald’s-colored puddle and the lawns are black where the last embers aren’t glowing.

But I’m just happy nobody got in the powers’ way. Sometimes we have more than a dead tree and a toppled statue on our hands.

“Will you knock it off?” I snatch the marble nose from Frankie, ready to slap her. If she didn’t hit so hard in retaliation—or boredom—I would. “What am I supposed to do with this?”

She shrugs. “Keepsake? I know this is your favorite place.” A pause. “Well. It was your favorite place.”

And dammit, I loved that smelly tree too. Helped plant it. “Yeah.” I sniff. “Too bad.”

Luckily whatever happened went down in the middle of the night, so we don’t have to scrape fried kid off the sidewalk. Powers are just like toddlers, I swear. The only difference is these guys run around breaking shit and nobody can football-carry them to timeout. I glance at my sidearm. Maybe we could knock a power down. No one has ever tried.

Dusty red in the morning fog, the sun is coming up over the skyscrapers and bleeding right into my eyes. Across the street from the caution tape, where the sidewalk isn’t cracked into converging tectonic plates, the early morning crowd is gathering. Joggers stop jogging and shield their eyes with their hands, probably trying to figure out why their route got barbecued overnight. Dogs stop to sniff the air. Commuters slow down to rubberneck and a couple end up in a fender bender. I groan, then I remember we have people for this kind of thing.

“Cadbury!” I motion my rookie closer with one finger. His jog looks like someone trying to shake a big pillow into a small pillowcase. Not sure how he passed the fitness test, but whatever—he’s a good kid. Doesn’t ask questions, not even when I tell him he’s filling out the accident report. Actually sounds a little excited, which isn’t surprising. The powers pretty much keep people inside these days—bank robbers, carjackers, drug dealers, people who walk on the wrong side of the road, everybody. No pedestrians run over from behind this year. Only from the front so they can see it coming, the way God intended.

“You got it, Captain Fisher, sir!” He salutes me. Frankie covers her mouth and turns around.

“You don’t need to salute me,” I say. “Or call me sir.”

He frowns. “What do I call you? Cody?”

“No. No, no, no, no, no.” I put my arm around his shoulders. “Even Frankie doesn’t get to call me Cody. Fisher works just fine.”

“Okay, Fisher.” Cadbury blinks at me. “Sounds a little weird.”

“Not as weird as ‘Captain Fisher, sir!’ is for me.” I slap him between the shoulders. Squishy. He’s not wearing his vest. “Go home and get the rest of your uniform when you’re done.”

Blank stare. “What?”

“Did you forget anything that goes under your clothes?”

Cadbury glances around. “I’m wearing underwear,” he whispers.

My mouth opens but I can’t get anything to come out of it. We stare at each other for a while. And then, from nothing, a spark. “Oh,” Cadbury says. “My vest.”

“Yeah.”

He turns to look at the car accident, where both drivers are getting out and scratching their heads. They’re not facing each other, though—they’re staring at what’s left of the park. “What if I get shot?”

“With fifteen other cops and a few dozen witnesses here? That would be pretty bold,” I say.

“You got me covered then.” Cadbury nods.

“Yeah, Cadbury, I got you covered.” As he makes his way across the meadows of ash, slowing down every few steps to pull up his pants, I feel like I’m watching my kid go off to kindergarten. I mean, not that I know what that feels like. Maybe a puppy on his first run out the front door when you’re not paying attention.

“Speaking of bold.” Frankie nudges me in the ribs and points into the sun. Flowing cape. Biceps the size of my head. Thighs that never skip leg day. Pecs that just won’t quit. I’m not gay, but if I were, I sure as hell wouldn’t be gay for him. Biggest asshole this side of the Mississippi. And that’s saying something since DC is on the same side.

“Citizens of Faulkner!” cries the silhouette, alighting on the podium where our founder used to stand. A collective groan from the crowd. Chest puffed, hands on his hips, Flashpoint glances around at his subjects but clearly doesn’t bother to read the room. “I’ve heroically rescued your city from the clutches of a nefarious threat!”

“Go the fuck home!” A peeled orange slams right into the “F” on his chest. Everyone is quiet until it hits the ground, and then come the cackles from beside the fire trucks. I’m laughing myself until puffs of smoke come out of Flashpoint’s ears.

“Who threw that?” he snaps, amber eyes glowing. Everybody shuts up real fuckin’ quick. “Come out and face me like a man!”

Frankie pouts. “Rude.”

The tips of Flashpoint’s dark hair burst into flame. He’s a real hothead . . . .

Anyway, he’s floating down from the podium and stepping all over noseless Ulric Faulkner, hair on fire, fists clenched. I’m about to tell Frankie how much I’d hate to be the guy who threw that orange when I remember it’s kind of my job to step in before somebody gets punted all the way to Cuba. I rub the tip of Mr. Faulkner’s nose for luck, then I put myself in Flashpoint’s path.

“Step aside, citizen.” He reaches out to push me clear, but I take his hand and give it a firm shake instead. Flashpoint’s lips part. Confusion snuffs out the flames in his hair and his eyes change back to brown. Just a normal guy when he’s not standing on a pedestal. Kinda short. Then again, everybody is short to me.

“Captain Fisher, actually,” I say, letting go of his hand. “Nice to meet you.”

Putting his hands on his hips, Flashpoint sighs. “Do you want an autograph or something?”

“No,” I laugh. “Fuck, no.” Speaking of not reading the room. His lip curls. “No, I just have to ask you not to kill whoever threw that orange.”

Flashpoint crosses his arms and huffs, “I’m not going to kill anyone.”

“Uh, dude, your hair was on fire. I didn’t pay much attention in school, but I don’t remember any of my teachers starting a lecture like that.”

He doesn’t say anything. Won’t look me in the eye, either. I move him away from the crowd with one hand on his back. Blackened grass crunches under our feet. “You okay? Having a rough day?”

“Yeah, actually.” He stops to look up at me. “Thanks for asking. My cat died last night, and this villain—I chased him off but everybody is taking me for granted.”

“Well, step into their shoes for a second. All they see is what used to be a beautiful park.” And, you know, a dead endangered tree. “Some of these guys worked really hard to make it what it was.”

“I had to protect the city,” Flashpoint says, wilting.

“Look, I know what it’s like not to be appreciated. I do. As long as you know you did the right thing—” I put Faulkner’s nose in his hand. “That’s what matters. Guys like us? We can’t be in this for glory.”

Flashpoint rolls the nose between his fingers, then looks back to me. “What is this?”

“It’s a nose.”

“Oh.” He sounds tired. “Okay.”

“I’m sorry about your cat. You know, the shelter is having a thing on Thursday and they’re waiving all the adoption fees.” I half smile at him and I get half a smile back. Much better than a fireball. “Maybe you’ll find somebody you like.”

“Maybe.” He raises the nose to me. “What was your name again?”

“Fisher, but I also respond to ‘pig,’ ‘asshole,’ ‘po-po,’ and ‘hey you.’”

A real smile. “I think I’ll stick with Fisher.”

“Next time call us, okay? We’re pretty good at dealing with bad guys too.” I rest my hands on my duty belt. “Well, we used to be. We’re a little out of practice these days.”

“I will. Thanks.” Flashpoint’s feet come off the ground and he takes off into the sunrise. Dude has it all.

Now that the sun is up, the paradise of the early morning is turning into a microwaveable bag of steamed vegetables, and I’m broccoli. I make sure to stand downwind of Frankie when I come back. I’m still searching for a twenty-four-hour deodorant that lasts twenty-four hours in Florida. Or just through a shift. Luckily mine ends—I check my watch—ended fifteen minutes ago.

“You’re shaking,” Frankie tells me, smirking. “Got a crush?”

“Who doesn’t?” Wiping my sweaty palms against my shirt, I turn my back to her and head for my car. “I’m going home so I can put up Flashpoint posters and write in my diary.”

“Wait! What did you say to him?” Frankie calls after me.

I shrug. “Just asked if he was having a bad day!”

Science Fiction
12

About the Creator

Rosie Ford

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Comments (2)

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  • Denise E Lindquist3 months ago

    Congratulations on top story 🎉🎉🎉

  • Naveed 3 months ago

    Excellent effort! Keep up the superb work—congrats!s

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