The neighbor at 1133 Elmwood Drive was too busy changing the oil on his motorcycle to hear the Thing yelling, “It’s clobbering time!”. At 1137 Elmwood Drive, Uncle Pedro had just pulled up in the driveway, playing loud mariachi music, so the kids running out to greet him did not notice Spider-Man leap into the air to avoid the Thing’s ground-shaking blow. Since the windows were closed at 1135 Elmwood Drive, no one heard Roger McGill shout, “It’s not fair! You’re too good at this!”
Sean Causer smirked as his fingers and thumbs hammered away at the game controller in his hands. “That’s why they call me Captain Amazing…” Sean said, making it sound like crude innuendo.
The digital Spider-Man, under Sean’s control, shot webbing in the Thing’s face repeatedly. Roger could only watch in frustration as the digital Thing’s health bar went down. “That is so not fair! How is webbing the Thing’s face helping to knock him out? Are you plugging his mouth and nostrils so he can’t breathe or something?”
“If I was Spider-Man,” Sean said, “I would have added chloroform to my web-fluid mixture so I would just have to spray a little webbing on a bad guy’s face and he’d be out cold.”
“Before they made his webbing organic to follow the movies,” Roger corrected.
“An idea they stole from Peter David’s Spider-Man 2099 series to begin with,” Sean added.
As the Thing went down, Sean dropped his controller, raised his fists in the air, and made a cheering sound for himself.
“You know what?” Roger asked. “I think you’re maturing.”
“How dare you, you lout!” Sean mock-admonished in a faux-Shakespearean voice.
“No, well, not really, but before you turned 29 you used to jump up and do a victory dance around the room.”
“My old bones can’t take it anymore!” Sean cried in a faux-old man voice. “Rematch?”
“No, man, I’m starving!” Roger stood up. “Sanvi kept me too busy to eat anything on break this afternoon. Inventory sucks.” He opened the top pizza box stacked by the couch and grimaced as he saw it was empty. “Dude, you didn’t even save me the dipping sauce! Now I have to cook something.”
“There’s hot dogs in the fridge,” Sean said as he switched to one-player mode. “I stopped eating them when the marinara ran out.”
Roger navigated the dirty and cluttered living room to reach the kitchen he shared with his roommate and best friend since third grade. “If you had a superpower, it would be your cast iron stomach.”
“My superpower is kicking your butt at video games!” Sean shouted back as his friend disappeared into the kitchen.
Shortly, after Sean beat Wolverine as Venom, Sean noticed he was hungry now too and turned off the game. He found Roger in the kitchen, eating ramen noodles.
“Leave any for me?” Sean asked.
“You know I can eat a whole pack. Make your own,” Roger said between bites.
Sean noticed that Roger was glancing at something on the countertop and followed his gaze to the spot. A blank application form for Jimmy John’s was sitting on top of the junk mail pile on the counter. Sean returned his gaze to Roger and saw that Roger had seen him see it and was looking at him now. “So…” Sean said carefully, while trying to sound nonchalant. “Thinking about leaving FedEx for Jimmy John’s?”
“No…” Roger said with equal care. This was a subject that had come up many times before and he knew to tread with caution. “I thought you could go for it, though. They call their cashiers rock stars, you know.”
Sean pounded his fist on the counter. “Darn it, Roger, I thought you understood this by now! I already have a job. I’m a superhero.”
“Yeah…” Roger said, still on eggshells, “but only at night. If you just worked during the day…”
“What I do is very stressful,” Sean said, getting angry and defensive. “To keep doing it, I need to spend my daytime resting and unwinding.”
“Stressful?” Roger said, forgetting to not let things escalate. “You patrol downtown Elgin. You haven’t actually witnessed a crime worse than traffic violations in months.”
“What I do is a public service. And what about the other real-life superheroes out there? You think Dark Guardian or Zetaman work a day job?”
“Yeah, I bet they do!”
The two friends just stood there after that in a tense standoff. The subject of rent had not come up in three weeks and things had been easy between them, but now it was out there again and they would not be able to talk civil to each other for the rest of the night now – unless Roger did something soon to lighten the mood.
“Hey, April Fool’s Day,” Roger said, forcing a smile. “I was just kidding.”
Sean saw right through his friend’s ploy to lighten the mood. He turned to leave the kitchen, but then stopped and came back. He opened the nearest cupboard, pulled out a box of Pop-Tarts, and sulked off with it. He could not go far in a ranch house, but he did head off to the other end of it. He opened the Pop-Tart box as he reached Roger’s room and went in to sit at Roger’s computer.
Around 8:30, Roger became curious of what Sean was up to and stopped watching TV to go investigate. He found his computer was still logged onto Comic Book Resources, one of Sean’s bookmarked sites. Sean’s bedroom door was shut. Roger almost knocked, but Sean must have heard him out in the hall and shouted that he could come in first.
Sean had been reading comic books, as evidenced by the last two issues of X-Force lying on his bed, still out of their plastic sheaths. Sean was already dressing for his night’s work. His costume consisted of black running shoes, black jeans, black leather gloves, and a black leather jacket with orange duct tape wrapped twice around each sleeve. His hair was naturally black, so it matched his outfit well. He had started out with a domino mask, but decided after a few weeks that his face was too round and boyish for the domino mask. He went with a draping mask like the Clock, a transitional character between pulp heroes and superheroes back in the ‘30s, used to wear. He already had all this on and was putting on the utility belt he had put together after reading about how to do so on Zetaman’s blog.
ROM by Luke Ross and Bob Layton
10 hours ago