May 27, 2010
Slidell, Louisiana, off Route 10
Three men were sitting at the counter in Times Grill. Two of them were regulars. Anthony was the tubby African-American overflowing his barstool and chomping down on a half-pound burger. Harry was a taller, muscular African-American bedecked in bling.
“You believe what everyone's been sayin' 'bout there bein' a superhero round here?” Anthony asked between bites.
“No, man,” Harry replied. “Der ain't such a 'ding as superheroes.”
“What about that guy who stood up to BP's security guards and took photos of everythin' they was tryin' to cover up?”
“Dat don't make 'em a superhero. Anyone can work a camera.”
“Oh yeah. You done eatin' already?”
“Man, you finished off my plate four minutes ago. C'mon and finish so we can go.”
“I'm almost done,” Anthony said, pausing for a drink. “Well, what about how they say he pulled a dying shark to the shore so they could clean the oil off 'em?”
“You give me a big 'nuff rod and reel and I could'a landed that sucker.”
“Well, they say he done it with his bare hands.”
“You gonna believe anythin' somebody tells you? What if I say Halle Berry is waitin' at home for me? You gonna believe that?”
“No, I was just sayin' that's what they say, that's all.”
A lull in the conversation followed. The white man at the counter had eaten more slowly, carefully, savoring the Cajun spices and fried egg on top of his burger. He remained silent throughout, only letting out an “ah” as he finished the last bite.
The waitress, a young African-American with heavy false eyelashses returned to the counter to take away plates. “You done, mister?” she asked the stranger.
“Yep, I think so,” the man said, throwing some money on the counter. “That's one good burger you've got here. Hey,” he said to Harry, patting him on the shoulder, “say hi to Halle for me.”
“Who do you 'dink you are?” Harry asked, offended to have his personal space intruded upon.
“Colonel Sanders,” the man answered.
Anthony, Harry, and the waitress watched him as he left. “I thought he was dead...” Anthony said after the front door closed.
Out in the parking lot, the stranger walked up to a van with ‘EPA’ written on the side of it. A bespectacled, overweight white woman with wavy brown hair stepped out to meet him. “Are you ready now, Stardust?” she asked.
“It was alright, but I'm still hoping that wasn't my last meal. C'mon, let's do this. Shotgun!”
Stardust climbed into the passenger seat of the van and let the woman resume driving. They had a ways left to go before they reached their destination; time enough for Stardust to lean against the door and stare out the window while he reflected back on the events of a week ago...
May 20, 2010
Louisiana Dept. of Environmental Quality, Baton Rouge
Roger, Lauren, and Jill had been asking around about Sean for two days before the government agents had found them. They were wearing black suits, but they were not stereotypical “men in black”. One was a middle-aged brunette woman with glasses and the other was a short, balding man. When they said they knew where Sean was, there was little argument among the three of them whether they should accept the offer and get in the van of these agents.
Their trust was rewarded when they reached Baton Rouge and an office building on 5th Avenue just a few blocks south of the state capital building. Waiting for them in the building’s lobby was Sean, waving to them. Sean was wearing a black costume Spider-Man t-shirt and black jeans.
Everyone let out a sigh of relief, as nervous as they had been the whole ride in the van. Roger smiled, came over to Sean, and made a playful move like he was going to punch Sean in the gut, a move which Sean was set to block just in case it was not playful. “I should really do it,” Roger said. “Running off and worrying us like that!”
Jill and Lauren followed into the lobby, noting the security guards and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency signs that had hastily been set up around the lobby. When their gaze came around to Sean Jill shot him a disapproving glare, while Lauren just looked perplexed.
“Now don't go looking at me like that,” Sean said to them, though to Jill in particular. “I've been really useful down here! Haven't you heard anything about me on the news?”
“Not a word,” Jill said.
“At least not any national coverage,” Lauren added.
Now it was Sean's turn to look disapprovingly at the agents who followed Jill and Lauren. “What the heck?” he asked them angrily. “Barb, Josh, you said there wasn't going to be a cover-up!”
Black Cat by Steve Rude
8 hours ago