Zoid Man: Chapter Two

5 Dec

Zoid Man

Chapter Two

 

Benny and Jack lived next door to each other, and had since second grade. Their upstairs bedroom windows faced each other, which made for late night communications of a variety of sorts. Mostly hanging out their windows and whispering in loud tones until one or the other’s parent called up the stairs and ordered them to “GO TO SLEEP!”

Jack was tall and skinny. He looked like something put together with Tinker Toys, his knees and elbows grotesquely larger than his spindly arms and legs. Once he tried to remedy his physique by sending away for a Charles Atlas book on how to overcome the ninety-pound weakling syndrome. He never received the book, and his money (change taped to the clip out order form) was not returned. Which he figured was all well and good because he barely tipped the scales at 75 pounds anyway. He hoped he would inherit some of his older brother’s muscle and strength, but didn’t count on it, as Jason and he were as different as day and night.

Still, he wasn’t half bad at basketball, and hoped to make the jayvee team at Frankton Junior High next year when he was in seventh grade.

Benny was squattier and rounder, the product of parents who were similarly squatty and round.  He was more or less resolved to his physical status, although he dreamed of one day growing into another body type.

Where the boys connected was in their competition at fearless feats. Jack’s brother said they were just stupid, and the things they did hadn’t anything to do with feats.

“You’ll be lucky to make it to thirteen,” he warned them.

There were those moments when Jack had to agree with Jason. Like when he was on the roof to the house and saw his mother turning down their street in the car. He jumped from the lowest level roof of their split-level house, but it was still a lot higher than he counted. Lucky the lawn was Zoysia grass, and its thickness cushioned the landing.  It still hurt and knocked the wind out of him.

Then there was the time Benny and he took a length of binder twine and soaked it in gasoline, then stuck one end of it into the gas can and lit the other. The flame went out midway, and the boys thought better of it, pulling the twine from the can.

Once they climbed to the top of a huge magnolia tree in Mrs. Foy’s yard and built a platform treehouse. It wasn’t very sturdy, the boards pried off a discarded wooden pallet, and most of the nails bent or mangled in the construction process. Playing with matches from their perch, they managed to set the yard below — which was comprised mainly of fallen dead leaves — on fire. Jack scooted down the tree to safety while Benny froze with fear and had to be rescued by firefighters called by a neighbor who was watching the excitement. The magnolia was completely scorched on one side, yet survived for several more years.

Firecrackers, tube-strapped slingshots, BB guns — the duo did everything they thought was on the edge.

When the neighborhood break-ins began, Jack and Benny realized destiny had dropped a huge opportunity into their laps. That opportunity was to become heroes.

Just before eleven that night Jack aimed his flashlight at Benny’s window a few yards away. He began flashing the signal — three quick flashes, three longer flashes, and three quick flashes. He continued until Benny’s sleepy face appeared at his window, who made the A-OK sign with his thumb and fingers and disappeared.

The triangle was formed by three short residential streets down the hill from where the boys lived. A full moon cruised the sky above, streamlets of clouds breaking across its bright surface. The night air was filled with the chirruping of crickets, and was chilled with the advance of fall.

Jack waited for Benny by the mimosa tree in his front yard. Should a car happen by, the wide trunk was easily large enough for him to dodge behind it. He heard the back screen door of Benny’s house creak open and slam shut.

“Jeesh!” When Benny finally crept up, Jack shined his light in Benny’s face.

“Cut it out! I can’t see! ‘Sides … someone is bound to see it!”

“No worse than you slamming your back door!”

“I didn’t mean to.”

Jack quickly surveyed Benny’s outfit with his light.

“What the hell do you have on? You look like a prisoner!”

“My other PJs were in the wash.” He wore stretch pajamas with wide black and white horizontal stripes. In addition, he wore a black mask — like the Lone Ranger’s.

“I guess it’ll have to do. At least no one will recognize you.”

“My mom would.”

“Well your mom is not likely to be out tonight, right?”

Benny followed behind Jack, who walked angrily off towards the triangle.

“Wait up, will ya?”

When they reached the triangle, they headed for a small copse of oak trees at one of the points.

Benny took his flashlight and stuck it in his mouth and turned it on, then moaned at Jack.

“Cut it out! Get serious, Benny!”

He turned the flashlight off. “So, what’s the plan?”

“We wait.”

“Wait?”

“For anything unusual.”

“Like what?”

“Like a sound or noise. Like someone out late at night — maybe someone walking around. Someone who shouldn’t be out here at this time of night.”

“Like us?”

“No, Stupid! We’re supposed to be out here, remember? We’re the good guys! Although you really do look more like a bad guy.”

They sat down. A car drove by, and the two flattened themselves on the ground. Jack could feel his heart beating in his chest and hear it in his ears. When they could no longer see the headlights of the car, they relaxed.

“Whew! We gotta be on the lookout.”

“Jack?”

“Yeah.”

“What if someone catches us out here and they think we’re the ones who are breaking into people’s garages and sheds?”

“Why would they think that?”

“Have you looked at yourself lately?”

“Oh. Well, no one’s gonna catch us. We’re too smart. We’re the superheroes, remember?”

A short time passed where neither spoke. A street lamp on the other corner of the triangle buzzed loudly, and moths and bats played in and out of its bath of light.

“Jack?”

What!” His response was a bit quick and angry.

“What are we going to do if we hear something?”

“Well, we’ll investigate.”

“How?”

“We will sneak over wherever the noise is coming from and look. Quietly, of course.”

“And then what?”

“If we see someone, we’ll shine our flashlights on them and yell out for them to stop, and then tell them who we are.”

“Oh. And who are we?”

“Benny! What’s got into you? Why we’re Zoid Man and Benny, the ultimate superheroes for good!”

“Ah. But, if we’re trying to keep our identities a secret, why am I called Benny?”

There was silence as Jack thought of an answer.

“Good point. We should have thought of that before. You need a name.”

“Yes! What name?”

Again, Jack took time to think.

“Aha! Bernard! We’ll call you Bernard! Zoid Man and Bernard! How’s that sound?”

“But that’s my real name.”

“And nobody calls you Bernard!”

“Sometimes my mom does.”

“Okay, look — this can all change later. But are you okay with Bernard?”

“I guess.”

Suddenly Jack flattened down on his stomach and motioned Benny to do the same. His index finger was pressed to his lips, and he pointed off in a direction toward the other end of the triangle.

There, walking slowly, was a dark figure who features were hidden in the shadows. The figure walked up one of the streets that bordered the triangle, and stopped and looked about from time to time. The person was dressed in dark clothing, and wore what appeared to be a ski mask or something. His or her face was covered.

The figure stopped about halfway along the road and lit a cigarette, puffing a large cloud of smoke into the night air.

Benny nudged Jack.

“What do we do?”

Again, Jack tried to motion Benny to hush. Then he slowly reached inside his underwear and pulled out something metal

“What is that?”

“A gun.”

“A what?”

“Shhh!!!”

The dark figure looked in their direction, stumped out the cigarette with his foot, and began to cross the triangle in their direction.

“Shit!” said Benny, rather loudly.

The figure began to trot.

Jack jumped up and pointed the gun at the dark figure.

“That’s far enough! I’ve got a gun and I know how to use it.” His voice trembled with fear.

The figure continued toward them.

“Oh shit! Oh shit! Oh shit! Oh shit!”

Blam! The gun went off, the blast echoing throughout the night air. A plume of smoke hung just above Jack’s head. The figure dropped to his chest, then turned and scrambled off into the night.

“Come back here, you coward!” Jack pursued as far as the other end of the triangle, with Benny blubbering “Oh shit! Oh shit! Oh shit!” behind him, trying to keep up. House lights and porch lights started going on all around the triangle, with an occasional “What the hell’s going on out there?” screamed out.

“Oh shit! He fell. Did you hit him? Do you think you killed him? We gotta get out of here, Jack!”

“I didn’t hit him. It’s a blank gun. And don’t call me Jack, for chrissakes! My name is Zoid Man!”

Copyright © 2015
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