Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Saturday, June 12, 2004


So I'm having lunch with Bob. Bob and I are eating lunch, at about four in the morning, in this restaurant he knows where you can do that. Place is practically empty. I've just gotten off work and he and Greyghost have recently polished off some evildoers. Then he starts in.

"How's Cassie doing?" he said.


"Perseid. Cassie. You know."

"Right. I forgot her actual name. She's fine."

"Ask her out yet?"

"What do you mean, 'yet'? Why would I ask her out?" I asked.

"Let's face it," he told me, "she's new in town, she doesn't know anybody, and she doesn't need to worry about keeping her identity a secret from you. So you've got an advantage."

"You're saying I should take unfair advantage of her? Am I getting this right?"

"No, I'm not saying you should take unfair advantage of her; I'm saying you have a fair advantage, and why shouldn't you use it?"

I made a face and shook my head. "I don't know."

"What's the problem? She's good looking."

"Sure she is," I agreed.

"She's nice."


"Smart, funny, all that crap."


"Doesn't hate you."


"So what then?"

I thought about it. "I don't know how to say this without offending you."

Bob waved his beer around. "Offend me, who cares."

"She's a superhero."

He took a swig and regarded me over his bottle. "And you don't want to be Lois Lane, is that it?"

"No! Well, okay, a little, but that's not the problem."

"Worried she's too good for you?"

The nerve of this guy. "Are you implying that I would think someone is better than me because she's a damn superhero?"

"All right, calm down, for Christ's sake. Then tell me."

"It'd be like . . . it'd be like dating a smoker. She's got this unsavory habit that could get her killed one of these days."

"What the hell's so goddamn unsavory about it?" he demanded. "We help people. We put dangerous guys in jail. What's the matter with you?"

"I've got a problem with the whole superhero thing. Always have had. I don't think it's good that you guys are doing what you're doing."

"Okay, well, first of all," he said, pointing a forkful of french fries at me, "we can't help having super-powers."

"I don't care about that," I said. "It's not the powers, it's what you do with them."

"Oh, great, we can have the powers, we just can't use them. That's like saying, 'it's okay to be a fag as long as you don't sleep with any guys'."

"No, it's not like saying that. Gay guys aren't hurting anybody. But superheroes are out there pounding the crap out of people, and trespassing, and causing property damage and not reading anybody their rights and breaking fifty-three other laws. And they don't have to do a damn thing to qualify for the job. Put a mask on and all of a sudden the rules don't apply."

"Listen," he said. "I may not be the smartest guy in the world, but I do think about right and wrong every now and then. I'm damn careful when I go out there, and I know where the line is, and I never cross it. And I can say the same about Greyghost and Daylighter and everybody else you met that weekend."

"I don't care," I said. "It's like Robin Hood."

"What is?"

"Robin Hood was a good guy, right?"


"Stole from a bunch of rich tyrannical bastards, used the money to help out downtrodden poor people?"


"But the guy was a robber. Or a bandit or highwayman or whatever they had. That's what he did. He and his buddies lived in the woods and jumped out at people coming down the road and took all their stuff."


"So just because Robin Hood was a good guy, that doesn't make it okay to be a bandit. And just because you and Greyghost and Perseid are responsible doesn't make it okay to put on a mask and go out looking to get into a fight."

"Well, what do you want from us, then, genius?" he asked. "There're thousands and thousands of supervillains out there, and only a few dozen superheroes. You want us to just quit and let the supervillains do whatever they want? 'Cause that's what'd happen."

"I know, that's the problem," I said. "I don't know what to do about that. But you can't tell me that superheroes are the solution to the supervillain problem. I know you're helping people, and I know you're doing the best you can, but is the whole situation actually getting better? You're just putting a Band-Aid on the symptoms. If you were the perfect solution maybe I wouldn't worry about all that other stuff I said. But you're not. Even if you're doing more than anybody else is doing, it's still not enough, and you're doing all kinds of illegal reckless shit to accomplish it. And it's not right. What are you smiling about?"

"I can't answer your argument," he said, still grinning, "but I figured out why I don't have to. See, you're lying to me."

Huh? "No, I'm not. What am I lying about? Robin Hood?"

"No, you're lying about that being your opinion. Answer me this. When was the last time you got laid?"


"Since you started working for Greyghost? Yes or no."


"When was the last time you were on a date?"

"Well, that depends on your definition . . ."

"Then let's use your definition," he said. "Have you been out on a date since you started working for Greyghost?"

"No. Do you have a point?"

"I'm getting to it. Have you had a vacation?"


"Do you have one scheduled?"

"Well, I've talked to Greyghost about it, and--"

"Yes or no?"


"How many days a week do you work?"

"Six or seven."

"How many hours a day?"

"Depends. Ten, twelve, fourteen."

"How's the pay?"

"It's good."

"Is it great?"

"No. It's very good."

"Bonuses? Chance of promotion? Chance of a raise? Overtime?"


"Warm, friendly place to work?"

"It's all right."

"Hey, Dennis, I've seen the place. The fish in the tanks aren't as cold-blooded as Greyghost and Cruickshank."

"Yeah, well."

"It's a safe job, though, right? No danger of any kind?"

"There's been a bit of danger."

"Okay, Dennis, look at me," he said. "If someone described their job to you the way you just described it to me, you'd tell them to quit, right? You might even tell them to get a lawyer."

"Is this your point?" I asked.

"Still getting to it. You haven't quit, have you? Why not?"

"It's not that easy to find a job these days. I lose this one, then where do I go?"

"Oh, like hell. You're an enterprising guy. If you wanted another job, you'd find one, and you know it. That's not the reason."

"All right, you know me so damn well, you tell me. What's the reason?"

"Because you are committed to your job. You work longer hours than I do, for God's sake. You put up with shit from Cruickshank and Greyghost and Ingrid that would have me chewing my own thumb off. You even walked into a supervillain's hideout to save your boss's life. That took real balls, by the way, and I congratulate you for it. And do you know why you're committed to your job? Might as well say 'no'; I'm getting close to my point."


"It's because of the superhero lifestyle. It has sucked you in, my friend, and it is not letting go. Look at you. You can't tell anybody else you know about what you do for a living, so it's like you've got a secret identity. The stuff you do for Greyghost is all about fighting crime and tracking down supervillains. You're practically a superhero yourself. And you've thrown yourself right into it. Anything to say so far?"

I had nothing to say so far.

"When I say that you're lying about your opinion, what I mean is that you can't be against superheroes when you've committed yourself so completely and thoroughly to every aspect of superheroism. You must believe in it or you wouldn't be able to act this way. You're one of us, baby, even if you've got all the bad parts of the job and none of the good. So don't hand me any shit about your moral dilemmas, because you seem to be dealing with them just fine. Any response yet?"

No response yet.

"Wow! I gotta be right if you're at a loss for words. I must be the greatest hero in the world. I bet nobody else has ever been able to shut down Dennis Relser's mouth for more than a minute and a half."

Thus ended the most depressing conversation I've ever had in my life.
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