by Martin Maenza
A few clouds crossed over the moonlit San Francisco harbor as did the shadow of a flying figure. Below, the dark waves gently bobbed the boats docked in the harbor up and down.
There was a slight whoosh to the late evening breeze as a figure adorned in gold swooped down toward his destination. Boots of his golden armor touched down lightly onto the deck of one of the houseboats moored in the waterfront slips.
The figure drew in his wings to their more relaxed, compressed position. He then walked carefully across the deck, the metal of his heels clicking on the surface. He headed for the doorway that led to a dimly lit cabin. The shades had been drawn. Turning the knob, he stepped inside and closed the door behind him.
The room was dimly lit by candles. A female figure sat upon the sofa, a bit in shadows. Her blonde hair was tussled over her eyes.
“Sorry I’m late, Lisa,” the Golden Eagle apologized. “I, like, ran across a fire on my way here, so I gave the rescuers a hand getting folks off the roof before it, like, you know, collapsed.” He stepped toward the couch and started to reach for her hand. “I promise I’ll, like, make it up to you.” He smiled underneath his golden mask.
She jerked her hand away, as if recoiling from his touch. “No, you don’t!” Lisa Morel snapped.
Golden Eagle was surprised by this reaction. He knew she’d be concerned about his being a half-hour late, but he did not expect this. “Lisa, like, what’s wrong? If it’s about me being late…”
“It’s not that!” Lisa said. “It’s this!” She leaned over the end of the couch to a small table and pressed the button on her answering machine.
A familiar voice came out of the machine as the tape replayed at a queued-up point. “Hey, Lisa. It’s me, Karen. Sorry it took so long to get back to you; things have been hectic. Listen, since you two are dating and all, I wanted to make sure you knew about the birthday barbecue bash we’re throwing for Charley for his twenty-first birthday. We scheduled it for Monday, being the Memorial Day holiday. That’s when his birthday fell this year, and we figured folks would have the day off, anyway. Come by anytime after two PM. Don’t worry about bringing anything but yourself. Thanks. ‘Bye.” The machine beeped, ending the message left by their mutual friend, Karen Duncan.
For over a minute, there was an awkward silence in the room.
Finally, Lisa Morel couldn’t take it anymore. “So, when were you planning to tell me the truth?” she asked. “Or were you and your friends getting such a little kick out of fooling old Lisa?”
“It wasn’t like that at all,” Golden Eagle said as he started for her.
“Back off, mister!” Lisa said. “No touching, no nothing! I can’t believe this! I can’t believe you didn’t tell me the truth, who you really were! After all these months we’ve been dating! After how intimate we’ve been!”
“But, Lisa,” the hero tried to say. “You, like, seemed totally cool with me keeping on the mask. You never, like, asked me to remove it or anything.”
“You could have offered! I thought you cared about me!” Tears were forming as she screamed at him.
“I do care about you! Totally! It’s just–“
“It’s just,” he started to say again, “it’s just that, like, I don’t know… you seemed more interested in me the hero than like me the normal guy. Like, I never really impressed you as just plain old Charley Parker, you know?” His voice had a saddened tone to it, and his eyes drooped like a puppy dog. “Ah, who am I kidding? Thinking someone like you would be into a loser like me.”
“No!” Lisa said. “No! Don’t make this about you! You weren’t the one deceived, here! You weren’t the one manipulated! You kept me in the dark about your private life! All you shared was the time with me! Anything else, you kept locked up away from me! Was that fair to me?“
“Hold up! You were the one who, like, asked me out,” Golden Eagle said. “You had Karen go and totally set it up. You wanted to, like, date the Golden Eagle, and that’s what I gave you! How can that be my fault? I gave you what I thought you wanted!”
“Oh, so now I’m just some kind of hero groupie?” Lisa snapped. “Is that all I was to you? One of dozens of women who threw themselves at you just for the idea of dating a super-hero?”
“I wouldn’t say there’ve been dozens,” he said softly.
“Aaagh! This isn’t a joke, you know. This is serious! This is about feelings, my feelings, and how you’ve just stomped all over them! I fell in love with you, damn it! You know that! I’ve told you that while we’ve been intimate! Yet you kept the barrier up, kept the secret from me. God, it;s like I never knew you at all!”
“I never meant to, like, hurt you,” Eagle said.
“No! Go!” Lisa thrust her finger out, pointing toward the door. “Just go!” The hero hesitated. “Please! Go! If you say any more, we’ll both regret it later.”
The hero nodded silently, stepped back toward the cabin door, and walked up to the deck.
As he flew off into the night sky, Lisa broke down and cried. Again.
Two days later, on a sunny Monday afternoon, the dark cloud still seemed to be hovering over blonde Charley Parker. The young man sat dejected at one of the picnic tables.
“Hey, Parker! Lighten up!” the brown-haired Hank Hall said. He slammed a beer can down on the table in front of his friend and popped the top. “Here! This might cheer you up. At least now you can finally drink legally!”
Charley watched as the icy water from the cooler slid down the can and pooled at the bottom on the table’s surface. “Thanks, Hank,” he said, “but I’m just, like, not in a party mood, you know?”
“Aw, geez!” Hank Hall said. “You sound like Eeyore from one of those Disney cartoons!” He started to mimic the sad-sack voice. “Not in a party mood, Pooh. Guess I don’t need my tail anyway, Pooh.”
This didn’t even get a smile out of Charley.
“Fine!” Hank grabbed his friend under the arm and hoisted him up. “Take a look around, Parker,” he said. The music was playing in the backyard of the Duncans’ home, decorations had been hung along the high wooden privacy fence, and the guests had started to arrive. Mal Duncan was firing up the grill, while Karen started to set out some appetizers. “You’ve got friends who care an awful lot about you! They’re comin’ here to celebrate your day, buddy! So the least you can do is put on your party-face for them. Comprende?”
Charley sighed. Despite his tough love approach, Hank Hall meant well. Ever since he moved out to California last year, Hank had been treating Charley like his little brother. The blonde recalled that Hank had a similar approach when it came to his own late brother, Don. When it came to being compassionate, this was as close as Hank would get.
Charley reached for the beer. “OK,” he said. “I’ll, like, give it a try.”
“There you go!” Hank said, slapping him on the back. “Let’s just try and think about the moment, OK? No other worries, no nothing!” He clinked his own beer can to Charley’s. “To you, Parker!”
Charley drank to Hank’s toast. The cool beer actually helped him feel a bit better.
Just then, the sliding glass door opened up, and out stepped a young woman with blonde hair alongside a man with wavy brown hair. “Parker, check it out!” Hank said. “Dawn just arrived, and she brought the old man with her. C’mon, let’s go have some fun!”
Charley was about to protest when Hank grabbed him by the arm and towed him across the yard.
As Hank got close to the couple, he said, “Prepare for trouble, here comes Jonny Double!” And then he laughed at his own joke.
“Hank!” Dawn said in a firm tone beneath a smile.
“It’s all right,” said the brown-haired man. “If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that one…”
“You could afford some more current fashions!” Hank finished his sentence with a laugh.
Dawn relaxed. “Jonny, this is Hank Hall,” she said. “He thinks he’s our resident comedian.”
“Think?” Hank said with a wink. “I know.”
Dawn shook her head. “And this is Charley Parker, the man of the hour.” Dawn leaned in and gave the young man a little peck on the cheek. “Happy birthday, Charley.”
“Yes, happy birthday,” Jonny said as he shook Charley’s hand. “Twenty-one, eh? A milestone, to be sure.”
“Say, Jonny,” Hank said. “You remember your twenty-first? How far back was that, anyway?”
“Hank!” Dawn said.
“Ah, I’m just playin’ with him,” the rugged young man said. “Let me get you guys some beer.” He bent down to the cooler and grabbed a couple. “You do do beer, don’t you, Jonny?”
Jonny took the can. “Yes, thanks.” He opened the one, handed it to Dawn, then took the second one for himself.
“Say, we missed you a couple weeks back, Jonny,” Hank said between swigs. “Too bad you couldn’t make it to the Cinco De Mayo festival. It was quite an event.”
“Cinco De Mayo festival?” Jonny repeated.
Dawn felt slightly uncomfortable. “We’d better go say hi to Mal and Karen,” she said. “We’ll catch you guys later.” She took Jonny by the hand and led him across the way.
About twenty minutes later, just outside the fence near the side gate, a young couple approached. He was in his late teens with brown hair. She was of similar age with short blonde hair. “Thanks for zapping out to come to the party,” Arisia said. “I think Charley will, like, appreciate it.”
He looked at the golden-skinned alien. “Charley will appreciate it, or you will appreciate?” asked Hal Jordan.
“Both!” she said as she gave him a deep, long kiss. When they finally came up for air, she said, “I think we should get inside, you know?”
“Uh, honey,” Hal said, “don’t you think you should…?” He gestured to her body.
“Oh! Right! Sorry.” With a flash of emerald energy from her ring, her appearance changed. Gone was her golden alien skin and pointed ears, to be replaced by the human skin tone of her other identity. “Better?”
“I think it’s best for the party,” Hal said. “You never know who will be here.”
“Right,” she said. “Gotta remember I have to be Cindy Simpson sometimes.”
“You’ll get the hang of the whole secret identity thing,” Hal said with encouragement. He pushed open the gate, and they stepped into the yard.
“I wonder where…?” Arisia started to say, glancing around the group. She then noticed who she was seeking. “There’s Charley over there! Yoohoo, Charley!”
The long-haired blonde man looked up as his name was called. He was with a trio of other young men all around his age. Like Charley, they dressed in baggy shorts, sandals, and had long hair. “Whoa, dude! Like, who’s the Betty?” one of them asked.
Charley was about to answer when another of the guys said, “Hey, I know that chick! Isn’t that, like, Cindy Simpson, that totally bitchin’ model?”
“For sure!” Charley said. “And if you guys, like, chill out, maybe I’ll introduce you later.”
“Sweet!” the guys said in unison.
Charley crossed the way to greet the teenagers. “Hal, Cindy! Great you guys could make it!”
Cindy gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Like, we wouldn’t miss it for the world.” She noticed the strong smell of beer on his breath but chose to ignore it.
“Definitely,” Hal said, shaking the birthday boy’s hand. “Here, these are for you.” He handed the surfer two gifts. “The bottom one’s from Cindy and I. The top one Gopher wanted us to bring you.” It was crudely wrapped and a little torn in one corner. “He thought you might like it.”
“Yeah, he was, like, totally bummed he couldn’t make it,” Cindy said.
“Well, I should, like, at least see what the little guy got me, you know?” Charley said as he removed the rest of the paper. His eyes grew wide at the sight of the gift. “No way!” It was a set of video tapes.
“I haven’t heard of those,” Hal said, glancing at the titles.
“Dude! These are classics!” Charley exclaimed. “And, no way! He got Wayne Tarrant to sign them, too! Awesome!” The blonde went to put the tapes and the other gift on the table inside.
“Uh, who’s Wayne Tarrant?” asked Hal. Cindy just shrugged her shoulders.
Over at the grill, Mal Duncan flipped a batch of burgers. He was dressed in a colorful apron that said Kiss the Chef on it. “We’re almost ready to go, Karen,” he said. “You might want to bring out the salads.”
“OK, honey,” Karen said. She carefully leaned in and gave him a peck on the cheek.
“What’s that for, baby?”
“Just following orders,” Karen said, smiling. She then crossed the back patio and headed inside the house. She noticed that Dawn and Jonny were in the kitchen talking. The couple stopped suddenly when Karen entered the room. “Don’t mind me, guys. Just need to slip into the fridge for a moment.” She opened the door to the appliance and grabbed two bowls.
“Do you need a hand with those?” Dawn asked.
“Nope,” Karen said as she stacked one upon the other. “I’ve got it. You two just finishing talking.” And with that, she excused herself. Whatever the two of them were discussing, she didn’t need to be butting her nose into it.
“I probably should have helped her,” Dawn said.
“She said she had it,” Jonny replied. “Besides, you’re not gettin’ out of our talk this easy.”
Dawn leaned up against the counter. “Why would I want to do that?”
“Dawn, I’m an investigator by trade,” Jonny said. “I’m pretty good at readin’ body language. Somethin’ tells me you’re avoidin’ the subject.”
“What’s to avoid?” Dawn said. “My mother was in town. I took her to the festival. It was a last-minute thing. That’s it.”
Jonny raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure?” he asked. “I’d hate to think you’re embarrassed to be seen with me.”
The blonde young woman put her hands on her hips defiantly. “Embarrassed to be seen with you? I brought you to this party, didn’t I?”
“Well, you did do that,” the brown-haired man agreed.
Dawn threw her arms around the man’s neck. “I like spending time with you, Jonny Double,” she said. “We have different conversations than I would with my friends in school. We both like old movies. So, quit worrying, OK?”
“OK,” Jonny said as he wrapped his arms around her waist. “I’ll stop over-analyzin’ everything.”
“Good,” Dawn said with a smile. “Now, if I were to kiss you right here and now, would that embarrass you?”
Jonny smiled. “Let’s find out.”
Dawn leaned in.
Just then, the front doorbell rang. Dawn pouted slightly. “I’d better get that!” She slipped out of his embrace. “Rain check on that, OK?”
“OK,” Jonny said.
Dawn rushed over to the door as the person outside rang the bell again, this time more frantically. “Hold on!” Dawn said. She grabbed the knob and opened the door. “Yes?”
Suddenly, something flew into the archway and landed upon her shoulder. Dawn jumped back slightly. Jonny saw what happening and started to reach under his sports coat for his gun. “Hold on, Dawn!” he said.
“Jonny, wait!” she exclaimed.
“Yeah, Jonny, chill!” said a furry green monkey that was perched on the blonde woman’s shoulders. He leaned in to her face. “Hey, Dawn, who’s Jonny?”
She reached up, grabbing the talking green animal with both hands and pulled him from her shoulders. “OK, down,” Dawn said.
“Aw,” the monkey pouted. Instantly, it transformed back into a five-foot-three, nineteen-year-old young man with green hair and skin. “And here I thought you’d be happy to see me.”
Jonny stepped over. “Gar, I’d like you to meet my boyfriend, Jonny Double,” Dawn said. “Jonny, this is Garfield Logan.”
“A pleasure,” Jonny said politely.
“Same here,” Gar replied. In the back of his mind, he kept thinking, Boyfriend?
“What are you doing here?” Dawn asked.
“Why else would I be here, dressed like this?” He wore a loud print shirt with shorts. “It’s not every day my buddy Charley has a birthday. So I came out to surprise him!”
“Well, I bet he’ll be surprised,” Dawn said. “Everyone’s out back. Did you come all this way alone?”
“Nah,” Gar said as he made his way across the family room. “Vic flew out with me, but he and Sarah Charles were planning to have a private dinner, you know? Besides, I didn’t want old rust-bucket scaring all of Charley’s friends.”
The green-skinned youth poked his head out the back door. “Hey, Charley!” he called out.
The blonde young man looked from the table. “Gar! No way!” He bolted across the way and met his good friend halfway. “Dude! What are you doing here?” Charley started to give him a big hug.
“I couldn’t miss your birthday!” Gar replied. “Besides, I had to give you this!” He transformed himself into a huge grizzly. “Its your birthday bear-hug!“