“How do you owe somebody a thousand dollars?” I didn’t need to ask about the car. Everybody in school had heard about Vaughn crashing Sean’s car.

I’d heard three different versions of that story and I’m mostly unaware of the school rumor mill.

“Last year was a wild year,” Vaughn said.

On the sidewalk in front of us, Sean got into the passenger seat of a red jeep. He gave Vaughn the finger as the jeep drove off.

“For you,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said, “for me. My parents gave me a pretty big allowance and weren’t paying much attention to what I did with it. So I spent a lot of it on parties and sometimes when I was out of cash, I borrowed.”

“You borrowed a thousand dollars?”

“Not all at once. Just when Sean added it all up, you know? And he’s not the only guy I owe money to. I could have paid it back, but then my parents cut off my allowance and sent me to rehab.”

I know enough about Dad's style to know that he recommends parents create clear and immediate consequences.

“Who else do you owe?”

“Look, I didn’t come here to tell you everything I ever did wrong. I came here to apologize. I’m sorry I broke in. I’m sorry you had to take me home. That’s it.”

He stood up and started walking back up the stairs and into the school. I hurried to keep up with him, passing under Central High’s arched doorway. I didn’t want to risk a fight (what with him being a walking electrical outlet and me being out of costume), but some things still bothered me.

We walked past the glassed in trophy display case on one side and the windows into the computer lab on the other.

“Vaughn,” I said, still a couple steps behind him in the hall, “Why now? If you wanted power, you had all summer. What were you waiting for?”

So yeah, brilliant move.  Instead of leaving a guy who may the ability to electrocute me alone, I go and point out to him that logically he should have broken into Grandpa’s house earlier.

He stopped and turned to face me. It may have just been my imagination, but I thought I saw something arc up his forearm from his right hand.

“They told me I had a week to get them more of Grandpa’s stuff or else, you know, they’d—they never said, but it sounded like they were going to go after my parents next.”

“Wait a second, you were breaking in to steal something?”

“I wasn’t stealing anything. I was breaking in to get the power to protect myself.”

“Why didn’t you call the police?”

“It’s not that simple,” he said and opened the door that led to the school locker rooms. Central has special locker rooms for people on a sports team. Both the athletes’ lockers and the regular lockers are part of a 70’s era addition and include a lot of cinderblock painted blue and yellow, but the athletes’ locker rooms have bigger lockers.

The athletes’ locker room smells of BenGay and sweat soaked athletic uniforms. It was empty—except for Coach Michaelson.

Coach Michaelson is also known as Mr. Michaelson, one of the math teachers. I always liked him, but being cross country coach struck me as a bit of a blow off job. So far as I can tell, ninety percent of it was saying, “Today we’re going to run six miles. Go out and have a great time.”

Granted, it’s not always six miles, but it’s basically the same line.

“You’re late,” he said, “but it’s OK. Everyone else is already gone, but you guys can buddy up and do a four mile run. Have fun.”

He wrote something on his clipboard and left.

Vaughn and I put on our sweats and walked out of the locker room into the gym. From there we stepped outside, exiting through big metal doors to the track behind the school.

We didn’t talk while running warm up laps. Then we left the school grounds to do the run. Central High was in the middle of the city so we did a lot of our training on the road.

It was a decent day for running. The skies were blue. The temperature wasn’t too hot or too cold. Goldilocks would have been pleased.

A couple blocks into the run I asked Vaughn, “Who are ‘they?' I mean seriously, you make it sound like the Men in Black or the Mafia.”

We were leaving downtown, passing into old neighborhoods of Victorian houses, wooden homes with towers and turrets.

“A couple guys who were hanging out at the parties I went to. After my parents cut off my allowance, they gave me a few loans.”

“And all they wanted was your grandfather’s stuff? That’s crazy.”

Vaughn stopped running. When he replied, he was almost shouting at me. “You don’t know what it was like. Sean and everyone else wanted their money back and I was panicking and they had money. And they gave it to me no strings attached.”

I began to open my mouth and point out that handing over his grandfather’s equipment was more like a rope than a string and it probably had a noose on the end to boot.

He interrupted me before I even got a word out, saving the metaphor from abuse.

“I know it was stupid. Don’t tell me.”

“What did you give them?”

“Some gadget from his costume and book full of formulas. After that they left me alone--or at least they did until you guys turned cape."

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About the author


Bio: Jim Zoetewey grew up in Holland, Michigan, near where L Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz and other books in that series. Admittedly, Baum moved away more than sixty years before Jim was even born, but it's still kind of cool. Jim didn't attain his goal of never leaving school, but did prolong his stay as long as possible. He majored in religion and sociology at Hope College, gaining enough credits to obtain minors in ancient civilizations and creative writing—had he thought to submit applications to the relevant departments. He attended Western Theological Seminary for two years. He followed that up by getting a masters degree in sociology at Western Michigan University. Once out of school, he took up the most logical occupation for someone with his educational background: web developer and technical support. Simultaneously, he finished all but three credits of a masters in Information Systems, a degree that's actually relevant to his field. He's still not done. In the meantime, he's been writing stories about superheroes and posting them online at He's still not sure whether that was a good idea, but continues to do it anyway. He's also not sure why he's writing this in the third person, but he's never seen an author bio written in first person and doesn't want to rock the boat.

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