ELEVEN: SHIFT




OLIVER HAD NEVER BEFORE experienced so much pain in his entire life. It was as if an inch thick steel rod had been pushed through one temple and out the other. He thrashed and he writhed in the chair, straining against his bonds, wanting nothing more than the embrace of death if only to make the pain stop. But he could not escape his torture.

He could only suffer.

But then…

SHIFT

They drove through downtown Garrison with the windows down. The cool spring air kept the sweat from hanging out too long on his brow. Nine year old Oliver sat in the back of the old station wagon doing his best imitation of a statue. His father, he could tell, was angry. Silence was always best when his father’s anger was up. Not that he’d harm Oliver, that was never a worry. But words sometimes hurt the same as an open palm or a closed fist.

Oliver, the cause of his father’s foul mood, stared out the window, watching Garrison pass by outside. Less than an hour earlier he’d been at school doing his best to chuck a basket ball into the high hoop on the playground. It was then that his stomach had decided that it no longer wished to deal with the breakfast Oliver had eaten in the school cafeteria. One spectacular oral expulsion later and Oliver had been taken to see the school nurse. From that point all that was left was to call his mother. It was his father, however, that had come to fetch him. Oliver’s family, at the time, had just the one car, which his father used to get back and forth from work.

So really, when the nurse had called his mother, she in turn had called his father and had asked him to leave work to get the boy. Oliver, sitting on the bench outside the office hadn’t witnessed any of this, but he’d been around long enough to know how it all worked. Based on historical events, his father would have been more than happy to do what his mother had asked. His father always did what was asked of him, provided the request had come from Oliver’s mother, and he would always do so with a smile on his face. A smile that only masked the man’s true feelings. But his father would never complain to his mother.

“I could be fired you know,” his father said as they slowed to a stop at a red light. The First National Bank of Garrison slid into view outside Oliver’s window. “I’m the most junior lawyer at the firm, I can’t just leave in the middle of the day like this. Sure, Mr. Holt said he understood, but he’ll remember this whenever I’m up for Partner, I can guarantee you that.”

No, his father never complained to his mother.

It was then, as Oliver tried not to sigh, that the front of the bank exploded before his eyes. He screamed and shrank back, instinctively throwing an arm up to shield his face as debris rained down on the old station wagon. His father cursed.

Alarm bells blared as a man dressed like a bear stepped from the smoking hole that used to be the bank’s front wall. He carried with him a large black duffel bag in his left hand, and some sort of glowing white rod in the right. The man in the bear suit turned pointed the rod at the bank and a bar of white light shot out of the end of it. Another explosion sounded from somewhere inside the bank and Oliver could see that the man was laughing.

Oliver had always prided himself on keeping up to date on all the new Mighties in Garrison, both the good and the bad. In fact, hadn’t he been the one to form the Mighty Men, the single best Mighty Fan club in the entire fourth grade? But he didn’t recognize this bear-garbed villain.

Traffic wasn’t moving, police sirens screamed in the distance, and Oliver pressed his nose against the door window, hoping to catch a little of the action.

“Get down, Ollie,” his father said from the floor of the front seat. “You could get hurt.”

Oliver ignored his father, who chose to remain on the floor rather than pull Oliver to ‘safety’.

Then the Mighties arrived.

The first one on the scene was Lady V. She was a favorite of Oliver’s simply because he’d never seen her back down from a fight. She wore a blue leotard festooned with the American stars and stripes. She kept her hair rolled into a tight bun on the top of her head, which Oliver, even at nine, could see was the only practical way to go into battle, if you chose to keep your hair long.

Lady V didn’t waste any time and with one swing of her fist the bear man was on the ground.

“Cool!” Oliver said.

That was when the second Mighty arrived. He wore a red body suit with a blue cape, blue boots, and blue gloves. On his chest was the letter ‘M’ in yellow. He dropped from the sky and quickly took in the situation. He could see that Lady V had everything well in hand and so walked among the cars, stopping at each one to speak quickly to the driver, a calming smile on his strong face.

“Nothing to worry about sir,” he said through the open window to Oliver’s father, who was still cowering on the floor. “We’ll have you and your boy on your way soon.”

Then he turned his gaze to Oliver and his smile grew even broader.

“You working hard in school, son?” he asked.

“Yes sir,” Oliver said.

“Keeping the grades up?”

“Yes sir,” Oliver said. “A’s and B’s.”

“Good man,” the Mighty said. “You keep that up and you might be president one day.”

He smiled once again and moved on to the next car.

Oliver fell back in the seat, his illness all but forgotten. After all, it wasn’t every day that you got to speak with Captain Might.

SHIFT

His mother screamed, jolting Oliver out of his daydream. The two were walking up Fifth toward his mom’s beauty parlor. She’d brought him along because Kirk’s Komics was right next door and she knew he could spend all day there much less the time it would take to get her hair done. Oliver had never had a better babysitter than Kirk’s Komics.

He’d been thinking of the five dollars in his pocket and adding up how many comics that would buy him. In the end he came up with seven, maybe eight. He wasn’t sure how much the tax would be, so maybe seven would be a safer bet. Seven comics. Hopefully the new Captain Might would be out.

That was when his mom had screamed.

He looked up to see a man running from them with something in his hand.

“My purse!” his mom shouted to the world. “That man took my purse! Somebody stop him!”

Oliver thought for a moment that he could catch the guy, he wasn’t the fastest boy in the sixth grade, but then again, he wasn’t the slowest. But before he could get his legs to move, a Mighty in red, blue, and yellow dropped from the sky and placed himself in the purse snatcher’s path.

The thief, who had been running for all it was worth, slammed headlong into the unmovable Mighty, his face smashing into the yellow ‘M’ on the broad chest.

The Mighty then took the purse from the thief and glided gently over to Oliver and his mother.

“Here’s your purse, ma’am,” he said, handing it over to her.

“Captain Might!” Oliver said, bouncing on his toes.

“Hello, young man,” Captain Might said and the reached out to ruffle the boy’s hair. “Staying out of trouble?”

SHIFT

His palms were sweating. He adjusted the collar of the tuxedo for the hundredth time that night. He gazed across the table at his prom date in her gloriously plump dress and three thoughts flew through his head.

I can’t believe I’m actually going to the prom with Elyse Blake, was the first. This was followed quickly by: She’s beautiful. And then came the inevitable: Maybe Bruce’s Barbecue wasn’t the best place to take a prom date.

The two sat at the table in silence as they ate. Oliver would steal the occasional glance at the Elyse, looking up from his plate of ribs to see her looking back at him. They would both smile, turn red, and their eyes would drop back to their respective plates.

“My dad made sure the station wagon had a full tank for tonight,” Oliver said.

“Oh,” Elyse said, smiling. “That’s good. Of course, the school gymnasium is just a few miles away.”

“Yeah,” Oliver said, pushing the fries around on his plate.

“Did you watch the press conference yesterday?”

“Yeah,” Oliver said, looking her in the eye for the first time that night. “I can’t believe it’s real.”

“I know, right?” her gaze just as intense. “Captain Might retired. I keep waiting for the punchline. You know, they say that Garrison was a regular sin city before Captain Might. People were afraid to leave their houses the crime was so bad.”

“What are we going to do?” Oliver said. “There’s always been a Captain Might. I mean, I can’t imagine a Garrison without him.”

SHIFT

It was Forever that had sealed the deal.

The band Kiss had recorded many ballads in their long career, Beth being the most recognized, but when the DJ played Forever, Oliver just couldn’t help himself.

And so, under the sparkling light of the mirrored ball, in the middle of the West Garrison High Senior Prom dance floor, in front of all his fellow students, Oliver Jordan leaned in and kissed Elyse Blake for the first time.

SHIFT





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