Tag Archives: Brandon Getz

“Our Hero” – Fiction by Brandon Getz

Superman Collage #15 – Andy Warhol, 1960

The arrival of a new superhero makes life turbulent for a team of journalists in “Our Hero,” Brandon Getz‘s stupendously subversive short story from our Winter 2019 issue.

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WHEN CAPTAIN MAPS CAME OUT OF NOWHERE to save that runaway bus full of blind nuns from careening into the river in the middle of town, we at the Daily Reporter had to admit: we were pretty relieved. With the advent of the 24-hour news cycle, the blogosphere, the decline of subscriptions and creeping corporate cutbacks, we had taken to pumping up even the smallest story. We had just finished apologizing for the O’Dougherty kidnapping (Local Girl Missing, Probably Murdered) after it was discovered she’d been visiting her grandmother for the weekend. That, on the heels of the school shooting debacle (they’d used cap guns in the eighth grade musical) and the clergy sex scandal (Father Michael, helping a woman in the confessional booth, had—allegedly—grazed her breast). We were anxious for real news. For one headline story we didn’t have to sensationalize. We needed a legitimate sensation.

Those of us who were there described, in those first articles and op-eds, the sound of the Captain’s approach before anything else. Rick in Sports wrote that it cracked over the voice of the announcer at the girls’ slow-pitch game “like God hitting a softball.” In the caption under the local weather map, Alex typed that it had sounded like “the mother of all thunderclaps.” But it was Hal in Lifestyles who, though we didn’t understand it at the time, perhaps said it best when he wrote that it was “a sound like a rip in the pants of the Universe.” We ribbed each other in the break room and near the fax machine over our descriptions, accused one another of being excessively literary or purple in our prose. Those of us who hadn’t seen the Captain appear heard so many stories about that moment that we soon spoke as though we had. We knew all the details: the sound, the ripple in the sky, the flash of green and blue leotard, the man hanging in thin air with the now-iconic cape—a map of the world—billowing behind him. The divisions between there and not-there, while at first tense and somewhat bitter, began to dissolve. We were united in our mission to report the truth. We pulled together in solidarity to deliver the news.

 

The first headlines were perhaps overly flattering. Caped Hero Saves Nuns, World. Super Man Rescues, Loves Town. Leotards: Pinnacle of Spring Fashion? Our editor-in-chief Roberta sent them to press with a flick of her manicured fingers. Roberta, whose face only cracked to sneer at a misplaced adjective or improperly cited source, now smiled when we brought her stories of the Captain. She stopped smelling of gin and limes after lunch hour. She even ventured to pinch the butt of Topher, the intern, and gave him what he later described as a “flirty wink.”

Our workdays grew longer. Because he had only appeared once, and only for a moment, our stories took on more hypothetical angles. Despite restrictions on overtime, we huddled together in our cubicles and speculated on his origins, his alter-ego, his motivations. Topher, being from a farm outside Topeka and possessing—according to some sources—a well-muscled physique, was immediately fingered as a suspect until it was confirmed he’d been at his desk playing minesweeper and writing terrible things about our newsroom on his blog. Someone suggested the Captain might be some kind of super-soldier from the Air Force base on the edge of town. Someone else said he could be a geography professor from the university whose experiment gave him superpowers. One of the obit writers wondered aloud if perhaps he’d been bitten by a radioactive map. Everyone was a suspect. We eyed strangers on the street and kept notes on suspicious persons in the grocery store or church. We rifled through our husbands’ dresser drawers and inspected the spaces under our brothers’ beds. We tapped the walls of boyfriends’ closets and garages, hoping for some hidden panel with a blue leotard and cape inside.

The newsroom buzzed. We held our breath, waiting for the next appearance of the Captain. We loosened our ties in what we thought was a cavalier and attractive way. We wore shorter skirts and started leaving our cardigans on the backs of our chairs. Roberta, who never wore anything but gray pantsuits, came to the office in red slacks and heels. When she sent article corrections back, she no longer signed her notes “EIC,” replacing it instead with a swirly cursive “Roberta” punctuated with a lipstick kiss.

 

Then Captain Maps saved city hall from that meteor. The air rippled; that same heavy thunder-snap “like God rolling a perfect strike,” as Rick wrote, cracked through downtown, and the Captain was flying above our little skyline, upper-cutting the big flaming rock back into space from whence it came. The crowd that had gathered cried out in joy. Children wept. The mayor, interviewed by our Lifestyles section, reported an impressive bulge in the front of the Captain’s green briefs.

This was the news we needed. Our stories were picked up by AP and Reuters, translated into a dozen languages. Photos from our very own photographer, Rashid, ran on the front pages of the Times and the Post. Our bylines were everywhere. We were booked on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, ESPN-3, The Weather Channel. On national TV, with our makeup professionally done and our designer suits bought on credit, we gave our expert eye-witness accounts of Captain Maps. We were the media’s front lines. The boots on the ground re: the world’s first living superhero. On those news sets, or in our own conference room chatting via satellite uplink, we conducted ourselves like professionals. We imagined ourselves the Edward Murrows and Connie Chungs of a dawning era. The Captain was the biggest news of our lifetimes, and we were the commentators, the shapers, the voice.

Subscriptions soared. Our website crashed from so many hits. We wrote about our hero from every angle, interviewed every witness, editorialized and hypothesized. When we ran out of things to write, we dug deeper. Caped Crusader – Hero? we taunted. We needed to know. We needed to be the ones to break the story. It wasn’t enough for the Captain to put our town—and our newspaper—on the map. Captain Maps was ours, right down to the name, which either Hal or Jeanine, our Business Editor, had coined the day of his first appearance, depending on who you asked. Roberta had sent in the copyright on behalf of the paper. We were talking to toy companies about licensing. Some of us had started working on screenplays. On the walls of the newsroom, we hung posters of that first front page to remind us of our greatness, our bylines next to an artist rendering of the Captain in all his cape-waving comic book glory. When we dressed for work, we wore subtle combinations of green and blue, his unofficial fan club.

 

Weeks passed. Even if it hadn’t been an election year, there were always wars and famines and water shortages and terrorist attacks. There was always news, but by then we weren’t interested in the misery of the world. Without any new appearances from the Captain, newsworthy heroics, we were fading from the national eye. We’d ridden the Captain’s cape into the limelight, and now he was shaking us off, back to our small-town beat. Jeanine, who’d written about the town’s much-needed tourism surge, reported a drop in the local economy. Captain kitsch—balloons, t-shirts, cheap plastic dolls—washed from the gutters into the river, unbought and forgotten. Alex, in a last-ditch effort, rigged a spotlight on the roof, painted over with a blobby North and South America, shining it into the night sky for days until Roberta told him to stop wasting electricity. Continue reading “Our Hero” – Fiction by Brandon Getz

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