It’s another flash fiction from Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds. This one was issued last Friday, which was the 13th, so the theme is “lucky.”
A little different take on the idea of “luck” — what if it were a superhero kind of superpower? I’ve also wondered before about the idea of superheroes aging out of their superpowers. I mean, we all get older, right?
I wish I could tell you that I was just that creative, but the truth is, my girlfriend shared the Super Golden Friends video with me the other day, and it got me thinking…
Hope you enjoy the story. 998 words.
Most people assumed it was the rabbit’s foot Coogan wore around his neck. It was soft, white, on an understated silver chain. The PETA people hated it.
Anyway, it wasn’t the rabbit’s foot, which he just liked for the aesthetic. Same reason he got two matching four-leaf clover tattoos on his forearms. Same reason he got “Good” tattooed below his right knuckles and “Luck” tattooed below his left. He got the giant, snarling dog on his back because the name “Coogan” came from the Gaelic “Cuchogaidh”, which meant “Hound of War.”
War. Fighting. Wasn’t that why it chose him?
It, in Coogan’s case, hadn’t been the rabbit’s foot he’d actually won at a boardwalk game of chance in Ocean City, Maryland.
It was a green… well, he had called it a wisp. A small emerald cloud, the vapor of your breath of a cold day. Came to him on the night of his thirteenth birthday. He hadn’t had time to be scared of it. He just sort of… absorbed it.
At the time, he chalked it up to a weird dream. He’d find out soon enough that it wasn’t.
On the night of his 47th birthday, as he got ready for bed, he looked up to see it floating in front of him once more. He almost wished he’d been more surprised.
Then, as quickly as it had come, it disappeared.
About right, he figured. Most of them had lost their powers around their mid-40s.
Star Wonder. She was 45 when the light left her.
Magus Magi was 42, 43 maybe. No one had seen that weirdo in years.
Pulsar and those amazing power blasts from his hands made it to 49. Gone.
Water Wizard was 52, probably the oldest. They worried he was out in the middle of the Pacific when he lost it, but he was also kind of an asshole, so nobody did much about it.
And Speedball, his best friend was gone. Lightning in, lightning out. You’d be sitting in the cafeteria of HQ at lunch and the bastard would just suddenly appear. Coogan was the only one who still got a bang out of it, every time.
Christ, Speed, make me knock over my goddam beer… And he and Speed would laugh and laugh.
The guy was 44 years old last Coogan had seen him. There was gray in his temple and he was sheepishly rubbing his sore feet.
Well, he’d said to Coogan, grimacing, sad. This ain’t getting any fuckin’ easier. And Coogan knew the end was in sight. For Speedball. For him.
Sure, there were replacements — Red Raven, Devil Dog, Torivo, Manta Girl — But it wasn’t the same.
The green wisp was gone as fast as it had arrived. He could even feel the energy leave his body. He felt… fine, actually. A little tired, but not bad.
Still, he thought he’d try, test it out.
He picked up the dice. Shake, shake, toss.
Christ, he thought. That’s never happened before.
The two die seemed to stare back at him with the empty gaze of a dead man.
Win some and lose some, I guess.
That’s when Coogan had walked out of Sector 29 Headquarters and never looked back. His only regret was leaving Jane.
Jane. The Scarlet Captain. She was 38.
Left without a word. Walked out with just a pack, never looked back. Rules were rules, after all.
He missed her.
He didn’t miss the work, not like he thought he would. Fighting crime, day in, day out. Sure, yeah, it was the right thing to do. But it took a toll. It was exhausting.
Coogan found a job bussing tables at a Mexican restaurant. The owner took a liking to him, fed him tacos and a free beer at the end of the night.
The next four years were a blur. Bussing tables, tacos, beer, nights alone in his small trailer, watching TV, reading, smoking cigarettes.
One night he dropped a tub of glasses near the wrong guys at the restaurant bar. They took him out back and beat the crap out of him. He nursed a bruised face and a busted lip for two days.
Win some and lose some, I guess, is what he thought. Bad luck. It was an odd feeling.
He never really thought about the work, never thought much about what was probably his best day: uncovering The Trickster, who would turn out to be his nemesis (everyone had one, and Coogan was no different).
And, nearly five years on, he still didn’t think much about the glory days. He watched the new kids on TV. Red Raven and Manta Girl had led the charge against some sort of… what? Alien invasion? Eastern European terrorist cell? Giant asteroid headed to Earth?
Hell, it all ran together now. He preferred America’s Funniest Home Videos, and he flicked the channel, cracked the top off a bottle of Harp, sat back and laughed in the darkness. Coogan set the beer funny on the table, it tipped and fell over
“Fuck!” he yelled, and scrambled for the beer bottle, righting it quickly.
Well, he thought as the foam rose to the top and spilled out of the bottle, win some and lose some, I guess.
Then, a knock on the door, and he sighed. Now? Who the fuck…?
He stood and turned to the thin door, opening it.
She stood there, on the stoop. Her beautiful blue eyes lit up, hopeful, like two perfect oceans of possibility and life. Her eyes had been everything to him. Innocence, love, hope, perfection.
Her blonde hair was up in a ponytail, something he’d never seen, and she was in a simple black t-shirt, jeans, boots. There was a chill in the air. The leather jacket with the U.S. Navy patches on it looked like it kept her warm.
Jane. The Scarlet Captain.
She had found him.
Win some… he thought and smiled back.
Image courtesy here.
© 2018 by Benjamin J. Kirby
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