The Iron Writer Challenge #5

vacuum tube

The Iron Writer Challenge #5

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #5

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Rodney WitherspoonEdison McDanielsSteve HarzRobin Harding

The Elements:

A 1935 Vacuum Tube Radio

A coconut

A wheel from a covered wagon

A Komodo Dragon

Seducing Reptilesrobin harding

Robin Harding

“I reckon Indonesia just skipped from the nineteenth century to the twenty first bypassing the twentieth entirely. These people went from storytelling around the campfire to iPhones without ever having landlines or television.” Lisa made this observation as she sat with her husband Dan in a café in Candi Dasa in Bali and watched the fishing boats cross the reef. She felt rather pleased with this insight.

Dan did not acknowledge the cleverness of the comment. He argued back. “Why shouldn’t they? It’s like you resent the idea that Indonesians didn’t invent the use of electricity and that they don’t have landfills full of 1935 vacuum tube radios and broken black and white TVs.  The fact that each house lacked its own video player and telephone is a matter of economics only. Now thanks to tourists like us, they can afford these essentials.”

“I’m not saying that every person has to figure out how to make fire and how to go from covered wagons with wheels to Bullet trains. After all I am a lecturer; I do appreciate the concept of sharing knowledge.” Lisa stirred her coconut shrimp and rice.  “I was just observing that as a nation, they seem to have skipped over several forms of technology.”

Lisa had just arrived from Rinca where by courtesy of a grant from her university in Melbourne she was analyzing Komodo dragon behaviour. After three weeks in the bush, she flew to Denpasar and taxied to the hotel to meet Dan. They were going to have a perfect week here. They were staying at the Dewa Bharata guest house and they had a sea view.

Lisa sipped her white wine. “Sometimes going through the development of inventions gives your society an understanding of how the mechanisms work, how they can be maintained and how they can be improved. You’ve seen the roads in those instantly wealthy oil rich nations lined with broken refrigerators that so many could suddenly afford but no one can repair.”

Dan shook his head, “you sound like a primary school girl bitter because someone copied your work.”

This was not going well. Lisa recalled Selima saying to her, “tidak apa apa, no what what – keep it light.” We can salvage this evening thought Lisa. “Anyway, this new technology is certainly going to help me keep in touch with the Reserve.”

“So now that it will benefit you personally, you think it might be alright for this nation to use digital devices. Very generous of you.”

“It’s good for the lizards. You seem to be deliberately missing the point.”

Dan finished his beer and signaled the waitress for another one. “You had a point?”

Would the satisfaction of murdering Dan be worth life in an Indonesian prison? Could  romance be rekindled?

Dan burped. When the waitress brought his new beer he gave her a warm smile.

“Komodo Dragons are monogamous and mate for life, you know,” Lisa shrieked and stomped out of the nearly empty restaurant.

Bounty from the SeaRodney Witherspoon

Rodney Witherspoon

Frank felt as if he’d been on the island for months, but his sailboat sank in the storm only last week.  It went down so fast that Frank was only able to grab a lighter and a crowbar before hitting the water.  He was lucky to find the island, though; the charts said it didn’t exist.  Of course, that meant no one would be looking for him here, so Frank prepared for a long wait for rescue.

As usual in the morning, Frank awoke from his bed of palm fronds under a short palm tree and walked across the island looking for food.  For the last week, he’d only found coconuts and bananas.  This morning was no exception, and, by the time he’d reached the other side of the island, he was loaded down with a bunch of green bananas and four coconuts.  He broke through the tree line and was about to return to his camp when he saw something bobbing in the shallow water.  Approaching the objects, he discovered three old and worn wooden crates resting on the sandy bottom being tossed by the waves.

Excited, Frank rushed back to his camp, dropped the fruit he collected, and grabbed the crowbar before tearing across the island to the crates.  There were no labels or any markings on them.  It was as if they had just appeared with no point of origin.  Frank shoved the crates onto the beach and drew a deep breath.  He might find food, or a tent, or something else that would be helpful in his struggle to survive.

In the first crate, he found wagon wheels that wouldn’t be out of place in the Old West on a covered wagon.

“Museum pieces,” Frank muttered to himself before moving to the second crate.  His eyes widened as he took in the device at the bottom.  It was also a museum piece, but this one had the possibility of being useful.  It was an old vacuum tube radio that looked to be in good shape.  The label on the back said that it had been built in 1935.  Excitement filled Frank before he remembered that these old radios needed an external power source.  Obviously, there wasn’t one on his little island.

With a sigh, Frank opened the last crate.  A hiss erupted from inside, and a creature jumped at him.  Frank let out a high pitched scream and pushed himself away from the crate.  Sitting on the sand on the discarded lid was an adult Komodo dragon.  Rather than fight the creature, Frank decided to run.  The dragon followed forcing Frank to climb a nearby coconut tree.  As the dragon waited patiently at the bottom, Frank pulled a coconut from the tree, aimed it, and flung it at the lizard.  The dragon was no longer a problem.

Frank returned to the last crate and carefully looked inside.  “I’m going to get off of this island,” he said staring at the hand cranked generator at the bottom.

The QueaseEdison McDaniel

Edison McDaniels

“Is it salvageable?”

He pursed his lips, blowing the dust out of the innerds of the cabinet. He squinted his eyes, missing his glasses for the hundredth time. “I dunno,” he said, then “Yeah, I think mostly the tubes are okay. A few might be cracked. I’d guess this radio is circa 1935, maybe even a little before that.”

“Thing’s a relic,” she said, adding soto voce “thank god.”

“Whole damn planet’s a relic,” the man said.

She nodded, pulling at the hair on one side of her head. She felt the queaze again, had been feeling the queaze for some days now. She looked out the window at the covered wagon and its wheels. All they owned, which wasn’t much, lay under its canvas.

The pulse, ten plus years in the past, had destroyed everything. Nobody knew what it had been, not for certain. Probably not a nuke though. A meteor maybe. Whatever, the worst of it had been the charge of static that came with it. Anything electronic had fried. Vacuum tubes had become like gold in the years since. They couldn’t be made anymore. Had to be found. The likely places had been scoured clean, which meant scavengers like them had to go farther and farther afield. Which meant…

“We can’t get back tonight,” the man said.

“No,” she said, “I don’t suppose. We’re at least a whole day out from the colony.”

The sun was falling and there was no question of traveling at night. “The dragons will be out soon.”

“This place’ll be alright,” he said, looking around. Like most buildings, its upper floors had been leveled by the pulse, but it had a good foundation. “The walls will keep ‘em out.” It had a good basement too, but they didn’t dare go there, not if they wanted to live. The dragons—the entire So Cal desert had been over run with Komodo dragons after the pulse, probably from the LA zoo but who really knew—sought the cool basements in the day and came out at night. Not especially fast, but they were numerous. Their bite, even just their touch, might be lethal.

They found a small room—four good walls and a large credenza that did for a door. Surprisingly cozy, mostly because it was clean and dry and out of the weather, which was sour and cold and wet. A perfect night for the dragons, a perfect night to curl up inside beside a fire. They burned a small library and roasted dog meat.

The queaze came and went again. She had to tell him. She had planned for it, had bought the only delicacy she could both find and afford back at the colony. He had shared a coconut the night before the pulse, a last—now legendary—moment with his mother. He spoke of it—of her—often.

She pulled the coconut from her bag.

“Where did you—”

“I’m pregnant,” she said, “thought we’d celebrate.”

“With my mom?”

“Who better?”

Steve Harz

Gas Station Road Map

Steve Harz

Your history had been

written in pencil

on bathroom walls

by inaccurate historians

bent on cruel conquest

rather than mutual capture

and while we had been told

history is written by the victor

I do not subscribe to that theory

because in actuality history

is written by those who

survive the longest and

since you are here with me

and they have disappeared

I have taken an eraser and

eliminated your past

allowing us to rediscover

the world together using

a bottom drawer broken compass

and aiming the frozen needle

anywhere we need true north

or due south to be

we do not discover with a plan

like Lewis and Clark and their

covered wagon wheel ruts

and Chinook canoe wakes

but rather meander with a purpose

taking clues from junkyard road signs and

Howard Johnson 50 state placemats

and along the way we are comforted by

mismatched borrowed rocking chairs

and the distant big band signal

coming from a friendly front porch

1935 Detrola Cathedral vacuum tube radio

with its map of the world station dial

that helps us avoid the fault line

that runs from your lips to my chest

and one twist of the radio’s dial to the right

points us towards Komodo Island and its

dragon discovered by the Dutch

and to the left the West Indies where

ancient history is broadcast on

the coconut telegraph

and each step forward is a

quicksand leap toward comfort

and we walk the extra mile

barefoot down median strips

holding hands with a posture suggesting

a mix of love for each other and

protection from the world

and when we reach our destination

we will rewrite history

yours mine and ours

with permanent ink

in the margins of a public library atlas

and will compose our future

word for word

along the rural routes of a

gas station road map

The Iron Writer Challenge #4


The Iron Writer Challenge #4

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #4

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Rick SheltonCynthia CollinsJackie JonesGenevieve Dewey

The Elements:

A giraffe

A microwave

An elevator

A kumquat

Fen’s Safari

Jackie Jones

Fen wrinkled her nose in disgust. Her brother Darco had lied, giraffe meat was not tasty and coated her tongue with a bitter aftertaste each time she swallowed. This wasn’t the time to complain though, they’d had nothing but dried kumquats and nuts for days and the promise of meat, any kind of meat, had been welcomed by the people.

She looked around at the contented faces, wondering how they could continue to pretend that this cave, the only light a burning fire and nothing to sleep on but assorted leaves and twigs, could somehow be a new home. Fen, her brother, and the Arubi tribe, had been on the run for months trying to evade the men, who weren’t really men, that had come from the sky. They’d come with no warning or mercy, their aim to destroy everything.

When it had started, Fen had been in Africa with her family on safari. The clouds had been the first to change, slowly discarding their pristine white, for a darker, more ominous appearance. Their tour guide had assured them it was merely bad weather coming, but he’d been wrong. Just an hour later, the sky had seemingly opened up and from it, came these metal contraptions that none of them had ever seen.

Fen remembered her first foolish thought — silver, oversized microwaves, falling towards the ground at incredible speed. This thought had lasted mere half seconds and had given way to the screaming, blood and death that was all around her as they were hunted.

“The chief wants to see you,” Darco broke her reverie. She looked up at him, his dark eyes clouded with sadness, as they had been since losing their parents. Despite this, she liked looking at him; he’d always been the splitting image of their father. She nodded, standing and making her way further into the cave, to Chief Yudan’s quarters.

Fen bowed respectfully as she entered, a gesture that in the early days, she’d learnt was always expected. The chief, bedecked in bone jewellery that hung from his neck and wrists, motioned her to sit. His painted face told stories that Fen would never know and she stared, intrigued as always.

He pointed at a wooden bowl of more giraffe meat and Fen tried her best not to grimace. The tribe had taken her and Darco in when they didn’t have to, and had showed them great kindness since then. She had no intention of offending the Arubi’s leader over culinary dislikes. She made an action with her hands against her stomach, explaining without words, that she was already full. The chief nodded approvingly.

He pointed upwards now, then pulled his bone dagger from its sheath at his side. Fen jumped momentarily, but was calmed as he jabbed the air viciously with the weapon. Fen understood what he meant, but didn’t see how he was going to do it, unless of course there was an elevator to the sky.

Soft As VelvetRick Shelton

Rick Shelton

Velvet Anderson hurried to arrange the little African carvings that dominated the breakfast table in the bright eat-in kitchen at the back of the suburban ranch she and her husband, Frank Anderson, had lived in for twenty-three years. The early morning sun cast long shadows from the palm plant and the grouping of three tall giraffe carvings Frank had purchased during a port call while he was in the Navy.  She could hear the groan of the wood floor as he came down the hall.

“I hope you got my breakfast ready, dumbass,” he growled as he crossed the squeaky floor toward his seat at the table.  The chair creaked when he sat.  His eyes never left Velvet’s face until he looked down to his plate, already set and arranged.

“What the hell is this shit?”  His eyes bulged.

“They’re kumquats, sweetheart. I think you’ll like ‘em.

“What kinda idiot are you? Kumquats? I’m not eatin’ this. I want bacon, you stupid cow! Now nuke me some in that there microwave before I shove that brainless head of yours into that ‘frigerator door! And close those damned blinds. Can’t you see that sun is blindin’ me?  Do something right for change. Jesus H.”

Standing between the large palm and the grouping of giraffe carvings, her hands clasped in front of her apron, Velvet stared out the window for a moment to soak in the morning sunlight—it was bright, and seemed to clarify her thoughts. “CLOSE ‘EM,” she heard him bellow. In an instant, she made a decision that she thought could not be avoided any longer.

Velvet sat still on the ottomon in front of the living room fireplace, and cradled the phone receiver to her ear with both hands. One softly cupped the mouthpiece. As she counted the rings coming from the other end, she pressed her eyes closed and soaked in the warmth from growing fire.

Finally, a click, and a woman’s gravelly voice through the earpiece. “What the hell are you calling me at work for, Vel? I’m kinda busy here, ya know!” In the background, Velvet could hear the screeching of machinery. Her sister’s voice nearly blended with the noise coming through the phone.

“Dixie? Where are you?” Her eyes darted around the room.

“I’m in a got-damned freight elevator with about a hundert pieces’a Sears shit to unload. Now tell me whatcha want before I hang up.”

“I need your help, Dix. Can you come over? Now?”

“What? No. What the hell? I’m workin’, Vel. What’s so important?”

“You have to, Sis. You’re the only one. I can’t do this alone.”

“Velvet? What are you saying?”

“I need you, Dix. I killed him, and now I need you.”

The squeaks and growns of the freight elevator stopped, and her sister’s voice soon broke the resulting silence. “Well, okay. I’ll be right there. Just stay put.”

While she waited for her sister, Velvet stared motionlessly at the broken and bloody pieces of the middle-sized giraffe carving as they burned. The set looks better with two, anyway, she thought.

The Kumquat QuandaryCynthia Collins

Cynthia Collins

Beep, beep, beep. Sally, still half asleep, fumbled around to shut off her alarm. At last, quiet. She’d get up pretty soon. Beep, beep. She slapped her hand on the off button and sat on the edge of the bed.

 “All right! I heard you. I’m up.”

She showered and dressed, changed clothes at least three times before deciding on pants and a sweater that were casual enough for her interview at the zoo, but not so casual as to give the impression that she didn’t care if she got the job or not. She put a frozen breakfast sandwich in the microwave, pushed start, and poured some orange juice. After she finished eating, she checked the papers she was supposed to take with her.

“Let’s see,” she said talking to herself, “I’ve got my resume and letters of reference.” She looked one more time to make sure. “I guess I’m ready.”

She locked the door of her apartment and got on the elevator. Once on the ground floor, she rushed outside and hailed a taxi. She arrived at the zoo in plenty of time. In fact, she was an hour early so she stopped at a fruit stand and bought a bag of kumquats. A sign said Giraffes – straight ahead. Good. She liked giraffes. Their big, brown eyes and long eyelashes made them look so understanding.

A man wearing a uniform that looked official was busy refilling a feed dispenser. She asked if it was all right to stand there.

“Sure, help yourself. I’ve got to get these refilled before all the school kids get here. They love to feed the giraffes. Well, you have a nice day.” He nodded and went on his way.

Sally reached in the bag, pulled out a kumquat, and ate it. One of the giraffes looked at her. He took a few steps forward, his eyes focused on her. She got another kumquat and ate that one. The giraffe took a few more steps. After the third time, he was bending over the fence and his face was practically in the bag. She put a kumquat in the palm of her hand and let him eat it. As soon as he tasted it he spit it out, turned around, and walked away from her.

“Well, so much for that.” She tossed the bag in the trash and walked to her job interview.

The next day, she went back to the zoo and stopped to see the giraffes. “I just wanted you to know that I got a job here so you’ll be seeing me a lot.”

She had kumquats with her but they were in a bag stuffed in her jacket. The same giraffe from the previous day approached her again. His long neck lowered until his eyes were even with hers. He sniffed and nuzzled her pocket. She laughed. “You don’t like these, remember?” She patted him and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Waiting For GiraffeGenevieve Dewey Heaston

Genevieve Dewey

Sal nodded at the pleasantly dumpy, middle-aged woman he passed in the corridor to the break room. She never met his eyes; people in these cubicle farms never did, which is what made it perfect for drop offs. A quick scan of the room told him all was clear so he headed straight for the microwave and opened the door.


Sal picked the microwave up and saw a note taped with duct tape to the bottom.

Elevator. 2pm. Giraffe. 50 pizzas. PERSONAL DELIVERY

He gave himself time for two read-throughs then took out his lighter and burned it. Fifty, he thought to himself. Boss must want this real bad. The all caps and underline were pretty redundant after that. He stopped at the door of the room. Which elevator? Here? He looked at his watch. Fifteen shy of two. He rode each of the elevators in the building once, and was going to wait in the first one when a wiry, twitchy and tall man with orange-brown hair entered it. As soon as the doors shut the man spoke.

“I like anchovies on my pizza.”

“And kumquats for dessert,” Sal answered, his shoulders relaxing a bit in relief.

The man nodded, took out a tiny orange from his pocket and waved it a bit before putting it back in. He shook his head in disgust as he stopped the elevator. “You know, not for nothing, but I wish the Boss would think of somethin’ else. Kumquats ain’t dessert, they’re fruit. More like a side dish, ya know? And you know how hard it is to find a kumquat in the Midwest?”

Sal raised his eyebrows but said nothing.

“I’m Giraffe,” the man continued.


“Real name’s Bryce, but who’s gonna take a guy named Bryce seriously when he comes collecting? So I started calling myself the Giraffe.”

“They take Giraffe seriously?”

Giraffe shrugged. “I’m known for my second story jewel heists. Seemed fitting.”

“Everyone calls me Sally. They take me seriously.”

“Sure, and why not? Two seconds later they’re dead, ain’t they?”

“What’s your orders?” Sal asked. His eyelid was twitching in irritation from the babbling.

“I get you in the Zoo, you steal the animal, and we both deliver the head to the Boss.”

“The head?”

“Yeah, like in The Godfather.”

“Except the horsehead was a warning. Why would the Boss threaten himself?”

“You ask a lot of questions, Sally. I’m in too much Dutch with the Boss to say nothin’. He says pick your nose and stand on one foot, and I’m diggin’ for gold. Know wha’m sayin’? This is my last chance.”

Sal stared at him. In Dutch with the boss, huh? He thought. “What animal?”

“He didn’t say. Said he’d tell you which one.”

Sal stared ahead at the blinking warning light. “How’d you piss him off?”

“Slept wit’ his daughter.”

Sal grunted, slapped the stop elevator button and patted Giraffe on the shoulder as the doors opened.

The Iron Writer Challenge #3


The Iron Writer Challenge #3

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #3

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements 

The Authors:

E. Chris GarrisonJeffrey BoldenDiane Major 

The Elements:

A failed superhero

A piano

A boat propeller

A Chechem/Chaka tree

Ferrum-man, a SuperheroDiane Major

Diane Major

Superhero Brian Rogers, more reputably known as Ferrum-man, sat with his head in his hands. What on Earth was he going to do now?

Ferrum-man tried to help Batman in Gotham City, and now it was in disarray. Apparently, soon afterwards, Bruce Wayne took a holiday. Ferrum-man’s more recent exploits in Metropolis fared no better. During a clash with the Joker, he had accidently destroyed a piano, in fact Clark Kent’s grand piano. As for Superman, he left without saying a word. Things simply went from bad to worse.

 After some deliberation, Ferrum-man assessed he was a hopeless superhero. It was time to make his escape. The embarrassing affairs in both cities had sealed a failed superhero’s fate.  Dressed as author, Brian Rogers, theironwriter, he drove to the harbour and bought a small boat.

Once purchased, the boat sailed from Metropolis with Brian looking bleak. He was leaving his beloved America to build a new life in foreign parts. Perhaps starting a career in Mexico was some sort of a plan. In Mexico he could start again as a regular man.

When Mexico’s shores came into sight, the boat came to a sudden stop. Now our Brian had never been one for swimming, but this problem had to be resolved. It was time for Ferrum-man to tackle the dreadful task. Brian immediately did three quick jumps and appeared in his metal tone, skin tight, spandex tights.

After several deep breaths, our reluctant superhero dived into the sea. Once underwater, it was soon clear that a boat propeller was clogged with debris. Ferrum-man was quick to grasp the propeller and it immediately dropped off in his hands. To his horror, a great, gaping hole appeared in the hull. Our ‘superhero’ left the sinking boat and swiftly swam for shore.

On reaching dry land, the superhero took three jumps and was instantly dressed like a regular man. Disgruntled, Brian walked towards the distant green land. The sun beat down and the day was sizzling hot. It wasn’t long before Brian slumped down in the shade, under a tree, and decided it was time for a nap.  It was mid-afternoon when he woke up and scratched. This ‘superhero’ discovered he had a dastardly rash.

Brian looked at the rash and moaned, “No more, I can’t take any more!”

Unexpectedly, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent appeared.

Bruce said to Brian, “Look at that goddam awful rash!”

“Don’t worry Brian, it must be some sap from this Chechem tree that’s irritated your skin,” said Clark, who quickly took nectar from a nearby Chaka tree and rubbed it onto the rash.

Three jumps and Ferrum-man appeared in his tights.

In a flash, he squashed the two trees together and cried, “Look it’s a Chechem Chaka Tree!”

Clark, looked from Brian to Bruce, then sighed, “Oh well, our holidays are over, let’s get back to solving crime.”

Brian smiled, “Does that mean I’m still a superhero?”

Bruce shrugged, “Humph. Yip we’ll watch your back.”

JekyllJeff Bolden

Jeffrey Bolden

Like the Legend of the Chechen and Chaka Trees of Malaysia, Jekyll too held the power of life and death in his hands. As he gave life to the ivory keys of his piano, a memory began to haunt him, just as it had done in the long procession of days that followed his downfall from being the world’s greatest superhero.
It was at a banquet on a cruise ship that rivaled the Titanic, Jekyll and his fiancée danced to the ambient melody of Hiatus Kaiyote as the President of the United States offered his many thanks to Jekyll for saving his daughters. With the beautiful women standing in front of him, dazzling smiles splashed across their mocha expressions, Jekyll, his confidence just as tailored as his black suit, nodded back with his smile tight on his face, the beauty of another preoccupying his thoughts.
He went to find his fiancée on the upper deck of the large ship. His eyes scouring through the massive crowds, he ventured through the excitement, smiled politely at the congratulatory statements and the numerous pats on the back before he found her, an angel without wings standing by the rail, the sunset sky admiring her beauty in that twinkling black gown that accentuated her perfect curves and exotic tan. Simply by being, she intensified the beauty of the cascading sun. That is until, a large groan escaped the ship and the large ship jerked back as a sign of engine failure, sending her careening to the ocean below. He heard the screams and the pleas from the politicians and their whores begging for a savior. But a savior was not present. Only a man ran through the crowd, a man with tears in his eyes watching the love of his life descend rapidly to the ocean. That same man leapt off of the brass railing with two choices swirling in his mind. He had a decision to make.
As her swam through the darkness below, he saw the reason for the ship’s sudden failure. The main propeller had malfunctioned and Jekyll knew with one touch of his Hand of Chaka, he could bring the propeller to life again, but with the boat and his fiancée sinking at rapid rates, he knew he could only save one. He had a decision to make.
“Jackie?” The melody from the piano stopped as he turned his head toward the source of that soft voice. With waters glazing over his dark eyes, he stood up tall and regal, looking down into the face of the one he had given up everything for. “Someone here misses her daddy.” The baby cooing in her mother’s arms reached out toward Jekyll as tears of joy escaped from the lining of his eyes, again, reminded that he would let that cruise ship sink, let those passengers die, withstand the public fury for the death of the First Family for the family in front of him now. The one that was not supposed to exist.
He walked to and held out his hands to cradle their child before his lips found his wife and his arms found his daughter. As their lips locked in ecstasy and his daughter cooed in his arms, he no longer cared her was a failed superhero, because in the end he was a successful husband. Had he not been that, he would have never had the joy of being a successful father.

Killer CureChrissy Garrison

E. Chris Garrison

When Towering Rage walked into my bar, I knew there’d be trouble. I poured drinks at T.G.I. Heroes! for the regulars: Wire Hanger, Sticky Fingers and of course the Amazing Pieman. Fingers tickled the ivories, coaxing out “Stand By Me”. Only if you know Fingers, nobody’d do that on purpose.

Rage ducked under the motorboat hanging from the ceiling, swept back his cape, and plunked down his old-school red-tights-wearing butt on a barstool. One eye on the door.

“What’s your poison?” I purred, giving him a wink. He looked like he could use one.

He looked me up and down and sighed “Scotch. Rocks. Double.” I may not be Foxy Lightning, but I’m not chopped liver, either. Rage needed more than a wink, so I slid some scotch his way.

Just then, his blue ox of a brother Thunderbull burst in and shouted, “Thought I told you to get outta town, loser!”

My bouncer, Mistress Beast, tried to stop him. Brute that she is, he flicked her aside.

I was right. Trouble.

Rage stared into the glass I’d placed before him. His lips moved as he counted to ten.

“Get out of my bar!” I shouted, trying to avoid another insurance claim. “You know the rules. No fighting.”

Thunderbull grinned and pushed forward. He knocked the Pieman into Hanger, and both of them fell into a heap with Doctor Whiplash.

Towering Rage pushed his scotch away. Veins stuck out on his neck. His face matched his tights. His barstool hit the floor as he stood. “Leave me be. I gotta right to be here.”

Thunderbull lifted the piano and hurled it at Rage, knocking him back into my reinforced bar. Heroes and sidekicks scattered, fleeing the cacophony and debris. “I whupped you good, you failure. Get out!”

Towering Rage rose from the wreckage, piano wire twanging as he grew in size and fury. He knocked the motorboat from its hooks, snapped the propeller off the outboard motor and threw it spinning at his brother.

Thunderbull ducked.

Mistress Beast stood up behind him.

The propeller cut her beautiful head from her apelike body. She fell to the floor, dead.

Thunderbull roared with laughter, stepped over the body, and left.

Towering Rage wilted, broken once again.

“Don’t let him win,” I said, coming around the bar, near him.

“Everything I do is like poison from the Chechen tree,” he said, eyes on Mistress Beast’s bloody head.

“Then let me be your Chaca balm,” I said, touching him on the forearm, which was about as high as I could reach.

At my touch, time rewound to when Thunderbull entered.

Before the ox could get out a single word, Rage ignored the boat, calmly crossed the room, and punched his brother out the door, into orbit.

Mistress Beast, alive again, looked at me, confused. I shrugged and smiled.

Towering Rage gaped at me. “How… who are you?”

“My name’s Tap Back. Want that scotch now?”

He grinned. “You bet. Thanks!”

I winked. “Any time.”