Journal entry: February 28, 2010 (age 40)
Superheroes don’t need costumes, and if they do, they needn’t be elaborate.
Two of my oldest and best friends, Jack Donovan and Jim Root, drove to Binghamton yesterday to see me. In the old days, we would have hit the local bars, but we’re getting too old for that. Instead, we decided to hang out and catch up at the Root family homestead in nearby Vestal. Jim’s father, Bob Root, was away. In the old days, that would have meant “kegger at Root’s house!” We settled for talking and laughing until the wee hours.
There was plenty of room in the empty house, so we decided to crash there for the night. Around 2 o’clock this morning, Jack took his overnight bag upstairs. He descended a few minutes later, wearing flannel pajamas. Immediately, Jim and I began peppering him with vaguely insulting questions. (“Do those have footies and a back flap?” “Did you come back down for cocoa, or to ask for story-time?”) With a sardonic look, Jack put on his Frankenstein boots and went outside to survey the deep snow blanketing the neighborhood.
As Jim and I continued to talk in the living room, I saw a bright flash of blue light through the front windows. Watching closely for a few moments, I saw it again and could tell that it was too bright to be coming from a streetlamp or car. Moments later, Jack came back inside and said he had seen it, too. He had determined the flashes were coming from a spot near the front porch of the house across the street. He said he recognized it as an electric arc – a potentially dangerous discharge from damaged wires.
Jim said the owner of the house was out of town. For a few minutes, we discussed our options. One of us argued that the situation wasn’t serious enough to rouse the town’s all-volunteer firefighters, or to disturb the other neighbors’ sleep with sirens. I don’t want to point fingers at that cowardly naysayer, but it was Jim Root. Jack and I successfully argued that the house might burn to the ground, and we should let an emergency dispatcher make the judgment call.
Springing into action, Jack grabbed his cell phone and made the call. Soon, we heard the loud, wailing siren that calls the volunteers to duty. Jim and I felt a bit uneasy as four fire engines and a police cruiser pulled up, unloading a dozen uniformed personnel. Jack, meanwhile, had gone outside again, facing a barrage of questions and the bitter wind in his high-water PJs. Apparently, the firefighters determined that the situation was indeed dangerous, because they entered the house with a neighbor’s spare key and cut the offending circuit.
Across the street, Jim and I entertained ourselves by creating a sort of commentary track for the scene unfolding outside the window. Jim assigned Jack a superhero name, and we co-created his fictional back-story. “He is the Night Sentinel, protecting America’s neighborhoods from faulty wiring. After decreasing the flammability of a citizen’s home, the Sentinel disappears into the snowy hills as mysteriously as he arrived. All that the hulking, plaid figure leaves behind are snowshoe-sized tracks and a grateful populace.”