Just Like Spider-Man
"You're so fat that your high school yearbook photo was taken from a helicopter."
The Kingpin gritted his teeth angrily.
"Ooh, tough room. Ok how about, you're so fat that when you get on a scale it says: One at a time."
The big, fat, crime lord goes into a rage and screams in fury. His fists clenched, ready to kill.
Jason flips the page, eager to see what his hero does next.
"YOU SON OF A--!" Kingpin leaps right at him, but the costumed hero continues.
"Wait, wait. How about this one..."
Spider-Man leaps over the giant bald Kingpin, whose fists smashed into the nearby wall instead. Enraged even further, he spins around to see Spider-Man on the opposite wall.
"You're so fat..." Spider-Man began again and the Kingpin makes another punch. He misses. More debris goes flying.
"Murderer!" Spider-Man calls him, serious now.
The Kingpin screams, crying out for blood. He throws another punch.
The nimble hero jumps again out of harm's way. This time, webs streams out of his wrists and covers the Kingpin's face. With the enemy blinded, Spidey moves into position and...
He flips another page.
A burly, bearded man clears his throat behind the counter, stopping Spider-Man in his tracks.
"Sorry Jason, it's getting dark you should probably be getting home to your parents soon." Jason looks down at the page.
"But Spidey was just about to kick the Kingpin's butt!" he pouted, but as always he knows he has to wait till tomorrow after class. Jason knew that the owner Barry was almost always right about these things. The last time he tried to stay out late to read Batman issue #64, his dad gave him a good spanking after he got home.
"Well you know what? You go ahead and take that issue back with you, to be honest I'll be packin' up shop soon anyway." Barry said as he carried a box of old magazines out from behind the counter and headed towards the storeroom at the back of the store, squeezing through the narrow aisles of comic stands and then disappearing. Jason's heart skipped for a moment, but then he realised this wasn't the time to be happy.
"Yeah, the building didn't pass the safety inspection. If I don't renovate the place they'll shut it down - and I'm sorry kid, I just don't have that sort of money." Jason heard the voice say from behind the open door, and his heart sank. "I know you love these comics as much as I do, thanks for being my long time-loyal customer Jason." Barry re-emerged from behind the shelves with a metal bucket. He takes a look at the ceiling, and places it next to his chair behind the counter. "Looks like rain today."
The sky was grey and the clouds were thick, Jason noticed as he stepped outside the door. Barry was right again, no doubt there'll be some rain tonight. The boy turns around and looks into the display window of his after-school haven. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and Captain America, each one so heroic in their own way stood tall and proud, towering over his small reflection in the window. Behind the heroes, a tired man's figure sat hunched over the counter. Filled with disappointment, Jason turned and walked down the street towards his house as the sky grew darker. During the walk home Jason was lost in thought. What would Batman do? What would Spider-Man do? He asked in his head. Upon reaching home, the scent of roast chicken filtered into Jason's nostrils and for a second he forgot about the worries that burdened him just moments before. My favourite! He rushed up the front steps of his house and dropped his bag hurriedly.
The chicken was so tender and juicy, just the way Jason liked it. "Mmmmmm!" He let out a belch and leaned back in his chair. Jason's thoughts lingered on the meal for a brief moment - but good chicken didn't save childhood heroes. Just then his dad finishes with his plate and Jason decides to try his luck."Mum, Dad - they're closing down Barry's shop if he doesn't get money and get the shop fixed up! Can't we help him?" He crosses his fingers under the table, but already Jason could guess his parents' answers as he heard the slow release of his father's breath.
"You know honey we'd love to help but I'm sorry there's just no way..." His mum began, but his father cut in. "You hang out at that store too much Jason, you're time is better spent reading real books. I don't want you to fall behind at school." Jason cringes. "Plus we don't have that kind of money." And with that, he knew it was time to retreat to his room and get ready for bed. That night it was especially quiet. So quiet that Jason couldn't do anything but listen to his thoughts that were swirling around in his head. What would a superhero do? Both Batman and Ironman were rich, Superman and Spider-Man had jobs working at newspapers. At the end of the day, his heroes were grown-ups, and he had only just turned 9. Either way, he knew he had to do something to help, that's one thing all his heroes were sure to have done.
After racking his brain for hours, the only idea Jason could come up with was to busk on the street. Problem was he needed a talent that would get people to donate. He didn't know how to play any musical instruments, so that wasn't an option. Jason couldn't tap dance, juggle, or do any magic tricks. Feeling stuck, the image of Spider-Man looking down on him from the poster he has above his bed became daunting. On the wall to his left hung loosely a Spider-Man costume he wore last Halloween. He wished he could still fit in that costume sometimes.
"Wake up Jason or you're going to be late for school!!"
Jason stirred and woke up drowsily. Not feeling refreshed at all, he trotted down the stairs to sit at the table and poured himself a bowl of milk, and took a deep breath. He had come up with an idea during the night."It's what Spider-Man would do." Jason reassured himself. However, he needed a new costume so he decided he might ask Barry for help. After class ended Jason headed down to the familiar comic book store. Upon arriving he saw the figure of Barry standing in the display window, the superhero display making him look even more plump and unfit. He was hanging up a sign that said "Closed until further notice.", and as Jason read it his mood lowered a noticeable notch. Barry notices the boy looking and gestures for him to come inside, carefully stepping off the display stand to unlock the door. "Hey kid I'm really sorry, I hate to do this to ya. I know it hurts." Barry said and let out a heavy sigh, then he turned and started stacking boxes filled with comics next to the window.
"It was these super heroes that got me through my childhood, taught me how to be brave." He stops for a moment to decide what to say next, knowing he didn't want to burden the kid with the painful memories his past. "Don't worry 'bout me though, I've already applied for a job at that supermarket in town." He decided to add, trying to lift the mood. But Jason didn't want Barry to be working at the supermarket, he won't let it happen. With that thought, Jason spoke out.
"Barry do you have a Spider-Man suit I could borrow?" he took Barry by surprise, and the burly man turned with a confused look on his face.
When packing his bag the next morning, Jason took down his new Spider-Man costume and hid it at the bottom under his pencil case and books. "Remember, with great power, comes great responsibility Jason." Barry had said with a wide grin, and Jason remembered. Then suddenly, he felt a shiver down his spine and excitement built up inside him. Just now he realised, that this must have been what it was like for Peter Parker the first time he took his costume out to school too. Wow. Jason stood stunned for a moment, then slapped his bag onto his shoulder and ran down to catch the bus. Needless to say nothing other than the task he set for himself managed to enter his thoughts at school. When the bell rang at 3 Jason was first out the door. He needed to get to town as quickly as possible to make sure no one saw him get into costume at the public toilets. In his rush to get to town, Jason only stopped to peer down the street at the comic store. "Borton's Heroes" The sign was still readable from afar, the giant block-lettering in red and blue were faded yet stood out regardless. Seeing the sign gave Jason the motivation to continue walking even faster.
People swarmed in the centre of town like bees around a beehive. A nervous Spider-Man steps out of the public toilets on the other side of the mall parking lot. Immediately the crowd reacts to the cute little costumed hero, as he marched through the car park and stopped next to the mall entrance. He dropped a cap to the ground, and those that were around became curious as to what he might do next. Remembering the epic fights and rescues he's had in his room, Jason ignored the butterflies in his stomach and leaped onto the nearby empty bench.
"Let MJ go Doctor Octopus!" He shouted, pointing his wrists at no-one in particular, ready to shoot his invisible webs. Doctor Octopus throws MJ out towards the crowd.
"You can have her!" Jason yelled in a slightly deeper voice.
"No!!!" Spider-Man dives off the bench to catch his girlfriend in mid air and lands safely on the ground.
"C'mon Doc! Didn't your mother ever teach you that throwing a girl off a building was very rude thing to do?" Web shoots from Spider-Man's wrists and the next moment he's swinging through the city chasing after the evil villain jumping over rooftops.
Spidey had only beaten a few of his enemies before his hat was half-filled with coins and even some notes. Inside the costume it was hot, especially under the sun. The mask that was too big for him stuck loosely to his face, and Jason decided even Spider-Man needed rest sometimes. Holding his money-filled cap on the bench was a glorious moment. He's never had this much money before in his life, nor did he ever dream of making it not by doing chores, but by being a superhero. The thought sent another jolt of energy through Spider-Man's body and suddenly he jumped up again, this time confronting his nemesis the Kingpin.
"Kingpin, I made a list of what I wanted to say to you next time we met, so I wouldn't forget. You're so fat..."
The Kingpin didn't stand a chance.
A few hours later the centre of town became much quieter, and there were noticeably less people about. Spider-Man had beaten most of his villains to a pulp, some more than once. When more than 10-minutes had gone by and not a single coin made it into the hat Jason decided to pack up and go give Barry the money. The coins were weighty in his bag, but home wasn't too far and in this case, weighty meant good. Feeling accomplished and incredibly proud, Jason wanted to see Barry's face as he realised his store was saved. But first Jason wanted to get out of his sweaty costume. "But I must keep my secret identity safe!" he told himself - a superhero must not reveal their true identity! Jason knew this well and figured he'd better do the right thing just like the real Spider-Man, and started walking back through the car park. However the sticky mask was getting in the way again, a gust of wind blew it up over his face...
* * *
Jason opened his eyes slowly, his vision was blurred but there seems to be lots of people in the room by the sounds of chatter in hushed voices. He realises that was lying down and wondered what was going on. The figure of his parents came into view and a nurse sat him up, pushing pillows in behind his back. As his vision cleared Jason saw that his parents had worried expressions but they were also smiling, and outside the door strangers with cameras and microphones seemed eager to enter the room. Barry was also there, standing in the corner with a stack of comics.
"What's going on?" He asked, looking at the strangers curiously.
Barry approached first and placed a copy of the newest issue of Spider-Man, as well as a stack of Jason's other favourite comics next to him. "You're a real hero kiddo." He said, and stepped back to his previous spot."Hon, you were in an accident but luckily cars don't go very fast in car parks." Jason's mother said as she gave him a peck on the cheek. "They're from the local newspaper, they're here for your story." And with that the reporters started funnelling through the door into the room.
"My story?" he questioned, but then slowly the memories came flooding back.
One middle-aged lady stepped forward with a note pad and pen in her hand. "Yes Jason - Hi my name is Susan and I'm with the Daily Standard Newspaper. We all heard your story about raising money to save the local comic store, and thought it was an amazing thing you did! You made a real impression today in city centre with the public - we would like to print your story and help you in your cause." She said.
After a moment of thought, Jason decided.
"Alright," He said. "But you can't reveal my secret identity!"
The next day on page 3 an article sat below a picture of a young Spider-Man striking a pose from a hospital bed. The caption below read "Though we could not reveal the secret identity of young Spider-Man, we do know he is 9 years old and loves roast chicken." The article begins: "The superhero Spider-Man swung through the city centre yesterday and took out evil villains like Doctor Octopus and the Kingpin, in order to save the store that housed all his superhero comrades - Borton's Comics store. Upon hearing from the store owner Barry Borton (48) that the store had to close down..."
A few days later Borton's Comics had received enough donations to begin renovations. In the window next to the towering super heroes hung a picture of young Spidey with a newspaper article titled "Just like Spider-Man."