the ladder - blueprint (part 3)

The Ladder – An experimental web-only fiction series that spans multiple story lines and characters…Tune in every Wednesday for a new installment.

The way to the hospital took them through residential neighbourhoods pitting flat-roofed houses and leftover bungalows against sizeable Ficus trees whose thick gnarly roots, pushing up and splitting concrete, wreaked havoc on the sidewalks. Eriq withdrew gloomily into himself, thinking of his brother, then trying not to think of him by cataloguing superheroes with addiction problems. Tony Stark, of course: Iron Man vs the “demon in the bottle.” Or before he was born, though he had many of those old issues, the Green Arrow’s sidekick Roy Harper, aka Speedy - Dennis O’Neal and Neal Adams’ memorable foray into the harrowing realm of heroin addiction. It was no Requiem for a Dream, but for comics it had been pretty intense. But Aaron was no hero. Just some punk with daddy issues. His mother would say the same of him. At least Eriq has his art. Aaron had shown an aptitude for math and science, but came to view it as pointless in light of his friends’ obsession with basketball and vandalism.

Vlad also thought of superheroes, noting that even the movie Hancock staked a claim for itself with an alcoholic superhero. But other than stories of heroics directed against drug dealers and powerful cartels, or the personal drama of overcoming addiction, what more was there to say? What kind of hero could rescue a drug addict from addiction?

Eriq considered a superhero with mind control abilities. Or maybe a superhero who could cure addiction by entering into people’s dreams. Certainly his dad wouldn’t be the hero Aaron needed, and his mother was overwhelmed. A story told thousands of times before – broken homes, devils in small plastic bags, all the usual heartaches. It all sucked. Stupid Aaron. He should know better – look at why Dad ran out.

Vlad didn’t entertain fantasies about a superhero who could rescue Aaron. It struck him as condescending, however much he had to admit it fit the challenge of coming up with a better Superman than Superman. As the trope went, we want to look up to heroes whose moral steadfastness inspires us to greatness. But it needed to be more than that. It needed to be…something. He didn’t know what. His own family background – Russian immigrants to the New World – was relatively free of the stuff of unnatural tragedy. Papa Kossakovsky, an autodidact librarian, and Mama, a housewife who had taken to gardening as a hobby and then a business, were ever-fixed marks that remained firmly unshaken by storm and

In the back seat, Mrs. Robertson stared out the window of Vlad’s venerable Jetta, chewing her lip and unconsciously removing her dark cherry lipstick. No thoughts of implausibly proportioned costumed heroes. No adventures in space or parallel dimensions. No saviour, except for a Jesus Christ who seemed ever more a fading wish. Only memories of a young girl in the community college’s nursing program, the handsome young English major with literary ambitions, an impetuous night in the janitor’s closet making love to the scent of pine-sol and rusty pipes. But forget all that: her baby was in the hospital, overdosed on whatever flavour-of-the-month of poison he’d ingested.

No comments: