Green Shirleen comes back from vacation

by Brian Clarey

Green Shirleen snuck up on me while I sat tapping my keyboard on the front porch of a coffee shop near downtown Greensboro, snuck right up and whispered in my ear, being careful, I suppose, not to blow out my eardrum. She can do this because, as the resident superhero and protector of the public, she’s imbued with a wealth of super powers, gale-force breathing and sneakiness being among them.

‘“Where ya been babe?’” I asked, a little irritated. I hate it when she does this. ‘“I haven’t seen you in months.’”

‘“Why it’s summertime darlin’,’” she said. ‘“I been on vacation.’”

She took a seat and grabbed my coffee, took a hearty swig.

‘“I do it every year,’” she said. ‘“You know that’… I got the big crimefighters convention ‘— we did it out in Vegas this year and I’ll tell ya, I love that town. We stayed at the Hard Rock and nobody even looked twice at us superhero types. Hell,’” she said, ‘“I even felt a bit underdressed.’”

That’s hard to imagine. Green Shirleen wears a shiny purple breastplate, long opera gloves and a cape as parts of her costume and around here it makes her stick out like a sunflower in a rosebush.

She pulled one of my smokes from out the pack and lit it with red beams from her eyes, took a deep drag that obliterated half of it at once and dropped the ash into the tray with a light flick.

‘“It was a little crazy this year,’” she said. ‘“You know that Boy Scout Superman was just busting out of his tights ‘— he’s got that big movie out this summer, you know, and it’s just gone straight to his head. Of course he dodged all those questions about his sexuality. Don’t that boy read the papers? He’s got half the media trying to figure out if he’s gay.’”

She finished the smoke with another deep pull and stubbed it in the tray before dumping the contents into a pouch on her belt and swabbing it out with one of those little wet wipes she keeps in a container at her side.

‘“You ask me, that boy don’t care nothing’ about sexuality at all’… he’s just too damn good for his own good, if you know what I mean. He does do an awful lot of preening and prancing. But you know, he is from another planet’… maybe that’s just how his people do.’”

‘“Right,’” I said.

‘“And then, you know, I hit out for the beach,’” she said. ‘“I like it way out there in Ocracoke. It’s real peaceful out there, you know. My girl Wonder Woman was trying to get me to shoot out to Hawaii on that invisible jet of hers, but I just don’t like riding around in that thing. I mean, if it’s invisible, how can you read all the instruments and whatnot? How do you even know where you parked it?’” She finished my coffee for me in a deep draught. ‘“And anyways, I’m a Carolina girl. Far as I’m concerned, these are the only beaches for me.’”

‘“Well we’ve missed you,’” I said. ‘“We could have used you during that bank robbing spree a few weeks ago.’”

‘“Yeah,’” she says, ‘“I heard something about that. Funny thing’… my boy Spider-Man was supposed to cover for me but he says he just can’t get around in Greensboro like he do in New York. Not enough big buildings for him to do his web-slinging thing, he says. His little bit may work up there in the big city, but down here you’ve got to be able to cover some ground. Honestly, just between you, me and the lamppost, I don’t see how anybody who can’t fly can call themselves a super.’”

She absentmindedly swept the table with her gloved hand.

‘“Cute kid though,’” she said, ‘“but I think he may be married.’”

‘“He is,’” I said. ‘“Didn’t you hear? He outed himself in Times Square. It was in the New York Post.’”

‘“You kidding me?’” she said. ‘“Humph. That’s why I don’t truck with all that secret identity flap. Me, I’m all Shirleen. What you see is what you get. So who is he, anyway.’”

‘“Some college kid,’” I said. ‘“But I think he’s been in college for like 30 years.’”

‘“You see that?’” she said. ‘“Once you start looking at us supers as actual people you take away some of our power. How’s he gonna walk around now? How’s he gonna instill fear in the hearts of his enemies?’” She stops to think for a moment.

‘“Humph,’” she said. ‘“A college kid. I’ll be damned.’”

‘“Well,’” I said, ‘“it’s good to have you back. I think the criminals may have gained a step while you were gone. Not to mention the city could use some picking up. We’ve got a festival this weekend, you know.’”

‘“Don’t I know it,’” she said, standing up from the table. ‘“Don’t you worry, son. I’m on it. Just give me a couple of days and it will all be back to normal.’” And with that she stepped off the porch of the coffee shop and took to the air.

‘“Relax, sweetie,’” she shouted. ‘“Everything’s gonna be just fine.’”

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