Green Shirleen returns from vacation in the nick of time

by Brian Clarey

Green Shirleen touched down on my driveway with one stiletto-heeled, thigh-high boot of metallic purple, matching exactly her breastplate and the stylish belt where she keeps all her doodads, like the moist disinfectant wipes and the little vacuum hose. She’s got a bit of the obsessive-compulsive cleaning disorder, Green Shirleen does, but as the resident superhero of Greensboro this malady serves her – and the rest of us – well. I was leaning against my car having a smoke when she touched ground with a light click. I took a couple drags before I looked over to her. “Well well well,” I said. “Here she is. Our protector.” I laid a little sarcasm into that that last word, drawing it out and making some air quotes with the cigarette clenched between two fingers. The smoke swirled near my face. “I guess you super types can just flit off any time you want,” I said. “‘Up, up and away,’ right? You could probably make it to the Caribbean in… what, a couple hours?” “Forty minutes or so, honey,” she said in that syrupy drawl. “And what’s gnawin’ on your knees, anyway? You know I like my time off. Besides, if I remember correctly it was you sent me off. Callin’ me a ‘device’ and all. Talkin’ ’bout your ‘integrity’ and all.” It was her turn to make air quotes, but because she has super powers she can move her fingers fast enough to break the sound barrier, causing sharp cracking noises that are, in fact, sonic booms. It’s a great trick, but I wasn’t in the mood for tricks. I crushed my cigarette into the ground. “This has nothing to do with us,” I said. “Do you know what’s been going on around here? Look around you. There’s goddamn gang graffiti all over this neighborhood. We’ve got packs of teenagers cruising the streets at night – Do you know I’m afraid of teenagers now? – and the stores in this part of town are getting hit like every weekend.” I was getting steamed. “And where the hell were you,” I said, “when those two pricks broke into my house a couple months ago? They came right in through the bedroom window. My boys were sleeping at the foot of my bed! Where the hell were you?” Her posture changed. She came over to the car and leaned against it with me. “You got anything to drink?” she asked. “No,” I said flatly. “And I don’t feel much like drinking.” She pulled an immaculate metallic purple flask from her belt, spun the cap and bubbled it a couple times. She passed it to me and I turned it up some. When I handed it back she wiped my fingerprints from it and pouched it in her belt. “I didn’t hear about that one, honey,” she said. “Was you scared?” “You’re goddamn right I was scared,” I said. “I’ve never been so scared. I’m still scared.” “Well what on earth did you do?” “I don’t know,” I said. “I called 911 on my cell. Then I yelled at them and chased them off.” “Really?” Was she impressed? “Well, in my experience that’s what you have to do. You have to protect those that need protectin’. It’s like a instinct.” She paused. “Got a smoke for me?” She never has her own smokes. Says she can’t be seen buying them. Image and all. I flipped her one and she lit it with those red lasers in her eyes, sucked the whole thing down in one pull as she likes to do. “Another thing,” she said. “Confronting evil – and that’s what you did – confronting evil is a scary business. Even for me. “I remember back in the day,” she continued, “I was working with this team of supers, the Righteous Brigade, we called ourselves – this was back in the early seventies, don’t you know. It was my first job after super school-” “There’s a super school?” “Well of course there is,” she said. “You don’t think we just throw on a cape and go fighting crime all willy-nilly, do you? Anyway. It was my first gig, and we was up against… what was that feller’s name? Oh yeah, Agent Orange, he called hisself, and he was gonna-” “Kill all the trees?” I said “Somethin’ like that. Anyways, he had this henchman, Clockwork, like Clockwork Orange? Wore the whole codpiece and bowler hat and all? You just don’t see costumed super villains like that anymore. Nobody puts out the effort anymore. Come to think of it you don’t see too many super villains with that sense of motif like ol’ Agent Orange had,” “Anyway,” I said. “Anyway, ” she said, ” ol’ Clockwork was a mean sumbitch. A little slow in the head, but strong as any of us. He near about tore poor Curlicue in two. He scared me real bad.” “Did you take him down?” “Well,” she said, “not exactly. You know how I have a super sense of smell?” I nodded. It was true – she could sniff out a marble in a compost heap. “Well I singled out ol’ Clockwork’s smell, and I could catch a whiff of him if he was within a mile or so. When I smelt him, I’d phone in the reinforcements – the Tan Canary, K-9, Curlicue, X-ray Ray, Commander Boom and the rest – and we’d monitor him, watch his moves, and when he stepped out of line – Wham! We’d come down on him like a truck full of keg beer.” “Huh.” I chewed on it for a minute. “So I should wait by my house, watching everybody and then when they get close I should… ambush them?” She shook her head. “No honey. I’m just tellin’ you a story, is all.” She made to take off again. “Hang tight,” she said. “Keep your eyes open and your windows locked. And maybe you should think about getting’ you a piece.” “A piece of what?” I asked. She shook her head again and clucked this time, and then she launched herself over the treetops at the edge of my neighborhood. “Don’t worry, honey,” she called to me. “Everything’s gonna be just fine.”

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