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22 April 2016 @ 03:24 pm
LJ Idol Friends & Rivals: "Somebody's Hero"  
Somebody's Hero
idol friends and rivals | week 19 | 1570 words


In the heartless streets of the city, there was a man who devoted himself to keeping his fellow citizens safe. Unlike most, his dedication wasn’t motivated by money or a retirement package. His choice was far nobler.

That man was Barnaby Corbenblatt, and his story was one for the ages.

Barnaby's mother, Mona Corbenblatt: "Hey, can you hurry this thing along already? My TV show's about to start."

Barnaby's mother raised him singlehandedly from the time he was four. "His father just had to keep bettin' on the ponies," Barnaby's uncle Saul Varnak said. "All it got him was a pair of cement shoes and a ticket to the Undersea Ball, if you know what I mean."

Barnaby's mother used to tell her son that his father was upstate, living on a farm. Barnaby thought it must have been a nice one, since the family dog had gone there too.

Barnaby's mother: "Eh, what are you gonna do? He was just a kid, he didn’t need to know."

In spite of those early years, or maybe because of them, Barnaby had very specific goals in mind. Even as a young child, he worked to bring about justice—whether it was on the playground or even public transportation.

Barnaby's mother: "The boy was always putting himself in the middle of things. He didn't have the sense God gave a goat."

At the age of five, Barnaby took to rescuing orphaned snails and keeping them in the bathtub until his mother made him stop. In the second grade, he told the class bully to give back his knapsack. The bully decided to give him a broken arm instead. Two years later, Barnaby lost the same argument with a neighborhood dog.

Undaunted, he looked for opportunities to serve his community and right wrongs. Many an afternoon was spent watching over the neighborhood. "Get off the roof before you hurt yourself," his mother would say, but Barnaby knew there was work to be done.

When he was ten Barnaby foiled a subway purse-snatcher with the aid of an umbrella. "Geez, now he'll never quit," said Mrs. Corbenblatt, in a quote to the Yonkers Tribune. Barnaby was already a Boy Scout, but in the next few years he also joined the Neighborhood Watch program and became a member of the school Traffic Safety Patrol. Those extra activities were his true mission. The hours he spent going to school and doing homework just served to lay the foundation for the “cover job” he would someday hold to help hide his secret identity.

He recruited several friends to join in his schemes. They spent hours discussing superhero names and special powers, drawing ongoing diagrams of city districts (or, “crime pockets”) and documenting plans for handling each area's problems.

“Get this mess off the table,” Mona Corbenblatt would say. “We’re having dinner in ten minutes!”

Barnaby's early partners, Steve and Buddy, grew more interested in baseball and girls during high school, and soon the Vengeance League consisted only of him.

Craig "Buddy" Broder: "He was kind of obsessed, but it was his thing, you know?"

In college, Barnaby found his calling in escorting coeds back to their dorms after dark, and performing a number of self-assigned duties that included being a one-man recycling-enforcement squad.

Barnaby toyed now and then with the idea of wearing a superhero uniform. He had tried and abandoned capes when he was eleven, finding that they just made people laugh. Tights were out, and masks made other people nervous. He'd thought he might at least get to wear a nice pair of shiny boots, but the boots held the same attraction for dogs as a wagonload of beef jerky. Being chased up and down the streets by hordes of slobbering mutts was even more embarrassing than the lessons he'd learned about wearing capes.

If nothing else, Barnaby wanted a superhero name. He'd thought about being the Blue Crusader, but those were the same initials as his real name, which seemed unwise. He tried Protecto-Man—his uncle Saul spit vodka all over the kitchen counter when he heard that one—and Sword of Justice. "Are you gonna carry an actual sword?" Saul asked. "Because if not, what's the point?"

Now Barnaby thought of himself as the Silver Shield. Not that he actually used a shield, because that would be stupid, but that was his function. He protected people from criminals.

Not that his efforts were always appreciated. Once, after tackling a robber who tried to escape on a crosstown bus, Barnaby was stuck in the hospital for two days with a broken arm. The mayor made a formal visit to thank him, but once the cameras were gone he said, "Kid, you've gotta stop doing this. We have a police force, let 'em do their jobs."

Barnaby nodded, but he said nothing because he knew the truth. The police couldn't be everywhere.

Recovering from the broken arm wasn't as easy as it had been when Barnaby was a boy.

Stu Gaines, shift manager at New England Metal Manufacturing: "Work was kind of a vague concept for Barnaby. He would disappear in the middle of a shift, or go up to the roof and spend hours doing God knows what. But with that arm, he couldn't even push a broom, so we had to let him go."

Barnaby had never moved out of his childhood home. Without a job, he found himself stuck there day and night, always in his mother's way. Mona had retired a couple of years earlier, and spent most of her days watching soap operas or playing canasta with her friends. Barnaby had too much time and too little to fill it, and found himself re-examining his life.

Should he continue his dedication to fighting crime? Or should he focus on more common goals like finding a better job, and maybe even a girlfriend? So far, the second option seemed to be in direct conflict with the first one.

Barnaby's mother: "I tried to encourage him over the years—well okay, maybe not encourage, more like stop him from getting himself killed. He had this big dream, and he loved it, but it never seemed to love him, see what I'm saying?"

Even the rooftop view of the city—his city—offered no guidance. He was sidelined at the moment, and maybe knowing he couldn't help anyone made him see things differently. Down below, everything seemed to bustle or drift along on its own.

The city was just a city, not a problem that needed to be solved.

One night, after an evening in which Barnaby read "What Color Is Your Cape?" in his bedroom while his mother binge-watched Jersey Shore out in the living room, Barnaby suddenly woke up. It was dark, well after three a.m., and—

There. He'd heard a noise. Someone was in the house.

Barnaby opened his door quietly and peered out. He saw a small flashlight beam move slowly across the living room shelves, and stared into the darkness until he could make out the person holding it. Short, and not too big. Barnaby slipped out of his room.

He was sneaking up behind the person, almost within reach of an end-table lamp, when his mother's bedroom door opened. The flashlight beam was on her instantly, and Mona screamed.

Barnaby had no time to think about lamps or whether the intruder was armed—he lunged forward and whacked the person in the head with his cast. With a solid thunk and a cut-off yell, the intruder crashed to the floor.

Barnaby turned on the light.

He didn't recognize the man, who was in his fifties and utterly unconscious. The man's gear seemed more suited to burgling than anything, though he'd picked a lousy place to rob unless he really liked ceramic chickens.

"Who the heck is that?" Mona asked.

"Just a burglar, I think."

"Huh. Well, you sure got him! Pow!"

Barnaby laughed and looked at his cast. "I sure did."

"And look at this, you saved us this time. Isn't that something! My own built-in superhero." Mona came over and hugged him. "You did great. I'm proud of you, son."

The police came and hauled the burglar away. "Aren't you that guy who made a citizen's arrest on a robber a few weeks ago?" one of the officers asked.

"He sure is!" said Mrs. Corbenblatt.

Once the reports had been filed and the dining room window had been fixed, Barnaby's mother went back to her TV shows and visiting friends. Barnaby looked through the Wanted ads in the newspaper, trying to decide what his next move should be.

He still wasn't sure whether he was looking for employment as a side-job, or whether he was ready to walk away from crime-fighting altogether. But somehow, he felt that would sort itself out on its own.

He had accomplished… something. He couldn't describe exactly what it was, but there was a sense of "conclusion," as if he'd finished something important.

Maybe there were no right answers, or maybe he just hadn't found them yet, but whatever burden he'd been carrying had been lifted. He could keep being the Silver Shield or he could be Barnaby, or he might even find a way to be both.

Whatever happened, he would be satisfied. He had nothing he needed to prove to anyone now.

Not even to himself.


Voting info: I am in a team this week, where votes for the team as a whole count. Our poll is here, and all team polls for reading and voting are here.

lriG rorriMlrig_rorrim on April 23rd, 2016 01:58 pm (UTC)
This is adorable! I thought about doing a super-hero origin story for aegis myself, and I'm glad I didn't, because yours is fantastic. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 23rd, 2016 05:16 pm (UTC)
So glad you liked it-- I'm looking forward to seeing what you did with it. I felt daunted as soon as I realized you'd chosen it!

If you'd gone this route, I suspect your super-hero would have been truly super, instead of just single-minded, ordinary, and not entirely competent. :D
(no subject) - lrig_rorrim on April 25th, 2016 04:35 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on April 25th, 2016 05:13 pm (UTC) (Expand)
orockthroorockthro on April 23rd, 2016 04:35 pm (UTC)
I agree! This was very sweet. The structure was nice, and I enjoyed the voices, especially his mothers! Very fun. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 24th, 2016 06:33 am (UTC)
You kind of have to love the earnestness of someone like Barnaby, even if he isn't as successful as he wants to be. Does he even know? Or is it all about the mission?

And the dry style and other characters were what made this such fun to write. I did not know Uncle Saul was going to join this until he showed up during a restructuring edit. :O
bleodsweanbleodswean on April 23rd, 2016 05:05 pm (UTC)
I really enjoy your style and your humour. This entry is both amusing but also speaking to a kind of higher good, the desire for the everyman to be superman!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 24th, 2016 06:36 am (UTC)
As unaware of his own limited abilities as Barnaby was (which was what drove the humor angle), he was also driven entirely by the feeling that he was needed and that he was helping. Fame and image were never the attraction, and think of how much better the world would be if there were more people like him in it!
whipchick: pic#125642089whipchick on April 24th, 2016 02:36 am (UTC)
I love the dark humor in

Barnaby thought it must have been a nice one, since the family dog had gone there too

And the sense of haplessness throughout. The documentary feel was great! Love that it ended pretty happily, too :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 24th, 2016 06:40 am (UTC)
Hahaha! That used to be what parents told their kids about dogs they'd either given away (people used to give up on pets much to easily) or that had died: they're living on a nice farm now. When our son's second hamster died of wet tail within a couple of months of the first one, we told him it had to go stay at the vet's. The truth was too heartbreaking. So, I can't really judge.

I'm glad you liked the structure as well as the approach with the humor. It's kind of the prompt and anti-prompt all at once, until it ultimately becomes completely true. :)
cindy: misc fictsuki_no_bara on April 24th, 2016 06:09 am (UTC)
this is so sweet! barnaby is trying so hard to be a superhero, and the one crime-buster thing he actually accomplishes is to whack a burglar in his own house with his cast.

edited to ask unrelatedly if you ever got my email about my bigbang title. i sent it to you at gmail because that's what autofilled for your name, but i don't know if that's the best address.

Edited at 2016-04-24 06:17 am (UTC)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 24th, 2016 06:43 am (UTC)
He did actually get a few criminals along the way, though he paid a price now and then, too. That's the problem nowadays if you don't have superpowers-- criminals are too dangerous for unarmed citizens! But once his mother finally saw him as the hero he'd wanted to be, that made all the difference.

I did get your email! I've been pondering in the background (between writing this entry earlier in the week and fighting the brain fog from too little sleep). Will keep thinking, and try to let you know in a day or two?
(no subject) - tsuki_no_bara on April 24th, 2016 04:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on April 25th, 2016 05:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Pika the Brazen Ninjaporn_this_way on April 24th, 2016 09:01 am (UTC)
"though he'd picked a lousy place to rob unless he really liked ceramic chickens." - The mental image this called up made me laugh far harder than it probably should have. I love the voice you used for this!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 25th, 2016 02:58 am (UTC)
You just know Mona is the type of person who would collect those. Rooster kitsch!

I'm lad you liked the voices in this-- that's part of what made writing this so much fun!
swirlsofblueswirlsofblue on April 24th, 2016 10:03 am (UTC)
Sweet story, amusing and a lovely twist on the idea of being a superhero.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 25th, 2016 05:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm glad you liked it, and thanks for reading!
rayasorayaso on April 24th, 2016 05:59 pm (UTC)
This was a wonderful combination of humor, sweetness, absurdity, and understanding. One of the nicest things about it is that while Barnaby was a comic figure, you did not make fun of him. I loved the ending, with Barnaby no longer haunted by his superhero dream, but open to all possibilities. I hope, in the end, he gets a girlfriend. Simply wonderful!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 25th, 2016 06:14 pm (UTC)
I'm glad the affection for the characters came through as much as the humor did!

while Barnaby was a comic figure, you did not make fun of him.
And I'm glad you noticed that part. His single-mindedness is funny, especially when his devotions become more "epic" than the results, and the whole thing is kind of bizarre and sometimes frustrating to the people around him. But Barnaby believes wholeheartedly in what he's doing, and the devotion is because he's convinced that it matters. Sometimes, it really does. So, his willingness to go beyond the ordinary-- especially with what it has cost him in his personal life-- is an admirable quality. His choices may not be 'wise,' but they are unquestionably sincere!

It's kind of like the fine line the Simpsons walks with Ned Flanders. His earnest Pollyannaism is mocked by the other characters, and at times it really IS funny. But there's no doubt about his beliefs, or that he exemplifies and is committed to all of the best parts of his religion. There isn't a hypocritical bone in his cartoon body, and I wonder if the subtlety of that is something most people notice?

I tried not to be THAT subtle here, just in case, but I think it's clear that Barnaby does what he does because he feels other people need that. He's not looking for glory, he just wants to help people when they need it.
fodschwazzle on April 25th, 2016 06:32 pm (UTC)
My favorite part about this was the parenthetical comments from the mom. I feel like this could be a picturebook aimed at a slightly older crowd--sweet and funny but not too much so.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 25th, 2016 06:39 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean-- the mother is so solidly a product of her era, and there are a lot of people who would recognize her as someone they knew or know... or ARE. :O

Glad you enjoyed this! :)
alycewilson: KFP 2015alycewilson on April 25th, 2016 07:12 pm (UTC)
Love the Mom interrupting! We tend to do that.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 25th, 2016 07:40 pm (UTC)
And can you blame her? With the craziness and the mess, and then getting himself hurt... it'll drive you nuts. Say, you want some coffee cake? I made it just this morning.

(no subject) - alycewilson on April 25th, 2016 10:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Murielle: Scrunchedmurielle on April 25th, 2016 10:37 pm (UTC)
Aw! You made me smile!

The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 25th, 2016 10:47 pm (UTC)
Yay! So happy to bring some glee into your life. :D
prog_schlockprog_schlock on April 25th, 2016 11:13 pm (UTC)
His superhero name can be... The Cast... Every time he breaks a limb, he gains a new plaster weapon in the fight against evil.

I really dig the character arc here. There's what he thinks he want and what he really wants. What he really wants is some sort of acknowledgement of his value from somebody he cares about and, once he gets its, he can let go of what he thinks he wants. Of course, one never knows when he'll hear the call of justice again...

I couldn't help but think of this song and video:

The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 25th, 2016 11:21 pm (UTC)
So often, what we really want (or need) is not what we think it is. Though I think Barnaby will probably still be interested in saving people, I don't think it will be quite as all-consuming of the rest of his life now as it was before.

I had a bet with myself going over whether you'd pick this song or R.E.M.'s "Superman." Those were the two I immediately thought of for this type of story. :D
(no subject) - prog_schlock on April 25th, 2016 11:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)