It’s been a while since I did one of Sue’s #writephoto prompts but here we go again….
In a world of superheroes Vernon Ongar wasn’t your typical vigilante. He wore corduroy to begin with and parted his hair to the left which would usually disqualify anyone from a role as any sort of caped crusader. His parents, Dryden and Villy Ongar knew from his birth that he would disappoint – he entered the world arse first, curled into a tight ball with his hands protecting his head rather than in the approved manner: streamlined body, right arm straight ahead topped with a neatly clenched fist.
‘He’ll be in admin too.’ Dryden, who worked in the civil service and had hoped his son might join the ranks of the applauded, couldn’t hide his disappointment.
Villy nodded, imagining what her father would say. He wouldn’t cut the little boy any slack.
At super-school, all children were given the chance to shine and, while Vernon did his best, his tendency to ‘do a foetus’ whenever threatened led to his being labelled ‘sub-super’ from an early stage.
But Vernon wasn’t lacking in ambition. He understood there was a lack of suitable candidates for all the posts and that super-couples were often too busy confronting villains or unblocking sewers to create the next generation of the super-strong. All he had to do was find a suitable need, a gap in the already saturated market of super-slayers and super-sayers and he would surprise his family and, maybe, gain a sliver of respect from his Grandpa.
Grandpa Thump Mightie was a super-human of dynastic proportions: odes were written about his thighs, artists competed to capture the exact hue that his in-flight buttocks exuded and musicians struggled to replicate the harmonics when he crashed through the sound barrier, fist pumping and beard flaying. He was a busy soul, though years of smashing through locked doors and solid walls had left him with a distinct list to the left and an arthritic elbow. All he wanted was a little bit of peace and quiet but all he got was sycophants and fawning and none more so than when he returned to his family. The one member of the Mightie clan who didn’t follow the herd was his daughter’s weedy boy, Vernon, whom Thump secretly admired for having the balls to ignore his baiting.
It was the worst time of year for Thump: Christmas, when he had five straight days with his family gathered around, when he had to pretend to be cheerful and full of good spirit. As he stood, ho-ho-hoing and regaling the sea of besotted upturned faces with tales of derring-do, Vernon sat by the fire, in a world of his own, paying the grandmaster no attention.
‘Hey, boy. Vivian. Why the long face?’
‘It’s Vernon and I hate Christmas.’
‘Really? All the presents and treats?’
‘I only ever get given stationary and post-its while the rest get swords and capes and superfast shoes.’
Thump eased his way across the room and bent to the young man’s ear. ‘Well, if you hate it so much – and you’re not the only one – do something about it.’
Vernon met his grandfather’s steady gaze and something undefinable passed between them. Could he? Should he? It was as if his grandfather understood what he was thinking. He nodded once and lolloped back to the waiting group, describing an arc as he fought his increasing tilt.
Given Christmas comes but once a year, Vernon had a lot of time to prepare his strategy. He knew he wouldn’t be universally popular and, indeed, some might consider him a super-villain. He also knew that his inclination to curl into a ball might inhibit his attempts to bring Christmas back under control. Attacking Santa directly, therefore could prove to be a step too far, at least until he obtained a sense of how much support he had. He would focus, not so much on the product as on the mode of delivery and, specifically the bloody reindeer. On the plus side they weren’t human so couldn’t undermine him with withering sarcasm. Against that, they had horns.
He would have to take careful and considered steps. Indeed, he realised, utilizing his skills as an administrator could be a help rather than an embarrassment. It proved surprisingly easy: no one paid attention when he called upon a little-known statute to demand an inspection of the reindeer stables; barely anyone noticed when it turned out that the (doctored) report showed the presence of significant traces of deer-foot; and it was too late for the outcry when the edict was issued to cull Santa’s whole flight three days before the Great Dispatch, giving the old boy no time to train up a replacement service.
The headlines were tendentious and full of vitriol. Who could be such a Grinch? Who was this Scrooge? Answers were demanded.
Thump Mightie has his suspicions. He began to spread stories about a hero who was trying to return Christmas to its true roots, to eradicate the consumerism and commercialism that had eradicated the joyous but simple original message. Some commentators began to echo Thump’s sentiments and the calls to find the perpetrator began to include an element of adoration.
It was Christmas morning. Everyone gathered around the tree. Presents were to be exchanged. Vernon held back and at the very end approached his grandfather with a neatly wrapped box. Once again, the Old Hero and Young Pretender exchanged a look as the paper was carefully removed.
‘What the heck?’ ‘Is that sick, or what?’
The chorus from the cousins and nephews and nieces was aimed at Vernon; the old man, however held the shield aloft, the three be-horned skulls proudly affixed to the front. In his best calming voice, he spoke over the others. ‘Are these Santa’s deer?’
‘You are the Misocrimbalist?’
Vernon nodded again.
The family goggled. ‘He can’t be. He’s useless.’ ‘That is hateful.’ ‘He doesn’t have it in him.’
No one would believe Vernon could rise to such a place. His grandfather tilted his head, as much because he had to as to ask the obvious question. ‘How do we know these are those deer?’
Slowly and with due ceremony Vernon pulled his hand from his pocket held in the superhero’s signature, the clenched fist. He raised his arm and opened his hand. Nestling in the centre was a small nose, glowing red. Yes, Vernon had truly arrived.
*I made it up…