(A few years back–around the time of the Brand New Day story-line–I was having a bad day, filled with much self doubt. Our fearless leader, JC Carter, suggested I write a Spider-Man story where Peter is struggling with such feelings. I wrote it within less than two hours, and here it is. Remember, this is FAN FICTION and not an official work of the Marvel Group or its parent company. Oh and happy birthday, JC!)
There were only three of them—only three. When you’ve faced Galactus and fought in the secret wars, three hoods dragging a woman into an alley seems like nothing more than taking out the trash or putting dishes in the machine… not that I own a dishwasher, but you get my point.
I’d been at the Bugle earlier and my mind was a mess, but that’s for later. What you need to know now is that crime fighting was the furthest thing from my mind as I was walking down the sidewalk that night—focused on my private soap opera and not the world around me—the Parker-luck, as I call it, was spiraling me down toward new depths of self pity, and I was lost; even more than usual. I guess even at 26, I’m still full of teenage angst.
I was almost to the intersection when I heard the woman scream. I heard her scream. I can’t emphasize that point enough. You’ll get the importance later, if you haven’t already—true believer. Sorry, couldn’t help but throw that last part in. Anyhow, back to the action of this action story. I heard the woman scream and knew I had no time to lose or she was dead. I rushed headlong into the alley—shedding my outerwear while pulling on my webbed red and black mask and gloves. I didn’t seem to have the normal Spidey gusto or speed to my movements. This bothered me, I remember, but I couldn’t stop and analyze what it could mean. Spider-Man was needed, and I was he.
The lights from the street reached back into the alley in fainter and fainter volume as I raced to the rescue. I found the woman and her attackers toward the back wall—practically lost in shadow. I could still see the reflective and fearful tears in the woman’s green eyes as she just managed to turn her restrained head toward me—a hand covering her mouth and muscled tattooed arms were fiercely restraining her arms and legs as one of the men reached for her no-no areas. The rage I had felt from earlier—from my personal problems and a life in tatters—roared inside me like a lion and I barely managed to throw in a trademark quip before launching into the fray.
“You eager beavers forgot the rules of courting,” I told the trio of lowlifes as my muscles tensed and I readied myself for what was to come. “One at a time, and keep your hands to yourself until at least the fifth or sixth attack.”
Not my quip-iest quip, I admit, but I wasn’t looking to impress these creeps. I grabbed the nearest thug—Grabby-Hands we’ll call him—and tried to yank him away from the victim. It should have been as simple as tossing pennies into a fountain. He should have flown back as great speed—courtesy of Spider Airlines—and crashed into the brick wall behind me… but he didn’t. He barely budged. He swung around and I saw his elbow flying toward me. Again with the annoying emphasis, but it’s important. I saw his elbow coming. I didn’t sense it before it started moving. I barely managed to move back in time… well, mostly. The boney tip of his elbow struck my nose and blood spurted forth—my eyes watered and I nearly fell down. Not that anyone could see that. It was a dark alley after all and my red mask pretty much hid the telltale blood seeping to the surface.
My right fist swung out—almost by reflex—and I hit the guy right in the jaw. He staggered, but he didn’t fall. He should have fallen. I finally started to clue in on what was wrong. Had the life of another not been on the line, I would’ve beaten a quick retreat, but I didn’t have that luxury. I was in the thick of it and would either sink or swim; something I’m sure the Submariner thinks constantly… if he wasn’t so damn sure of himself all the time that is.
Anyhow—back to the action—I knew I couldn’t punch and kick my way through this. I’d learned to fight in my years as a friendly neighborhood hero, but all my technique counted on me having Spider strength, speed and agility to back it up. Fortunately, and contrary to what you may have learned from the movies, my patented web shooters (well, patent pending; I’d kind of have to reveal my secret ID to get a real patent on them) were manmade and not reliant on my powers working. I aimed my left hand at the bad guys and pressed down on the button with my middle two fingers like I always do. Trouble was that there was no button! I only then realized something else. The shooters had been gumming up and misfiring in recent days and I had been trying to fix them when I got the call from the hospital about Aunt May. I had left them on my worktable at my small studio apartment. Even if I had remembered them there would’ve been no guarantee they’d work, I knew, but faulty web shooters beat no web shooters at all; especially when you find yourself powers-light and in a fight.
The other two guys tossed the woman onto the ground and moved toward me.
“Get up and run!” I instructed the frightened woman, but it was as though her mind couldn’t process my words. “Don’t just stare at me, you idiot! Run!”
She couldn’t move. Her attackers had no such trouble. A heavy steel-toed boot impacted against my gut, knocking the air out of me and sending me careening backwards into a covey of trash cans… can cans come in covey form? Anyhow, as I hit the cans I heard the woman whimper and cry. I wanted to do the same. This was bad. As the three guys closed in on me I could hear them laughing at my expense.
“I thought Spider Guy was supposed to be tough,” one of them said to the others.
“He is,” another replied, “but this poser ain’t Spider-Man. He’s just some punk who made a costume with his mommy’s sewing machine and thought he’d play hero.” Then his steel toed boot found my ribs. Crack! Blinding pain. “Ain’t that right, Spider-Poser?”
I ignored the pain and sat up. The woman was still on the ground—watching this debacle with shock and disbelief. No doubt she was just as surprised by my failings as I was. I knew I was in for it, but with all eyes on me, this could be her chance.
“Damn it, do you have wax build up, lady? We don’t have the time or the cue-tips to deal with that right now!” I growled at her in-between painful breaths. “Get up and get the hell out of here!”
Finally, she heard me. She bounced back to her feet and took off. One of the men turned as if to chase her, but another one—let’s call him Steel-Toe—stopped him.
“We know where she lives, dude,” he told the other one. “We can find her later. Let’s finish this fool first!”
The third goon listened to Steel-Toe, and along with Grabby-Hands, all of them returned their attention solely on helpless little me. The lowlife trio all sneered and snickered as they closed in. My imagination almost added hyena laughter. Steel-Toe pulled a handgun out of his waist band. Grabby-Hands flipped a switch blade out of his back pocket, and the third one started wrapping a length of chain around his fist. I guess we should name him Chain-Fist. The good news is now we all had names with hyphens in them. The bad news was that my hyphen was about to be erased… along with the words Spider and Man.
I couldn’t believe this was how I was going to go; killed by three unknown street thugs with silly hyphenated names I had given them in my head. Boy would Doc Ock and the King Pin be pissed off—not that I was dead, but that minor leaguers offed me.
The past week flashed in my head.
First my love life had fallen apart. Mary Jane was off to Hollywood and determined to be better off without me.
Second, my web shooters had almost failed me a couple of times and Spider-Man was taking a huge pounding in the press for all sorts of things real and imagined—thanks in no small part to Jolly Jonah and the Bugle special editions he kept rushing to print.
Thirdly, Harry and I were feeling the frosty. He kept lending me money but couldn’t be bothered to listen to me. Not that I could ever tell him everything on my mind. “Hey, Harry. I’m really Spider-Man and was partly responsible for your father’s death. He did kill Gwen and all and you were on drugs at the time, but I’m sorry. Hey, now listen to me bitch and moan about my life for an hour. Forget the super models waiting for you in the hot tub.” Yeah, I’m sure that would be a fun conversation. I blew up at him during our last real life conversation, telling him how he was the only person I thought I could count on, but he had let me down too much. I wasn’t then surprised when he wouldn’t answer my phone calls earlier in the day when I had called about Aunt May.
Which brings me to fourthly, I means to say fourth, on the hit parade. Aunt May had had a relapse on her heart condition and was in the ICU. Her insurance was revoked and the hospital was threatening to release her as soon as she stabilized and not give her the full follow up care she’d need to survive. I had called Harry in hopes he could open his heart and wallet to me yet again, but I’d torched that bridge. I went into the Bugle and asked J.J. for an advance on future photos. The old skinflint laughed in my face. I then demanded back pay for all the photos he’d underpaid me for all these years. He threw me out of the office and told me to grow up and get over myself.
I had been wandering around trying to form a plan when I had heard that woman scream and then rushed headlong into the dark alley where now I knew I would die. I guess it was a fitting end to a failed life. I mean, yeah, I was the Amazing Spider-Man, but did that matter to anyone who knew Peter Parker? No… of course not. Peter Parker was just some guy bouncing back and forth from his Aunt’s house in Queen’s to one run down studio in the city after another. He was just a former high school science and photography geek, always chasing female companionship way outside of his league and then falling into self pity when they inevitably broke his heart.
And since I was about to die, I decided it was time I stopped fooling myself about Spider-Man too. The fact was, as a hero, I had never earned my spot, no matter what I did. I was never as loved as the Fantastic Four or as respected as the Avengers. Captain America was an icon. Thor was a god. Spider-Man was a tabloid cover story. Perhaps I could make peace with my fate. Perhaps my death wouldn’t be such a tragedy.
As my killers closed in, I was trying to lift my hand to cover my face when I realized that a trash can lid my hand had come in contact with had stuck to it! The old Spidey powers weren’t gone after all. Suddenly, all that crap about how much of a failure I was and how my death would be a relief, went away. I wasn’t a failure. At worse, I was a work in progress. Fact was I was needed. That woman would’ve been killed, or worse, had I not rushed into the alley to save her; as would countless other people I’d saved over the years. My friends, family, lovers, all of them needed Peter Parker. All of them cared for him and would miss him. Hell, even old J. Jonah Jameson would probably shed a crocodile tear or two upon losing his best photographer and most lucrative target of persecution through the press all in the same night.
As my hand came up in front of me I flung the trash can lid into Steel-Toe’s wrist and the handgun went flying out of his grip and into the shadows. I leapt up from the scummy ground and sent Grabby-Hands flying back with two strong feet kicking out into his chest. Chain-Fist took a swing at me, but my Spider-Sense detected it long before I saw it coming and as his punch came up empty, I was already behind him. I tapped on his shoulder.
“Excuse me sir, but could you help me find three idiots in need of a Spider beat down?” I asked him in my worst proper English accent, which also happens to be my best proper English accent.
Chain-Fist swung around to try his luck again but my fist was waiting for him and with Spider strength fully restored he was out before he hit the ground.
Steel-Toe was searching for his gun when I crept up behind him.
“Hey, what are you looking for? Is there a monetary reward if I find it for you? Because, to be honest with you, I could really use the coin right now.”
I grabbed his head and smashed it into the side of the dumpster next to him. Not too hard mind you; I’m not Wolverine or the Punisher after all.
I heard the sirens just as the dark alley lit up with red and blue lights. I spun around and saw the cop cars pull up at the entrance to the alley. I guess Little Miss Rescued managed to call for help. Bless her. I smiled under my mask. I could taste the blood from my nose, but I knew I was going to be alright… except for the cracked ribs. I don’t care how much your outlook on life turns around. Cracked ribs hurt as bad as well… cracked ribs just hurt real damn bad.
“Stay where you are!” I heard one of New York’s finest tell me over his patrol car’s speaker system.
“Not this time officer,” I saluted them from the back of the alley—the members of the hyphen trio still out cold all around me. “I have places to be. You can take it from here. I’m email you a full statement later. You know I’m good for it.”
Then I scaled up the rear brick wall and took off into the night.
I arrived at the hospital a half hour later. I’d cleaned myself up in a restroom and changed back into myself—back into good old Peter Parker. I walked toward Aunt May’s ICU room—rehearsing in my mind what I was going to say to the doctors about why they had to give my Aunt full treatment and how I was going to pay the hospital back for it all somehow when I turned the corner and stopped dead in my tracks. There was Harry Osborn and Betty Brant standing outside May’s room—smiling and talking and acting as if nothing was wrong.
“Harry? Betty?” I couldn’t help but smile. “You’re here?”
“Of course, Peter,” Harry gave me that look he always gives when I doubt him. “I do check my voice mails, you know?”
“And after you stormed out of Mr. Jameson’s office earlier, I knew you shouldn’t be alone so I came here,” Betty reached out and took my hand. “We’re here for you, Peter.”
I almost cried… almost. I mean, this isn’t some badly made 3rd film in a successful film franchise where the writer’s are out of ideas for real good drama and everyone cries, don’t you know?
“And Aunt May…?” I started to ask.
“She’s fine,” Betty assured me as her hand squeezed my own. “She’s sleeping in her room and Harry and I decided to let her rest.”
“And don’t worry about insurance or bills or anything like that,” Harry told me. “It’s taken care of.”
I started to say something but Harry cut me off. “I know Peter. It’s a loan. You’re good for it.”
I smiled—this time not under a bloody mask. It had only been three of them and I had saved the day again. As had Harry and Betty, but this is my story, so let’s give me the lion’s share of the credit, okay?
The End… and until next time, face front!
(…and follow be on twitter @Robert_A_Easton)