Last night's six o'clock news called him the Voice because the two bad guys that got caught said that a man with a hoarse voice tackled them and stopped the robbery at Roshi's Deli. I asked my dad what a hoarse voice was and he said that it's the kind of voice Grandpa had before he died, and people who smoke have those kinds of voices. The news also said he wore a cape, so I guess they had to give him a superhero name. Maybe he'll get his own comic.
I want to meet him.
It's not every day someone gets saved by a superhero, or even gets to see one. That's something the kids can't say at school. You would think that an eleven year old living in New York City would be able to come across Spiderman. Nope.
Well, it's going to happen today.
I tell my dad that I'm staying after school to work on my math homework and that I'm going to Bobby King's house after. I hate math. I decide that my investigation, that's what I'll call it, like the cops on those crime shows that my mom really likes, will start at Roshi's. The Voice is probably busy fighting crime or taking out the Italian mob. That's what I would do if I was a superhero with a cape. I talk to the owner and one of the people working behind the counter. I ask them if they saw anything. I say I'm doing a book report on it. I went to the library today to print out the drawing the cops released on the news website and gave a copy to the cashier. She looks at me and smiles. She has nice brown eyes.
"Kid, he's probably fighting crime now. Are you going to buy anything?"
She's probably right. What else would he be doing? I use my leftover lunch money to buy a diet soda. I couldn't eat today. My stomach hurts and I think it's because I'm nervous about meeting the Voice. But now it's getting late and from what I remember from the news, this isn't one of the best areas to hang around in. As my dad says, I stick out like a pea in an ear of corn. I decide to take my chances anyway.
I see him in front of Roshi's.
At least, I think that's him. The man looks the same, except different because he doesn't have a cape or mask on. He looks at me and sees the print out of the drawing and smiles. I think he smiles at me. I decide that the last person he would worry about would be me. I follow him ten blocks north, up to the Cedar View Apartment Complex. My mom is going to make sure I'm locked in the house until I die. I walk up the hundreds of stairs.
He would live on the top floor.
Superheroes need a good view of the city. They always seem to be on the roof of some building. This is it. I knock on his door and he opens it and I see him with his cape on now. A big guy, he has big muscles, bigger than my dad's and looks like he could play football for the New York Giants. He's bald and has a brace over his left arm.
The man looks shocked. The cape is black with some yellow around it, kinda like a bee.
"You're him. You're the Voice."
"You followed me here?"
"A kid can't spy on a superhero?"
"I guess I should be more careful."
"Your place is messy." There were radios and empty food containers everywhere.
"Thanks. Do you, uh, want to come in?"
"Can I?" Mom says that strangers are bad, but I mean, this guy is a superhero. How bad could he be?
"As long as you don't tell any reporters or anything."
"Take a seat. Do you want a drink or anything? Some cereal?"
"No thank you. You like cereal?"
"I didn't know superheroes eat cereal. Do you get a discount?"
He laughs for a few seconds and coughs. I see him open up an orange tinted bottle and take a few white pills out. My mom does this sometimes when she gets bad headaches. He has a lot of pills in a bunch of different colors. He tells me to sit down on his couch, and it's nice and soft. Not like the one at our house. It's too stiff.
"Are you sick?"
"Dust, a lot of dust and smoke."
We don't talk for a while. My mom tells me to count to a hundred and see if someone talks. If they don't, I'm supposed to leave.
"For a man who gets called the Voice, you sure don't talk a lot."
"That's what they call me?"
"What's your real name?"
"I'm Lucas Miller."
We shake hands. His hands are tough like a rock and very cold when I touch them.
"Nice to meet you Lucas."
He looks out the window. It's starting to get dark out and I look at my watch to see that I should probably be home by now. I know mom will kill me, but it's worth it. She can't get that mad at me for wanting to meet a guy like this.
"Why do you do this, this whole superhero thing?"
"Because I have to."
"Weird reason to me." I don't even know what that means.
"It's not weird. Not everyone is a hero."
"But you are." Hanging up on his wall he has a blue shirt with F.D.N.Y. on it. "You used to be a firefighter. Now that's a real hero job."
"Yeah. A long time ago. I stopped after, well, when the--I guess you were young when it happened. I had to stop after--"
"Are you talking about when those towers fell? Is that why you stopped? All that dust and smoke? People get sick because of that."
"You remember that?"
My Uncle Pete knew a bunch of guys and I remember him wearing a suit for what seemed like a year after that day. I was in the second grade and I remember that was the only day I ever got to eat ice cream for lunch as my parents tried to call all their friends. I know most firefighters were there. People cried during the national anthem at the last game I went to at Shea Stadium in September. We have a lot of moments of silence every year since then.
"Yeah, that's why I stopped."
"So that's why they call you the Voice, because you got sick."
"I guess so."
"Did you go into the towers when they were hit? My uncle knew a bunch of people who went in." He just looks at me like I dropped Thanksgiving dinner on the floor. He doesn't say anything and I think I said something bad.
"You know what this cape is made out of? Pieces of my old firefighter suit. Helps me when I go out to help with fires. It gets really hot in there." He grabs his cape and looks at me with a smile.
"You didn't go in?"
"Why didn't you go in, were you hurt?"
"The towers. Did you save people there too?"
I can feel my heart beating faster and I notice I'm sweating.
"I think it's time for you to leave."
"Because it's getting late."
"Why didn't you help anyone? You're supposed to help people. Help them."
"You're too young to understand, that's not the reason--"
"You don't need a reason, you just...you just need to be a hero."
"It's getting dark out. Get home safe."
He opens the door and doesn't look at me. I rush out the door and run down the stairs. It seems like forever until I'm on the street again.
I don't watch the news anymore.
BIO: Nick Sweeney writes on the palm of his right hand with fine point pens and has aspirations of one day finding paper. He is currently the editorial assistant at the Caper Literary Journal and has been published in Dead Mule: School of Southern Literature and Postcard Shorts. You can follow his blog http://thetruthinfiction.weebly.com/.