One poster taped to the left side of a wall revealed the message. The other, on the right, the messenger.
They covered the entire wall, for, apparently, a good reason.
The messenger was a girl somewhere between the ages of eight and twelve; I couldn’t be sure. She was wearing what looks like a pair of pajamas, yellow and purple in color, and a blue bicycle helmet over her head. But what is rather extraordinary is that she was lifting a giant rock with her right hand- and only her right hand. The left was simply at her side, not needed.
She seemed to be some sort of super hero- an alien, perhaps. But her freckle-laden face, ruddy cheeks, flaming red hair and light blue eyes suggested a heritage more Celtic than extraterrestrial.
The poster on the left emits the text of what is clearly intended to be an advertisement for whatever is going on. It’s simple and to the point:
For One Day Only- TODAY!!!!!
CAPTAIN FANTASTIC- THE FASTEST, STRONGEST AND SMARTEST GIRL IN THE UNIVERSE!!!
explains EXACTLY how she obtained her mighty powers
and how you can get your greatest wishes achieved!
Today- Courtyard- 2 PM
NO ADULTS PERMITTED!!!!!
Well, I thought. That’s kind of strange. It must be rather important to be kept secret.
But what it didn’t say was that I couldn’t try to talk to her about it afterwards.
I waited until about 3 PM, at which point the demonstration/lecture ended and the young patrons streamed out en masse. Somehow, I managed to get towards the Captain herself, still on the dais erected outside for her, wearing the uniform she wore in the poster along with some black riding boots. She saw me quickly- and frowned.
“What do you want?” she asked. “I said ‘no adults’ here for a very good reason….”
“I’m a reporter,” I responded. “I just want a little of your time for an interview.”
Her frown shifted into a beaming smile.
“Well!” she said. “It’s about time one of you types took me seriously.” She pursed her lips. “The kids get me completely, especially the really young ones. But, when I try to tell adults about my story, they just laugh. Can you imagine?” She threw her hands up in frustration. “More than once, I nearly lost it and committed murder with my fists. Some super hero behavior that, huh?”
She walked down off the stage towards me.
“Come on. I need to find a place to take off. Too crowded here, and I might hurt somebody. Don’t worry- I won’t run. You can keep up with me that way.”
I agreed to this, and retrieved my pen and paper, taking down what she told me in bullet points.
“First of all, Captain Fantastic isn’t my real name- obviously. My real one is Olivia. Olivia Thrift, and….DAMN IT! I TOLD somebody! You better NOT tell anybody about this, or I’LL….DO…SOMETHING to you! ”
I assured her that my profession required me to keep such information private, and she had nothing to fear from confiding in me. That reassured her.
“Okay,” she continued, putting a finger to her brain. “Now, where was I?.....Ah, yeah.
“I come from a small town in Manitoba, and I didn’t have a lot of friends. I mean, really close ones. Other than my best friend, Dixon Wells, who’s the only guy who really knows who I am, but that’s about it. So, what with my parents working in Winnipeg most of the time, and Dixon not always being around to play with, I was kind of left alone with the television. I know: total latchkey kid, right? But you grow up faster that way- I know that.
“I’ve always been a fan of cartoons, ‘specially the superhero ones. And I always wanted to be one of them. You understand?” I nodded. “Well, one night while I was in the midst of watching something on the set- concentrating, you see, not just gazing at it- a spirit materialized in front of me. Somehow or other it knew my name. I was dressed like this save for the boots- found them at the Sally Ann. And the spirit said: You desire becoming a super hero so you can save the world. And I said, ‘Yeah!’. Then he said: Do you wish to be the fastest, strongest and smartest one of your kind on Earth? I said, ‘Yeah!’. And then he said: Then it shall be done. And I got zapped by him. Like a whole electrical power station through me! And then I became like I am now. No fooling.”
She stopped and looked up at me.
“This is normally where the adults start laughing. But you aren’t.”
“Well, I specialize in writing about children with….special abilities….so I can take you as seriously as you want me to,” I explained.
“So you write comics? Sorry: I mean graphic novels?”
“No. Prose fiction.”
“And that is?”
“Short stories. Novels.”
“Ah. Got it. Any-way….
“I tried my best to be secretive about it at first, and I could do it with everybody- except Dixon. He’s even smarter than I am, that guy. He saw me wrecking an out-of-tune piano one day when I thought no one was looking, and I threatened him by saying I’d do the same thing to HIM if he spilled it. That’s how we teamed up. He convinced me that a girl with my abilities had to go out and save the world and stuff, ‘cause it would be a big loss to the world if I didn’t. And so I went out and started doing it, and then, after I’d save the world a couple of times, people wanted me to tell them about how I got so strong and fast and junk. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I tried to contact the spirit who had…gifted me with my mind powers. I found him and told him about it.
“He told me that any child who hasn’t reached physical maturity can reach him and his kind telepathically if they know how to do it. Which he told me. This can only be done if you’re watching TV and staring into it right up straight the way I was, as you turn the set on and tune in. Hence, Tune-Ism.
“I decided that I was going to spread the word about this. We kids have very little power in this world, as you know, and I thought this was a good way to create some. Dixon wasn’t too happy about it at first, but he came around soon enough after I…uh….”persuaded” him that it was a good idea. So, in between battling evil, I help kids understand how to channel their inner mental abilities to get what they want.
“Of course, in doing so, I ended up creating two big problems for myself. Two other kids who attended some of my seminars and figured out how to connect the way I did. They got what they wanted, and, boy, did it mean trouble for me.
“First was Gridiron Girl, a tomboy who wanted to be the toughest and sportiest girl on Earth, and got granted the power of a full football team after that. I tried to stop her, and she was even stronger than me. One punch from her literally knocked me out of my uniform! Not only that, but she was fast enough to keep up with me in a footrace. That’s where having the smarts comes in handy, ‘cause she didn’t have any. Athletes, you know? So I grabbed a goal post, tied it around her, and kicked her to the other side of the world. Hopefully, she won’t be back.
“Then there’s the Jester. He’s into ‘toons like I am, ‘cept he prefers the ones that were done for laughs a long time ago. So he plays for laughs, too, only they aren’t funny. Pranks and hotfoots and cream pies in the face and tricking me into running off cliffs and falling down. That sort of thing. I finally decided that if you couldn’t beat him, you had to join ‘em. So that’s what Dixon and I did….”
She would probably have continued in this vein, but then a phone rang. Hers. She fished it out of her pocket and answered it.
“Hello. Yeah, Dixon….WHAT? How did she….I fixed it so that she could never….UUHHH! Those villains! I’ll be right there, kid. Don’t worry.”
She turned to me.
“Sorry, fella. I gotta go.” She shook my hand carefully to avoid breaking it with her strength, and prepared to fly off into the sky. “Just make sure that you don’t give away any of my secrets, okay? FAREWELL!!!!!”
Now, you might expect that she was not able to fly along with her other “mighty” powers, and that her brash manner was simply a way of covering up the fact that she, really, did not possess these powers, and that the whole idea of Tune-Ism was simply a product of her overactive, pre-adolescent mind.
You would be wrong.