Empowered: Act 1, Part 4
In what’s undoubtedly my most dramatic post to date (yes, even more so that the Saggezza/Magdalena reunion in Wood You Be Mine?), Carl comes face-to-face with an old rival…and an old friend. We’ve reached the turning point of Act 1, and the question raised is, when things spiral out of control, will Carl be able to pick up the pieces? Act 1, Part 4 starts now:
The next morning, as Carl tried to sleep his misery away, he was, much to his displeasure, awoken by his best friend who was effortlessly leaping up two stories and shouting in to Carl’s open window.
With a pathetic moan, Carl pulled his sheets over his head.
El took the hint and promptly discarded it.
“What!” Carl finally screamed.
“Guess who I penetrated last night!”
Carl, now face down on his bed, grabbed a pillow to cover his head in an attempt to block out El.
All I want right now is to sleep, Carl thought as he let out a belabored moan.
“That’s exactly what she sounded like!”
“Please fuck off,” he muttered in a muffled voice.
Ignoring his friend’s request, El grabbed the ledge to the open window, thrust his body, legs first, over the sill, and made his way in.
The annoyance continued.
“Carl. Carl. Carl. Carl. Carl.”
“Wha-a-a-a-a-a-t?” Carl whimpered feebly.
“What’s up, buddy?”
It was obvious to anyone that El was dying to brag, but Carl, never having so much as kissed a girl, wasn’t too keen on hearing his friend’s sex story. Had he higher confidence, perhaps things would been different, but as it stood, he was inexperienced and uncertain of himself. But what he was certain of was trying to get El to drop it was futile.
“Alright, man,” he lightly moaned while pushing himself up from a supine position to lean against his headboard, “let’s hear it.”
Eagerly taking a seat on the edge of Carl’s bed, El began to relay what happened the previous night with the vigor and enthusiasm of a Greek poet singing his song around a fire.
“Picture it:” he started, “We’re at the dance, the music’s playing, our eyes meet from across the room,” he then paused for dramatic effect and expanded his arms with his palms opened wide, “and time slows down.”
“Who was it?”
“Explains the part about time slowin’ down.”
“It was very West Side Story.”
“What else happened?”
“Well, I went over to her; we started dancing. I had her slow things down around us a bit more so we could get a few good grinds in before any teacher could come break it up.”
“Gotta leave room for the Holy Spirit, my man.”
“Ha, seriously. Anyway, she then said we should go out to her car, and after that, it was game over.”
“Yeah, man. Her powers made it last twice as long as normal. It was fucking awesome.”
“Oh, so you got to disappoint a girl for an entire minute this time, huh?”
“Best goddamn minute of her life! Anyway, what about you? You never went in to detail with that chick from last night.”
“Uh, her name’s Spore; she’s new. She was there doing a photo assignment or some shit. Wants to be on the yearbook staff.”
“Yearbook staff? Yikes. Geek rejection is the worst kind of rejection. But hey, that’s what you get for trying to steal our womens.”
Dryly, Carl remarked while shaking his head, “Racism’s fun, man.”
“Sure is!” El agreed, tongue-in-cheek. “Anyway, let’s do something!”
“Why do you have so much energy?”
“You know how I get after hooking up! Come on, man; breakfast on me.”
Rubbing his eyes and letting out a yawn, Carl said in agreement, “Wake me up from a nice sleep, goddamn right breakfast on you. Lemme get dressed and see if I can borrow the car.”
“Why? I can just hop us around.”
“I know you can. That’s why I wanna borrow the car.”
“Such a baby. Fine, I’ll wait outside.”
“Aight, I’ll be out in two minutes.”
“Be quick about it; I’m starving,” El exclaimed right before diving head first out the window as if he were jumping in to a pool. As he sailed through the air, he twisted his body upright and landed nimbly on his feet, his specialty shock-absorbent sneakers soaking in the bulk of the impact. Immediately upon landing, El gave a quick hop over to the Freeman family car and glanced in to the window to ensure his hair wasn’t too tussled.
Carl, meanwhile, threw on a solid red t-shirt and black Nike mesh shorts, slipped his feet in to a pair of sandals by his door, quickly brushed his teeth, and headed downstairs to find his mom washing the dishes.
“Can I borrow the car?” he asked his mom, foregoing any ideal conversation.
“And good morning to you, too, young man,” she responded without looking up.
“Sorry, good morning. Can I borrow the car?” Carl asked, purposefully keeping his statements short as he was eager to leave.
“What for?” she questioned, always intent on knowing what her children were doing.
“El’s here; we’re gonna go out.”
“You’re not hungry?”
“He’s buying breakfast.”
“Y’all shouldn’t be fools spending your money like that when we have food here,” she asserted, her voice mild with discontent.
“He offered, and I ain’t gonna say no.”
Growing up poor and being taught to save money, Insight let out a disapproving sigh and responded, “Just don’t get back too late.”
“I won’t,” he said as he made a beeline for the door, grabbing the keys off the kitchen countertop as he did.
“I love you, hon,” she called out to him.
Without looking back, he swung the door open and nonchalantly replied, “You, too.”
Walking outside, he saw El still fiddling with his hair in the window. “You look gorgeous,” Carl quipped, “Come on, get in the car.”
“Sorry about that. You know, I sometimes get lost in my own eyes.”
Ignoring his comment, Carl asked, “You wanna hit up the mall? Grab something in the food court?”
“Sounds good to me. We can also check out the Gap. They probably have one of those end-of-summer clearance sales. Maybe we can get some of those nice tight shirts that show off your chesticles.”
“Mediums fit me weird,” Carl murmured, slightly embarrassed, while turning the key to start the engine.
“Ha! Sure,” El cracked.
El made good on his word and treated Carl to a sausage, egg, and cheese on a biscuit in the food court. Upon finishing, Carl wiped the crumbs from his bottom lip, stood up, and the two headed towards the Gap.
“So how much for me to go in there and ask the lady if she has a pair of jeans with extra crotch space?” El asked, sporting a giant grin at the thought.
Carl wouldn’t get the chance to answer because as they were walking towards the store, he saw Wing Kong, the student who’d been terrorizing Carl for as long as he could remember, walking out.
Wing’s hair, layered, shoulder length, and jet black, was whipped out of the way of his face as he strutted out of the store, though his right eye remained covered. Contrasting the darkness of his hair were the two blindingly white, feathery protrusions sticking out of each side of his back and through the custom slits of his shirt. Currently folded in, at their maximum length, they reached a span of an impressive eight feet.
“Ah, fuck me,” Carl said, shaking his head.
“What?” El asked. He hadn’t yet spotted Wing.
“It’s your little lax buddy,” he muttered. His eyes were now closed, and the sense of impending frustration bore down upon him like a hammer on an anvil.
Looking up to see what he meant, El spotted Wing walking in their direction. With an annoyed glare, El replied, “Dude, you know I hate him as much as you.”
“Whatever,” Carl said, as the two instinctively started changing direction. “Let’s just loop around before he–”
“Look at these two,” Wing mused with a devious smirk. “Hello, Elcsum. And hello, Imp.”
A long time ago, Wing decided ‘Carl’ wasn’t fitting enough of a name and dubbed him with one he felt to be more appropriate: ‘Imp,’ short for ‘Impotent.’
Carl closed his eyes again and tilted his head back in defeat the second he heard that icy, unwavering voice coming from the lean and lithe Chinese-American student.
“Don’t call him that, Wang,” El warned as he and Carl turned to face him.
“So, so clever, El.”
“Dude, anytime, anywhere,” Carl added.
“Like you stand a chance, Imp,” Wing rejoined with a condescending laugh. A rush of power fell over him as he saw Carl’s face contort in to a guise of anger with an underlayer of hopelessness.
Fanning the flames, Wing added, “Honestly, why not do the gene pool a favor and just throw yourself off a building?”
It was hard for Carl to figure out which was worse: What he was saying or the smug look he had while he was saying it.
“Seriously, man,” El fumed, his lividity showing in his face as it turned bright red. “Back. The fuck. Off.”
“Calm down, Elcsum. Carl knows it’s all in good fun, don’t you, Carl?” Wing spouted, mockingly.
Carl’s response was a silent, angry glare.
“I’ll see you two later,” Wing remarked as he glided past Carl on the right. He then added “Take care, Imp” with a shoulder check accompanying the last word.
Feeling flushed with anger, El reached over, grabbed Wing, and jacked him up against the wall, roaring, “I said back the fuck off, Wing!”
“El, I can fucking handle this!” Carl yelled to him.
Keeping a calm composure, Wing merely stated, “Aw, defending your fag boyfriend. How sweet.” And half a second later, before either Carl or El could process it, his wings shot out at full length, and with a single, fierce flap, a small but intense gust of wind was produced, knocking back El and releasing Wing from his grip.
Landing gracefully on his feet, Wing saw no need to acknowledge what had just happened and instead focused on straightening the wrinkles El produced in his new pink Oxford shirt. It was then that a guard started sprinting over and used her abilities to produce a force field to shield off the two warring factions.
“All of you out now! Before I call the cops! You two out the north entrance,” she screamed, pointing at Carl and El, “and you with the wings out the south entrance!”
Wing, without saying a word, turned to Carl to give him a wink and mockingly kissed the air in front of him before floating away.
Carl and El, meanwhile, did as they were told and left the mall in the opposite direction. The two were silent for a full minute, both too angry to speak. The main difference between the two was to whom their anger was directed.
“Don’t let him get to you, man,” El finally said. “He’s the kind of kid whose mommy doesn’t love him or some shit, and he takes it out on everyone else.”
“I could’ve fucking handled it, El,” Carl sneered, not acknowledging El’s remark.
“I know you could’ve,” El agreed, ostensibly. “I just didn’t want you getting hurt.”
“Yeah, great, but I don’t need you to defend me. I’m a grown-ass man; I can take care of shit myself!” Carl’s voice grew loud as he replayed the scene in his head.
“Sorry for helping out my best friend! Christ,” El replied, rolling his eyes.
Carl, now completely stopped in his tracks, screamed, “Did it occur to you that I don’t need your fucking help! You’re not my fucking dad, El!”
El was quiet, his face visible with hurt. Puckering his lips as if to keep in what he really wanted to say, he decided not to further aggravate the situation and merely stated, “You know what? I think I’ll just jump home.” And before Carl had a chance to respond, there was a *swish* followed by a half-hearted “See you later.”
“El, I…” Carl started, unable to finish his sentence.
Now angry more at himself than anyone else, Carl whipped open the door to his car, got in, and started for home. The drive was devoid of music as Carl focused, deep in thought, about what happened. He hated when El defended him like that. Hated it.
He wasn’t a child; El wasn’t his father.
He could handle things himself.
He was just looking out for you, you fuck, he thought, his emotions now in conflict with one another. What the fuck is wrong with you?
He tried his best to block out his thoughts for the remainder of the drive, but this proved impossible. Pulling in to the driveway, he lingered a moment longer than usual, his head resting on the wheel. Taking a few simple, short breaths in and out, he had to force his hand to grab the handle, open the door, and exit the vehicle.
As he entered his home, Carl’s disposition was palpable. Even without her ability, Insight, who was sipping coffee at the kitchen table, would’ve been able to tell right away that something was wrong. Her son had a tendency to wear his emotions like a sweater.
“Carl, honey, what’s wrong?”
“When will you learn this back and forth won’t ever work on me?”
Turning towards her and yelling, “I don’t know, ma, probably when you learn if I said nothin’s wrong that it means I don’t wanna talk about it!”
Feeding off his emotions, Insight stood up from her seat, raised an angry finger, and snapped back at her son, “You watch your mouth, first of all! Second of all, that doesn’t and won’t ever stop me from trying to help! It’s you who needs to come to terms with that, not me!”
Carl looked down at the ground like a shamed dog. Muttering, he replied, “I’m sorry, ma. It’s just…”
The was a momentary pause as tears began to run down his eyes.
“Why me, mom?”
Insight hugged her son, stroked his head, and they both cried together.
TO BE CONTINUED
Well-done drama or cheesy and over-the-top? I’m hoping the former, but it’s never easy to tell with your own writing. Care to tell me what you think? I’m always open to praise and criticism, so hit me up on Facebook or Twitter. My main goal is to give you all a great story; let me know if I’m on the right track.