He sat at his workbench. It was in the corner of his mother’s overcrowded basement. Lit by a single light bulb hanging from its cord. He liked his ‘studio’ as he referred to it. It suited him. Tucked away as it was, out of sight and secretive. He was secretive.
He had always been a shy child and he grew into a shy adult. Not that he was antisocial, just slightly ill at ease around groups of people. He enjoyed his time alone. He could think. He liked thinking.
Sometimes he thought grand thoughts, sometimes just ordinary thoughts.
And he liked to tinker. He was always taking his mother’s appliances and tinkering with them. Improving them he said. Breaking them his mother said.
She didn’t really mind though, sometimes he did come up with an improvement to the original.
Sometimes he worked on things he found in the trash. Other people’s trash.
Right now he was working on an old fashioned TV remote he found in Mr. Quentin’s trash. After Mr. Quentin died his children came and put all the contents of his house at the curb for the garbage men.
He didn’t know why, but for some reason the remote seemed to jump into his hands. It must have been the shiny gold buttons and the way it ‘clacked’ when you pushed them but Nelson was enthralled the moment he saw it.
He immediately took it back to the house and reverently placed it on his workbench.
He had no idea what you could do with an old 1960’s broken TV remote (without the TV) but that didn’t dull his enthusiasm.
He tinkered with it for months. A new wire here, a little solder there.
The day he took it with him to work was just an ordinary day.
As he sat at the bus stop he found himself getting annoyed, once again, with the young woman sitting next to him talking on her cell phone. It’s not that he begrudged her having a conversation. But he always felt uncomfortable, like he was eavesdropping on people’s private lives when they talked in such public places.
He sat on the bench with his hands in his pockets trying to be as invisible as possible. He didn’t do it consciously. It was just a reflex. His finger felt for the button on the remote and ‘CLACK’ he pushed it.
“Hello? Hello?” the young woman looked at her phone and cursed. “Damn reception!” she said and put her phone in her purse.
It didn’t occur to Nelson there was any connection……until it happened again.
He passed all the same places. Saw all the same people and things.
He saw Mr. & Mrs. Goldman arguing at the bus stop like always. He saw the man walking his dog and scolding him, like always. He saw the group of bullies taunting the little boy that walked to school alone every day, like always.
He didn’t know why he did it, didn’t know what he could have been thinking. He grabbed the remote, pointed it at the group of bullies and CLACK, pushed the button.
In that split second the little boy spun around to face his tormentors and the group of bullies fell to the ground en masse. They sat there for a moment stunned. They couldn’t figure out how one small boy had been able to knock them all down at once.
As they scrambled to their feet they noticed the little boy didn’t look quite so little anymore. They never noticed the look of surprise on the boy’s face. They didn’t notice the young man pointing an old TV remote at them.
Neither did any of the others. Not the man who used to harass his dog. Not the Goldman’s.
Now when Nelson rides to work in the mornings the man walking his dog tosses a ball or playfully wrestles with his canine companion. The Goldman’s sit together amicably laughing and chatting while waiting for their bus to come.
Sometimes he walks around the neighborhood and just because he finds it amusing he’ll CLACK the remote at a house where he sees people inside watching TV and changes the channel. Just for fun you understand.
Because being a superhero and using your powers for good can sometime be rather monotonous.