Drunk Man was in for a long night. First, there was that robbery, down on 25th street. A gang of hoodlums holed up in Pet Mart, brandishing machetes at the gerbils and designer pups, the labra-fucking-shepherds or whatever. Despite their shabby appearances, the hoodlums were professionals. Swift and efficient. Within seconds they had the Pet Mart owner in the back, began exacting revenge over an exotic import gone wrong– a spotted python or Tiger King dropped overboard into the Atlantic. Thankfully, good citizenry prevailed– some eavesdropping neighbor heard the owner’s yelp as the goons went to work on him with a pair of pliers and rolled up edition of Rolling Stone.
There was only one person to call. Unfortunately, he was half asleep on the couch at home, hands jammed down his pants, Netflix and scented candles firing in the background. It had been a tough week for Drunk Man. He’d misfiled his taxes, made poor progress on his autobiography, lost more than a few dollars on internet gambling sites. He was ready to relax. Unwind. Take a break from the violence and bad memories that sometimes hit him like a 2×4 in the face. More than anything, he was ready for some binge-worthy television and smooth tokes from his cherry-flavored vaporizer pen.
Tonight’s choice was Season 25 of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, a syndicated classic. Lost in the gruff (yet wise) street justice of Ice T’s Detective Tutuola, he almost missed the chirp from his phone– dun nun nun nun, Drunk Man! Groaning, he rolled over and opened the window. There it was–the Drunk Man symbol, a half-empty beer bottle illuminated against the night sky. Drunk Man stared at the glowing brand for a long minute, contemplating the balance of his needs versus the greater good. Then, after a period of guided meditation (and some heavy cursing), he removed himself from his laptop, opened the refrigerator, and started chugging.
Per usual, he misread his own tolerance. There was a new IPA he’d been meaning to try. Well, he’d tried it. Oh boy, had he. Flying through the night, he couldn’t help but think– “what the fuck are they putting in these things?” Distracted, he overshot the Pet Mart and went careening through the glass doors of a neighboring bodega; found himself half inside the freezer, covered in cold cuts and packets of dehydrated salmon. Understandably, the bodega cashier was pissed. He wanted recompense for the despoiled meat and fish. His voice was loud and accusatory, the opposite of what Drunk Man needed at the moment.
“Don’t worry, I’m insured,” Drunk Man said, brushing salami and bits of glass from his padded shoulders. He handed a laminated card to the cashier. “Have your people call My People.”
The cashier took the card and flipped it over.
INCONVENIENCED AND/OR ASSAULTED BY DRUNK MAN? CALL US – MY PEOPLE INSURANCE.
“Is this a joke?”
“No joke, my friend.” Drunk Man leaned in close and rubbed his hands together– like he was a coach about to relay the big one, the play that would win them the state championship. “Listen– that tumble through the window took it out of me. I need a little something to get right. It’s a matter of public safety, you understand?”
The cashier sighed. He looked out the window to where the police would have been, provided they answered calls to neighborhoods like this. The cashier had seen the hoodlums earlier as they stalked into the Pet Mart, took note of their machetes and swagger, knew the owner was up shit creek. As much as he didn’t like it, Drunk Man was their only hope.
“Okay, but nothing expensive,” he said. “And don’t you dare touch the craft section.”+
Drunk Man appraised the endless rows of liquid gold– so many choices!– ultimately settling on a 4Loko, the perfect blend of commercialism and self-hatred. There was a snap and a hiss. Then the smooth tendrils of self-confidence settling in his brain stem. His vision focused. His biceps swelled and popped. His package grew tight with the anticipation of justice. When he was like this there was no one in the world who could stop him.
He was just in time. In the back room of the Pet Mart, the hoodlums were hacking away at the owner’s digits, had nearly shucked the man’s index finger to the bone. The Pet Mart owner was full of pain, but also quite perplexed. He’d never thought his sins would come home to roost– he’d only meant to pad his coffers a bit, dip his toes in the waters of international animal trafficking– and now here he was, a victim of total mob violence. He was certain it was a hallucination when the masked intruder smashed through his front wall, beer gut hanging over a pair of jean shorts and muscular quads.
“I am–burp– Drunk Man and you are – urgh – under arrest.”
Now, it was the hoodlums turn to look up in confusion. What they saw filled them with anguish and pervasive self-doubt. They knew their limits. Mutated frat boys weren’t on the agenda. Truthfully, they weren’t even really professionals. They were something more akin to promising-youths-gone-bad-hired-for-a-quick-buck. Most of them attended community college and went home on the weekends to escort their grandmothers to Sunday mass. If pressed, they would say their motivations were unsound and esoterically unclear. Therefore, it was with a swift sense of regret that they watched Drunk Man approach, stumbling and raising his fists like a 1950’s pugilist.
To all of this, Drunk Man remained ignorant. It was a simple equation– the hooded attackers in front of him were the enemy. Another obstacle to remove so he could resume his lipped worship from the barley teat. Smiling, he tore through the group like tissue paper, felt their machetes fall upon his body, warping on his rock-hard skin. It was like, really? That’s all you’ve got? Drunk Man laughed. He wanted another drink, yes, but he also wanted to teach these hoodlums a lesson. With each punch and kick he wasn’t just breaking bone and snapping tendons and pulverizing cartilage, but rather providing instructions about life, that you can’t take what you want from life, you have to respect it… or something.
When he was finished doling out justice (Kapow! Shabam! Thunk!), Drunk Man dragged the unconscious hoodlums to the curb. He untied the Pet Mart owner and helped him to his feet.
“You’re safe now,” Drunk Man said. “I’m sure they’ll be able to save your fingers– I mean, I’ve seen worse.”
The Pet Mart owner stared at the mess of blood and bone that used to be his right hand.
“Thanks,” he said.
“Don’t mention it.”
After that, it got a bit hazy. Drunk Man hit the bodega again– this time electing for a 40 oz. of malt liquor– and went looking for rights to wrong. He was in luck. There was heinous fuckery afoot in the Big Apple. The E train derailed and almost crushed a segway tour full of visiting nuns. Downtown, a handbag heiress threatened defenestration from a tower owned by New York’s biggest asshole. Elsewhere, there were muggings and stabbings and high-speed heists involving sex toys and African diamonds. In each of these situations, Drunk Man reigned supreme– only causing a few million in collateral damage– a good night! He celebrated with a nightcap at McSorley’s (okay, a few nightcaps) and sometime before dawn found himself on the curb, vomiting between his knees and feeling the kind of inward pity only a pitiful person can feel.
Drunk Man wiped his hand across his mouth and squinted at the screen of his phone. He was filled with a deep, sentimental urge to call someone– no, to connect with someone. But who? The options were limited. He hadn’t spoken to his old crew in years. Cocaine Guy disappeared after that “drug bust” down south. Weed Bro called it quits when national legalization went into effect, declaring that crime fighting was passe and another weapon of “The Deep State.” Shrooms Girl had always been good for a late-night confabulation, but he’d deleted her number after she went straight and married that douchebag from Goldman Sachs. And Molly, well– Molly wasn’t someone you called when you were getting ready to wrap up the evening. He scrolled and scrolled, but the numbers were all fuzzy and the contacts came up empty and as usual the more he scrolled the sadder he became.
“Move along, buddy,” a gruff voice said. “This ain’t freeloader night.”
He could tell from the cop’s tone that he was like all the others– thick gutted, shaved head, swaggering with his shiny badge and big ass belt buckle. The kind of guy who got off on harassing the easy targets, intent on filling a quota. What did he know about crime fighting? Or sacrifice? What did he know about giving it all up for something bigger than yourself? Of keeping the path because it’s the only one you’ve ever known?
Drunk Man felt the poke of the nightstick in his rib cage.
“Last chance or I’m bringing you in, pal.”
Drunk Man almost said, do you know who I am? Do you know what I’ve done for you, for all of you? But of course, he didn’t. He was near sober now, there was no avoiding it, which meant the cop was blind to his powers. To the average passerby, he looked like just another hard case, another bum getting wasted on the type of grain alcohol they kept behind the counters at 7/11. Another person you’d cross the street to avoid. Another guy, alone on a curb, with his thoughts and regrets.
“Alright alright,” Drunk Man said, pulling himself to his feet. “Keep your pants on.”
Drunk Man walked down the street, and though his eyes were like wet paper towels and his limbs wooden planks, he forced himself to walk with his head held high, even if inside he was slowly crumbling away, the noteworthy and valuable pieces of himself sloughing off in great chunks. It was like, forget the flying. Forget the invincibility or the super strength. Forget the feeling– that beautiful spark of a feeling– that you could do anything, be anyone, punch away all life’s problems. In the real world, there was no swelling orchestra, no damsel in distress, no rousing victory etched in ink and brightly colored panels. There was only yourself. And who was that? Nobody. Vapor. Nothing.
When you’re sober, Drunk Man thought, you aren’t anyone at a