MY NAME is Jordan Carson and this story is about Pin Man, my superhero. The first thing you should know is that I am the biggest, sappiest dreamer in the world. I graduated from high school in Jefferson, Wisconsin. My dad drives a truck, and my mother sells Avon and Tupperware. You’d think I would have grown up with modest ambitions, but no. Since the seventh grade, I’ve dreamt that one day I would live in Manhattan and work as a comic book artist for DC. I’ve dreamt of traveling all over the world, maybe to comic book conventions, where I’d sit at one of those tables signing my name for fans who are as adoring and geeky as I am now. And, sappiest of all, I’ve dreamt about having Wisconsin state champion wrestler, Owen Nelson, as my boyfriend.
I guess I’m an optimist. Then again, I’ve had this lucky thing going for me all my life. I know it’s not going to be easy to become a paid comic book artist, but I was born with a talent for drawing. It’s a gift, the way some people are born with lungs and musical ears that let them wail like an opera star. Others are born incredibly tall, with hands the size of dinner plates, and they’re just made to slam-dunk basketballs. And a few are born with solid, stocky frames that muscle up, a talent for strategic thinking, and a pit bull-like tenacity that allow them to become champion wrestlers. Look, personally I’ve got very little in the physical gifts department, clear? But when it comes to art, I can draw the fuck out of anything. That’s all I’m saying.
Without a doubt, the luckiest thing that ever happened to me was that I became best friends with Owen Nelson.
OWEN and I met in the second grade. Our desks, those little L-shaped wooden ones with plastic chairs, were side by side in our homeroom. The first day of school, when Owen sat down next to me, I couldn’t help but stare. I think I stared at him all day long. Another kid might have smacked the shit out of me or said something like, “See something green? Pick it off!” But Owen was chill. He just looked at me every once in a while and smiled.
Owen was the biggest boy in our class, tall and wide. He was probably twice my body weight then, because I was a dark-haired little runt. He wasn’t fat. He was just a big kid, the kind that could be scary, the kind who could do some damage if he wanted to. But I wasn’t afraid of him. You could just tell by his eyes; Owen wasn’t like that.
He was beautiful, with light blond hair, navy blue eyes, and a square, perfect face. He had this glow about him, this Yoda-like centeredness, like he was cool all by himself and he didn’t care what anyone else thought. That was godlike at our age. Maybe at any age.
Of course, I didn’t know I liked boys then. I didn’t know why I was fascinated by him. I wondered if he was really in the second grade. I wondered if he was the kid of a Norse god or something (I’d just been reading a picture book about them). Or maybe he was the son of a mob boss hiding in our little school, and they just put him in second grade because there was an empty seat.
Wherever he’d come from, I liked Owen. And I wanted Owen to like me. So I, at the ripe age of seven, set out on my very first seduction.
See, I have this cool aunt on my mom’s side who lives in California, Aunt Beth. She makes lots of money at her job in computer games. Every birthday and Christmas she showers me with toys. Get what I mean by lucky? By second grade I had what was probably the biggest, baddest collection of action figures and Matchbox cars east of the Mississippi. Every day I’d bring some of my stuff in my bag and flaunt it in front of Owen, acting like I was perfectly happy to play with all that shiny stuff by myself.
For a couple of days I took notice of which toys Owen looked at the most. He liked the Matchbox cars, and he particularly liked the ambulance. So one day I brought in my fire engine, ambulance, all my cop cars, and a couple of cool racers I had. At lunch time, I sat alone in the play area, unpacked them all and began zipping them around. Owen came over and sat next to me.
“You have really neat cars,” Owen said, watching them yearningly.
“Thanks.” I shrugged. I kept zipping the ambulance around, up and down my legs making a siren sound. I opened the back and took out the little roller cot with the victim on it. I was going for the maximum drool factor.
“Hey, I need help!” Owen suddenly said. He took one of my racers in each hand and ran them toward each other. When he banged them together, he slowed down and was careful not to actually hurt them, which was mighty fine elementary school manners.
I smiled into his blue eyes. Those eyes stared back into mine for a few seconds, then went comically wide with a vacant glaze.
“Help! Help! We need an ambulance!” he said in a high voice. His eyes rolled back into his head, and he shook all over.
I put my hand over my mouth and faked a hissing sound. “Dispatch 9-1-1, please send an ambulance to Jefferson Prince Elementary School. Yes, it’s awful. There’s been a terrible accident. Body parts everywhere. I think… I think I see a glove on the monkey bars—with a finger in it! Please, hurry!”
I rolled the ambulance toward the gruesome scene. Owen lay down on the carpet and began jerking like he was dying. He clutched the two Matchbox racers to his chest and gurgled.
“Oh my gosh! It’s… it’s too much!” I moaned in a deep paramedic’s voice. “We need blood plasma, stat! Call the hospital and tell them we’re coming! Call in all the doctors, and… I’m sorry, but you’d better notify the coroner.” (My mom loved the Discovery Channel.)
Owen peeked at me from under his lashes. He looked very impressed.
We played together until the end of lunch that day. At recess, he came right over. And the next day he brought in a few Richie Rich comics, and I brought in some action figures. We never spent one moment of school time apart for the rest of the year.
From that day on, Owen was my best friend—jelly to my peanut butter, fellow pea in my pod, Sam to my Frodo. And I was his.