Authors: Mark Bousquet
Used to Be
The Kid Rapscallion Story
A Superhero Novel by Mark Bousquet
USED TO BE: THE KID RAPSCALLION STORY is a superhero novel. The story that follows presents not only a disconnected chronology, but is almost exclusively written in the present tense. You may hate this style, but it is intentional.
This is a work of fiction. All characters, places, and events are either inventions of the author or used fictitiously and are copyright 2014-present by Mark Bousquet.
USED TO BE: THE KID RAPSCALLION STORY
Cover Design By: Mark Bousquet, using Logoist 2.
Front Cover Image:
by David Vasquez. URL: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5e/WelcomeToVegasNite.JPG.
The work has been released into the public domain by its author
Back Cover Image:
Vegas by night (360655015).jpg
by Ville Miettinen. URL: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fe/Vegas_by_night_%28360655015%29.jpg.
The file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce the book, or portions thereof, in any form.
A Space Buggy Press Publication
First Printing: June 2015
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Other Titles from Mark Bousquet
Gunfighter Gothic (Volume 1): Under Zeppelin Skies
Gunfighter Gothic (Volume 2): Absinthe & Steam
Gunfighter Gothic (Volume 3): Black Christmas
Gunfighter Gothic (Volume 4): American Valkyrie
The Haunting of Kraken Moor
Harpsichord & the Wormhole Witches
s Syndrome: Into the New World
s Syndrome: New World Navigation (editor)
Stuffed Animals for Hire (Book 1): The Christmas Operation
Stuffed Animals for Hire (Book 2): The New Year Operation
Adventures of the Five (Book One): The Coming of Frost
Adventures of the Five (Book Two): The Christmas Engine
Strange & Cozy (editor, coming soon)
For a complete list of short stories, please visit: themarkbousquet.com
We get older. We mature. We become smarter people. But somewhere in the past lies the primal spark of interest. USED TO BE is one of those stories that is written from the back end of fandom, that is interested in the failings and shortcomings of the men and women who put on costumes and become superheroes, but is dedicated to the writers and artists who first brought me into the world of comic books. So if, in the early 1980s, you worked for Marvel Comics or on the Batman and Green Lantern books, thanks for making me a fan.
Used to Be
The Kid Rapscallion Story
A Superhero Novel by Mark Bousquet
Depression does not follow the weather.
It is 83 degrees today, the blue sky cut only by the fluffiest, whitest clouds you will ever see over Las Vegas. It’s early May and I’ve come here for my suite.
“I’m not seeing a reservation for you, Mr. Kitmore.”
I knew she wouldn’t, of course, but I go through the motions because … because. Jason Kitmore is who I am, but it’s not who gets the Empire Suite at the Grand Vegas. I slide the young woman a purple card with no markings on it that confuses her. “Swipe it,” I suggest with the weariness of one who used to play this pantomime for fun.
Shelly does and her eyes light up in what I tell myself is “pleasant surprise” more than “confused disbelief,” but I know I’m being generous. “Oh? Oh,” she says, looking back and forth from me to the card to the computer screen that has told her “Jason Kitmore” is in her computer as “Kid Rapscallion.”
“Yeah,” I say without bothering to force a smile. “Used to be, at least.”
A decade ago, the knock on the door would have been caused by groupies or autograph seekers or celebrities. The odd drug dealer. Strippers. Once, a woman showed up with a baby tiger to sell. Just unannounced. Just Knock Knock Would You Like to Buy A Baby Tiger? His Name is Fred and If He Bites You You Get The Superpowers of A Tiger.
Now, it’s none of those people.
“I’ll be fucked by a Black Martian,” says the Grand Vegas’ General Manager,
Cathall. “Kid Rapscallion.”
“It’s just Jason now, Nance,” I say, not so much letting her into the suite as getting shoved aside by the storm that follows with her.
She turns, gives me a curt smile, and pulls down on the bottom of her navy blue jacket with one hand as the other holds a computer tablet to her chest. There’s a bit more girth around her middle than she’d like, but I’m more concerned about that stern look on her face. “This is a $10,000 a night suite,” she announces.
“Really? Economy is driving the price down.”
Unflustered, she reminds me, “You cannot afford $10,000 a night.”
I hold up the magic purple card. “This says I can.”
“No,” she says, her face struggling to not flip her blonde hair back over her shoulder. I don’t know why she resists it. I love it, and she knows it, and this visit is about rubbing my nose in as much shit as possible. Which means maybe …
“Wanna give me a tour of the suite?” I ask, trying to light a twinkle in my eye. “I’ve been in space the last five years, so I might have forgotten a thing or three.” I point to the infinity pool that extends off the outside of the building. “Glad to see that’s still there. Remember that night we —?”
“Space?” Nancy asks, and her face turns red.
Red like …
“Were you with
?” she asks. “Unbelievable. Even after she abandoned you? What kind of … no,” she says, straightening out her jacket, her hair, and then her jacket again. It’s clear this is a thing she does when she needs to regain her composure, some kind of hotel management “count to ten” technique. I hate that she’s become this … is there a word that means, “not special”? Plain? Ordinary? She continues on as I remember I was never very good in school. “There’s nothing changed in this room since the last time you were here,” she insists. “That would have been 9/11, I think,” she says.
I wince. “I was here after that.”
“There’s new upholstery, two new toilets, a retiled shower stall, and no cocaine in the carpet.”
“I remember the shower stall,” I say, beginning to enjoy myself for the first time in weeks. “And the toilets. And why there was so much coke in the carpet.” I look down. “What happened to the carpet?”
“A short carpet and wooden floors make it easier for the staff to vacuum up illegal drugs.”
We look at each other. Five years. No phone call since just before the Waffle House. I try to tell myself this isn’t totally my fault because I really was in space for a few years, but it’s not like I was a great guy to Nancy when I was Earthbound. The fun, I can see in her face, is most definitely gone. But I still need this room.
“Do you even know I have a child?”
I nod because it would be easier for her to know I’m lying if I speak.
“He has green hair, and when he sneezes, anyone standing within ten feet of his mouth has their bones broken.” She takes a deep breath and lets it out as she walks to the window, looking down at the strip beneath her. “He has a kinetic helmet, they call it, that he has to take with him everywhere. Looks like a motorcycle helmet.
built it for him, and when Cory feels like a sneeze is coming he has to put it on so the power of the sneeze is absorbed and oh fucking hell why am I telling you? You don’t care.”
I don’t. About the kid, anyway. “Wait …
is the kid’s dad? So you really were fucked by a Black Martian? Wow. Well, at least it isn’t Jersey 121’s kid.”
“Jersey 121?” she asks, her face reddening. “Jesus, Jason, how many capes do you think I fucked?”
“I think answering that question is a bad idea.”
Wrong moment to play smart ass.
“You cannot stay here,”
says, actually stomping one heeled foot on the floor for emphasis as she turns around to face me.
“Card says I can,” I remind her, trying to keep my desperation in check.
“That card was issued under previous management.”
“Fuck’s sake, Nance! I saved this city! Twice! I didn’t ask for a Forever Pass to the Grand, but I wasn’t dumb enough to turn it down.”
“And the Grand Vegas is thankful for your service to the community, Jason,” she says politely and impersonally, her professional mask back on tight, “but that deal is no longer valid.”
“I know for a fact it is,” I tell her, trying to control my anger. “Old Man Cuellers had it specifically written into the agreement when he sold the building to Knight Holdings. And don’t try to tell me he didn’t, because I checked before spending my last $100 to get here!”
smiles, but it’s a million miles from the smiles she used to give me. It’s now the smile of a predator who has trapped its prey. She shows me the tablet screen she’s been holding close to her chest. It’s a picture of the contract.
“You can come over here and read this,” she says, “but you know what it says.”
“I really never read the things I used to sign.”
“Then let me tell you,” she says, taking a step towards me. “It says, ‘For the remainder of his life, Kid Rapscallion will have the free use of a Tier One Suite at the Grand Vegas.’”
“You’re not Kid Rapscallion anymore.”
“I don’t think a technicality —”
“Well, you are certainly within your rights to sue us to put that matter before the courts,” she says. “But you are not staying in this suite tonight. And yes, before you try to play clever, it is because you are no longer Kid Rapscallion, which means you no longer have any use to us. Do you know why hotels and casinos comp rooms? It’s because the value of the room is less than the individual’s overall expenditure. You don’t have money to gamble. You don’t have any money to buy coke or strippers or hookers.”
“I never …”
“You never what?”
“I never actually paid for hookers, Nance,” I correct her. “I mean … I didn’t have to. They were groupies, and even that was exaggerated. I never cheated on Melody.”
“You cheated on her with me!”
“I never cheated on …” I decided to stop this avenue. I’m not the kind of person who should be making absolute statements. “The point is, I never had to pay for anything here.”
“But now you do,” she says, and moves past me to hold open the door. “Kid Rapscallion brought the Grand notoriety. Some good, mostly bad, but you were always good for a few days of stories. I’ll be honest with you, Jason. If your fuck-ups could still make
, or even TM-bottom-of-the-fucking-barrel-Z I’d let you stay. I would. Even though I hate your guts. But superheroes don’t sell anymore.”
“I thought they were making a comeback,” I protest. “I’ve seen them on the news and there’s rumors Congress is —”
“People are interested in old superheroes who they were proud of, Jason,” Nancy says. “Not has beens looking to cash in. Now, unless you put a bullet in your skull, nothing you do is going to make the news. I doubt anyone would even be interested in another one of your sex tapes.”
“Don’t play dumb with me.”
“Nancy … please.” I can feel my throat going dry. “I’m asking for a favor. I know I probably don’t deser— I know I definitely do not deserve it, but I just need this room for two nights and I promise you will never see me, again.”
She thinks for a second as she closes her eyes. There’s lines on her face where there didn’t used to be lines, and I don’t think the world would be hot to see her in a bikini anymore, but she looks better than she ever did, as far as I’m concerned. When she talks, her answer is noncommittal. “Five years,” she says. “Five. No phone call. No note. No Twitter update. The fun is gone, Jason. Long, long gone. Just like you will be in ten seconds. Unless you want me to call security, of course. Do you know who runs security at the Grand now?”
I just look at her.
Nancy takes a few steps back into the room. “Are you juicing, again?” she asks. “Because, unlike you, Nathan doesn’t need drugs to be super.”
“You have got to be fucking kidding me with this shit!”
“Wait! Wait,” I say, gentler. Sweat has broken out all over my body. I made a point to shave and wear clean clothes before checking in so I could limit the number of cliches and stereotypes I had become, but now I’m wondering if five-day stubble and dirty clothes wouldn’t have helped win my some sympathy.
“Yes?” she asks.
“Just … just call management,” I beg.
“I am the management.”
“Then call the Board,” I say. “Please. If they … if they don’t want me here, I’ll go, but I only need the room for the night, and then I won’t try to use the magic card, again. I promise.”
“If you had a nickel for every promise you kept,” she sneers, “you wouldn’t have enough change in your pocket to buy a Coke from the vending machine.”
Room 462 of the Grand Vegas is still a nice room, but it’s not the Empire Suite, so it’s not where I want to be, but at least I’m in the building. There’s no infinity pool or wet bar or seven different televisions. If I call the front desk asking for an escort and cocaine the only thing I’m getting is a visit from the LVPD. No one selling a tiger is going to knock on my door. But it’s clean and it’s got a bed and that’s really all I need tonight.
I take a shower and it’s reasonably hot and with reasonably good pressure. In the mirror I take a good look at myself and don’t like what I see. Maybe it’s the excessive lights or maybe it’s being in front of a bigger and different kind of mirror that I’m used to, but I’ve always thought if you want to see the real you — the you other people see — you’ve got to go to a good hotel room and get naked in front of the bathroom mirror.
Thankfully, I don’t qualify as a fatty, but where I used to be in peak physical shape a decade ago, I’ve lost some muscle tone. I heard a couple of moms talking about something called a “dad bod” and one of them gave me a look that said I had it.
A dad bod?
What the hell has happened to Earth in my absence?
I’ve adopted a philosophy that says if I don’t eat too much, I don’t have to work out, and it’s working well enough. I’m still relatively thin, but I look better with t-shirts on rather than t-shirts off these days. Is that what a dad bod is?
Jesus. Listen to me. Dad bods … this is why moms over the age of 30 shouldn’t be allowed on the internet.
Maybe age is the wrong way to think of ourselves. If only there was a way to refer to our “age” as the years we have left and not the years we’ve lived, I bet people would do more with their lives than inventing terms like “dad bods”.
Well, I mean, there is a way to do that, of course. I’m sure one of the magic users has a precious fucking amulet or enchanted mirror that could tell you the time you have left. Lady Catacomb, probably. Or Magic Stick. Failing that, the Witches of Avalon City must have something in their museum that could do the trick.
Nancy let me have the room but she couldn’t let me have it without delivering a dig, and that dig is an old lobby poster of Kid Rapscallion that she’s left on the double bed. In any of the Tier One Suites I might miss the poster because of the size of the room, but here, there’s one double bed, one desk, one mini-fridge, one coffee pot, and one ice bucket.