Glow! A Cartoon Story by John Pirillo. She's the light of his life and he's the light of hers. But monsters don't like that!
A Cartoon Story
By John Pirillo
"Take that!" He said, tossing the huge garbage bag into the dumpster behind Al's Diner, the place where he made his living while he worked his way through college. His name was Johnnie and he was a Comic Book Commando. Some months back he rushed to the rescue of a young girl in a burning high rise building. She would've died without his help. He saved her, but a strange thing happened during the rescue. One of his arms had stretched like plastic to grab a railing to save him and the girl from a fatal plunge.
Ever since that day he'd been working with the girl of his dreams...a forever young looking Princess from the land of Cartoon. And her name was, appropriately enough, Cartoon. Everyone in her world looked like cartoons. She did too at night. Her body gave off a golden glow. During the day, not so much, barely visible. Most people wrote it off to t he sunlight in their eyes. She wasn't just a Princess, but a damned good warrior as well. This to her credit saved his bacon from the fire many a time.
But today was Mister Normal day, not super comic book hero guy. Behind the dumpster and to the right was the old warehouse where all kinds of fruit and veggies were packed and stored. A very small wood and wire cage held a guard dog in there during the day. He roamed the warehouse at night to protect it from intruders. He was a terribly mean and nasty guard dog accordingly to Al, but Johnnie hadn't had any problem with it.
The first day he'd seen the dog, he'd fallen in love with it. He'd found some scraps left over from a meal, and shoveled them into the dog's cage. It had run up with teeth bared at first, but Johnnie just smiled. It lost its grimace and shoved its nose and mouth to the wire and began licking at him through it. He had put his face closer and felt the wet tongue roll across his cheek, and then he had pulled back and carefully put his hand inside and stroked the dog's neck while it ate hungrily at the steak and eggs he had provided.
Some trucker had been in a rush and just eaten his Danish and bacon and left the rest. Bad luck for him. Good luck for the dog.
"Good boy." He told the dog, who looked up a minute, licked its chops, wriggled its tail happily, and then returned to eating.
Johnnie went back inside, where he caught Koomay watching him. She hurriedly put her hands back into the sink where she was cleaning bacon for the next rush of customers on the morrow. "You're pretty good with animals." She told him, not asked. Told him.
He shrugged. "Do unto."
She giggled. "Well you do unto pretty good, Johnnie boy."
Without another word she returned to her cleaning and he to his.
At the end of the day he hung up his gloves, apron and dragged the ribbed rubber mat back inside where he laid it down behind the counter. It accumulated all kinds of dropped food and dirt from the constant back and forth of Koomay and Al while they worked. It was a small diner. Al did the cooking and she did the serving and waitressing mostly.
Johnnie was the go to man. What they couldn't do. He did.
He rushed to the front door after he'd finished cleaning the windows, then waved at Al, who grunted with a smile, and Koomay who gave him a lovely dimpled smile, then exited.
He was in a rush to get to the comic book store. There was a new comic book hero coming out and he wanted to grab the first edition copy. His apartment had a whole closet filled with first run copies. He figured someday they'd be worth a fortune.
Cartoon looked into it one day and made a face, until she saw the look on his face and he said very patiently. "You wouldn't be here today if I didn't collect these...and now...he looked at a hand that suddenly sprouted a rose. He offered it to her.
Her eyes widened. "I can actually smell it!"
"Yeah. I've been working on my skills." He answered, and then walked away part of his hand missing. But in a few seconds the rose sprouted wings and a face, then flew after him and rejoined his hand. Cartoon giggled. She loved it.
He had promised to take her on a walk along the levy that night. The one that ran parallel to the Sacramento University. And he intended to keep his promise.
He probably could have used his Plastic Man comic book and changed into a car and driven her there inside his body, but that would be revealing a bit too much. He'd been spending a lot of time saving lives lately and only the simple face mask that he sprouted now every time kept his identity secret.
Most of the time people didn't even know they were in danger when he saved them. From giant insects, zombies, vampires, werewolves, psychotic robots from Mars, twisting globs of gooey monster that sucked you dry and other adverse and not so chummy things. So he was able to work the little miracles of his comic book commando life without them even realizing he had a hand in it. But like that Mall Incident last Christmas where there was a zombie invasion, that time he couldn't hide. People got all kinds of photos of him on their cells. Fortunately for him, he never stayed still long enough and it was dark enough no one got good clear shots.
That's when he and Cartoon decided they needed disguises. She could change into anyone she wanted to look like, but for him, he had to have a comic book handy. Like in his hand or pocket. But sometimes, he and Cartoon couldn't figure out why, sometimes he was able to transform or initiate a change without a comic book nearby.
And that's what they were discussing when they got off the transit and walked up the sidewalk into the school grounds. Students were still streaming from the Library and cafeteria where late snacks were available. A couple guys were playing guitars in front of the Library and a team of Cheerleaders were practicing on the grass quad as the sun descended from view.
The veered away from the busier parts of the campus and found the footbridge that crossed over the American River. They reached the other side and began walking the levy, still in a contemplative conversation about the changes.
"I don't see how it's possible, Johnnie." She told him in exasperation, letting go of his right hand for a moment to smooth her golden hair back behind her shoulder again. She had been letting it grow longer and longer. Even though in public when working with him she looked kind of like a Japanese power ninja girl, in private and at times like this she reverted to her normal look. Which was tall like him, narrow hipped, long flowing golden hair and eyes, and skin that was bronze and glowed a soft white or yellow depending on her mood. When she was angry in battle her glow would turn a violent red or a disturbing black color. When she was sad her colors would fall back into a kind of dull olive green.
Tonight it was golden, just like the golden girl she was.
"Maybe someone out there likes me." He kidded.
She rolled her eyes. "Please. Don't go pulling one of those Norse god legends on me."
"No, I was thinking more along the lines of a President Bush, or Clinton."
She laughed and then punched him on his arm. "You're terrible, Johnnie!"
"Yeah. But you love it."
"No. I love you." She promptly pointed out. "And that's a whale of a different color."
My turn to laugh. "Where in the world did you pick up that old term?"
She blushed. I got it. "You read my grandfather's yearbook."
He smiled. "He was something else." Then he saddened. Felt his eyes moistening. "I loved him so much."
She stopped and threw her arms around him and hugged him tight. "Oh Johnnie! You big baby!"
She gave him a sweet kiss, and then pulled back. "Don't ever stop!"
"Fat chance." He quipped, and then burst into a run.
"Johnnie!" She cried after him.
"Catch me if you can!" He hollered over his shoulder.
She screeched angrily, and then cut out after him. In a few seconds she had caught up. He stopped, grabbed her by the waist and tossed her round and round like you might do a child in play. She laughed and laughed, her sweet voice warming the chill night air.
Then he froze. Rising from the river next to them was something large and glowing. It had two huge eyes, four tusks and eight ears up and down its body. It was segmented and had a face like a human and a tail like a fish.
"What the..." He gasped.
He set her down and she turned to look. She gasped too, took his hand. "We must leave. Now!"
"Why? I've got just the thing on me for a creature like that." He reached back into his pocket for his Superman comic. He had picked it up at the comic book store when he couldn't get a copy of the new super hero one. It had sold out when the store opened, much to his dismay.
He reached for the comic, and then went pale as a ghost.
"Oh crap!" He swore.
"I must have dumped it on the path when I ran."
They looked back. There was the comic book about fifty yard back, lying on the asphalt pathway, its pages fluttering in the breeze.
From the river came a horrendous sound. They turned to face it. Cartoon summoned a wicked looking sword into being and eyed the creature as it reached the bank and began to crawl up it. "Behind me! Now!"
He didn't argue. He was defenseless. He didn't have anything to fight with. He looked around as Cartoon tensed for battle. Nothing. Not even any large rocks to toss. He turned back in frustration.
The monster came closer. Its human eyes and mouth crinkled in a wicked smile. "I am for the Comic Book Commando, not you Princess."
"Over my dead body." She shouted, raising her sword.
The creature's tail lashed out and caught the sword, wrenching it from her hand. It tossed it into the river. She summoned a second one and a second time its tail lashed out, taking the new sword away as well.
Johnnie was thinking as hard as he could of something, anything he could do to help, as she summoned an even larger sword and rushed the creature.
"Die then!" It admonished her, opening its mouth wider and wider.
Johnnie's body suddenly grew as bright as the sun.
Cartoon's glow was washed away in the harshness of the glow.
The giant centipede like creature recoiled from the light and began sliding back into the water, its eyes sightless, its skin beginning to smoke. It cried out like a small child in pain, and then slipped out of sight into the depths of the fast rolling waters of the river.
Cartoon spun around, the sword vanishing from her hands as he turned to look at him.
The incredibly bright glow vanished, but not entirely. Now his skin glows a soft golden color like hers.
"What's happening to me?" He asked. "I'm starting to glow like you."
She came up and wrapped her arms around him. "I was so frightened for you."
"But it was going to eat you." He protested, not her arms about him, but her sense of sacrifice.
"No. I cannot die in your world from such as that."
"What was it?"
She didn't answer at first, and then she said. "I need to prepare you better. Next time it may not be so simple to scare it off."
"Hell, Cartoon, I didn't just scare it off. If it had been a human with pants, it would've dropped its pants and had a dump right there and then!"
She laughed, and shook her head. She gently caressed his cheeks. "This is why I love you so much. You're such a hopeless romantic."
She gave him a really great kiss and that was all folks that night as far as he was concerned.
"I think we need to go home." He told her, his blood boiling.
She smiled. "Not really."
That night the moon's glow was bright, but not nearly as bright as that of the couple beneath it at the water's edge, lost in the glow of love and friendship.