Bronwyn and I continued on our way, hopefully to the food court or just to food. “You really are harmless, Uncle Andy. Let’s face it. You’re too sweet and funny,” she said.
“Sweet and funny? That’s what I’ve become?” I said. “I’m not harmless. I’ve faced danger. I was speared by a tranquilizer dart. I was held at gunpoint. I was kidnapped … “
“By a woman.”
“By a scary, sword-wielding woman,” I corrected.
“Yes, but you didn’t want to fight her, because you’re too much of a gentleman.”
I sighed. This was close to the truth. “Well, when it comes to men, to ‘bad guys,’ you don’t have to worry about my sense of chivalry.”
“You and Uncle Jack are obsessed with bad guys, and you’re not even cops.”
“Yes. Lt./Det. Kelly keeps reminding us of that fact.”
“So, you’re saying that if that guy over there were to kidnap me, you’d knock his block off.”
I turned to look at “that guy over there.” She was pointing at some dude who I imagined must be a club bouncer, with a strangely triangular upper body you’d expect to find on a comic book hero, broad shoulders that narrowed down to a small waist. “Yeah,” I said, “Or die trying … most likely the second.” This guy looked like he could take me down easily … blindfolded … with his small toe.
“Look, kiddo,” I said. “Don’t even joke about getting kidnapped. If anything were to happen to you, your Uncle Jack and I wouldn’t rest until you were home safe.”
She linked her arm in mine. “Okay. Where should we go?”
“Somewhere where there’s food.” I said this partly because I’m a bottomless pit and partly because it seemed much more interesting than shopping for preteen girl clothes. “What do you say? A frappuccino and a Cinnabon or a frappuccino and a soft pretzel?”
“A frappuccino and a Cinnabon.”
Just a short while ago, I was thinking about a guy shaped like a comic book superhero. Here, just outside of Starbucks, sat a guy with what looked to be one of those unicorn drinks, deeply engrossed in a comic book, and the comic book looked oddly familiar. It was one of our own line, the Blaze series. Tomorrow, we would be releasing accompanying action figures with robotic features.
I linked arms with Bronwyn and slid over to his table. Bronwyn, equipped in her Heelys shoes, skated over. “Hey!” I said to the guy.
He looked up from the comic, and, for a second or two, his hands shook. He had trouble looking me in the eye, and I couldn’t decide if he had a classic case of Asperger’s or if he was just taken aback by a complete stranger grinning oddly at him.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. I just couldn’t help noticing what you’re reading. I’m from Out of the Box Toys. The Blaze comics are in our line. I’m just pleased to see we have a fan.”
He was looking at me now, from small blue eyes sunk deep in his face, in a way that hardly seemed more comforting. I looked him over. He had a long oval pasty white face, blue rectangular-framed glasses and dull blondish-brown hair with a receding hairline. He was also sporting more Blaze paraphernalia than seemed healthy for a grown man, a Blaze T-shirt that was just visible beneath his winter coat, a Blaze messenger bag and canvas sneakers that seemed to be hand-painted with the Blaze emblem.
“More than a fan – a superfan, I see,” I said. I expected a superfan to be more enthused by my presence, but he was looking at me as if he were deciding what to do with me. “I’m Andy Westin.” I realized this probably meant nothing to him. I shrugged a single shoulder. “I’m the marketing guy.” I looked to Bronwyn and suddenly pulled her to my side in what was half hug and half wrestling move. “And this is my niece. She’s actually Jack Donegal’s niece. He’s the real brains behind the series and the toys and the everything. He’s the brain. I’m more like … the right arm.”
His face changed at the mention of Jack’s name, with recognition, I supposed, but I found it hard to read.
“Bronwyn,” I said. “Let’s get a selfie with the superfan.” We both pulled out our phones and then, sandwiching the superfan like the cream in an Oreo, we clicked away. I looked through the results. I was grinning ridiculously. The superfan was looking stiff and somewhat unsociable. Bronwyn was looking cute and yet slightly awkward.
I suddenly slapped my forehead in an “I should have had a V8” moment. “We were taking selfies with our phones. We should have taken one with your phone,” I told the fan.
I was almost surprised when he pulled his phone out. I was beginning to think he thought we were a couple of desperate celebrity wannabes. He stretched his camera arm out, and, with the other, flipped a hair into place. He clicked, and, briefly, I saw the result. His face was different in this one. The stiffness was gone, yet he didn’t smile. Instead, he looked like an actor playing the part of the noble hero.
I tried one more approach. “We’re going to be at the New York Toy Fair tomorrow, unleashing something new. You should come or you should at least stay tuned.”
The statue that was the superfan spoke for the first time. “Yes, I n …” His voice was soft and squeaky. “Yes, thank you.” He nodded and smiled a weird smile that only moved the lower half of his face.
“Well,” I said, clearing my throat. “I’ll leave you to your excellent reading choice and your unicorn drink. I may get one for the niece.”
“Oh, it’s a Pokemon Go frappuccino.”
I was almost glad to get away from him, and I linked my arm with Bronwyn’s once more.
To be continued …
© 2018 Susan Joy Clark