So I’m sitting on the floor amidst all these half-unpacked boxes in my shitty motel room by the highway, the stripper I’ve been “running into” on a pretty regular basis idly picking a scab in my hand-me-down armchair.

We’re waiting for my recently-ex-wife to drop off the kid so I can feel shitty about myself for a weekend as he smirks and mutters his way through whatever activities I can come up with that don’t involve him staring at the computer while I get slowly drunk in the kitchen/living room. Nikki★Sparxx, aka Sp★rkplug, my erstwhile stripper friend, is trying to get into the superhero racket herself, so she’s been coming over for “career advice,” which usually devolves into “listless bitching about her job” instead of something I could really use, like “rapid defilement of a stripper.”

“Ok, so then Rickie comes up to me right and he’s like, ‘I need you to cover Tonnya’s shift tonight,’ and I’m like, ‘No way am I covering for that slut again after what she said about–‘” At this point my super-sensitive hearing picks up footsteps approaching the motel staircase, but my super-sensitive not-giving-a-fuck is all set to ignore it except I know those footsteps, and they belong to neither my ass-ache of an ex-wife nor my cloven-hoofed progeny.

I rush to my feet, almost snapping my own spine in the process because I’m stepping on my cape. “Shit! Turn off the lights and shut up!”

“Cheeezus, buy a girl a drink first…” she grumbles, but I can see the career talks are paying off because she actually starts doing what I asked.

“Now, sssh!” I say, although no superhero has ever said this in response to a threat before, ever. The footsteps–or should I say bootsteps?!–thump closer. I hear them slip a bit on the broken stair and allow myself a sublime moment of personal satisfaction.

“((What’s happening?))” Sp★rkplug hisses.

“((It’s my fucking arch-nemesis!))” I hiss back. “I’d recognize those bootsteps anywhere.” I haven’t recounted yet the exact circumstances that ingrained those boots forever into my memory (and my face).

“Oh shit?! Captain–”

SMAAASH!!” I hear, just as my picture window explodes into a million glittering pieces. I give Sp★rkplug a look that manages to convey my intense desire that she stay hidden and shut the fuck up. Captain Smash reaches through the non-existent window and flips the light switch on, revealing me in mid-crouch. I straighten up.

“Goddammit, Donnie… There goes my fucking security deposit.”

“So sorry, old chum. Me and Wonderboy here just thought we’d give you a little scare!” Sure enough, my little indiscretion is smiling up at me expectantly through the window gap.

“I believe I taught ‘Wonderboy’ how to use a door. I’m fairly certain that was one of his first super-skills, in fact.” His little smile flattens out, and I’m not ashamed to admit that it gives me a rush of the old super-juice.

“Well,” Smash says, pointlessly, and tucks his one giant glove under his arm. He climbs through the window gap in one thigh-bulging maneuver and then grabs Wonderboy with his free arm and sets him down in front of me.

“Dad! Captain Smash is turning our basement into his new Smash-cave!™” There is a precociously malicious glint in his eye as he says this. I slowly raise my eyes to Smash, who is scanning the cluttered room with an air of friendly disapproval.

“It smells like body glitter in here!” he bellows. With that, Sp★rkplug pops her head up from behind the armchair. “Hi!” she says, surprisingly brightly, though still with that nicotine-throated tinge that is already getting on my nerves.

“Well, well,” he says, as he gives her the elevator eyes. “Who do we have here?”

“Sp★rkplug attaaack!” she shrieks, and apropos of nothing she’s out from behind the chair and applying a masterful roundhouse to his empty nuts.

His eyes bulge and he makes a sound like “G’noing!” My eyes bulge, too. “Cool!” says Wonderboy.

Things happen quickly. Before she can withdraw her foot, Smash has grabbed her calf and then her waist. Wonderboy ducks as she is thrown over his head, smashing back-first onto my kitchen/living room table, which pauses a split-second before collapsing. She grabs a newly-freed table leg and comes rushing back at us, her eyes unseeing as she shrieks. I just manage to step out of the way as she begins pounding his chest-plate with the table leg, unleashing a flood of slurred expletives. I glance at Wonderboy, wondering how I’m going to turn this episode into a Life Lesson for him. (“Never underestimate the power of pent-up stripper rage,” crosses my mind.)

I give Wonderboy a little shove towards the TV, check the tuck of my bodystocking, and enter the fray. Sp★rkplug has Captain Smash amused but distracted with the chest-beating, so I take the opportunity to swipe his legs out from underneath him. She goes down, too, so I grip her arms and toss her out of the way with what I hope she recognizes as benevolent disregard. Smash is on his feet now and we spend a few moments doing that thing where we smash forearms together like they’re swords? People love that shit, but we’re playing to a small crowd here, so we move on to the more effective stuff pretty quickly. I grope at my utility belt, trying to fish out some pepper spray or like a knife or something, but I end up with a handful of Distracto-balls.

“This,” I grunt, “will have to do,” and I open my fist to let them scatter to all corners of the room, where they explode in chaotic flashes and start filling the room with a blinding smoke.

I land a couple of solid punches while Captain Smash is coughing, but with a shriek Nikki is on my back, pounding tiny fists and pulsing her legs like she has spurs on. I do a half-turn and slam her into Smash, and the three of us go down together. As I roll off her I get an up-close view of Captain Smash, who looks like he hasn’t shaved in a few days and whose hair, where it sticks out from underneath that stupid Kaiser-helmet-thing, is going preternaturally gray. “Lydia’s already working her magic,” I think, and punch him in the Adam’s apple.

“I just,” he chokes, “came to get the alimony [gasp] check!” He stumbles onto his feet, dragging Sp★rkplug with him. “Aiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii,” she screams, and kicks his leg to get free. She whirls around, seemingly disoriented, her brown eyes wide and unblinking. She begins running a wide circle around the room. He and I share a brief look of “!!!” before I duck at just the right instant for her to use my back as a springboard. She flies, her spangled cape flapping gloriously as she slams into him and the two go rolling together out the open window. A swatch of cape catches on a shard of glass and I hear one of them yell “FUUUUUU” before the fabric tears and they go tumbling and hissing down the stairs and into the night.

I stand at the window smelling the highway and wiping my gloved hands together unnecessarily before turning back around to my son, who has helpfully started unpacking his backpack.

“Mom lets me eat two desserts,” he says.

— THE END ?? —