Word Count: 600
Normandy walked into the hospital room, his cape flowing behind him, his green boots resonant on the tile floor. Everyone turned to see him enter—the reporter from the local station, the nurses, the family, the child in the bed.
Normandy strode to the bed and thrust his chin in the air. “Are you James McKelvey?” he asked.
The sick child nodded. He couldn’t have been older than eight or nine years. His head was covered only by a scarf, and he was connected to half a dozen machines. Behind the tubes and the paper gown, the boy could hardly contain his excitement at meeting a real life superhero. Not just any superhero—his favorite superhero, Captain Normandy.
At least I’m still somebody’s favorite, he thought.
“I understand you wanted to see me,” said Normandy, allowing himself a tired grin. He was old and, despite his super-strength and genetically-enhanced body, he was starting to feel his age.
But none of that mattered to Jimmy. The dam burst and the child launched into a breathless rant about how he’d followed the Captain’s adventures since he could read and how he had all of his comics and had always wanted to meet him. This went on for some time while the sick child’s mother bawled silently because she’d never seen her son so happy before.
The reporter and a few nurses gave him sideways irate glances—the Captain had his share of detractors—but they wouldn’t say anything in front of the boy.
“You look like a fighter, son,” said the Captain.
“I’m trying, sir,” said Jimmy, reflexively looking back at the monitors.
“You keep it up,” said the Captain. “And, whether you win or lose, you’ll be a hero in my book.”
“Thank you sir,” said Jimmy.
Normandy leaned over the bed so they could take a few pictures and he signed a dozen pieces of paper and shook a great many hands. When the event looked to be wrapping up, he turned to Jimmy.
“I have to go soon, son,” he said. “But is there anything I can do for you before I leave?”
Jimmy nodded. “Sir?” he asked. “I was wondering if I could find out your secret identity.”
“My secret identity?” said Normandy. “Well, if I told you that it wouldn’t be much of a secret.”
Jimmy nodded. Then he coughed. He seemed to understand, but he still looked horribly disappointed. “Sir?” he said, feebly. “I can keep a secret.”
“I’m sure you can,” said Normandy.
“I won’t have to keep it very long,” said Jimmy.
Something broke in the Captain. He exhaled slowly and then turned to the nurses and press and parents. “Can we have the room?” he asked softly.
Everyone filed out, and then it was just him and Jimmy. Where to start.
The problem was that Captain Normandy didn’t have a secret identity. He’d been bred by the military to be part super-soldier and part mascot. His affiliation with a dozen unpopular wars had left him with few fans, but he had nothing else to retreat to. His birth certificate read “Captain Normandy”. The superhero was all he was.
How could he explain that to an eight-year-old?
He looked around to make sure no one was listening. He leaned in close. “My real name is Scott Thompson,” he lied. “I live on 59th. I work in a bakery.”
Jimmy’s eyes widened.
“Don’t tell anyone,” said Normandy. “Except maybe your mother. Lives depend on it.”
Jimmy nodded and crossed his heart.
The Captain made a sharp salute, and then exited.
Edited by Carolyn Abram.
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