Reycle page 23

"It was okay for awhile. Like any addict, I learned to hide it, and lie about it... for awhile. Of course it got out of hand though. That picture of me and The Three Kings that you see everywhere? I was flying way higher than any of us in that picture that day. Almost took out the chase plane in my stupor. That's why I'm so close in the shot, and why none of the pictures I took with the telephoto lens I was holding were very good."


Sitting in the chair, lighting a new cigarette with the old one, Time Phantom takes a puff to get it going and then laughs. "Yeah, one of the greatest moments in my life, flying with my idols and those beautiful planes of theirs, and I did it through a drugged out haze. What a freakin' idiot," he says with a dismissive wave.


The room is silent, listening intently to John at the podium. "This went on for a couple of years. I remember Bump In The Night yelling at me that I was 'out of control' at one point. You'd think that when of my villains is telling me that, I would get a clue, but no. I beat him senseless and kept right on with what I was doing."

He took a deep breath and a swallow of water, and continues, "Towards the end, a news crew caught me on film trying to hide a stash of pills in my shorts at a drug raid," he said, snapping the waistband of his shorts with his thumb. "I'm sure you've all seen that at some point. The cops didn't know what to do- they couldn't hold me. One of them spoke up though, and I blew him off and flew away.All of that was on film of course, and Clementine was not happy when I got home. I'd rather go toe-to-toe with Viceroy Volcano than my angry wife," he said, getting a chuckle from the group.

"We had a big blowout argument that ended with me at a press conference, issuing a public apology, and entering rehab for the first time. That didn't do much. A detoxing superhero that can bench press loaded semis and toss people across town doesn't inspire a rehab staff to try to corral you when you want to go off the rails. They couldn't anyway. I'd time travel at night, going back to a point where I'd busted some dealer, lift his stash again, and come back to my room higher than the national debt. No telling how many divergent timelines I caused with those trips.

"They finally 'passed' me, rubber stamping me out of their hair and making me someone else's problem." He drinks some more water, and pauses.

"I didn't want to deal with Clem' again, but I didn't want to lose her either, so I got a lot better at hiding it. When I couldn't, I'd call her and tell her I was going on a mission in space with Jumping Jupiter, or that I had to chase Wartime across centuries, or that I was in China with Red Panda." A few whistles went up at the mention of the Chinese heroine. "Yeah, not one of the better things I could have told my wife," he admitted, which was followed by more laughter from the group. "But I'd tell her whatever, just so I could get away and get high. Most of the time, I was parked across town in a vacant lot near the docks, passed out in my car with more pills in my system than a pharmacy. Probably would have been asleep with needles in my arm if they could penetrate my skin. Don't think I didn't try."


In the private interview, Time Phantom laughed guiltily. "Yeah, I tried it once. When it didn't work, I went and demanded my money back from the dealer, and whatever he had in pills or blow. He gave it up without a fight. I think he was scared I was going to rip him in half. My drugged out ass at the time- he's probably lucky I didn't."


"When I was in my better moments," said John, making eye contact with the group, "I was fighting crime and taking down villains. Maybe a little rougher than necessary; I wasn't at my best.

"I had a CB in the car with a guarded frequency, and Clementine would call me on it with the typical housewife stuff." Going a little softer and high pitched to imitate his wife, he said, "'Don't forget to pick up the dry cleaning.' Or 'Can you pick up some milk on your way home?' Or 'Don't forget the mayor is giving you the key to the city at two.' That kind of stuff," he said with a vague backhanded swat at the air.

"We had this thing on busy days like that. She'd ask me to pick something up from the store, and then take our daughter to the playground next to the store. I'd get glimpses of them as I went in and out, they'd see me briefly before I got home, and of course little Clementine got to play. She knew my secret, and liked to see me in my costume whenever she could. Two birds with one stone, you know?"


In his chair, Time Phantom swallowed hard and turned his head from the camera- wiping his eyes with his fingers.