Eddie glares at Cletus crooked toothy smile as he rubs his scruffy chin, “Why did you call me! I TOLD YOU NEVER to come to my school!”
“And I told you to keep your phone on.” Cletus growls, grabbing Eddie by his jacket collar and yanking him under the football stands and out of sight like a ragdoll.
“GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME!” Eddie protests, shrugging him off but sees Cletus points his narrow finger in Eddie's face.
“Don’t get pissy with me kid! It’s a long bad road filled with carnage if you do! Unless, if that's what you want?” snarls Cletus while sliding out a small curved blade from his back pocket.
The wild look in Cletus Kassidy’s brown eye makes Eddie gulps as the blade is held inches away from Eddie's face.
Cletus watches Eddie go pale and immediately calm down as he looks down at the knife pointed at him.
“Good puppy.” Cletus smirks, sucking his teeth, “I don’t like disrespect. ‘Specially from you uptight Suburb kids that think you got it all.” he grumbles, sliding the knife back into its sheath.
“It’s not like that Cletus I told you.” Eddie insists.
“Well, I call it as I see it.” Cletus says, looking at Eddie up and down jealously, “But, that’s unimportant for now.” He huffs, sheathing his knife, “We gotta talk, I gotta job. Some idiot is tryin’ ta’ set up shop. We gotta break it up.”
“Are you serious?! I don’t think I’m down for that.” Eddie says.
Cletus pulls out a small Ziploc bag filled with blue crystals, “They’re movin’ in on our business, and you’re PART of that business…so yeah, you’re IN!"
Eddie looks at the small baggie and folds his arms, “I-I can’t keep this up. I’ll sell but I told you, I was willing to do a little dealing for some change, you know to help out my aunt and uncle but this physical stuff gets too deep and my Aunt and Uncle are getting too suspicious about my ‘LATE NIGHT’ jobs, I can’t do this anymore.”
Standing up straight and looking down at the blond-haired green-eyed kid before him, a sneer comes across Cletus's face as his stomach boils with anger while his brown eyes glance from side to side before hastily grabbing Eddie and throwing him right into one of the metal beams!
“GET OFF ME!” Eddie shouts, trying to shove Cletus away as he pins him against the pole.
Eddie was surprised. This seemingly tall and lanky guy was overpowering him with ease.
Suddenly Cletus delivers a firm punch across Eddie's face, making him slump over in a daze as the pain spreads over his face. Pulling him back on his feet, Cletus aggressively grabs Eddie by his jacket, pinning him against the iron pole and lowers his head to glare directly in Eddie’s horrified green eyes.
“Oh so now I’m takin’ orders from you? You think you can just take what you need and walk away? You think this is how it goes? I own you boy!”
“You don’t own me! You don…”
Cletus angrily punches Eddie again across the face and throws him to the grass, kicking him in the stomach. Standing over him, Cletus takes in a deep breath, trying to compose himself as he ruffles his fiery red curly hair while looking down at Eddie turn on his back and look up at him as he holds his stomach in pain.
“Do you know who you’re even talking to right now? Who is it you think you see?” Cletus asks Eddie, hunched over him like a Hawk over a mouse, “You think I’m an idiot? NO! I’m a businessman who still has someone to report to, just like you do, and this machine we got, is a symbiosis. Yeah, that’s what them science books you got call it.”
“I highly doubt that.” Eddie quips.
Kneeling down to the grass, Cletus looks right into Eddie’s green eyes, “Oh yes is my friend. You help me, I help you. If I keep going, you keep going. I’m broke, you’re broke… I’m in danger, guess who else is in danger?”
“I told you to leave my family out of it!”
Chuckling, Cletus covers his mouth with his hand as a wide smile comes across his face, “That’s not how this works! Let me explain something to you, Eddie. No one decided this path but YOU and now, not me, the PATH is DEMANDING more of you and you have to give it. If you don’t, they’re consequences to pay.
“And what exactly does that mean?”
“It means you make a choice and accept WHO you are, Hero by day and Villain by night, which is fine by me I won’t judge, but you better do good by me and those you work for.” Cletus states, “Or…you take the punishment now and get out clean but with an everlasting reminder of who let you go.” he says, pulling out his knife, “And as a warnin’, it ain’t pretty.”
“Which one are you Cletus? Who are you exactly?
Cletus smiles at Eddie, “Boy, I ain’t something you ever seen before.”
Eddie lowers his head to the grass.
Cletus smiles at him and looks at his knife, “I don’t think I’ll be needing this will I?”
Seeing Eddie’s angered glare from his green eyes, Cletus simply smirks as he stands on his feet, “Smart.” He says. Pulling out a pink paper, Cletus throws the paper to Eddie in the grass, “So, like I was saying, we got some people trying to move in on our turf. They’re using this place as a set-up, so we’re going to, welcome them to the neighborhood. Be there 9:15. Don’t be late…I’m countin’ on you.”
As Cletus steps over him, Eddie unfolds the pink paper and his eyes open wide as his stomach nearly bottoms out.
Eddie turns around and looks at Cletus pointing at him, “No excuses. Be there!”
Speechless, Eddie looks at the paper and remember how he promised Flash Thompson, Sally Avril, Liz Allen, and even the kid that was going to drive them, Andrew Duncan that he was going to this very place with them. This was bad. Proverbial worlds were colliding and there was no stopping it Eddie thought.
“WHAT!” Cletus asks, looking over his shoulder.
Looking at Cletus, Eddie's stomach started to quiver with fear at the thought of how bad this conversation would end if he protested, but maybe, there was a chance this could go well enough that he could quit after this.
“How much is the take?”
With a smile, Cletus looks at him, “For you, eight hundred.”
Eddie nods at the thought of the amount. It was perfect. Aunt May and Uncle Ben were backed up with bills. This would help clear it. This would do it. It was worth the risk.
“See you there.” Eddie says standing up.
Cletus looks at him with a nod and throws his hoodie over his fiery head, slinking out from the stands and disappears.
The Outstanding Spider-Man
ARC II - HEROES
Part III - "The Mid-Afternoon…"
Meanwhile….Midtown Manhattan 2:30pm
A dull haze rises from the cars and taxis caught in the thick traffic of Midtown's Broadway avenue. Inside the old yellow Chevy Nova, Peter, in the seat next to Uncle Ben, keep his feet close to him as he wraps his arms around his bag and legs, peering out the window in a fixed daze.
They hadn’t spoken since Uncle Ben told to him to get in the car. They hadn't spoken for almost an hour. Only the occasional groan from the standstill traffic to break their silence.
Peter had almost forgotten he had asked Uncle Ben to pick him up at school as he would not have to take all his classes since his teacher was sick. They had a good system during the summer and Uncle Been always picked him up at 8’O clock sharp.
He had wanted to ‘go to the library’ and try out some of his powers like he had been all summer. Yet, as anxious and exciting of discovering something new about his powers was to him, the thought of almost anything made him nauseous as Uncle Ben remained silent.
Uncle Ben's silence could guilt the devil, Peter was convinced of it.
Glancing over at him sheepishly, Peter watches Uncle Ben keeping a fixed gaze to the traffic.
His face was more relaxed and his grey eyebrows weren’t all frowned and his forehead wasn’t wrinkled with displeasure. Maybe he wasn’t that mad, or maybe he was Peter thought, but the ambient noise of traffic and Uncle Ben’s deep breaths was starting to work Peter’s anxiety.
"So what happened back there?" Uncle Ben sighs, breaking the silence.
Peter, draws in a deep breath, keeping his eyes focused on the traffic, it was easier to talk to Uncle Ben if he wasn’t looking directly at him.
“Flash tried to bully me. So I defended myself.” Peter responds. It was succinct and well explained he thought.
“You think he deserved it?”
Peter arches his eyebrow at the statement. Then, in Peter's mind, he could almost see the sudden mental photo album of every embarrassing moment Flash put him through come together like an iPhone assembling all your photos without reason.
“Uh like yeah!” Peter replies. Looking over at Uncle Been with full of righteous indignation, “Flash, Punkie, even Eddie, ALWAYS harass me, ALWAYS bully me. Today they even chased after me and…”
“So your retaliation was to hit him?” asks Uncle Ben.
“Ye…" Peter pauses, rethinking, "No.” he replies half-heartedly, "I wasn’t about, revenge. It was, standing up for myself. I didn’t pick a fight, but no one helps me or finishes my fights, so I finished it! I had to stand up for myself and be my OWN Hero. You’re not saying I’m wrong are you?”
Seeing the traffic starting to thin out, Uncle Ben pulls the car over to the curb in front of the New York Public Library, "It’s not that Peter…"Uncle Ben says, shifting in his seat to face him, “…its…I wish you saw what I saw.”
“Self-defense?” Peter questions, his tone bordering sarcasm.
“No, enjoyment.” counters Uncle Ben much to Peter’s surprise, “I saw enjoyment.” reflects Uncle Ben, sitting back in his seat, staring at the passing traffic, “I saw a mild-mannered boy, who never hurt a fly, knock a boy twice his size to the floor and then look at his fist as if…for moment, you got drunk with the power of yourself.”
Peter looks down at his hands, his knuckle still slightly stained with Flash Thompson's dried blood.
“That's not fair.”
Uncle Ben immediately looks at Peter, not expecting that reply.
Peter looks at Uncle Ben, feeling himself getting upset, “I mean, is it so WRONG to have Power? I’m not abusing it! I’m not walking around BULLYING PEOPLE LIKE EDDIE DOES…”
“Peter!" Uncle Ben interrupts, "It's not about Flash, or Eddie, or anyone!" he explains, "This is about YOU and YOUR actions! And it doesn't need to be extreme for it to be WRONG!”
“So you are saying I’m wrong?!" Peter quips back.
“DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE IN THAT SCHOOL!” Peter shouts to Uncle Ben’s surprise.
Peter stares out the windshield, his face swimming with pain as he balls up his fists over his knapsack and his eyes well up with tears.
“EVERYDAY! EVERY FRICKIN' DAY!" Peter shouts, "The Taunting, poked fun at, humiliated, made the butt end of EVERY joke, STUFFED in my locker by my BROTHERS friend and make a FOOL of by MY BROTHER EVEN…”
Uncle Ben sighs, “I know Peter…”
His statement sends a heat of rage up Peter. He turns to Uncle Ben shaking his head, “NO! No, you don’t!" he barks, and points at him, "For the FIRST TIME EVER…I stood UP for myself Uncle Ben!” he says, “It was an accident! I didn’t plan it! I didn’t even want to…but it happened! And now…NOW you’re saying that I shouldn’t have done that!”
Holding his palms up, Uncle Ben tries to calm him, “What I’m saying, Peter..." he says in a calm tone as Peter sulks and folds his arms, "...is that there will be People of all sorts, that will be JERKS and BULLIES til they die kiddo.” he reasons.
"So I'm screwed?" Peter announces.
"No." Uncle Ben counters, "But you will be if one day, you try to HIT THEM ALL!" he exclaims, "And then, turn around and justify it when deep down, you know, you deflected that punch and could have just stopped right then and there and stopped yourself from HURTING someone!”
Peter looks at Uncle Ben in silence, looking at his aged eyes as he feels a part of his heart sink.
Uncle Ben sighs, letting out a deep breath.
“I’m not saying Flash or anyone like him was 'in the right' in how they treated you, Peter.” Uncle Ben explains, “I’m just saying, that…" he sighs, fumbling for the right words, "...its great that you can defend yourself, and its great you have that knowledge and the ‘know-how’ of how to use it, but if you have the power to use that Knowledge better than most, than even MORE so, with that Power comes great responsibility.”
“You said that before you know?” Peter grumbles.
“And it goes doubly so now.” Uncle Ben replies, “Your brother Eddie has a lot of emotions he doesn't process well as you do. Your gonna find not everyone can process their emotions the way they should, but you are still accountable for your actions, especially when you can flex it well.”
Peter raises his eyebrow, "So you’re telling me I don’t get the free pass, but that Eddie does...."
"...No, I’m not saying that.” Uncle Ben sighs, leaning his head back on the headrest as he stares at the steering wheel, "For gods sake where is your Aunt when I need her." she groans, "She is better at this." he says in frustration, "Juss, listen Petie, in three words, your growing up. You’re having changes into adulthood, I know, I've been there."
Peter looks at him with an arched eyebrow, "Not like this... I think." he says,
"Peter, I have. I know what it means to discover that one day, you have strength and skills you never had before." he says, "Sometimes we are given opportunities, gifts if you will, and they can shape what kind of man you will be in the future, that all starts now. You’re smart, really you’re more than smart your...your..."
"Yes, Peter…” Uncle Ben smirks, “…you're wonderfully intelligent. But in all my years on this earth, I've never seen all that intelligence and stuff mean anything if you can't grasp the responsibilities you hold to One, yourself and Two, your family. What you do, impacts others, even if they are not aware of their effects, you must be every aware of yours." Uncle Ben states with an assurance that resonates through Peter.
Pete looks to the floor-mat and fumbles with his fingers, "What are you trying to say? That I'm responsible to everyone!" he asks in a solemn tone, feeling a sudden weight on his shoulders.
Uncle Ben gulps, having had felt he just stepped on the hidden grenade, sort of speak, and didn't realize it, "I'm trying to say..."
"That I'm going to be like her?" Peter asks depressingly as he tightens his fists in frustration.
Uncle Ben's eyes open wide and he sits back in his seat, "Dangit no, no I'm not trying to say that...." he groans, but before he can continue Peter looks at him with a piercing look.
"... then what ARE you trying to say!" Peter yells in his outburst, "THAT I'M GONNA BE A SCREW UP LIKE HER!" he snaps.
Uncle Ben shakes his head and lets out a deep breath as he feels this entire conversation going sideways, "Peter I'm not trying to imply that at all! It was coincidental. I'm sorry I'm not..."
Peter's face slowly turns red as an apple as tears stream down his cheeks, "SO WHAT! So what if I look like her! So what If I act like her! So what if I...if I just so happen to even say some of the things she does! You can act like it’s not true but I know. I know that she was smart too! I see it, Aunt May, sometimes, she looks at me with this reflective look. Like, she wants to say something to me before I leave for school but holds back like, she doesn’t want to mess things up or, push me in a way that is like mom." he says.
Uncle Ben sighs and rubs his eyes and he lets out a sigh, "Your mother was a great person. She was…”
"Ya I know...until she decided to push her mind too much and she got sick with stage 2 Schizophrenia and started abusing drugs before she died, I know,” Peter says, kicking the car floor as emotions choke his voice.
Uncle Ben looks over to Peter folding his arms as he stares at the dashboard.
"Peter, ALL I am a saying, is that with great power, comes great responsibility. Don’t damage yourself in the process of helping EVERYONE and don't, turn your gifts into a curse. It's a balance.”
Peter shakes his head as his face reddens with emotions, "I'm ALREADY doing that! I'm balancing an IDIOT brother who forced me to do his school work so he could pass and while not letting my grades slump! Keeping myself out of trouble while getting bullied EVERY DAY!”
“I know that Peter but…”
“Than what MORE do you want from me!?! WHAT!!” Peter shouts with tears in his eyes, “ To get football trophies like Eddie and...”
"THAT IS NOT WHAT I AM SAYING! You and Eddie and two different people…”
"But it doesn’t SEEM like that!” Peter says, looking at his Uncle Ben with nothing but grief, “You don’t see what I see every day! It’s the way you look at him! When Eddie, hands you that game-winning football and when I show you an 'A' in my Math homework. I just get this, "Job Well Done Sport. Keep gettin' those 'A's!' and Don't Knock Some Girl Up.’ kinda look."
Uncle Ben grabs Peter by the arm as he motions for the door, "That's not true Pete! I treat you both equally! You know that!"
Peter turns to him angrily, "No I don’t! I don’t Uncle Ben! I hit Flash after YEARS of Bullying and I get this WHOLE talk about responsibility and accountability BUT I’ve NEVER heard you talk to Eddie about STUFFING me in my Locker! Or how after begging you all for about getting a summer job, you just GAVE Eddie the option to just ‘GO’ find one even though he screws up every time he gets a little freedom. HE doesn’t even CARE about the attention you give him, but I work my butt off just for the complement on an ‘A’ in Science.”
Uncle Ben sits back and rubs his temples, "Peter, I’m sorry but this isn’t about preferential treatment! This is about how life works and…."
However Uncle Ben watches Peter swing the door open and throw his backpack out to the sidewalk and turns to him, "Its fine Uncle Ben! I get it. I really do. Be sure the boy is occupied so he doesn't turn out like his doped mother or his non-existent father and invest in the quarterback because he's got a greater future ahead…”
“PETER THAT’S NOT TRUE!”
“BUT THAT’S HOW IT FEELS!” Peter yells tearfully, taking his Uncle aback as he looks at him filled with agonizing emotion as he steps out the car and looks at him through the window, “THANKS." he says, slamming the car door and picking up his bag.
"PETER!!" calls out Uncle Ben from the car, watching Peter run up the street. and through the crowds, "PETER!!!"
Running as fast as he can, Peter wipes his teary eyes with his sleeve as he races through the crowd while hearing his Uncle’s fading voice calling for him amidst the traffic noise before he disappears into the crowd...
Sitting back in the car, Uncle Ben looks at where Peter sat, paralyzed by what just happened. Unce Ben puts his large hands on the warm seat, "Sorry kiddo." he mumbles to himself as he holds back the tears. Leaning his head against the steering wheel, Ben lets out a sigh, frustrated and thinking in his head how the whole conversation could have gone differently.
Taking in a deep breath, Uncle Ben wipes his tears and clears his throat, resolved in thinking there is nothing else to say or even try to explain right now, but tomorrow is another day and maybe with May, he can work things out better. Til then, maybe he could buy some comics for Peter when he came back to pick him up tonight. That's what he would do, he thought.
Determined with that in mind, Uncle Ben puts the car in drive and pulls out in his car.
Reaching the street corner, waiting for the light to change, Peter stops and looks at the ground. Drops of water hit the floor as he firms his face, determined not to cry and but the more he tries not to think, the more so upset at lashing out at Uncle Ben he becomes. It was like a stream of emotions poured out that he never knew he carried for so long, let alone he had.
As people continued to walk by Peter going to and fro, he remains motionless staring at the concrete wondering by the concrete upsets him so much. Completely unable to stop the urge of emotions from within himself, Peter cannot help the feeling of bursting into tears as he stares at the concrete, realizing it the slab resembles the same concrete headstone he cried upon so many times on his mother’s grave.
'16 years....8 months and 20 days' he remembers since the time his mother died.
Flashbacks of red and blue sirens come to mind, the same colors from the police officers sirens. On the day of her death, he remembers, it was the first time he realized that the red and blue police sirens were her favorite colors. Not knowing how much time he spent on that corner, Peter looks up and sees he's not even on the same avenue anymore, having walked a good 4 more blocks.
Running down a narrow alleyway keeps running, trying to suppress his emotions as he is so used to doing and picks up pace and speed. He was angry, he was hurt. He wanted to do more for the family but what else could he do to prove to his Uncle Ben that he was trying to be responsible. He got a paid internship, even if it was by accident but he had no money to give them.
Eddie always bragged how he gave money to them while Peter did nothing. It was time for that to change. However, as he continues sprinting, Peter notices more power in his legs and a sensation in his arms intensify.
Seeing a 13-foot tall wire fence with a garbage dump in front of it, Peter thinks about slowing down for a moment but then from his left foot, leaps into the air, and clears the garbage and the fence in a single bound!
As if everything slowed down for him to comprehend it, Pete after so many times doing this in the summer carries on with his instinct and shoots a web over his head, feels it go tight and swings over the alleyways of Hells Kitchen!
Swinging through the air, Peter lets go of the web and lands on the back of another building. Peter leaps off the building, falls a few flights and sticks to another building’s wall!
Effortlessly, Peter climbs the side of the building again and feels his heart pounding in his chest with excitement. He looks down again now noticing men in various costumes and glittery capes with golden masks. All of them rushing out into a back alleyway where dozens of pink and green flyers lay on the ground. Looking around to be sure no one sees him, Peter drops down from the building and lands on the floor.
If this is an Avenger party, I'm so crashing it, he thinks to himself as he picks up the flyer.
Peter's eyes open wide, as he reads
Peter scrambles to find cash in his pocket and sees ten dollars in his jeans, "10 plus 20 equals 1000 dollars!!!" he squeals.
Suddenly Peter hears a door open and dives behind a garbage dump! Peeking over the trash, Peter watches as a two-man EMS team carries out a big muscled man out on a stretcher.
"OH MY LEGS!!!! I CAN'T FEEEL MY LEGS!" yells the man dressed a wrestler.
Peter peeks out from the side of the garbage as the EMS men pass as a lady in a tight leopard suit holds a yellow jumpsuit, "HEY! What about his suit!" she says, holding it up.
The EMS looks at him, "The only thing this guy is gonna wear is a cast over both legs lady.".
Peter, still hiding, watches the lady put her hand on her hip in aggravation and throws the yellow jumpsuit on the ground and storm back inside.
Having all gone, Peter sneaks out from behind the garbage can and grabs the yellow stretchy tracksuit, "HA! Like Bruce Lee and Kill Bill!" he mumbles.
Peter looks at his watch, "It's 3:30. I can be done by 7:30." he reasons as he takes off his book bag and kicks it under the garbage and starts to put on the suit as he looks at the $1000 dollars advertised on the scattered soiled flyers all around him.
"Thanks, Universe." he mumbles, “I'll show you, Uncle Ben. You wanna be impressed, I’ll impress you.”