Never-Ending Story

There weren’t many comic book shops in Yuma, only one in fact, so Carrie appreciated it all the more, even if she seldom bought anything. It was one of those places that felt like a childhood home. You didn’t belong there anymore, but you kept coming back.

She opened the door carefully, making sure Michael was inside before it shut. The small shop had walls lined with neatly organized shelves, mostly containing trade paperbacks and hardcover editions with shiny new reprints. But Carrie knew there was also a table with boxes in the back dedicated to the older, original stuff, which she remembered from Skye and her stepbrother’s room. Movie posters and other memorabilia adorned the rest of the walls, and in the windows, there were rows of resin figures, mostly superheroes and other figures you couldn’t live without if you were a collector and had lots of money.

A familiar voice called from the counter, “Hello, Super-Mom. I see you brought your sidekick today.”

The caller was a slender twenty-something woman with short-cropped green-dyed hair, and she made her way around the counter, squeezing between a large pile of boxes with the latest trading cards that she had been unpacking. The woman had rings in her nose and ears, along with quite a few visible tattoos. Despite her bubbly enthusiasm for all things pop-culture and her noteworthy appearance, Carrie had learned that Ronia Kiernan was otherwise as normal as they come. She lived with her boyfriend, a baseball player, out in Fortuna Hills. She would soon finish an engineering degree, and they were talking about having kids.

“Can I-?” Carrie nodded at Michael. The six-year-old was already deeply in awe, transfixed by a huge poster on a wall near the entrance, displaying the opening crawl from one of the Star Wars movies.

“Sure.” Ronia waved them in. It was a lazy morning, and there was nobody else in the shop. They had just opened, so that could change, but Carrie knew it probably wouldn’t change all that much. It wasn’t an easy business out here in the country. People went to San Diego or L.A. for alternative hobbies like that—and to make money from it.

“It’s a great poster, isn’t it, Michael?” Ronia came over and patted Michael briefly on the shoulder. He didn’t move but had already begun spelling out the poster text with the yellow letters on the starry background. There was a light in his eyes, as if he had seen something of immense beauty. “I-t-i-s-a-p-e-r-i-o-d-o-f-c-i-v-i-l-w-a-r-s-i-n-t-h-e-g-a-l-a-x-y. A-b-r-a-v-e-a-l-l-i-a-n-c-e-o-f-u-n-d-e-r-g-r-o-u-n-d-f-r-e-e-d-o-m-f-i-g-h-t-e-r-s-h-a-s-c-h-a-l-l-e-n-g-e-d-t-h-e-t-y-r-a-n-n-y-a-n-d-o-p-p-r-e-s-s-i-o-n-o-f-t-h-e-a-w-e-s-o-m-e-G-A-L-A-C-T-I-C-E-M-P-I-R-E-”

Ronia turned to Carrie. “So no kindergarten today?”

“He was up half the night with stomach cramps. At least we think it was that. He hasn’t—” she glanced at Michael “—well, he hasn’t had anything in his diaper for almost two days now.”

“Dang.” Ronia pursed her lips. “He looks fine now, though.”

“I gave him some Movicol. It usually helps him loosen up a bit.”

“S-t-r-i-k-i-n-g-f-r-o-m-a-f-o-r-t-r-e-s-s-h-i-d-d-e-n-a-m-o-n-g-t-h-e-b-i-l-l-i-o-n-s-t-a-r-s-o-f-t-h-e-g-a-l-a-x-y, r-e-b-e-l-s-p-a-c-e-s-h-i-p-s-h-a-v-e-w-o-n-t-h-e-i-r-f-i-r-s-t-v-i-c-t-o-r-y-i-n-a-b-a-t-t-l-e-w-i-t-h-t-h-e-p-o-w-e-r-f-u-l-I-m-p-e-r-i-a-l-S-t-a-r-f-l-e-e-t-”

Carrie frowned. “That… doesn’t sound right.”

Ronia grinned. “It’s the original text George wrote. Before Brian De Palma revised it for the actual movie.”

“Ah, I should have known,” Carrie said.

Ronia clapped her on the shoulder. “No, you dork. But it’s my job to know. I’m a pro, you know.”

Carrie allowed herself a faint smile. “I know you are.”

“Can he read it?” Ronia asked.

“He can, but he thinks it’s nicer to just say the letters. He loves that.”

“I have some more posters in the back.”

“Can he see them?” Carrie asked.

“Sure.” Ronia nodded toward a doorway at the back of the shop. On the other side, you could see even more boxes than the ones she had begun unpacking behind the counter.

“Don’t let him start rummaging in the boxes,” Carrie said.

“He never does.”

“He might. There’s a first time for everything.”

“Speaking of which,” Ronia asked, “are you going to buy something today, or are you just here to look at my X-Men back issues for the umpteenth time?”

“Those are good comics,” Carrie said. “My brother had so many of them, and I got most of them when he … went into the military.”

Ronia bit her lip. “Come on, let’s go and check out those posters,” she said.

“It’s okay,” Carrie said. “I still have some of them, but I sold most.”

“Who was your favorite X-Man?” Ronia unfolded several posters on a desk, mostly from old movies, and Michael joyfully spelled out the credits for each—actors, directors, and so on.

Carrie looked back at the empty shop and all its little monuments to days long past for her. If they had ever been hers to begin with …

“Maybe Dazzler,” she said.

“Someone who didn’t really want to be a superheroine?” Ronia raised a brow. “I like Dazzler too, by the way!”

“I think it’s Dazzler, then,” Carrie said, turning to Michael, who was leaning over the table with movie posters in delighted concentration. “What have you got there, pliskie?”

“N-o-a-h-H-a-t-h-a-w-a-y-B-a-r-r-e-t-t-O-l-i-v-e-r-” Michael read.”


Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash