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Robert and Maya worked at the Hall of Humanity. Maya worked as a half-time Level IV Administrative Assistant ($14.59 per hour), and Robert worked as a Level V Superhero ($42,396 per year).

They once had this conversation while passing each other in the hall:

ROBERT: Hi.

MAYA: Hi.

 

After that, Robert began finding reasons to look over files kept remarkably near Maya’s desk. Periodically, they even talked. Finally, when Robert discovered The Communist Manifesto on Maya’s desk, they started a weeks-long discussion on utopian government.

However, weeks were all they had, as soon Maya found a job as a paralegal across town and turned in her two weeks notice.

For Maya’s last day, they agreed to get ice cream after work, but as Robert was pulling 17 people from a flaming, overturned railcar, the weather turned cold. While changing into civilian clothes, he prepared himself for disappointment, as he didn’t expect Maya to want ice cream on such a cold day. But at five o’clock, he found Maya waiting outside the Hall of Humanity, sitting on the gaudy sculpture that allegedly represented justice.

“It got cold,” he said. “I thought you wouldn’t show.”

She smiled. “Ice cream is best on a cold day.”

They argued about ice cream and cold weather and Marxism all the way to the ice cream shop. As they ate, the conversation turned from Marxism to politics to politics-at-work and somehow back to ice cream after discussing regional differences in the number of people that fall off of tall buildings. Then, the conversation shifted back to Marxism once more.

After ice cream, Robert walked Maya to her bus stop. Before boarding the bus, she stared at him for a second.

“Call me at work sometime,” he said. “We’ll get ice cream again.”

She nodded.

Then the bus carried her away and Robert started to walk home. Along the way, he made up a story in his head involving Maya getting off the bus and following him, trying to catch up—following him because she was filled with the same fanatical joy that he was. He thought that maybe after he got home, took off his shoes, and put on some music, she would knock on the door and declare her love for him.

The stars were dim that night.

 

 

Were there a villain capable of holding a Superhero’s tongue hostage whenever the hero was inclined to pursue romantic intentions, it is possible that Robert’s closed-mouth approach toward potential mates would be blamed on this villain. However, no such villain has ever surfaced, so it is reasonable to assume that Robert was the way he was because of his own ineptitude.

This inability to engage people romantically was demonstrated one evening at a coffee shop, six months after Maya quit her job at the Hall of Humanity. Robert was reading and enjoying his night off when a woman asked him what time it was.

Minutes later, she bothered him again to ask what he was reading. Eventually, she sucked him into discussing neuropsychology, her major. Or at least, at first glance it may have looked as though a discussion were taking place, though in reality, she did all of the talking while Robert tried to nod in ways that made him look intelligent.

To Robert, someone that was willing to talk to him while he was dressed in civilian clothes was most welcome, and because of this, he moved to her table and listened to her speak about neuropsychology until the coffee shop closed.

Outside, before parting, Robert said, “Well, Mattie, it was nice meeting you.”

The coffee shop door locked behind them.

“Yes, nice talking to you,” Mattie said.

She blinked.

“Have a good night,” he said.

“You too.”

They parted. Robert started the walk to his apartment thinking about what a good thing it was that he didn’t get her number. After all, he was rather bored with neuropsychology these days.

Moments later, he wished he had gotten her number because at least they might have become friends. But it was too late—he hadn’t gotten it and now she was gone.

Desperately, Robert pivoted and looked, hoping that maybe she had followed him, that maybe she wanted to chat some more over a late night tea at his apartment. But she was nowhere to be seen.

At home, while he sipped a cup of Earl Grey, he glanced often at the door.

Outside, the last snow of the year began to fall.

 

On a particularly cool evening that summer, Robert continued his civilian life by seeing the usual summer action flick with the usual movie-going pal, Trapper (A.K.A. the Psi-Clone, Level VI Superhero, $46,454 per year). Trapper worked with Robert at the Hall of Humanity. Trapper was oblivious to a lot of things, and on this night that included being oblivious to the rare grace of the woman behind the concession counter. Her beauty defied the bland uniform on her body, which prompted Robert to choose her line even though it was longer.

Trapper didn’t notice. He was too busy talking about the Beatles. Just as Mattie had enjoyed talking about neuropsychology, Trapper never stopped talking about iconic rock.

Robert was doing his best to act like he wasn’t paying attention when Trapper said, “So I was like, ‘Ban the Beatles! What are you, Communist?!’ I can’t support those Russian ideas, man.

Look what Communism did to their country!”

Without taking his eyes off of the woman behind the counter, Robert said, “The U.S.S.R was Socialist at best, not Communist. And Marx and Engels weren’t Russian.”

Trapper ignored him. “So I turned him over to the coppers and I said, ‘Shouldn’t have robbed a liquor store with a patriotic Superhero around.’ He went easy.”

“Small Super Cola,” Robert said.

The woman behind the counter nodded and artfully dropped a cup under the nozzle. As the cup filled, her fingers punched keys on the cash register.

“Three seventy-five,” she said, smiling. She instinctively knew that he didn’t want anything else with that.

She took his five-dollar bill and gracefully placed money in his hand, saying, “One twenty-five is your change. Enjoy the show.”

“Thank you,” Robert said.

When the movie got out, Robert saw her locking up the cash registers. Droves of people divided them, so he simply watched her through the crowd as he and Trapper walked by.

“You need a lift?” Trapper asked. “I’ve got the spinner tonight.”

“No, thanks. I feel like walking.”

“Suit yourself. Take it easy.”

“Yeah. See ya’.”

Robert took giant breaths of fresh air as he walked home. Thoughts of spending the night in his empty apartment mellowed him. Several times he looked back to see if anyone was following, but the trees and bushes didn’t even move in the wind.

When he got home, he slumped to the floor to take off his shoes. Sighing, he leaned against the wall.

There was a knock.

He got up and tentatively opened the door. A figure stepped out of the darkness.

“Maya?” he said.

“I—I followed you home.”

“You were at the movie?”

“—Ten months ago,” she finished.

He thought for a moment and started to frown, but she grabbed him and held him and tears traveled from her cheek to his. His frown disappeared. Their mouths connected and their chests pounded against each other. Then, twirling round, they left the world behind for one brief and simple period of eternity. And that’s hard to do, even for a Superhero.

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AARON DIETZ is the author of Super, a novel from Emergency Press about commitment, crisis, paperwork, and heartbreak. Dietz's super powers include a high metabolism and the ability to put things back where he got them. He's also pretty good at math. As an instructional designer, Dietz has written online high school courses on computer programming, green design, and 3-D video game creation. It’s natural for him to write quizzes. He’s worked a decade in libraries. He’s also been paid to count traffic and once failed a personality test. Dietz writes for TheNervousBreakdown.com, blogs at aarondietz.us, and is an advisory editor of KNOCK Magazine.

38 responses to “A Superhero Romance: An Excerpt from Super

  1. 1. I enjoyed this the first time I read it in the book.
    2. Just going over it again now, I’ve decided to swing by Spider’s Web Tattoo first thing tomorrow and get The Hall of Humanity inked on my lower back.
    3. I think it would be wise for me not to read it a third time.

  2. Priya Keefe says:

    Super Stalker Chick! I hope she made more money at subsequent jobs…

  3. This was so wonderfully clever that it makes me wonder why I don’t yet own a copy… I need to rectify that soon.

    Makes me remember one hungover New Year’s Day, when I sat in a room full of equally hungover people – maybe 20 of us – and we spent perhaps six hours debating whether organisational skill constituted a super power.

    I don’t remember the final verdict, but it was a hotly contested debate.

    • Aaron Dietz says:

      In my novel, organization skills are DEFINITELY a super power. Or at least a super skill. Oh, see, now I’m entering the debated zone. But they are definitely a thing that Superheroes use in their regular Superhero day. Also, they recycle.

      • Well that’s nice that they recycle. I mean, if you call yourself a superhero and you help destroy the planet by frivolous use of plastic, then you’re really asking for a transfer to the villainous side.

        I think that moreso than strength or flight or any showy skill, the power to organise stuff really, really well is pretty central to actually performing heroic feats. There’s nothing like preparation.

        • Aaron Dietz says:

          Completely! In the book, there’s this transcript from a meeting, wherein they analyze two frames of security camera footage and document three ways they can do things better in the next similar-type battle–this type of granular analysis and organization is key! Oh, and they also talk about keys. Keys make too much noise when you’re sneaking up on a villain.

        • If you’re superorganised then you might have one key in each pocket to avoid unnecessary noise. And, of course, a superorganised person would have many pockets.

        • Aaron Dietz says:

          That’s a brilliant solution! In the book, they’ve decided to wrap rubber bands around their keys when they’re not being used. They have to carry a key for every building on their patrol, so they can get to the rooftop. So you know–that’d be a lot of keys.

  4. Erika Rae says:

    Your writing makes me want to just keep reading and reading and writing the word “reading”….

    Also, since I had the privilege of watching you actually read aloud at the Denver TNBLE, I can imagine YOU reading.

    Really, this is everything one wants in a book and more.

    Oh, and I like your goggles. A lot.

    • Aaron Dietz says:

      Thanks, Erika! Your reading is VERY enjoyable, and your book will be a great read, too!

      Those goggles are quite a conversation piece. Or not–sometimes they’re kind of intimidating to people. Like, they feel like they should KNOW why I would have funky-looking goggles on my head, but they’re too embarrassed to ask about them.

  5. Simon Smithson says:

    I also can’t believe I don’t have this book. It will be the very next book I buy, I swear to God.

    I swear to Batman.

    Do you always wear the goggles on your head, or do you sometimes supervillain up and wear them on your face?

    • Aaron Dietz says:

      Simon–speaking of books, I’m anxious to look at your manuscript. It’s ready for me, for when I’m on that train for the West Coast Tour.

      The goggles? I mix it up. I take requests. Whatever, is my motto. At one of my readings, I had a couple come up to me that hadn’t even seen the reading (they were there late)–they just thought the goggles were sexy and they wanted me to wear them over my eyes (with the welding flap down) while they made out right in front of me. It was kind of hot.

  6. Irene Zion says:

    I didn’t realize you had written a book.
    Mea Culpa! Mea Maxima Culpa!
    I love your hat/glasses thing and I would really like to know how one fails a personality test.
    To my mind, you have an excellent personality.
    I have to leave for the airport now.
    L8R
    (I just learned that.)

    • Aaron Dietz says:

      Irene–it’s my fault for not telling you personally that I wrote a book. 🙂

      How do you fail a personality test? True story:

      One of my past employers wanted everyone to take the Myers-Briggs personality test, so we all did. I got mine back with a little note saying they could not detect a personality. True!

      Here’s how it happened: I was curious about the whole phenomenon and I really wanted to do an accurate, thorough job. So when I read the instructions that said something about not answering a question if you feel none of the answers were true enough, I took that to heart. I probably only answered about a quarter of the questions.

      The result: I was asked to re-take the test in the hopes that a personality would emerge. I said, “Okay, well I don’t want to fail THIS time.” So I answered every questions. I got INTP. But it might not be accurate, since I was choosing answers that by then were only vaguely true.

      Still, at least I could tell my co-workers I had a personality. 🙂

  7. Zara Potts says:

    I want a copy of this book NOW!
    Then I will go out and buy a matching shirt!

    • Aaron Dietz says:

      Zara, that would be the most flattering thing that could ever happen to me.

      • Zara Potts says:

        I will wear it with pride and hopefully it will have a big enough pocket so that I can slip your book into it. It will make a great conversation piece when I’m out on the town.

        • Aaron Dietz says:

          Totally! I should just ship you a bunch of books, and let you sell them to strangers that way. I’ll give you a good commission!

          “Say there, what’s that in your pocket?”

          “A super book.”

          “Ah, and I thought you were just happy to see me.”

  8. I love the sweetness in your work is genuine and funny and saccharine-free. Lovely, Aaron.

  9. I just found your link. You hooked me. This looks great, Aaron. Intriguing connection between these two.

    • Aaron Dietz says:

      Thanks for your comments, Pris! I like these two characters–no way they’d naturally get together, so it was down to the incredibly calculating Maya. It only took her 10 months to figure out what she wanted….

  10. I found it on Amazon. It’s ordered and on its way. I’m excited!

    • Aaron Dietz says:

      Thanks, Pris! I SO appreciate your support! I found your book, Sea Trails on Amazon and it sounds terrific–good theme and setting, and it includes charts and logs? Sounds awesome! I put it in my cart, but I’ve got to wait until I get the Super Saver Shipping to order it….

  11. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    This reads so easily, I’d say at almost a superhuman pace, and with characters who seem immediately endearing, which is not a simple feat to pull off with an excerpt. So I see no other option but to buy this book. Also, I hope to see that Super logo being put to good and wider use.

    • Aaron Dietz says:

      “superhuman pace” – ha! You’d like the human resources department’s name at the Hall of Humanity where Robert and Maya work–it’s called the Superhuman Resources Department of course.

      Thanks for your comments! And yeah–we definitely want to do a tiny bit of merchandising for fun so we can start seeing that Super logo everywhere. I got lucky and had a fantastic graphic designer (Charlie Potter) for this book! He’s amazing, and he pulled that logo out of a hat.

  12. Gloria says:

    This is just really sweet. So pleasant and effortless. I should read this book. Thanks, Aaron.

  13. I so needed this touch of romance today.

    Consider another book SOLD!

  14. Tom Hansen says:

    Dietz your book rocks. It was a pleasure to read at the launch

  15. tammy allen says:

    aw. Your book should be here soon. I’m looking forward to reading it.

    “Then, twirling round, they left the world behind for one brief and simple period of eternity.”

    I once wrote a children’s story about a dragonfly and a grasshopper. In the end they had learned each other’s dance and they twirled into the night like a swarm of lightning bugs.

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