“Oldguy: Superhero—Associate” by William Trowbridge

William Trowbridge


Oldguy gets a job as a greeter at Walmart,
where he wears a blue vest with “How May
I Help You” on the back and a smiley-face
button on the front. If things go well, he can
add a gold-star pin with “Management

Appreciates ME!” across it, or a comet
pin with “Awesome Job!” on its tail. But
most customers don’t want to be greeted;
some balk at having even strangers see them
shopping there. One woman smacks him

with her purse. So he tones it down to
a nod and a wink, but a burly guy thinks
he’s touting blow jobs and shoves him
into a DVD display. Oldguy, to keep
his identity secret, opts not to strip

to his superhero garb. He finds greeting
to be harder than it was to stop Rodan
from flash-frying Dubuque. When he tries
just to look good-natured, management
decides he’s become a liability, another

worthless senior trying to take advantage
of an American job provider. To get him
out, guards take each arm and, grinning,
tell him he’s going to meet Mr. Walmart.
It’s turned cold, and the raindrops sting.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016

[download audio]


William Trowbridge: “I’ve come to see a serious void in the universe of superheroes—whether they’re male or female, foreign or domestic, human or not, they’re all young. Depressingly, inexcusably young. So I’ve created Oldguy to fill this void. When he was Youngguy, he won, among a host of other awards, the Boy Scout merit badge for Elephant Bench Pressing, created in his honor. But with age, he’s lost his super powers and become just old. Nevertheless, he carries on, now fighting evil mainly by means of semi-passive-to-passive resistance, a harmless though peculiar appearance, impaired cognition, and longevity. In the last of these, he’s like my Great-Uncle Al, who said, when asked how he managed to be on earth 93 years and have no enemies, ‘I outlived the sons-a-bitches.’” (website)

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