Nick Alm, "Before the Fight"

Me and the gang were all at our headquarters. It’s Eric’s garage, but we called it “Headquarters.” We had tried to decorate it, but Eric told us that defeated the purpose of being a secret organization. That is what we are: a secret organization. We’re real rabble-rousers. And this is our story.

First, let me introduce you to the gang:

  • Eric – Nickname: “Lizardman.” It is claimed he is descended from lizards, though he denies it. He also happens to look nothing like a lizard. Eric is our fearless leader in all things except for when everyone ignores him. He’s creative, which is important to this story, and he hates his nickname, which is not important to this story.
  • Brian – Nickname: “The Hammer of Hurt.” He builds things, with hammers. And hurts things, with hammers. He is also part giant.
  • Nathan – Nickname: “Conan.” Descended from the ancient Barbarian tribes of Minnesota, Nathan had his tongue cut out when he complained to his father that he wanted to learn to read. Barbarians don’t read. This one can read, but can’t speak.
  • Erin – Nickname: “Squiggles.” The source of many graffiti-portraits of kittens all across town. Key instigator in the attempt to paint Eric’s garage. Her worrisome attachment to kittens is complicated by a worrisome penchant for stealing. She has shoplifted kittens.
  • Kirsten – Nickname: “The Blade.” Loves to smile, and loves knives. If you’ve ever seen a smiling person holding a knife, you know fear.
  • Darin – Nickname: “Darin.” Part man, part ninja. Great speculation as to which part is which. We’re thinking the left side is one, and the right is the other. But he never fights with himself so we can’t know for sure. He’s also very eco-conscious.
  • Anne (me) – Nickname: “Spider Monkey.” I’m named that way because my fighting method involves a lot of cheating and climbing on things. Which also happens to be my poker strategy. Also, I unhelpfully suggest a fistfight as the solution to everything.

We were meeting at Headquarters, Eric’s garage, in order to discuss our next job. If there is anything that we have learned about being a secret organization, it is that you have to know what you’re doing before you do it. That way, you can do it. So we met at Headquarters.

We sat around a rickety card table – The Planning Table of Doom – munching on some snack items that Squiggles had “purchased” on her way over. Lizardman called everyone to order with a wave of his hand. “Ideas for our next job?”

I offered my advice:  “We should get into a brawl.”

“No,” Lizardman said. “Next?”

“We should expand on what we did last time,” Squiggles suggested. “Pick a bigger place.”

The Blade nodded her agreement. “Mrs. Lewis was so surprised when she found her garden pruned and raked!” Then she laughed, evilly.

“Yes,” said Squiggles, “and there is a community garden just down the street!”

“Mwahahaha!”

The Hammer raised a hand, a hand holding a hammer. “There is a library across town. We could…rearrange their books!”

“Or,” Darin added, “we could walk an old lady across the street, and run away before she can thank us!”

We laughed evilly again, a group activity we had been practicing. Even Conan did his best. I chuckled with evilness out of sheer habit, but then I remembered that I wasn’t happy.

“This is stupid,” I groused. “We’re the lamest secret organization ever.”

Lizardman stared at me. “How so?”

“Let’s think of our past victories of darkness: pruning Mrs. Lewis’s garden, cheering for the away team at a badminton match, drawing over pedestrian walkway with mediocre walkway…”

“We almost got caught in that last one,” Lizardman answered. “Very dangerous.”

“What? Caught by the improbably hefty policemen on bikes? Yeah – they were real tough to run from. We’re lame!”

Lizardman sighed. “What do you suggest we do to fix that?”

“Fight people!”

“You always say that. Who do we fight?”

“Everyone!”

The Hammer shook his head. “That lacks both direction and message. You should re-think your priorities, and apply some reflection to your goals.” Conan grunted in agreement.

I crossed my arms. “You don’t criticize Squiggles for her wanton shoplifting.”

“That is because she gets us snacks. Punching doesn’t result in snacks.”

The Blade pointed out that our secret society did not have a name yet. The rest of the table ignored me for the sake of discussing this urgent problem.

Darin suggested “Unholy Avengers of the Broken Earth and Other Sad Things,” which nobody liked. The Hammer preferred “Even Better Than the Jawbone Samson Used to Smash the Philistines.” Squiggles wanted us to be called “Kittens,” and when that failed, changed it to “Kittens…of Doom.” Which also failed. Conan made a flapping motion with his long arms, and we assumed that meant something about birds.

We were forced to return to our default name, The Legion of Doom.

“We should fight people,” I whined. “Or light stuff on fire, at least. Come on.”

Lizardman sighed. “I will change your nickname to ‘Straightjacket’ if you keep it up. And put you in one.”

“But think about it. We’ve got great fighting potential. Two giant men, one ninja, one lizard, a knife-lover, and a…a kleptomaniac. Hard to beat that.” I thought about it a little more. “That’s, like, five-and-a-half fighters right there.”

The Blade frowned at me. “Did you just count the women as half a man?”

“Uhh…”

“You did, didn’t you?” She glared. “I’ll cut you.”

“Then I’d be a fourth of a—”

Anyway,” Lizardman interrupted, “we’re not doing what you want.”

Darin straightened in his seat, struck by an idea. “I know what we’re doing!” We waited for him to continue. “We’re going to a bar…” I became very excited, as there are fights in bars, “…and stealing someone’s car keys…” now both Squiggles and I were thrilled, “..and preventing them from driving home drunk!”

I hit my head against the table. “Aaagh, are we at least not giving them their keys back?”

“We will give them back, and also drive them safely home.”

I hit my head against the table again. Squiggles was still delighted since we were still stealing something, and everyone else agreed that Darin was the best half-ninja ever.

SEE PART II

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