Explosive was a massive hardcover book. It just released about two months ago. The cover carried all the magic of a Michael Bay film, with a title that would have been laughed at had Kaptain Ka-BOOM not been a Sentinel: Explosive: The Skyrocketing of Kaptain Ka-BOOM. On the back of the book was simply a black and white headshot of the sentinel looking off into the distance pretending to be deep and wise. But given what I saw the other day, that is just a clever marketing lie.
I thumbed through it at the local Barnes and Noble, and found that it was filled with over a thousand pages. One thousand two hundred and thirteen to be exact. It was packed full of photos from this disaster, that battle, or this whatever, all of which probably added about a hundred something pages.
How have I never heard of this book? I wondered as I stood dumbstruck in the isle. I glanced around at all the other memoirs and other books on the shelves. They were all focused on this sentinel or that one. A few focused on them as a whole. There were books on why the Sinisters were evil, written by psychologists and a few books by physicists trying to explain both parties’ powers. I have read most of these books, but there were a few I hadn’t: The Styles of the Sentinels, Inside the Meddler’s Secret to Memorizing, Time Management by Father Time, and Madame Sunshine’s Glute Workouts. There were many more, but those titles stuck out the most. The B list books.
Ignorance is bliss, I thought as I decided to waste thirty dollars.
Luckily for me there was no line at the register. If there had been, I would have probably found a better way to spend my money.
“Hi, how can I help you?” The cashier asked. He was a skinny teenager with a thin mustache and greasy cloak soaking him, but impressively unpimpled. Set the book down with the same level of shame a man buying Playboy would, saying, “…just this.”
“Great selection!” The boy opened his vest to show me a Kaptain Ka-BOOM shirt that said Explosive underneath the superhero’s face. “I have already read it seven times. He’s a genius with words.”
“Is he now?” No way to hide my sarcasm.
“O my God, yes! He‘s poetic, he’s wise, and this book—trust me—this book will be taught in colleges as philosophy one day. He has such an amazing way of seeing the world, he has lived a thousand lives, he can solve things that have baffled even our brightest, he—.”
“Shut up…,” the boy looked taken aback by me cutting him off. His brow started to shift into an angry expression, but I quickly stated, “I don’t want you to accidently ruin something. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be reading this.”
The scowling frown exploded into a smile. “I’m so sorry. You’re right. This book… Everything he says… You must read it for yourself. I can’t do him justice.”
Unfortunately, that didn’t put an end to the excited small talk. As he was checking me out, he asked, “So, how long have you been a fan of Kaptain Ka-BOOM?”
“O… I don’t know…,” I thought about how long I have been awestruck by the Sentinels, how many times I have read their exploits, and all the times I gushed over them—albeit slightly less effusive—as this kid, but Kaptain Ka-BOOM never really interested me. Even in my fanboy fantasies, I often forgot about him. Once the pause reached uncomfortable and my book had already been bagged, I stated, “…a little while. I never knew who he really was until the other day, and now I want to know more.”
“You won’t be disappointed,” the cashier stated. “That will be thirty-two dollars and fifty-seven cents.”
I handed the cashier my card, saying, “I’m sure I won’t be.”
I went straight home after. It seemed embarrassing now to be reading such a book, yet I doubt I would be thinking the same thing a year ago… Hell, I would probably be excited to read it the day before Lady Monster attacked Times Square. Strange how much things have changed since I lost my rose-colored glasses. And all the credit goes to Madame Sunshine.
Once inside the safety of my dismal apartment, I dropped the brick of words on my new kitchen table. It was a present from Madame Sunshine. Most likely a way to say, sorry for being a crazy bitch, and I will admit it was now the nicest piece of furniture in my apartment. Maybe if I piss enough of the Sentinels off I can get my entire apartment renovated. The thought made me chuckle. I was happy I only taught a few classes a week. This was going to drain a lot of my time. I looked over to Kaptain Ka-BOOM’s card on my fridge. Come to think about it, seems like an incredibly foolish thing to do. Handing out cards. Feels like a one-way ticket to people finding out your secret identity. It is almost as dumb as a Sentinel expecting a pair of glasses to hide who they are. I stared back at the book.
“Better get started,” I muttered to myself.
I plopped down with my drug of choice, coffee, and began reading. The title of part one already had me rolling my eyes: Humble Beginnings. My mind flooded with all the stories throughout history of stable boys becoming knights and nerds getting the girl. However, there is always an edge of truth to them. Can’t expect everyone to be born a god like Madame Sunshine. I wonder if Speed Demon was born with her powers…or if she came into power by something else…. I thought as I began reading.
Daylight faded quickly as I finished part one. It told about his life growing up with powers, coming to terms with them, facing tragedy in the form of the murder of his parents in a school shooting during a play he was in at the age of nine, and the rise from the infinite depths of the nefarious abyss (his words), and finally his ascension into heroism by becoming a master tailor in his bedroom and making his first super suit. It outlined everything in a detail and poeticism a teenage boy full of angst would adore. In truth, after those one hundred and eighty-two painful pages, I’d rather read Fifty Shades of Grey. At least she wasn’t looked up to as a role model or hero responsible for protecting us. His book made our meeting at Starbucks feel insightful as well as inspiring. A twisted attempt to match the simplistic writing of Hemmingway with the detail driven flow of King. It was obviously that he wrote however he thought the scene needed to make him seem grander than he was. And in this first part alone, Kaptain rips off quotes from highly respected scholars throughout history (only slightly rewording them), but expects you to believe that they came from his nine-year-old mind.
“Humble Beginnings my ass.” I fought the urge to throw the book out the window. I already had hundreds of ideas for the title of my article. Part of me wanted to play with the title of his book. Only a thousand and thirty-one pages left. I thought as I brewed another pot of coffee thankful for having the next day off. Out of curiosity, I checked the New York Times Bestseller List, and low and behold…there it was. Number seven. The praise it received was mind-blowing.
Mind-blowing…need to remember that. I thought as I scribbled the pun down on a notepad. It was among tons of others scratches that ripped apart not only the writing of the book, but its main character. If this was who Kaptain Ka-BOOM truly was, it was going to be a challenge to make my article professional instead of a rant.
I sighed as I poured another cup of coffee, and started on part two: The Duality and Responsibility of Great Power.
As I powered through another couple hundred pages of pseudo-philosophy and poor exhibition, the sun began to rise. I had spent all of the evening and night studying the memoir as if Kaptain Ka-BOOM was going to give me a pop-quiz when I called him. And I was going to call him. I had more questions now than I did in Starbucks. In this second part, he went into great detail about mastering his apparently god-like powers. Most of it was him just verbally masturbating at his readers He sure loves to talk… I should ask him about Lady Monster too, I thought as I leaned back in my chair fighting off exhaustion.
That little incident was still on my mind. While Madame Sunshine had me silent, not that anyone would believe me anyway, I found myself wondering why it was such a big deal to hide. They never hid any of their other exploits, and judging from what I have read of Explosive, seems like the only secrets they keep are their secret identities and where their hideouts are. So why cover up Lady Monster?
I woke up in the late afternoon without realizing I had fallen asleep. It felt like a wasted evening, but looking at my notes reminded me I had enough material already to fill ten articles. However, rereading the notes I realized that I was lacking the honesty that Madame Sunshine’s article had. She never lied about who she was. We all just refused to notice it. Kaptain Ka-BOOM seems to be better at selling the lie of moral superiority. He lived and breathe this image, and that was not what I wanted. I wanted the man behind the mask. I pulled out my phone to listen to my impromptu interview. There was stuff to work with there…but it was still missing that realism.
Who are you, Kaptain Ka-BOOM? My curiosity was piqued.
Skimming the other three parts of Explosive I was convinced that there wasn’t anything left for me to find out. Not really. I mean what could possibly be of worth in Part Three: The Stairway to Heroism, Part Four: A Hopeless Romance at Odds with Duty (my favorite), and Part Five: The Future of the Universe is in My hands. Kaptain Ka-BOOM sees the Sentinels (himself and Madame Sunshine mostly) through rose-colored glasses so opaque that he may as well be legally blind. The amount of times he talked about her was ridiculous. And it was always in a way that suggested they were close or he knew best.
I tossed the book aside deciding that going for a run would do my mind some good. It wasn’t a few blocks before I regretted my hasty choice to run after having forgotten to eat last night…and skipping breakfast. My stomach roared. I searched around for something to eat, anything, and lucked out when I saw a food truck. Bro-dogs. Odd name, I thought as I strolled up. I glanced over the menu until I found the Boulder Special. A one pound hotdog with all the fixings. There was a drawing of Boulder Bro holding a hotdog and giving a thumbs up. Boulder Bro. Now, that’s a blast from the past.
“What can I get for you, bro?” I looked up to see a man trapped in 1991. An oddly patterned shirt and jacket, acid wash jeans, and neon sunglasses. “We have so many radical choices. I’d go for the Boulder Special, its Boulder Bro’s favorite meal, dude.”
“Yes, sure. I’ll have one,” I reached for my wallet, but ended up finding lint. I was glad that I at least had my house key. “Actually, nevermind… I forgot my wallet. Fucking damnit…”
“As if, bro! I got you. Just give me some cheddar next time.” The man from the past stated with a huge smile, continuing, “Once a bro has one of these dope dogs, they always come back for more.”
“Thanks…uhm…what is your name?” I asked with a smile.
“Al, my bro,” the man said as he disappeared into the truck.
“I’m Jack,” I said as Al returned with a Boulder Dog, shouting, “Jackosaurus, I can dig it!” It was a disgustingly massive creation steaming in the brisk winter air. The contents were overflowing in a way that frightened my arteries. I ignored the warning signs of future heartburn, and took the Boulder Dog greedily as Al stated, “Anytime, bro! Well, not anytime. A man’s gotta make a livin’ and all, my bro.” He finished the last bit with an infectious, booming laugh. I couldn’t help but laugh with him.
A line started to form at his food truck from people breaking free of their nine-to-five. I made my way back home thanking him once again for the food. I ate as I walked, barely able to finish it. Despite having been awake for only a few hours, I had the sudden need to sleep. The weight of the Boulder Dog slowed my steps a bit. And knowing that I was returning home to a book that I still had to finish. If I tried to say I read it, I could see Kaptain Ka-BOOM quizzing me to make sure.
Another dismal night. I thought returning home and eyeing the book as it mocked me. I have two weeks until I must turn in the article.
When I finally finished Explosive after wasting more of my life than I wanted to, I almost cried. I was close to exploding (pun intended), and if my article was about his book alone, I would be merciless. It reminded me of all the book reports you were forced to do in high school or books that you never wanted to read. A chore dribbled in the worst sort of writing pandering to an audience of faithful followers only seeking to bolster your own ego and prove you are a star even among the Sentinels. Somehow, if I was to believe Kaptain Ka-BOOM at his word, he was responsible for the defeat of countless tyrannical megalomaniacs and the reason we are all safe at night. It was propaganda that made WWII look mild. And it just simply pissed me off. I couldn’t stand how full of himself Kaptain Ka-BOOM was.
I stomped over to the fridge, grabbed his card, and dialed his number with a feverish intent. The other line rang, and I couldn’t wait. Part of me wanted to rip into him, bring his ass down a pedestal or two, but another part of me felt bad for the delusional Sentinel. I was no psychiatrist. I am a teacher and a writer; however, Kaptain Ka-BOOM was as two-dimensional and arrogant as they come. And another thing—
“Hello, this is Kaptain Ka-BOOM! I am unable to come to the phone right now, probably busy saving the world, if you could please leave your name and a brief message I will get back to you once I finish saving the day. For merchandise, touring dates, and autographs please visit my website at www.kaboom.com. Thank you, and have an explosive day,” his answering machine told me.
He can’t be serious with all of this. It must be an act. Must be. I dialed again, hoping to get through. Then again. And again. Over and over I got an answering machine. I wonder how many times he has given this number out. There are probably hundreds of people that call every day only to get redirected to the bastard’s website. Well, I hopped on my computer and went to his website. The showy graphics and exploding animations mirrored the Michael Bay feel of his book. If his book could have exploded while your read it, it would have. I navigated the site until I found his touring schedule. He was going to be in Brooklyn at some bookstore called the Page Turner in four days.
“You promised me an interview,” I told the computer screen. I was going to have to cancel my class. Not that the students would care. They hung on to the moment that happened. Besides, I had spent so much time reading Kaptain’s book that I needed a vacation from thinking. My thoughts ached at all the lame one-liners that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger blush with embarrassment.
The four days carried on slowly. I went for runs, tried to call Kaptain Ka-BOOM, got another Boulder Dog, tried to call the Kaptain, and watched TV while trying to call him. After another failed attempt for the third day in a row, I gave up and watched the news. Reports that Damian Branson, the self-proclaimed bachelor of Detroit, donated over twenty million dollars to the restoration of Times Square after Lady Monster’s rampage was the biggest story being covered. The construction had been halted for a while until the donation. Madame Sunshine and all of the Virtuous Seven, except for Dark Shadow, stood with Damian as he spoke to a roaring audience. It was going to be just another reason for him to be on the cover of People magazine. While news tended to revolve around the Sentinels, occasionally there would be a regular guy or girl standing out of the crowd. Damian was voted sexiest man alive most years and made headlines when the world wasn’t threatened by his donations and shenanigans. He was a hard target to miss.
There was also another government agency operating outside of the law which the Virtuous Seven took down. They flew around the Atlantic spying on us through our social media and building weapons scavenged from the invasion of Doom. Madame Sunshine had taken down the ship, but it was Wrath who discovered and stopped them from instituting marshal law. He went on the record as saying how she worked for them and was created in a super soldier research center. Of course, everyone knew that. It was common knowledge, but I was shocked that Fortress was still around. They had been reported disbanded after they brought about the war with the Martians.
As the news stories dragged on, I read my notes over and over and over playing with titles for the article as well as what to say and what to ask Kaptain Ka-BOOM. I had hundreds of questions. More than I could dream of being able to ask him, especially with all my calls going to voicemail. Tomorrow Kaptain Ka-BOOM would be at the bookstore doing a signing from ten in the morning ‘til about five. And I was going to get my interview. Even if I had to bully it out of him.