NOTE: This is the third in the X-Men 1970 series, which branches off from Canon after X-MEN #66. For further info, check out "The Professor and His Pupil" and "Halfway Fallen Angel." The flashback with Iceman, Havok, and Lorna comes from INCREDIBLE HULK #150. And with that, let's get going...
"I now pronounce you man and wife."
The minister didn't get to the part about "You may kiss the bride." Scott Summers and Jean Grey were already in each other's arms and defining the term "soul kiss" anew.
Bobby Drake grinned, sitting in the third pew from the front. He had thought, briefly, about yelling, "Attaboy, Scotty!" But a firm pressure from Henry P. McCoy's big brogan on top of Bobby's somewhat smaller foot convinced him that discretion was called for.
Hank was sitting with Vera Cantor, his steady girlfriend of times past. It had been over a year since they'd gotten together, but here they were, putting out feelers and both hoping their filaments would mesh again. Bobby was with the two of them, but stag. Vera had considered calling Zelda Morton, provided she was still in the phone book, to see if she wanted to accompany Bobby. The four of them had double-dated a lot when they had been items with each other. But Hank advised her not to.
The reason why was easy to see. Bobby Drake kept stealing glances towards two figures in the front pew, sitting beside Jean's parents. The two were almost-but-not-quite X-Men: Scott's brother Alex, known as Havok when he wore his black costume, and Alex's POSSLQ Lorna Dane. Lorna hadn't gotten a superheroic name yet, but she did have magnetic powers and had used them to aid the team on several occasions, most notably during the recent Z'nox affair. She normally had green hair, but she hid it under a brown wig for the occasion.
Before Lorna had met Alex, she had gone out with Bobby on a semiregular basis. Bobby had thrown over Zelda for her. Now ... well, nobody much had to ask about now.
Professor Xavier was in the second row of pews, along with Warren Worthington and his girl, Candy Sothern. There were other family members and friends among the small crowd. The latter category included Cal Rankin, who served as a pinch-hitting X-Man briefly in his Mimic identity. He looked somewhat pale and nerved, but nobody had the opportunity to ask him why yet. Sean Cassidy had flown in from Ireland to make the ceremonies. As the Banshee, he had been a fellow mutant and ally on several occasions.
But that was about it for the superheroic part of the guest list. Scott and Jean's other identities were secret, and they intended to keep them that way. Thus, no mob scene of people in odd costumes, as had been the case in the Richardses' and Pyms' weddings. The X-Men had attended both, as guests.
"Great couple," said Bobby. "Guess we always knew they'd be."
"Not always, chum," said Hank. He stole a look at Warren. Seeing it, Bobby nodded.
Vera smiled. "I hate to talk about those wedding bells breaking up that old gang of yours, Hank, but I'm glad they did for Scott and Jean, anyway."
"Indubitably, Vera, my sweet," Hank acknowledged, stealing a big hand around her shoulders. "But Jeannie enjoyed the attention of all the males on this otherwise-stag campus. Even, quite possibly, our esteemed instructor's."
"Professor Xavier?" Vera wrinkled her nose. "I can't imagine him falling in love with anything. Except a computer."
"The old guy might fool you," said Bobby, fidgeting in his brown suit. "Fooled me a time or two, I know."
Jean and Scott walked back down the aisle. The organist played the recessional. Bobby thought he saw Scott wink at him, but he could have been winking at Hank, or Warren, or even the Prof. Heck, even Vera.
After the royal couple went wherever such couples go between wedding and reception, everybody more or less stood up and made conversation. Xavier had Warren place him in his wheelchair, and then Bobby saw him wheeling over to Lorna and Alex. He shook their hands, smiled at them, talked at them intently.
Holy Mike, Bobby thought. He's trying to recruit them for a new team of X-Men. He stood and walked in their direction. Hank and Vera were talking to each other at the moment.
Still, why intervene? If Alex and Lorna became the start of a new group ... well, there were worse fates. Being an X-Man had been the opportunity of a lifetime. He'd seen things, done things, gone places that his father's resources could never have provided. And he had gotten a ways down the road towards a CPA-ship. It was funny how being a student and an X-Man could take your mind away from seeking a real job. As if there was nothing more to life than textbooks, costumes, and super-villains...
He found himself in front of Alex, Lorna, Warren, Candy, and the Professor. "Hi," he said, breathily, pasting on a smile.
Lorna smiled back, breaking the ice. "Hello, Bobby. It's good to see you again, and I mean it."
Alex forced a smile, extending his hand. "Me, too, Drake. I want to apologize again for that little thing we had. Believe me, I am sorry."
"Oh, that. Okay, it was nothing," said Bobby, shaking Alex's hand. Like hell. They'd gotten into an argument over Lorna shortly after the Professor's life had been saved by a gimmick invented by Bruce Banner. The argument had been cut short by an accidental -- at least, Bobby hoped it was -- discharge of Havok's power. It had rocked the heck out of Iceman, and Alex was aghast. So was Lorna. But it didn't make her give up her little Summers boy. No such luck.
"Just kind of, wanted to wish you, a lot of, uh, lot of luck together," said Bobby.
"Thank you," said Lorna, still smiling. Warren looked as though he wanted to unstrap his wings and fly out of the embarrassment zone.
"Yeah, uh, a lot of luck. Uh, Professor. How are you, uh, doing, kind of coming along, y'know?" Bobby held one of his hands in the other to keep the both of them from shaking.
Xavier gave his former pupil a gracious look. "I've been getting along, Bobby. Just speaking to Mr. Summers and Miss Dane, here. Hoping I can interest them in a possible endeavor. Are you and Hank still planning on rooming together for awhile?"
"Uh, well, possibly, yeah," Bobby answered. "I mean, well, we've done it before, y'know, with the old daredevil act and all. I mean, that didn't work out to well, but, you know..."
"Bobby," Warren said, in a kindly tone. "We're friends. You don't have to be nervous around us."
Bobby Drake exhaled. "Yeah. I mean, no, I guess not. By the way, Warren, is it true what I hear about you and Candy being...?"
Candy gave the biggest smile of the evening so far. "Yes, Bobby. We're engaged. And I think it's fabulous."
"She's not the only one," said Warren, embracing her from the side. "We haven't decided on a wedding date, but when we do, you all will be the first to know. And you'd all better be there, or I'll go after each and every no-show and hang ‘em upside down from a clock tower!"
Bobby chuckled. "Cool, War. I, uh, Lorna."
"Yes, Bobby?" She waited. Alex held her hand a bit more tightly.
"I hope you'll ... be your own woman, whatever happens. And that Alex will be his own man."
Xavier stiffened a bit, perceptibly. He recognized the implications of Drake's statement. And it hurt.
"Don't worry, Drake," said Alex. "Whatever else happens, both Lorna and I intend to keep our own lives separate from it. And equal."
"Glad to hear it," said Bobby. His heart started to put up a malfunction signal, and he damned well didn't want that to happen. He swallowed. "Listen. I, uh, have to go check on Warren and Jeannie, and I'm ... glad I got to see you. Really."
"Take care, Bob," said Lorna, and, leaning over, she pecked him on the cheek. "That one's for luck."
He couldn't say anything. His autonomic nervous system took over and had his legs walk him away. Somewhere on the journey Hank McCoy caught him by the shoulder and gave him a look of comradely concern. "Bobby? You okay, lad?"
"I'm all right, Hank. I'm really all right."
Hank nodded, silently. Then he clapped Bobby on the back, almost making him fall down. "Ready to go see Jean and Scott off?"
"Not really. But we have to."
"That's the spirit, fellow educant. Come with me."
Bobby found himself at the punchbowl with Scott and Jean and nobody much else around. His hands were sticky from the wedding cake's icing and he had to awkwardly wipe them on the edge of the tablecloth, underneath the table, and hoped nobody would notice. Well, nobody who would embarrass him any worse.
With Scott and Jeannie, he felt at ease. "Scott," he said, "it's going to be sad, not seeing you for awhile."
The brown-haired man in the tux and shades nodded, soberly. "I know, Bobby. We'll miss the heck out of you, too. But it's something we've all got to do."
"Right," said Jean, laying a reassuring hand on Bobby's arm. "We've all got to get out of school sometime, Bobby. If we didn't do it now, we might never do it at all."
"Or get married," Bobby said.
"Or get married," agreed Jean. "And I'm very glad Scott and I decided to do both."
"So," he said. "What do we do now? It's not like any of us made big plans for the future, and all."
Scott shrugged. "We find our way, Bobby. That's about all anybody can do, I guess, no matter how many plans they make. We've had it easier than most people, in some ways. Harder than others."
"Yeah," said Bobby. "Not too many humans..." Then he caught himself. Jean and Scott looked tensely at him, for an instant. Nobody else seemed to be paying attention, but other people were still within earshot.
"I mean, not too many people had the experiences we did," amended Bobby. "Not too many of ‘em know what going to this school was like."
"I know," said Jean. "But there were so many good things for the people who did go to it. And, Bobby ... one of those good things was knowing somebody like you." She gave him a big hug.
"I..." He tried to talk, but he couldn't. Scott seemed to be holding back emotion himself. He always looked like he was doing that, but this time he looked like it took more effort. With Jean still hugging Bobby, he still managed to find one of Bobby's hands to clasp.
Jean broke the hug, taking Bobby's head between her hands. "Listen, Bobby. I know this is hard for you today. Hard as hell seeing Lorna and Alex again, hard seeing us get married, and, I know it ... hard not having a girlfriend here to be with you."
"It's okay, Jeannie," said Bobby. "Really, it's okay."
"No," she said, shifting her grip to hold one of his hands. "I know that it isn't. But listen. I wanted Scott for a long time, and for most of that long time it seemed as though the big lunk would never get up the courage to ask me. And Warren, well ... he was okay, but I had to admit he wasn't what I wanted. You've been through a real heartbreaker, Bob, and I know it. It made me feel good to see you with Lorna ... and, I've got to tell you something, but you can't repeat it. To anyone. Okay?"
"I thought she was a bitch for dumping you," Jean whispered. "Maybe she is. But she's happy with Alex now, and if she is, Bobby, let's face it, she just wasn't the right girl for you. And I don't know if this thing with Alex is going to work out. If she sees a guy better-looking than him, he might just find himself Number Two in a long string. But you don't tell anyone I said this, okay?"
"Okay," Bobby repeated.
Scott cleared his throat. "Bobby, I want you to know that I talked with Alex about the incident that happened recently. And I told him, quote, ‘If I ever hear you doing something like that to Bobby again, or anyone of my teammates, I'll shove a New York phone book down one end of you and pull it out the other.' Unquote. And I meant it."
Bobby chuckled. "Thanks, Scotty. I don't think it'll be necessary."
"It better not be."
The youngest X-Man sighed and shook his head. "Look. I'm sure you've got a lot to do, from here on in. I wish you all the best, you hear? You were two of the greatest people I could ever have grown up with. I think you're going to be just about the happiest couple in the world."
Jean smiled, blinking back what looked like tears. "Thank you, Bobby. And ... good luck to you, too."
"Good luck from me as well, Bobby," said Scott, taking his partner's hand again, briefly. "And, once we find out how to live separately...maybe we can talk about togetherness, again."
"Maybe," said Bobby, holding Scott's hand. "Just maybe."
Then Mr. and Mrs. Grey appeared and Scott and Jean gravitated off with them, saying goodbye again to Bobby. He stood there for a long moment, then said, "Whew," to nobody in particular. He took a cup and dipped out some punch from the bowl into it.
Hank and Vera were there, beside him.
"Bobby," said Hank. "Warren, Candy, Vera, and I are going to the Coffee A Go Go afterward. Sort of an Irish wake for ... well, you know. If you don't wish to attend, it's understood. But we would consider it an unforgiveable breach of taste if we didn't extend the invitation..."
"I'll go, Hank."
Vera said, "Bobby, I don't know if Zel -- if she's working tonight, but we could see Bernard, and the old place, and maybe some of the old..."
"I'll go, Vera," said Bobby, loudly enough to turn heads in his direction. He looked at them, and then back at Hank and Vera, who looked a bit uncomfortable. He lowered his voice.
"I'll go," he said.
Excerpt from "Coffee-House Mutants and the Big Green Showdown" by Tom Wolfe, Esquire, December 1970:
...TheVillage is going through another one of its Phases, and they happen about as often as the shuffle of cards on a street-dealer's turf, but there are by-gosh some PERMANENT things about the Village, and that's when you've set aside all the fashionable changes, the accoutrements, the day-glo bongs and trendy hippie-dippie clothes that are looking as old as last year's worsted now, the graying hipsters still toting their no-more tres chic Ban the Bomb signs, the Che Guevara impersonators, the guitar guys with the hat (or, even luckier, the open guitar case) at their feet for your thrown bread, the protestors with their Speed Kills And So Does Nixon signs, the tourists coming for happysnaps, the reporters with the cameras in tow looking for the Mood of the Moment to fill in a low spot in Uncle Walter's monologue, there are (yes!) Some PERMANENT Things, and one of them is the Coffee A Go Go, down there on Umpteenth and Broad, where you can still hear the Mingus mellow fantastic if you drop a quarter in the Wurlitzer slot, and the smoke-cured hams are the ones who, my God, yes!, actually get up on the stage and declaim beatnik poetry, in THIS DAY AND AGE!! likeJackKerouacwasstilloutthereontheroad and Allen Ginsburg was watching the best minds of his generation rot, and there was no nobler place to rot them than here in the Coffee A Go Go, oh no no, friends and true believers, and while it is true some things change, many things change in the Village, the Coffee A Go Go is one of the Gibraltar points, as is Bernard of no certain last name, the gray-haired guru, part-owner, poet, and pusher of benzene coffee catastrophe guaranteed to Keep You Up To All Necessary Hours And Then Some...
Well, some things are just built to last, you know?
Except for the one night when, oh man, you know they didn't anymore...
"My father conceived me in blue,
Bernard, greying, bespectacled, hippie-beaded, in black turtleneck and worn brown jacket and blue jeans, looked up from his battered notebook at the crowd. Satisfaction. The silences, the smoking, the percentage of eyes turned his way in wonder or boredom. Somehow, the boredom was the most satisfying of all things.
After all, this was commercial crap. Words they could understand. His real poetry languished. The stuff that, as T.S. Eliot would have it, was poetry for the poets. The philistines at the big verse magazines mostly turned their noses up at it. He'd had his stuff printed in the no-pay mags, though, and got back a few letters. That was pay enough for a poet.
Except that the Coffee A Go Go depended on a New Beat atmosphere and if reading this cliched stuff was what they needed to keep coming back, then he by Jupiter was gonna give it to them. Homer for the 1970's crowd.
In the audience were some of the regulars. The kids from up in Westchester, who'd followed Bigfoot Hank and Cleancut Bobby down on their recommendation. It was usually four guys and their dates. But now ... well ... somebody seemed missing. Maybe several somebodies.
He was damned glad Zelda was in the kitchen right now. Cleancut Bob and she had a nice innocent thing going for awhile, till he dumped her for some other little twist and quit coming there. Now they were back, and Bobby didn't seem to have a girl beside him.
And where was Scott With the Shades, and Miss Fireplug Hair? Yes, they were the ones missing. Strange, as they always showed up when Warren Richkid and Dandy Candy were about. This time, though, they weren't. He'd have to pay a visit to their table and see what was going on.
Tut, Bernard, he reminded himself. Pushing fifty and you're turning into the Old Town Gossip, always looking for new dish.
Still, it would be nice to talk to the kids again. They'd practically grown up here.
"And all the blue blue indigo blue
He let it hang for a long, long moment, and savored the silence, broken by just one cough.
There was applause. That was divine.
The faux-beats and hippies played at slapping their hands together, to show their seeming indifference. But the Westchester kids really clapped, called encouragement, and smiled. Cleancut Bobby usually even stomped his feet and whistled. That kind of applause, for all its corniness, Bernard loved.
But tonight, Bobby was only clapping.
So he wrapped it. "That's it," he said. "More readings tomorrow night at 8:30. Thank you all."
There was a Grateful Dead song, "Casey Jones", on the jukebox, started up as he left the platform. Bernard shook the hands of the faithful as he passed by them. Longhanded Larry, Benny of the Big Bike, Katie Kalamity with her pink-dyed hair. All of them with wine or espresso and pizza or burgers or both. His children.
He made his way to the Westchester table. The crew took notice, greeted him. Warren was first to stand up and shake his hand. "Guess what, Bernie?", he said, beaming.
"Hmm," Bernard said, theatrically, putting a hand to his goatee. "Riddles often have dire consequences for the riddlee, if a wrong answer is given. May I have three guesses, before penalty is invoked?"
"Sure," said Warren. "Go ahead."
"You liked the poem."
"Well, yeah, that, too, but that's not it."
"Your stock split twice this week."
"Nope. But I could do with more of those predictions!"
Bernard paused. He studied Warren's face, then glanced at the pretty girl in the sweater and slacks, squeezing his hand, and sporting -- yes! -- a ring on her finger, with a quite vulgar diamond.
"Then, Mr. Warren, I would presume, for my final and fatal third guess, that you and the young lady here are engaged. Congratulations."
"You got it," Warren said, pumping his hand. "Just this week. We haven't set a date yet, but count on it, before year's end there's gonna be a Worthington-Sothern merger."
"Oh, War-ren," said Candy, in mock exasperation. "Can't you think about anything in other than business terms?"
Bernard tipped his granny glasses down a bit on his nose and offered his hand. "A poem I'll compose for your blessed nupitals, milady. If, of course, you'll consent to bring your friends along before or after the blessed day and hear it."
"Well, I think we can manage that," Candy replied, shaking Bernard's mitt. "Don't you, Warren?"
"If we can swing it, we will," said Warren. "This place is part of our history."
"Especially, Warren, the night of Bobby's 18th birthday, when we fought the motorcycle gang here," put in Bigfoot Hank. "May no one excoriate your expostulations, Bernard. Well done tonight."
"Thank you," said Bernard, breaking off with Candy to shake with Hank. The man's paw practically devoured the poet's, and he could sense the strength in it. If the young man had gone to a bigger school, he would have been a whole football team by himself.
"I liked it too, Bernard," said Vera, and blushed when he kissed her hand. "We've got some more good news. Shall I tell him, Hank?"
"Why not, my dear?" said the bespectacled, brown-haired young giant, toying with an espresso cup between one big thumb and forefinger. "The old adage applies: telephone, telegraph, tell a woman."
"Hank!" She slapped his leg underneath the table. "Anyway, Bernard, the reason Scott and Jeannie aren't here with us tonight is that they got married. Isn't that fabulous?"
Bernard's mouth O'ed, then he said, "My gracious sakes alive, Miss Vera, that's wonderful. Simply blessed. To think that the two of them couldn't accompany you here tonight for a teensy bit of time ... yes, indeed, I would compose a wedding poem on the very spot for them."
"Maybe that's why they didn't," said Bobby, dryly.
"Manners, chum," reminded Hank. "Besides, we know a better reason why they didn't, and they're undoubtedly..."
"How many times do I have to slap you, Henry P. McCoy?" Vera's hand was held in pre-whack position.
"Subside, subside, Vera, m'dear, t'was all in good comradely fashion jested." Hank put his big hand around Vera's, dwarfing it for a second, and bussed her on the cheek. "We'll give them your best, Bernard, and as soon as they get settled I'll wager we can bring the connubial couple back for another visit. This, too, is part of their history."
"As it is of mine, Hank." Bernard steadied himself against a chair. "When I first tread this floor, Sputnik hadn't yet gone up. Eisenhower's term was yet young. Beats were Beats then, even more Beaten than today ... though, I admit, today we seem more beaten in a sadder and more literal way. Deflated more than beaten, I suspect."
"Oh, c'mon, Bernie," said Bobby, rubbing his cheek and feeling the nubs to have something to do. "Don't get depressed. For crying out loud, you're over draft age. What do you have to worry about?"
"I'd say he has a hell of a lot to worry about," came another voice. "And so do you."
The attention of the party was drawn to a man who dressed in such a fashion as to make one mistake him for Lamont Cranston's alter ego. Bernard knew he was the only one old enough to get that reference. Except that the man dressed in brown. Brown slouch hat, upturned collar, and pants. And ... well, his shoes...
They were purple. And they seemed to be boots.
The young men at the table were standing, putting the women behind them. Bernard glanced at them. This man might simply be a hostile fruitcake, and in need of a bouncer. He didn't look like a biker type, which should have been hopeful. But ... somehow, Bernard was not hopeful at all.
The man swept the hat off his head and was damnably green underneath.
Bobby knew he should pretend to fail to recognize the man, secret identities needing to be protected. But if the guy was here, and knew them, then he obviously knew who they were in their other i.d.'s. Because that was how he had met them.
"Mesmero," said Bobby.
"What?" asked Bernard, feeling as though Orson Welles were about to step from behind the curtain and tell everyone the green man was just a hoax. But when the green man put a purple glove against his chest and shoved him aside, he disabused himself of that illusion.
"I owe you, X-Men," he said, focusing on the three males, as the girls gasped and looked at each other behind him. "I owe the other two of you, as well. But they're not here tonight, so you'll just have to do."
Bobby's hands were icing up. Warren was starting to take off his coat and shirt. Hank was slipping off his shoes. None of them took their eyes off the green man. He was drawing attention. Considering the clientele, that took some doing.
A guy in a tie-dyed undershirt sitting nearby puffed a joint and said, "Man, you are like chartreuse. Pretty. Like the valley of the jolly, ho-ho-ho..."
The man Bobby called Mesmero whirled on the man and looked him in the eye.
The smoker widened his eyes to their greatest extent, dropped the j from his mouth without even thinking of Bogarting it, and clasped both hands to his head. He fell to the floor, rolled on the planks, and screamed in pain.
It was then that Zelda Morton burst out of the kitchen. "What's going on here?" she called out, still wearing a dishwasher's apron.
"Zelda!" Bobby wheeled, his hands encased in whitening ice, the wrists of his jacket damp.
"Back inside, quickly!" snapped Hank. She saw Bobby and was on the verge of saying something. But she saw the green man, and couldn't say anything.
Mesmero turned to her and locked eyes with Zelda. "Come here," he ordered.
"Get back inside," Bobby warned. "Go, Zelda!"
"Do as he says, Zelda," said Bernard, not daring to move without knowing the green man's game.
But the brown-haired girl was as unable to resist as Trilby would be to defy Svengali. Her face contorted in shock, as her legs carried her further into the room. She went to Mesmero's side, wonderingly, and he put an arm about her. He smiled, coldly. "So you like her," he said.
Zelda looked frightened, but said nothing. "Let her go, Mez," said Bobby. "Your fight's with us, not her."
Bernard always regretted the next thing that he did, which was to let his eyes wander over Mesmero's shoulder towards the young bouncer, Gerald, who was about to whack a Tiki cane into the side of the green man's head. Mesmero turned his head, locked eyes with Gerald, and the cane stopped in mid-swing. Gerald was as paralyzed as Zelda, and that position he was locked in just had to be taxing.
Bobby shielded his eyes with an arm, iced up all the way, wasting his jacket and pants in the process, and let fly with an iceball. Mesmero managed to dodge it, but it splattered off a table behind them and showered the patrons with freezy stuff. Then there was screaming. People were about to play stomp-each-other-to-the-exit.
"Stop!" yelled Mesmero, and raked the crowd with his gaze as he yelled it. Not all of them looked up at him, but enough did to quell the stampede. They froze.
Hank McCoy had surged for Mesmero, and managed to knock him over a table, going down with him. Warren had his shirt off, had exposed great white wings, and was headed over towards them, several feet off the floor. Bobby was headed in their general direction.
Bernard, hustling Vera and Candy to a safer place and promising himself to come back for Zelda, muttered, "Oh my God. They're the X-Men. That explains everything."
Then the fight-that-was-to-be was no more. Hank, Warren, and Bobby ceased their attack, and merely stood, lay, or knelt there. "Stand up," ordered Mesmero.
Bernard, moistening his lips, stood regarding the green man. "How did you do that thing?"
Mesmero regarded him with contempt. "I can show you first-hand, if you'd like."
"Uh, no, no. Really, that won't be necessary." Bernard held up his hands. "They said your name was Mesmero. I assume, then, that you've, uh, mesmerized them?"
Behind him, he heard Vera saying, "Candy, did you know that Warren was really...?"
And Candy saying, "Yes, but did you know that Hank and Bobby were...?"
Play for time, poet, he told himself. Make believe that this is merely a sheriff with a summons, telling you to vacate the property because some kid was caught in here with the Killer Weed.
"Well, why here?" asked Bernard, spreading his hands in a gesture of helplessness. "I mean, I should be flattered for the attention, it'll probably bring business to my place, but--"
"You should SHUT UP!"
"Oh, well, if you, uh, insist," muttered Bernard.
Mesmero gazed at all of them, turning in a circle. Finally, he spoke again, not facing Bernard. "It took quite a bit of planning," he said. "But I finally caught them off their guard. Away from their professor. Here."
"Um. Well," said Bernard. "Care for a cappucino?"
The green man went on. "They thought they'd humiliated me. Embarrassed me, yes. Great God, who wouldn't be, when he thought he'd been working with Magneto and an army of mutants and found out the whole pack of them were just a bunch of androids?"
"That would be disconcerting, yes," said Bernard, motioning the girls to get out the back way, if they could reach it.
"Don't," said Mesmero, sternly, and turned his head. The girls couldn't avoid looking at him. All three stopped.
"That's my power," confided Mesmero. "The power to control minds. Thus, my name: Mesmero."
"Yes, yes, of course," said Bernard, stepping between him and the girls. "So you're controlling the mind of everyone in the place now, except me?"
"And, um, why not..."
"Because I need someone to talk to," he said. "I would have used that fool over there, but he looked at me when I was placing the crowd under control."
Mesmero was pointing at a nattily-dressed person standing nonchalantly with the rest of the clientele. Bernard saw him and put a hand to his face. Of all the nights for this to happen, why did it have to be one when that idiotic New Journalist had to be in here?
"Go on," said Bernard, massaging the bridge of his nose.
"I learned it all when the Sentinels took us," rasped Mesmero. "They turned my ‘Magneto' into a heap of bolts. I damned myself for a fool, but damned the X-Men more. And I promised to hunt them down when they were not prepared for battle, hunt them down when they were in their secret identities. Of course, I had to discover what their secret identities were, first."
"Of course," the poet echoed.
"The Sentinels made that easy. They gathered an entire pack of mutants in their headquarters for disposal. I probed the minds of the lot of them, looking for clues. They'd fought the X-Men, too, mostly. And in the Blob's mind, I found it. He didn't even know he had it."
"Well," said Bernard, "what was it?"
"Their identities," said Mesmero. "He'd been recruited by them. Their professor had repressed the Blob's memories of their civilian selves, but I found them and had him tell me. He didn't even know he was doing it. He still doesn't know consciously who they are."
"I'm sure that's ... most reassuring."
"I discovered that the X-Men frequented your dive," said Mesmero. Bernard was about to protest, but the mentalist mutant stopped him with a look. "For weeks on end, I frequented your place, drinking that whatever-it-is you sell, wiping the memory of my presence from you and your clientele, until the night they came back. And now that night has come."
"So ... what happens next?" said Bernard.
"What happens is that I take the three X-fools with me, and you will never see me or them again," said Mesmero. "Indeed, no one will ever see them again. By their own hands, they will perish. And you will not remember this. Only Mesmero will know of Mesmero's final triumph."
"Oh, bother all that," said another voice.
Bernard and Mesmero both turned to the speaker.
The eyes of the three X-Men were turned towards him, so they saw him, too. The newcomer was known to them.
He was a blackhaired man whose temples were shot through with grey. He had a mustache and neatly trimmed beard, and wore a jewel of blue on his forehead. His costume was orange with green sleeves and boots, and he had a green cape embroidered with wizard's stars, moons, and planets in gold.
"And who are you?" said Mesmero, not pleased.
"Names," said the man, diffidently. "I've worn a few in my time. Once, they called me Merlin."
"Merlin?" Bernard was drop-mouthed. He'd done his time studying Arthurian and Celtic mythology. Could this man, too, be an aficionado? But, still ... he didn't look like the type Bernard would really want to sit around the wine table with.
"Oh, yes," nodded the man. "I wasn't the real article, the real Merlin found me and entombed me. But I did walk with King Arthur for a time, yes, I did."
"King Arthur!" Mesmero scoffed. "Wendell Willkie, most likely."
"You are being impertinent," said the Merlin man, and he did not look humorous when he said it. "I found myself reawakened in this time, tried to seize power, would have done so except for an impertinent hero who styled himself after the legendary Thor. I refashioned myself, called myself the Warlock, and encountered these--" He gestured to the three heroes. "--X-Men. Another rather disappointing encounter. I limped away from that, became the Maha Yogi, and once again met defeat at the hands of two of these. This one, whom we both know as the Beast, and that one, whom they call Iceman. The fact that I am a mutant, even as they are, nettles me to no end."
"Oh, really," remarked Mesmero, his arms folded. "You're one of the club, too."
"I might be said to have founded the club," said the other. "But I will go by the name Maha Yogi, since it was the last I used. Now. I broke jail without too much difficulty once I gathered my powers again. I, too, deduced that the Beast and Iceman must be habitues of this area, since they found me so quickly when I set up my previous enterprise here ... the ‘Psycho-Rama'. So I waited, and I baited, and in due time, I found you."
"What?" said Mesmero and Bernard, together.
"Yes," the Maha nodded. "You didn't detect me? Well, I detected you. I suppose I've had a little more experience in shielding my mental emanations, by a few centuries. When I discovered what you were up to, I let you play my stalking horse. Now, if you'll excuse me, I will take two of these off your hands. My generosity--that I leave you the one with wings."
Mesmero stepped forward, getting in the Maha's face. "In an Arthurian pig's eye. The three of them are mine, and mine they shall stay."
The Maha drew himself to his full height, and his eye gleamed with power. "Then you'd match power with me? En garde, you rank pretender to the craft."
"Oh, I'd love to," said Mesmero. "But I don't have to. On all sides, you're surrounded by my slaves. And I shall forthwith command them to tear you limb from mustache, because I doubt you can override my control that easily."
The ancient mutant smiled. "Before I came here, I made another stop, to a competitor's establishment. Arthur never went into battle without reinforcements, and I ... well, come in, ladies and gentlemen."
The front doors slammed open and into the already mildly crowded place trooped at least thirty people, mostly young, but a couple of oldsters. Among them, Bernard recognized the owner and proprietor of the Coffee Bean, that upstart joint two blocks away. Damn it! To have to have him on the premises, on this day of days ... it simply reeked.
And yet ... and yet...
Mesmero was still facing the Maha Yogi. "Make your move," he said.
"Make yours," said the Maha, all too coolly.
"I said it first," claimed Mesmero.
"I said it best," asserted the Maha.
"I warn you, you tinhorn T. H. White fanatic--"
"T. H. White?" The Maha looked puzzled. "Who is--"
The speech was cut off as Bernard cracked Gerard's cane across the tops of both their heads. Both went down, grabbing their craniums, but neither was knocked out. The poet scrambled across to the three zombified mutant heroes. He slapped their faces. "Come on, snap out of it," he said. "You've got to snap out of it. Klatuu baradda niktu."
A bit of clarity seemed to waver into Iceman's eyes. He blinked, twice.
Behind him, Mesmero pulled himself up against a wall, turned to the Coffee A Go Go habitues, and pointed at the invaders. "Get them!" he cried.
The Maha, not to be outdone, came up from a kneeling position, looked at his troops, and pointed at the defenders. "Get them!" he yelled.
And, while the two of them leaped at each other and started to mind-blast and punch and kick all at the same time, the fifty to sixty people in the beatnik heaven came towards each other, chose opponents of appropriate sex and hopefully those who looked like they weighed less, if they could manage it, squared off, and let fly.
"Oh, dear," said Bernard, who was still holding the cane.
"Bernie," said Iceman.
The poet turned his head. The crystal-clad mutant had two snowballs in his hands.
"I've got to bring Hank and Warren around. Take care of the girls!"
"Oh, yes, the girls," said Bernard, looking towards Candy, Vera, and Zelda. "To be sure, I'll..."
That was when Simon Simms, the owner of the Coffee Bean, ran up and punched him in the gut.
Bernard doubled, came up gasping, and saw that the sonofasoandso was grinning. A little zombied in the eyes, but grinning.
He came up with a right from near the floor and hung it on Simms's jaw. The two fell to grappling on the floor. Bernard could see the girls, taking cover behind a Dr. Pepper machine. He loosened one of Simms's hands from his throat. "Ladies," he croaked. "Upstairs. Lock the door. Call the police. NOW!"
Vera and Candy did just that, dragging Zelda between them.
Bernard head-butted Simms and punched him, taking a punch back. My God, to be dropped in the midst of a John Ford Western right here, he thought.
He smiled as he bulled the both of them over a table.
Iceman looked out at the melee, saw women pulling hair, guys trading punches, people bashing each other over the head with ceramic coffee cups, a couple of enterprising types who had gotten into the kitchen and were lobbing pizza dough splat in people's faces, two waiters swatting each other with wet towels, a guy in a Nehru jacket actually swinging from a hanging light fixture and landing with booted feet on the back of some cleancut brown-haired type who really looked like he was in the wrong place. The brown-haired guy was knocked down but not hurt, and a big guy in a U.S. Army uniform, clean down to the cap, who was with him, grabbed the fixture-swinger, turned him upside down, and bonked his head soundly on top of a wooden table. Two girls who were apparently with the two guys, one a blonde and the other a redhead, were holding bottles but looked unsure of what to do with them, until two bravos from the other side came up and apparently offered to make love, not war. Then the women discovered what to do with the bottles, and both swains went down.
On top of that, the New Journalist was standing on a table in the corner, scribbling in shorthand on the reporter's pad he always carried with him, and fetching a kick at anyone who came near him. The action seemed to be swirling away from him, leaving him an observer, which role he appeared content with.
Iceman spread his hands before him and covered the floor in a spray of white. Those in its path slipped and slid as if on an ice rink and went down, flopping but still grappling. The sub-zero paladin whirled, throwing snow-bursts through the crowd, distracting the combatants with slushballs that spattered on their person and made them draw in deep, gasping breaths, forgetting the fight for a second, but only for that. Bobby knew he was going to have to go after the two who were really controlling the action. But as he searched the room for them, he felt two hands on his shoulders. One hand was big, the other was normal-sized.
"Going somewhere, Bobby?" said the Beast, in friendly fashion.
The Beast and the Angel swung their arms and propelled Bobby face-first into a wall. He yelped in pain. Great. Just great.
As he turned around to try and face them, he felt Hank's great arm slam into his throat and pin him to the wall. Both Beast and Angel were in costume now. Apparently they felt it was the thing to do at the time.
"Sorry you have to be on the other side," said Beast, the trace of Mesmero-zombieism still in his eyes. Beyond him, Bobby could see the Angel, picking up a table and about to carry it through the air towards him.
"Sorry you ... have to see it that way," said Iceman, just before he turned and spat a big chunk of slush full in Hank's face. He grabbed the Beast by the underarms and unloaded two whopping helpings of freezestuff along his old friend's sides.
"Ahhhh!" gasped the Beast, his eyes widening in shock. "Why, Bobby, that's ... positively tundraic!"
"You said it, big buddy," replied Iceman, and ducked under the Beast, running between his legs as Angel splintered the table against the wall where his head had been.
Bobby spread more ice before him, skidding on it with his booted feet like a champion skater. The room was beginning to resemble a Christmas scene set in a Popeye cartoon. Champions of the Coffee-A-Go-Go and the Coffee Bean slipped, slid, and still punched away like crazy. It was pure, unadulterated hell.
And, as he saw out of the corner of his eye, Bernard looked like he was loving it. The guy who ran the Coffee Bean was trading licks with him like John Wayne and the Irish brawler in The Quiet Man.
Where the hell were the Maha and Mesmero?
A heavy thump told him that the Beast had leapt nearby. Bobby turned to see Hank charging, just before he got grabbed from behind by a diving Warren. The two of them skidded across the floor on ice before Bobby managed to splatter a snowball across the Angel's eyes and kick free.
Hank tore up a plank from the floor and narrowly missed whacking Bobby with it. This was getting dangerous.
Cartwheeling across the floor, Iceman finally saw the two villainous mutants near the jukebox. Both of them were holding onto each other's necks and staring into each other's eyes, and yelling as if giving each other the mother of all migraines. He stretched out a hand in preparation for an iceblast in their direction.
The Angel grabbed it, forced it down.
The Beast, grinning an idiotic grin, loped forward, his plank-weapon in hand.
But on the way, he tripped over something somebody stuck in front of his ankles, fell flat on his face, and let the board go skidding across the floor.
Bernard looked up, gesturing with the cane he'd used to trip the Beast with. "Go," he said to Iceman. That was all he had to say before Simon Simms jumped on his back and started belting him with an empty coffeepot.
Iceman looked at Warren, grimly, and said, "You gonna let go, pal?"
"No way," said the Angel, grinning, starting to lift them both off the floor.
"Sorry," Bobby said. He had been holding his free hand behind his back. When he brought it out into full view, it was covered with enough solid ice to make it the size of a sledgehammer.
With surprising force, he brought it cracking across Warren's jaw. The Angel's eyes crossed, and he fell back to the floor, sending Bobby sprawling for a moment. From his vantage point, he could see a brown-haired kid managing to make it into the restrooms. He could also see the Maha and Mesmero, still grappling, yelling, and mind-blasting by the jukebox.
The Beast leapt before him, a bit snow-laden, and apparently very angry. "Well, Bobby," he said, "time to pay the proverbial piper." His great hands loomed before him, at approximately the level of Iceman's neck.
For answer, Iceman sent a shaft of cold energy between his hands. In seconds, a shaft about an inch in diameter and six feet in length was in his palms.
He leapt up, jammed one end of it in the floor just before the Beast, and, with a great cry of "Alley OOP!", vaulted right over him.
Making a two-point landing on both booted feet, Iceman crouched to take the impact, only a few feet from the brawling masterminds. Both were about to go to their knees, but neither one wanted to give up the fight.
As it was, they had to interrupt hostilities when two helmets of ice splatted about their heads.
Mesmero said something in a muffled voice that wasn't very nice. To which the Maha, who was awfully glad to be free of the pain induced by the brain-blasting, said, "Oh, shut up, you pipsqueak! I'll have us out of here in a moment."
And he did, with an application of mental force that punched straight through the icy coatings, over both his and Mesmero's heads.
The problem was that there was an application of physical force that came their way directly afterward, in the form of Angel's and Beast's fists. To their credit, it didn't take more than once to do the job. Mesmero and the Maha slumped to the floor, right in front of the silent juke, leaning against each other.
"Out cold," said Iceman, permitting himself one pun.
The other two turned and looked at him with pained faces. "Bobby," said the Angel. "You know that--"
"Bobby, m'lad," said the Beast, "I hope you'll forgive me--"
The Iceman grinned. "Forget it, guys. I know you were under control. How much do you remember?"
"Too much," allowed Angel. He jerked a thumb towards the patrons, who were picking themselves up from the shambles. "How much do they remember?"
The three looked at each other, then at the crowd.
"Let's check on the girls," said the Beast.
Behind them, seen by probably nobody, Spider-Man peeked his head through the ceiling portion of the hall that led to the restrooms. He took the scene in at a glance and scurried back in.
A few seconds later, Peter Parker came out to check on Flash and Mary Jane and Gwen.
The mutant trio came down from the office, Candi and Vera and Zelda in hand. The latter was still coming back to herself, blinking and looking around at the place.
There was slush all over the floor, and people sprawled in and around it. Tables were knocked over or splintered. Chairs were much the same. A plank was torn out of the floor. Bits of busted crockery and dented metal kept company with pizza dough and raw hamburger and spilled sauces.
The former combatants who were still awake (thankfully, nobody seemed badly hurt) looked at their opponents, looked at themselves and their upraised fists or makeshift weapons, and wondered what in the hell had just gone on here, even though memory was flooding back.
They caught sight of the three X-Men with the women.
Somebody started to clap.
Somebody else joined him.
Before long, the place was filled with applause, both from those folks on their feet and those who were conscious but occupying the floor. The Coffee a Go Go rang with cheers, and the Beast couldn't resist doing a handstand on one finger for the crowd. Iceman grinned and gave a big hammy wave. After Candi elbowed him, the Angel did the same.
Zelda finally ventured to speak. "Are you Bobby?"
Iceman looked at her, thought about putting up a front, and then sighed and said to her, "What do you think?"
"I think ... I don't know what to think," she said.
"Yeah. Well, that makes two of us."
The Beast bounded back to them. "I think it urgent that we telephone the Professor and see if a mind-blanket can somehow be applied. It's a long distance and I don't know that it'll be effective, but it's worth a try."
The New Journalist materialized before them. "Sorry, I couldn't help seeing you looking like you'd had a bad pizza. Secret identities, right?"
"Uh, yeah," said Angel, holding Candi's hand tightly. "Say, are you--"
"Got just the thing," said the scribe. "Wait here. I'll be right back."
The Journalist stepped out the door, walked briskly three blocks down, one block west, and clanked the clanker in front of a certain door. It opened. A bald Asian man looked out. "Yes?"
"Wong? Tell the Doctor who's waiting. And tell him I need him to make a house call."
...And with a little memory treatment that proved just to be what the strange doctor ordered, both yours truly and all the survivors of the Coffee A Go Go Massacree were left without knowledge of who the Tres Mutantes really were, but at least when somebody said, "Hey, who were those masked men, anyway?", we could smile with Pride and say, "Why, son, those were the famous Beast, Angel, ‘n' Iceman of them thar X-Men! And one of ‘em wasn't wearin' a mask!"
...And Bernard and the Amazing Simon Simms actually got a chance to take another poke at each other after it went down, which they did, but as for who walked away On His Own Two Feet and Under His Own Steam But It Won't Be Me, I ain't tellin'...
...And Mesmero of the Chartreuse Face and the Maha I'm-smarter-than-the-average-Yogi were taken in hand with a little help, we trust, from the very strange doctor and placed in Brainbuster Helmets designed by SHIELD itself during the Mentallo Mixup of some years back, which leaves both of them unable to even guess what patterns are on cards held by some dude who asks them, "Star, square, or circle?", and while the crime of weed will buy you two to five in the Tombs, the weed of crime in their case bears bitter fruit, ‘cause both mental mutant maniacs are up for twenty to life, we hear, on Riker's Island, that marriage of Alcatraz and Stark Industries technology, where super-villains are Al Caponed for a long time, or at least till their next gigs...
...And as for me? Well, for taking part in the dust-up, what little I did, and becoming an Action Hero In My Own Right, and facing two dreaded super-villains with only my number two pencil and a Scripto writing pad for weaponry...
...I figure I've earned the right to call myself an Honorary Good Mutant.
--Tom Wolfe, "Coffee-House Mutants and the Big Green Showdown", ibid.
Bobby Drake, in a fresh suit of clothes, was walking with Zelda in the early morning and neither of them were holding hands. There were a few people out but Bobby didn't feel that what he was going to say was going to tip anyone off to his freeze-dried identity.
Finally, he said, "Thanks for letting me walk with you."
They kept walking.
"I wished it'd been some other way, Zel," he said. "I really wish--"
"You really wish there hadn't been two super-villains out there and that I didn't know who you really were," she said, standing still. "Right?"
He stopped, not far away from her. "Right. More or less."
"What's more or less, Bobby? You're who you are. That changes everything."
She looked at him. "Almost everything."
"Zelda, I'm sorry."
"You should be."
"Well, I am. I am, Zel. It's just that..." He grabbed hold of an iron fence nearby, with both hands. "What am I supposed to say? I thought I was in love with her more. But she wasn't in love with me. And now I don't think she was the right girl for me."
"Oh, I'm glad you noticed. Was it before or after she ran off with someone else?"
"Before," he admitted. "I guess it was before. But I didn't want to admit it."
"Big of you," she said, hands on her hips. She walked past him. He followed.
She whirled. "Well, what about me? I mean, what about me, Bobby? Am I just some old sponge mop that you can throw down when you're done with it, and, and pick up the next time you need it, or what?"
"Zelda, please." He lay hands on her shoulders. She took them off. He still stood before her.
"You were never that to me," he said. "Never. Even when I ... when that happened ... don't you think I still had a space in my heart for you?"
She didn't look at him. "Not as big a one as you did for her."
"Damn it, will you listen? Will you just please listen, Zelda? I'm trying to tell you I love you."
"Like that makes it all right," she said. "Like that makes everything all right."
"Well, no. No, it doesn't. But I ... Zelda, two people can start over again. If they want to. Don't you believe that?"
She walked down, towards a fireplug, then turned. "If both of them want to, Bobby. And don't ... don't pretend that what I know about you now, doesn't change things."
He caught up to her. "I wouldn't expect it to. Don't you know that if we'd gotten much further than we had, I'd have had to tell you? Because I would have been asking you to marry me."
"Oh, jeez." He put a hand to his eyes. "What have I just said?"
"You said you would have been asking me to marry you."
"Yeah." He looked at her. "Well?"
"Oh. Just great."
"I mean, not a total no."
He looked at her. "What do you mean, not a total no? Isn't a no a no? I mean, is there a less than negative no? I don't understand."
"Of course you don't. You never understand. Don't you think I loved you, Bobby? Don't you know what I felt like when you ... when you..." She turned her head.
"Oh, Zelda. Please." He touched her shoulder.
"Don't touch me," she said. "You haven't earned it." Her voice was shaking.
"Then ... how the hell do I earn it?"
She whirled, looked at him with blue-steel anger, and slapped him across the face.
He rubbed it for a moment and worked his jaw. "So," he said. "Is that a down payment?"
Zelda turned and ran in the direction of her walk-up. He started to run after her. She turned her head and yelled, "Don't! Don't you dare follow me, Bobby Drake!"
So he didn't.
He stood and watched as she ran a block and a half down, went up a flight of stairs and through a door, and was lost to sight.
After awhile he turned and started walking back.
The Coffee A Go Go was closed for repairs, understandably. So the war council took place in the flat Bobby and Hank were renting. Vera was there. So was Bernard.
"San Francisco, then?" said Hank, holding a wine glass over a spread-out map of the United States.
"I guess that's it," said Vera. "You've got an interview with Roxxon's branch out there, and I think I can find a secretarial job while I night school myself into oblivion."
"Or a degree," smiled Bernard, over a cup of mocha.
"Whichever comes first," she said.
"So," said Bernard. "When will, um, the blessed nuptials be forthcoming? Not that I'm trying to be premature, but..."
"You'll be the first to know, Bernard," said Hank. "We want you to come with us."
"Me?" The poet almost dropped his cup. "Why, I'm ... I mean, I ... great grief, Hank, I'm no super-hero, I'm a ... a great last veteran of the Beat Generation! The city needs me."
Hank laid a great hand on Bernard's shoulder. "The city has a lot of coffeehouses, Bernard. But friends are hard to come by. Think of it ... the city by the proverbial Bay."
Bernard considered it. "The City Lights Book Store."
"Concerts in the park. Grateful Deadsters waiting to hear the True Word."
"Allen Ginsburg," said Bernard, wistfully. "Not that I'd ever, really, put myself anywhere near his league."
"You're in a league of your own, Bernard," smiled Vera. "Really. Come on. What's holding you here?"
"Only a ... well, I suppose I could call it a silver umbilical. My interest in the Coffee a Go Go, for instance. Half ownership."
Vera and Hank looked at him.
"But," he said at last.
"But ownerships can be sold. And umbilicals, well ... they're useful. But they're made to be broken."
Both of them smiled at him. The Beast held out his hand. "Welcome to the family, Bernard."
For once, he didn't have anything to say. Until he looked at Bobby.
"Excuse me," he said.
"Understood," said Hank McCoy.
Bobby Drake was sitting cross-legged by the telephone book under a flexible lamp. It was open to the M's and a black dial phone was by his side. He hadn't taken the receiver off the hook.
"Call her up," said Bernard.
"She doesn't want me to," Bobby answered.
"Oh? So you have the mental abilities of the Maha Yogi, in addition to your other powers? Call her up."
"Bernard." Bobby looked at him, angrily. "This is not. One of. Those things. You make a freaking. POEM. Out of."
"Oh?" He drew himself up to his full height and looked down at Bobby. "They've stopped making poems about love?"
"They've stopped making poems about women who shout out their anger at men, and then go to their rooms to cry by the phone, waiting for the demon of Alexander Graham Bell to sound its clarion call?"
"They've stopped making poems about men who are too stupid to do the simplest thing in the world, which is give the woman they love a second chance?"
Bobby looked down at the floor.
Bernard held the reciever out as he walked past.
Bobby took it.
Bernard continued on, gently herding Hank and Vera with him into the kitchen. Vera decided to fry an omelet.
"How long do you think we'll have to wait?" said Hank.
The sound of the door slamming was heard.
"About that long," said Bernard.
Later that week, after the final ends had been tied and the hands had been shaken with the relatives and the blessings had been given by the professor, the intrepid little crew boarded their two rented orange U-Haul vans and began their trip cross country. They waved at those who came to see them off. Those who came to see them off waved back.
Bobby, at the wheel of the second vehicle, looked across the seat.
Zelda looked back. She ventured a smile, for a second, then looked out the windshield.
"Thanks, Zelda," he said.
"Hey, wait until we get there to thank me," she said. "At this point, I'm just along for the ride."
"You can have your own room. I mean, we agreed to that."
"I'm going to have my own apartment," she said. "To live in."
She nodded, shortly. "But that's maybe not an absolute alone."
"Oh. Okay," said Bobby, who was learning.
"Ask me that when we get there," she said. "Again, that is."
"Okey dokey." He watched the signs on the bridge go by overhead. Then he took the mike of one of the two new CB's Hank had bought and activated it. "Breaker breaker. This is the Icebreaker. Over."
Hank's voice came back. "Ah, pository on that, Icebreaker, this here is the Erudite Immigrant. Is my fifty-four catchin' you on the flip-flop, O cold worm of the Big Apple?"
Bobby smiled. "I think the patter could do a little improving, Hank. How's it look from your viewpoint?"
"All I can say right now is something I've been waiting several weeks to say," replied Hank. "Farewell, New York!"
"Yeah," breathed Bobby. Then he said it louder. "Farewell, New York! San Francisco, here we come!" He felt a pressure on his arm. He looked. Zelda was holding his arm. She was smiling. Shyly, but she was smiling. He smiled back. Vera's voice was the next one heard. "How's your copilot doing over there, Bobby? Still awake?"
"Oh, yes," said Zelda. "And hoping there's a Stuckey's somewhere in the next hour or so."
Bernard was heard next. "Thank you, Vera," he said. "I've composed a poem in honor of our escaping the surly bonds of Manhattan. And, just because we are escaping ... I won't read it."
All four of the others cheered. Hank said, "Isn't it usual on movies about the road for the cast to break into extemporaneous song?"
"So what should we sing?" said Vera. "Any ideas?"
"If you're goin', to San Francisco," started Zelda, "Be sure to wear, some flowers in..."
"Oh, no, not that song," said Bernard, with distaste. "Forgive me, dear Zelda, but I've had enough Scott McKenzie to last me for a lifetime! The only flowers I'll plant will be on his grave. Gah! Makes Rod McKuen sound listenable."
"Hmmm," said Bobby. "Then what? ‘I Left My Heart In...'"
"No," said Bernard. "No. I ... ahem. Well, that's a possibility. A good one, at that. A verse written by my own personal inspiration, Woodrow himself."
"Woodrow?" said Hank.
"Guthrie, to be precise," said Bernard. And he began to sing:
"If you ain't got that Dough-Re-Mi, boys,
At the next line Zelda joined in with him.
"--If you ain't got that dough-re-mi!"
Bernard started singing the song all over again, and by the time he got to the middle most of the rest had the hang of it. So they kept singing it.
They made it last all the way to lunchtime, and then a little longer, and found some other songs along the way.
There was a lot of way to go, and probably a lot of songs to sing.
But that was okay, Bobby thought, as he looked across the seat at Zelda, and she back at him.
They had time.
They had plenty of time.
For those of you who don't believe Tom Wolfe was a
Marvel Comics character, check out DR. STRANGE (first series) #180 and
INCREDIBLE HULK #142. It's been about thirty years since then, so I figured
it was high time to give him another shot at it. He didn't write the article
excerpts cited above. There is no Easter Bunny, either.
Next: Probably something about Scott and Jean. Or maybe something else.