From Author Tommy Hancock and Pro Se Productions…A Free Preview of his upcoming debut novel-
|Cover by Jay Piscopo, Logos by Sean Ali
And trust us, folks…this is literally in so many ways….only the beginning…..
Note-This story was originally submitted as an installment of syndicated columnist/writer Ramsey Long’s column, “The Long of It” for the first week of April, 1955. Of the over 500 papers that ran Long’s column, only one, The Missalou Missourian, Missalou, Missouri, ran it.
Ramsey Long vanished the first week of April, 1955.
The offices of the Missalou Missourian burnt to the ground the day after this column ran. All six staff members and two other individuals died in the blaze. The former site of the newspaper office remains a vacant dirt lot today.
THE FIRST YESTERDAY
by Ramsey Long
It was a Tuesday. Two days before All Hallow’s Eve. People would say years and years afterward that no one saw it coming, that there were no warning signs, no tolling bells. Even those who should have known back then have been quoted as saying they were blindsided, no idea that a locomotive the entire world traveled on was threatening to derail at any time.
I never believed that, not for a moment.
I was there, in New York City, on that Tuesday. Had been for most of my life. People knew it was a different day, everyone from the newshawk on the street corner to the Chairman of the Board in any high rise in the skyline. They all knew it was a different sort of day, yet they all said they never saw it coming.
I still don’t know if they meant the Stock Market Crash that day in 1929 or the first time the world knew men could fly without metallic wings.
It was clear as chaos in Germany that the Crash was coming by October 29th, 1929, at least to anyone who knew how to read a ticker tape or a reporter hounding flustered businessmen for even the hint of a story. I was the latter, I hated the noise of that damned ticker tape machine too much to be the former. I didn’t much care for the nasal chatter of brokers or the frantic yelps of would-be tycoons on Wall Street, either. That’s why I was over on Broadway that Tuesday afternoon, thinking about how I was going to turn my escape from confused chaos into printable copy. Maybe ask the common man on the street what he thought about the economy of our country lying in its deathbed in New York City. I looked around me, not too many people out on the street that time of day, but there were a few likely candidates, men and women who looked like they could string words together into reasonable sentences. That was all I needed, I could weave loose threads into one doozy of a rug, I was sure. I was going to have to have something turned in by the evening edition, even if I had to strangle the streets to get it.
Then it happened. My story, up above me, on the tenth floor of the Flatiron Building on the ledge facing Broadway. The lead-in to my headline stepped out on the sill, his tie loosened from around his neck, his pudgy body trembling like a leaf lost in a cyclone. One of the first casualties of the Crash, one of those despondent businessmen that jumped to his death when he realized his life just went belly up with his company. Not nearly as many men died that Tuesday as American myth later said, just a handful dashed their hopes and their bodies on the streets below their lofty offices. And one member of that melancholy band tested the air above Broadway, sticking his foot out like he was at the shore testing how cold the water was. He didn’t jerk it back. Just right for a suicide dive. I hated it, but there was my story.
A fencepost of a cop screamed from across the street. A woman struggled to hold on to her son’s arm, the boy scratching and fighting to watch the guy jump. The kid didn’t have to wait long. The man pulled his foot back slowly, hesitated, and for an instant, stood perfectly still. Then he pitched forward, a tubby scarecrow falling from its post, a shocking move even though we were all expecting it. I gasped as I ran for where he’d hit, knowing there’d be nothing I could do. But I ran anyway, my head down, racing the cop now in the middle of the street. All of that in a matter of three seconds.
The fourth second changed the world forever.
“What is that?”
I glanced up as I moved. The man plummeted at me, not like a rock freefalling from a cliffside, but gradually, at least in my eyes. I could almost see the pock marks left by youth on his face he fell so slowly. Then, just out of sight, tickling at the corner of my vision, I saw a blur. To the right of the jumper, now passing the fourth floor windows. It moved quickly over him. Not moved. Flew.
“It’s a man!”
|Art by Peter Cooper
It was. A man chasing the falling executive toward the ground. Darting down the side of the triangle shaped FlatIron building behind him, his right arm extended, his left arm out slightly from his side, to steady him maybe, like a rudder. I stopped, the cop nearly bowling over me until he saw what everyone on the street, everyone at every window on Broadway was looking at. A blur of black and white. And he was flying, swooping under the would be suicide, catching him gently in a cradle of muscular arms just feet from the sidewalk.
“He’s no man! He’s a hero!”
The once desperate-to-die executive clung to his airborne savior as a baby latches to a mother’s chest, afraid he might get dropped. The man in black denim britches and a white shirt, no buttons, sleeves hemmed at the elbows, the collar up tight around his neck, flew up a few feet, shifting from a horizontal to a standing position, then lighted on the ground not five hundred feet from me. He dropped his left arm, then his right, but still his cargo held on, tears bubbling out and down his pudgy red cheeks. Smiling meekly, the man shrugged his broad shoulders once, shaking his passenger off his chest. People poured into the street, cabbies leaving their hacks abandoned, children deserting their mothers. Everyone wanting to touch the man who could fly.
None of them asked where he came from. None of them demanded to know how he flew. None of them noticed the mask he wore, a domino mask like the ones that come with masquerade costumes. They just wanted to be near him, brush his arm, stand in his shadow.
I didn’t ask any of those things, either. And the mask, it was just an interesting, quirky side note for me. I studied him, all 6’4″ of him. His brown hair glistened with sweat, his blue eyes wide at the attention he was getting. He just stood there, quietly letting those lucky few on Broadway stake their place in history. They were all among the first to see a real…well…person with powers. Not just any stiff with strange powers and good looks, but the first one. They all witnessed the dawn of a new age, the birth of Hero.
He was at his purest that first day. Before the red body suit and the cape, even before the silver H he’d wear as a belt buckle. To everyone on the street, to the entire country that would hear about him on the radio that night, he was just a guy like the rest of us. Some joe that got lucky and decided to share his luck by helping other unfortunates stuck in this crazy world. The value of paper money plummeting didn’t concern him, a falling man did. He didn’t worry about the hand basket the world was riding to Hell in, he was going to try to keep it out of there. He was just a good man in a mask.
At least that was what we all saw then.
I started to move closer to him, the crowd still gathering steam around me, but I decided I’d seen enough, words from him would come in a follow up piece. The throng of people pawing at him was a story in itself, so I stepped back to watch. Amused. Intrigued. A few minutes later, he turned his head, his eyes crossing mine, and he smiled. Then we both learned something. He’d just started a trip that would carry him places no one ever dreamed. And my by-line would haunt him every step of the way.