A Story by Ron Sanders

Too cool for Marvel.


           “Hermie, me hearty, by the time I get a few rufies in that little bimbo she’s gonna know the Ol’ Shaman is pure Prescription X.”

            The table was bumped--precisely as a pair of samples were being physically juxtaposed in an A/B comparison. The specimens, thus roughly mixed on the handler’s palms, produced a stinging sensation and an unfamiliar, nauseating odor.

            When Richard Dukhedd smelled that odor he looked up from his table with a most uncharacteristic snarl. His nostrils flared repeatedly, his eyes burned in haunted caves. A string of saliva rolled off his lip.

            The expression was so savage both lab assistants stopped dead in their tracks. After a minute the bigmouth wondered, “Hey, Dickhead! What’s with you? You look like you just wolfed down a Mama Cass.” To his accomplice he said, in a jocular aside, “That’s our catering truck’s ham and chile relleno with heavy tabasco.”

            Dukhedd pulled himself together, surprised by the recent feeling’s intensity, and ventured meekly, “Er, it’s Dukhedd.” He remembered he had to remind this particular lab boy every single blessed working day of his life. For some reason that stuck in his craw. Strange. He’d never realized he had a craw.

            “Okay, Dickhead.” The assistant nudged the other boy, a new face at Chemright. “Herman Wilson, this is good old Dicky Dickhead. Here he sits, slaving away every day without complaining. That nameplate there is actually his headstone. See? ‘Dicky Dickhead. Born God knows when. Lived God knows why. Died facedown in a puddle of cheap perfume for some woman who wouldn’t give him the time of day.’ Is that what you’re working on today, Dickhead? Another of those groovy little scents the boss’s squeeze is so crazy about? When are you gonna hit him up for a raise, man? Tell his wife about the squeeze. Or, better yet, just walk right in and tell him you know all about it. Then watch the red carpet treatment!”

            “Why, yes,” Dukhedd said absently. “I was just cross-analyzing pheromone samples of a motorcycle outlaw and a ground ape. Unfortunately they seem to have become intermingled here. But not to worry. Doctor Weissman has plenty of simian semen in storage, and I can always go back to that tavern restroom for more outlaw specimens.” The thought revolted him. It had been terribly difficult getting through that crowd last night, and several of the brutes had accosted him when they caught him scraping the stall walls for samples. Dukhedd rubbed the lump on the back of his head and remembered the gauntlet of pool cues and hairy bellies. Every window on his dusty orange Pacer had been smashed, and the stench of rolling troglodytes had clung to him all the way home. The dry cleaners had refused to accept his clothes.

            “Well, good for you, yo-yo. You just keep mixing away there, Dickhead, and maybe someday they’ll name something particularly smelly after you. Come on, Hermie, old boy, let me introduce you to the Broom Closet. It’s where you go to sneak a smoke or smoke a secretary.”

            The two laughed and kicked their way through the swinging doors leading to Warehouse. Dukhedd watched them go with narrowed eyes. His palms burned and itched, his shoulders kept fighting to remake his posture into a headlong crouch. He rose slowly, crept to the settling double doors, and peered through the right-hand pane. The lab boys were halfway across Warehouse, heading for a little door Dukhedd knew led to a sleepy room stocked with miscellaneous supplies and equipment. Barely aware of his actions, he slipped inside and stepped up to an in-building intercom, flicked a switch and said, “Herman Wilson to Inventory, please. Herman Wilson to Inventory.” Dukhedd watched as the Wilson boy looked around fearfully. He saw the bigmouth josh him confidently, and then Wilson was hurrying for the doors at West End. The bigmouth, Dukhedd suddenly remembered, was named Perigas. Evan Perigas. He stared angrily as Perigas pulled out a pack of smokes and made his way to the Broom Closet. Now Dukhedd, almost as a conditioned response, slipped between the tall racks and began following him one row at a time.

            Warehouse was deserted. Once Perigas had snuck into the room and closed the door, Dukhedd was able to boldly step forward. Right then, Chemright’s least appreciated wunderkind couldn’t have explained himself if you put a gun to his head. He only knew his destiny waited in that room, just behind that little wood door he was fast approaching with his body in a crouch and his palms itching like crazy.

            At the last moment Dukhedd stopped on a dime, turned the knob quietly, and eased open the door. As Warehouse light fell on him, Perigas immediately dropped his lit cigarette and covered it with a shoe. When he realized it was only Dukhedd his startled expression became one of contempt and resentment.

            “Dickhead! You damned meddler! What are you doing snooping around here, anyway?”

            “You,” Dukhedd responded, his voice growing in intensity with every syllable, “are a very bad man, and unfit to be a member of the gene pool.” This little utterance amazed him. He’d never spoken a harsh word in his life. A shudder ran up and down his body. The Broom Closet filled with a muskiness somehow both infuriating and intoxicating.

            “And you,” Perigas scowled, “are unfit to lick my boots. So checkmate.” He lit a fresh cigarette, but in the glare of the match saw something in Dukhedd’s face that made him step back. Dukhedd’s expression seemed to be trying to find its place, scrunching and writhing all about before finally settling into one of rabid psychosis. “Now hold on there, Dukhedd,” Perigas mumbled. “Richard.”

            “Unfit,” Dukhedd slobbered. “Gene pool.”

            “Hold it!” Perigas shot, and grabbed a heavy-duty box cutter from a table. He thumbed open the blade. Before he knew it, Dukhedd had swiped it from his hand and was advancing menacingly.

            “Un . . . fit!” Dukhedd snarled, clamping a wildly itching palm over Perigas’s mouth. He slammed the assistant’s head on the floor and held it while cutting open the boy’s trousers. A brief flurry of denim and blood spattered the Broom Closet’s near wall. “Unfit,” Dukhedd swore, unaware of the shrieking gusts bursting from Perigas’s nostrils, “unfit . . . gene pool!

            The castration was very swift, very unscientific, and very messy. Perigas passed out screaming, leaving Dukhedd slumped with the blade in one hand and the lab assistant’s manhood in the other. There was blood everywhere. As rational thought returned, Dukhedd gradually became aware of his plight. He was also aware he’d taken the first step on a momentous journey. There was important work to be done--under no circumstances must Perigas be allowed to blow his cover. Grabbing the unconscious assistant by the hair, Dukhedd coldly snapped back his head, located the jugular, and brought the blade down.



            “Hold it right there,” said the burly man at the door. “Don’t I know you? I think I know you.” He held a gnarly hand in front of Dukhedd’s face. Tattooed across the back of the hand was the legend, ME ASHOL. Dukhedd’s eyes followed a series of tattooed arrows leading up a fat hairy arm, across a fat hairy shoulder, and so on up to a fat hairy forehead bearing the second half of the message:  YOO DED! Ordinarily the nauseating odor produced by this massive individual would have made Dukhedd weak and dizzy, but now it only engendered a snarl and tensing of the shoulders. His palms began to itch. His fingers clenched.

            The brute’s head cocked backward at that snarl, and his hand shot up to study the back of Dukhedd’s skull. “Why, it’s you, all right. I remember you from last night. You’re the funny little fellow we played foosball with, all the way out into the parking lot.”

            “Dukhedd,” the funny little fellow said out of habit. “Richard Percival Dukhedd. I’ll, er, be getting out of your way now.” Something abruptly straightened his back, and his voice, in that quirkily masculine tone he’d fallen into of late, said, “But not this time, I won’t.” Before Dukhedd could make a move, he was compelled to explain himself (after that nasty little incident with Perigas he’d come to his senses quickly, his self-preservation instinct burning red-hot. He’d cleaned himself up very carefully in the employee’s lounge lavatory before returning to his desk, pontificating under his breath all the way. No one suspected gentle Dukhedd of course; he hadn’t even been detained for questioning. Herman Wilson, the last person seen with a living Perigas, was presently under house arrest and close observation. Chemright had been shut down for the investigation into the lab boy’s brutal murder, and everybody sent home). Without having to collect his thoughts, Dukhedd now said, “Mister Biker, because you are a deliberate insult to every standard of decency devised by intelligent men, you are about to experience the exquisite horror of waking in the emergency room. So please pay attention:

            “Sin number one:  you believe obnoxiousness is cool. For this snub at five thousand years of the civilizing process you will spend the rest of your life attached to a colostomy bag.

            “Sin number two:  you think masculinity is a quality best defined by foul and offensive behavior, and that grease, din, and deviancy are elements to admire.

            “Sin number three:  you feel that intimidating those less massive makes you a superior specimen. And for this little travesty you will learn to operate a wheelchair from the ground up, so to speak. So say ‘Vroom vroom,’ Mister ‘Big Bad Biker,’ and get ready to meet your new set of wheels.”

            The hairy man’s jaw dropped, his beady eyes narrowed. But before he could signal his lurking horde, Dukhedd had spun him around, ripped down his pants, and yanked out a good eighteen inches of descending colon. He stepped over the writhing ashol and elbowed his way inside the bar.

            Dozens of similar hulking creeps were gathered in drunken packs; Dukhedd recognized many of them from last night. When the meanest loped up with pool cue in hand, Dukhedd calmly ripped off his face and threw the oozing flesh mask like a Frisbee into the crowd. He kicked the screaming man in the scrotum twice for every scream until the racket ceased.

            “Now,” Dukhedd said, pulling a pair of ice tongs from under his lab coat, “one of you lucky ashols is just about to graciously volunteer a semen sample. I’ll make the collection process short and sweet. Then I’ll be getting out of your way.”



            The Ford Ranger came up on his bumper again, so close the ashol’s face was right in Dukhedd’s rear-view mirror. Dukhedd grimaced as the night’s hard-won sample rolled precariously on the dash. The Ranger tried to pass at a bottleneck, almost taking out the Pacer’s right-rear panel. Dukhedd sped up and veered to the right, forcing the ashol to back off. He couldn’t help it; his rage at this dangerous display of selfishness in a social situation, at night with no law enforcement around, grew with each yank of the wheel. The Ranger began honking insistently--how dare a little orange Pacer with no glass be in the superior ashol’s way.

            Dukhedd’s shoulders were hunched, his knuckles white on the steering wheel. As the Ranger pulled right up on the Pacer’s rear bumper, Dukhedd gradually slowed.

            The ashol was barely able to avoid an unflattering ding on his own, finer bumper. He held his palm down on the horn, but Dukhedd only slowed further, until the inferior little Pacer was controlling the pace of the two vehicles at around fifteen miles per hour.

            That continuous blare of horn was drilling through Dukhedd’s skull, but his focus did not falter. His eyes shot left and right. There were no cars around; only the few red jewels of taillights a quarter mile ahead, petering quickly as the Pacer and Ranger slowed.

            Dukhedd forced a complete stop. Each adamant blast of the Ranger’s horn caused his neck to sink an inch deeper between his bunching shoulders. When he heard the Ranger’s door slam his palms were itching so badly the Pacer’s steering wheel was like ground glass. Every approaching footstep was another twist of the gonads, each challenging expletive sweet music to the ear. When the ashol reached the Pacer’s door, Dukhedd came out of the driver’s window like toothpaste out of a tube. He put one fist straight into the ashol’s Adam’s apple, felt the jelly knob sunder into mush. “For brashness are you silenced,” he hissed. He crushed the ashol’s spine like a beer can. “For arrogance are you diminished.” He kicked and kicked and kicked the ashol’s cadaver until it was impressed into the Ranger’s grille. “Solely for display purposes are you here.”



            Dukhedd blanched at the news. He was all over AM radio, his name mispronounced and his character misrepresented. Another anchor reported that a Richard Percival Dickhead was wanted for questioning in the Chemright incident--and that one Herman Wilson, recently released from custody, had informed detectives of Dickhead’s confessed strategy just minutes before the assault in question. Dukhedd pounded his fist on the Pacer’s peeling plastic steering wheel cover, visualizing he and Wilson in all manner of bloody scenarios.

            A ruckus to his right snapped him out of it. In Cartwheel’s new Cellular Mall, dozens of loping gangbangers were chasing down a little man in a bright orange costume. Dukhedd hit the brakes even as another group cut the man off. The whole mess swarmed him; fists, feet, furheads--everywhere! Never in his life had Dukhedd deliberately enjoined an altercation, but the sight of this helpless fleeing victim, in the very process of being mauled by a fresh leash of ashols, threw his blood pressure into orbit. He was hyperventilating; tiny feral gasps whistled out his nostrils. The seatbelt refused to comply; Dukhedd ripped it from its moorings. The driver’s door was jammed (one biker had head-butted the Pacer); Dukhedd kicked it free. He grabbed the keys, arranged them to protrude separately between the fingers of his closed fist, and sprinted into the mob, jabbing eyes into jelly, shredding and grating lips, making bloomin’ onions of noses. A number of dullards made to retaliate and--Dukhedd lost it completely. By the time he reached the supine little man it was a gangbanger’s graveyard, and sirens were carving holes in the distance.

            Dukhedd rolled him onto his back. He was a dweeby stiff, not unlike his rescuer. Dukhedd scooped him up and raced to the Pacer before the cops could make a mess out of a miracle. He laid him on the front seat, fanned the face and rubbed the limbs. In a minute the eyelids fluttered. A scrawny hand shot upward, grabbed Dukhedd by the lapel. “Gene pool,” the dweeb mumbled. Dukhedd nodded passionately. The hand dropped. “I,” the little man managed, “have eradicated my share of stoopuds.”

            Dukhedd nodded harder. “Ashols,” he translated.

            “It is time to pass the torch.” The man’s voice was wind through leaves. Again with the hand to the lapel, again with the trailing mantra. “I sought a successor; instead has he succumbed to me.” Dukhedd had to move his ear right down to the man’s pale rolling lips. “Long have I labored,” the dweeb went on, “seeking a cure for the source of moral retardation that has plagued our race since its inception. I was this close.” He held up a shakily parted forefinger and thumb. His head rolled to the side. He looked dead. “Magnets!” he spewed, and gripped Dukhedd’s wrist with passion. “Oh, for the love of God--the derelicts, the gayboys, the harlots, the televangelists . . . ” He was clearly delirious.

            “Gene pool!” Dukhedd sobbed, his head rolling miserably. “Yes. Yes.”

            “I was shittin’,” the little man gasped. He shook his head in frustration. “Smitten, kitten, mitten--I was bitten, bitten by a honey badger that had previously stepped in a certain muscle-headed governor’s urine. Oh, the humanity . . . it is pheromones! Pheromones control our every slip and brute desire. Well, perhaps not you and I, but all these barbaric marauders, all the venal charlatans who dictate our lives, all the wezls and horz yanking and cranking and shanking and watching our every weakness. Oh, the magnets!”

            Dukhedd wept as he nodded. “Gene pool.”

            “You must take this uniform. You must wear it with pride as you combat the wezls and horz, the doprz and loitrz; the stoopuds in general.”

            “Ashols,” Dukhedd said. He peered at the man’s costume doubtfully, less than enthused by the prospect of battling evil while looking like a Dreamsicle.

            “This is to be your guide.” The dweeb pulled a battered thesaurus from a marsupial breast pocket, handed it to Dukhedd. “I,” he gurgled, “am Justman!” A shudder ran up and down his frame. “You . . . are Justman!”

            Dukhedd buried him that night, on a knoll beneath the mall’s giant phone logo. He tried the costume on and found it five sizes too small, itchy in the crotch and pits, and prone to clinging in the least appropriate places. But it was an outstanding color match for the Pacer, and this coincidence alone made him ponder the serpentine role of Destiny. The dweeb’s words glowed on his mind’s back burner:  “Instead has he succumbed to me.” Dukhedd navigated the mean streets of Cartwheel with a whole new attitude.



            That night Dukhedd hunched in a 7-11 parking lot, poring over the thesaurus under a dome light’s dimming sallow haze. The Pacer was out of gas, Dukhedd out of cash, and it really didn’t matter--he was thunderstruck; not only by the extensive marginalia, but by the book itself.

            Roget did something stunningly straightforward way back in 1852; he categorized nouns in direct relation to their antonyms. Dukhedd’s ex-bookshelf consisted mainly of chemistry tomes and spiral-bound olfactory charts, and the only thesaurus he’d thumbed was one of the popular editions featuring the “arranged just like a dictionary!” bullshit. Roget’s original wasn’t concerned with the a-b-c cretins; it was designed to elucidate.

            Good man, Dukhedd read, and rolled his eyes to the opposing column. Bad man. Dukhedd blinked. Absolutely sound. Virtue. And its antonym, Vice. Kindness. Cruelty. Honor, Dishonor. Loyalty, Treachery. Justice--and here Dukhedd had to stop, squinting in the sudden seizure of overlapping addenda. Scrawled in black ink were the words:  Rightman, Goodman, Virtueman, and the bold and italicized, Justman! Dukhedd now noticed circled words, and a faint and wobbly, imposed skeletal sub-frame. Beneath Bad Man was the scribble WEZL, beneath Bad Woman the legend HOR. Dukhedd nodded. The banner for the sub-frame was the coined STOOPUD. He understood. Dukhedd fingered the orange costume with a new respect.

            “Yo yo yo, homey. Yo be up wit some change in da hood?"

            The voice in his ear was like sandpaper. Dukhedd had to rub his palms hard on the Pacer’s abraded seat cover. His head ratcheted to the left.

            “What it be cracka? Yo be in da flicky wit da bling bling?”

            “Wezl,” Dukhedd breathed.

            What? See-it! I jus be jammin in da foo schoo, yo digs? Jus a dollah, dog.” A squeegee clattered around the Pacer’s windowless frame.

            That was enough. Dukhedd’s left arm shot out and brought back a handful of Bad Man. He stuffed the screaming wezl in the glovebox, appendage by appendage, until there was only the squashed remains of its trousers in his hand. Odd:  He palpated a hefty lump in a space that should have contained only air. Dukhedd peeled back the fabric to reveal a wad of bills crammed in a leather tobacco pouch. Gas money, food money, and more. Enough to launch the new Justman! Dukhedd rolled the Pacer out the drive and into the street. There was an all-night gas station only two miles up the Grapevine. He took the steering wheel in one hand, the crushed door in the other, and began to shove.



            Everybody now knows the final leg of the Justman! saga. Friends still argue the good and the bad, the right and the wrong, the dos and the don’ts. Bullies are prone to think twice before picking on geeks, perverts tend to keep it all indoors. The gleeful bludgeoning of religious hypocrites, we all agree, must cease at once.

            Yet there are times when we can’t help but fondly recall the mechanics forced to perform surgeries on doctors, the lawyers forced to dismantle and rebuild the vehicles of mechanics, the systematic and long overdue barbecuing of Death Row inmates. Who can forget the thousands of shamelessly dressed horz, hung naked from street lamps over Dobermans in heat, or the endless packs of street wezls, violently indoctrinated into a lifetime of community service? The politicians dressed in leotards and rainbow wigs, the horrified low riders, strapped in bumper cars set to prestissimo . . . the b***h-slapped gangbangers . . . all the rude cell phone yammerers with their tongues expunged . . . the professional athletes in silk underwear, rolling beach balls with their noses on a spectator-packed, glass-enclosed, and fittingly shallow field of dreams.



            Was Justman! a villain, as the hookers, realtors, and telemarketers like to proclaim? Or was he really a hero, doing what we sorry-don’t-want-to-get-involved rubbernecks only wish we had the gonads to enjoin?

From that first mass return-punting of border jumpers to his final group-batoning by itchy Police Cadets, the story shall remain a mystery, for Justman! himself granted no interviews, and was tightlipped about the whole phenomenon, other than the trademark pithy explanations preceding each protracted measure of Justice. He is known to have produced a single in-depth explanation on the ultimate consequence of Evil, and for this mighty exposition we have one Herman Wilson, still in shock from the sulfuric acid, the cattle prods, and that televised and oft-parodied naked citywide meat hook ride.

But Hermie ain’t talking.




[email protected]

© 2010 Ron Sanders

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register

Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Added on October 18, 2010
Last Updated on December 9, 2010
Tags: science fiction, story, vengeance, justice, superhero


Ron Sanders
Ron Sanders

Marina del Rey, CA

L.A.-based novelist, illustrator, poet, short story writer. more..

Norm Norm

A Story by Ron Sanders