Across the way from the News-stand came the morning shouts for today's latest edition. Whilst commuters began to poor into the town, filling up the streets like blood rushing through the arteries of the city.
Jim stood on the steps taking it all in. From when he was young, he had always been an early riser. Getting up early was no hardship to him. But staying up late was what he found more difficult. And in his line of work you stayed up a lot.
Jim Reed a.k.a Flex, one of Port Alexander's newest Super heroes often found adventure in his nights. But how long had it been like this? At least since his days running with the gangs. Up early and back late. Better that though, "than staying at home." - He used to think. But now Jim's running around protecting people, with his newly acquired powers. "Boy if people could only see me now." He thought, as a smile crept onto his face. He'd gained his powers through the experiments of one, Doctor Saruva. The same monster Flex had run into, only a few days earlier.
Doctor Saruva was something of an odd genius, with a flair for mutations. His last encounter with him had not gone well. Saruva, using an agent at Wander No More House where Jim worked, had been using Prostitutes for his weird experiments. Jim, in his Flex persona, was able to enter Saruva's hidden base - deep beneath Port Alexander. But Saruva got away. Although he had tried to free one of the captured Prostitutes, Saruva was using, all Flex managed was to nearly kill her in the process. Jim still found that when he did sleep, tiredness was no escape from the nightmares he had been having since then.
"This whole unhappy time, has taught me one thing," Jim thought, "I had better think about becoming more of a team player. Maybe I could get a sidekick or I could become someone else's sidekick! I could have captured Saruva, if only I had some back up." Jim thought.
He began to reply the unhappy images in his mind again, stoically accepting the feelings of guilt and helplessness that came with them. He knew he was being too hard on himself. But the thought of failing someone, in such need, he found hard. Especially when, he wanted to use his powers to make a difference.
"But that is not really it - is it Jim boy." Jim continued to say to himself, thinking out loud as he often did when he felt alone. "I know it isn't so much that I failed! Heaven knows I tried to free her. But deep inside this feels to much like what happened with Mom. I feel bad because leaving the girl with the Doctor, feels to much like what I did - when I walked away from Mom. Jim, although born in Port Alexander, had an English father Charles. A diplomat who married late, to Jim's mother Madeline. They had worked and lived here for some years. But when Charles got recalled to England, Jim thought he had seen the last of Port Alexander.
Some years later, Jim's father died suddenly of a heart attack. After getting the affairs in order, Madeline moved back to Port Alexander were she felt she belonged. But the death of her husband, together with her own ill health meant that she was unable to care for herself or Jim properly.
Although his mother had her lucid days, the combined toll of a number of things caused her to have a break down. For her own safety she was placed in a care home, "And that's were I left her. Huh! Some hero, I turned out to be. Well I may not have been able to rescue Saruva's captive, but I will do something about Mom." A new resolve began to grow in Jim, the feelings of helplessness now had an outlet. He knew it was easy to say, "he'd help Mom this time", but not so easy to do. This would be a battle, like so many before, that he could not twist to his advantage by deceit, manipulation or flattery. He had left those tools behind, in that night of baptism. That night, after he had escaped Saruva's lab and found himself in the sewers below the city. That night when he got back to his place, he was no longer just 'Sly Jim', with the powers he'd gained his life would take a different course. He felt he finally had a choice. A choice that he'd been denied by the circumstances of his life. "Sly - died that night and like shedding a skin, Jim Reed was a different man. "'Fine words,' Jim but now you have to prove it!" Jim thought, with some chagrin. "Am I beginning to sound corny?" He thought taking a moment to think this through. The relaxing as he began to relish the feeling of joy that came with making the right decision. A decision that he had put of for so long.
* 8 * *Later that day the chill wind, brought thin clouds but still the sun shone on - winning the battle for now. Jim with a light step, took the bus out of town to the rest home situated in the Suburbs outside Port Alexander. Although Dad had, had some money his family had seen most of it, since he had 'forgotten' to make a will. Jim's Mom doubted this, but got tied up in knots by the family and their solicitors and so she was left virtually penniless.
One of Jim's aunts died the next year and being a favourite of hers, Madeline; Jim's Mom got the money. The family tried to contest it, but decided not to bother in the end. Since returning to Port Alexander, Jim and his Mom lived close to poverty. The money meant rent for the next few years and food, whilst Madeline tried to train to get work. The strain in the past year had begun to prove too much and she just lost it. The money was diverted to pay for her care and since Jim was old enough he took off to look after himself.
"All that resentment, all that bitterness at loosing Dad, then Mom breaking down. No wonder I tried to survive and thrive with the drift wood I'd got caught up with." Jim thought. "Funny how becoming Flex has really altered my perspective." Jim pondered. "I wonder if that substance that Saruva bonded to me, had more of an affect on me than I realised. I always wondered if it was only an alien substance or an alien life form. Huh, well time for those thoughts later." Jim stopped his musings, as he saw the bus pull up to his stop.
Never having visited his Mom, Jim had to stop several people to find the right way to the care home - which was tucked away not to far away from the bus stop.
He entered the white wide doors with high fences, that created an impression of security rather than confinement. A wide well kept lawn ran to a low set of buildings with neat paths, crossing at intervals. Patients, in various states of mobility, wandering around them. Jim saw the sign for reception and when he got there asked after his Mom. The Nurse politely indicated which building and room number. "Most people are out and about right now but Mrs Reed does not go out much. You should find her in her room. May I ask who is calling? It's for our records!" Jim stopped, turned to smile at her and said, "Her boy has come home to see her!" Jim felt the stirring of deeper emotions, but now was not the time for tears. "OK, well go right ahead Mr Reed. I'll tell the staff to let you in." Said the nurse, smiling.
As Jim came to the door, his heart pounding so hard, it felt like it would burst out of his rib cage. He found himself trembling, as he raised his hand to knock at the door. "Come on Jim don't back away." Jim told himself to steady his nerves.
His hand wrapped hard on the partially open door. "Who is it." A weak frail voice could be heard from the half open door and Jim pushed on through. He found himself in a small, but comfortable room. A bed near a large window, which looked out at on the grounds ran along the opposite wall from where he stood. To his right was a low cupboard with a small portable TV. Next to that was a small stereo unit, from which came some classical music playing quietly. Along the left wall was a large cupboard and a small writing desk. On top of this was a picture of his Dad, himself and his grandma, who had died the year before his Dad had died and of course his Mom. As Jim's eyes accustomed to the dimmer light his eyes fell upon his Mom. She sat at the desk writing, "Please come in, I won't be a minute. I am just writing to my husband. Since he is away so much. When we see each other, there is so little time to say what we need to. I must just finish this note. Please sit down."
Jim smiled as he saw his mothers hand indicate a vacant chair behind the door. Taking the chair and moving it, so as to sit opposite her and watch her write, Jim cold almost believe this was no different from when they were back in England.
He took a moment, whilst his Mother continued to compose her 'note' take in her features and to see what had changed. Madeline Reed was a thin women and tall giving her an elegant bearing. "She could have almost pass for aristocracy." Jim thought, "He always thought his Mom was a queen, when he was young. Her hair grey with age still hung neatly behind her head in a attractive neck length style. He face but not sharp soft around the eyes and mouth, especially when she smiled. "Madeline Reed had a smile so radiant, you could see you way to Dover." Jim's dad used to say.
"There now finished." Madeline began to put down her pen and look up, but the pen never reached the desk. As she looked she had to stop to take in that this was her son sitting in front of her. A son she had not seen in over six years. Time froze as the pen fell to unnoticed to the ground. Madeline, unable to cope with what had happened to her, had retreated into denial of the worst sort. Time for her had stopped and when she was taken away, to this home, her family life carried on in her head. But over the years she had slowly come through her grief. Frail though she may have been, she was still a fighter and now that her son really did sit before her, reality threw new light into her life again.
"Jim, is it you?" Madeline said, her hand half reaching out and tears welling up like huge glistening pools in her eyes.
"Yes Mom, I've come home." Jim said as he began to fill up. Why had he waited so long? No wonder he'd felt so wretched all about this all these years.
When Jim last saw his Mom she was considered suicidal and depressive. Now he saw that she had come through all this, had fought on alone, Jim knew he could not walk away again.
The rest of the afternoon went in a blur. Madeline had got over her shock and continued to talk as if Jim had been late coming home. But Jim was not disappointed, as they walked and talked he saw that she really had made progress. Although she still lived somewhat 'left of reality', she was clearly on her way back. Their time together was a breath of fresh air, to both of them. Madeline introduced Mrs Adkins and Mrs Meln both of which had also lost husbands. Their block was for private patients who needed only supervision and psychiatric care, a testimony to her progress.
Within a short time, Jim had got to see all the grounds and been introduced to almost half the staff. Time rolled on and having joined in on the evening meal, having first telephoned the Wander No More House to tell them he would not need to eat, he needed to say goodbye. This was the hardest part. But having broke the ice, Jim now felt coming back was going to be easier.
On the way out one of the psychiatric nurses stopped him and said, "I have never seen her look so happy. You're just the right medicine for her. It would be good if you could come again. She is dear to us and the way she began to retreat lately into her room by herself was a cause for concern. We feared she was going backwards, retreating again. You came, at just the right time."
Jim was stunned, his powers had given him a new perspective but he did not need his powers to help his Mom, only his conscience. "I will be back and thank you for being so honest. To be honest with you we both begun to withdraw, but I feel sure things are going to be different now. I will be back next week. If you ever need me this is my number." Jim scribbled hastily on a scrap of paper. "And thanks for looking out for her." Jim said.
As Jim walked out of the gates, the chill night air stole his breath away. But deep inside nothing could steal the sense of excitement and joy he felt, at having made the right choice. As he walked on he changed into his Flex persona and said to himself, "OK that was one battle down, now let see if I can be of any use anywhere else tonight." And with that he ran off into the waiting lights and streets of Port Alexander below.