Author’s Note: Boys (Lesson One) is by Jars of Clay, Yes, I’m that uncool. It’s a great song though.
And so passed the years of might have been.
“Dream, Carsons, dream.” the angel commanded, and a father and his son tossed in twin slumbers, though separated by worlds.
One of these men was William Carson. He dreamed, ignoring flame and damnation, listening to false truths spoken to him in the land of lies. The worst was reserved for the beginning, when Eileen Carson passed with a sigh, her hand held by her husband as the tears ran down his face. In a tiny room at St. Paul’s hospital, its windows stained by the tears of a deluge. A death in Vancouver, the city of rain.
“Craig!” William Carson shouted, stopping the car. “Get down from there!”
“But there’s a woman up there!” Craig shouted back. “And I think she’s going to jump!”
“I’ll talk her down!” William snapped, rolling up his sleeves and pulling himself up the structure. “You stay down here where it’s safe!”
“And last of all,” Jack Carson said, hoisting the champagne flute. “Me and Craig would like to welcome Laura into the Carson clan. You may be a stepmom, but I hope you feel as welcome as if you’d given birth to us!”
“Hear! Hear!” Craig added, smiling at his own girlfriend. The relationship wouldn’t last, the lady’s man, the sly dog. When would that kid ever settle down? Probably never. But for now, his father’s happiness took precedence. Craig missed his mom, but was so happy to see a smile on his dad’s face again.
William watched as his new bride wrote the name “Laura Ann Carson” for the very first time on the wedding scroll. It was so beautiful. The calligraphy, the paper, everything.
The angel’s song did not relent, and heaven and hell were inverted. The fallen were uplifted. A songbird sounded for the first time in the Desolation, its joyful ruckus heralding an impossible spring. In its voice was delight, and Hell knew true joy for the first time since the Spotless Foal made its Descent and proclaimed the freedom of souls, when a crucifixion overturned the cosmos.
In a mountainous bed in Millennium, Craig Carson moaned, as happily as a man can moan, his slumber absolute in its bliss. He was enjoying his dad again, relishing even his newly born ponch and the wrinkles on his face.
“Lesson one - do not hide
Lesson two - there are right ways to fight
And if you have questions
We can talk through the night.”
The alert siren was relentless, and the television was interrupted to display a test pattern. A solar sentinel winged overhead, its wake a comet’s tail. It was a battle of astronomical and Biblical proportions.
“Does that guy ever not showboat?” Jack muttered. “He’s almost as bad as... what’s he called? The lightning guy?”
“Thundrox?” Craig suggested. “He’ll never last.”
“What are those costumed misfits up to this time?” William Carson asked.
“Who knows?” Craig moaned. “I hope you didn’t have any plans to go downtown.”
“What’s happening this time?” William asked. “Black Spectre again?”
“No, there’s some big demon thing running amok downtown, named Zorasto. SUNDER’s trying to handle him.”
“What’s a Zorasto?” William Carson asked.
“Demon or not, he’s torturing kids!” Craig exclaimed, disgusted.
“Honey!” Laura Ann Carson cried. “She’s coming! The baby’s coming!”
“Screw downtown, we’ll head to Royal Columbian. Craig, stick with me if you want to see your stepsister born,” William Carson told his son, and he left to rev up the car, running as fast as his legs could take his aging dad bod. In a few hours, Eileen Ann Carson would enter the universe with a scream and a laugh and the loving pride of her brothers.
“Sister,” Craig moaned in his sleep. “Sister.”
Before his eyes, Eileen Carson -- his mother’s namesake -- grew into womanhood, springing from cute to beautiful to wise. And her laughter was like grass shoots upon the turf, sprouting after a clean spring rain.
”Lesson three - you’re not alone
Not since I saw you start breathing on your own
You can leave, you can run, this
Will still be your home....”
"Craig, you sentimental idiot,” she told him as they watched the stars from the skylift on Grouse one evening. “When are you going to teach me to drive?”
Craig laughed. “Um, never?” he replied. You want to get into an accident? No one drives a car anymore!
“You lazy ass,” Eileen replied. “Brothers suck!”
“Better try your luck with Jack,” Craig said, sticking out his tongue.
And the tambourines sang.
“Dad, I’d like you to meet Manjita,” Craig smiled. “The woman who loves me. The woman who captured my wayward heart with only a smile.”
“It was mutual,” Manjita brushed Craig’s hair with dancing fingers, with a smile. “And I think it took two smiles. The idiot just didn’t notice the first.”
“I am pretty clueless,” Craig admitted.
“Well then,” William smiled. “When are you getting hitched?”
“Next Sunday.” Craig answered.
“What?!” William shouted.
“Dad!” Craig objected, and then he saw a smile break out on his dad’s face. and his joy grew beyond containment.
“You impulsive little brat,” William mocked. “What am I going to do with you!”
“Get rid of me,” Craig snirked back.
“I’ll take him if you don’t want him,” Manjita also smirked.
Craig laughed, and he read the love in Manjita’s eyes, and babbled nigh incoherantly for the rest of the evening. It was hard not to imagine him dancing a jig.
“Dammit Craig!” William said. “You’re not giving me time to get fitted for a new suit!” But he laughed and embraced his son. Then there was a roar in the heavens, and William and Craig watched as the mighty Thundrax, a familiar sight, flew by.
“There’s that guy again,” Craig sighed. “I see him around here more often than the other capes. I wonder if he lives in East Van?”
“Maybe you should ask him to come to the wedding.” William asked.
“Nah,”Craig smiled. “A superhero’s gotta be busy. I’m sure the great and powerful Thundrax has too much time for a dork like me.”
“Loser,” William Carson spat back with a grin. “That idiot wishes that he were half the man as my boy!”
“Oh dad...” Craig moaned, wondering what it would be like to be Thundrax. But it was a momentary fancy and nothing more.
”So you know who you are
And you know what you want
I’ve been where you’re going
And it’s not that far
It’s too far to walk
But you don’t have to run
You’ll get there in time
Get there in time...”
“I’ve spoken to the Doctor,” Craig said. “It was a minor heart attack, but you’ll make a full recovery. You gotta be careful, though.”
“Careful? Me? Ha!” William said. Craig grinned.
“Miracles do happen.” Craig smirked, hands brushing his thinning dark hair. “I know I’ve been busy for the last bit,” Craig added, and he started to get emotional. He held his dad’s hand. “I love you, you bloody old man. I haven’t said it for awhile. Haven’t said it enough. But I love you, William Carson. Happy father’s day.”
The pulse was strong, as strong as hope, as strong as the luck of a restless man. Then the voice caught, and quavered, and the vision of the world parted for an instant.
And outside the hospital window, Thundrax soared again, on an urgent errand.
“Me? A hero? Soaring through the heavens like all those old comics I use to read? Like Vanguard? Bringing justice to a world crying for it?”
“Yes,” William said. “A world full of scoundrels needs its saints.”
“But what it it cost me you, dad?”
“That could be part of the price.”
“ I — I....” Craig stammered.
”There will be liars and
Thieves who take from you
Not to undermine the consequence
But you are not what you do
And when you need it most
I have a hundred reasons why I love you...”
And the fabric of the world tore. Like a curtain, reality...
....quavered and gave way. For at last, Neviel could sing no more. Hell hated song, hated singers, hated any sound that was not a scream or an untruth. Heaven’s song was silenced, and then Craig Carson and his dad awoke with a start, in stereo though universes divided the twain: sweat-soaked and out of breath. The night drew around the father like a dagger, its flash a promise of pain.
“Neviel?” William Carson asked. “Did I just dream of what would have been?
“No,” the imprisoned angel rasped. He cleared his throat and resumed his song. The flames roared, and the demons cried, but there was an odd, rare peace in the Field this morning, for the power of the angel waxed, and held sway for a brief hour. It was very un-Hell-like, and many demons spat a curse. Neviel smiled grimly. He would pay for his gift in pain, but did not begrudge it. All kindnesses have their hour.
“You and your son shared a dream of what should have been. What joy you might have known. Hell cannot keep out all joy, not for one such as thee.” the angel explained. “It was intended as a gift for you both to share. What will be, when injustice is undone and all crooked roads are set straight. One day, the world will be as it should. One day there will be no more need for heroes, for the hero will dwell within us all, like angels, and its spirit will soar. Happy Father’s Day, William.”
“Well, then. Happy Father’s Day to you too,” William sniffed, and he smiled as he thought of his children, heroes all, costumed or not, born and unborn.