Super Zero


Two little boys hide around the corner of the building. They peek around the edge.

"Why can't there be good guys in the world instead of bad guys?"

Three older boys toss dice against the wall. They sip malt liquor from bottles wrapped in brown paper.

"Why you hiding from us?"

The two boys peek again.

"Bring your asses out here. We ain't going to hurt you."

The two boys walk into the courtyard.

"Come over here. Take a pull on this shit."

The bottle is pressed to the boy's lips. He takes a sip. The other boy takes a sip.

"What you punk asses up to in this project?"

The boys look at each other.

"We just want to go home."

"Who said you can't go home?"

"We can't walk in your yard."

The three older boys nod in agreement.

"That's right. You can't walk through this courtyard without paying the jizya. You know what the jizya is?"


"The jizya is the tax you pay to the sultan to let you live. Praise be to Allah. Where's my jizya?"

The two boys look at each other.

"We ain't got nothing."

"So, you two motherfuckers walk up in our yard, drink our liquor and gone walk right on through without paying the jizya? Y'all some ballsy little fuckers."

The boy starts to cry. The older boys laugh.

"Who's your daddy?"

"I don't know who my daddy is."

"You hear this? Boy. don't know his daddy. I don't know my daddy either. We might have the same daddy."

The older boy takes a long sip from the malt liquor.

"I'm your daddy. We your daddies."

The older boy pulls the belt from his pants.

"Daddy is going to teach you a lesson."

The two older boys laugh at the third.

"This is going to hurt me more than it does you, son!"


The two little boys sneak into the room. Mom is passed out on the couch. A burnt out cigarette butt drops from her hand to the scorched carpet. Their eyes are swollen. Blood leaks from noses and busted lips.

"Mama's tired," the boy says. "Let's just go to bed. She can't do nothing."

"Will anybody do anything?" the other boy asks.


"Spider-Man or Batman would do something."

"They ain't real. They just comic books. They ain't no superheroes in the real world."


Yellow cloth feeds into the sewing machine. The young man inspects the stitch. He trims some thread and stitches some more.

The scene is a bedroom. Posters line the walls. Superheroes in various action poses. A bookshelf holds comic books.

"What are you doing with my sewing machine?"

"I'm sewing my costume, mama."

"Costume? You can't sew. You just tearing up my machine with this foolishness."

"It ain't foolishness. We're doing the costume ball at the community center."

"And who you going as?"

"It's my own creation."

The young man slips on the red mask. It covers his whole head except for the eyes, nose, and mouth.

"Say hello to Captain Justice!"

The mother laughs.

"More like Captain Stupid! What would your father think?"

The young man smiles.

"We wouldn't need Captain Justice if he was still alive."

A tear comes to the mother's eye.

"If there was justice in the world, he would still be alive."


The scene is a gym. People are dressed in various costumes. Some are gangsters. Others are soldiers. Others are cowboys. There are two superheroes. We see Captain Justice. A red scale of justice emblazons his yellow chest.

"That is the most ridiculous costume I have ever seen."

The commentary comes from a gangster in a purple suit.

"You had to go with yellow and red?"

Captain Justice smiles from behind his mask.

"Mighty Mouse. Iron-Man. The Flash. Shazam!"

"And what's wrong with purple?"

"The Joker wears purple, and you sure look like a joker."

"Captain Justice can kiss this joker's ass!"


Captain Justice climbs the stairs with a smile on his face. He still wears his mask. He sees the two little boys sitting on the top stair.

"What's up with you fellows? You guys look rough like you got your asses beat."

"Are you a superhero?" they ask.

"I am right now," Captain Justice says.

"We sure need a superhero."

"If your mama did that to you, you need a police officer and a social worker."

"The boys in the courtyard beat us up."

Captain Justice shakes his head.

"Can't be snitching on those guys. Just makes it worse, " Captain Justice says.

"What makes it better?" the little boy asks.

Captain Justice looks grim.

"I don't know, little man."

"What kind of lame superhero are you?"


Captain Justice lies in the bed staring at the ceiling. His mask is off.

"Does the world need superheroes?"

He gazes at the posters on the wall.

"What is a hero?"

He opens a comic book and flips through the pages.

"Where is the justice in this world?"

He looks at the picture on the dresser. It is a man smiling and wearing a policeman's uniform.

"Justice died with you, Dad. Maybe it can be reborn with me."


Money hits the concrete. Dice hit the wall.

"This money don't do nothing but shift from my hands to yours and back again."

The other boy laughs.

"Are you saying we are wasting our lives out here? You think we should be in school? Hitting them books? Riding our United Negro College Fund out of here?"

A curl of smoke rises from the other boys lips.

"A mind is a terrible thing to waste."

"Try not to waste my mind with hope. Fuck hope. Smoke dope."

The three boys snicker.

The snickering stops.

"What the fuck?!"

Captain Justice stands before the three boys. They burst into laughter.

"What the fuck are you wearing?!"

"Piss yellow costume!!"

"You should have went with purple!"

Captain Justice holds up his hand.

"You fellows have been a terror to this project and the people who live here. You need to leave this place and never come back."

The laughing stops.

"And who is going to make us?"

"I am."

"And who the hell are you?"

"I am Captain Justice."

"You are Captain Retarded, motherfucker. Get your silly yellow costumed ass out of our yard."

"Or pay the jizya!"

"I will do neither."

A malt liquor bottle smashes into the side of Captain Justice's head. Glass and bear spray. The three boys jump on Captain Justice. He falls to the ground as they kick and beat him. Captain Justice tries to fight back. A sneaker smashes into his face. Blood pours from a broken nose. The beating ends, and Captain Justice is face down in a puddle of beer, glass, and blood.

"Wow, looks like no justice from Captain Justice today!"

"Motherfucker got his ass beat the fuck down, like a punk ass bitch!"

"You supposed to be a superhero. More like a super zero."

Captain Justice looks up to see one of the boys unzip his pants. A stream of urine hits him in the face.

"Piss on you, Captain Justice. Take your yellow costumed ass out of our yard."


Captain Justice crawls up the stairs. He spits blood and chokes. He manages to stand and open the door.

He enters the bedroom and collapses on the floor. He rips the mask from his face. He tears the scales of justice emblem from his chest.

"Justice is dead. Did it ever live?"

The picture of his father looks down at him.

"There ain't no justice but the justice you make."


Posters rip from the walls. Comic books go into a garbage can with a yellow costume. Captain Justice holds the mask in his hands. His eyes are black. There is a bandage on one cheek. He takes the mask to the bathroom and pours water in a sink. He mixes in black dye.

He goes into his mother's room. The father's police officer hat sits on the dresser. He opens the top drawer and retrieves a revolver. He looks at the picture on the wall in the bedroom.

"I'm sorry, Dad."

He looks down at the revolver in his hands.

"The world needs a new kind of hero."


The little boy hands money to the older boy.

"This all the jizya you got today?"

"It's all I could find in my mama's purse."

"I fucked your mama. That was the money I paid her. Bitch should be paying me."

The boy folds the bills into his pocket.

"Steal me some Newports next time. Get the fuck out of here."

The boy runs away.

"I got some Newports for you."

A young man steps around the corner. He is dressed in a black T-shirt and black jeans. He wears a black mask.

"What in the hell are you?"


Captain Revenge pulls the pistol from the front of his jeans puts the gun to the boy's head. He pulls the trigger. The shot is loud. Brains and blood explode from the back of the boy's head. Before the other two can react, they both are shot.

"There's your jizya."

Captain Revenge blows the smoke from the barrel of the gun and tucks it back into his jeans. He turns and walks away.