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.



Apocalypse Riders


The horses move across the land. Dust trails their steps. The two riders hold loosely on the reins. The steps are slow.

“We need to get to some water,” the rider says to the other.

“I think the injuns will get us first.”

A rider pulls the canteen from the saddle. The last of the water goes to his mouth.

“I’m out,” he says. “It’s horse piss from here.”

“The horses ain’t got piss to give.”

The horses move up the pass.

“Let the horses have the reins. They will take us to water.”

The reins drop, and the horses move of their own will. The sun moves across the sky. It bakes the land.

There is a hill. An Indian sits upon a horse.

“You see that?”

“I seen him. Can’t do nothing. Too far for a shot.”

The Indian rides towards them.

“Dumb Injun is coming to us. God is good to the white man.”

The Indian comes close. Paint streaks his face. Feathers stick from his hair.

The rider puts his hand to his pistol. The Indian stops. He tosses something to the ground. He rides off.

“What is it, Buck?”

Buck comes out of the saddle. He picks up a leather bag.

“It’s water,” Buck says. “Crazy Injun gave us water.”

“God bless his red ass.”

Buck rubs his chin.

“He’s just keeping us alive, so he can kill us later. Nobody does nothing good without a reason.”


The axe falls. The wood splits. Calloused hands set up the wedge of timber for another strike.

"Daddy, do you ever wish you had a boy?"

The man looks at the girl.

"A boy instead of you?"


"Darling, if God made anything more precious than you, He kept it for Himself."

The girl smiles.

Horses come over the hill. The men slump in their saddles.

"Darling, we got company. Go fetch some vittles."

The horses stop outside the cabin. Wood lay split and piled. A stream runs nearby.

"You men look rougher than old hide."

"We seen better," said Buck. "You don't mind our horses taking a sip from your crik, do you?"

"It's God's crik. God give it to good and evil, so take your bit."

The horses drink from the creek as the men climb from the saddles. They lean down and drink from the creek. Hands draw water to greedy mouths.

"Don't drink too much. You'll dry us out."

The men laugh.

The daughter brings out two plates.

"We got you fellers some beans and cornbread and molasses."

Buck and Johnny smile.

"You must be one of them saints like in the Bible," Johnny says.

"Ain't no saint. Just a man like you. I know what it is to be hungry and thirsty."

Buck and Johnny tear into the food.

"Damn, if that ain't good," Buck says.

Johnny looks at the girl. The girl looks down her dress at the ground.

"The Bible says that you may entertain angels unawares," the man says. "You fellows angels? Or you something else?"

Buck smiles.

"Angels and devils. What's the difference?" Buck says.

"You can stay the night," the man says. "Take some wood for your fire. Make yourselves at home."

"What do we owe you for all this hospitality?" Buck asks.

"You don't owe me nothing," the man says. "Just clear out by morning and stay away from my wife and little girl. I will kill you deader than hell if you put a hand on either one."

Johnny swallows hard on his cornbread.

"Mister, we are gentlemen. We wouldn't ever do such a thing," Johnny says.

Buck scratches his chin.

"I never took nothing that didn't belong to me," Buck says. "We will be out of here come sun up."


The fire crackles in the night. The men recline in their rolls. Johnny draws a knife across some jerky, pulls a piece, and chews.

"You think God is looking out for us?"

Buck scowls.

"There ain't no God up there."

"How'd we get here then?" Johnny asks.

"Don't know. Don't care."

"Where do you think we go when we die?"

"We go back to where come from--a bunch of nothing."

Johnny shook his head.

"Who taught you to think like that, Buck?"

A stream of tobacco spit leaves Buck's lips and hits the fire.

"Ain't nobody taught me that. I'm the son of a whore. Too much evil in the world for God to be running things."

Johnny scowls. He pulls another piece of jerky.

"I think God is up there. He just puts up with a bunch o' shit for the time being. He works it out at the end."

Buck spits the tobacco wad in the fire. It crackles and burns as Buck pulls a fresh bit from his pouch.

"God don't do shit to men like me," Buck snarls. "Not one damn thing. Good and bad all die alike, and you got to enjoy all the meanness you can in this life. When you die, nothing matters."


A single candle lights the cabin.

Hands are folded. The father says grace. They all say amen. 

The father dips his morsel into the plate. He puts the piece to his mouth. The wife pours water into his cup.

"Where do you think those fellows are from?" she asks.

"Ain't no telling. I didn't ask. But they belong to the Devil."

"How do you know, daddy?" the daughter asks.

The father spoons some beans into his mouth.

"You either belong to God or the Devil. We belong to God, and we know it."

"Do those men know they belong to the Devil?"

"They know."

"And what happens when they die, daddy?"

"Ain't for me to say, darling. I leave it up to God. But those men ain't godly."

"Do you think the Indians will let them alone?" the wife asks.

"They let us alone. Indians can be real good or real bad."

"Do Indians belong to God or the Devil, daddy?"

"These Indians belong to God, darling. But they ain't to be messed with."


The sun rises. The men tie their rolls and saddle up.

"We sure appreciate the hospitality," Johnny says.

"It has been a real pleasure having you here," the father says. "I pray that God will be with you on your way."

Buck spits tobacco juice.

"Your God ain't my god."

The father squints at Buck.

"I know who your god is," the father says to Buck.

"Do ya?" Buck sneers. "Here, I'll show you my god."

Buck pulls the pistol from his holster.

"This god always delivers. Do you ever pray for deliverance?"

The father stares hard at Buck.

"Buck, what are you doing?" Johnny asks. "This man has been real good to us. Let's ride on now."

Buck cocks the hammer on the pistol.

"I got a deal for you, neighbor," Buck says. "Admit Jesus was the son of a whore just like me or take a bullet for Him."

"Go to the Devil."

The pistol fires. The father falls to the ground.

"Buck. You did it. You done did it. What the hellfire have you gone and done?"

"You want to take a bullet for Jesus?" Buck asks.

The door from the cabin opens. The mother and daughter run to their shot father on the ground.

"Daddy! Daddy!!"

Blood gurgles from the father's mouth. Tears stream from their faces. The mother and daughter wail in grief.

"I never took nothing that didn't belong to me," Buck says. "That's cause everything belongs to me."

Buck gets off the horse and grabs the mother and drags her into the cabin.

"Buck, we can't do this."

"I can't not do this," Buck says. "Meanness is all I got. Get you a poke, Johnny."

Johnny looks at the girl. Her face is contorted in grief.

"It is hard the first time, Johnny. But it goes away. Get that poke."

"Was it hard for you, Buck?"

"It was never hard for me."

Johnny unsaddles and takes the girl screaming to the cabin.

The space is dark. There is only light from the door. Buck throws the mother on her bed. Johnny takes the daughter to the floor. Buck rips the dress from the mother and pulls down his pants.

"I been wanting to poke you since I got here."

The doorway dims. A shot fires. Buck howls. The father falls to the floor.

"That son of a bitch!!"

Buck writhes on the floor in pain. The mother jumps up and runs at Johnny. She hits him. Buck pulls his pistol and shoots her dead. The daughter screams. Buck shoots her. The cabin is silent.

Johnny looks at Buck.

"You OK, Buck?"

"I ain't OK. That bastard had more in him. Should have cut his damn throat."

Buck staggers with blood running down his backside.

"Burn this place down, Johnny. Let the injuns take the blame."


Black smoke rises to the sky. Johnny rides upright. Buck rides slumped in the saddle.

"We gotta get that bullet out of you, Buck."

"I got two bullets in me already. Bullets don't kill me. They make me stronger."

Johnny looks to the horizon.

"I don't feel better, Buck. You said it goes away. I hurt something fierce."

Buck spits tobacco juice.

"You were always a weak son of a bitch. Should have made you kill that girl. Nothing burns it out like killing something. You get to kill the next one."

"Why do I feel like somebody is following us?"

"There ain't nobody following us," Buck says.

Johnny looks back at the smoke rising to the sky.

"Somebody's following us."

Buck looks back.

"There ain't nobody following us."


It is night. The fire crackles.

"Are we going to Hell, Buck?"

Buck wipes blood from his bare back.

"You're in Hell now. Enjoy it. There's only Hell and nothing."

Johnny puts another stick to the fire.

"I think Hell feels like I feel right now."

"You're gonna feel a bullet if you don't shut your damn mouth about it."

"Don't you ever feel bad about nothing?"

"I felt bad once," Buck says. "I poked a woman and killed her with her baby in the crib. Felt bad about the baby not having a mama no more."

"What did you do?" Johnny asked.

"I went back and put that baby out of its misery. Didn't feel bad about it anymore."

Johnny becomes sick. Vomit jets from his mouth and nostrils.


"Somebody is following us."

Buck grimaces as he slumps over in the saddle.

"There ain't nobody following us."

Johnny looks behind him.

"Buck, there's somebody following us!"

Buck looks back. Four riders are on the horizon.

"Probably injuns. They ain't following us."

"If they ain't following us, why are they getting closer to us?"

Buck takes a draw from his canteen.

"Let's just get gone, Johnny."

Buck and Johnny spur the horses into a gallop. They ride hard.

"They are coming for us, Buck."

"I know," Buck says.

Buck and Johnny cut down a ravine. They gallop up a hill. They run the horses through the trees of some woods. Then, they hit the open plain.

"They're still following, Buck. They don't stop."

The riders are closer.

"Their horses are faster than ours," Buck says.

Dusk approaches. The sun sets.

"I can hear them, Buck."

They look back and see the riders. Torches blaze in their hands. They can hear the gallop of their horses.

"Who the hell are they, Buck?"

"I don't know, and I don't want to know."

Buck's horse slows down. They enter some woods. into the trees

"What's wrong, Buck?"

"My damn horse is pulling up lame. If you can't run, you gotta fight."

A look of fear crosses Johnny's face.

"Yellow Johnny. You are a damn coward. Run and hide."

"They might kill you, Buck."

"Dying ain't no different than living to me."

Johnny rides away from Buck.

Buck dismounts from his horse. He checks his pistol.

"I'm ready for you sons of bitches."

The four riders enter the clearing. Buck's horse gallops off. Johnny watches from a distance as the horsemen circle Buck. Buck raises his pistol to shoot. A whip cracks and knocks the gun from his hand.

"I ain't sorry for nothing!!"

Whips crack as Buck falls. Buck howls in agony. The whips crack and crack again.

Johnny gasps as he sees Buck being lashed. The torches come at Buck, and Buck is set ablaze. The man's wails of torment fill the night.

"Nothing!! Nothing!! You bastards!! Not a damn thing!! Nothing!!"

Johnny is white with fear.

"God help me."

Johnny spurs his horse into a gallop and rides away.


Johnny is slumped in the saddle. The horse staggers and collapses. Johnny gets up and moves.

"Gotta keep going."

He looks over his shoulder. The riders are coming.

"Gotta outrun these bastards."

Johnny falls down.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done it. Don't let these injuns catch me."

Johnny looks up. He sees an Indian on a horse.

"I remember you," Johnny rasps.

The Indian looks into Johnny's eyes. A smile crosses the Indian's weathered face. He rides away.

The riders are on Johnny. Johnny staggers to his feet. Johnny pulls his pistol and fires. He fires again. The shots are wild. He drops the empty gun. He feels the lash on his back.

"I did it. I'm sorry. I did it all. I'm sorry."

The lashes bite into Johnny's back. Blood streaks from the wounds. Johnny falls and staggers. The whips keep cracking.

"I'm going to die in these sins," Johnny screams. "God help me. God, please help me."

There is a river. Johnny stumbles and staggers as the horsemen whip him and whip him again. Johnny looks back, but he sees only the darkness under their hats. A whip cracks across his face ripping blood from his cheeks. Johnny falls into the water.

"I can't swim."

Johnny crawls into the water. The current is strong. Johnny fights and feels himself going under. It is dark under the water. He struggles upward for air. He paddles and finds himself on the other side. Johnny lies prostrate on the muddy river bank. He looks back across the river.

The four horseman are across the river. Johnny cannot see their faces. He cannot see their eyes. He sees the riders turn and ride away.

Johnny looks up into the sky. The sky is blue. A few white clouds move across the blue. A smile spreads across Johnny's face.