Thomas Murry scurried through the halls, dodging past giants and backpacks larger than his body. At 4’9”, he was the smallest sophomore at Grapes High School, which made him an easy target for the school bullies.
“Hey Trashmas, where you going?” One of the giants followed behind him. Ralph Barrymore, a registered sex offender and all around asshole, often enjoyed throwing Thomas’s backpack in high places, ripping his hair from his skull as he lifted Thomas off his feet, and verbally abusing him in ways only seen in High School.
“That name makes literally no sense!” Thomas called back, racing around the corner and ducking behind a trash can. Ralph ran past him, his stance resembling that of a gorilla as he scurried away.
“Too close,” Thomas sighed a breath of relief, and wiped the sweat he accumulated while running from his brow. A girl walked by, attempting to throw an empty milk carton into the trash. It bounced off the rim and landed in front of Thomas. He grabbed the crushed cardboard and stood up, trying to get her attention as she walked away.
“You know, it’s not nice to leave your trash on the floor!” He yelled, shaking the carton in front of him. She turned his direction, and laughed.
“Whatever, Trashmas. It’s the Janitor’s job to clean up after us.”
His face turned a flourescent red, and he discarded the carton, “No, it’s not.” He walked away, putting earbuds in his ears to seem busy. He walked into the lunch line, grabbed the gray paper that passed as a hamburger, and plopped his tray across the table from his only friend, a shy but tall boy named James.
“Did you hear what they were calling me?” He started, beginning one of his long-winded rants that kept so many potential friends away.
“Actually, I thought Trashmas was kind of funny,” James said, chuckling to himself.
“It’s not,” Thomas said, crushing his banana for dramatic effect. The school police officer walked by, tipping her hat at the two boys.
“Police officers are so nice,” Thomas said, sipping his milk.
“Yeah…” James looked away at another table, “I’ll be back”. James stood up with his tray and walked over to the other table, where a bunch of band kids sat. He sat down in an empty seat and began conversing with them. Quickly realizing James had new friends and wouldn’t be coming back, Thomas stood up and walked outside into the blistery cold fall day. Dried leaves blew past him and trash circled everywhere. The students here are so messy, he thought, grabbing a bag and stuffing a few wrappers into it. A few students gave him confused looks as he cleaned, but most ignored his presence. As most students did. His strange interests tended to keep potential friends away, but he didn’t intend on becoming one of the fake corporation-produced sheep that grazed through high schools nationwide.
The bell rang, signaling the end of lunch and the beginning of 5th period. Thomas was just about to head inside, but he heard something. A muffled voice calling from around the corner. Ignoring the teacher ushering for him to go inside, he ran to the voice. Greeting him was a tall man dressed in a purple suit. His face was thin, his arms were long, and his dark mustache was curly.
“Were you the kind boy cleaning up after the messy students?” He spoke, peering down to get a look at Thomas.
“Um… Y..yeah,” Thomas responded, slightly stuttering. The man in purple stood at full height, looking over Thomas’s head as if checking for oncoming traffic.
“Well have I got a reward for you! Do you want superpowers?” He asked, reaching for something in his pocket.
“Well, yeah, but they’re not real,” Thomas said, stepping backward. The man in purple grabbed Thomas’s arm, and pulled him forward.
“Yes, they are. Every human is born with a dormant gene which grants us each the ability to do something the rest of us cannot. With this serum I developed, this gene is unlocked, releasing whatever superpower your brain decided you needed. But be warned; it also will give your greatest enemy superpowers,” The man in purple explained, pulling a needle from his purple pocket. In it was a purple liquid that swished with each breath the strange man took.
“That’s the biggest load of bullshit ever. And I went to the Minnesota State Fair when I was younger,” Thomas said, calmly trying to get the man to let go.
“You’re right. In this thing is a drug which supercharges your brain and gives you inhuman abilities,” He said, rolling his purple eyes.
“That’s still a load of crap,” Thomas said.
“You really are a piece of trash, damn,” The purple man forced the needle into Thomas’s arm, which he held with an iron grip.
“Expect your abilities within 4-6 business days. If you like your abilities, be sure to tell the friends that you don’t have about me and I’ll give them 10% off their purchase,” The purple man said, walking away.
“Wait, purchase?” Thomas asked, but the man disappeared. He felt into his pocket: his wallet was gone.
18 Business Days later
Beep. Beep. Beep. The sounds of an old alarm echoed through the room. Thomas rose from his bed, facing his neatly organized desk where his color coordinated binders lay in a perfect manner. He turned the alarm and stood up, stretching his arms into the air. His arm bumped against the ceiling. He jumped, startled by the contact. He had never done that before; he was too short. He rushed to the mirror to look at himself. His pajama pants reached halfway down his shin, and his shirt reached to his belly button.
“What the hell…” He said, trying to pull down the shirt with no luck. He walked to his closet, and tried on another shirt. It too didn’t cover his midriff. His mind suddenly burst: a strange sense pushed through his thoughts. He ran to the bathroom, where a crumpled sheet of paper lay. He opened, thinking it may be a magical exposition letter which would explain everything to him. No such luck: it was a sheet of his sister’s math homework she decided to use as a tissue. He put the sheet in the trash, and the strange feeling subsided for a moment. Then it started again, luring him downstairs to a pile of dirty paper dishes left beside the dishwasher. He shoved them into the trash, and the feeling subsided again.
“I have a superpower!!” He yelled, picking up another piece of trash that he sensed. That man in purple wasn’t lying after all! He didn’t have to return to that stupid school anymore! He could roam the streets, fighting crime one piece of trash at a time! Feeling enlightened, he walked outside, and began hunting trash. His senses led him to a nearby park, where a trash can had tipped over, spilling garbage everywhere. He began picking it up when he noticed a hooded man throw a can of pop onto the sidewalk beside him. Thomas stood up and ran towards him, at speeds faster than he had ever run before. He grabbed the can, “Don’t litter!! It’s bad for the environment!” He yelled.
“Creep,” the man yelled back, walking away. Thomas scowled and returned to cleaning up trash, moving from trash can to trash can, satisfying his newfound craving for trash cleanup. He did this uninterrupted for two hours, until the park was spotless.
“Excuse me, sir, who are you?” A little girl waddled up to him. She was holding a candy wrapper she intended on trashing.
“My name is Tho….um…. Trash Man,” Thomas responded, taking the wrapper from her and throwing it away.
“Amanda, get back here!” A woman yelled from a distance. She ran up to Amanda and picked her up.
“I’m sorry,” The woman said, beginning to walk away. Thomas stopped her.
“If you ever need someone to clean up your trash, Trash Man is here!” He said, handing her a card he had hastily written with his name and phone number on it.
“Um.. okay..” She ventured onward, dropping the business card as she reached the sidewalk again.
“Hey, don’t litter!!!” He yelled. She picked up speed, trying to escape the dude she found to be very alarming. He sighed, picking up the card and placing it in his pocket once again. He clenched his fist, trying to control his anger.
“How can I get them to listen to me??” He shouted in anger. He looked around, hunting a solution. Finally his eyes spotted one: a gym.
“If I’m buff, maybe they’ll respect me…” He walked to the gym, bought a membership, and began working out.
15 Weeks of Strenuous Exercise Later
Buff, overconfident, and broke, Thomas walked out of the gym one final time, ready to take on the littering scum of Minneapolis. But first, he needed a suit: what was a superhero without a suit? Turning on his custom montage music, he went to work. First he grabbed a trash bag from his mom’s kitchen, cutting two eyeholes and a mouth hole. Fastening it over his head, he had a mask. Next he made the onesie: using a leopard costume he bought last year, he created a black suit which fit over his Rick and Morty T-Shirt and his khakis. Now he was ready. Venturing out at the crack of dawn, he began his adventure by picking up trash in his own neighborhood.
“What the hell are you doing?” A woman yelled, dropping a cigarette butt on the grass. Slowly, Thomas turned around to face her, his eyes dark.
“You disgust me,” He walked towards her, and punched her in the face, knocking her to the ground.
“That’ll teach you to not litter”. He moved on to the next neighborhood soon after, picking up trash and stopping anyone who dare litter in front of him. People were finally respecting his wishes: the parks were soon free of trash and free of the scum that littered in them. Finally, he returned home happy, but only for a moment.
“MASKED MAN MURDERS 12 INNOCENT PARK-GOERS WITH BARE HANDS,” The news anchor yelled. The TV flashed a picture of him in his mask.
“The media is so fucking fake. I’m doing the right thing getting rid of these scum,” Thomas said.
“Anyone who has seen this man is urged to call police, for he is very dangerous!” The anchor said, before transitioning to a story about cat videos. Thomas sat down, still feeling an urge to pick up trash. He spent the rest of his day sulking, and fell asleep sad.
Waking up the next morning, Thomas realized he had made a huge mistake: murdering those people was wrong. Littering may be bad, but it wasn’t worth murdering someone over it. Like many other things, he overreacted about something he was passionate about. Knowing this didn’t change his urge to clean up trash, though. He left the house early, leaving his suit and his persona at home. Walking over to his high school where this all started, he began picking up trash from the front entrance. He spotted the school officer, and walked over to her.
“Hey, officer,” He said in a very sad tone.
“Hi,” She responded. She released a gum wrapper from her hand behind her, trying to discretely rid herself of it.
“You know, you shouldn’t litter,” Thomas said. He reached down to pick it up, and she began screaming.
“Step away from me!!! Stop!! Desist!!” She pulled out her gun and shot him, killing him instantly.
“High School Student Shot and Killed After Officer Mistakes Him For Active Shooter,” The headline blared on the TV. Ralph Barrymore sat angrily, watching the TV.
“Fuck, that’s my job!” He yelled. The TV began shaking, and fell from its’ stand. The room exploded with sewage, with Ralph in the center.