“He had a yellow cape,” said the little boy, pointing at the top of the ramp.
“And a wheelchair that went up steps,” added his sister. “It was way cool.”
The newspaper reporter scratched his head with the antenna of his cell phone. “A wheelchair?”
“Uh huh,” the little girl said. “It was purple.”
“With red spokes,” added her brother. “And wheels that lit up!”
“I thought you said this guy stopped the mugger.”
“He did,” said the little girl. “He used this thing on his utility belt-”
“A grabber reacher thing like Granny has,” added her brother. “He hit the guy over the head with it, then he put the guy over his lap and his wheelchair went up the steps to the police station.”
“And he delivered him right to the cops!” added his sister.
“Now, kids,” said the reporter, smiling, “I know it’s fun to make up stories-”
“We’re not making this up. It’s true,” said the little girl, looking puzzled.
“So this guy in the purple wheelchair, did he tell you his name?”
“Ergo!” said the little boy. “He had a big E on his chest and he shouted out ERGO-”
“I think he was shouting here we go,” said his sister. “Then his wheelchair got stuck and he said -not. So we’re going to call him Ergo. It sounds cool. Whether you believe us or not,” she added, starting to walk away. “Because I have pictures on my camera phone.”
The reporter shook his head. Things sure were more difficult for reporters these days. Everyone was doing their own story- the man on the street and even kids on the street. “Look, little girl, let me see those pictures.”
She looked at her brother. “I don’t think so, mister. You don’t believe me, do you?”
“Nope, he doesn’t,” said her brother. “We’ll just show them to someone else.”
* * *
Ergo, whose real name was Eugene, was not thinking about the two kids who saw him capture the mugger that day. He was fixing the right tire on his wheelchair that was low on air. Luckily that was the only damage that happened when the mugger kicked.
Eugene vowed to come up with better tools on his utility belt than a reacher. It just wasn’t enough when the bad guys fought him off. It had felt so good to come along just as the mugger was grabbing the wallet of the lady on the scooter, to clonk him over the head – zap pow – and subdue him.
He flicked on the TV set and only half heard the reporter announce the next story. “…new superhero….wheelchair….Ergo…” The words swirled around the room as Eugene turned the airpump on and off, drowning them out. So when he glanced up at the TV screen and saw photos of himself capturing the mugger, he dropped the air hose.
“Two children at the scene took pictures on a camera phone. They claim they saw the superhero capture the mugger and take him right up to the police – in his wheelchair.”
“Wow,” said Eugene, thinking he really should lose some weight if he was going to roll around in tights. “Probably should join a gym,” he thought.
“They say his name is Ergo.”
Eugene nodded, looking down at the E on his chest. He was going to go with Electric Man. That was his first choice because he could shorten it to E-man. But Ergo was cool. He could live with that.
“The question now becomes: who is Ergo? And exactly why did he appear on the street at noon just as the mugger was attacking?” The female reporter turned to a male reporter at her side. “If he does use a purple wheelchair, he shouldn’t be hard to find, Brad.”
“Hardly,” said Brad, smiling so broadly his face looked like it was going to crack. “I think Ergo’s next trick is going to be to try to keep his anonymity. Our next story-”
Eugene suddenly realized that his wheelchair tire was hissing air out and he picked up the air hose to fill it back up. He had appeared three times in public helping people since arriving in Princeton NJ. Besides the mugging, he helped people cross Nassau Street, the main road one day, putting his life at risk. That reallly wasn’t such a big deal although it was more dangerous than anything else he’d done. The traffic in Princeton could be really bad on weekends.
His other feat was unknown. Eugene had used a crowbar to move some illegally parked cars that were blocking a handicap spot near the post office in Palmer Square. He wasn’t quite sure that was legal, but considering how few handicap spots there were, he felt it was only fair to level the playing field. So he shouted “Here we go!” and moved them.
It was quite late at night so no one saw him, except a befuddled cop who heard the noise and arrived as Eugene took off at 10 mph in his wheelchair. He saw the cop looking around to see how the cars managed to get into the middle of the street and chuckled.
Yes , being a superhero was fun. Especially when he could go around and be anonymous. But being a public hero was a whole different ball of wax. He wasn’t sure he was ready for that.
But here it was. He transferred back into his wheelchair and sat there, pondering his future. He looked up at the glass window and saw the big E on his chest reflected back at him. Suddenly he sat straight up in his chair.
“Ergo,” he said. “I think therefore I am. I think therefore I am – I must – I have to-be Ergo.”
And so it was. As the new superhero watched the sun descend into the horizon over the tops of trees in Princeton, he sighed. This was heavy duty. It was an existential moment. He hoped that the illustrator could capture it properly since he sure as heck couldn’t draw.
Anyway he decided that he would spend the evening putting together a new utility belt. He pulled out his MaxiAids catalogue and googled the latest in assistive technology. Then he decided it was time to build a different colored shroud for his power chair so that during the day he would not be conspicuous. He painted the new shroud red and mounted it on his wheelchair before he went to bed. Then he tucked his Ergo tights into his backpack and transferred wearily into bed.
It was time to take his mission seriously – to empower those who needed it, to bring justice where it was missing and to protect the streets from those who bullied to get their own way- just because they could.
Copyright 2007 Ruth Harrigan