“Learning Curve”

I wrote this story as a result of a challenge – to his followers – from an author’s blog I read. The gent’s name is Chuck Wendig and his blog is called terribleminds. I highly suggest you check it out (link’s in the name). The challenge was to write a 1,000 word story using a random phrase (although it appears I’ve surpassed the limit by more than double). Maybe nobody will notice <ssshhh!>. The phrase I was given? Bloodiest chum. Of course, my mind automatically gravitated towards my beloved medium for inspiration: comic books – this geek’s ever-lovin’ muse. I only had a few days to concoct this cautionary tale of comic book fiction and put the proverbial pen to paper. Hope you enjoy reading it. If not, feel free to let me know in the comment section below why you think it’s crap. Be gentle though. I’m like a pre-altered-past George McFly. You know, before he pummels the bully and kisses the girl? Damn, I need a son to travel through time and change my present. Where’s a DeLorean and offspring when you need ’em….

Learning Curve

Under the concealment of rock and earth, a man and a boy face-off, prepared to engage with each other in battle. The man is a hulking specimen of biological perfection; the boy – who appears to be no older than twelve-years lived – is an infant by comparison. As each suits up, a third man watches from the rafters above. He’s an elderly gentleman, distinguished in his appearance, fierce in his gaze. The man watches as the two ready themselves. He has reservations about whether the boy should be trained, but remembers the kind of world they inhabit and all of the evil awaiting them in the shadows of the moonlight. This is the only way to ensure the boy is well-equipped for those evils.

“Ready?” The man said

“Yes.” The boy replied

Like a rattlesnake, the man attacks. His punch misses the boy’s face by an inch as he throws a second, followed by a leg-sweep. The boy dodges the second and front-flips to the man’s backside before the sweep makes contact and delivers a kick to the man’s right leg. The man grabs the boy’s leg with his right-hand and delivers a punch to his chest with the left. The boy goes flying backwards onto the ground.

“Get up,” the man said, as the boy returns to his feet and into a fighting-stance.

“Attack,” the man said.

The boy moves forward and throws a right-hook to the ribs. The man blocks, and replies with a jab of his own. The boy dodges and uses the man’s forward-momentum to his advantage. He steps on the man’s left-leg and climbs up to his shoulders, wraps his legs around his neck, and falls forward, bringing the hulking specimen of biological perfection to the ground. The boy unlocks his legs and is up on his feet before the man is on his, ready for the incoming counterattack. But the man only rises and nods.

“Nice work,” Bruce said, as he removes his boxing gloves.

“I want to test myself outside, in the city,” Dick said.

“Soon, but not just yet,” Bruce said.

“I can handle myself. I just took you down, didn’t I?”

“You did well today, but being able to take down an opponent in a controlled environment is very different from being able to take one down out there where the variables are infinite and the slightest mistake can cost you your life.”

“You don’t think I can handle myself, do you?”

“I think with time, yes. Be patient. The world isn’t getting better any time soon. The cockroaches that infest this city and this world will still be there, waiting to be dealt with. Now go and clean up.”

Dick turned and left. He knew he was ready for whatever awaited him out there and he would prove it. Tonight.

Instead of going up to shower, he went into his room and unlocked the chest he had in his closet. In it were various weapons and accessories: brass knuckles, nunchucks, a pair of escrima sticks, padded gloves, and a ski mask. The boy took the escrima sticks, brass knuckles, and gloves, suited up, and exited through his bedroom window. His bike was parked outside by the garage. He mounted it and took off down the street, towards the city. The exhilaration he felt was overwhelming. He would prove Bruce wrong. He would show him just how formidable he really was, not just a weak kid in need of protection.

When he was close, he pulled over and decided to hide his bike someplace safe. He needed a quick getaway in case things went south. When he was confident his bike was safely placed and ready for an exit out of city, he headed towards the lights and skyscrapers. As he entered the city, the smell of urine and feces hit his senses with an unapologetic slap. Walking through it you could feel the despair and anguish of its inhabitants. There was no one to answer a call for help. Cops were either paid off by the local Mob bosses or just didn’t care. And the ones who did hadn’t a prayer of fixing much when the the odds were stacked so high against them. This place was the embodiment of hell to anyone but the criminal element. This needed to change. This would change. And Dick thought to himself – I’ll be the one to do it.

He was passing by an alley when he heard voices being raised. One of them sounded like an elderly man pleading about something. He decided to investigate.

“If you know what’s good for you, pops, you’ll hand over the wallet,” a man said.

“Or we can just break your arms and take it from you. Your choice, of course,” another man chimed in.

At the end of the alley was an elderly Hispanic man. He was surrounded by two men, both had weapons: one a knife and the other a bat. The boy took out his escrima sticks and stealthily creeped down behind them.

“Please, son, you don’t want to do this. How about we go someplace and I buy you two a meal and we talk this out. I promise, you’ll get no funny business from me,” the elderly man said.

“You want funny business old man, you got it,” the man with the knife said as he lunged for the man’s wallet.

Before the man could make contact with the elderly gent, Dick leaped between them with the finesse of a gymnast. He struck the man’s hand, knocking the knife into the alley’s shadows. The man, shocked by the attack, fell backwards into a puddle of water. The other man with the bat swung at Dick, but the boy was too fast. He ducked and knocked the man in both knees with his sticks, bringing him to the ground with a cry of pain. Dick fell into a fighting stance and awaited their next move. The man who had lost his knife got up and ran towards him, screaming obscenities. Dick met his charge, striking the man in the face and then to the groin. The screaming-man fell to his knees, his crotch cupped in both hands. Dick finished the job with a one-two attack to his head. The man fell back unconscious. Dick resumed his fighting-stance.

“You fellas finished here, or would you like another lesson in manners?” Dick said.

“I’m gonna make you pay for that, kid,” the man with the bat said.

The man lunged at him, but Dick was too fast. He used the man’s left-leg as he lunged forward to prop himself up over his shoulders, giving him a whack in the face, then to the back of his head, as he propelled himself into a back-flip off of the man’s back, landing in a perfect dismount; escrima sticks in-hand, ready for the next move. The man fell to the ground, blood dripping from his busted nose.

“Are we done here? Or do you want to go another round?” Dick said.

The man wiped his nose and grinned. “You should learn to mind your surroundings, boy.”

Just then, a third man came from behind Dick and punched him in the back of his head. He fell forward, completely dazed. The man with the busted nose got up and grabbed his escrima sticks. The third man grabbed Dick from the puddle he was face-down in and stood him up.

“Now let’s see how you bleed, kid,” the man said, as he struck Dick in his face and then to his ribs.

The boy grunted in searing pain as he slumped forward in the man’s bear-like embrace.

“Awe, doesn’t feel too good, now does it? Let’s see how many more we can get in before you lose consciousness,” the man said.

“Stop! Please, just let the boy go. You can have my wallet,” the elderly man pleaded.

“Oh, don’t worry your little self, pops. We’ll get to you next. But for now, shut it,” the man said as he kicked the elderly gentleman in the stomach, flinging him into a wall and down onto the ground.

“Now, where were we?” The man said, a grin spreading along his face.

Dick was struck multiple times in the face and legs. Blood splattered from his nose and mouth. Excruciating pain ran down the length of his body. Bruce, you were right – Dick thought. I’m not ready.

The man backed up to view his work. “You are definitely one tough kid, I’ll give you that. But it’s time to put you to sleep, boy.”

The man raised the sticks up to strike him again. Before he could get in another hit, a huge, hulking shadow descended upon him from the sky, grabbing his wrist and breaking it before delivering several punches to his face, as well as a knee, and smashing his head into the neighboring wall. He wasn’t getting up after that. The third man holding Dick tossed him to the side and rushed the hulking shadow. He was met with a nose-crushing punch to the face followed by another to the mouth, breaking several teeth and splitting open his lip. But the punishment didn’t end there. The hulking figure went to work beating the man into a bloody mess, breaking both hands, several ribs, and busting a kneecap. When the man could endure no more – signaled by his limp body and barely-conscious stare – the hulking figure put him out cold with a kick to the face. He walked over to Dick, who was on the ground, and helped him up. He was obviously in pain, but Bruce could see he was doing his best to suck it up. You’re definitely a tough little bastard, Dick – Bruce thought.

“How are you doing?” Bruce asked

“I’ve seen better days, that’s for sure,” Dick replied.

“Let’s get you home so Alfred can fix you up, bloodiest chum,” Bruce said, a slight grin appearing on his face.

“Hardy har har, funny guy,” Dick said. “Wait! The old man over there. Is he okay?”

Bruce sat Dick on a step and walked over to the elderly man. He bent down and helped him up. The man was okay, albeit a little in pain from the kick he received to his stomach.

“Thank you, sir. I appreciate the assistance,” the man said as he looked up to see from whom the assistance came.

“Oh my, you’re that vigilante everyone’s been talking about! You’re the Batman!” The man said, his mouth agape and his eyes wide. “Wait, the boy…is the boy okay?”

Batman moved to the side so the man could see Dick. He walked over to him and put his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Thank you, son. Thank you for saving my life.” He turned to Batman. “Thank you, both of you. This city needs more men like yourselves.”

“Don’t mention it, sir,” Dick said, as he squinted in pain. His adrenaline was beginning to fade and the pain was starting to really set in.

“Can I get you a ride? Do you need help getting home, son?” The man asked.

“I’ll get him to where he needs to be. But thank you,” Batman said.

Just then a gust of wind enveloped their space in the alley and a figure in red appeared, a lightning bolt emblazoned on his chest.

The elderly man watched in amazement as this fantastical being seemed to materialize out of thin air.

“What are you doing here?” Batman asked.

“Is that any way to greet a friend when he visits?” Flash replied. “Always the cheerful welcome-wagon you are, Bats. My wife has family in Maine and we were up there visiting. I’m on my way back to Central City and thought I’d take a wee detour through the lovely back-alleys of Gotham and give you a hand in dealing with some of the more sordid characters ’round these parts before I head on back to the Flash-cave, trademark pending. That’s when I spotted you and Dick. You guys okay? Wait a second…Dick, your face! What happened?!”

“He’s fine. Late-night training session. I’m taking him home,” Batman said.

“Actually, can you give my friend here a lift, Flash?” Dick said, pointing to the elderly man.

“Oh! I’m sorry, sir. Didn’t even notice you standing there. Would you like a little assistance to somewhere?” Flash asked.

“Son, I would be much obliged if you could give this old man a ride home. But I didn’t see you pull up in a car. Don’t suppose you have one parked around the corner where I can’t see it, do you?” The man asked.

“Sir, I have something better than that,” Flash said as he pointed to his feet.

The man chuckled a bit. “No offense, but as fit as you look in that there fancy red get-up, I’m not sure you can carry me all the way home. It’s a few blocks away, son.”

I find your lack of faith disturbing,” Flash said, in his best James Earl Jones voice. “Ye have little faith in the power of the Speed Force,” Flash continued, as he made a Vader-like fist. “Come on, let’s get you home.”

At that, Flash walked over to the man, swooped him up, and was gone in a gust of wind just as he had arrived.

“Showoff,” Batman uttered.

He helped Dick up and walked him over to a black car awaiting them. Alfred got out. “Master Dick, where does it hurt?”

“Everywhere, Alfred. Will you be able to patch me up?”

“Like brand new, young sir. You’ll be out and beating criminals to a bloody pulp in no time.”

“Another funny guy,” Dick said as he smiled.

A few weeks had past and Dick had all but healed completely. His only wound now was his pride. After his last confrontation, he knew he still had a ways to go before he was ready to fight by Bruce’s side. But he had the best teacher in the world and he knew – it was only a matter of patience and time.

“How are you feeling? You ready to resume your training?” Bruce asked.

The two men were suiting up for another sparring session.

“Yes, and I’m sorry for my foolish behavior. I shouldn’t have gone out on my own. It was stupid of me,” Dick said.

“Patience, Dick. You’ll be ready soon enough,” Bruce said as he tightened up his gloves and positioned himself into a fighting-stance.

“Now, attack.”

2 replies »

  1. Okay the story itself was good, the writing in general was good, but the tense was jumping around all over the place. Dont worry its a really common mistake, and I can’t remember the article that helped me fix it, but if I find it i will definitely link you it. I’ve followed, I’m a writer myself, and if you have the time I’d love for you to check out my small blog. Atm its mainly short stories and a bit of poetry, but I’m working on a novel (Prologue is on my blog). Feel free to check it out on , keep blogging and have a good day 🙂

    • I wholly appreciate the advice. I need to work on that because I noticed I tend to fall into this trap often. It’s also nice to know that this is a common mistake and I’m not a complete imbecile.

      And I will definitely check out your blog. The more writers I can follow, the more I can learn from those who’ve “been there, done that”. =)

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