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I wanted to be a pizza guy, when I was younger. Like Fry from Futurama. Wanted to see the world, one suburban neighborhood at a time. I wanted to get tipped by the beautiful people. The rock stars. The models. I had dreams. Dreams. Went through the usual routes. Made a LinkedIn account. Got scouted. Got called in. Got interviewed. Got turned down. Got depressed. Read some Fifty Shades of Grey. Dark times. Grey times.

Maybe that’s why I was so drawn to the Joker. His smile. Way he laughed when I told him I was an orphan. The way he told me he hated Adventure Time. The man was mad. A mad clown. He had a purple suit. Never changed it. Nice Rockport shoes. Blood-stained handkerchief in his breast-pocket. His face was kind of weird. I’ll admit it. Ruby red lips. Bleached white face. The scars on his cheek made me curious. Asked how he got them. He kicked me in the nuts. Said he got them from laughing too much. I never asked again. Joker was mad, but he made sense. He tells you to go rob a bank. You do it, get a percentage, food, lodging. Fair. Crazy but fair.

So I stuck around. Spent three years on his crew. Shaved my head. Lost some weight. Felt healthy. Felt alive. Felt fulfilled. It was a Thursday night, my life ended. Simple job. “Like taking candy from a baby,” Joker said. Because it was. The man wanted us to rob an infant. “Just cuz,” he said. We asked what kind of candy to expect. He said, “Slim Jims.” We didn’t ask any more questions. You never correct the Joker.

Four of us in a Prius. “Call Me Maybe” on the radio. Laughter. Smiles. Singing along. Driving through Gotham City at night. We were happy. So happy. We saw the baby. Just sitting there. Doing baby shit. His mom was nearby. Reading a Kindle. Wasn’t looking at the baby. I could tell what she was reading. Her eyes looked hungry. She kept licking her lips and moaning slightly. Fifty Shades of Grey. It made me do the same thing. Got a little hard. Thought of Roseanne. Problem solved. Time to act. We got closer. Baby was sucking on a Twix. Joker was wrong. We’d never tell him that though. Just buy a Slim Jim on the way back. Have Ricardo nibble it a bit. He got those baby teeth. Should be cool. We shoulda stopped. We never should have had Big Percy take the Twix. Never should have had Felix throw the mom’s Kindle away. None of us expected she’d actually run after it though. But she did. We were successful. Happy again. Time to leave. Sudden chill down our spines. Something was wrong.

We heard a rustle and a crack. Ricardo’s pelvis. He fell. We saw a shadow move. Too fast to be human. Could it be? It was. Him. Big Percy was on the ground. Tied upside down. To a fire extinguisher. All six feet of him. Looked uncomfortable. He told me later it was. Felix tried to run. He shouldn’t have. He never ran again. Got on my knees. The only one left. I put my head to the ground. Begging. Begging him not to hurt me. That I was sorry. That I wanted to deliver pizza. That was all. Just give people slices. Not jack babies. That I would never hurt anyone again. That I would just sit here and wait for police. Just don’t break me. I looked up. There he was. The bat on his chest rose and lowered slowly. Not even out of breath. I stammered out, “P-please, Batman.” His eyes were cold behind that cowl of his. All I heard was a growled, husky, “No,” before everything went dark.

I woke up five years later. Five years later. There was a new president. She seemed nice. Something Palin. In a hospital bed now. Gotham General. To my right were flowers, with a card from the Joker. “I’m gonna kill you, LOL.” The clown always knew how to cheer me up. Probably wasn’t joking. To my left were a group of men with mustaches. Cops. My left hand was cuffed to the bed. They asked me questions about the Joker, that night, and him. I answered truthfully. They told me jail time isn’t served in a coma, so away I was going. I asked one of them. Gordon. Why couldn’t I move my legs? He shivered and looked down and said nothing. Doctor later told me my spine had been broken and put back together again. Like a Jigsaw puzzle. Like Tetris. He had played Tetris with my spine. And he’d won. Some vertebrae were removed. I was five inches shorter. Couldn’t feel anything. Anything but rage. Revenge. Revenge against the bat.

Revenge is powerful. A force. I began to focus it. Into my arms. Got feeling back after a few months. Helped make getting around Blackgate Penitentiary a little easier. Doctors said it was a miracle. I told them it was hate. Focused into my legs. Even revenge has limits. Couldn’t even wiggle my big toe. One day, guy in my cell – Crane – told me to hand him the ass paper. No privacy here. The smells I’d smelled. I felt that rage again. That revenge lust. Focused it on the ass paper. Focused hard. It…shivered. Then tilted over. Then lifted in the air. It landed in his lap. He shit bricks. Lucky he was on a toilet. Word spread fast. I became a celebrity of sorts. All the time I spent in the prison library, they started calling me the Professor. Hadn’t even graduated high school. I liked it. A lot.

10 years for robbing a baby. A long time for small crime. Wondered if the baby remembered me. Probably not. Once Crane asked, “Why not blame Joker?” I told him why. Joker gave me a chance. A path in life. Something to do. A job. The bat broke my spine. Crane nodded. Trusted him. Didn’t know why. They wheeled me out the day I was free. Got my possessions. Hospital Snickers bar. Melted. That was all. Nothing. Not even someone to pick me up. Guy at the counter. Nice guy. Bryan. Asked me what I was gonna do now. Looked him in the eye. “Gonna get a team together. Kill the Bat. Exterminate him. Used to be somebody. Dreams. Hopes. Now I might as well not exist. I’m nothing. An ex-man. No life. No friends. But I’ll show him. I’ll show the Bat.” Bryan smiled at me. He didn’t believe me. Probably heard it all before. But I was dead serious. Gave me a pat on the back as I left the gate. “Whatever you say, Xavier.”

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