Volume 4 Number 1
It is summer time in Manhattan, and people bustle through the Carter Hotel. Peter Parker keeps a watchful eye over the lobby. He sports a Spider-Man badge for old time's sake on his gray, long-sleeved security uniform. He has become a legend in the great city.
Adults pass him and point, whispering into their children's ears; their little eyes light up when they see the immortal Spider-Man, the Big Apple's own super-hero. Every now and then, Peter presses his middle fingers to his wrist with a "Gotcha!" The children laugh as he thumbs his badge with a big, ridiculous grin.
Today, a small girl with strawberry blonde hair tugs his pant leg. Peter looks down and smiles.
"What can I do for you, honey?"
"Spider-Man, I lost my puppy," she says, eyes wide and teary.
"Call me Mr. Parker, sweetheart." He smiles.
The tears start pouring.
"Oh, honey, come on now. You'll be all right. Old Spidey will find your puppy. Show me where you last saw him."
The little girl grips his index finger and leads him to the lobby. She points to the emergency exit. The door is ajar.
"There, Spider-Man!" she says.
Something stirs in Peter. He does not correct her this time; instead, he crouches and sniffs the carpet, crawling around on all fours. You must become what you seek, he thinks. He stops to examine something shiny on the carpet: a small, golden hair. Peter plucks the hair from the carpet with his trusty black-widow tweezers. He places it in his palm. The little blonde twirls in circles singing, "Ring around the rosie . . ."
"Aha!" he says. "Your dog, little girl -- what color fur does he have?"
"Mr. Henderson is blonde like me."
Peter brings the hair eye-level and whispers, "Well, Mr. Henderson, here I come."
Peter assures the little girl that he will find Mr. Henderson. He escorts her to her room. When her parents find Peter and their little girl waiting at the door, they roar with relief and thank Peter. Peter blushes and runs a hand through his brown-and-gray checkered hair, but secretly he plans an additional recovery. Something he has been calling "The Henderson Hunt." He struggles to contain his pride as he thinks of it.
As they close the door, the little girl screams, "Oh, Mr. Henderson!" Peter bites his knuckle to hold back the tears; it crushes him to think of the little girl's broken heart. But Peter's pride fools him. He mistakes the little blonde's scream for despair, not reunion with Mr. Henderson.
He vows never to rest until The Henderson Hunt is complete.
Peter hopes for DNA analysis of the hair, but there is not enough time. Results would not return for three to five days. Instead, Peter digs out his old costume. It sags a little at the arms where once-taut muscles bulged. His hips and butt squeeze into place. He stares at himself for a long time before slipping on the mask. He chuckles proudly as he examines himself in the mirror.
"Welcome back, partner. We have a job to do." He winks at himself.
As Peter puts the security uniform on over his Spider-Man costume, his reflection speaks to him, "You will not rest, will not stop, until it is complete."
Peter pauses to consider this. "Yes," he replies.
During his breaks on the following day, Peter prowls the hotel stairwell as Spider-Man. After several unsuccessful attempts at finding Mr. Henderson, he returns to the little blonde's room, knocks several times, but there is no answer. Hotel maids survey him, whispering in one another's ears. Peter decides on a new strategy.
The next day he looks near the kitchen since that is where he would go if he were a dog, but again, no luck. He returns to the dog owner's room, but again, there is no answer.
On the third day, Peter visits the local pound. He demands a hair sample from all the light-colored dogs, explaining it is a matter of life or death. Peter agrees to wait until the veterinarian can be located.
He waits over an hour before a tall man wearing a blood-smeared surgical mask appears. The veterinarian motions for Peter to follow him to the parking lot. Despite recalling the fateful day when he met the distressed little girl and vowed to find Mr. Henderson, Peter is unable to convince the veterinarian to lend a sympathetic ear; as the veterinarian closes the parking lot gate, he says, "Peter--"
"Spider-Man," Peter corrects him.
"Okay, Spider-Man. Maybe these folks have already found their dog and have left."
"That did not occur to me," replies Peter. He surveys the veterinarian with suspicion. "But I'll be sure to look into that. You are obviously a very, very clever man." Peter chuckles as the veterinarian raises his eyebrows. This man is hiding something. Maybe he has Mr. Henderson.
Peter returns to his car, laughing hysterically. I will find Mr. Henderson. Oh yes, I will.
John Young has written non-fiction for The Chiron Review and fiction for Edifice Wrecked, FlashShot, Heavy Glow, Laughter Loaf, The Pedestal Magazine, and The Rivendell Gazette. He received a Special Honorable Mention in Byline Magazine's 2003 flash fiction contest, and won second place in Inkspotter Magazine's 2005 annual flash fiction contest.