Twelve Steps

by Marina Frants

"Hello, my name is the Bl... Oh, heck. I'm sorry. May I start again?"

"Of course you can. Take your time."

"Right. Uhm... Here goes. Hello, my name is Henry and I am a superhero. The Blue Streak is just the name I use for my... uh... alter ego. God, this is so embarrassing."

"Don't be ashamed to speak, Henry. Remember, we're here to help you. We've all been through what you're going through."

"Oh, I know. It's just that you all seem so... so... well adjusted."

"That's because we've learned from the program, Henry. We learned how to help ourselves. I wasn't always the balanced person you see before you. I used to exhibit all the classic symptoms of compulsive behavior -- always wearing my costume under my clothes, sleeping in it so that if something happened at night I could be there right away -- yes, Peter? You want to say something?"

"Yeah. I used to be afraid to take a shower, 'cause I was afraid there'd be a crime or something, and the crooks would get away before I could get dressed. And I wouldn't go to the beach or anything. And if I read about a bank robbery or something in the paper, even if it happened in another city, I'd feel so blasted guilty for not having been there--"

"Yes! I'm glad you brought that up, Peter. Guilt. That's what lies at the root of most of this type of compulsive behavior. You feel it, don't you, Henry?"

"Oh, yes."

"Tell us what it is. Was there some catastrophe in your past you feel you should've prevented? A close relative, perhaps, killed by vicious thugs when you were at an impressionable age?"

"Uhm... actually, it's more of a general guilt with me. I went to Catholic school, you see."

"Ah. Yes. That's almost as bad. But you can overcome it if you really try. Now, here's what I want you to do. Every night before you go to bed, say to yourself a hundred times, it's not my fault. It's not my fault."

"What's not my fault?"

"It doesn't matter. The cause of your guilt is not important, letting go of it is what's important. Remember that."

"Does it really work?"

"Only if you want it to, Henry. You can't just go through the motions. You must be determined to help yourself."

"Oh, I am. I really am. If you only knew how this is ruining my life..."

"Why don't you tell us about it?"

"Well ... just the other day, for example, I was going to my girlfriend's house for dinner, and this purse snatcher ran right by me. There were two policemen after him already, but of course I just had to duck into the nearest alley, strip down to my costume, and join the chase. And when I got back to the alley, my clothes were gone, and I had to go home and change again. I was over an hour late. Jane was just furious."

"Did you catch the purse snatcher?"

"Well, no. By the time I caught up, the policemen already had him."

"That brings up another important point. Why don't you tell what it is, Bruce?"

"The police can handle it."

"That's right. Now Henry, when you go to bed tonight, I want you to say to yourself a hundred times, it's not my job. It's not my job."

"All right. I'll work on it. It's not my fault... It's not my job... It's not my fault... It's not my job..."

"Not now, Henry. Wait until you're home tonight."


"That's all right. Well, this concludes today's SA meeting. See you all Monday. Until then, I want all of you who still wear your costumes under your clothes to practice going out in shorts and T-shirts. Good night. And thank you for sharing, Henry."

"Thank you, Clark."

This story is copyright © 1995 Marina Frants. It first appeared in Pulphouse #19.


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