All through his life, Eric had grown up listening to stories about a super hero. A boy-man with powers so destructive and a conscience so pure, that he wondered whether he would ever be able to fill his boots. He pondered whether he could ever emulate his hero’s selfless deeds of goodness and virtue.
Not that Eric ever really thought he could be like TG. Surely the stories he listened to simply existed in the imagination of his father. As it was, he had to pester him like hell to get a story in the first place. He nagged away until his father’s resistance ebbed and he realised it would be far easier simply to deliver another TG episode. TG and his loyal side-kick Max. What a combination.
Yet Eric did see some of himself in the super hero. Something of himself in his father the storyteller as well he supposed. Looking back now he saw evidence of the same taciturn manner in his moods; some of the same dark Irish blood which occasionally clouded his outlook.
TG stood for Toxic Gas, a perfectly legitimate super power for a young boy’s super hero. TG foiled international terrorist plots and many other heinous crimes simply by emitting this toxic gas at the appropriate time. The gas caused instant death and its indiscriminate nature meant any hostages and captives had to be protected from the fumes with a special invisible mask. This was where Max came in – he had to make sure that there were no unintended victims of TG’s emissions by secretly distributing these magic masks. Their deeds were high risk but their combined skills prevailed every time.
TG had a relatively simple life Eric observed, able to live a life of crime stopper and hero, ever ready and at the behest of any local or foreign government. Yet he didn’t know how TG actually lived his life as the stories were action packed vignettes of his most famous and daring assignments. Eric remembered the time when TG and Max saved the bus full of hostages and the other time when TG inflated a make shift balloon with his gas to allow a surprise attack on some roof top terrorists.
Eric wondered sometimes whether TG ever tired of the banality of life as he waited, maybe impatiently for his next adventure. Did he get moody and dark tempered between gigs? Did he kick the ground in disgust when his mother asked him to “get the blower onto those bloody footpaths” after Dad had just inundated them with grass clippings from the turbo charged ride-on mower?
Did he have to put up with all that senseless homework and trumpet practice when he knew that at any minute he might be called upon to save the travelling ruddberry or big barry obama from another ill-conceived and doomed terrorist plot?
These were the issues about TG’s gloriously fictitious life that plagued Eric in the long hiatus between stories.
“Come on Dad, you owe me a TG story” Eric would plead with his father at bedtime.
“Mate, I’m too tired to come up with a TG story tonight” he would impine through his shiraz breath, “maybe tomorrow night”.
“Dad please, you said you would last night”.
And so the game would begin; Eric goading and his father weakening.
“rightio boofhead, lie down and don’t get up”.
They’d lie together in the dark of Eric’s boyhood room and he would wait for a few minutes for the story to coalesce inside his father’s mind. Eric didn’t know at the time but it seems now that the stories were adaptations of recent tragic world events made child proof and safe by TG and Max’s magnificent interwoven inclusion. Eric wondered later if this story telling technique was just simple poetic licence or a deeper insight into a man who never really understood the truly arch side of human nature.
Anyway the stories stopped. Eric’s parents had a massive blue and he was packed off with his mother to stay near her family down south. He didn’t know what happened that day, but he suspected it was something to do with his father’s habit of covering those paths in grass clippings..
Now it was Eric’s turn to nag his mother. Not with the usual “What’s for Dinner”, “What can I eat, there’s nothing in the fridge” or “can we stop at Macdonalds for an icecream?” type nagging. It was a new nag; “when can I go and see Dad”? Eric was missing his father dreadfully. He missed the football in the back yard and he missed the pottering in the shed. He missed his father’s strong hugs and the silence and scent of those lie downs before sleep. He missed his TG stories and he was very sad.
Years later Eric visited his old family home. Family, so much for that. He drove past the long road frontage and over the causeway. He could see parts of the back yard and noticed that the tree they used to kick conversions over had grown into a monster.
They told him that his Dad had died in a car accident a few months after the split. It turned out he had died in a car but it wasn’t an accident. How Eric had beaten himself over that all his life. He would have licked the fucking paths clean if he had to, he would have done anything he could have to keep the family together. If only.. If only he had had the chance to save his Dad. He parked the car across the road from the house in front of the garage. He stared at the faded roller door and imagined what could have happened if TG and Max had been around on that desperate and sorrowful day.
Eric’s mind wandered to the creek near the house. TG and Max were mucking around near the culvert when they heard dad’s car start.
“I wonder where he’s off to” thought Max but he quickly rejoined TG in the all important dam construction. After a short time however, Dad’s car had still not emerged from the garage and Max became curious.
“Bugger the dam TG, let’s go up to the house and see what’s going on”. They sprinted up the hill to the garage and TG threw up the roller door.
Max and TG looked in horror and disbelief at the scene that greeted them from the front seat of the idling car. Dad was slumped forward in the driver’s seat and a vacuum cleaner hose was wedged into the back passenger window.
“Quick TG, do something!” Max screamed at his superhero mate.
But TG was just standing there; drop jawed with a strange resigned look on his face.
“Max, you know my strength is doing gas not dealing with gas” but TG was already running towards the car as he finished the sentence. He opened the car door and Max heard him coughing as he located the key and turned the car and its deadly stream of emission off. He grabbed the body by the shirt and pulled it out of the seat and through the door. They collapsed in a grotesque heap together just outside the car.
The ambulance came and the two lifeless bodies were attended to by a team of frantic medics.
“The kids gone” i heard one of them mutter to his partner “but i think the old bloke will be ok”.
TG was dead. A superhero who had made a habit of saving the world by emitting poisonous gas had been killed by a toxic gas not of his own creation. He knew this was his Kryptonite, his Achilles heel yet he also knew it was his duty to attempt one more rescue.
After all thought Eric, It was his Dad who had created TG in the first place and who had devised his myriad of unlikely yet excitingly humorous adventures.
Eric sat in the car and smiled ruefully at the old home in front of him. Yes, that is how he would have told the last TG story. I would have saved you Dad he thought; we would have lived happily ever after; you, me and TG.