The Super Normal Dilemma of Ned Jackson

June 15, 2008
By Ari Decter-Frain, Winnipeg, ZZ

Ned Jackson was a very special man. Being special was a new thing to him, and he didn’t quite have it down pat yet. Two months into this new thing, things were looking grim. He lived in a small apartment on Kennedy St. in downtown Winnipeg. Every day on the way to work he would open the door to his apartment building without touching it.
A little more than two months before, Ned was approached by a scientist who called himself Dr. Polanco. Ned was told he would be paid ten dollars to participate in a military study of the effects of a substance that had rendered interesting results in animal testing. Dr. Polanco said he could not specify these results. This made Ned suspicious, but he needed the money. Ned was poor because he had a hard time keeping a job.
He went with Dr. Polanco to a small military research hospital in an abandoned military base near Winnipeg. There, several men introduced themselves to him claiming to be high ranking government officials. Dr. Polanco took him into a small room and injected him with a pink liquid while the government officials watched him from behind a window. Then the doctor took Ned into a smaller room where he sat alone.
An hour later, another doctor came in and gave him a physical. The doctor checked his urine, his ears, and his eyes. He looked like he expected to find something surprising. When he found nothing, he called for a couple of men in black suits to take Ned away. They threw him into the street without paying him.
Some weeks afterwards Ned noticed objects near him moving without being touched. Then he began to understand that he was moving them. Then he figured out how to control where things moved. He realized he had the potential to become a super hero. But to do that, he would have to get a secret identity. He decided the first step to a secret identity would be to get a legitimate job. Ned had never kept a job for very long before, but he figured his super powers would be the key to long term employment.
* * *
Ned got a job with a construction company. He and his coworkers were working on the new Manitoba Hydro building that was being built on Portage Ave. It was in the foundation stage and they were just putting the big metal beams into place. It was about two-o’clock on the Monday of the May long weekend. Ned was purposefully slow in his work so his fellow construction workers would go for lunch and leave him alone to think about a plan that he had been hatching since he’d got the job. He continued to think while he twisted on a bolt. He stood up and took a swig from his water bottle.
He put his screwdriver and water bottle into his backpack and went to stand on a wood board that lay flat on the ground twenty feet from the nearest beams. Ned lifted his arms over his head. Palms open, flexing all of his hand muscles. As he raised his hands one of the beams that was in a pile of construction materials at the far side of the steel frame rose into the air. The beam continued until it was as high as the structure. Ned twisted his hands in a complex set of movements and the beam swerved around in mid-air. He dropped his hands and the beam gently fell into place. He raised his hands again and hundreds of nuts and bolts flew into the sky. Ned moved his hands so they pointed at one side of the beam. He twisted his hands in an even more complicated formation and half of the nuts and bolts slipped into their correct places. Then he moved his hands to the other side of the beam and repeated the same motion and the other half of the nuts and bolts flew into place.
Ned repeated the process five times. But as he began to place the sixth beam, two cars smashed into each other below the Portage Avenue. (One of the drivers had been distracted by the sight of the floating beam.) Startled, Ned jumped and the beam flew up into the air. He quickly tried to make the beam face the right direction so it would fall into place, but he couldn’t manage it. The beam came crashing down through the structure, taking every other beam with it.
Ned walked away, dejected. He never went back.
* * *
Ned’s next job was in the filing department of P & J’s Fabrics. The job was simple enough. He filed papers all day. The blue papers went to the cotton department; the pink went to polyester, and the yellow to silk. There were hundreds of folders in colors matching the papers, which needed to be filled and transported to the correct department by way of wagons. It was a crazy and confusing way of organizing things, since the department never knew which folder to look for specific information in. For example, if someone in silk needed to see how much it would cost to ship one ton of silk to Europe, they would have to look in every folder that was yellow until they found the page with the pricing formula.
To add to the insanity, Ned was an especially slow filer. He kept the fact that he was over a thousand papers behind from his boss, Mr. Hamlin.
It was five thirty and Mr. Hamlin was just leaving. All of the late stragglers were getting ready to go too. Ned got up and went to the bathroom. He passed Mr. Hamlin on the way.
“Ned I’ve been getting complaints from some of the fabrics people about slow filing. I don’t know which of you filers is responsible, but I suggest whoever’s slacking off pick it up a notch. Or else I’ll rearrange the whole system. And there won’t be a filing department in the new arrangement.”
Well that was it. Ned knew what he had to do.
“You’ll let them know Ned.”
“Oh… umm… I’ll make sure of it, Mr. Hamlin.” Ned went into the bathroom.
When he came out, everyone was gone. He quickly went to work. He set up rows of empty color coordinated folders. Then he put the papers into small piles of twenty five all over the cubicle. He sat up straight in his chair and started to move the papers with his mind. They whooshed all around the cubicle. Never touching a wall. Never going off path. Rubbing together lightly as they passed each other. First, they all flew so that they were piled by color. Three massive piles. Next he moved the piles into their respective folders.
He was two thirds of the way done when he looked at his watch. He only had taken fifteen minutes! He got excited and sped up the movement of the papers… He sped them up a little more… They were going so fast he couldn’t even see them! Suddenly Ned smelled smoke. He looked around to see what was burning. It was the papers. The friction created by rubbing against each other at such a high speed had caused them to catch fire. Ned lost his concentration. One of the papers flew into the wall. The wall caught fire. Ned moved a rug that had been sitting on the floor in the cubicle next to his over to the wall and tried to smother the fire with it. The rug caught fire. He let it fall and grabbed the fire extinguisher. He put out the rug with it and aimed it at the wall. It was out of foam.
Ned ran for the stairs.
* * *
Ned’s next job was as a valet parker for a fancy restaurant. The job was repetitive. Parking peoples cars for them over and over. He rarely found himself tempted to use his powers.
“Can I park your car sir?” Ned asked the handsome man in the tuxedo who was with a very attractive woman in the expensive looking dress who was about to go into the restaurant.
The man threw him the keys without saying anything and walked away.
“Would you like indoor or outdoor…” The couple was already inside. It was raining that night, and Ned was in a bitter mood. Who better to take it out on than an ignorant customer? Ned was definitely putting his car on the roofless top floor of the parking garage. With luck, the car would rust.
Ned got into the car, grumbling as he drove it around the corner to the parking garage. It was six floors high, with two more floors underground.
He drove up to the booth where non-customers paid, and waived his pass at the man inside. The gate swung open and Ned drove up all the floors to sixth. Rain clattered on the roof of the car as he drove it out of the shelter.
Ned decided to be positive about things. This job wasn’t so bad. He got to meet the great Chef Consuré, who cooked in Bellisimo. Consuré seemed to have two obsessions in life. Cooking, and collecting fancy cars.
Ned began looking for a parking spot. As he came around the first corner he saw an awning had been set up over Consurés car collection. Porches, Austin Martins, Ferraris, BMWs, there were several of each. At the end of the row, there was one Lamborghini. Only half of it was under the awning. The other half stuck out and took up half of the only unoccupied spot on the floor.
Ned looked from the Lamborghini, to the half of a spot, to the rest of the parking lot, in a last ditch effort to find another spot. No spots. Then, he began to raise his hands. The Lamborghini lifted an inch off the ground. He began to slowly move it under the awning, out of the parking spot.
Ned casually flicked the car under the awning as he lowered it. It landed in a puddle of oil and skidded into the BMW beside it. Both the cars alarms went off. Ned was startled, and lurched, accidentally smashed the Lamborghini into the other cars, knocking them through the barrier at the edge of the roof, and over, falling with a loud crunching crash into the alley beside the restaurant.
From where he was sitting in the Rolls Royce Ned heard the sound of an explosion. A car door flew up into view and then plummeted down again. Ned heard people yelling below. He ran to the edge of the parking garage and was relieved to see the explosion had not reached the restaurant. He turned and ran down the stairs and out of the parking garage.
When he got home, he turned on his radio.
“Well Jane, I’m standing in front of the Bellisimo restaurant, where moments ago, Chef Consurés entire collection of cars toppled off the roof of a nearby parking garage, and into the alley in between the restaurant and the parking garage.” Ned turned away and went to his bedroom to try and sleep.
* * *
The next day Ned opened the small mailbox outside his apartment door. Inside it there were some bills and a newspaper. Ned threw the bills into a stack of other unpaid bills. Then he tossed the paper onto his kitchen table and sat down.
He grimaced and looked at the paper. He skipped over an article about the Belissimo and looked at the bottom of the page. The headline read “Cause of Hydro Building Disaster Determined: Crane Malfunction.” On the side of the front page the headline read “Blazing Office Fire Destroys all of Company’s Fabrics.”
Ned flipped to the want adds. He just wanted to give up. There was no way he could keep a job. He had super powers and he couldn’t keep a job for goodness sake. He thought about this for a moment.
A flash of green caught his eye as he flipped through the pages. He stopped to look at it. It was an advertisement for a community college. Ned read the slogan and smiled. “Get the skills you need to succeed!” Under that it said “Apply at 1021 Waverley St.”
Then his eyes started to sparkle. Super powers were for being super. So for a normal job, he would have to have normal powers, normal skills! He thought about all his years of joblessness. That had been the problem all along. Even before he had super powers. He had no normal skills!
But I can learn, he thought, I can learn!
Ned Jumped up. He was more excited than he had been in months. He ran out of the apartment. The elevator took to long so he took the stairs. Just as he was about to open the front door to the apartment building using his telepathic powers, he stopped. He smiled, reached out, and grabbed the knob with his hand. He twisted, and pushed, and walked out the door.

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