By Lia Hudgins
The sky over the open stadium is so bright, and so constantly, incessantly blue, it makes the Spinach lad wince every time he glances up to one of the projector screens. Blue is just the halfway-point to green; with a little yellow added, the perfect shade could be easily achieved. The sky should be green instead, he thinks.
The sun is far too hot against olive-tinted skin, so he turns away from the rich grasses of the field below and shifts back a few steps, further into the shade. Summer was such a poor time for baseball season… July. It was sweltering and he wasn’t even in the open stands below, where he could hear the roaring of the hundreds packed into them. No, he needed to stay up here, under the covered areas provided for food vendors (which, considering his mission, was all too convenient). Too much sun would ruin his master plan. Greens left out in the heat would wither and shrivel up into nothing, and all of the nights he’d spent awake waiting, planning… canning, would be worthless. Spinach Boy would have to stay out of the sun, if he was going to make any real difference here and convert people from the horrors of hot dog consumption at these wretched games of theirs.
He leans against the counter of a currently abandoned sports bar, watching, waiting for a break in the game. An inning change, or maybe even an injury. Something that would get people to come up in search of food. Settled across from a hot dog kiosk, he can see the greasy meat sticks rotating in their little hot dog rotisserie. That damned Hot Dog Man and his cruddy influence. Spinach Boy’s hands twitched, itching to throw the nasty things away, but he had to be patient so that patrons of the game, when they did come up, would not suspect his intervention prematurely. He rubbed his hands against his unbuttoned jersey. It was just another way to look inconspicuous, and it was green of course, forest green, with his initials in lime right over his heart. S.B
The inning changes. Spinach Boy knows because the recently returned bartender starts whooping and hollering behind him, and there’s a set of speakers right next to his ear on the other side that are blaring some upbeat organ tune he would’ve expected to hear in A League of Their Own, or something. It must be bottom of the 5th by now. He glanced up and over, watching a pair of announcers trade a few crisp bills in their booth. If they were betting, they must be at the halfway point or past it by now.
The time is upon him. Spinach Boy jogs past the bar, until he can hover by the stairways where he’s planted his spinach-colored backpack. Just as he predicted, fans of the game begin making their way up to the food bars, the crowd growing larger and louder with each second. He twists a strand of dark hair between his fingers before shoving it back under his cap, snaps his fingers, anything to pass these last crucial moments of waiting for targets to appear. He dips into the bag and straps his spinach blasters to his forearms. Then he shoves two spinach pistols into the loops of his jeans. The weight is comfortable and the metal is cold. It’s soothing to his sweaty skin, like a mini-reward for having to wait out here so long in this heat.
The trigger test goes smoothly, and Spinach Boy, unnoticed and uncared about because of his normal-looking garb, turns to the crowd currently cramming themselves in kiosk lines. Today. Today Hot Dog Man would pay for what he’d done to the world.
To his left, a boy no older than 12 or maybe 13 has approached the hot dog kiosk, arms extended to take a charred hot dog from the greasy hands of the vendor. The moment it brushes his fingers, Spinach Boy jerks his left arm up and aims, the targeting mechanism for the blaster locking on smoothly. His technology had improved since his last test run, it seemed. The child brings the hot dog to his mouth, and he shoots.
TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME
The sound is quieter than he expected. With the surrounding area as packed as it was, even Spinach Boy could barely hear the spinach blaster charging up and delivering a spinach ball, and it was attached to his arm. No matter. The limb sank back down to his side, with the spinach blaster having done what it needed to do. The hot dog, now separated from the bun, lay on the floor, beside the shocked pre-teen now holding a wet ball of spinach. He turned his head to the spinach offender, clearly confused if not a little hurt, but to Spinach Boy, this was merely another opportunity. He yanked a spinach pistol out of his belt loop, took a short moment to aim, and shot three tiny spinach blasts at the kid. They landed perfectly in his open mouth.
On the one hand, Spinach Boy had done it. He’d successfully carried out the first challenge of his mission. On the other hand, the kid’s parents looked pissed, and his father looked about ready to start swinging. Spinach Boy was decently tall, but he was also quite lanky from all the spinach, so fisticuffs were not an option. Spinach always solved his problems though, and he simply aimed the pistol at the man currently storming towards him and fired three spinach rounds into him, the same way he had with his son. His wife, still next to the boy, screams. Spinach Boy doesn’t know why she does that, because it’s not like he killed anyone. He didn’t even hurt anyone, but her scream alerts the surrounding crowd. Every pair of eyes is on him, on his spinach blasters. A couple of others are starting to get worked up. At this rate, they’re going to panic.
There went the easy route, but the show must go on.
GO TEAM GO
Spinach Boy runs.
He turns away from the small family he’d bestowed his green blessing upon, launching spinach balls in front of him to knock the people blocking his way aside. They’re just a bit too close-range to be painless,but if it hurts a little bit from the force, so be it. Instead of hot dogs, burgers, things covered in cheese, alcohol, and any fried foods they could come up with here, the game’s patrons had mouthfuls of Spinach so long as he aimed right (and he did have a good aim, he was only rarely missing the mouth). Eventually, the sea of food hungry citizens parts for him in an effort to get away. It’s a panic. These upper floors of the stadium are a madhouse right now, but as Spinach Boy sprints through them, firing spinach rounds at those closest to him, he can only think that these are his goals being met right before his eyes. Green everywhere. Spinach in the mouth of everyone he gets near, whether by blaster or pistol. And no hot dogs. He bets that not a single person here is thinking of hot dogs, only spinach. Hot Dog Man will get no profit off this game. With no profit to fund the hot dog industry, there would be no hot dogs. No more mechanically separated meat sticks. The people would see in time the true benefit to Spinach Boy’s plan.
“Vitamin E, people!” he yells, blasting Spinach in every direction, eyes scanning for someone who isn’t currently adjusting to the Spinach servings. They’re all trying to spit it out right now, but that’s to be expected. Spinach doesn’t taste good at first, maybe, but it has benefits which far outweigh the matter of taste. They’ll see that in time, he’s sure. “Magnesium!”
Spinach Boy rounds on the hot dog kiosk. Taking out the vendors ensures no one can eat what’s inside, so, if he knocked the hot dogs to the floor just as he had with that boy earlier, it would be that much easier to convert people to Spinach appreciation instead. “Let’s see your hot dogs give you that!” He raises both blasters, “I’m doing you a FAVOR!” and shoots rapid fire spinach balls into the rotisserie. The fifth ball of cold, wet spinach knocks it over, and it shatters into pieces on the concrete in front of him. Here, Spinach Boy pauses. He hadn’t meant to break the rotisserie, honestly, he thought it was clear plastic.
“Stop right there, Spinach Boy!”
He rounds to face his competitor, a big, burly man in his 20’s at least, with thick yellow hair and muscles three times the size of his own.
“Hot Dog Man.”
“How did I know I’d find you here?” he asked, hands resting calmly on his hips, displaying his hot dog blasters. They’re similar technology to his own, after all, from when he and Hot Dog Man were friends back in the day. Behind him, half of the crowd is rejoicing and the other half is too busy running away to celebrate the “hero’s” arrival. “At the biggest game this season. Spreading this Spinach crap again?”
“I see you’re still lying to people about what’s really good for them.” Spinach Boy hastily dodges the question.
“I never lied to anyone.” the blond smirks, shaking his head and stepping closer. Spinach Boy doesn’t know why, they’re the only ones paying attention to each other. The crowd behind is still too busy spitting out Spinach. “I never said hot dogs were good for anyone.”
“You’re a lying bigot.” Spinach Boy reached for the buttons on his blaster. Now was his chance to set Hot Dog Man straight. Once and for all. “You don’t eat hot dogs.”
“I don’t.” Hot Dog Man snorts, “I didn’t get these muscles with hot dogs.”
“Well at least I actually eat what I’m preaching to the people.” said Spinach Boy, powering up his blaster.
“Yes, and that’s why you’re too lanky to fight me for real. Hot dogs are better in the long run. You’d be better received if you switched and started working with me.”
“You’re poisoning them!” It was so patronizing. Spinach Boy might still be a teenager, but he would not be treated like a child. He couldn’t take it any longer. “I’m trying to HELP people!”
“Then-” As Spinach Boy raised his spinach blaster and fired, Hot Dog Man raised his own blaster and returned a hot dog, the greasiest of fabricated, mechanically separated meat sticks. “Let’s see what the people think of their grand hero, shall we?”
It landed in his mouth, and it took so much effort not to throw up after he’d spit it out. He fell back, right into the rotisserie shards, sputtering for a breath that didn’t taste like lukewarm sausage. The crowd started cheering. It hurt, worse than the close-range hot dog blast.
Hot Dog Man was looming over him now. “Last I checked, Spinach Boy, a kingdom only celebrates when the villain falls.”
“I’m not! I’m trying to help them.”
“There’s no helping them.” Hot Dog Man chuckled and straightened up, turning away and beginning to fire hot dogs into the spinach-afflicted crowd. “Might as well make some money and get some praise while I do it, instead of hovering at a baseball game. Come on man… no one was ever gonna eat spinach at a baseball game.”
“Yes.” Hot Dog Man knocked the spinach pistol out of the Spinach Boy’s hand and pressed a bunless hot dog into them instead. He continued firing into the crowd, though now that he faced Spinach Boy, he looked more somber. Reflective, perhaps. “Take this.”
“I just- I just wanted to help them.”
“I know.” Hot Dog Man pulled the brim of his cap down, then pushed the hotdog towards his mouth. “I’m sorry, Spinach Boy. It’s easier this way.”