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the encapsulator
a day in the life of a minor superhero
by tim lockwood

I arrive at the Hall of Superheroes at my usual time, 7:20 am, and punch in my door code. The secret-alloy door slides open, and I walk through just in time to catch Batman and Robin apparently having a heated argument in the lobby. They have been having quite a few arguments lately, and I am of the opinion that they should probably take a week or two off. Gotham City isn't going anywhere, and for heaven's sake, we have the Bat Signal if we really need them. But you can't tell the major superheroes anything. Bunch of prima donnas -- let them save the world one time, and they think they're bigshots who don't have to listen to anyone. You don't even want to get me started on Superman. Jerk.

I make my way over to the elevator and punch the down arrow. My office is down in the basement, next to the janitor's closet. Not exactly prime real estate, but I'm just a ways down the corridor from the cafeteria, which is pretty handy when I need a caffeine fix to start my day, like I do on this particular day. I grab a coffee and make small talk with Millie, the cafeteria lady. Ordinarily I'd sit in there for a while and read the paper just to orient myself for the day, but speak of the devil -- Superman and Wonder Woman are having a cozy little breakfast and they're giving me the evil eye. Those two are doing each other after hours and they think nobody knows. Hah! Fat lot they know. You ought to hear some of the kinky things they supposedly do with the Golden Rope of Truth.

I go into my office and log on to check my e-mail. I'm the only one there -- my assistant, Freddie, the one I share with Aquaman, doesn't come in for another half hour yet -- so it's nice and peaceful. Scanning the e-mail, I notice there are no emergencies yet this morning. It's a Monday, so that's not a surprise.

I wander down the hall to see if Aquaman is here yet. Aquaman is pretty cool, actually. Sure he's technically one of the major superheroes, but he doesn't act like it. He is entitled to one of the cool offices up on three, but he keeps his office down here instead. It makes sense -- the pool is down here, and Aquaman is nothing if not a swimming fanatic. He's the only one of the major superheroes who takes his work seriously, and still manages not to let it go to his head. No light coming from under his office door. He was probably the on-call superhero this past weekend, so he'll be out the whole day.

I get back to my office just in time to hear my computer's superhero e-mail alert go off. It's a letter from a woman who is trapped in an Instant Message conversation with her best friend. She says they've been talking for seventeen hours straight about her best friend's stupid boyfriend and there's no end in sight, and she really has to go to the bathroom. Can I help?

Of course I can -- this, after all, is a job for the Encapsulator (with the supernatural ability to cut through conversations, slice through syllogisms, to vanquish the verbose, to reduce the redundant, to simplify and summarize, disguised as a mild mannered yadda yadda American way, cue theme music, etc. ad nauseam) -- but she needs to send me a transcript of the conversation quickly. Because they have been talking so long, it takes a few minutes for her to copy and paste it into an e-mail. Thanks to my superhero powers, though, I am able to scan all seventeen hours worth of conversation directly into my brain, where I can instantaneously process it all.

As fast as I can, I type back to her:

"Follow my instructions closely! Copy and paste the following message into your Instant Messenger and sign off as soon as you send it! 'What it all boils down to is, Nick is an ignorant self-serving Neanderthal moron who would rather watch football, scratch himself, eat Cheetos and drink Blatz than do anything meaningful with his life, and you deserve much better than him because he will never commit to anything longer term than an episode of Lost in Space. Gotta run!'"

A couple minutes later I get a message back from her:

"Thank you! You may not have solved her problem, but you sure solved mine. I really had to go bad!" I sent back the usual "you're welcome" form e-mail -- very rarely do I solve problems, actually, I just summarize them; so I had to alter the e-mail a little before I sent it.

Just as I hit the send button, Freddie walks in the door. "Hey boss. What do you suppose Superman and Wonder Woman are giggling about?" Freddie asks. "I heard them as I went past the cafeteria." We've already had our big superhero emergency for the day, so what the heck. Freddie and I go stand by the cafeteria door to listen in ...


My life is an open book. A comic book, about a superhero with the amazing ability to make his nose hair grow. Oh, and someone's torn out the order form for the $2.99 X-ray specs.

more about tim lockwood


the encapsulator, part two
the day continues ...
by tim lockwood
topic: humor
published: 9.9.00


adam kraemer
7.10.00 @ 10:38a

I really liked this. Not to nit-pick (actually, that's not true - to nit-pick), where else would you scan the conversation into, if not your brain?

tim lockwood
8.18.00 @ 2:02a

Interesting question. The way some people listen, though, I think perhaps they scan it into their colon, hence the need for an Encapsulator. But that is a rant for another time.

Seriously, although I didn't specify it in the story, I tend to think that the Encapsulator has, perhaps, a USB or SCSI port in the side of his head (or maybe just behind his left ear) which allows him to bypass the usual process of reading something and go straight to the motherboard of his brain. Sort of an organic TWAIN device, you might say.

I might write another story with these characters to clarify this and any other points, if I get enough nice feedback (hint, hint).

adam kraemer
8.18.00 @ 10:03a

I wonder what the record is for longest Internet Messenger conversation.

juli mccarthy
8.18.00 @ 12:34p

27 hours. Don't ask me why I know this.

adam kraemer
8.21.00 @ 9:34a

I don't think I will.

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