Here he comes, bounding down Raleigh Street with Kentucky-style bourbon clutched in one hand and a box of Dots candy stretched over the other, nearly splitting at the folds.
His face is hidden behind a black mask, but his big, bloodshot eyes and gleeful, tooth-decay-ridden smile are proof that he is no imposter. His aerodynamic fiberglass helmet has one letter spray-painted on each side: M.
Inside his trademark skin-tight, mint-green suit, his undershorts have slid down and clumped up at crotch level. Every stride he takes stretches the waistband further and further.
On the chest of his suit is a plastic horn of plenty. Fake pears, bananas and other fruits bounce gently off his round stomach as he slowly trots toward the scene, sweating profusely and hacking up phlegm-wads layered with bits of sunflower seeds.
"It's a bum!"
"It's an escaped mental case!"
Nope. It's Mintman.
Little Billy was on his way home from school when he decided to take a shortcut through a secluded back alley. What he didn't know was that three bullies from school had followed him.
One of the boys rushed Billy from behind and pushed him to the ground. The others began stomping on him and pelting him with crab apples and taconite pellets. Then they spat on him and ran away laughing.
Billy was curled up on the gravel road, bloody and teary-eyed, when, like a rampaging moose on Quaaludes, our hero staggered onto the scene. A sandwich popped out of his belt and fell apart on his feet as he exclaimed, "This looks like a job for -- Mintman!"
"Go get them, Mintman!" little Billy shouted, pointing in the direction of the bullies' escape. "They beat me up and spit on me!"
"I know," Mintman confessed. "I watched from behind the bushes over there. Those kids were scary."
"But you're a grown man!" Billy shouted.
"There were three of them," Mintman explained. "I didn't want my suit to get torn. Do you know how hard it is to find a skin-tight mint-green superhero suit? It's not easy, I'll tell you that.
"You should probably have that thing laundered," little Billy said, wiping the tears from his eyes. "You smell like hot garbage."
Paul Lundgren is a mild-mannered newspaper columnist and a very nice man. His e-mail address is paul [at] geekprom.com.