It was a sunny, but cool early spring afternoon. Murray was sitting in his Bay Terrace apartment reading the Wall Street Journal and getting ready to do one of his favorite activities, laundry. Yes, he was laundry boy. He lived in his apartment complexes’ laundry room.
He couldn’t explain it, but washing clothes were therapeutic to him. Yes, it took time and cost money. Most things do. He went to the closet and grabbed his overfilled laundry basket, bleach, detergent and fabric softener. Of course, he had a big collection of quarters, another one of his favorite things. He hoped he could get three machines so he wouldn’t have to keep running back and forth waiting for people to empty their machine and move the wet clothes to the dryer. He liked getting it all done at once.
He hiked over to his home away from home. The door was shut and the lights were off. That was a good sign. A big smile was on his face as he turned on the lights and got to load his three favorite machines. He started them off and went back to his apartment to listen to music and surf the web.
With a big grin on his face, he strolled back to the laundry room. He tossed his towels and whites into the dryers and carried his t-shirts back to the apartment. Murray never dried his clothes. He was so afraid they’d shrink. So he hung them up all over the apartment, off the refrigerator, on the microwave, every doorknob had a t-shirt or pique polo dangling.
He was smiling every step of the way. Then all of a sudden his eyes were aghast. He saw bleach stains on some of his favorite concert and baseball tees. He knew he didn’t bleach them.
He hung them up and looked at his laundry basket and searched the closet he kept it in. He didn’t see any bleach.
His next step was to follow his usual pattern.
“Mommy, I have a question.”
“Don’t you always?”
“Yeah, but you always have all the answers.”
“I just did laundry and have bleach stains on several of my t-shirts. I know I didn’t put any bleach in the machine. I checked out the places I keep my laundry and there was no bleach. I store this potent liquid away from all clothes. I’m perplexed.”
“Aren’t you always. I don’t know what to tell you. But I will think of something.”
They hung up. Murray flipped on the YES Network and got ready for the Yankees to play the Mariners.
His mom immediately dialed her daughter, Dani. They were one in the same. They loved to make fun of Murray. They were on the phone 24/7 telling stories about him. He did do a lot of dumb things. Dani and her mom cracked up over his bleach story.
Dani lived in the same complex as Murray, as much fun as she made of him. She liked her brother to be nearby.
Several innings later, Murray was deep into the game. Thankfully, the Bronx Bombers were winning 5-2. Dani walked into his apartment without knocking with a smirk on her face.
“I hear there’s a problem with bleach.”
She then walked right into the closet where he kept his laundry, she looked at the cabinets where he stored the laundry detergent and other items used for cleaning. She was a little detective.
“I can’t find any bleach.”
She smiled and walked out.
He just sat there and watched Rivera close out the game.
The next two weeks nothing changed. He continued to do laundry and was attacked by the “Bleach Monster.”
He spent hours upon hours in his head going over his laundry process. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Then he went to the laundry room only to do whites. He loaded the machine with socks and undershirts. He poured some bleach. He was grinning. All of a sudden he dropped the container of bleach while it was still open. It spilled all over him.
He wrecked another outfit. But he started to twitch and he was making strange sounds. Murray wasn’t the tallest guy in the world. But all of a sudden he grew taller and his jet-black hair turned fire red.
His legs grew, out of his nostrils and hazel green eyes bleach spewed. Was Murray the bleach monster?
He was afraid to leave the laundry room. He wasn’t sure if he could walk back to his apartment. Would he make it? Would he hurt anyone? Would someone call the cops? Not knowing what to do he squished himself into the corner by the slop sink.
He was pale. But feeling strong. His head was spinning. But how could he expect it not to be spinning? His body was still shooting bleach from his nose, eyes and now his mouth started to. He tried to scream and bleach shot of out his mouth like lighting bolts.
He stood for hours by the slop sink. Strange enough, no one entered the laundry room. He thought he was going to cry. But knew he’d shed bleach, not tears.
All of a sudden, he turned back into himself. His clothes were bleach stained and he was dying of thirst. He raced back to his apartment and stripped out of his clothes and jumped into the shower. He was petrified that the water would turn into bleach. But low and behold it was water. He wrapped himself in a towel and ran into the bedroom and passed out in bed.
About three hours later he woke up and got dressed. He decided he’d skip doing laundry for a little while and maybe just drop off his clothes at the Laundromat. But he still had to figure out why he became a bleach monster.
He woke up the next morning and drove to the office. Everything seemed normal. He has his usual conversations-the Yankees, politics and music He hacked away at his job.
He went to the gym and went home. The next few days were more of the same. About a week later he was at work and really pissed off, nothing was going his way. He loved the place, but it was just not his day. One of the idiots from the marketing department annoyed him. He went outside, walked around a bit and had some junk food.
He got back to his desk and saw an obnoxious email from that guy who was bugging him. As luck would have it the bozo walked right by Murray. All of sudden, Murray’s eyes started shooting bleach at him. His hair turned fire-red again and out of his mouth lighting bolts of bleach attacked this chump.
People gathered around and didn’t know what to do. They were afraid to go near Murray. In their hearts, they were pleased to see this freak of nature writhe in pain. No one liked this guy, who was now rolling on the floor. But they were not sure what was happening to Murray?
He always told them he wasn’t from Earth. Some of them thought he was nuts. Most believed him. The nervous people went back to their desks and just sat there dumbfounded. Murray ran out of the office and went to his vehicle. He sat in it with the A/C pumped and chilled.
He put the car in drive and decided to go home. As he pulled out of the parking lot he was looking exactly as he always did. His head was spinning.
As he crossed the Driscoll Bridge he realized he really was a bleach monster. He wasn’t sure if he should see a doctor or tell anyone. He was afraid he’d be locked up in a government research lab for experiments. What fun.
He wanted to figure out how he could use his newfound powers for good. He needed to be able to channel them and use them at his command.
He wasn’t sure if he should go back to work. But he needed the money. So he hopped into his car and headed back. No one mentioned a word. The marketing jerk wasn’t in. That wasn’t unusual. He rarely showed. He was taken to the local hospital after the bleach incident. No one at the office bothered to see how he was doing. It was not like they cared.
Murray worked away and left around 6. On the ride home they way home he stopped at McDonald’s for a shake. While walking out of the Golden Arches he saw a group of crazy teens attacking an old man. The poor old codger was down on the ground and bleeding. The kids kept kicking him.
Murray raced over to the guy and asked him if he was ok. One of the teens kicked Murray. He jumped right up and all of a sudden he started shooting bleach out of his nose. The kicker was bleached. The other teens started running, but not before Murray nailed them with bleach. People were gathering around Murray and the old man. Murray shot out a few extra gallons of bleach at the obnoxious kids and ran out of the parking lot.
An ambulance arrived and took the old man to the hospital. The bleached kids were on the ground wheezing. A few other ambulances arrived and rushed them to the hospital. The police followed the ambulances and placed the kids under arrest while they were being treated in the ER.
Murray calmly walked back to the parking lot and everything was back to normal. Shoppers were going about their business in the shopping center’s stores. He went into the drug store, bought a bottle of water and jumped into his car and drove home.
He was pretty satisfied with his efforts. But he needed to learn how to use his new power without getting attacked first. Next time he sees someone getting hurt he wanted to stop it immediately. He had some research to do.
He needed to find his friend, Adam, a genius. He hadn’t heard from him in years. He knew more about superheroes than anyone. He Googled Adam Tilapia and found his email.
It took Adam, days to write back. But when he finally did, Murray got the answer. He thanked Adam and they promised to keep in touch.
Adam told him not to tell anyone else of his special powers. But he may have to tell Dani, since she may suspect something when she doesn’t see him in and out of the laundry room on a regular basis. Some people hung out in bars. Murray hung out in the laundry room.
He was only supposed to go there when he needed to recharge on bleach. Adam did ask him what his kryptonite would be. Murray wasn’t sure. But he had an idea. He needed to test it first. Murray would have to do more research with his friend, Adam.
For the next few weeks, Murray went about his business at work and lived his usual lifestyle. The only thing he did differently, was he had his laundry done.
He went to the Stadium and cheered his beloved Yankees. Skillfully, they beat Boston. Big Papi struck out four times and Manny stared at the ball he thought was a homer for so long that Johnny Damon nailed him at first after he grabbed it off the leftfield wall.
The next morning he was in the supermarket and chaos broke out. A deranged man with a gun was holding a group of people hostage in the dairy aisle. You could hear sirens blaring in the distance and people were rushing out of the store or hiding in other aisles.
Murray raced to the dairy aisle. To get there he had to run through the aisle that stocked bleach and other cleaners. He eyed the containers of bleach and stopped at the foot of the dairy aisle.
“You what are you doing? Get over there with the other people and keep your hands where I can see them,” shrieked the gunman.
Shots were fired into several gallon containers of milk.
“If anyone fails to obey they will be my next shot. You will see pools of blood, not milk.”
People were screaming. Little kids started to cry, as their moms held them.
He stared at Murray.
“You in the white t-shirt.”
Murray looked the gunman straight in the eyes and belted out, “Yes?”
“That shirt is gonna be pretty red if you keep staring at me like that.”
Murray started laughing like a hyena.
“I’m not concerned as I walked over to this aisle, I walked right passed the one that sells bleach. It’ll come out.”
The man made like he was going to pull the trigger. Murray opened his eyes as wide as he could. He sneezed next.
“Bless you and you sure will need your blessings.”
As the gunman cackled out his last words he was sprayed with bleach. It shot out of Murray’s nose. He was sneezing bleach aimed like a projectile into the gunman’s eyes and hitting him all over the face.
The gunman fell to the ground, Murray stood over him and bleached his whole body.
The police were pulling into the parking lot and the now relieved shoppers were cheering Murray on. Of course, he was figuring out how to run out of the supermarket before the cops waltzed in.
Murray had to act quickly. The gunman was down for the count. At this point, the cops and EMTs could handle him. He had to run. He was out of breath. He couldn’t let that hold him back.
People were moving their heads to stare at Murray and the gunman. Some were hurrying out of the store. Murray’s perfect vision caught everyone staring at the pools of bleach and he raced out of the dairy aisle.
Slowly he was turning back into his human form. He caught his breath and headed for the door. Several cops were running in. He walked right passed them toward his Altima.
He put the key in the ignition and drove away. He just kept driving. He had no idea where he was going. Eventually, he went home and logged on to the Net.
He was aghast when he saw a story about his little episode on his hometown newspaper’s Website. Jessica, an intern penned the story.
He immediately dialed Dani.
“Hey Dani, did you see the story about what went on in the supermarket that’s about a block from us?”
“Yeah, one of the interns was there picking up milk and saw the whole thing. She texted the story into the newsroom.”
“Interesting. Anyway, I’m about to light the grill wanna come over for a burger?”
“Sure, I will be there in about 15 minutes, what’s my side dish?”
Lighter fluid was poured on the coals and within seconds the flames were blazing. Billy Joel was cranking. Dani strolled in.
“Hey, Dani. So what’s with this Jessica girl? Have you taken her under your wing?”
“I talk to her. She’s a nice girl. Attends Rutgers. A junior I think. I was in the newsroom when she sent the copy in off her iPhone. She wasn’t able to get a photo. We would have loved that.”
“Did she say what he looked like?”
“Well, she said he was wearing jean shorts, a white tee, and sneakers. His hair was red and he was about 5’2 and slim.”
“Was that when he was shooting out the bleach or before?”
‘In action, she didn’t catch him before he turned into the bleach monster.”
“Oh well. Do you think more stories will be written or is this a freak thing?”
“It is definitely freaky. You seem so interested. Oh yeah, I forgot you have problems with bleach. You better be good, there’s a crazy bleach monster out there now.”
Dani was giggling so much that she got caught in a pickle. The coals were ready for Murray to toss the well-marinated burgers on the grill. He tossed them on and Dani tore open the chips. Billy was singing about Brenda and Eddie.
The two of them sat on chairs on the tiny terrace and watched the burgers while sipping Sierra Nevada.
Murray flipped the burgers and tossed the buns on. They needed to be nice and toasty.
They sat silently for a few minutes.
“So are you still having problems when you do your laundry?”
“No, I have it done now.”
“Well, it’s about time. At least you won’t spill bleach all over yourself any longer.”
“No, I don’t think I will.”
He took the burgers off the grill and they wolfed them down. Dani was itching to leave. Her theory was come, be fed and run.
“Well, the burgers were great. Do you actually have any ice cream? I know you are not one for that. But sometimes you surprise me.”
He smiled and walked away for a minute or two. Or much longer.
“Here,” he said as he handed her Nestle Crunch ice cream bar. She smiled. He opened his.
“Tell me more about Jessica.”
“Please don’t let this become one of your stupid things you bug me about. You’ve been better lately.“
“I’m the bleach monster.”
Dani almost fell into a pickle again. But for some reason, she picked herself up and stared at him.
“Yeah right, I know you spill bleach everywhere, even though you think you are so careful. But come on how can you be the bleach monster? You are a monster, but I don’t think you’re that one.”
“I am and you have to be on my side. You can’t let this become a story. We can do some cool things to help people if you keep the paper away.”
“Hmm, so Lois Lane or Peter Parker we aren’t. If you can convince me you are the bleach monster. I will work with you. But I could win an award for bringing you out.”
“Wouldn’t you rather see decent people get some help when they are in trouble?”
“Yes, but you have to prove you are the bleach monster and I’m on your side. Does this mean I have to spend more time with you?”
“Glad you love me so much.”
“I do, later. Time to go home. Good night, Bleach Monster.”
Murray was pleased. As much as Dani would tease him, he knew she’d do everything she could to help him. She is a great sister, but a strange one.
Murray mapped out his Sunday and jumped into bed.
A few days later, Murray and Dani were strolling along 8th Street and Astor Place. Murray got a haircut and Dani just hung around. She was in and out of Barnes & Noble, Benetton, and the Gap. She was lugging around a few bags.
All of a sudden a deranged guy was attacking some NYU students. At one time Dani was one of them. He was holding a knife to a young girl’s throat. Her friends were panic stricken.
Murray calmly walked over to scene.
“Why don’t you leave the poor girl alone?”
The man was drunk and higher than a kite. He snarled, as his made a cutting motion with the knife in the air and then moved it back to her throat.
“All of you think you are so artsy. My artwork will be slicing open your throat and watching your blood pour out all over your clothes.”
Murray couldn’t take it anymore. He felt himself burning up. Suddenly, bleach shot right out of his eyes splattering the man wielding the knife, which he dropped onto the sidewalk.
Bleach was now shooting out his of ears. The man was screaming and screaming. Murray stopped shooting bleach and caught the subway. Dani was just steps behind him.