Curse of Arachnaman follows the events in the first three books in the Masks series. Eric is settling down into a near-normal existence. He’s learning to cope with a different kind of closet -- being kept from talking freely about his relationship with Calais and the other superheroes -- as well as an increasingly protective mother, his sister’s new squeaky-clean boyfriend, and a bingo-obsessed best friend.
Eric also learns that, sometimes, being an asset to the forces of good means simply being himself. In the meantime, Vintage City is under siege from a new threat, one which is proving to be much more dangerous than all of the other supervillains the heroes have faced combined. Good people find themselves at the mercy of an angry lunatic who will stop at nothing to purge the city of what he sees to be undesirable elements.
Anyway, with Dad taking in every newspaper that could be had, I now had to dump the garbage and haul out his recycling pile on top of that. Wouldn’t this be a blatant violation of child labor laws?
Dad tried hard to keep up with supervillain shenanigans, and so far, with pile after pile of well-read and discarded papers to his name, he still didn’t have a clue as to the new Bad Guy’s identity.
“Well, he’s definitely better than the Trill in messing around with people’s minds,” Liz said at that night’s dinner. “Then again, that’s how it is with these supervillains. They get more and more sophisticated in their methods.”
“Unless you’re talking about the Deathtrap Debutantes,” I said, and we both rolled our eyes and giggled. Yeah, that was one of those rare bonding moments I got to enjoy with my sister. Be totally catty and abusive toward other girls. I think there’s something in estrogen that makes women behave like that toward other women, and we gay guys get to enjoy the snarky ride all the way.
“Yeah, no kidding. Dangle some bling from the darkest corner of the sewers, and they’ll be there, clawing away at sludge to get to the so-called treasure.”
Mom didn’t want to hear about the gritty stuff. She made a face and said, “Okay, that’s enough of that. We’re eating.” She also didn’t spare her maternal energy. “Eric, I know what you’re doing with your meatloaf. Stop that, or so help me, I’ll make you cook the stuff next time.”
“I wish we had a dog,” I grumbled. I was trying to spirit away chunks of my food when Mom wasn’t looking, using my napkin to collect them in a greasy, soggy pile for disposal later. Apparently she was looking because mothers are born with eyes in the back of their heads. Yeah, a dog would’ve helped me a lot.
I hated meatloaf. It was like something that Satan pooped out after an eternity of constipation. So I told Mom because I was honest that way. I sat back, squared my shoulders, and met her eyes, all confident-like.
“Mom, meatloaf’s like something that Satan pooped out after an eternity of constipation. It should be outlawed, frankly, and serving it for dinner is like child abuse and should carry with it some pretty stiff penalties.”
Liz stared at me. She even raised her glass in a toast. “That’s a good one. I’m impressed.”
Apparently honesty was a virtue that wasn’t really valued highly in the Plath household because Mom made me eat the rest of the stuff right out of the loaf pan as punishment. Good thing Dad pretty much scarfed the whole thing down, and I was left with maybe three slices of Satan’s eternal Lincoln log. No, it didn’t make the ordeal any better, but at least it was shorter.
“Any news on the Puppet or the Debutantes, Dad?” Liz asked.
“Nothing on the Puppet so far. I have a feeling he’s lying low after getting all his killer dolls blown to bits by the Trill.” Dad sounded so official whenever he updated us on the goings on of Vintage City’s more famous residents. I always wondered if he fancied himself a newsman or reporter of some kind, which would really work with my associating Dad with Les Nessman, given his appearance and slightly nervous energy.
“I wonder where he gets the money for all those things,” I said after washing down the nastiness of meatloaf with five glasses of water. Mom didn’t even bat an eyelash when I looked at her and sulked. “I’m going to run away, and then you’ll be sorry.”
“Don’t be a drama queen, Eric,” she said, blowing at the steam wafting from her coffee mug. Well, it was worth a shot. “God knows, son. And as for the Debutantes, I hear they’re still out of commission.”
Liz smirked. Oh, yeah, she loved that bit of news. “They seriously got their butts kicked by the Trill, didn’t they? Man, I wish I saw the whole thing. It must’ve been fantastic.”
It was Liz’s turn to wash the dishes tonight. I took out the garbage -- No! Really? -- and in the moonlight next to the recycling tub, I sifted through the indie papers and pulled out the classified sections, rolling them up and stuffing them under my shirt. Who cared if I looked like I’d gotten impregnated by a robot? Without Peter to cuddle and do all kinds of teenage skanky things with, my only backup was to ogle hot gay men in black-and-white print.
As a measure of my hormonal ingenuity and something I’d mentioned before, I’d also stocked up on old towels that I now made use of more regularly in order to spare my bed sheets. No one at home knew about my secret stash ... for now, anyway, and as long as I got to wash out my own gene pool, I wouldn’t have to worry about the usual tired complaints about teenage male libido and stuff.