It’s an unassuming little thing, a late 1990s or early 2000s DC action figure of The Flash.
To know me is to know I love The Flash. above all other heroes. Always have. It started when I was very young, maybe seven, and I bought a beat up copy of Flash #137 – the famous Carmine Infantino cover of Barry Allen and Jay West, the Silver and Golden Age Flashes, respectively, duking it out over the right to apprehend Vandal Savage, as Savage makes his getaway. I was hooked. It was the red costume, the lightning bolts…
The only thing I ever collected seriously was Flash comics and toy Flash figures, all vintages, from the 1970s to the late ‘90s and a few other random pieces along the way. The one that means the most to me, though, is the little 1990s JLA Flash figure you see here. $5 or $10 on eBay, on a good day. Mine, however, is priceless.
It sits on my desk, as it has in every job I’ve held in the last 15 years, starting with my first gig as a reporterter for now-defunct The Pine Plains Register-Herald, a 400 circ weekly in Pine Plains, NY, following me from desk to desk.
Why so valuable? Shared experience aside – it watched faithfully as I typed and edited many a Town Council meeting recap and high school basketball story – is that this thing, much like the Scarlet Speedster himself, is a survivor:
It was Nov. 2005. I was the new editor of New England Antiques Journal, had just moved my pregnant wife and I from our home in New York’s Hudson Valley to Amherst, MA. My wife was visiting family out of state, it was very cold and rainy and I had taken the day off to unpack our house. I got a call late in the afternoon from a co-worker asking if I had heard what happened. No, I said, I had not.
The building that housed NEAJ, and Turley Publications, its parent company, sat across some soccer fields from the Chicopee River. The offices and the archives were all in the basement. The unremitting rain, over the course of days, had swollen the river, which had overrun its banks and slowly crept across the soccer fields, oozing its way into the basement offices of Turley, and NEAJ. It filled to the ceiling. It destroyed everything – computers, desks, equipment and years of archival material.
“Once the water receded and we drained the room,” a co-worker told me, “it was total chaos. The room was turned completely upside-down.”
I was shocked, dismayed, grateful no one was hurt. My first thought after that? Not the decadews of newspapers or the mint that was lost in computer and office equipment. One thing: The Flash. Surely it was claimed by the Chicopee River, punishment for having left it unguarded on my desk. I tried to feign yogic detachment, easy come, easy go, I told myself. The truth was that my stupid little piece of worthless plastic was impossibly gone.
Two days later, when we were finally allowed back in the basement where the offices were, I waded through the ankle-deep muck to see if there was anything to see, minus the ankle deep muck and the carcasses of dirt-caked desks and chairs. There was not.
I poked about with a broomhandle for 15 minutes before ending up where my desk would have been. The room was silent save for the sploosh and splosh of boots slowly moving through the mud. I had come looking for one thing, knowing I would not find it; I was embarrassed that it crushed me. Absently, with no intention, I stuck my broom handle in the muck and began to stir. A minute later I hit something small.
Without thought my hand darted into the dirt up to my forearm, my fingers quickly snatching an impossibly light and unmistakable prize: The Flash lives!
I gave a triumphant yelp, drawing the stares of my dazed co-workers, showing off my unidentifiable trophy. They looked at me as if I had just sprouted horns. The Flash lives!
The thing had survived. It was covered in who knows what, and had somehow settled at the bottom of the dirt in the exact same place where my desk had stood. It was kismet, Fortuna, as Ignatius J. Reilly would call it. I was meant to find it.
I called my wife and told her about my triumph. Luckily she agreed to stay married to me.
“A boy and his Flash are not soon parted,” she said.
That’s the truth. We never will be. No matter how much anyone would offer. The Flash looks out over Dallas now, 17 stories above any flood. Maybe within reach of a monster tornado. That does not worry me, though. Let the winds take my Flash to hell and back. I’ll find it, or it will find me, and it will remain my prized possession. No offer could be big enough. Go ahead. Try me.
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