It didn’t take me long to figure out why Scar was called the Miracle Man.
There was a manner to him when he spoke to people. I never thought it was a supernatural gift; he just had a way of talking to you that reached something you had forgotten you had.
Scar once told me, “The problem with alcoholics isn’t that they’re addicted to the bottle, it’s that they’ve forgotten they can be happy without it.” In those early days after The End, he resorted to that axiom often with the folks who came crawling up the steps to his door. And he would just talk to them.
They would come stumbling, lost, up the steps, or crawling, or just collapse in the dirt, and he would drag them inside (my job was to start carrying them in). We’d lay them out on the couch and Scar would whip up a sour lemonade, though we always guzzled it down like it was life itself – every zesty, lip pursing drop. Scar had wisely plundered the stores for dry ice and kept them in containers with his bottled waters. Very few people could claim to have cold drinks, and back then, the world was just getting hotter and hotter.
Once we’d all had a drink, these people would just take off their masks – they’d reveal their souls in ways I don’t think a priest has ever seen.
There was Carlin, the drunk from the tub, who’d been savagely beaten by his father as a child. His father was a mean drunk, and Carlin grew up and became a mean drunk to his kid as well. Then he had to hold his boy’s hand when the plague came and watched him cough up blood until his little body stopped shaking and that was something Carlin never forgave himself for.
“Boy was nine,” he confessed, wrapped in a towel on the couch, “Nine and I’d been beatin’ him for five of them years and then he was… was just gone…” He looked at Scar, glassy-eyed, reflecting; you could almost hear the video playing out in his head – the long stretch of violence that preceded him, preceded his father, but ended with his son. “Ain’t nobody deserve to live their whole life getting beat and die, nobody, and ‘specially not my boy, not Fletcher…”
Then there was Mattie Jean, the teen terror that she was. Mattie was sixteen and she was the ‘Mare of Morgan’s Run,’ as my house-boss Terry put it.
She’d been ridden by just about every man and I recall some rumors she wasn’t averse to diddling with other young ladies, too.
One day, Mattie ventured up to Scar’s house. The girl was all legs, long and milky white. She left most of them exposed; I don’t think she ever wore anything that went past her mid-thigh. I’ll confess, as a young man, I was no stranger to Mattie’s charms. As a house-boss, Terry had special privileges. He got a kick out of indulging those privileges and then handing ‘Sloppy Seconds Mattie’ as he’d call her off to the rest of us.
She had that way about her, the beguiling charm of a temptress not yet in full bloom, but coming into her power. She sat in ways that displayed her flesh, she smiled in ways that were both innocent and secretive, and every gesture, every tiny contact she made, was charged with her desires. Even sitting there with Scar, staring at her in her short sleeve button up blouse, with a generous peak at her young bosom, and her denim skirt riding up onto her hips, I felt the fire and the need – that old, primitive thing.
Not Scar. He sat across from her with his cane and his peculiar half-smile and nodded when she asked if she could sit.
“Well howdy,” she said to me, her eyes ever on the verge of a wink, “You workin’ for Mister Scar now?”
Before I could answer, Scar interjected, “He does indeed. But pray tell, what can I do for you today, Ms. Mattie Jean?” The cooling balm of his voice had some strange effect – not just on me, but her.
Her cheekbones relaxed, her wink blinked out of existence, and that easily smile and powerful, hungry aura I thought came so naturally flickered away like a mirage. “I heard you helped people with… problems.”
He responded with a nod.
“I… I dun’ things. Been alone even ‘for the end and all came. I had a brother…” she chewed her lip and looked out the window at the pale golden light filtered through the dusty panes.
“Can I tell you something, Ms. Mattie Jean?”
She drew her knees up to her chest and nodded. You could see her young loins through the outline of her exposed panties, but there was no fire in it. Whatever Scar had done that changed her, changed how I saw her. It was like looking at a lost child.
“I’ve been around for a while now – seen a lot of very curious things. Chances are, you and I have met before, in another time, another place, another…” he paused and tapped his cane, “My point: we’re always running from something, always guilty of something, always blaming ourselves for something wrought upon us. I’m not here to condemn you, ‘nor condone what you’ve done. I am here because I see You. Only You. And for now, I want you to see only Me.”
She crawled into his lap like a little girl running to her father and cried her eyes out. For her sake, I won’t repeat what she told us in that quiet room. But my friend, I never was able to touch “Sloppy Seconds” Mattie Jean again, though she’d sleep in my bed after she was used up and feeling ill and have me hold her while she trembled.
She reverted, like they sometimes did, back their old ways after a talk with Scar. I’d say one in ten just couldn’t stick with the new vision of themselves Scar tried to give them. But it was never the same with Mattie after that. She went back to being the Mare of Morgan’s Ru, sure, but she didn’t wink and she didn’t tease and she didn’t emanate that sweet, juicy fruit scent she used to.
Just before Scar was gone and I left, someone found her by a stream near a bunch of peach trees just on the northernmost tip of Morgan’s Run, where mossy white fences bracketed us from the wilds.
She was white as snow and just as still and that was the end of the Mare of Morgan’s Run.
I’d say that for about a month, I started thinking Scar was an unnaturally gifted therapist and nothing more.
One night of drinking particular verve resulted in me telling Charlie my theories. He wasn’t too pleased when I shared some of Mattie Jean’s story – he never abstained from her affections, as I did, but there was less passion to it after that. Animals fulfilling animal instincts.
When I told him that Scar was effectively a counselor, and was just about harmless, he almost spit up his Jameson, then spent a few minutes fanning his nose as sharp fluid shot into his nostrils.
“Maybe so,” he said after a few convalescent moments, “Maybe so. But lemme tell you – I was one of the first here, when they was settlin’ the Run under the Governor. I remember when Scar came and some fools tried hustling him around. One of them was the governor, ‘for he was the Governor. Just some muscle. One of his friends pulls a knife on ol’ Scar, gets to threatening and swing, ‘You got food?’ he says and swings the knife awful close to Scar, ‘You got water? Got women? We could make you a woman, old fella,’ they said.
One of them, some tall scarcecrow of a kid, gets too ballsy, takes a cut at Scar and nicks his cheek. Well, Scar had been downright patient, not busted their balls or tried goading them. But he came alive like a panther. Took that cane of his and broke that boy’s skull clean in half, then ‘for they could respond, he jammed that damn thing through another boys fuckin’ eye-socket. I was watching from the front house, see, real quiet. Good thing, too, see, cuz Scar put two more of those boys down like nothing – like beating up kids. Then he gets ready to take down the Governor and one of the boys Scar had hurt grabs his leg and says, ‘Please, mister, please, don’t kill me.’ Now this man had been fucked. Up. Good. Scar just about mule kicked him and nearly smashed in his chest. Then something happened. Don’t know what, but all the fire went out of ol’ Scar… and he did something. Touched that man and he… he just came alive again. Like a balloon inflating. He got up and Scar and the Governor struck an accord.”
“So that fella survived?” I asked.
“Yes sir indeed,” Charlie said, leaning back in the sofa, looking across the hallway at where Terry was slipping his fingers up the swatch of cloth Mattie Jean called a skirt, his fingers dancing between her thighs. “He did indeed survive.”
This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Jinn Zhong…
A panel from New Avengers Issue #21 released in August 2006
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Penciled by Howard Chaykin
This issue was a part of the 2006 Civil War crossover
These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Nicholas Brack, Jinn Zhong and I) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Tuesdays via podcast.