Gotham Would Burn To The Ground

You know what really impresses me? The guys in Japan who continue to work on stabilizing the nuclear reactors. They’re being labeled as “national heroes,” and rightly so.

Think about it. These guys are knowingly exposing themselves to dangerous levels of radiation in order to make the repairs necessary to protect their nation’s citizens from catastrophe. Sure, they’re dressed in hazmat suits, but you know those don’t offer complete protection. Yesterday three men were working near the number three reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant and stepped into a puddle of water containing 10,000 times the amount of radiation normally found outside a nuclear plant. They were then hospitalized with “beta burns” that authorities claim are no worse than a bad sunburn.

First off, I question that assessment. Wading around in highly contaminated water for 40 or 50 minutes, some of it sloshing around inside your boots, is not akin to a day at the beach. The spin doctors are out in full force trying to downplay that little incident.

Secondly, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am not the heroic type at all. If I were a nuclear worker and the reactors went into partial meltdown, spewing tons of radioactive materials into the atmosphere and contaminating the local food and water supplies, and my boss said, “Hey, Mark – we’re going to need you to help us out here,” and I replied “How so, boss?” and he answered, “Knowingly expose yourself to harmful doses of radiation for the next few weeks and pray you don’t develop cancer or your wife doesn’t give birth to a three-headed baby,” my response would be pretty direct: “I quit.”

I’m sorry I’m not more rah-rah let me help out my fellow countrymen by putting my own life at risk, but I gotta draw the line somewhere, and for me, “beta burns” and exposure to potentially lethal radiation is where I draw a line in the sand. But that’s just me.

It’s a good thing I’m not Bruce Wayne. I can just see the conversation now.

"You know what? HAVE Gotham City. You can't find a decent slice of pizza in this town anyway." (Courtesy of

Alfred The Butler: “Sir, The Joker is up to his old antics again. He appears to be terrorizing Gotham City.”
Me: “Fetch me my Bat Suit, Alfred! Err…hang on a sec. Does he have any weapons?”
Alfred The Butler: “The usual arsenal, Master Wayne. Razor-sharp playing cards that can slice through your jugular. Electric joy buzzers. Acid flowers. Shall I gas up the Batmobile?”
Me: “Umm, yeah. About that…on second thought, tonight’s not so good for me. Cougartown is on. It’s a repeat, but it’s a particularly good one…”

Poor ol’ Gotham would burn to the ground.

And while I don’t believe there’s any real danger here, it still freaks me out a little that slightly elevated levels of radiation have been detected in Portland and elsewhere along the West Coast. Authorities keep saying they’re trace amounts, no more than you’d receive from an x-ray or from toasting a slice of bread or some other analogy that is supposed to make us feel better. There’s still extra radiation in the air, and while that might not be too bad, it certainly isn’t good. Hats off to those brave Japanese nuclear workers, I say. Get them all Oakley sunglasses when this ordeal is over.

I used to have a bit of a Hero Complex. In junior high (or what today’s kids call “middle school”) when I was living in Hawaii, a friend of mine was getting bullied, so I stepped in and told the aggressor – a large, thick-shouldered ogre of a kid – to knock it off. He did, alright – and focused his attention on me. For the next two years, I had to put up with this idiot threatening me. Fortunately, it never got physical. One time he showed up on my front door with a few friends. It was a summer afternoon, and both my parents were at work.

“I’m here to kick your ass,” he said.
“No, thanks,” I replied. “My schedule’s a bit full today. Maybe we can do this another time?”

We never did. More than twenty-five years later, I found him on Facebook. This was an exciting day for me. It isn’t often that you have a chance to reconnect with your old junior high school bully! I actually debated sending him a friend request – all in the spirit of letting bygones be bygones – but he lives in Seattle now, which is a little too close for comfort. I mean, he could have turned into a homicidal maniac or a serial killer, for all I know, and if that’s the case, we’re only separated by a two and a half hour drive on the interstate. I’d rather not take my chances.

Then, in my freshman year of high school (or what today’s kids call…oh, wait…it’s still “high school”), we were living in South Dakota. I was walking home from school one day and crossed paths with two kids who were pushing around a younger middle schooler. “Hey, knock it off,” I told them. “Pick on somebody your own size!” They walked away and then, a few days later, ambushed me as I was walking home. There were five or six of them this time, and they jumped me from behind a building. I took off running with all the speed and determination of Forrest Gump‘s mad dash for the end zone, but eventually ran out of steam and they caught up to me. A locked door was my downfall. Suddenly I was on the ground, and they were pummeling me. Kicking me in the ribs and the head. If not for a good samaritan passing by in his car who chased them off, I shudder to think what might have happened.

Ever since, my attitude has always been, let somebody else be the hero. I mean, I’m proud of myself for standing up for other people – one a friend, the other a complete stranger – but I paid the price. Ouch.

Let’s just say I hope they get those nuclear reactors under control very soon.


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

13 thoughts on “Gotham Would Burn To The Ground

  1. For Japan it has to be the end of the world. The stuff is still contaminating things and it seems the place will be uninhabitable and there do not seem to be any answers. Yeah, I was bullied too. I often dream about meeting up with them and what I would do and I would really like to stomp them good despite the Jesus stuff from down at the Presbyterian Church from when I was little. Jesus and God can go forgive them I want reveeenge and to stomp them YOU HEAR ME OUT THERE WHEREVER YOU ARE. I WILL FIND YOU AND…. Alright, I’ve settled down.


  2. Mark–
    I can’t imagine the price these heroes will pay–but pay they will.
    I live with a “protector”–God built him that way–to stand between all the bad stuff, and all the innocents. I think it’s a calling, and one the rest of us shouldn’t feel bad about if we aren’t similarly called, you know?

    I KNOW you would stand up to protect your kids, those you love…your rights–you know? I bet you’d surprise yourself…
    but, glad you don’t wear a cape…you’d be Captain No Thank You.


    1. I’m sure I would, Jane. We’ve all heard about the tenacity of a mama bear protecting her cubs. Not that I’m a mama…OR Sarah Palin, for that matter…


  3. “They’re being labeled as “national heroes,” and rightly so.”

    I soooo agree! There’s no way I could do what they’re doing. This whole thing in Japan has me so upset because I have a feeling this will only get worse. And I also have a feeling they’re not being told the whole truth about the repercussions this will bring. Us too.

    I applaude you for standing up to those bully guys and helping your friend. Way to go, Mark! I was bullied a lot in school, however I was lucky to have a clever mouth that got me out of them. So, nothing ever got physical.



    1. Oh, I had a clever mouth, too. Words flowed out of it like “leave him alone” and “pick on somebody else.” Only the bullies didn’t see that as clever, but more like a challenge.


  4. If you do have a three headed baby, can I name one of the heads? I’m good with names!

    P.S. Saw a commercial for Portlandia! Found out I get that station on my tv! Will be scouring the television for showtimes and episodes!!!


  5. Hahaha! “I’m here to kick your a**”… “No thanks.” What a classic response.
    Sadly, I think Hero is not in the cards for me. I made the man of the house chase an opposum from the yard last night. I cried for two hours about it.


  6. LOL. I think it’s funny that maybe part of you is still a little scared of your childhood bully. Can’t say I’d be any different – this girl Felicia used to pick on me. She had a twin sister named Alicia. Together, they could totally kick my ass. Hell, one of them with her arm behind her back could probably kick my ass. I walked carefully by their house and I was sooo happy when I moved. I’m not sure I’d add either of them if I found them on Facebook!!

    Oh, ps… did you see this? Sorry, whenever I see writing jobs I think of you. http://36×


    1. Well, the Pacific Northwest is a hotbed of serial killer activity. The odds are actually in favor of him being a killer now as opposed to somebody less violent. Best not to take any chances.
      I did not see that…thanks for the tip! Looks like it’s in Columbus or another city. Ironic…a good friend of mine lives in Columbus…hmm.


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