I’m aware of what the world thinks of me. The general public, I mean. The people who see The Avengers in action on their TV and mobile screens, and wonder what a guy with a bow and arrow is doing next to Thor and Iron Man. The jokes are pretty easy to make, and there are plenty of them on the Internet. Some of them are pretty funny, too.
Normally, I wouldn’t mind the jokes. Normally, I wouldn’t mind that the people I’m fighting to protect don’t understand what I bring to the table. Problem is, lately, I’ve been having the same thoughts myself.
The Avengers have come a long way from where we started out. At that time, I was a secret agent for the US government. Knowing how to use a bow and arrow was just a side talent. Infiltrating international crime syndicates; slipping inside heavily fortified buildings; shadowing and interrogating known enemies of the state; that’s what I was really trained for. That’s the way I thought I’d serve my country.
Then The Avengers happened, and suddenly I was just that guy with the purple bow and arrow, trying not to get crushed accidentally while standing next to Hulk. Everyday, the odds get more and more ridiculous. What earthly use can my spy skills or bow and arrow be against beings like Galactus or the Living Tribunal?
Add to that the fact that I’m not getting any younger. It’s taking more and more effort to keep up with Captain America, Black Panther or whatever new Metahuman/Demigod/Mechanically Enhanced superhero wants to join the team. For some time now, I’ve been thinking maybe the best thing for me and for the team would be for me to step aside and let someone with actual superpowers take my place on The Avengers. Go back to being Clint Barton: Government Agent rather than Hawkeye…
But there’s no point thinking about that today. Today is about correcting another serious problem my work poses in my life: The fact that I get to spend so little time with my children. Cooper and Lila are both growing old so fast, and I’ve missed out on so many important events in their life. Coop’s first steps. Lila’s dance recital. Nathaniel may be in Laura’s belly for now, but I’m terrified he’s going to see even less of his father than the other two.
That’s why, when I found out I had the rare day off from Avenging duty, I brought the whole family over to New York for a mini-vacation. We’ve been wandering about the streets of New York all day, and it’s the most fun I’ve had all year.
Even More Fun Than This Was
“Dad, let’s go over there,” Lila declared, pointing towards a large platform that had been erected in a park up ahead. “I wanna go see what all those people are doing near in the park.”
“It’s an art fair,” my wife Laura read out from the sign board as we neared the platform. “You sure you two don’t want to get some ice cream first?”
“We’ll get it later,” Cooper declared. A young woman had climbed on top of the platform and had now turned with a big smile to the crowd that had gathered in front of her.
“Hi, guys, and welcome to the Soul Purpose art fair!” She declared brightly. “We’re a small company that manufactures clothes and shoes, and we believe in including our customers in our creative process. That’s why we’re holding a drawing competition here today that everyone is free to join. The winning entry will have their design featured on our T-shirts! To give you an idea of the type of stuff we manufacture, everyone in attendance here today is going to get free Soul Purpose T-shirts!”
A cheer went up among the audience as a truck drew up next to the platform. It’s back opened, and workers started bringing out cartons of merchandise.
The girl on the platform continued speaking, “Aside from coming up with awesome designs based on popular culture, Soul Purpose also believes in supporting the arts. So every additional shirt you buy other than the complementary one we’re giving you will have a portion of the profit invested in supporting art centers around the city where the great artists of tomorrow are currently studying!”
Another cheer erupted, but I was barely listening. My attention was on one particular blonde-haired worker who had been helping bring the cartons out of the truck. He had been working more slowly than the others, examining each carton carefully before setting it down. As I watched, he set two cartons a little distance away from the rest. Those two cartons had red packing tape around them, as opposed to the blue taping that was visible on the other cartons.
“I’ll be right back,” I said to Laura. She looked surprised, but there was no time to explain.
I strolled casually over to the truck. The blonde-haired worker had picked up the two cartons and slipped out from behind the platform. His pace quickened as he neared the edge of the park, away from the activity of the fair. Suddenly, he stopped and turned, and saw me following several feet behind. For a brief moment we stared at each other, and then the man took off running, the cartons help firmly at his side.
I was right behind him. Despite the two cartons, the kid was fast. Soon we had moved out of the park and were headed towards the street. We weaved through traffic, and cars stopped suddenly inches away from us, screeching loudly and drowning out the curses coming from their drivers.
The kid showed no signs of showing down. It was time for a short cut. I grabbed onto a low-hanging arch and swung myself up, climbing a fire escape to reach the top of the building. From there I moved quickly between the roofs of buildings, keeping an eye on the kid. I cut across a short cut and swung down towards the ground just as the kid slowed down as well, thinking he’d lost me.
“You’re pretty fast,” I remarked, and he swung around, startled. His next reaction was pure instinct, as he tried to charge me. My hand shot out and grabbed his throat, while my foot connected with his kneecap, sending him crashing to the ground, the cartons flying into the air before landing several feet away, the force of the impact bursting open their packaging.
Our little incident had drawn a crowd, and among them I saw a policeman making his way towards me.
“Clint Barton,” I called out to the cop before he could speak, even as I held the kid pinned to the ground. “I’ll show you my credentials later. This young man has been using a regular delivery van to transport some private products. What’s in the two cartons?”
The officer bent and picked up a white powder packet from the opened carton. “Yeah, looks like he was transporting drugs,” his attitude quickly became much more official as the officer realized the seriousness of the crime.
I handed over the blonde-haired kid to the officer after showing him my SHIELD badge and telling him what had happened at the fair. I promised to drop by the police station later to provide any further help they might need. For now, however, it was more important for me to get back to the fair.
“Sorry I took off,” I told my wife once I was back at the fair. “I had to go see about a guy…”
“It’s okay,” Laura looked amused. “I knew it was too good to be true that you could spend an entire day with us in complete peace. Look what Cooper and Lila found.”
“Daddy, can we buy this?” The two chorused, holding up two Soul Purpose shirts. The picture on the shirts showed Hawkeye striking a pose in the center while the other avengers stood behind him.
“You want to wear this?” I asked Coop and Lila. “Where’ll you wear it to?”
“School” Lila said, while Cooper nodded eagerly. “This way we can show everyone that we have the coolest dad in the whole school!”
I nodded slowly. “Sounds like a great plan,” I said with a smile as I took out my wallet.
The rest of the day passed pretty peacefully. By the end, I had made a decision. I had realized today that I wasn’t really as old as I’d begun to feel lately. There were still a few ways I could be useful to The Avengers.
I’d been absent from my kid’s life so often. And even if I took my old job back under the government, I’d still be away from them for long periods of time. As long as I was in the Avengers, my kids could still see me on TV and feel proud of their father. Proud of Hawkeye. For that, I’m willing to put up with a few more years of Hulk calling me ‘Puny Arrow Man’.