On top of
the spinner rack, Superman
taunts me to fly up and take him down. I'm
short for my age, so I have to wait for
someone taller to come along and browse
the magazines so I can ask for help.
Or, I'll catch a drug-store employee here
for assistance, if one should walk the aisle.
But I can't leap high enough to snag Supes
and if I try to climb the rack it's sure
to all-fall-down. Oh, here comes somebody:
Miss, I say, can you help me here? She's stopped
at the magazine rack adjacent. She's
got eyes for Photoplay. 16, maybe.
Not quite a grown-up but she's outlived me
by at least six years. Yes, Sugar, she says.
When I want to be polite, I use my
Mother's tone; when I'm angry, my father's.
I beg your pardon, ma'am, I say. Could you
please reach to the top of this thing and pull
Superman down for me? Sure 'nough, Sugar,
she says. The Man of Steel's no strain for her
--she's got her thumb on him and her fingers
behind. You're stronger than he is,
I kid. Ha ha, she says. She holds the thing
with two hands now and scans the cover as
if she's using X-ray vision to read
the tale within--she doesn't even have
to turn a page. What a man, she says,
and smiles. I gotta get me a beau like that.
Yes, ma'am, I say. I thank you kindly for
your help. I hold out my hand to receive
the comic but she's still studying it.
Here you go, Sugar, she says. I take it,
say, I'm obliged--thank you for your trouble.
No trouble at all, she says. I love you,
I gasp. Even if you're older and I
don't know your name and you're tall and I'm not.
She's silent. I fill the gap. If I were
Superman I'd take you to my Fortress
of Solitude and show you the Bottle
City of Kandor, shrunk by Brainiac,
and my wax dummies of Lois Lane and
Jimmy Olsen, and the weird creatures in
my interplanetary zoo, and my
Phantom Zone projector. And my rec room.
I love you tons. Then I run out of wit
--I've already run out of brains. You're cute,
she says. But I'm a little old for you
--I've got a boyfriend, too. He plays football.
I turn the shade of kryptonite--the red
kind, I mean, not the green, so deadly to
Superman. She's a kind of enemy
'til I get to know girls better. She says
--perhaps she knows I'm disappointed
--I'll tell you what, Superboy: I'll meet you
right back here in about ten years and if
I'm not wearing a ring, then it's a date.
How 'bout that? Enjoy your comic. Then she
flies. She's wearing hose. I'm left holding my
hero, with both hands as if he's heavy
and will break if I drop him. That makes me
super. I vomit but it's all dry-heave.
I'll be back in ten years--in my alter
ego. She won't recognize me but I'll
slip away and undress and it will all
come back to her. I'll scoop her up and zip
her away, into the clouds. Then we'll make
babies, and one of my arch-enemies
will try to kill her to get back at me and I'll
put our little ones in an orphanage
and leave this planet forever so I
can feel sorry for myself in outer
space and our super-kids will carry on
and track me down one day and we'll all be
as happy as we can be without her
but with her memory. That's what love is.