By Kathryn Ann Kent <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted September 1998
Summary: A young girl invites Superman to Thanksgiving dinner, only to find she has more in common with him than she realizes … Written from a refreshingly different perspective, this story will charm you.
"How does it feel to have world-class journalists for parents?" asked Mr. Green.
"Uh, okay," I said politely even though I get really tired of that question.
Mrs. Green said that my parents must be pretty busy, always rushing out to talk to sources, and I said that yes, they're always rushing out, especially Daddy, and sometimes Mummy has a job called 'Acting Editor', and then she gets a lot of phone calls.
I was trying not to yawn because really, I get these questions so much that it's an actual bore, but I was trying very hard to be polite because Mr. and Mrs. Green are Lisa's parents and Lisa is my new best friend, and anyway, since I was eating dinner at their house it seemed like I should do my best to be courteous even if their conversation was so boring that—
And then I got it. The bombshell. Dropped right in my lap.
"How often do you see Superman?" asked Lisa's brother Brad, speaking for the first time. I just stared at him, not sure what he was talking about. I knew *who* he was talking about, of course. I used to think that Superman isn't real, like Santa Claus isn't real, but I know better than that now. I mean, he's on TV—not just the cartoons, but on the news—and in the newspapers, and I know that the TV news and the newspapers wouldn't lie or anything. But I didn't know if Brad meant how often do I watch the news or what.
"What?" I said finally.
"How much do you see Superman?" repeated Brad.
"Does he ever come to dinner?" added Lisa.
"Come to dinner!" I said. "Superman! No! He never comes to dinner."
"Why not?" asked Lisa. "Doesn't he eat?"
"Yes—well, I don't know. I guess he eats, like anybody else does. But how should I know? I've never seen him."
"You've never seen Superman?" asked Lisa with round eyes. Brad was staring at me and even Mrs. and Mr. Green stopped chewing so they could listen to my answer.
"No! Why? Have you?"
"No, of course not!" said Lisa. "But you must have seen him sometime! Your parents are such good friends of his!" I could only look at her as if she had lost her mind.
"My parents are good friends of his?" I echoed. "No, they're not. They don't ever see him."
"But yes they are! I mean, yes they do. Know him. It's in all the papers-"
It was Mrs. Green who rescued me. "That's enough, Lisa," she said firmly. She added, "We don't really know much of anything about Superman. Maybe he lives in a cave or a-a tree somewhere. I guess he must not socialize too much."
"But he's always rescuing her mother—"
"That's enough," said Mrs. Green.
"Let's change the subject," said Mr. Green. He began to talk about something else.
When supper was over Lisa and I escaped to her bedroom. Before the door closed behind us, though, I overheard Mrs. Green saying in a low voice, "Well, isn't that odd?"
"Must be some reason they don't care to introduce him to their children," said Mr. Green.
Upstairs, Lisa brought up the topic again. "I can't believe you've never met Superman," she said. "Never even seen him!"
"Will you tell me what you're talking about!" I said. "Why should I meet him?"
"Don't you even know?" asked Lisa. "He's great friends with both your mom and your dad. He's always rescuing your mom from Certain Death. It's in all the newspapers!"
"Well, I don't read the newspapers," I said. "And I never heard Mummy or Daddy or anybody else say anything about it."
"Never?" said Lisa. "They've never mentioned him? You didn't know they even know him?"
"I knew they've met him," I said impatiently. "I mean, sometimes Mummy will say something like she needs to get that exclusive from Superman so he can give her the inside scoop on the terrorists in the tower or something like that, but you say he rescues my mom? Like, saves her life?"
"All the time," said Lisa. "Come on. Let's look on the Internet."
Lisa switched on her PC and began dredging up article after article written by my mother and father. "See?" she said, watching my face as I read the stories. They're always writing things about him. And look at this - see how it says that Superman catches your mom just as she's falling off the building? And look at this one. He rescues her when she's tied to dynamite." I shook my head slowly. "You didn't know all this?" Lisa asked.
"I didn't have a clue," I said.
"Well, it's so funny," said Lisa. "'cause everyone was so excited about you moving into this neighborhood and going to our school. We all thought Superman would be coming around all the time and he could give us rides at birthday parties, take us flying you know, and—"
"Give you rides!" snorted Brad from the next room. "What do you think he is, a pony?" Lisa rolled her eyes at me.
"Lisa!" called Mrs. Green from downstairs. "Katy's mother just called. She wants Katy to go home now." Lisa and I ran down the stairs.
"Mom, guess what? Katy didn't know anything about Superman saving her mom all the time!" announced Lisa dramatically. "I had to show her the newspaper articles on the Internet."
"Maybe we shouldn't have said anything, either," said Mrs. Green, with a worried look at me. "Maybe her parents didn't want her to know anything about it. After all, it can't be too comfortable for a child to know that her parents are getting into such dangerous situations."
"It's okay, Mrs. Green," I said. "I already knew that they do dangerous stuff sometimes."
After saying good-bye, I ran next door to our new house, preoccupied with fresh ideas. Mummy and Daddy best friends to Superman? And I've never even met him! He's never even been to our house to visit!
"Mummy!" I burst out as soon as I entered the front door. "Why don't we ever have Superman over for dinner?"
"What's that, Katy?" called Mummy.
"How's my favorite punkin?" said Daddy, scooping me up.
"Daddy! I didn't know you were home," I said, giving him a hug. I went over to hug Mummy, too, giving my younger brother David a nudge with my foot when I went past him.
"Mummy," I said. "Why don't we ever have Superman over for dinner?" Daddy made a sound but Mummy just stood there, with a funny look on her face.
"Why, honey, why would you ask that?" Mummy asked finally.
"Well, Lisa just told me everything—" I spread my arms wide in a dramatic gesture, "—about you and Superman. How he's always rescuing you and he's such good friends with you and Daddy and I just wanted to know, then why don't you ever have him over for supper? And why didn't you tell me he's always rescuing you?" Mummy opened her mouth to speak but I swept on. "If you thought I wouldn't be comfortable knowing you sometimes get in terrible danger, well I already knew that anyway. But if you're such good friends with him then why haven't I ever seen him? I want to."
"Honey." Daddy knelt beside me. "I'm sure you'll get to see Superman someday—"
"But you've got to know, he's a very busy man," said Mummy.
"But doesn't he eat? Shouldn't we have him over for dinner so we can thank him for saving you all the time? Wouldn't that be a nice thing to do? Shouldn't we tell him how much you appreciate him?"
"Honey," said Daddy, trying hard not to laugh, "Superman—knows—how much your mom appreciates him."
Mummy squashed him with a look.
"But he doesn't know how much I appreciate him," I objected. "How can he since I just started appreciating him? And my friends want to see him, too. It's not that we think he's like a pony, or anything, and would give us rides, but we'd just like to see him."
I stopped because Mummy and Daddy were laughing out loud now. I eyed them doubtfully. "What's funny?" I asked, without much hope of finding out. Adult jokes are usually beyond me.
"Um, Sweetie," said Mummy. "We'll talk to you later. Go upstairs and get started on your homework now. You, too, David."
"Now," said Mummy.
David and I went upstairs and I went to my room, closing my door behind me. After awhile, though, thinking I heard Mummy mention my name downstairs, I quietly opened the door again.
"Maybe I just shouldn't write the story," Mummy was saying.
"Once you give in to extortion, you're lost," said Daddy.
"If anything should happen to them—"
"It won't," said Daddy. "I won't let it … "
I closed my bedroom door and shut out the rest of the conversation. It didn't have anything to do with me, anyway. Just boring adult talk.
"Here's the deal," I said to Lisa the next morning on our way to school. "I asked Mummy and Daddy about Superman last night and they wouldn't tell me anything. They just said that Superman's very busy and I'd meet him someday and that's all." I brooded as I pondered our conversation of the night before.
"That's too bad," said Lisa.
"Yeah," I said. "And you know what else? I looked for more articles about him on the Internet and I can't believe how many times he's rescued my mom from falling, from drowning, from being shot, from being blown up. I don't understand how he has time to do anything else, he must be so busy rescuing my mom." Lisa didn't say anything so I went on. "And then I started wondering about him. You know, if he's such good friends with my mom and dad, and he doesn't even visit them, who does he see? Is he always alone? Doesn't he get lonely?"
Lisa's face changed. "That's sad," she said. "I never thought about that before. Poor man."
"I wonder if he has a family," I said, still brooding.
"Of course not, silly," said Lisa. "They were all blown up when his planet exploded."
"I know that," I said impatiently. "I mean, is he married. Does he have any kids. That kind of thing."
"Oh," said Lisa. "I don't know. Well, here we are. Let's ask our teacher about him."
It was kind of a funny day at school.
Our teacher couldn't give us any information about Superman's personal life and she seemed really surprised that I didn't know anything about him either.
And Cal, the Worst Boy in School, kept teasing me, running up and whispering "Superman" every five minutes, and I heard Patricia Formby whisper to Cathy Balm that she bet my parents don't really know Superman at all.
But I didn't pay any attention to them because all I could think about was how Superman never gets to go to anybody's house— not even his best friends' house. I had a hard time concentrating on my studies that day.
I kept thinking about how lonely he must be. And how he rescued my mom all those times. And how my parents never even have him over for dinner. And how the holidays are coming up and Grandma always says the holidays are hardest on people with no family.
After doing all that thinking I came to a decision.
"Mummy, I think we should invite Superman for Thanksgiving dinner," I said firmly to my mother that evening.
"Not this time, Katy," said Mummy. "Maybe some other time."
"Superman probably has plans of his own," said Daddy.
"But do we know that for sure?" I persisted. "Shouldn't we at least ask him?"
"Not this time, Katy," said Mummy in her *firm* voice, so I knew it was no use asking her again. But I still kept thinking about it.
"You know what?" I said to Lisa when I had related the story to her the next day, "I think someone should at least ask Superman if he can come for Thanksgiving. And I'm going to do it!"
"How are you going to do that?" asked Lisa. "He doesn't have a telephone, does he?"
"No," I said. "At least," I added thoughtfully, "it's not listed. You know sometimes people have unlisted numbers to keep people from bothering them all the time."
"How are we going to get it, then?" asked Lisa. I thought for a minute.
"Come over to my house tonight," I began.
"I'm already doing that," Lisa pointed out. "I'm coming over for dinner, remember?"
"Okay," I said. "We'll do it after dinner. I have an idea." I had no time to explain more, as we had just arrived at the school.
That evening I took Lisa upstairs after supper, bringing the cordless telephone and a stack of telephone books with me. "You look for his phone number on the Internet," I said, "while I go through these phone books."
"Why did your dad suddenly get up and leave the table during dinner?" asked Lisa curiously.
"He always does that," I said absently, my mind on the telephone books.
Lisa started typing on the keyboard. "Hey, look what I'm doing," she continued. "I'm going to go into some of these chat rooms and ask if anyone knows how to call Superman."
"Be careful," I warned. "My mom doesn't allow me to go into chat rooms."
"My mom doesn't let me, either," responded Lisa. "But it's okay, I'm just going to ask this one question. And if I see any bad words, I won't read them or anything."
"What's the matter, Lisa?" I asked, noticing how she had grimaced after reading something on the screen.
"I asked how we can get in touch with Superman," she said. "And this guy said, 'Climb to the top of a tall building and yell 'help!'"
"Very funny," I said. I opened one of the phone books. "Now, do you think I should look under Super, or Man?"
An hour later I shut off the phone, sighing. "I'd better put this back," I said. "The battery's getting low."
"Any luck?" asked Lisa.
"No, and I called directory assistance for every city within a hundred miles," I said.
"Well, we'll just have to think of something else," she said.
I put my chin in hand, thinking hard. "You know, that smart-aleck in the chat room might be on to something," I said.
"You're going to climb up a tall building and yell for help?" asked Lisa, horrified.
"No, of course not. But if we want to see Superman, then we need to go where there's a disaster or something. He's sure to turn up."
"What disaster?" said Lisa. "How will we know ahead of time about a fire or explosion?"
"I don't know," I said. "But I'll think of something." And of course, I did.
"I have it," I said to Lisa a few days later.
"I know where we can find Superman," I told her. "And it's not even a disaster or anything. He's s'posed to talk at the mayor's news conference in front of the courthouse this afternoon."
"How'd you find out about that?" asked Lisa, impressed.
"Easy. I read the newspaper," I said modestly. "I'm going to take a bus to the courthouse right after school today. Wanna come?"
"Count me in," said Lisa. "I want to see Superman, too."
Superman showed up at the press conference as scheduled, but to our disappointment, the crowd around the courthouse prevented us from getting anywhere near him. He flew away right after he spoke, too. "So much for that idea," I said gloomily.
"At least we got to see him," said Lisa. "Even if we couldn't get close enough to see what he really looks like," she added.
"Katy, what are you doing here?" said my dad's voice. I looked around to see him hurrying toward us, straightening his tie as he spoke.
"We came to see Superman," I said despondently.
"And did you?" he asked.
"Yes, but we couldn't get close enough for me to invite him to Thanksgiving dinner," I said.
Daddy smiled. "That again," he said. "Honey, you don't need to invite Superman for Thanksgiving; I'm sure he'll be all right. Now, let's get you two home. We'll take a cab since your mother has the car."
"And Katy, I don't want you running around town like this," he continued. "When school's out for the day, you come straight home, okay? Now button your sweater; if you catch cold you won't be able to go on the picnic tomorrow."
"The picnic?" I asked. "You mean *the* picnic? The one we were supposed to have in July and kept canceling?"
"That's the one," said Daddy, smiling.
"Finally!" I said. "Oh, but I just know something's gonna happen again to ruin it!"
"No, nothing's going to happen to prevent it this time, punkin," said Daddy.
"Yeah, sure," I said without much hope.
But despite my doubts, we were able to go on the promised picnic as planned. It was a little windy so we had to hold our food down with one hand while we ate, but we didn't let that bother us. After lunch, David and I went out on the pond in the rowboat, each of us using one oar. We were almost in the middle of the pond when my oar slipped in my hands.
"Careful, you're going to lose that oar," warned David.
"No, I've got it," I said, grasping it firmly.
"Well, hang onto it," said David. "We don't want to lose an oar out here in the middle of the pond. We'd really be stuck then."
"Yeah, yeah," I said. Then I looked over at David, an idea beginning to form. "Someone would have to rescue us," I said.
"No, we could probably make it back with one oar, but it would be hard," said David.
Checking first to make sure David wasn't watching, I released the oar from the bracket and pushed it into the water.
"Uh-oh," I said. "I just lost it."
"Well, lean over and get it," said David.
"Can't. I'll fall in."
"Well, let me turn the boat around and I'll get it," said David in disgust, beginning to row energetically with his oar.
"Why don't we just change places," I said hurriedly. "You can lean over and get it on this side." Rolling his eyes, David changed places with me. While he was leaning over the side of the boat I released the other oar, sending it into the water with a soft splash.
"Oh, no!" I exclaimed.
"What?" said David, who was busily reaching for the first oar.
"Now I've lost the other oar," I said, eyes downcast.
"Oh, you stupid.. " said David irritably. "Can't you hold onto anything? I can't reach this oar now; I'm going to have to swim over to it and—"
"No!" I said quickly. "Too dangerous."
"It is not!" scoffed David. "I have my life jacket on, and besides—"
"It's too cold," I pointed out. "Mom'll be mad."
"It's you she'll be mad at," said David. "Losing the oars like that."
"We'll have to call for help," I said.
"Oh, no, don't be a dork," said David. "We can get back without—"
"Help!" I yelled. "Help! Help!"
"Would you be quiet! We don't need to call for help—"
"Katy! David! What's the matter?" called Mummy's voice. She and Daddy jumped up from the blanket where they had been cuddling and hurried over to the water.
"We lost the oars!" I shouted. "We need to be rescued! You'd better call Superman!"
"Superman!" said David in disgust. "We don't need him. I'll just get out of the boat and get the oars-oh, Dad's coming." Daddy had indeed taken off his jacket and was wading into the water.
"He's getting all wet!" I said.
"Of course he's getting wet, you stupid! It's water! Duh!" We watched as Daddy slogged his way across the pond. He grasped first one oar, then the other, handing them to us as he stood next to our boat. I looked down at his legs. The water came to the middle of his thighs.
"Oh," I said feebly, "I guess this pond isn't very deep."
"Can you two make it back on your own, or do you want a tow?" asked Daddy.
"We can do it," said David. "If this idiot doesn't lose the oars again."
"Don't call your sister an idiot, David," said Daddy.
David mumbled something under his breath that sounded like, "Well she is one," but fortunately for him, Daddy didn't hear it. Daddy waded back to shore, with us following. We watched as Daddy climbed out of the pond, his pants covered with goo.
"Now look what you've done!" snapped David. "Daddy's all wet and we'll have to go home!" Stricken, I couldn't say a word. Mummy and Daddy looked at each other.
"We don't have to go," said Daddy. "I'll just go over to that refreshment stand. Maybe they have a-a hair dryer or something and I can get dried off." I looked doubtfully at the deserted concession stand as Daddy ran lightly toward it, but he must have found something to dry himself with since he reappeared a short time later with dry, although dirty, clothes.
The rest of the day passed uneventfully.
"I hope today's not as boring as Friday was," I commented to Lisa on Monday morning.
"It won't be," said Lisa. "Don't you remember we're going on that field trip to the court house?"
I brightened. "Better than class," I said.
But before our tour of the court house had proceeded very far, I was heartily sick of it and longed to be back in the classroom. The old courthouse building was hot and stuffy and I couldn't understand much of what the guide was explaining.
"This is one of the law libraries where the attorneys can do legal research, " said the tour guide. "You'll notice the volumes of U.S. Code on the shelves … "
"What's she talking about?" I whispered to Lisa. My friend shrugged her shoulders. The voice droned on. I wandered over to one of the windows and peered out. The sash had been lifted several inches to let in some fresh air. There was a ledge outside the window that prevented me from seeing straight down, but I could tell that we were pretty high up. What floor were we on? The ninth? I would hate to be out on that ledge! I shuddered, then caught my breath as an idea came to me. I glanced hurriedly around the room to see if anyone was watching. Just Lisa.
I put a finger to my lips then moved swiftly over to one of the desks, ducking down and crouching beneath it.
"Katy, what are you doing?" said Lisa loudly. She had followed me to the desk and was peering curiously at me.
"Shhh!" I whispered. "I have an idea. Don't tell anyone I'm here. And go away. You're going to give away my hiding place." Lisa promptly crouched down, too, then crawled under the desk with me. "What are you doing?" I asked irritably.
"I want to know what you're doing," she replied.
"Well, just be quiet a minute until they leave and then I'll tell you," I replied. The wait seemed interminable. I was beginning to get uncomfortably cramped by the time the group finally left the room and shut the door behind them.
"Now will you tell me?" asked Lisa. In reply I ran over to the window and began pushing up on the sash.
"If I can just get this open, " I said, struggling with the heavy window. "It seems to be stuck … Oh!" The window suddenly flew open and a cold current of air puffed into the room. I swung one leg over the sill and then paused, taking a deep breath.
"Katy, what are you doing?" asked Lisa.
"I'm going to go out on that ledge and call for help," I said. "Then when Superman comes to rescue me, I'll ask him if he wants to come to Thanksgiving dinner."
"Are you sure it's safe?" asked Lisa nervously. "We're pretty high up … "
"It'll be okay," I said with more confidence than I felt. Taking another deep breath, I swung my other leg over the sill and dropped down onto the ledge that was outside the window.
Gripping the window sill tightly with one hand, I cautiously turned around, being careful not to look down. I moved my left foot to the left, feeling the ledge to make sure that it didn't end just beyond the window.
No, it was okay. I let go of the window sill and shuffled to the left.
"Are you all right out there?" asked Lisa tremulously. I didn't answer. I had made the mistake of looking down and was suddenly completely unable to speak. "Are you going to call for help?" she persisted.
I opened my mouth. "Help," I squeaked in a tiny voice.
"Louder, Katy; he'll never hear that," said Lisa.
I tried again. "Help, help!" I managed to say.
"He would have to have super-super-super hearing to hear that," said Lisa. I was starting to get mad.
"I'm trying," I gasped. "Help! Superman, HELP!" I yelled. That seemed to break the knot of panic inside me and I screamed at the top of my lungs. "HELP! I'M GOING TO FALL! SOMEBODY SAVE ME! HELP, SUPERMAN!" I was beginning to get warmed up now. I screamed again and again, pausing for breath after a minute.
"Well, he won't need super hearing to hear you now," Lisa observed. "Hey, there's a bunch of people down there, watching you." She was leaning out the window, looking down at the street below. I stayed rooted to the spot, not daring to drop my eyes and look toward the ground again. "Hey, Katy, you're not looking. See all those people down there," said Lisa.
"I believe you!" I snapped. I took a deep breath and screamed again. "Help! Help! Help!"
Lisa, beginning to get into the spirit of the thing, added her voice to mine, screeching at the top of her lungs. She was still screaming when I stopped to draw breath, then she stopped abruptly and disappeared from the window. I felt the hands before I saw them. They grasped my right arm firmly and whisked me through the window and back inside the building before I could draw another breath. Delighted, I turned to face my rescuer. My jaw dropped when I saw who it was.
"Daddy!" I said blankly. He pulled me into his arms and clutched me so tightly I could hear his heart thumping in his chest.
"Katy!" he said in a shaken voice. "Whatever were you doing out there!"
Lisa started to answer. "She wanted to see S—"
"The city," I interrupted her quickly, putting my fingers on my face and rubbing my cheek where Daddy's jacket had chafed it. "I wanted to see the city. From high up, I mean."
At that moment there was a commotion as a lot of people came charging into the room.
"But Daddy," I said. "Why are you here?"
"Uh, I was nearby," said Daddy, "and I heard your screams for help."
"It's lucky you were around to get her," said a policeman who had entered the room with the other people.
"Yes," said Daddy, hugging me again. At that moment someone yelled for the policeman.
"You're wanted in the computer research room, officer," he said. "A window got broken somehow."
"What do you mean, somehow?" asked the policeman.
"No one knows. The window just shattered in a big gust of wind."
"These old buildings—all the windows need to be replaced, but they never have money in the budget." The policeman left the room, grumbling.
Daddy gave me a final hug and then left me in the hands of my teacher and the tour guide, who were among the people crowded around us.
If I expected that to be the last I heard of the incident, I was wrong.
When I got home that evening I found that Daddy had told Mummy and his parents, Grandma and Grandpa Kent, the whole story.
"What was that all about, Katy?" asked Mummy with her hands on her hips. "This wouldn't have anything to do with wanting to meet Superman, would it?"
"I-uh-I," I stammered.
"What's all this about Superman?" said Grandpa Kent.
"Katy has this idea about Superman," said Mummy. "She thinks he's lonely and we should invite him to Thanksgiving dinner," she continued. "We can't get her to shake the idea. As usual. She gets these ideas and won't let go. Pursues them obsessively … "
Daddy strolled up behind her with a knowing grin on his face. Mummy's eyes narrowed as she turned her head to look at him.
"And if you're going to say anything about where she gets that trait," said Mummy tartly, smacking him lightly on the chest with the palm of her hand, "I'll have to ask where she gets the idea that she's in charge of saving the world!"
Daddy looked a little sheepish even as he gave her a warning glance.
Mummy turned back to Grandma and Grandpa and continued. "We've told her that Superman's very busy and probably already has plans for Thanksgiving but she—"
"Why don't you ask him?" said Grandpa.
"If she wants to know if Superman can come for dinner, then why don't you ask him?" said Grandpa reasonably. "Then she'll know. And if he's busy, it'll at least set her mind at rest."
"Yes, and he might not be busy. Then he'll come," I said happily. But no one was paying any attention to me. Mummy and Daddy were staring at Grandpa.
"Why didn't I think of that?" said Mummy to no one in particular. "If anything can get her to stop obsessing—" She turned to me. "That's what we'll do, Katie, okay? And if he's busy, you'll have to stop trying to call him."
"Yes, honey, you really shouldn't call Superman away from the people who really need him," added Grandma.
"You might make him mad," said Grandpa, "and the strongest man in the world is the last person I'd want to have mad at me," he added with a wink.
I couldn't help smiling as I ran into his arms for a hug. Then I turned to Mummy.
"When are you going to ask him?" I asked, fixing my gaze on her.
Mummy sighed. "Katy, I'll ask him the next time I see him," she said. "And then you've got to stop doing things to get his attention. Do you understand why you shouldn't call him away from his work?"
"Yes," I said. "I understand. Do you think he'll want to come?"
"He might … ," said Mummy.
"As long as we don't tell him your mother's cooking dinner," said Daddy. Mummy turned and gave him a look while everyone else laughed.
"Clark!" said Grandma reprovingly, but she was laughing too.
I drifted up the stairs while Mummy continued her interrupted task of going through the mail.
"Ahh!" she shrieked.
"What is it, honey?" asked Daddy.
"This phone bill!! What happened?" I heard her say just before I shut the door to my room.
I sorta fell asleep in my father's arms when we were watching T.V., but I could still hear Mummy and Daddy talking. " … have to break a win … ?" said Mummy in a furious whisper.
" … sealed… wouldn't open … " I caught a few words from Daddy.
" … tried another … " whispered Mummy.
" … in kind of a hurry … " Daddy's arms tightened around me. There was a moment's silence.
"Of course you were," said Mummy in a changed voice. And that was the last thing I heard before drifting off to sleep again.
The next day when I was running through the school yard at recess, I suddenly fell flat on my face. When I looked up I saw Cal, The Worst Boy in School, laughing at me and I realized that he had tripped me. "Why doncha call Superman!" he sneered.
I started to get up and only got as far as my elbows when I started thinking about what he had said. I wondered if Superman would think a fight in a school yard was important enough for him to come. I rested my head in my hands while I considered the question. I know my dad would consider it important because sometimes when Daddy's late for something, Mummy will get mad and say that he's probably umpiring a boys' baseball game somewhere.
So I know it's important to Daddy, but is it important to Superman? Should I call him or not? On the one hand, it's revolting to think of making Superman believe I can't take care of myself on the playground; on the other hand—.
"Katy, are you all right?"
I blinked and looked up at the teacher, who was bending over me with a look of concern on her face. Why wouldn't I be? I wondered, and then I realized that I was still lying on my stomach in the dirt. A small crowd of kids had gathered around and they were all watching me.
I got up hastily, brushing myself off. "Yeah, I was just thinking," I said.
"About Superman," someone whispered, and someone else giggled.
Several days later when David and I were flipping through the channels on T.V. we saw Superman at another press conference with the mayor.
"There's Mom," said David, pointing at one of the reporters asking Superman a question. I went into the kitchen in search of Mummy.
"Did you ask him?" I said.
"Ask who?" said Mummy, frowning over a recipe spread out on the counter before her.
"Superman." I said. "Did you ask him about Thanksgiving? You saw him today."
"I did?" said Mummy.
"At the press conference," I said.
"Oh, yes, well, I—oh, that's right. No, he can't—I'm sorry, honey; I forgot to ask him. I'll see if I can find him tomorrow and I'll ask him then, okay? I promise."
"You sure you'll see him tomorrow, Mummy?" I asked.
"I'll make a point of looking him up tomorrow, sweetheart. He's going to be at the dedication of the new park on Small Street. Why don't you run along now so I can get us some dinner."
I waited eagerly for my answer the next day and was greatly disappointed when Mummy told me that Superman had already made plans for Thanksgiving.
Daddy walked up behind Mummy with that look on his face that he always has just before she hits him. "Superman's probably looking for a turkey that has stuffing already in it," said Daddy—and ducked.
Although I was disappointed at the news that Superman wouldn't be coming to dinner, I was relieved to know that at least the poor man wouldn't be alone on the holiday …
"It's so strange that your parents never invite Superman to their house when he's supposed to be such good friends with them," said Lisa's brother Brad the next evening as we sat with the Green's at dinner.
"They invited him to Thanksgiving dinner, but he had other plans," I said, glad to be able to set him straight on that point.
Mr. Green grunted. "I hear that you tried some pretty desperate measures to try to meet Superman, Katy," he said. I shot Lisa a look before answering him.
"Yes, but not any more," I said. "It might make him mad. And the strongest man in the world is not someone I'd care to have mad at me."
Mr. Green chuckled. "That so?" he said. "From what I hear, your father isn't someone I'd care to have mad at me, either. Or your mother, for that matter," he added.
"My father?" I echoed incredulously. I knew what he meant about Mummy.
"Your father and your mother," repeated Mr. Green. "Lane and Kent. Like two pit bulls. I'd rather have the IRS on my tail."
"Anyone care for dessert?" interrupted Mrs. Green with a warning look at her husband.
Thanksgiving came and went and then we were back in school, marking time until the real holiday. "You girls go straight to school," said Mummy one frosty morning. "Don't talk to strangers and don't leave the school until it's time to go home—not to look for Superman, not for anything. Understand?" I nodded and Lisa and I started toward the school.
"Are you going to invite Superman for Christmas?" asked Lisa.
"I don't know," I said with a sigh. I hated to think of Superman being alone, but I didn't feel confident that the topic would be received with any enthusiasm by my family.
"Why doesn't your family ever invite him?" asked Lisa. "Do you think maybe he doesn't eat like normal people? Hey! Maybe he eats toads or something. After all, he is an alien."
"Oh, I don't know," I said crossly, stepping back from the curb. I had been just about to cross the street when a car pulled up in front of us, blocking the crossing. The door of the car opened and a man in a long coat stepped out.
"Well, well," he said. "Which of you is the little Lane girl? Let me guess. Straight brown hair, big doe eyes. Yep. It must be you." He looked straight at me.
"My name is Kent," I said, looking back at him. I gasped as he seized me, cutting my scream short by shoving a rag into my mouth. I began kicking and hitting him as hard as I could, but he held me tightly and carried me into the back seat of the car.
"Got 'er," he said to the driver. The man behind the wheel put the car in gear and sped off with tires squealing. I struggled to free myself from the man's grasp, but his grip was like iron. "Hurry," he said. "She fights like ten devils." The driver said nothing but the car lurched forward. The man who had captured me held me between his knees with my arms pinned to my sides while he tied another cloth over my head and covered my eyes.
When the car finally squealed to a stop, he picked me up and carried me down some stairs.
The door shut behind us with a resounding clang. As soon as he released me I tore off the blindfold and gag, spitting to rid my mouth of the foul taste. Then I threw back my head and drew in a lungful of air.
"AAAAAAAGH!" I screeched.
"Scream away," said my captor. "No one can hear you."
"If you don't let me go, my dad will get mad," I told him, "and he's not the kind of man you want to have mad at you."
"Oho, threats," said a new voice.
"Or my mom, either," I continued.
"No need to ask if you're sure you got the right one," said the new man drily to my kidnaper. "Little spitfire. Just like her mother."
"And Superman will be mad, too," I continued, ignoring the interruption. "He's best friends with my mom and dad—he almost came to Thanksgiving dinner!" I finished triumphantly.
The new man sighed. "I hate to disillusion you, kid, but your father is on assignment in Philadelphia and your mother is covering the prince's visit to Metropolis. And … ," he leaned over me, leering, "this vault is insulated with lead so Superman will never find you here."
The words were hardly out of his mouth before there was a gust of air, accompanied by a "whoosh" and the sound of splintering wood. Before I could turn and see the source of the noise I felt myself being swept into someone's arms and crushed face inward to his chest. The new kidnaper pressed me tightly to his body and carried me—where? A sudden blast of cool air told me that we were outside. There was a swirl of wind rushing past and my stomach was left on the ground as we rose rapidly upward.
I opened my eyes. I could see the blue and red of what I assumed to be Superman's costume. I struggled against the arms holding me and Superman shifted his grip slightly. I tried to turn my head toward him, but his right hand cradled the back of my head and kept it turned away from his face.
"I-I can't breathe," I spluttered. The grip relaxed slightly. "S-Superman!" I gasped when I could speak, "what're you doing for Christmas?" There was a choking sound that might have been a laugh, but no answer from the Man of Steel.
I knew we were descending because my stomach felt like it was escaping through my head. "I'll let you down here," whispered Superman, "and you can walk home."
I turned my eyes as far to the right as I could, trying to see the ground, but all I saw were the tips of the fingers on the hand holding my head. Suddenly his grip loosened and fast as lightning he spun me around so I was facing away from him. I looked down at the ground that was only a few feet away now, then looked at the hands holding me.
"Daddy?" I said. There was no answer. I started to tilt my head up and back to see his face, but one of his hands moved quickly to my head, holding it so I couldn't see his face.
"Daddy!" I said, my fingers now clasping the hand holding my waist. "It's you. I know it's you." He set me down, releasing my head. I turned and gazed up at him. He was hovering a few feet in the air, poised for flight and looking down at me in some perplexity.
"Daddy," I tried again. "Why won't you talk to me? Why didn't you tell me you're Superman?"
"Go inside, Katy," he said finally. "Your mother and father will be waiting for you." And then he was gone just like that. I looked around, then seeing that he had set me down two doors away from our house, I quickly ran to our front door and dashed inside. In the foyer, I pulled up short. Mummy and Daddy were standing in the living room. Daddy was in the middle of telling her something and he didn't look very happy.
"How did you get here so fast?" I asked. "Oh, of course, super speed." Still, it was hard to believe that anyone could move that quickly.
"Katy!" said Mummy, speaking finally. "Um, why aren't you in school?"
"Some men came and took me away to a vault or something and then Superman came, only it was Daddy."
"Daddy?" said Mummy faintly, like she didn't know what I meant. For one minute I thought I had been mistaken, and stood there feeling a little foolish. Then I fixed my eyes on Daddy's hands. I went up to him and took one hand in both my own. I looked at him, then at Mummy.
"Daddy." I said firmly. "Is. Superman."
"Katy, what on earth-" began Mummy.
"You think I don't know my own father?" I asked her. "Look at these hands! How many times have I heard you say you should always identify people by looking at their hands and their ears? People don't disguise their hands and ears! How many times have I heard you say that?" My own hands were on my hips as I looked challengingly up at my parents.
"Lois, honey, I think—" began Daddy.
"It's time she knew," said Mummy throwing up her hands.
"She *does* know," said Daddy. "Whether it's time or not."
Mummy glared at him. "Why did you have to tell the little criminologist to ID people by their hands, Clark?" Mummy said in exasperation. "Don't we have enough troubles without training a miniature Sherlock Holmes—"
"Lois," began Daddy.
"All right, all right, I know. It's as much my fault as it is yours!"
"Will somebody please tell me what's so bad about me knowing?" I asked. "I can't believe you kept this a secret from me! My own parents! Not telling me that *my dad is Superman!*" My voice rose. "You know what? I'm mad! I'm really mad!" I stomped my foot. "All this time I wanted to see Superman—"
"Katy!" said Mummy sharply. "That's enough!" She looked at Daddy, who was struggling not to laugh. "Will you tell me what is so funny in all this?" she asked, tossing her head.
"Nothing!" said Daddy, "only she reminds me of 'someone else' who got mad when she learned my secret."
"WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE TELL ME WHY THIS IS A SECRET? And from your *own kids*?" I asked.
Daddy was at my side instantly, kneeling beside me as he took my hands in his own. "Honey, this is a very dangerous secret. We don't want anyone to know that you and David are my children because there are people out there who would want to hurt you if they knew."
"You mean like today?" I asked, my eyes gleaming up at him. "Like those men today?"
"Sort of," said Daddy. "Only those men were mad at your mom, not me. Your mom has bad enemies; but mine are worse," he explained. "So you see that we can't tell *anyone* our secret."
"Are you really okay, Katy?" said Mummy, coming forward to hug me now. "Clark, do you think we should take her to see someone? An experience like that can be very traumatic for a child—"
"Lois, the first thing she said to Superman was 'what are you doing for Christmas?'" said Daddy with a funny smile.
Mummy made a sound between a gasp and a laugh, just like Superman—I mean Daddy—had done. "If she had the presence of mind to think of that, I guess she's okay," said Mummy. "Now about this secret," she continued, "do you know what it means, Katy? You can't tell anyone! Not Lisa, not anyone! It's going to be a hard secret to keep. That's why we didn't tell you before."
"I can keep a secret!" I protested. "I'll bet you never knew that I was the one who put the bubble bath in the toilet tanks at David's birthday party last year!" Something in Mummy's face told me that was a secret I'd have done better to keep. I hurried on. "So I won't tell anyone. I promise." I thought for a minute. "This means we'll have to keep it a secret from David, too," I said, a smile spreading across my face.
"Um, no," began Daddy.
"Uh, actually, David already knows," said Mummy, almost apologetically.
"WHAT!" I screeched, outraged. "YOU MEAN DAVID KNOWS AND I DIDN'T AND HE'S EVEN A YEAR YOUNGER THAN ME??"
"Stop shouting, Katy!" said Mummy sharply. "Your brother knows because he found out the same way you did. Superman rescued him and David recognized him."
"And he never said a thing to me," I squawked. Mummy and Daddy looked at each other. "So that proves we can keep secrets," I added, flouncing up the stairs to my room.
It wasn't until later that I thought to wonder what happened to the men who had kidnaped me (Superman called the police and they were arrested minutes after he rescued me) and how Superman had been able to find me so quickly and in a lead-insulated room, at that. I learned (much to my indignation) that my parents had implanted a special Star Labs radio device under my skin, and it was the transmissions from that device that had led Superman to me after Mummy had contacted him to tell him that I had been kidnaped.
I didn't see Lisa again until the next morning, although our parents talked on the phone when Mummy called to tell them that I had arrived at home safely. "What was it like?" asked Lisa as we started toward the school. "Being rescued by Superman? What was *he* like?"
"Oh, I dunno," I said, sloughing over the second question. "There was this big 'whoosh' sound, and then he grabbed me and we started going up real fast—"
"A 'whoosh' sound?"
"Yeah, that's the noise you hear when he comes in real fast. It's a sound like wind blowing, like—"
"Like wind blowing against a leaky window?" asked Lisa. "Like the window at your house?"
"At my house?" I repeated, staring.
"Yes, you know. When I was at your house there was a whoosh sound and your mom said that a leaky window—"
"Oh." I said, stopping dead in my tracks as I made the connection. I was silent for a minute as I struggled with my feelings. "Not quite the same," I said, having just enough presence of mind to cover for "Superman" even as I quelled my rising indignation from remembering how often I had heard that sound without realizing its significance.
"Did you invite him for Christmas?" asked Lisa curiously.
At that moment there was a whoosh sound accompanied by a heavy gust of wind as Superman suddenly appeared, hovering just off the ground right in front of us.
"I thought you girls might like a ride to school this morning," he said, folding his arms across his chest.
"A ride?" I said. "You mean, like *fly*?" Lisa, round-eyed, just goggled up at him in silence.
"Yes, we'll fly," he said, smiling. "Slowly." With that he picked us up, one in each arm, and began flying toward the school, slowly as he had promised. I felt awkward and tried to think of something to say to fill the silence. It was hard, since I knew that he was really my own father, who had kissed me good-bye less than an hour ago! Lisa was useless, seeming to have forgotten how to speak entirely.
"So," I said conversationally, "have you caught any crooks yet today?"
"Not yet," he said, laughing. "But the day's just begun. Unfortunately, I'm sure there'll be some before the day's out."
I saw Lisa looking at me and it reminded me of why I had wanted to meet Superman in the first place. "Do you want to come to our house for Christmas?" I asked him.
"Thank you, but I already have plans," he said. "You don't need to worry about me being lonely," he assured me, as if I didn't already know that! In fact, I was wondering how Lisa could look at my dad and not know that he's Superman. It's so obvious! Duh! But she didn't have a clue! I began to wonder if the Kryptonian mind has a hypnotic effect on full-blooded earthlings that keeps them from guessing Daddy's secret, or if they're all just galactically stupid.
We arrived at the school in very short order. Superman set us down gently in front of the school and said good-bye. I had to do the honors for us since Lisa was still speechless. It was getting to be a real pain, her being so tongue-tied. For the first time, I started to feel glad that she didn't know that Superman is really Daddy. It could be awkward to have her falling all over herself every time she comes to my house to visit.
She found her tongue as soon as Superman had disappeared. "Wow!" she said excitedly. "I can't believe we actually flew with Superman!" She turned toward the school.
"Look!" she said, pointing. "Everyone's watching!" She was right, a bunch of kids were standing in the schoolyard, gaping up at where Superman had disappeared.
Lisa threw her head up and ran inside, screeching, "Superman, Superman, we flew with Superman!"
I followed her, head down. I was thinking again. "I wonder if Batman has anywhere to go for Christmas … "