By Jerry A. Boggs
August 2017 – 2,000 words, 14 min.
SHE PLUNGED the company’s roaring black SUV into the zoo parking lot and hit the brakes hard. She tossed aside her seat belt.
“By now every efffing animal’s on the loose. Do you have a gun?”
“I, uh, don’t need a gun,” he said. It was becoming too nerve-racking to keep his secret from her. “There’s something I–”
“What? Sheesh. Got mine. Didn’t it occur to you how dangerous this would be?”
“–something I want to talk to you about.”
She gave him a pointed look. “You pick now to discuss something? Sometimes I’m surprised Perry hired you. No. Shocked.”
He smiled. “We may both be out of a job when he finds out we’re here.”
“Which he’ll do very shortly. But when he sees my vids — a hat tip to my tipster — he’ll be all lovey-dovey.”
“Well, you’ve known him longer.”
She sighed and scrunched her forehead. “Look, want to stay in the car? Be a little safer.”
“No. You said it when we left the office: two heads, two bodies, are better than one, especially in a crisis.”
“Sometimes. Sometimes.” Something caught her eye. “There!”
About 75 yards inside the Metropolis City Zoo’s wide main entrance, on the other side of the Safari Cafe, men, women, and children scattered in a burst of screams. Behind them a massive gray shape trotted into view, bellowing and flinging its trunk up and down.
She swore under her breath, gave him a sidelong glance. “Where the hell’s Superman when you need him?”
Before he could say anything, she shoved the door open and scrambled out. As people bolted away from the angry, rampaging African bull elephant, Lois raced toward it, her phone hoisted and live-streaming video to the office.
He shook his head and opened the door part-way. “Second thoughts, Lois!” he yelled. “I’ll stay here and notify the police!”
Her finger shot high and spun circles. “That’s my Clark.”
The elephant pulled up, pivoting, storms of dust billowing out from underneath its feet. It flung its trunk upward and trumpeted. Ears extended straight out, eyes opened wide, it lumbered fast toward Lois. Its trunk was tucked in out of the way of the trimmed tusks. This was no mock charge. This elephant meant business.
Clark slipped out of the SUV and dashed over to the bushes bordering the parking lot. A fraction of a second later, he launched himself straight up into the sparsely cloudy, early July sky, the shock wave exploding open the bushes, a torrent of ripped leaves spiraling upward in the vacuum for some 30 feet. From half a mile high, he swooped down and planted himself between Lois and the hurtling elephant.
The animal picked up its pace, perhaps further enraged by this confrontational, strange-looking character in a cobalt-blue outfit and crimson cape. It seemed determined to take him out.
“Whoa, take it easy, big buddy,” Superman said, “let’s not get carried away here.” In a flash, he positioned himself underneath the elephant, his back arched up against its belly, arms spread to distribute the animal’s weight and minimize its discomfort. After easing the elephant up, its legs and trunk flailing, he hauled it off and alighted in the zoo’s nearby Trails of Africa.
He zip-flew to the Trails gates and saw the locks had been shattered. So it was gunfire he’d heard several times earlier but had pegged as fireworks. A lesson there for this time of the year. He closed the gates and welded them together with a fiery shot of his powerful laser-like vision.
Cruising over the zoo at 200 feet, he spotted a gray-back on the loose outside the Congo Gorilla Forest. It galloped on all fours toward a fleeing cluster of screaming men, women, and children. He zoomed down.
“Howdy there, handsome. I know your arms are strong enough to handle your 400 pounds.” He took hold of the perplexed animal’s wrist, lifted the gorilla slowly into the air, and carried it back inside to the Gorilla Forest. He returned to the group that had fled.
They burst into more screaming and running.
Something slammed into the back of him. A huge, clawed paw slid off his shoulder. He swiveled to see collapsing on the ground a large, reddish-maned lion, knocked unconscious, its chest heaving in and out. It might as well have hurled itself against a titanium Hoover Dam.
He felt a tickling on his arm and side, followed a millisecond later by the loud thut-thut-thut-thut he recognized as AK-15 discharge — the same sound his super-hearing had mistaken for fireworks a few minutes before they left the office. Flattened bullets rained to the ground at his feet.
Twenty yards away, the shooter stood straddle-legged beside the huge, billowing oak tree that had hidden him. He was bearded, long-haired, and wore a green baseball cap. He cursed and took aim.
Superman knitted a brow. “Seriously?”
Scowling, the vermillion-faced man squeezed the trigger and emptied his clip.
Superman wanted to prevent deflected bullets from striking people and animals, including the knocked-out lion. He seized the bullets in the air at faster-than-lightning speed. He crushed them in his hands, sprinkled the powder in front of him.
In a flash, the man’s weapon was on the ground, the barrel tied in a knot. Superman held the grimacing villain by the upper arm as a pair of the black-uniformed police officers swarming in ran up.
For the next 20 minutes, after telling frenzied-looking zoo personnel “I got this,” he rounded up the rest of the escaped animals: a rolling troop of chimps, a giraffe, one rhino, an ostrich, two tigers, several zebras, a lion, and one genuinely ticked-off hippo. He returned them to their respective zoo homes.
Back with Lois, he hovered five feet off the ground in front of her. She’d been busy steaming videos of his airborne rescues.
“Superman! Thank Heavens! What would I do without you?”
“My wild guess is, you wouldn’t put yourself in harm’s way like this.”
She looked down at the ground. “You’re probably right.”
“Dwight Napoleon,” Superman said. “Animal-rights activist turned extremist. Cares more about animals than humans. He’ll do serious time if he’s not insane.”
“I hear everything, Lois. Was doing a fly-over listening to the city. People at the zoo were screaming. Gotta run.”
Looking up and squinting, Lois pulled in a breath and watched him disappear into a cloud before she exhaled.
In the parking lot, Clark stood next to the SUV as Lois jogged up.
From behind him, a man and a little girl, maybe four, headed across the lot toward the zoo.
The little girl spotted Lois and Clark. She did a few excited up-and-down hops. “I know where Mr. Superguy lives!”
“Oh?” Lois said, smiling and stopping a few feet away from Clark. “Where’s that, sweetheart? Where does he live?”
The little girl pointed. “In the bushes over there!”
Her dark-haired dad, 30-ish, with a fashionable black stubble, laughed and shrugged. “She has a very active imagination.”
Lois bounced her gaze off the man back to the girl again. She bent closer. “Why do you say he lives in the bushes?” She looked over to Clark for a moment. To Clark, her expression was unreadable.
“I saw him zoom straight up outta there!”
Lois put her hand to her chest. “My goodness! And did daddy see him, too?”
The man shook his head, trying not to laugh again.
“Well,” Lois said, “I’m glad you told me that, darling. I’m going to remember it. Thanks so much.”
The man took his daughter’s hand. “Do you think it’s safe to take her into the zoo now?”
“Sure do, thanks to ‘Mr. Superguy.’”
The little girl and her dad sauntered away, she pausing every five or six yards to do her in-place hops.
Lois took a breath.
So did Clark. “You don’t actually believe her, do you?”
She grinned. “Naaah.”
He bobbed his chin toward the zoo. “Scary, eh?” He looked away for a full five seconds, then back. “Uh, is this a good time to tell you what I—?”
“By the way, we still have our jobs. Pretty sure Perry’s jumping up and down like that little girl.”
“Good. Good. Good.” He paused a beat. “Lois, gotta tell you something. I’m not what you think I am.”
“Oh I know. You’re really not a wilting violet afraid of your own shadow.”
He chewed his lip. “No. I’m, uh, actually not the person you think–”
“What I mean is….” The words froze in his throat. “What–what I mean is, I’m somebody else. I’m two people, two different people. Entirely different.”
She smiled. “Sometimes I am, too. But—”
“Look, what I’m walking the long way around the barn to say is—”
He exhaled and dropped his shoulders. Why did this have to be so difficult? “What was it you wanted to tell me?”
“No no no. Go ahead.”
He rubbed his forehead with his fingertips. “Before I tell you, though, you must promise to keep it forever to yourself.”
“Hmmm. Sounds pretty heavy. All righty, I promise. Now just say it.”
He sucked in a breath, closed his eyes for a long moment. “You know me as Clark. That’s one of the people I am.” He looked away again. “The other person I am….”
Her hand appeared on his arm.
“The other person I am is—”
He gasped. “Wha—? How did—? When—?”
“Y’know, sometimes you can see a pattern without looking for one, no matter how clever it is. Sorta like if you dial a new phone number enough times, pretty soon you know it by heart without trying to. Your pattern wasn’t very clever. So many times you conveniently disappeared right before ‘Superguy’” — she giggled– “uh, before your other self showed up.”
“Not clever, huh?” He clucked his tongue. “Lucky you I can’t be bruised emotionally, either.”
She stepped in closer, grinning. “I’ve just been playing along, teasing you, pretending while you pretended, teasing you about things — you know, like I did about the gun. It’s sorta been fun.”
He chuckled. “Here’s where I’d feel embarrassed and blush, if I weren’t who I–”
“Now you know why I wanted you — wanted Clark — to come along today. I had planned to tell you, away from the office, I knew who you were.”
She flipped her hands, looking sheepish. “I wanted you along today also because of the danger — which Perry knew about, too. And when I spotted the elephant, I realized I could get a great vid, a close-up of it charging me head-on. I used you, and I’m sorry. And I feel like I cheated and took an advantage other reporters don’t have. I won’t do that again.”
She reached and removed his glasses. “Soon as I realized it, you looked just like him. How dumb could I be not to see past a pair of glasses with no prescription?”
He nodded. “Kinda knew that would happen one day. You and I — for a couple of years now — you and I’ve been like a pair of old shoes, more together than apart. So that’s what you wanted to tell me?”
“No.” She held her gaze steady on him. “What I’ve wanted to tell you for a long time is….”
“Wait! I almost forgot the most important part. I have a Part Two.”
“Maybe I have a Part Two, too—”
“You see, from the very first day I laid eyes on you—”
“Me too.” She gave him a devilish look. “By the way,” she said through a giggle, “that fly-over business–?”
“I lie only to protect my identity.” He cleared his throat twice. “Now what I wanted to tell you is— Wait, what?”
“Lois, are you saying—?”
“A pair of old shoes, eh?” Her arms encircled him. “Yes, I love you, too, SuperClark. And there are two things you can do that’ll make me love you even more.”
“Work on my similes. What’s the other?”
“Stop living in bushes.”