Written by argonaut :: [Thursday, 01 August 2013 09:47] Last updated by :: [Thursday, 15 May 2014 15:58]
My wife was at a meeting of her book club, so I had the house to myself for the evening. I put a load of laundry in the washing machine, then plopped down in front of the television. The basketball game should be starting about now. Picking up the remote, I clicked past Law & Order re-runs and cable-news talking heads …
Hey! Wasn't that the original Superman movie? I hadn't seen that in years. I decided to watch a few minutes.
I'd tuned in late. Superman was lying, weak and helpless, in the pool beneath Luthor's lair with a chunk of kryptonite chained around his neck. Miss Teschmacher was splashing through the water to save him. Supporting his weight on one arm, she began to lift the chain from around his neck, then hesitated. Looking deeply into Superman's eyes, she pressed her lips against his.Then she removed the chain and flung it to the far side of the pool.
Superman opened his eyes. “Why did you kiss me first?” he asked weakly.
Miss Teschmacher regarded him tearfully. “I thought you wouldn't let me, later.” She sighed. “Why is it I can't get it on for the good guys?”
“My,” said a voice above them. “What a touching tableau.”
Superman and Miss Teschmacher looked up. Lex Luthor was standing at the railing above the pool, holding a goose-necked desk lamp in his hands.
That's strange, I thought. This wasn't in the movie, was it? I must be watching a director's cut or something.
Luthor's face was expressionless as he let the lamp drop from his hands. “Oops.” It fell into the water, trailing a long extension cord behind it.
There was a crackle of electricity and a blinding flash. The overhead lights flickered and dimmed. A moment later, a back-up generator kicked in. Luthor gazed down at the two bodies floating motionless in the pool. Turning away with a shrug, he strode back into his office.
For a long moment, Superman floated in the water without moving. Then his eyes opened and he began to thrash about, coughing and gasping, until he managed to stand up in the waist-deep water and look around for his would-be rescuer.
“Miss Teschmacher? Miss Teschmacher!”
“Superman?” The voice – fearful, hesitant – came from above.
Superman looked up. Miss Teschmacher was hovering about ten feet above the pool, water streaming from her hair and her dress, her large eyes round with fear.
“Superman, what's going on? I feel so strange.”
“Hold on, Miss Teschmacher,” Superman said reassuringly. He tried to fly up to her, only to fall, face forward, back into the water. As he stood up again, he saw that the palm of his hand was raw and bleeding where he'd scraped it against the side of the pool.
“Miss Teschmacher,” he said. “Listen. The kryptonite and the electricity – somehow they must have combined to take away my super-powers and transfer them to you.”
“But – how – ?”
“Listen to me, Miss Teschmacher. This means it's up to you to stop that missile.”
“But I can't,” she wailed, nearly hysterical. “I don't-”
“You must. For the sake of all those innocent people. For-for your mother.”
“My mother!” Miss Teschmacher gasped. The next moment, she shot toward the ceiling in a blur of super-speed. Superman scrambled out of the way as chunks of mortar and masonry plunged into the pool.
On the sidewalk above Luthor's lair, pedestrians jumped aside in alarm as Miss Teschmacher burst through the pavement, showering fragments of concrete in all directions. A heartbeat later, she was high above the city, scanning the sky anxiously for the missile.
There! It was already hurtling over the dockyards to the south, towards Metropolis Bay, on a direct course for Hackensack.
With grim determination, Miss Teschmacher flew after the missile, faster and faster, air friction scorching the fabric of her dress, the wind tearing it to tatters.
Now she was closing in on it, flying unscathed through the flames of its engines, the scraps of her dress disintegrating in the incandescent heat.
She began scrambling along the length of the missile, her fingers digging into the steel casing as if it were tin-foil, the metal crumpling between her thighs as she pulled herself forward, oblivious to the five-hundred-mile-per-hour winds rushing past her naked body …
Damn, I thought, staring open-mouthed at the screen. No wonder this hadn't been in the theatrical release.
She reached the front of the missile. Pausing only to brush her wind-tossed hair away from her face, she laid her hands on the nose and pressed down.
The missile tossed about like a bucking bronco, striving to stay on course, but its mighty engines were no match for Miss Teschmacher. Slowly, inexorably, she forced the missile down and toward the east, pushing it toward the open sea …
She was still straddling the missile when it plunged into the ocean. Moments later, a muffled explosion filled the air, a mountain of water burst toward the sky, and huge waves began spreading outward, barges, ferries, and cruise ships bobbing on the swell like a fleet of bathtub toys.
Miss Teschmacher shot upward, salt water streaming from her body. She had some business to take care of, back in Metropolis …
But she'd need some clothes first.
She scanned the vessels below with her super-vision until she spotted a yacht several miles away rising and falling on the swell. Its owner – evidently a sound sleeper – was dozing on the deck with his cap over his face. And a few garments were drying on a clothesline strung between the masts.
Alighting gently on the deck, Miss Teschmacher tiptoed to the clothesline and took down a blue T-shirt and a pair of red gym shorts. She was about to fly off – but then she hesitated.
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “Superman wouldn't take anything that didn't belong to him, and neither will I!”
She walked over to the deck chair where the man was sleeping. “Um – excuse me?” She leaned over and shook the man's shoulder.
“Huh? What?” Startled, the man sat up, gaping at the statuesque brunette standing, stark naked, on the deck of his boat. “How did you -- ?”
“I'm sorry to disturb you.” Miss Teschmacher said. “But I need some clothes.” She held up the items she'd taken from the clothesline.
The man nodded, still gaping. “So I see.”
“And I don't have any money on me.”
“But I promise,” she said earnestly. “I promise that if you give me your name and address, I'll pay for these. Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.” She traced an “X” with her forefinger across her chest.
The man gulped. “It's okay. You can – you can have those.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. We're – we're good.”
“Well, okay – if you say so.” Quickly, she put the garments on. The shorts were a bit snug, and the T-shirt was a bit tight around the chest, but they'd do. Miss Teschmacher smiled brightly at the bewildered yachtsman. “Bye!” And off she flew.
Back in Metropolis, a crowd had gathered along the waterfront. People were pointing excitedly out to sea, where – just a few minutes ago – an enormous waterspout had risen hundreds of feet into the air, accompanied by a loud rumble. A high, rolling swell was washing over the piers and crashing against the sea-wall below the onlookers.
“Look!” somebody shouted. “It's Superman!”
Sure enough, off in the distance, a tiny figure was streaking across the sky toward Metropolis.
“Hey, wait a minute.” A man with binoculars was trying to make himself heard above the excited murmur of the crowd. “That's not Superman – it's a girl!”
“Huh? Gimme those.” Snatching the binoculars from their owner, another onlooker peered toward the flying figure. “Well, I'll be darned! It is a girl – and what a girl!”
But Miss Teschmacher was already hovering above the crowd, holding up her hands for silence as the onlookers stared up at her with wide eyes and open mouths. She cleared her throat.
“Um, hi,” she said nervously. “I – I guess you're all wondering what just happened. Well, a bad man named Lex Luthor stole a missile and tried to blow up Hackensack.” She held up her hands again, waiting for the crowd to quiet down. “But don't worry, people of Metropolis,” she went on with growing confidence. “Everything's okay – and now I'm going to take Lex Luthor to jail so he won't be doing anything like that again!”
And off she flew toward the center of Metropolis, followed by the applause, cheers, and whistles of the crowd. Gee, she thought. Being one of the good guys isn't so bad!
Back in Luthor's subterranean lair, the would-be real-estate mogul was sitting at his desk, puffing on a cigar and watching the missile's progress on a radar screen. Ten seconds until impact … nine … eight …
Suddenly the white dot on the screen stopped moving, then disappeared.
Luthor scowled. What the –? Jumping up from his chair, he began fiddling with the radar's controls, but to no avail. It was as if the missile had simply vanished.
“No! No!” With mounting panic, Luthor turned on the television, switching from channel to channel until he came across a local anchorwoman speaking earnestly into the camera.
“Authorities have not commented on the cause of the explosion,” she was saying, “but numerous eyewitnesses claim that a rocket or missile plunged into the bay moments before. Stay tuned to WMET for further-”
Luthor stormed out of his office and out onto the balcony. Below, Superman was standing at the edge of the pool, wringing water from his cape.
“Superman!” Luthor barked. The Man of Steel looked up. “Where – where's Miss Teschmacher?”
“She had to run off.” Superman pointed to the hole in the ceiling. “Something about catching a missile.”
Luthor's mind was in a whirl. He had no idea what was going on, but he was certain of one thing: His associate had betrayed him.
“That treacherous twit!” he bellowed, clenching his fists. “That double-crossing dimwit! I'll-”
“Now, Lex,” said a voice behind him. “Is that any way to talk about a lady?”
Luthor turned around. “Miss Teschmacher?” he gasped.
Miss Teschmacher, in a tight blue T-shirt and red gym shorts, was hovering above the floor, glaring down at him with her arms folded across her imposing chest. Reaching down, she grabbed Luthor by the front of his shirt and lifted him effortlessly off the floor.
“Let go!” he sputtered.
“You're not the boss of me any more, Lex Luthor,” Miss Teschmacher declared. “You're a bad man – and I'm taking you where you belong!”
Next moment, Miss Teschmacher was flying up through the hole in the ceiling, dragging the criminal mastermind behind her.
A commercial came on. I hurried down to the basement, put the wet laundry in the dryer, and filled the washing machine with a load of whites. I was halfway up the stairs when I realized that I hadn't added the fabric softener. Oops.
By the time I got upstairs again, the movie was back on. Superman and Miss Teschmacher were sitting on the edge of the pool.
“I've done some bad things myself,” Miss Teschmacher sighed. “I guess I should go to jail, too.”
Superman smiled. “I've got a better idea. You could pay your debt to society through – well, something like community service. That is, if you're serious about using your powers for good.”
“Oh, I am,” Miss Teschmacher said earnestly.
“Okay, then. I'll talk to some people I know at the FBI. They can set up a new identity for you. And then-” Superman eyed Miss Teschmacher's figure appraisingly. It was a good thing his costume had plenty of stretch …
Next morning, in the city room at the Daily Planet …
“Listen up, people.” Perry White held up a copy of yesterday's late edition of the Planet. “SUPERWOMAN SAVES HACKENSACK” screamed the banner headline. “We may have gotten the scoop, but every other paper in town is hot for this story.” He displayed copies of rival newspapers: “WHO IS SUPERWOMAN?” … “BUXOM BOMBSHELL BLITZES BAY” … and splashed across the front page of a popular tabloid: “VA-VA-VA-BOOM!”
“So let's get going! I want the low-down on this Superwoman. Who is she? Where's she from? Does she have a boyfriend? Is she Yankees or Mets? What's her connection with Superman? Are they an item? Lane, you look into that angle. Olsen, I want pictures. Kent … Kent!”
Clark Kent sat up with a jerk. “Sorry, Mr. White,” he said, pushing his glasses back up along his nose. “All that excitement yesterday – it, uh, took a lot out of me.”
“Well, you better grab a cup of coffee. We've got a story to cover.” He glared round the newsroom. “Great Caesar's ghost! What are you all waiting for? Go! Go!”
As the reporters hurried out of the office, Perry White lit a cigar and shook his head. “Superman – Superwoman – what's next? Superdog?”
Outside the Daily Planet building, a statuesque brunette in a business suit, her hair pulled back in a severe bum, was buying a cup of coffee from a sidewalk vendor. The vendor's radio was tuned to a news station.
“-still abuzz over the mysterious superwoman who saved Hackensack from a hijacked missile yesterday, then delivered the fugitive criminal Lex Luthor to Metropolis Prison before flying off. In other news, a bus full of schoolchildren is trapped on a mountain road in Colorado and in danger of falling from an eroded cliff. Rescue efforts are impeded by recent rockslides, and the governor has sent out an urgent appeal to Superman-”
The brunette thrust her coffee into the hands of the customer standing behind her. “Here,” she said. “My treat.” And before the man could reply, she was hurrying down the sidewalk, weaving her way through the crowd of pedestrians.
Turning into a narrow alley, she shook down her hair and tore open her blouse, revealing a snug blue top emblazoned with a red-and-yellow “S” …
As the credits began to roll to the accompaniment of the familiar John Williams score, I heard the front door open. I turned down the volume and stood up as my wife entered the room.
“Hey,” I said. “How was the book club?”
She shrugged. “Eh. We spent most of the time talking about Jan's new boyfriend. Honestly, I don't know why I bother to read the books. So what have you been doing?”
“I was just watching this-” Huh? The television screen was blank. I grabbed the remote and clicked up and down, but I couldn't find the movie credits.
My wife was hanging her coat in the closet. “I thought you might have been writing one of your stories for that superwoman site,” she said.
“No,” I said, still staring at the television. “But I think I've come up with an idea for one …”