Near 500 words: The Birth of a Superhero

In a previous post, I introduced my readers to the twenty-first century superhero, Fudgenado. Here is how that superhero came to be:

Some say it was a Monday. Some say Wednesday. Still others Friday. In truth, it was Sunday. Late Sunday night with midnight closing in. Jasper Cookster, chocolatier-in-chief of Chocolatetown, had spent the last thirteen hours working on a new fudge recipe. He was on his hundredth try.

As all stories like this begin, it was indeed a dark and stormy night. Besides that, there was a tornado on the way to Chocolatetown. There was thunder and flashes of lightning on the horizon. But Jasper Cookster was so engrossed in his recipe-making, he didn’t have a clue about what was about to hit Chocolatetown.

All he knew was that this recipe had better work. For thirteen hours, he had been at his work, stirring in this ingredient and that ingredient and the other ingredient. And none had that fudgelishous taste that said, “Jasper.”

Jasper leaned over and tossed in his last ingredient for the piece de resistance batch he was making. The thunder thundered. The lightning lightninged. And a tornado hovered above the Chocolate Store where Jasper was in mortal combat with his recipe. “This had better work,” he mumbled. “This had better work.”

As we all know, those are abracadabara, shazam words that make magic. And magic did happen as the clock struck midnight. Only it wasn’t the magic Jasper was expecting. The thunder ka-boomed. The tornado touched down. The lightning struck and hit Jasper right in his tushie.

Jasper fell into the large tub of fudge goop that was a-stirring. He went under. Just as he did, the lightning hit the tub. The tornado then picked up the tub and Jasper and sailed off into the west a la Dorothy. Two miles out of town, it gently set the tub onto a pasture.

Now that tub may not have been the home of an fudge excellence, but it was the birthplace of a new superhero. Out of the fudge razzmatazz, Jasper flew. Only he wasn’t Jasper. He was a creature covered with brown fudge goop covering his entire body from the end of his big toenails to the tippy toppy hair on his head. He rose spiralling in the sky and headed towards Chocolatetown.

As he moved like a meteor across the sky, Farmer Brown, from his bed through the bedroom window, looked up in the sky and saw what he saw. As he did, he was moved to say, “It’s a bird. It’s a plane.”

His wife said from her sleep, “No it’s not. It’s a fudgenado. Now go back to sleep. The rooster will be crowing in six hours.”

From her bedroom window, Latisha, Farmer Brown’s nubile daughter, had been wishing upon a star. Only there wasn’t a star. She was about to wish for her Prince Charming to come and swoop her away from slopping hogs and milking cows and all the other farm chores an only child had to do. She saw the meteor as it flashed across the sky. Right then and right there, she knew she had seen her future. She was ready to walk down the candy lane aisle and say her I-doeses to the world’s first twenty-first century hero. She was ready to become Mrs. Fudgenado.

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Near 500 words: The Singer

Clara wakes up happy. I know this is not a good way to start a story. I’m supposed to have the main character in distress or at least thinking about distress. But the thing is. Clara is happy.

She is so happy she wants to sing it to the world. And sing it to the world she is going to do. She has a recording contract.

Her gray eyes and her smile show just how happy she is. She had been with her manager all day the previous day choosing songs to take to her producer.

Clara is tired. She has gotten only a little sleep. Her excitement kept her awake most of the night. Her day has finally arrived and she is going to sing for the world.

It is early when she wakes.

Finally, you’re getting somewhere with the story. Clara is going to have an accident on the way to the studio, you’re saying.

Not true. Not true. Nothing is going to happen on the way to the studio. She is going to arrive and sing like the nightingale she was in a former life.

Once she is in the studio, her producer is not going to like the songs she has chosen.

Oh, no. He will like them just fine. You see, he’s in love with Clara. He’s in love with her voice. And he’s in love with her songs. In his mind, her songs are wonderful. They are about the life of her grandmother. She came to Israel when she was a teenager to escape the Holocaust. And escape she did. She came and worked on a kibbutz. The album will end with her grandmother’s garden. It will start off sad and end very happy.

It’s the story of Dorothy escaping to Oz and falling in love with Oz. No returning to Kansas for Dorothy. Dorothy is just fine with Oz and so is Toto. She loves Oz so much that she wants Auntie Em and her uncle to come and live with her. But it’s too late. The tornado took them and the government repossessed the farm. It wasn’t that good of afarm anyway.

The Wizard may have been a disappointment in Oz but everything is just hunky dory since Dorothy melted that witch. The munckins sang hip-hip-hooray. The citizens of Oz sang hip-hip-hooray. Even the horse of a different color sang hip-hip-hooray.

It was then that Dorothy met her Prince Charming. He was a shoe salesman. It’s amazing how many times these Cinderella stories revolve around feet.

After the war, Clara’s grandmother returned to Germany. She went to Auschwitz where her parents and her brother had died. Kansas was not the place she had loved as a young girl. So she returned to Israel and met her Prince Charming. Five kids they had. One of them was Clara’s mother. Her grandfather found in the Israel War of Independence. He fought against Nassar and his allies. While Clara’s grandmother made a home for her husband and her children.

She also made the most wonderful garden. And Clara is going to sing about that garden. That is the final song, “The Garden”. It begins with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. It continues with the garden that was the Alhambra. And it ends with memories of Monet’s Garden, all metaphors for Clara’s grandmother’s garden. The last line of the last song, “Dorothy loved the Gardens of Oz.”

Near 500 words: The Nates

The two Nates met on a Saturday night. It was a Blind Date. As they were eating their burgers, Natalie said, “Wouldn’t it be funny?”

“If we fell in love?” Nathaniel finished her sentence.

“And got married?” Natalie finished his sentence.

“Let’s do that,” Nathaniel added.

The Blind Date turned into more dates till finally Nate asked Nate to marry him. Nate agreed and began to plan the wedding. They sent out invitations with N & N engraved on them.

Instead of a wedding dress and a tux, the bride dressed as Tweedledee and the groom was Tweedledum. It was the thing Nates would do. After all, she was tall and he was tall. She had long auburn hair and him, his hair was not so much.

He was bald. Gravity had tugged on his hair and pulled it through his head and downward into a long beard. But it was a nice beard, well-groomed in a groom sort of way.

In the chapel, they did their I-doeses to the applause of friends and family. At the reception, the best man, whose name was Charlie, toasted the couple. The maid of honor looked across the table and gave him the look. You know the one. The one that says it’s love at first sight. Her name was Charly.

Nate turned to Nate and said, “Before you know it—”

Nate finished the groom’s sentence, “they’ll be doing the Charleston.”

Then Nate and Nate went off to Hawaii for two weeks. They surfed. They snorkeled. They went to a luau. They rode motorcycles up the side of a volcano.

They came back pregnant. Soon Nate’s belly was balloon-size. They were having twins. The babies were born. Charly and Charlie came to the hospital to see the newborns. Charly was pregnant.

“When are you due?” Nate asked from her hospital bed.

“Seven months,” the beginning-to-show Charly answered, then smiled as she looked at the newborns.

Charlie looked up from the babies in their crib and over at Nate in her bed. “She has your smile.”

“He has your eyes,” Charly said to the father, standing beside his wife’s bed. “Do you have names picked out?”

“We do,” Nate said through his beard.

“I suppose,” Charly said as she felt her belly. It felt like a kick but it probably was too soon for that.

Her husband added, “it will be Nate and Nate.”

“Heck no,” Nate said from her bed. “That would be dumb.”

Nate agreed. “No, we’re calling them—”

From her bed, Nate said, “Smith and Jones.”

The soon-to-be father, asked, “Which one is Smith and which one is Jones?”

The new mom announced, “The girl is the older one. So her name is Jones.”

“And the boy is Smith,” Nate said.

Both Charly and Charlie gave them a look that said, “How did you choose which was which?”

Nate’s wife answered, “Oh that’s easy. The first one out was Jones. So it’s obvious that Smith has to keep up with the Jones.”

 

Near 500 words: The Great Hat War

Doris came home from the market upset. She stormed through the front door and passed Charles on the sofa and into the kitchen.

Her husband of forty years closed his newspaper and folded it neatly. He rose and followed his wife into the kitchen. She was angrily putting things away. Charles went to kiss her on the cheek.

She glared at him. “Don’t you dare.”

“What’s wrong, Sweet’ems?” he asked.

Sweet’ems was in no mood to be Sweet’ems. “Don’t Sweet’ems me.”

This was not good. Not good at all. Charles was concerned. He had not seen his wife this upset since the Big Shoe Expedition of 1896.

Doris glared at Charles. “Fine mess,” she mumbled. “That Henrietta Dumpling and her snide remarks.”

Uh-oh, Charles knew there was going to be trouble. He just had to figure out how to escape the firing squad.

Doris finished her work in the kitchen, then headed to the bedroom, mumbling.

Charles went back to the living room and his newspaper. This Serbian thing was getting serious. Austria-Hungary declaring war. That was not good. Soon the Russians, then the Germans. Before you knew it, France would be in the thick of it and he’d be called up to serve in the General Staff. He did not have a good feeling about this. He remembered the last time France and German were at loggerheads.

Doris came out of the bedroom. “Does this or does this hat not look lovely?” It was the blue hat with the fruit in Doris’ hand.

Charles remembered how much the hat had cost. “Of course, it’s beautiful.”

“That Henrietta Dumpling just laughed at it.”

Charles sat the newspaper down and went over and hugged his wife. “What are you upset for? Henrietta Dumpling has absolutely no sense of style at all.”

“She laughed at my hat. My beautiful hat.”

To calm his wife down, he gave her an offer she couldn’t refuse. “Tell you what. We’re going out and buy you a new hat. Then you can wear it to the opera Saturday. I have tickets to the Puccini and Rosetta Arpin is singing the lead.”

Doris kissed her husband.“You know how much I love Rosetta Arpin. And a new hat. You are the best. Tonight you will get a special treat.”

“You have to promise one thing.”

She had that look on her face like she was not sure she was going to like the promise. But then again it was for a new hat. And the opera.

“No more mention of Henrietta Dumpling. You promise?”

“She is always at the market.”

“That she is. We’re just going to have to come up with a strategy. After all, she has crossed the Rubicon. Insulting my Sweet’ums’ hat. How dare her?”

Near 500 words: In Praise of the Working Class Superhero

In June 1938, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel launched Superman into the world in Action Comics # 1. This month is the eightieth anniversary of his first appearance. It was the beginning of the Golden Age of Comics.

Crash Test Dummies: Superman’s Song

Before Superman, there were superheroes. Hercules, Sherlock Holmes, Peter Pan and Tarzan all fit the bill. With the exception of Peter Pan, they were the ultimate alpha males who beat up the bad guys, swung through the trees, and outthunk Doctor Moriarty. Or at least tried their best.

Superman was the new kid on the block. Like Douglas Fairbanks, he could fly or at least do a reasonable facsimile. Like Paul Bunyan, his muscles had muscles, and they were muscles of steel. Like John Henry, he was not a blue blood but a working class fellow.

He was Introduced in DC’s Action # 1 June 1938 comic book issue. From the beginning, he had a real job like all the working stiffs. Growing up on a farm, he learned good values. Hard work seemed to be in his DNA.

Clark Kent may have been a superhero on weekends. But still the rent had to be paid. He had to wake up early Monday morning, crawl out of bed and eat his Wheaties so he was ready for the rat race of the day ahead. Unlike those billionaires Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark, unlike the godlike Wonder Woman and Thor who came along later. And he never ever sold his superhero skills for payola.

In his free time, we never found Superman hanging out with the other superheroes like some. For many of them, humanity they loved, but people they couldn’t stand. Sure, he joined the Justice League of America but that was only a part-time gig.

In a lot of ways, Superman was just a regular joe, a man of the people. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, he often faced down the bad guys with truth and justice. Like Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, he stood up for the little guy.

And when he went out for an afterwork drink, he never schmoozed with the bosses. Not even with Perry White, Editor Extraordinary. It was Jimmy Olsen you’d find him with down at the local watering hole. They were real tight. So much so that later Clark was the godfather to Jimmy’s twins. Lois Lane was the godmother.

And Jimmy returned the favor for his friend. He was best man at Clark and Lois’ wedding. Lucy Lane was the maid of honor. It took Lois sixty years to land her guy. As we all know, persistence does pay off. It wasn’t that Clark Kent was slow. He was a workaholic and had very little time for a social life. No matter. Superman was always her knight in shining armor and Prince Charming combined. And she knew eventually she would catch him in a weak moment.

Now I know there are some of you out there, saying that Superman’s alter ego wasn’t the only alter ego who had to work for a living. But the thing is he was first. And Lois Lane was a career woman at a time when women didn’t have careers.

So let’s celebrate the workingman’s superhero and his buddies. No matter how bad things get, it’s always nice to remember Superman is on our side.