Thursday, April 5, 2007

Super Bad Example

In the fall of 1954 the best program on that new-fangled electronical marvel known as television was: "Look, up in the sky; it's a bird; it's a plane - NO, IT WAS SUPERMAN! a strange visitor from another planet with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, who (disguised as Clark Kent, a mild-mannered reporter for 'The Daily Planet') fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way." Children all across America watched awestruck as Superman broke through paper-mache walls, leapt head-first out the windows of The Daily Planet, landed feet-first through those same windows, and (in between his take-offs and landings) flew with breathtaking speed across a sky filled with blue-screen clouds ... Did anyone else notice that George Reeves's ample stomache was visibly flattened by the invisible table he was lying on? But I digress.

Way back in 1954, while George Reeves's alter ego was leaping tall buildings, I was busy filling my diapers. However, while I was giving birth to poop, the Man of Steel's true disciples (my older brothers Joel and Roy) were busily birthing ideas on how to emulate Superman's feats. Mind you, El Paso isn't Hollywood (not by a looooong shot), so Joel and Roy were coming up somewhat short in their efforts to re-create even the crude stunts seen on black-and-white TV. Yet, the imaginations of children will not be denied. And thus it was that my two older brothers (having found a nifty little hatchet in the garage) made the awesome discovery that drywall can be rendered as weak as papier mache with just a few well-placed perforations.

Dad had built a partition wall in the garage (in order to create a small paint shop on the end farthest from the overhead door). He'd added drywall to the garage side of the wall, but the studs still showed on the back side. And so my two older super-siblings (ages four and six) learned that sheet rock, with just a little hatchety help, can be made into Hollywood's equivalent of mortar and brick. It was a marvelous game. A half-dozen strokes with the hatchet, one mighty leap between two-by-fours, and - ta da - there you were, face to face with ... Dad stepping out of his truck. Roy, though only four years old, sensed immediately that this game had suddenly gone bad.

When the Bible speaks of "the wrath of God", I have no problem understanding the concept. My father was a good man who had a delightful sense of humor, but (like most men) he had to keep a close watch on his anger. This was one of those occasions. To Dad's credit, he knew that if he administered punishment in his current mood, he might do serious harm both to the bodies and the psyches of the children God had given him. So, just as our Heavenly Father has postponed the Day of the Lord, so my earthy father promised a second advent when the unrighteous would receive their just reward. No man knows the day or the hour of our Lord's coming, but these two little boys knew that Armageddon would come that evening, right after supper.

I must remind you, I was not party to Joel and Roy's super-misdeed. So although Joel and Roy knew all too well that Dad was a man of his word, I hadn't a clue that there was a reason behind Joel and Roy's dawdling over their lima beans. Finally, supper ended and the lord of the household beckoned for his children to join him the livingroom where he would pay them the wages of their vandalism. Dad (much calmer, but still determined to mete out justice) methodically removed his belt, placed the buckle and tip in his right fist, and commanded Joel and Roy, "Line up and bend over." The condemned stepped from the kitchen and performed their oblique salah.

Not wanting to be left out, I toddled over and assumed "the position" at Roy's flank. Dad began to laugh - laughing so hard that he soon realized there was no way to pull off a credible execution of the guilty. So he just administered a cursory stroke on each of us and declared the Superman TV show banned at our house. And so it was that I delivered my older brothers from certain death, and Superman (the corrupter of America's youth) was cast from our home.

Henceforth, Joel, Roy and I would sit glued to the moving black-and-white pictures of our hero (our adhesion to the tube now doubly motivated by the lure of both the marvelous and the forbidden). One afternoon, about three years after Superman's banishment, as the credits scrolled down Superman's chest with the American flag waving in the background (by the way, did you ever notice that the ripples in the flag occasionally reversed direction? But I digress) as soon as the credits had finished scrolling, Roy and I sprang to our feet, freshly inspired to "leap tall buildings with a single bound." We felt "faster than speeding bullets." We became "more powerful than locomotives." We were SUPERMEN!!!

Now, deep in our hearts we knew that we couldn't really do all this single-bound building leaping. But we lived in a two-story house, so we actually could do as our mentor had demonstrated on channel 4, and leap out of second floor windows, landing in the ligustrum bushes in the front yard. Roy and I had one of the front windows open, and I was preparing to climb onto the window sill as Roy was streaking toward the ground with his bath-towel cape flapping behind.

Meanwhile Dad, having arrived from work particularly early that day, stepped around the corner of the house just as Roy pancaked into the shrubbery. SuperRoy, realizing that his secret identity was compromised, attempted to become faster than a speeding bullet, but Dad (just as Lex Luthor might have done) froze the Boy of Steel in his tracks with a thing more disabling than Kryptonite - a question. Dad asked, "Just what do you think you're doing?" From my vantage upstairs I saw (with the aid of my X-ray vision) Roy standing there with the testimonial terrycloth hanging down his back. My super-sensitive hearing had picked up Dad's icy question, but even my super ears could hear not a peep from Roy's trembling lips.

Bruce Wayne has his loyal butler Alfred and his sidekick Robin. And the Fantastic Four fight as a team. But alas, Superman - he's on his own. I backed away from the window, dropped my cape in the hamper as I passed by the bathroom, and traipsed downstairs: "Mom! Dad's home."


zonker said...

Sounds like you turned into Aquaman at the end there.

LadyBugCrossing said...

You simply turned into the Invisible Man. I think that was an excellent choice - Self preservation at its best!

buffi said...

:::note to self: never let Bear & Bug read Bob's blog. chaos would ensue:::

That said...bwwwaaahahahahaha!!! Also, only in the 50's would little boys have had their own hatchets. Daaavvy! Davy Crockett....

Bob said...

I bear no shame about skulking away. I figure Roy owed me one. Besides after fifty years, how much longer can it be before Roy forgives me?