What Would Superman Do?
A short story by Travis Sloat
I’ll never forget the day I found out...
It started like a normal day. I didn’t eat anything special, I had iced tea and an orange for breakfast, leftover meatloaf for lunch, and I wasn’t struck by lightning anytime during the day. I didn’t come across any glowing stones, I wasn’t hit by a meteor, and I didn’t have anyone insert anything into my body.
I am a normal guy. I work from home. I’m a writer, actually. I’m a bit on the husky side…well, I’m fat. If you want to get just brutally honest, I’m fat. I have a wife, we’ve been married about 7 years, with no kids. I have 3 brothers. My father is dead of cancer, my mother has been re-married and divorced. I live in a small town. I graduated 7th in a class of 38. I am…normal.
And yet I’m not. Not anymore.
It was raining that day. The day I found out. The day my life changed forever. The sheets of rain were pouring out of the sky with the grim determination of flooding the world a second time, and it looked as if it might succeed. The lightning sheared air from air, producing peals of thunder that rivaled bomb blasts in intensity and suddeness.
I know you’re all wanting to know what happened, and you’re tired of waiting. I just want everyone to know how normal I was before I tell you how it all went down. I feel like if you know how plain I was, you’ll believe me, even though I don’t believe it myself. I think my ordinariness somehow justifies the end result, so you can see that I didn’t have any idea that it could happen.
I drive an old truck. It gets the job done, but it will never win any beauty contests. The one thing about my truck that I love the most is a license plate on the front of it. It is a Superman license plate. My mom bought it for me soon after I got the truck. Strangely enough, the license plate has affected my life more than I care to admit. To me, it’s a badge of honor. Some people wear WWJD bracelets, I have my Superman license plate. I don’t consider it sacriligeous to ask myself, “What Would Superman Do?” That plate is beat up and scratched and faded, but I refuse to take it off, because somehow, its made me a better person.
So today, when I saw the car stalled on the highway, I drove by feeling guilty. It’s raining, I just got back from a meeting with a publisher, I’m in nice clothes, and I’m ready to get home. Another quarter mile down the road, and I’m slowing down, putting on the turn signal, turning around, and heading back to scene, because truthfully, that’s what Superman would do. He would help, and so should I.
The song on the radio was Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio. As I pull back up to the car, the lyrics are pounding in my head, and I’m rapping along. The rain hasn’t let up at all, and I am pretty upset that I’m going to receive a thorough soaking. I hop out of my truck, and walk up to the car. It’s a Honda Civic, purple, windows tinted an illegal shade and an older model. As I approach the car, I hold my thumbs up in a harmless gesture, trying to ask if everything is okay, hoping the driver will wave me off so I can turn around and say, “Oh well, I tried,” and go home and eat something.
There are two passengers in the car, both young ladies. They look alike, and I later found out they were sisters. The car is on a narrow highway, not much traffic, but no shoulder, so it’s dangerous in the rain. I wave hi, then ask if they need any help. I thought I could help them push the car out of the way, but I quickly see the blowout. Pushing is out of the question. The tire is going to need to be changed, but that’s not something that can be done on the soft shoulder of the road.
Realizing they need more help than I could give, I offered them a ride. For being strangers, they accepted very quickly. I think they were tired of sitting in the rain. They were very grateful, and offered to give me gas money, which I refused. Superman wouldn’t take gas money. I started to help the ladies out of the car, and that’s when it happened.
Two cars, both driving way to fast for the conditions, came up on us quick. There was no way they could stop in time. The passenger sister screamed a warning and jumped into the ditch on the side of the road, which left me and the driver standing next to the car when it was rammed from behind by the first car.
The music in my truck had changed. The song now was “Bright Lights” by Matchbox 20. I don’t know why I remember that.
As the first car ran into the back of the Civic, the car behind them was swerving into the lane the driver and I were in, trying to scamper across the road out of the path of destruction. They were going to hit us. It was unavoidable. I grabbed the driver with every intention of throwing her to the side of the road out of danger. I spun around, and I felt the car impact on my spine.
It didn’t hurt. That was understandable though. My spine had most likely been snapped, and I probably wouldn’t feel pain if I was paralyzed or even dead. I couldn’t figure out why my eyes were still registering images and why I could almost count the raindrops as they fell down. I was aware that I had the driver in my hands, and I was aware that I was flying through the air, but it was all so slow, so painfully slow.
I don’t know when I realized that I was going to land the fall. I was about 25 feet from the car that hit me, and I was about 10 feet in the air, and I had time to get my legs underneath me. I thought that was very strange. Cradling the driver in my arms, I remember seeing how wide her eyes where when I dropped to the pavement, one knee down, in a crouch that resembled something you see in the movies.
In the end, the passenger was killed from the car being pushed onto her in the ditch. Her name was Stephanie. The drivers of both cars were killed instantly. I don’t know their names. It was in the papers, but I didn’t read the papers. By the time the ambulance was called, I was back at my truck with the driver, and she still hadn’t said a word. The car that hit me was in a ditch with a badly destroyed front end.
I destroyed the front of that car. Go ahead and make your fat jokes, but I’m glad the ditch took the blame. Trying to explain it all would have been too much. I concocted a cover story and told it to the cops, the paper and my wife, but I don’t even remember it now. Luckily for me, the driver, whose name was Tracy, was in some sort of shock and wasn’t talking. She’s currently recuperating in the local hospital, and she’s still not talking. She recognizes me though, and I think she knows what happened.
So here’s my problem. For obvious reasons, this can’t be published during my lifetime. The world would not behave like they do in a comic book. They would want to test me, they would hound me constantly, and let’s face it, I don’t look good in a spandex disguise. They would want to know my limits. But how indestructable am I? Was this a one time thing? I don’t have answers, and I don’t want to be killed by someone trying to find out. I don’t want to fight wars for my country. I want my life. I want a child. I want the comfort of a small town. But is that selfish?
My vision has improved the last couple days. My hearing has gotten better. My reflexes have gotten faster than I care to admit. I picked up my wife’s car the other day. I’m still fat, though. I did something stupid today to push my limits in the indestructable category. That’s the one area I’ve been scared to press my luck. But I did. You see, I own a Stevens Savage 12 guage shotgun. It was a gift from my dad on my 16th birthday. I used that gun today. I used it…on me. 3 times. The first time was on my big toe. The second time was in the gut, and the third time was with the barrel pointed right at my forehead. And it turns out, bullets don’t hurt me either.
I lie here in bed tonight, typing this, listening to “All The Small Things” by Blink 182, with my wife laying beside me. She doesn’t know it, but she’s the most protected person in the whole world. You see, I still haven’t told her. That’s a small problem, and I’ll figure out the best way to tell her eventually. The real problem is…