Sure, a lot of sons will say their dad is their hero but yours is a bulletproof, cape-wearing, bad-guy-snagging superhero. He changes names every now and then since it gives city officials confidence in knowing that there's a cadre of superheroes working around the clock cleaning up the place. Your dad knows better, though. He stops a bank robbery in Orlando in the morning as Captain Fantasmic, lunches with the New York Chief of Police under the nom de rebond of Bouncer, and then saves the dinner-eating diners of San Francisco to the cries of "Thank you, Eagleman! Thank you!"
This space intentionally left blank
...because it's waiting for your ad. So why are you still reading this? Come on, get going. Read the story, and then get an ad. Alright stop it. I'm not going to say anything else. Now you're just being silly. STOP LOOKING AT ME! I'm done!
active | buy ad
Naturally, disguise is one of the many superpowers he has acquired over the years. "It's a little trick I picked up from Señor Todos," he admitted one day but you know that's a lie. Señor Todos was the alias he used during his college Spring Break. There's really nothing that he can't do.
Your older brother Mike exhibits signs of telekinesis, and your sister Charlie has an affinity for breathing water as well the ability to control the minds of mollusks. "It's a start," prouds your dad. "Soon, you'll move up to insects, arachnids, birds, mammals... the possibilities are endless!"
Unlike the rest of your family, your powers seem to be limited to burning breakfast cereals and failing to make your bed. In all fairness, the breakfast cereal fiasco was hardly your fault. Your brother was trying to parlay his power into pyromancy but since you couldn't prove it, you got stuck as the butt end of the family joke. Mom ("Supermom," she confides to the woman at the local supermarket after pushing her out of the way of a falling display) still holds on to the idea that you're a late bloomer and that might still be true, but after tales of your father's feats of strength while still in the crib as well as your brother's boasts and your sister's pride of their pre-pubescent development, you can't help but wonder why in college, you have yet to exhibit even the barest hints of talent.
"Maybe you'll be like that one guy on TV with all the gadgets--Batguy, right?"
"Mom, he's not a real superhero," reminds your brother. "Take away his tools, and what is he? Just some rich guy still stuck in the closet. If you ask me, he's overcompensating for something. Something small."
"Is that why I sense you focusing intensely on your crotch?" muses Charlie.
Mom stops the conversation there. "That's enough of that. So, Brian, are you ready for your classes, yet?"
"Yeah," you say. "I was thinking of..."
But Mike isn't easily silenced and can't pass up even a poor rejoinder: "At least I don't talk to snails and clams." He pushes his chair back sans hands or feet and leaves the room.
"Snuffy and Polyp are my friends! You better not be doing anything to them," cries your sister as she chases him out of the room.
Nevermind, you think to yourself reflecting on your family's lack of interest in your studies. They're not going to college. They need to be home schooled to develop their talents.
"I'll talk to them about that," says Mom. "And I am interested in your classes."
"Mom, I thought you promised not to do that."
"I'm sorry, dear. I really try but... oh, you may as well ask me to walk around the house with my eyes closed and my ears plugged."
You can't blame her, really. She hears you whether she says anything about it or not. You're certain she heard you that time you brought home Kelly McGillicuddy but didn't say a word. She respected you then so you keep that in mind to respect her now.
"When did you get your powers?"
"Your dad gave them to me as a wedding present."
"Can't he give me some then?"
"Well, I'll tell you." She slides her chair closer. She lowers her voice as though imparting both a conspiracy and a warning. "We've talked about it, your dad and I. And we both agreed that it wouldn't be fair to just give them to you."
"It sounds plenty fair to me."
"Well, if he gave them to you, he'd have to give them to your brother and your sister and then you wouldn't have really earned them."
"They didn't earn them. They just got them."
"They developed them naturally and so they're figuring out how to control them before developing more powers."
"Could he give me a small power, then?"
"I tried convincing your father but you know how he is. He always has an answer. He said that if you don't develop your powers on your own, then when they come you won't figure out how to identify yourself. They won't be your powers, they will be your dad's powers that he gave to you. It's like borrowing the car. You know its not yours and so you treat it differently than if you had a car of your own. We can talk about this some more later, I have to stop your brother from filming an episode of `When Clams Fly'." She leaves the room.
You stare down at your cereal bowl. You concentrate on it for a bit. You look over at the stove wondering if you can cheat yourself into status.
"Don't even think about it, young man," hollers your mom from another part of the house.
You give it another try. Nothing. Not even smoke. There are probably so many fats and oils in Donut Crunch that it should ignite just from exposure to sunlight but for you nothing happens.
Disgusted, you put down the bowl, grab your book bag and head out to the car. The yellow VW Bug you drive isn't even your car but you use it to get to your community college.
Community college. It may as well be thirteenth grade. It's your first day there but you already know you won't fit in with anyone. Do you try to hang out with the stoner chicks and face the inevitable rejection from not being 'down with it'? Or do you give in and face the wrath of Mr. Almighty who could smell the cookie crumbs on your fingertips when you were a child? Too much of a hassle. Maybe if you apply yourself, you can transfer to a better school. Make friends with the bookworms who didn't get scholarships and maybe then you'll surpass your siblings in the brains department. Nah, too much work.
You think to yourself that maybe you'll take theater. This way, even though you're nobody, at least you can pretend to be somebody. That's it. That's what you decide to do. You climb the stairs to the second floor of the AE&M building and walk the narrow balcony to your first class, excited by the possibility of pretending to be someone. That's when you see her down below in the quad. Her hair shines like a river of gold and you could hide in the dimples of her cheeks. She's being harassed, though. Some guy is coming on a bit too strong, trying to grab her books while promising that he can carry them for her.
And then you feel it like a tingle up the back of your spine... like... like wings! You can fly. You can swoop down with a fist and sock the guy with a full flight of forward momentum. You stand on the ledge. You raise your arms as though an Olympic diver. You plunge.
"Watch where you're going, asswipe." The sting of a shoulder breaks you out of this daydream as you gaze slack-eyed from the balcony.
It's going to be a long day.
When you finally get home, there doesn't seem to be any progress. You hear the typical banter between Mike and Charlie through the door. Mom tells you that Dad just called and he's running late. You trudge upstairs and crash in to your bedroom. The bedsheets with moons and stars and rocket ships betray a fantastic youth that never really happened and you stare for a long time at what might be your life.
Mom hollers from downstairs, "Brian, if you want dinner it will be ready in 10 minutes." She knows you're hungry. She also knows you don't care so you don't bother telling her.
You pull out your notepad from your bag. You spilled a soda on it between classes and now half your day has melted from the pages. The cover of your calculus book is sticky so you pull it out with a towel. That's when you hear a tap at the window.
"Son, I've been meaning to talk to you about this for a long time," says your dad in the guise of the Homunculus as he phases through your window. "I know you feel frustrated about not having any powers and I've decided that I should give you the most powerful power that there is."
"Which one is that one?" you excite.
"Brian. Brian," your Dad is tapping at the window. You never let him in. He never promised you anything. He looks a little sheepish and awkward from having disturbed a fantasy. You release the latch and open the window for him. He backs up, levels out, and glides in.
"Grab a sweater. It's a chilly night."
"No, it's not," you protest but you grab your sweater anyway.
"Not where we're going."
"Where is that?"
He grabs your torso and hoists you gracefully from the floor. As the turning of a page, you cross half the world in but a moment. The top of the Eiffel Tower passes beneath you. Below, a man waves to your father and your father waves back, and you wonder if the Homunculus has come to Paris before.
He's right. Your dad is always right. You maneuver to put your sweater over at least your arms and neck to keep somewhat warm.
"We're almost there," he says.
"Why are we here?"
"I didn't want your mom to hear," he says and with that he deposits you on top of one of the bell towers of Notre Dame. "Some conversations can only happen between fathers and sons. I'll be right back"
In an instant he disappears and in a second instant he reappears, clasping a table, a couple of chairs and a large bag. He arranges the furnishings and then produces from the bag a couple of bottles of wine and some bread. You catch the briefest flicker of disappointment from him--you know he has some butter in there but he's thinking of your lactose intolerance and doesn't want to put any more distance between the two of you.
"So, how was your first day at college?"
"It's not really college."
"It's college all the same."
An awkward silence consumes the first glass of wine.
"Is this the kind of conversation that only happens between dads and sons?" you say.
He raises an eyebrow.
There's more awkwardness. And more silence.
"Well, I'm glad we've had this talk," you say.
"We haven't said anything."
"Oh, we haven't? Well, I must have been thinking it really loud."
His eyebrow now looks like one of the flying buttresses down below. Through the haze and maze of his countenance, though, you see worry on your father's face.
"Did I ever tell you about my battle with Dr. Doctor?"
"Yeah. A couple times."
"I probably didn't tell you the whole story." He consumes a glass with one gulp. "There we were at Mt. Parnassus struggling for the Oracular Stone. He had reached the stone first and I came in to the Chamber of Time just as he held it above his head. Then, he looked at me. But he didn't fear me."
"I know Dad, he thought that the power of foresight would let him anticipate your moves and he was planning on defeating you that way, but instead it only told him the future and he knew he would be defeated."
"Well, that's the story I told everyone, but that's not entirely what happened. I'm going to tell you what happened. He held up the Stone and he looked at me. Without fear. And then he laughed. He laughed so hard that he doubled over. Not the maniacal laughter of He-Rah or the Deluded Monk, but as though he heard the greatest cosmic joke. `Here,' he said while laughing to the point of tears. `You win. You can have it.' He was still laughing as I grabbed the Stone out of his hand in order to put it back on its pedestal. But I touched it, you see." He gulps down another glass of wine. "And I saw this: I saw your future."
He looks sober and his eyes pierce your own through a trembling stare. An eternity passes and you can tell that he hears the cries of help from Bonn and Prague, a village in Lebanon, from a man alone in the Sahara, a family on a boat in the Atlantic. All over the world, there are voices calling out to his many incarnations pleading for help and because he is Mr. Wonderful he can pick and choose his moment for maximum glory; he's not doing anything but staring at you right now.
"I saw your future," he repeats. "Or rather, I saw my future and how it ties in to your future. I saw this night and knew that I would make a choice--a choice on whether I should give you all of my powers or not. And so, I'm going to ask you to take a moment to think it out and decide."
"I think I already know what my answer is."
"Well, before we jump in to anything, let me explain something. I saw in the Stone that if I give you powers, your life will be miserable. You will use those powers magnificently but you will feel obliged to use them. People call out to you when you're a superhero and you will accommodate everybody that you can. But you're only one superhero. Your brother and your sister--you'll surpass even them because your power will be exercised every waking moment of your life. Eventually, you won't sleep because there are too many people in the world and only one of you. Lack of sleep will drive you mad and then you'll live a life of cruelty until your eventual self-destruction."
"Will I be happy, at least?"
"No. Not even once."
"Will I be happier without powers, then?"
"Well, not happier, exactly. But you won't be as miserable."
"So the choice is be powerful and miserable or powerless and less miserable?"
"Well, there are also larger ramifications. After all, I am a superhero and I would feel obliged to defeat you. Not to mention, what kind of superhero would I be if I knowingly created a villain?"
"Couldn't you be my dad first, and a superhero second?"
"I am. I love you so much that I won't put you down a path that will lead to your self-destruction."
"So, that's it? Why are you telling me this if you've already made up your mind not to give me any powers?"
"Because I haven't made up my mind. I don't enjoy being bound by fate any more than you do, son. And I think I know of a way to give fate a big ol' fat lip. I'm not going to choose between giving you my powers or not." He looks up at the sky and yells, "Do you hear that, fate? I'm not deciding." He looks back at you. "I'm going to let you decide."
Somewhere in a far off land, a cloud rumbled and thundered. But then again, it was spring in that part of the world and Superdad paid no attention to it.
"Can I have some time to think about it?" you ask.
"Sure. Take your time."
"I want to do what's right, Dad, but what you say is hard. I mean, why don't I just jump off Notre Dame right now and make this whole decision a lot easier."
"Because I would save you."
"Can't you save me from my fate, then? Now that you've warned me about what would happen, I can avoid it, right?"
"We could try but I'm going to let you calculate the chance of that happening."
He's right. He's always right. If there's one thing a superhero father drills in to his children, it is to know your own limits. After all, just because he can fall from the Empire State Building doesn't mean you can. So, you know there's no chance in the world that you'd ever stop using any powers he gives you. Word would get out that there's another superhero in town. You'd make sure of it. And then each plea for help would be one more way for you to show off your talent. You'd save all the girls wanting a kiss of gratitude but ego would call you to another rescue first. Each bad guy would be the kid who dunked your head in the toilet at school. In fact, you know that you'd relish fighting your father for not preventing that dunking. It'd be so easy just to speak out and say yes, I want the power, give me the power. Even though the idea of frightening the fair haired beauty you saw earlier today, of never knowing love, of being miserable and alone--that would be misery indeed. And so the question comes down to it: is power worth misery? The decision is obvious. You never really had a choice. You have to say it.
"I hate this, Dad. I really hate this. I ..."
"I know, Brian. You don't have to say it." He pulls you to his chest and you sob big baby groaning tears.
A pair of citizens below who saw your Dad fly in, they hear the cries and gratify themselves listening to the sound of pain after a superhero has made his appearance. "Now," one of them thinks, "there is one less source of evil in the world. Paris is experiencing dawn and everyone can wake now and go to work certain that the world is better for this night."
"Oui," confirms the companion.
When the well of tears runs dry, you look up at your father. You can tell that he's distracted, the morning cries for help have always distracted him, but for now he's there for you. You can't resent him. He gave you the choice that never was a choice. Still, you do envy him. He avoided fate. You were steamrolled by it.
"Does it ever get any easier, Dad?"
"I'm not sure. The Stone didn't really say."
"I feel like I have a superhero's burden without any of the superhero reward."
"It's a burden for the both of us." He looks down and gazes at a long legged Parisian woman. You can tell he's using his x-ray vision. You follow his gaze.