TAC Table of Contents
"If you're almost finished, I could use your help out here. All of a sudden, we're very busy."
"Be right there." A few seconds later, soon to be Smallville High freshman Clark Kent entered the sales area of Kent's General Store, located on the main street of the small town.
Seeing nine or ten customers doing their shopping, he put on his apron and came to the aid of his father, Jonathan Kent.
"Wow, you are busy out here, Dad."
"It's been pretty busy most of the day, but all of a sudden, the place filled up with people. Not that I'm complaining. We need the business," the store owner commented.
"Well, it is Friday afternoon. Folks need to stock up on their groceries and supplies. May I help you, Mrs. Neill?"
"Oh, hello Clark. Ready to start high school?"
"Yes ma'am, I guess so. Couple of weeks."
"My Noel is all excited about it. I think most of her friends are as well. How about Lana Lang, Clark, is she looking forward to it?"
"I believe so," young Kent responded.
"Well, aren't the two of you an item? Seems a boy should know what's going on with his girlfriend."
Clark corrected her. "Lana and I aren't a couple, Mrs. Neill. We're just good friends. Have been since we were little kids. We go out, usually with other friends, but we're not dating."
"Oh, well, you could have fooled me. Can I get enough cube steak for six people? Mr. Neill and I have invited Pastor and Mrs. Berne for Sunday dinner."
"Coming right up," Clark replied.
The next hour and a half passed rapidly as the pair of Kents waited on their customers. By six o'clock, closing time, the store had emptied. Clark swept up while Jonathan prepared the bank bag with the day's take. The two then locked up the store, walked across the street, dropped the bag into the night depository, crossed back into the alley beside the store, got into the family truck and headed out the road through the country to the Kent home.
"Your Mother and I have been talking, Clark, and we both feel that if you think you're ready, it may be about time for you to take on the new responsibilities we've been preparing for the last year or so. But only if you are agreeable. We don't want to rush things."
Clark answered, "Really! Oh, I don't believe we're rushing things at all. I've been ready for a long time. You know that."
"Well, your Mother and I know you think you've been ready, but we thought it was important for you to get a little older. Now, you're going to start high school in two weeks. You've shown the maturity that we feel you're responsible enough to take on such an important task. What you'll do will effect the lives of many people, and it isn't to be taken lightly."
"I know Dad. And I won't take it lightly. I want to help people. I want to do the right thing."
"We know. But we think it best that you kind of slide into it gradually. The things you do, do them without drawing attention to yourself, as much as you can. Be as invisible as possible, at least for the time being. You know, it's going to take folks a while to get used to you. No one has ever seen anybody with your abilities. It will be a shock for a while. Just as it will be tough on you learning to live a dual existence."
"Yeah, that's going to be the hard part. Keeping my life as Clark Kent and my other life separate. And making sure no one knows I'm both."
"Here we are," Jonathan stated as he pulled the truck into the drive of the home he had lived since he was a child. "I'm famished. Ready for one of Martha Kent's prize-winning dinners. How about you?"
"Yes sir," the teen replied as they headed for the kitchen door. "Dad, you're sure the name Mom picked out will be all right. I mean, it sounds a bit braggish to me."
"Son, your Mother made up her mind several years ago when she made the uniform for you out of the blankets you were wrapped in when she and I found you and your rocketship in our pasture. You will never be able to make her change her mind. As far as she is concerned, it was settled as soon as she stitched the "S" insignia on the front of your outfit.
YOU are SUPERBOY.
Powerful. Fearless. Invulnerable.
The only survivor of the doomed planet Krypton, home of a race of fine and noble humans far advanced over those of our own world. Whose scientist father sent him hurtling into the far reaches of inter-stellar space in a tiny craft moments before great Krypton exploded into a billion fragments, speeding the space ship on its course for planet Earth, where landing safely, the infant was found and adopted by a small town couple, Jonathan and Martha Kent.
Now, some sixteen years later, the boy Clark is set to begin his freshman year at Smallville High School. The time has also come to begin his new mission. Thinking that in seeking revenge against him, criminals might come after his parents if they found out that Superboy was their son, the decision was made that his meek, retiring manner of Clark Kent would hide his exciting secret...the secret known only to himself and his foster parents...the secret that Clark Kent is in reality...Superboy, champion of the oppressed, enemy of all evil doers, dedicated to the cause of truth and justice.
"There you are," Martha Kent announced. "How are my two good-looking men this evening?"
"Great, Mom," Clark replied, kissing her on the cheek.
"Do you have a kiss for me, too?" she asked of her husband. He obliged.
"You two go wash up. Dinner will be on the table in five minutes," she requested.
"Tonight's table conversation should be real interesting, dear," Jonathan revealed as he went through the swinging door heading to the living room.
Martha handed out the plates to her guys, covered with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, fresh beets and homemade biscuits.
"Everyone have everything they need?"
"A little more gravy, please," requested Jonathan.
Honoring his request, she placed the gravy boat on the table and asked, "So, what's this interesting topic of conversation you mentioned."
"Well, Martha, Clark and I were talking on the way home, and we agreed that the day we have been looking forward to is here."
"You mean, Superboy?"
"Yeah, Mom. Dad and I both feel that I'm ready. Actually, I've been ready."
"Glory be," she added, "I was thinking this day would never get here."
"But Mom...Superboy? You really think that's not a bit braggadocios? I mean, saying I'm super sounds a bit cocky."
"Clark, you have to have a name. People are going to ask you who you are. What are you going to say...I'm Strong Guy or Flying Guy. Nope, it's Superboy and that's settled."
"Told ya," Jonathan nudged his son.
"I thought of it, Clark, when I was making your uniform out of the red, yellow and blue blankets you were wrapped in when we found you in your crashed rocketship. So I made a big "S" that people would see on your chest, sort of a symbol for, not only Superboy, but also for "saving lives, stopping crime and giving super-aid wherever it's needed."
"But where will I keep my Superboy suit when I'm Clark?"
Jonathan answered, "Son, you should always wear it under your regular clothes. That way, you'll always have it with you."
"Clark, we've discussed this," Martha added. "You can put your regular clothes in the pouch on the underside of your cape. That's why I put it there. You can compress your clothes so they will fit inside. That way you can change back and forth wherever you are."
"And the idea you had to start wearing glasses a year ago was a good idea. People in town are used to seeing you in them now, and they really do make you look a lot different."
Martha added, "And using glass from your rocketship for the lenses lets you use your special vision as Clark.
"Son, as soon as we finish eating, how about trying on your costume for me one more time."
"Please. I feel so proud seeing you wearing it."
As soon as the meal was ended, Clark went upstairs to his room to honor his mother's request.
"The dishes can wait," she told her husband. "I'm so excited."
"O.K., here I come," the teen voice from the top of the stairs announced.
"Hold it, son. Let me make sure all the blinds are drawn." Looking around to verify, he answered, "It's O.K."
The sixteen-year-old stopped at the bottom of the stairs in his full tri-color regalia. "So, how do I look?"
"Uh, son," Jonathan spoke.
"Oh my gosh," he replied, removing them from his face. "Now, how do I look?"
"Fabulous!" Martha answered.
"Now Clark, like we discussed coming home, it's best you keep as low a profile as possible for a while, and..."
"I know, Dad, I remember. And this will be the last time I dress as Superboy while at home.
His mother added, "We must protect your secret at all costs. If people found out, our lives as we know them would be over."
"Both of your lives will be safe, Mom and Dad, because we will never allow anyone else to know that Clark Kent and Superboy are one and the same."
It was not at all unusual for Clark to have visitors on Saturdays while he worked at Kent's General Store. This Saturday was no exception.
A bit after ten, the bell on the door sounded as his closest buddies, Pete Ross, Rusty Ellsworth and Chester Sartania entered. Rusty, the last to enter, stopped inside the door and continued shaking it so the bell would keep tolling.
Jonathan winced at young Ellsworth's prank but said nothing.
"Morning, Clark. Mr. Kent," they shouted in unison.
"Good morning, boys," the elder Kent replied.
"Hey Rusty, if you want to make music so bad, why don't you join the band when school starts?" Clark asked sarcastically.
"Must you remind me that school starts next week?" he retorted.
Pete answered, "At least we have the county fair this week before we hit the books again."
"Yeah, it is kinda neat that we always have the fair the last week of summer vacation," Clark responded.
"But going from the greatness of the fair to the horribleness of school is awful," Rusty exclaimed.
"Horribleness, Rusty, really," cracked Chester.
Jonathan added, "Well Rusty, you've done it the last eight years. This year won't be any worse."
"Hey Clark," Pete inquired, "you want to go with us over to the fairgrounds after lunch and hang around and watch them set up the rides?"
"Wish I could, but it's a busy day here. I have to work until we close. But we can all watch the air show in a little bit from out front."
"What air show?" Chester asked.
"Boys," the elder Kent interjected, "to promote the fair, Wiley Rogers and Will Post have been hired by the fair people to do a little stunt flying over town. It supposed to start at eleven. We should be able to see it from the sidewalk out front. Nothing real fancy, just some loop-de-loops and things like that. That's my understanding anyway."
"Great!" they all answered.
"In the meantime, I need to get a few things for my mom. Oh clerk, can you give me some service?" Pete laughed.
"Clark responded, laughing, "Yes sir. What can I get for you?"
It was twenty minutes later when the store was invaded by the other gender. Noel Neill, Judy Nugent, Phyllis Coates and the group's apparent leader, Lana Lang. Immediately the boys and girls were all jabbering. Clark and Jonathan were waiting on the various customers doing some shopping.
The ad concerning the air show in the previous day's Smallville Sentinel had done its job. The sidewalk outside was filling up with people as if it was time for the annual Christmas Parade. The customers all finished up and joined the others in front of the store. Jonathan informed Clark's friends that it was almost time, so they all went outside as well.
A couple minutes past the scheduled time, the crowd finally heard the engine sounds of the two planes. Soon the aircraft were visible.
Lana stood next to Clark and Jonathan and commented how neat it would be to be inside the planes during the demonstration.
"Not me," replied Clark. "I'm scared of heights."
"Oh, Clark, you can be such a wimp sometimes."
He grinned at his father.
A couple of minutes into the show, using his super-sensitive hearing, young Kent heard one of the plane's engine sputter several times. He then focused his extraordinary vision to see that one of the pilots seemed to be panicking inside the cabin.
Then it became apparent to everyone that this troubled aircraft seemed to be going into a dive.
"Dad," he whispered, "I think Mr. Post is in trouble."
"He may need your help, Clark."
"Well, this is it, I guess."
As slowly and discreetly as possible, not to draw Lana's or anyone's attention, the youngster stepped back into the general store, quickly walked into the back room, closed the door behind him, removed his glasses and began his first transformation into his new alter ego...Superboy.
A few seconds later, the lad in red and blue quickly exited the back door of the store and jumped into the sky, a procedure he had practiced many times. Needing to catch the diving plane quickly, he darted across the sky, coming up underneath the aircraft, leveling it off. Then guided the plane towards an open field where the plane could be set down.
"DID YOU SEE THAT!" a member of the crowd yelled.
"The plane, you mean?"
"Yeah, that too. But there was something blue that streaked across the sky towards the plane, then the plane seemed to level off."
"I think I might have seen something, but I'm not sure. It all happened so fast."
Confusion controlled the crowd of gatherers. Some say they saw something, others said they didn't.
"There was something there. I saw it. It was blue and maybe red."
"Oh, like a flying saucer," one man laughed.
"I don't know what it was, but something was there and leveled off that airplane."
"Did you see anything, Mr. Kent?" Lana Lang asked.
"I'm not sure, Lana."
"How about you Clark?" She turned to where he had been standing. The space was vacant. "Where did Clark go?"
Just as she finished her question, young Kent returned to his point of origin.
"And where were you? Did you see that...whatever it was?"
"Huh? What are you talking about?"
"That thing up in the sky. Something leveled off that plane that was going to crash."
"Oh, come on," Kent replied, trying to diffuse the situation.
"A bunch of these people saw something fly across the sky to the airplane. Some said it was blue. A couple think red and blue. Hey mister, I think it was red and blue, just like you do."
"Good grief Clark, how could you just walk off and disappear during a crisis like that?" the redhead asked.
"Lana, I didn't walk off."
"Well, you were gone, where were you?"
"It's personal, Lana, but if you must know, I had to use the rest room."
Soon the crowd dispersed, and things returned to normal.
Back inside the store, Jonathan asked if everything was all right. Clark assured him it was.
"Well, son, it looks like you saved Mr. Post's life."
"I guess I did. You know what, Dad? It's a nice feeling."
Tim Harding, veteran reporter for the Smallville Sentinel, tapped on the door. "We're here, Mr. Larson."
"Come in, come in gentlemen. Here, please sit down," gruffed the long-time editor, Laurence Larson.
Wiley Rogers and Will Post, the two pilots involved in the near air show disaster, had agreed to accompany Harding to the newspaper office to give their account of what had occurred an hour earlier.
"I'm holding today's run so we can get your story. Front page, even. Which of you wants to start? We need to do this quickly."
"I'll start," Rogers volunteered. "Will and I were hired by the fair committee..."
"Yes, yes, we already have all that. Tell me what happened up there. Will, what went wrong?"
"It happened very fast. The engine sputtered like it was going to choke. Then I heard something snap. A metallic sound. Then, all of a sudden, I had no control of the plane, and it started to fall."
"Then what?" Larson pressed.
"Then nothing, really. I was helpless. My plane was going down. I knew I was a goner. A few seconds later, though, the plane leveled back off. It shouldn't have done that, but it did. Then the plane changed direction and sat down in an open pasture. I had nothing to do with it. I couldn't have done anything. It seemed to do it on its own. Then Wiley landed and told me what he had seen."
"What was that, Wiley?" the editor pressed again.
"As soon as I saw Will was in trouble, I stopped the routine I was doing and started to follow him. I couldn't have done anything to save him, but, anyway, all of a sudden, something zoomed by me and flew up underneath Will's aircraft. I couldn't get a good look at it, but I followed just the same. Will's plane leveled off, then landed like he just told you. As I was landing my plane, I saw this thing emerge from under Will's and take off back up into the sky and disappeared. I started shaking so bad, I thought I was going to crash. And I've been flying airplanes for twenty-five years.
"Did you get a good look a it?"
"Well, Mr. Larson, here's where you're gonna accuse me of being crazy, but I saw it well enough to tell you..."
"Yes, yes. Are you getting all of this Harding?"
Rogers continued, "Well, Mr. Larson, that thing looked like a human being."
"IMPOSSIBLE!" Larson yelled.
"I know it's impossible, but I saw it, er...him. Whatever it was."
"Describe this thing," the editor demanded.
"It looked like a person, male, dark hair. Wearing some blue and red clothes. That's really all I can tell you. I was trying to set my own plane down at the time. No, wait, one more thing...it looked like a kid, a young male."
"A KID! How old would you say?"
"Well, not six or ten, not that young, but maybe eighteen, maybe twenty. That's just a guess."
"Fellows, I've known both of you for a good number of years now, both level-headed men, responsible family men. But you are now trying to convince me that somewhere out there is a kid who wears red and blue clothes and can fly through the air. You'll have to do better than that!"
"We know it, Mr. Larson," Rogers replied. "It is impossible, but I'm here, ain't I? I'm alive. But I shouldn't be."
"And I saw what I saw," Post demanded. "I even tried to take its picture."
"YOU HAVE A PICTURE! Good God, man, why didn't you say so?"
"I tried to take its picture. I'm not sure I got it though. It was moving so fast. I usually take aerial pictures of the ground for survey maps and stuff. As soon as it zoomed past me, I grabbed my camera from the other seat and snapped one picture. By the time I could wind the film, I couldn't see it any longer. I have my camera right here."
"Harding, get this down to the dark room. I want it processed immediately!"
Fifteen minutes passed before Harding returned with an 8 x 10 print of Post's photograph. "Here it is, boss, but it's hard to tell what it is."
The four men examined the print with both the naked eye and magnifying glass. They all agreed that it could be a human form, but all they had to really go on was Will Post's description, something he thought he saw during an emotional crisis.
"It's what we have, so we'll go with it." Larson pressed the intercom key signaling the composing room. "Charlie, here's the headline for Harding's air show story...MYSTERY OBJECT SAVES CRASHING PLANE."
MYSTERY OBJECT SAVES CRASHING PLANE
"So, I assume everyone saw the newspaper?" Jonathan inquired as the Kent family enjoyed their dinner.
"I did," answered Martha.
"Yeah, me too," Clark nodded.
"Martha, our son did well today. Saved Will Post's life and his airplane. I never expected his first feat as Superboy would be something this dramatic, but thank the Lord, you were there for him, son."
"Yes, sir, I'm glad I was."
"And Wiley even got of picture of you. Well, maybe the bottoms of your boots. But, nevertheless, the whole town knows Superboy exists, sort of."
"Well, that's O.K., isn't it Dad? I mean, we're not trying to keep Superboy a secret, are we? Just that Clark Kent is Superboy."
"That's right, Clark. I was hoping people knowing of your Superboy existence could come about gradually, and what you did today worked perfectly. Next time, people see you, they'll be a little more prepared, thanks to the article in the Sentinel."
Martha added, "Well, I'll bet this farm that there's a lot of folks around town tonight asking a lot of questions. Don't you think, Jonathan, that Superboy should just come forward and let everyone know he's here to help everyone?"
"I'd rather let it all happen on its own. It will work out."
"Dad, I need to ask you a question. Chester is trying to get Pete, Rusty and me to try out for the junior varsity football team next week when school starts. I'd kind of like to play."
"Oh, Clark," Martha answered, "that wouldn't be fair to the other boys. You could easily score a touchback every time you got the ball. You'd never lose a game."
The youngster responded, "It's touchdown, Mom, and I've thought of that. I could hold back when I'm playing and not use any of my special abilities."
"Son, you say that, but in the excitement of the game, you could easily forget. You could hurt other players really bad, and it could be too risky in terms of keeping your secret. You understand, don't you?" Jonathan asked.
Dejected, he answered that he did.
"Clark, I know this is tough on you. But being Superboy is going to call for you to make sacrifices, many that aren't really fair for a teenager to have to make, but that's the way it is to be. I know you want to help people. Think of it this way, helping people who are in bad situations is much more important than helping a football team win a game. Don't you think?"
"Sure, Dad, you're right. I'll tell the guys that with my working at the store and concentrating on my studies, I really wouldn't have the time for football practice every day."
Martha added," Clark, I doubt any of us really know at this point how busy you'll be doing your Superboy duties. So telling your friends you don't have the time is the truth."
"Well, I've been thinking of something concerning the store."
"What's that?" inquired Jonathan.
"I'm concerned that eventually someone might see me as Superboy while in the store. This morning, when I had to help Mr. Post, I had to leave by the back door. I checked first with my x-ray vision to make certain no one was around out back. But what if a delivery truck or something is at the back of the store?"
"Good point. I hadn't thought of that."
The lad continued, "The same goes for here. Even though we live out in the country, and there's usually no one close by, it might not always be that way."
"I see what you mean, son. Let me think about this," the elder Kent answered.
The Kent guys and the Lang gals always tried to attend the Smallville County Fair as a group. Not formal dates or anything, just four boys and four girls who, for the most part, enjoyed each other's company. But as with all teenagers, sometimes there were "issues."
The first night on the midway found them all strolling around, taking in the sights and sounds of the annual event, which signified the end of summer vacation for Smallville students.
The next week would find them all back in their desks, only this year, Clark Kent and his friends would be freshmen in high school.
But this night was to have fun and nothing more.
Jonathan Kent had dropped off the guys on his way home from work. Lana Lang's father, a professor at Smallville Junior College, had done the same for the young ladies.
Having agreed to meet at the main gate, they all entered the grounds together. Rusty was starving, he claimed, so he headed straight for the food stands. After engulfing two hots, a ballpark pretzel and cotton candy, he announced he was ready to ride everything on the lot.
"You shouldn't ride anything right after eating," Phyllis cautioned.
"Doesn't bother me. I have a cast iron stomach. C'mon, Phyllis, let's ride the Tilt-A-Whirl." And off they went.
Lana inquired, "Anybody else?"
"Sure, let's ride," Clark responded.
As the attendant strapped them into their chair, Lana commented to Kent how she couldn't believe he was wearing a long-sleeved shirt and trousers.
"It's still summer, Clark. Why didn't you wear Bermuda shorts and short sleeves like the rest of us? You look like an old fuddyduddy."
"Lana, you know how this time of year, the temperature can drop after dark twenty degrees in an hour. I don't want to catch a chill and get sick."
"Oh brother. Well, if you have heat stroke, don't ask me for any help."
He hid his smirk and thought, "Sure, wear short sleeves and Bermudas with what I'm wearing underneath. Oh, Lana, if only you knew."
To a degree, he wished he could tell her.
A couple hours had passed, and they were all still going strong. They all snacked here and there, but certainly not like Rusty. He continued to eat like a horse.
Having almost completely circled the amusement area, their final stop was the ferris wheel.
"Last ride for this year, guys. Let's pair up boy / girl," Noel suggested. "Rusty, you ride with me."
"O.K.," Phyllis answered, "C'mon Pete, you're with me."
"Well, Clark, that leaves you and me," the redhead stated.
"Uh, I'm sorry Lana. I never ride the ferris wheel."
"Yes you do. You rode it last year."
"No, ma'am. I've never ridden the Ferris wheel. I'm afraid of heights," he explained.
"Are ya comin'?" Noel asked.
"No, you guys go on. We'll wait here. Mr. Fuddyduddy here's afraid of heights."
One by one, the seats on the giant wheel were loaded with new riders. Then the ride officially began. Lana spent the time complaining how she got stuck with a sixteen-year-old-guy who doesn't like to leave the ground."
"I'm sorry, Lana. I'm sure Rusty or Pete will ride with you when they get finished."
"Naw, never mind. I'm ready to go home anyway. I'm kinda cold. And don't you say a word."
The wheel came to a stop, and just as it was loaded, one by one the attendant emptied each seat of its occupants.
"Hey look Noel, we at the very top. Let's rock the seat."
"No, Rusty, you're not supposed to do that."
"Gosh, you can see for miles and miles way up here," he stated.
She answered, "Well, we could if it wasn't dark."
"C'mon, let's rock it."
Ignoring Noel's plea, Rusty swayed forward and backward, and their seat began swinging.
Noel began screaming for him to stop. Clark could hear her above all the carnival noise. Looking up in their direction, his x-ray vision revealed that the excessive rocking of the seat had snapped one of the cotter pins which helped attach the seat to the main frame of the structure.
"Great Scott!" he said quietly. Just as he had done in front of the general store, he slowly stepped back without Lana's seeing him, ducked behind one of the shooting gallery tents and shed his Kent clothing.
Just a brief moment later, and not a moment too soon, Superboy landed atop the huge amusement ride, just as the cotter broke and the chair started to come loose. Holding the chair in place with his right hand, he told the occupants to listen carefully.
"What the...who are you?" Rusty exclaimed.
"Never mind," came the response. "Young lady, you put your arm around my neck, get in front of me and hold on tight. Young man, you do the same but on my back. Then I'll lower you to the ground. Don't worry, I've got you."
Miss Neill responded, "You've got us, but who's got you?"
"It will be fine. Hurry!"
They did, and it was.
They floated gently all the way down. As soon as they let go, Lana and Phyllis rushed to Noel to comfort her. Rusty threw up.
The attendant also rushed over and looking at this caped wonder, asked, "Who, who areyou?"
"Some folks call me Superboy. Good night." And he lifted straight up into the darkness.
As soon as everyone had calmed back down, Lana looked for Clark, but he was no where to be seen.
"Now, where's Clark this time?"
"I'm right behind you, Lana. What's wrong?"
"What's wrong, didn't you see any of this?"
"Uh, any of what?"
"Rusty and Noel were nearly killed, but someone named Superboy saved them."
"I'm sorry...who? Do you say Superboy? Who in the world is Superboy?"
Noel spoke up, "I'll tell you who he is. He's the most heavenly dreamboat I have ever seen. As he brought Rusty and me down, I was staring into those gorgeous eyes of his. Oh my God! Goodbye Tony Curtis. Hello Superboy!
"Well, I hate that I missed all that," Kent responded.
"Well, where were you this time, Mr. Kent?"
Leaning over to Lana and whispering in her ear, "I had to find a rest room."
"My gosh, Clark, you need to have your kidneys checked!"
"Here are your papers, Mr. Kent," said the red-headed, freckle-faced boy. "I'll leave them on the counter."
Jonathan answered, "Thanks, Benjy. How are your folks?"
"They're fine, thanks. See ya tomorrow." And he was gone.
"Jonathan, wasn't that the Banks boy?" asked loyal customer Gladys Parker.
"Yeah, Benjy, he delivers the Sentinel to all the retailers in town who sells them to their customers. Nice boy."
While Gladys emptied her items out of the shopping basket, Jonathan cut the twine from the bundle and sat the stack of the afternoon edition on the far side of the counter and began ringing up her purchases.
"Would you look at this?" she exclaimed, reading the front page headline.
"What's that, Gladys?" he asked, not missing a beat on the register.
"SUPERBOY RESCUES TEENS AT COUNTY FAIR."
Feigning ignorance, Kent asked, "Superboy? Who's that?"
"Listen to this, Jonathan," she read on. "Smallville citizens can breathe easier today now knowing the mysterious red and blue figure they thought they observed streak across the sky this past Saturday during the air show demonstration does, indeed, exist. Today we know a bit more about the 'thing' that saved Will Post's airplane from disaster. And the mystery figure is a young man."
"What?" Jonathan showed surprise.
Gladys continued, "This newcomer to the area appeared again last night at the Smallville County Fair, rescuing two teens from danger high atop the motionless ferris wheel. The seat in which locals Noel Neill and Rusty Ellsworth were seated broke loose and would have fallen except out of the black sky, this figure pulled the youngsters from their seat and "floated" them down from their sixty-foot high predicament."
"Well, I'll be darn," he commented.
"After the youths were safely on the ground," Mrs. Parker went on, "the young man, dressed in a red and blue uniform with a red and yellow 'S' on his chest, was asked to identify himself. His response was, 'Some folks call me Superboy.' And at that point, he zoomed straight upward out of sight."
She tossed the paper down on the counter and stated that she had never heard such nonsense in all her born days. "I'm of a mind to call the Sentinel and cancel my subscription!"
"Why, Gladys?" the store owner inquired.
"If the only way Larry Larson can sell newspapers in this town is by making up such ridiculous stories, I'm not going to waste my money taking such trash. Why, they're no better than CONFIDENTIAL magazine. Not that I read that, but I've seen ladies with their noses buried in it at the beauty shop. I would never subject myself to such filth."
"I know you wouldn't, Gladys," Jonathan added, with a slight smirk on his face.
"Thirty cents of good money a week for this newspaper, and this is what we get. I'm calling Laurence Larson as soon as I get home and give him a piece of my mind."
Kent suggested, "Maybe we shouldn't be too quick to condemn the Sentinel. Larry Larson is a good newspaper man. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't print a story that he couldn't back up. Maybe this Superboy is real."
"Oh, Jonathan, don't be so naive. A young man in red and blue clothes who flies through the air. It's not possible."
"Well, I was just saying. Oh, your total is $9.00 even."
Handing him a ten and receiving a dollar back, Gladys stated that she was going to call Henrietta Neill and get to the bottom of this.
As soon as her exit from the store was complete, young Clark entered from the back room.
"Did you hear any of that, son?"
"Yes sir, almost all of it. I've a mind to fly over to her house and knock on her front door. I'd love to see her expression."
"That would be something," Jonathan replied. "Wouldn't mind seeing that myself."
"Dad, I've been looking around in the back and believe I have the answer how I can come and go as Superboy without ever being seen."
"Then you're ahead of me. I haven't come up with anything."
"Why couldn't we put a trap door in the floor and a tunnel that leads away from the store?"
"Well, that sounds good, but not very practical, Clark. How would we create such a tunnel without attracting attention?"
"I could hollow it out myself, at night, when the town's asleep. I could do it in no time."
Jonathan asked, "Well, if you think you can do it. Our property in back extends all the way over to Maxwell Street, so it wouldn't infringe on anyone else's land. I guess I could get a jack hammer somewhere to dig up the concrete floor in the back room, but that's going to make an awful racket."
"No you won't, Dad." Holding up his fists, "Here's your jack hammer."
"Well, of course. I should have thought of that. Let me think...the store will be closed this coming Monday for Labor Day. That would give us two days to do it."
"It won't take me two days. Trust me."
Many times growing up, Clark had heard Jonathan say "they was nothing more gratifying than being able to help your fellow man."
Clark, as Superboy, had several opportunities to do so as the week unfolded.
One evening, as he and his Dad were driving home from a day at the store, they noticed a section of broken fence at a farm about a mile from their house. As many as twenty cows had wandered out, in and across the road, the owner unaware of his situation.
"Let me out here, Dad," Clark requested. I'll change to Superboy, round up the cows, fix the fence and be home in a few minutes.
Jonathan stopped by the side of the road and stayed only long enough for the truck to shield his son making his identity change. Then he proceeded homeward.
Quickly the task was completed. No one, other than the elder Kent, was aware of what he had done. This feat didn't make it into the newspaper, but he felt good just the same.
Then on Thursday afternoon, having the afternoon off from the store, he and Martha were going to town when they passed the Benson place. The Bensons were a throwback mid-western country family, something like fifth generation farmers. They still did their plowing seeing nothing but the rear end of a mule. No phone, no television. They were good people but preferred to keep pretty much to themselves.
Clark did go to school with the only child, Wheaton. Most kids called him "Wheat." When in grade school, young Kent had noticed that Wheat's shoes were literally falling apart, and he wore what was left of them to school every day. Martha couldn't tolerate that, so, using Clark's feet as measurement, bought a pair of black dress shoes for the lad. Knowing they wouldn't be accepted if she knocked on their door and offered them, she snuck up one evening after dark and left them on the front porch. She was joyous the next day when Clark got off the school bus and told his Mom that Wheat had worn the shoes to school. And for the rest of the year, Clark observed that every day, Wheat's shoes had a spit shine on them.
Mrs. Benson had died the previous winter of pneumonia. No one in the area knew she was sick until Wilton Benson sent word to the funeral home. She was buried on the property after the coroner released the body, leaving Wilton and Wheat to man for themselves. Martha and Jonathan had stopped by one evening to pay their respects. Martha had packed a basket of her homemade preserves and baked a loaf of bread. Wilton met them at the front door, didn't invite them in ("the place is kind of a mess," he said) and refused to accept their offerings, even though he and Wheaton did appreciate their kind gesture.
Those were the Bensons.
But on this afternoon, as they went by the Benson place, they observed Wilton and Wheat in the front yard using cross-cut saws trying to topple a humongous pine tree, one which had to be a hundred years old. The tree was diseased to the point a strong Smallville wind could topple it, possibly into and through their house.
"Let me out about a mile down the road, Mom. I'm going to help them with that tree."
"Very well," she answered, "Should I wait?"
"No. I'll catch up with you in town."
As soon as he got out of the car, Clark surveyed the area with his x-ray vision. Making sure there was no one anywhere close, he was soon standing in his alternate clothing. Springing into the air, he came to land a few feet from the two Bensons.
Naturally, they were both startled.
"Hello, may I give you a hand with this tree?"
There was no answer. The Benson males just stood like statues, staring at one another with a "what in the world" expression on both their faces. They didn't take the newspaper so were probably unaware of the goings-on of the last week or so.
"Step back, please." As if they were choreographed, Wilton and Wheat stepped back in unison.
With the swipe of one hand, Superboy gave the massive tree trunk a judo-like chop, knocking out a huge chunk. Then one push brought down the monster.
The statues remained frozen, wild-eyed in disbelief.
"Shall I chop it up for firewood?"
The statues remained frozen, wild-eyed, unable to speak.
"Great. I'll take that for a yes."
Within a minute, a multitude of more judo chops, and the tree was now ready for the winter's fireplace.
"Where would you like it stacked?"
At last, Wilton thawed and pointed, "Uh, next to the house will be fine."
At almost-lightning speed, Superboy had the wood neatly stacked.
"Can I pull out the stump for you, Mr. Benson?"
The farmer barely managed to answer, "That's not necessary. We'll just put a flower pot on it or sumthin'.
Walking over to them, Superboy extended his hand to them both. Both were barely able to raise their arms, but they did.
"It's very nice to meet both of you. Time for me to go."
He headed skyward.
"Pa, that fella just jumped into the air and kept on goin', didn't he?
"I think so, son. C'mon. I'm goin' inside. I need a drink. You can have one, too."
"Really, Pa, I'm only sixteen."
"After this, boy, I'd give ya one if you wuz six."
Cold fried chicken left over from the noon meal and homemade potato salad were the bill of fare for Sunday supper. Everyone knows that fried chicken cold is just as good.
"As soon as it's dark, I'm going to the store and take care of the tunnel, if that's all right," Clark informed his parents.
"Sure, that's fine, son, but are you sure you don't need me to help?" asked Jonathan Kent.
"No, I'll be fine. You can stay home, relax and watch Ed Sullivan."
"I do have the trap door and the crate ready for you. You'll see them."
"Boys, tell me again how this is going to work," Martha requested.
"Clark's going to make an opening in the back room floor of the store and dig a tunnel all the way back to Maxwell Street."
"I got that part, but won't people be curious when they see the opening in the floor?"
"They won't see it, Mom. Dad made a wooden trap door and a huge crate. When I'm finished burrowing, I'll nail the crate to the trap door and fill the crate with dirt. And then, when I need to use the tunnel, I'll push the crate over, and the trap door will open. Then once I'm down in the ground, I'll pull a rope and it will close. Your ingenious husband put a set of hydraulic pumps on the door so it will close slowly and not make a noise."
"Well, Jonathan, I'm impressed," she flirted.
"I am good for something...occasionally," was his reply.
"How long do you think it will take you, son."
"Maybe a couple of hours. Tunneling through the ground will be the easy part. Hauling off the dirt will take some time, but I'll work fast. I bet you I'm back by eleven."
"Not on your life," Jonathan responded, "I wouldn't take that bet for the whole darn store."
Clark was in bed by 10:40.
The day had arrived.
Clark Kent and his friends' first day of high school.
As instructed, the rising freshmen, numbering forty-five or so, were taking their seats in the school auditorium.
"Oh, there's someone I want to talk to. Save my seat, will ya Lana?"
Kent slipped past three classmates to get to the end of the center aisle.
"Hi Wheat," he greeted.
"Oh, hi Clark," the Benson lad answered.
"Did you have a good summer?"
"Yeah, it was pretty good. Lot of hard work though."
"Say Wheat," Kent went on, "passing your place the other day I noticed that you took out that giant pine tree in your front yard. That must have been a nightmare."
"Well, it would have, but...say Clark, this might sound crazy, but I want to ask you somethin'."
"Sure, what is it?"
"Now, you're gonna think I'm off my rocker, but have you, by any chance, seen out your way this guy in a red and blue..."
The bell sounded.
"Please be seated," requested the stern voice from the stage of the auditorium.
"Oh, never mind. See ya later, Clark."
Kent scurried back to his seat.
"Good morning rising freshmen of Smallville High School. I am Mr. Winters, the principal of the school. I wish to welcome you to your new academic home."
Lana whispered, "Sounds like he knows this by heart."
"He should," Pete responded, "he's been giving it for fifty years. He was principal when my parents went here."
"Young man in the third row, I'm speaking."
"I apologize Mr. Winters," Pete stated, feeling like a fool.
"Here's what your first day will be like here at SHS. You all have your schedule cards. You will go to your classes in the same order as you will from here on out. Today, each of your teachers will give you a list of all supplies you will need in their classes. Each will also discuss the course you will be taking, and what is expected from you in securing an acceptable grade in that class. Regular classroom instruction will begin tomorrow. If there are no questions, then please report to the room of your first period class. My door is always open to each of you. Enjoy your four years, or for some of you, a bit longer at Smallville High. Good morning."
There were no questions, and the auditorium emptied as if it were a blazing inferno.
Despite the hard work it would take, almost all of Kent's classes (General Science, Algebra, Civics, English and study hall) looked fine, but there was one exception...Health / P.E.
Mr. Gibson, also the head coach of the football team, went over the requirements of the course.
"Tuesdays and Thursdays, we'll be in this very classroom for Health. Mondays and Wednesdays will be Physical Education. Fridays will be co-ed P.E. with the ladies. On these three days, all of you will dress out in your appropriate sweatshirt, gym shorts and tennis shoes. All of these items are available at Mr. Kent's family's store on Main Street. I hope you appreciate the plug, Kent. Now, you're gonna work hard in P.E., meaning you're going to stink at the end of class. Therefore, taking a shower is mandatory every day. Anyone caught skipping showers will lose one point per offense from your final grade. Am I clear?"
"Yes, sir," came the class response, as if they were in the military.
"Oh no! I should have thought of this before," Clark thought to himself. "My Superboy uniform! There's no way I can hide it under my gym clothes! What can I do?"
At the end of the school day, a group of students, including Lana, Noel, Pete and Clark were sitting on the steps which led into the front door of SHS.
They were still waiting for their bus, which was running late.
"Why wasn't the bus here when the bell rang?" Pete asked.
"We're second load, Pete," Lana answered. There aren't enough buses to take everyone at once so a couple have to make two runs. Unfortunately, our bus is one of them."
"Will it be like this every day? I'd like to get home before bedtime."
"I doubt it, Pete, "Clark suggested. "They'll probably make some adjustments with the scheduling and get it worked out."
"Well, they'd better," exclaimed an annoyed Mr. Ross. "Look at the parking lot. It's all but empty. All the kids who drive are gone. Most of the teachers, too."
"Oh, Pete, give me a break," Lana said. "Like you have something important to do."
"Well, I do."
"Yeah, like what?" the redhead pressed.
"I wanted to watch TV when I got home."
"Yeah, Iike that's important," Noel chimed in.
"Hey dolls," their conversation interrupted by a strange voice. "Either of you babes need a lift home. If you do, Brick's your man."
Brick was Brick Davis, senior, cocky, starting center for the SHS basketball team. Good-looking, and how he knew it.
"I've got my wheels right out here in the lot. Nice wheels. '57 Chevy convertible. Plush front seat and it's available. How about you, Red, ya wanna take a ride with the Brick man?"
"Uh, thank you, no. I'm waiting on my bus," Lang responded.
"Too bad, doll, the Brick man only extends one invitation and looks like you blew yours. How about you, Blondie?"
Noel, a bit naive, answered in the affirmative. "Sure, I'll go with you."
"Well, let's go hop in the Love Machine, and I'll drive you to a world of excitement and pleasure."
Lana cautioned, "Noel, maybe you shouldn't."
"It'll be all right. I'll see you guys tomorrow."
The three watched as their friend and the Brick man jumped into the Chevy. Cranking it, the folks in the next county could probably hear it. Just as he put in gear, Davis looked at young Noel and exclaimed, "HOLD ON!"
He immediately gunned the engine, spinning several doughnuts on the dirt parking lot. Lana, Pete and Clark all could hear Noel screaming, begging the driver to stop.
"What's the matter? This is fun! Hold on, Blondie!"
The Chevy came out of its third doughnut and headed for the road. The tires screached when they grabbed the paved surface.
"That idiot's gonna get them both killed!" Lana yelled.
"I, I can't stand to watch! I'm going back inside!" Kent shouted as he ran into the school, leaving Lana and Pete looking at each other in surprise.
Clark made his way into the empty men's rest room on the main hall, and just as quickly emerged as Superboy. Using super-speed, he then ran out the back door of the building and sprung into the air.
Pete and Lana were still watching the convertible as it went out of sight.
"Hey look, there's that Superboy!" Pete yelled, pointing into the sky.
Lana responded, "Yeah, I see him!"
The flying marvel, too, was soon out of their vision. Zeroing in on the speeding car, Superboy descended right behind the vehicle, and with both hands, lifted the car off the ground.
The startled Davis turned around to hear Superboy's command, "Turn off the engine...NOW!"
Almost in a state of shock, he obeyed.
Setting the Chevrolet to earth, Superboy first checked on Noel, who was hysterical.
"You again, Miss? Seems we keep running in to one another. Are you all right?"
"I think so. I just need a minute to calm down," Neill replied.
"Take your time, I need to have a few words with this gentleman."
Walking around the front of the car to the driver's side, "Young man, don't try to give me an explanation as to why you did this. There is no excuse."
"I don't have to talk to you," an adamant Davis stated. "Who the Hell are you, anyway?"
Before he could answer, Noel answered, "He's Superboy."
"You're correct. You don't have to talk to me. Maybe you'd rather talk to the police. I can arrange a meeting. In fact, I can fly you and your car to their headquarters right now."
"No, no, don't do that."
"I'm not sure if a sermon would do someone like you any good, but I'll make it brief. What you just did was not only very foolish, but very dangerous. You scared this young lady to pieces, and could have killed her. You may not care enough about yourself to drive safely, but I don't intend to let you injure innocent people. Am I making myself clear?"
"Uh, yes. I hear you."
"No one is above the law, Mr..."
"Mr. Davis. And I am here to enforce the law, whether you like it or not. Now, have I your word that we won't have to have a second conversation about matters such as this? Because the next time..."
"I got ya. I understand."
"Fine. You may go. Just remember, I get around pretty fast. You never know where I might be."
"Gotcha." He cranked the car, put in first and slowly pulled away.
"Now, young lady, I should get you back to the school."
"I'll fly you back."
"In the air?" she quizzed.
"That's the best way I know." He picked her up in a carrying position, and they were soon back at the steps of SHS.
Lana and Pete, as well as six other students, ran to them.
"Is she O.K.?" Lana asked.
"She's fine," he replied.
"I'm Lana, by the way, Lana Lang."
"I'm pleased to meet you, Miss Lang."
"Please call me Lana."
"All right, Lana. You all must excuse me. I must go."
"Wait," Pete requested. "I'm Pete. Can't you stick around for a minute? We'd love to talk to you? Our bus is late."
"Perhaps we can do that later, Pete. I really must go. And I see your bus is coming down the road. It will be here shortly. So long, everyone."
He flew over the school building out of sight.
Lana exclaimed, "Oh my God! I can't believe it. He talked to me."
"Am I right, Lana, or not? Isn't he a dreamboat?" Noel remarked.
"I've never seen anything so beautiful in my entire life. And I touched his arm. He felt so strong," Lang answered.
"And those eyes," Noel added, "a girl could fall in them. And he looks so sexy in that red and blue suit. Now you know why I gave up Tony Curtis."
Pete seemed disgusted, "Oh brother! Women! Well, here's the bus."
"Oh gosh. Don't let it leave. I better go find fraidy cat Kent." Just as she got ten feet into the main hall, she observed Clark coming out of the rest room.
"Come on, Clark. The excitement's over. The bus is here."
"What about Noel?" he asked, adjusting his glasses for a better fit.
"She's fine. Superboy saved her. Clark, we got to talk to him. He's incredible."
"Where is he? I'd like to talk to him, too."
"Oh, he's gone. He left right before I came to find you."
"Too bad. Maybe another time," Kent stated.
The ten students boarded, then they were finally heading home.
Noel told Lana she was glad the bus was late. As frightened as she was, it was all worth it to get to fly in his arms.
"I should have taken that ride with the Brick Man," the redhead thought to herself. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a lightbulb turned on inside her head. Not a 40-watt or a 60-watt, but a 100-watt bulb. Each of the three times she had seen Superboy, she was with Clark, who vanished just before Superboy appeared. And as soon as Superboy left, Clark returned.
"How weird," she thought.
Five of the ten riders, including Pete, Noel and Lana, had been dropped off at their homes. It was nearly 4:30 before the school bus came to a stop in front of Kent's General Store. One lone rider got off and entered the business.
Owner Jonathan Kent was trying to wait on three customers at once.
"I'm here, Dad."
"Can you wait on Mrs. Larson, please?
"Sure. How are you, Mrs. Larson?"
After ten minutes, all three ladies were happily on their way, and Jonathan plopped down on a chair.
"Man, what a day. I've been going since I got here this morning. Maybe with school starting back today, all the mothers of Smallville decided to get out of their houses and come to town and do some shopping. I didn't even have time to eat my sandwich for lunch."
"Well, a busy store is a good problem, isn't it? But I'm sorry you had to do it all alone. And I'm sorry I'm late. Bus problems."
"A breakdown," the elder Kent asked.
"No, scheduling I guess. Some buses have to make two runs, and my bus is the second run. At least the driver will let me off here at the store so I don't have to ride all the way home. I'm hoping they'll get the kinks worked out and I won't be so late." Looking around, he observed, "Wow, Dad, you have been busy. Some of the shelves are nearly empty."
"Everyone's been buying canned vegetables like crazy. I've been so busy I didn't have time to re-stock. Probably lost some sales because of it."
"I'll get more from the back and get right on it."
"As soon as you do, I've got to get off my feet for a bit. They're killin' me."
Just as Clark went into the back room, the bell on the door gave a jingle. Jonathan turned around to see Lana Lang standing near the center of the store.
"Well, hello Lana?"
"Hi Mr. Kent. Clark not here?"
"Yes, he's in the back getting some stock. He'll be right out. Can I help you with anything?"
"Oh, no thanks, Mr. Kent, I just stopped by to see Clark. Did he tell you about the excitement we had at school this afternoon?"
"No, he didn't. He hasn't been here long, and we really haven't had a chance to talk. But, how was your first day of high school?"
"Dreamy, Mr. Kent. I got to meet Superboy!"
He answered, "Superboy? And how did that come about?"
Before he received an answer, Clark opened the door and pushed a cart stacked with cases of canned vegetables into the sales area.
"Lana, you didn't tell me you were going to come by."
"I didn't know until I got home. I have to run down the block and pick up our waffle iron at Grayson's. Frayed cord or something."
"Kids, I'll leave you two to talk. I've got to take a little break," Jonathan stated as he went into the back.
As Clark began working, Lana began talking.
"Boy, what an afternoon," she started.
"Uh huh," he answered, putting a case of green peas on the counter.
"Too bad you didn't get to meet Superboy."
"Uh huh," he answered, putting another case of green peas on the counter.
"Funny how that happened," she toyed with him.
"How what happened?" he answered, putting another case of green peas on the counter.
"It was very interesting how just seconds after you ran back inside, Superboy flew over the school building."
"What's so interesting about that?" he asked, putting a case of cream corn on the counter.
"Well, nothing in itself. But that's the third time that's happened."
"I'm not following you, Lana," he answered, putting another case of cream corn on the counter.
"Can you stop stacking peas and corn for a minute and listen to me!"
"Lana, I have work to do." He stopped, "All right. What are you trying to say?"
"The same thing that happened at school happened right out front here on the sidewalk, then at the county fair."
"What are you talking about?" the bewildered Kent youth inquired.
"Each time you disappeared just before Superboy was seen, and you didn't turn back up until Superboy was gone."
He stared at her without speaking.
"Well, say something, Clark."
"I really don't know what to say. What do you want me to say? And what are you trying to say."
"I'm just saying...well, what would you say if I told you that maybe, just maybe, I think you might be Superboy."
Again, he stared at her without speaking. Then finally, "I would say that you have flipped. Lana, we've known each other since we were little kids, at least ten years. And in those ten years, you've had some ideas that were...well...a bit odd."
"Like what?" she demanded an answer.
"Like the time you were convinced a dragon lived under your bed. And how about the time that you thought Lucinda Hobbs was a witch. Oh, and that Smallville was originally part of Jupiter but was blown to Earth by a cyclone."
"Well...maybe I do have a good imagination."
He added, "That would be a fair statement. But you believed all that. Listen, we all did stuff like that when we were kids. Pete told me years ago that his father, when he was young, was one of The Little Rascals, and I believed him, until I asked Mr. Ross for his autograph, and he started laughing."
"Really, I never knew that," Lang responded.
"But that was then. We're not little kids anymore. Maybe the excitement this afternoon and Noel's being in danger has you a bit shaken. Let me ask you this. In all the years we've known each other, have I ever done anything that might indicate I am in any way like this Superboy?"
"Of course not. I'll admit, it would probably be great to be able to do stuff like he can, but..."
"Well, maybe I am letting my mind wander. Meeting him was so wonderful that I am still shaking a little. Do you think I'll ever get to talk to him again?"
"Maybe, who knows? Nobody seems to know much about him, except his name. He may just be passing through."
"Oh, if he is, I'll just die. Now, I'm gonna worry about that. Thanks a lot, Clark."
"You're welcome. I don't mean to run you off, but it's past five, and I think Dan closes at five."
"Oh my God! The waffle iron! Daddy's gonna skin me alive! Bye, Clark."
As soon as the door slammed, Kent slumped across the counter with a big "WHEW!"
As she made her way down the street towards Grayson's, she looked at the town clock atop the bank building across the street. 5:10. "Oh, no!"
Clark apologized to his dad, "Lana tied me up and I haven't stocked the shelves, but I can do it now using my super speed."
"Let me check the street, son, and see if it's clear. Yeah, go ahead, no one's in sight."
Moving so fast, Jonathan couldn't even follow his boy's hands, the lad had the entire shelf completely full in seconds.
Starting her walk back home empty-handed, Lana observed Dan Garyson coming towards her on the sidewalk.
"Oh, Mr. Grayson, can you do me a big favor?"
Through Dan's kindness, the teenager was able to pick up the repaired appliance after all. Approaching the general store, she popped her head back inside to give Clark the good news. She observed him and his father waiting on several late afternoon customers. Not wishing to distract her friend any more than she already had, she simply told Clark that Mr. Grayson reopened his shop for her.
"That's great, Lana. See ya tomorrow."
Closing the door, she noticed something else, but said nothing and went on her way.
"Clark had that entire shelf stocked completely full of those canned vegetables. No one could have done that in," looking at the clock again, "six minutes. No one except Superboy, that is. All right, my childhood friend, you wanna play games with me, I'll play. But you're not fooling me. There's no dragon under my bed, and Lucinda Hobbs may not be a witch, but you, Clark Kent, must be Superboy!"
The conversation around the Kent dinner table got off to an easy enough start that evening.
Martha simply asked, "Well Clark, how was your first day of high school?"
An hour later, the lad was still answering. Of course, his parents had interjected comments throughout, but the clock approached 7:45, and several issues were still being addressed. Only his telling of Superboy's intervention between big man on campus Brick Davis and Noel Neill was completed.
The two hot topics were his physical education class situation and Lana Lang's visit to the store after school.
"Clark, I'm just saying...well, what would you say if I told you that maybe, just maybe, I think you might be Superboy," he recalled verbatim.
"I assumed one of the toughest things about being Superboy was going to be protecting my secret," the youngster remarked, "but not immediately. It's only been a little over a week."
"Yes, this comes as a bit of shock to me, too," Jonathan answered. "Son, do you think you might have convinced Lana that her theory was wrong?"
"Maybe, Dad, she did sorta back down, but with Lana, who knows? I guess I'll just have to really watch myself when I'm around her."
"Well, you couldn't help what happened at school. You had to help Noel Neill. That wasn't your fault," Martha added.
"Nobody's at fault, Martha, Clark did what had to be done. I don't know any other way it could have been handled," her husband stated.
"As for gym class, the only thing I can think of to do is to carry my uniform to school in my book satchel and put in my locker. P.E. is second period, so I'll just keep my fingers crossed that I don't need it until after then. Then before third period, I can retrieve it and put it on in the rest room."
"There's bound to be other boys in there between classes," his mom said.
"I'll just have to wait until it's clear. I can use my super-speed. Unless you have another idea."
Both nodded negatively.
"Well, tomorrow's a gym day. We'll see how it goes."
Tomorrow came quickly.
Jonathan had left for the general store by the time Clark and Martha sat down for breakfast. Twenty minutes later, using his super-hearing, he heard the bus getting close to their driveway.
"There's the bus, Mom, gotta go." He jumped up, kissed her on the cheek and headed for the door.
He and the bus arrived at the end of the drive at about the same time. Kent took a seat.
"Hey, you're Kent, aren't you?" said a husky voice sitting across the aisle.
"That's right, Clark Kent."
"Well, Clark Kent, I have a question for you."
"O.K.," Clark answered.
"How come you're carrying a book bag for your books and carrying your books in your hands? Didn't no one tell you the books go inside the book bag?" He laughed. "Didn't the book bag come with instructions, Four-Eyes?"
"I don't believe there's any cause for you..." Kent started, but was cut off.
"SHUT UP! Does little Freddie Freshman need someone to show him how to use his new toy?" He laughed again, then quickly grabbed the satchel from Clark's lap.
"Give that back to me!" he insisted.
"Or what are you going to do, Four-Eyes?"
"WHATEVER IT TAKES!"
"You two back there, settle down or I'll have to write you up. Mitchell, give Kent back his book bag. NOW!"
The kid obliged, but whispered, "I'll deal with you later."
After a couple more kids were picked up, including Wheat Benson, who sat next to Clark, the bus lumbered towards town.
Kent decided to have a little fun. Using his heat vision, he very slowly warmed the seat cushion under the Mitchell bully. The older student started to fidget in his seat and occasionally wiped his brow. Finally, the thug got up and moved to another seat, complaining that the bus was too hot. Clark grinned.
After first period General Science went well, Chester, Rusty and Clark rushed to the locker room to dress out for their first P.E. class. Coach Gibson instructed all to report to the weight room. "Got to put some meat on you freshmen. Some of you look pretty scrawny. As he inspected the students in a military-like line, he made comments as he passed each kid.
"Ellsworth, you're the smallest in the class. What do you weigh...100 lbs.?"
"I'm not sure, Coach."
"Sartania and Kent, you two look to be in pretty good shape. Do you use weights at home?"
"No sir," Chester responded, "must be the farm work."
"And you, Kent?"
"Uh, we do some farming, too. Plus I work in my family's store."
Thirty minutes into the class, after instructions on how to use the weights properly and to their best advantage, Gibson added some weight to the bar. 150 pounds this time. All were successful, except Rusty. It was too much for him.
"Don't worry about it, Rusty. You'll work up to it. You'll get there."
Just then, the voice of Principal Winters was heard over the intercom, "Coach Gibson, come to the office, please?"
"Guys, I'll be back as soon as I can. Until I return, share the dumbbells and each do a series of ten curls. No monkey business. I don't want anyone hurt."
The group followed the coach's instructions, with one exception.
Weak-link Rusty, embarrassed to be the only one who failed on the 150 lb. lift, quietly went back to the monster, determined to conquer it before leaving the room.
Repeating the process of before, he went up with the bar, getting it to his chest, just as he had done previously. But when he tried to put it over his head, he screamed, "HELP!"
All turned around to see the predicament.
Kent got to him first and grabbed the beast out of his friend's hands as if it was a foam rubber pillow.
Realizing what he had done in front of the entire group, Clark Kent, as safely and quickly as he could, returned the barbell to the floor. Sitting his buddy down on a bench, he made sure Rusty was O.K.
All of a sudden, the guys were saying things such as, "That's incredible" and "How did you do that, Clark?"
As Clark fidgeted for a response, Gibson returned and asked what was going on?
"Rusty almost dropped the barbell, but Clark grabbed it with two hands like it was a bag of feathers," one kid stated.
The coach calmed everybody down, made sure Rusty was all right, then gave him a tongue lashing for doing what he had done.
"I'm sorry, Coach. That was really stupid. I just wanted to show everyone I could lift it like they did."
"You should have seen it, Coach, the way Clark grabbed it like it was nothing. How'd you do that, Kent?"
"I'll tell you how," the coach answered. "It's called adrenaline. It's a hormone the body releases in times of stress. It enables people to do things they couldn't normally do. We'll be studying the body's hormones in Health this semester."
"But Clark grabbed it like it weighed nothing."
"Chester," Gibson continued, "there have been reported cases in which a 90 lb. woman lifted the back axle of a pick-up truck off the ground because her child was underneath. All kinds of bizarre stories like that. Like I said, we'll get into all that in Health class."
By lunchtime, word had spread through much of the school of Clark Kent's heroism. Guys were patting him on the back and girls were complimenting him on saving Rusty's life.
"You're making too big a deal about this," he answered, trying to diffuse the situation. Still, he was held to high praise. Even Principal Winters stopped him in the cafeteria to thank him.
"The last thing I need is attention centered on my strength," he thought. The tension thickened even more when Lana put her tray down and sat across the table from him.
"Hey, Lana, how's that waffle iron working?" trying to distract the redhead.
"Good as new. Had waffles this morning. Speaking of morning, I heard you had a busy one."
"Don't believe everything you hear, Lana."
"How you saved Rusty's life by tossing a barbell around like it was made of foam rubber."
"I didn't save Rusty's life. And the coach explained what happened."
"Oh yeah...adrenaline. Ya know, I've actually read stuff about that. How ordinary people can do extraordinary feats in times of crisis. Yeah, I get it."
"Will you pass me the pepper please?" he requested.
Handing it to him, she went on, "Yep, that ole adrenaline can allow ordinary people to do incredible things. But what if someone you had known for a long time wasn't quite as ordinary as you always thought they were?"
Ignoring her, he continued eating.
"Clark, I'm talking to you."
"I hear you."
"A person not so ordinary, like...say, Superboy for example. He could lift 150 lbs. as if it were nothing without an extra dose of adrenaline, don't you think? I bet he could lift a tonlike it weighed nothing, wouldn't you agree?"
Talking with his mouth full, Kent replied that maybe he could. He wouldn't know.
"You remember our little conversation yesterday afternoon in your store, don't you, Clark?"
"Sure, mostly about the wild imagination you've always had. Your lunch is getting cold."
"I'd rather talk to you than eat."
He snapped, "Well, I'd rather eat than talk."
"O.K., you eat, I'll talk. Three times already. Clark's here, then Clark disappears. Superboy's here, then he disappears. Then Clark is back. And don't think for a minute that I didn't noticed yesterday that you stocked that entire shelf in the store in just six measly minutes."
"Wrong. Actually my Dad and I stocked the shelf, Lana. Both of us. Something he's done for thirty years, and you know what, he's pretty darn good at it."
"Maybe," she responded. "But adding the weight room incident to the rest of this, it makes it all really interesting."
"There's your problem, Lana. Your addition. Do yourself a favor and study your math real hard this year, then maybe you'll be able to add two and two and get four, not fourteen. Now are you finished?"
Hearing his tone, she stopped.
The lad wanted to stand up and rip his shirt open and show her what he was wearing underneath. It would be so much simpler that way.
But the price to pay was too immense, he knew he couldn't do that.
Standing at his locker at the climax of a school day he thought might never end, Kent heard a voice from behind, a voice he recognized.
He glanced around to see his school bus nemesis Rip Mitchell, who was sandwiched between two other guys, both of whom looked as threatening as did Rip.
"Ya know what, Four-Eyes, I never did get a look in that cute little book bag you were carrying this morning." Speaking to his fellow goons, "Guys, Freddie Freshman's mommy probably bought him this nice new book bag so he would look real cool starting high school. But when he got on the bus this morning, he had the bag on his back and was carrying his books in his arms. Now, what's up with that? I tried to explain to the moron that the books go inside the bag, but he was very disrespectful to me. And everyone knows that freshmen are supposed to show respect for their upperclassmen."
"You give me a reason to respect you, and you'll get my respect," he snapped.
"See boys, what I mean? More disrespect. He just doesn't get it."
"Look, what is it that you want?" Kent inquired.
"I thought I made myself clear. I want to see in your pretty book bag. Now, is that too big a thing to ask?"
"No, I guess not," Clark replied, then opened the bag and shoved it right under Rip's nose.
Mitchell jumped back, "Damn, that stinks! I ought to..."
"Well, you wanted to see, so I showed you. Just my dirty gym clothes. Where else would you expect a Freddie Freshman like me to carry his gym clothes? However, they did smell nicer this morning when they were clean. Now, beat it and leave me alone."
"Ya know something, Kent? I don't like you. I'm of a mind to take you outside and teach you a lesson by beating the crap out of you."
"You alone, or do you need your friends here to help you?"
"They'll do whatever I say. And who's gonna help you Kent?"
"I'll help you Clark."
The three whipped around to see Wheat Benson.
"I'll help you Clark," Chester Sartania added.
"Me too," Pete Ross chimed in.
"Count me in," Rusty Ellsworth stated.
"Thanks guys, but there isn't going to be any trouble, is there...Rip?"
"Let's go guys," Mitchell ordered, but as they walked away, he turned back and told Clark he'd better be on the lookout.
As a way of releasing a little tension, a small puff of Kent's super breath towards Rip's feet took them right out from under the bully, making him wipe out in the middle of the main hall in front of a mob of students, who all laughed.
Even Rip's thugs joined in the amusement.
Clark got off his bus and entered, sans his father, their empty store.
"Where is everybody?
Jonathan answered, "I was pretty busy this morning, but it's been quiet this afternoon. Yesterday was so hectic, maybe everyone is all shopped out."
"Let me grab my apron, and then you can go in the back and take a breather if you want."
"Sounds good to me," replied the elder Kent.
Clark waited on several ladies in the next half hour, but soon the store was void of customers again, that is, until the bell rang and he looked up to see Lana.
"Not again," he thought to himself.
"Hi Lana. Come to talk some more?"
"Well, actually, I have a grocery list of things we need at home."
"O.K. Can I help you find anything?"
"No, I'm fine. I know where everything is," she replied.
Clark passed the time reading the daily edition of the Smallville Sentinel. "Ya been watching any of the Summer Olympics on TV?"
"A little," the redheaded shopper answered. "I really like the Winter Olympics more. I like the ice skating."
"This is interesting," the lad observed. "The India men's field hockey team had never lost a game in Olympic competition since it first competed in 1928, until losing to Pakistan yesterday 1-0. A goal by Nasir Ahmad brought India's winning streak to an end."
"I've never heard of field hockey. All right, I guess that'll be all, Clark," the perky redhead stated as she placed her selections on the counter.
"Oh-oh, my x-ray vision reveals Lana has forgotten an item on the shopping list in her purse...peaches," he said to himself.
"Pretty shopper, I'll just mention that we're having a special sale on canned peaches today. Would madam care to partake of the huge savings?"
"Oh dear. I forgot. Peaches are on my list. Thank you, Clark. I'll take two cans," she replied. "Good gosh, I also forgot to go to the bank and make a deposit for Daddy. Can I leave my things here until I get back so I don't have to carry them to the bank?"
"Of course. I'll set them over here on the counter."
"Thanks, Clark, I'll be right back."
As she headed to the door, a thought crossed her mind, "Hm-mm. Was it mere coincidence Clark mentioned the peaches? If he were secretly Superboy, he could have seen the list in my purse."
Clark was thinking to himself as well, "That tell-tale glance of her's. I'll bet she's suspecting my secret identity again."
His eyes followed her across the street, up the steps and into Smallville Merchant's Bank.
Gladys Parker breezed in and out of the store for peanut butter and mustard by the time Clark looked towards the bank again. What he saw he didn't like. Brick Davis, casually blocking Lana's path to the curb.
"How's about it, Red? Today's your lucky day to take a ride with the Brick."
Lang snapped, "After what happened yesterday? Are you nuts! I wouldn't get into a car with you if I was stranded without water in the Sahara Desert."
Clark folded his apron across the counter and went into the back room.
"Sorry, Dad, I need you to watch the front. Superboy may be needed across the street," he informed as he removed his glasses and unbuttoned his shirt.
Pushing back the wooden crate exposed the newly-dug tunnel for Superboy's comings and goings. Clark, finished making the switch, dropped into the darkness of the cavern.
"Oh, I was just having a little fun with your friend yesterday," Brick went on. "But really, I'll be a nice boy. Come take a ride with me, Red."
"I will not. You'd better watch out. Superboy might be around, and he wouldn't like this."
"You mean the guy in the circus suit? I'm not afraid of him. If he tries to push me around, he'll be sorry."
"Well, you should be afraid. In fact..."
Lana stopped talking just as Superboy's feet landed on the cement. "Is there a problem here? Well, Mr. Davis, we meet again. Twice in two days. Imagine that? I believe I heard this young lady say she didn't wish to take a ride with you."
"How could you hear what we were saying?"
"I suppose one could say I have super-sensitive hearing. From way up there (pointing up), I could hear your every word way down here (pointing down). And I'm glad you're not afraid of me. I try to be friends with people, and being afraid of someone doesn't make being friends easy. However, it would probably be a good idea if you went on your way, and left the young lady alone."
"O.K., I'm going," he stated as he picked up his pace to a slow trot.
As soon as he was out of earshot, they both laughed.
"Thank you, Superboy."
"My pleasure, it's Lana, right?"
"Well, Lana, I would try to stay away from Brick Davis. He could cause you a lot of trouble."
"He's captain of our basketball team at school. He thinks he's hot stuff."
"That's what I mean. People with inflated egos can create problems, not just for themselves but others."
"Can you stick around a minute so we can get a little better acquainted?" she hoped.
"If I might ask, where are you from, and why are you here?"
"Let's just say I'm from a long way from Smallville, and I'm here to help people. I know that may sound, how would you put it, a bit corny, but it's really that simple."
"Well, you've already helped me...with Brick Davis. Are you planning on staying here very long."
"I'd like to, if the people of Smallville approve."
"Oh, don't worry about that. They'll love you. And that's a great uniform you have. And...if you don't mind, you look really cool in it."
"Not like the temperature. It means really nice. I mean, you look great."
"Oh, well, thank you."
"Could I see you again sometime soon? I know...maybe you could come and have dinner with my Dad and me. He's a professor at the college."
"That's very nice of you to ask. I really don't have much time for a social life, but we'll see. Maybe I can sometime."
"Well, how can I get in touch with you? Do you live nearby?"
"I'll be around, Lana. You'll see me. I really must go now."
She offered her hand.
He smiled, then took off into the sky, purposely flying away from town for the curious redhead's benefit.
"Oh my God, I am in love!" she said to herself, heading back to Kent's General Store for her groceries. "And I'll bet that Clark will not be there when I walk in."
The bell sounded as she entered. Looking immediately at the counter, she was startled to see her friend waiting on Rusty Ellsworth's mother.
"Clark, you're here!"
"Hi Lana, well, of course I'm here. Are you feeling O.K.?"
"Yeah, I feel fine. Hello Mrs. Ellsworth," she greeted the lady, leaving the store.
"Here are your groceries, Lana. Say, what was going on across the street with you, Brick Davis and Superboy?"
"Oh, nothing exciting. So you saw us?"
"Sure," Kent responded.
"Why didn't you come across the street to meet Superboy?"
"Well, I would have, Lana, but I couldn't just walk out and leave the store unattended."
"Where's your Dad?"
"Town Council meeting. Why?"
"So you were here the entire time?"
"Like I said, I can't leave the store unattended."
"Yeah. I guess not. Well, I'll see you at school tomorrow."
"O.K.," he answered, feeling much better about Lana's suspecting him of being Superboy.
The Lang doorbell rang at exactly six o'clock. Perky, red-headed Lana had been counting the minutes, hoping she wouldn't go bonkers before the appointed time had arrived.
As she crossed the living room, she adjusted her dress one last time and fluffed her hair. Then she opened the door.
"Hi. Please come in."
"I hope I'm not too early," Superboy stated.
"Nope. Perfectly on time. Dinner will be ready in about ten minutes. That will give us a little time to talk," she advised.
"I'm looking forward to meeting your father."
"He wants to meet you, too, but he's running a little late. A last-minute faculty meeting at the college. But he said he'd be home as soon as he could. He said we could start dinner if he wasn't home."
"Lana, I feel a bit uncomfortable being here with you alone," he stated. "I should probably go and come back in a little bit."
"No, no. It's all right. That will spoil the dinner. It needs to be eaten when it's hot." Trying to change the subject, she continued, "I really enjoyed our little talk in front of the bank the other day. That was, let's see, the fourth time I'd seen you."
"There was the air show when you saved Mr. Post's plane, then at the fair when you saved my friends Rusty and Noel, then at school when you helped Noel again, then outside the bank. Yep, that's four."
"I'm glad I was able to help in those situations."
"Superboy, you're really way too modest. You've only been here a short time, but you're already a hero to people. The way you've helped them out, I mean."
"Well Lana, I don't look at myself as a hero. I try to help people, well, just to help them. Allof us need help from time to time."
"Yes, we sure do."
"Maybe you could call your father..."
"Oh, he'll be here soon. Stop worrying," she replied. "In the meantime, there's something I want to tell you. I hope you'll get a kick out of it."
"Sure, what is it?"
"After seeing you several times, I got the silly idea...well, I have a friend in Smallville. He and I have been friends since we were little kids. Well, during the air show, and at the fair,and at school the other day, he and I were together, and just before you showed up, he disappeared. All three times. Then right after you were gone, he was back. So, well, the way Clark put it, I added two and two together and got fourteen and assumed that he was you, er, I mean, you were him. What I mean, I thought you were the same person."
"Clark, is that your friend?"
"Yeah, Clark Kent."
"Is he your boyfriend?"
"No, not at all. Like I said just long-time friends. Isn't that silly? I mean, Clark Kent and Superboy being the same person?"
"Well, tell me more about him?" the dinner guest requested.
"Clark's a great person and a great friend. He's in the same class as me at school. He has lots of friends in town. His family, there's Clark, his mom and his dad, own the general store on Main Street. Wonderful folks. Just about the nicest family in town. But after our talk the other day, I thought about it really hard, and the two of you are so different. I don't mean the flying stuff and all that. Clark's kinda quiet, mild-mannered you might say. Needs more self-confidence. Not a very good athletic. But smart. And sometimes, a bit of a goof. You, on the other hand, are incredible."
"You barely know me, Lana," he advised. "Actually Clark Kent sounds like a pretty good fellow to me."
"Oh, he is, just not the type of guy a girl would want to spend a lot of her time with."
Superboy asked, "Are you referring to yourself?"
"I guess so. But I could be with you forever."
"Well, Lana, that's not going to happen. I have no interest in anyone as cold and cruel as I now see you are. And I'll tell you something. Your little "silly idea," as you called it...about Clark and me being the same person. YOU WERE RIGHT! Clark Kent and Superboy ARE the same person. I hide behind the disguise of Clark so I can get away from crazy, self-centered people like you. Now, how do you like that!"
"Clark, I've been calling you for five minutes. Wake up sleepyhead, your breakfast is on the table," said Martha Kent, shaking her son's shoulder.
"Oh, morning Mom, I didn't hear you calling. I'll be right down."
Putting both feet on the floor, he dragged his fingers through his hair, "What could possible happen today?"
Young Kent boarded the school bus. Before he could get to an empty seat, he heard the annoying voice of Rip Mitchell.
"Hurry up and sit down, Four-Eyes. You're holding us up."
To Rip's surprise, Clark asked the young man next to Mitchell if he would mind moving a few rows back, that there was something important he needed to talk over with Rip.
The kid said, "Sure, no problem."
"I see you're toting your pretty new book bag again today."
"That's right," answered Kent, "do you want to smell my gym clothes again?"
A few of the nearby students heard the comment and laughed.
"Listen Kent, you humiliated me yesterday and in front of my friends."
"If you'll be honest with yourself, I believe you will realize you did that without my help. And falling on your butt in the hall didn't do much for you either."
"Listen to me. There's going to come a time when you and I..."
Interrupting, Clark interjects, "And your friends or just you. No, you listen, Rip. Somehow, you have the idea that you're going to bully me and boss me around. Maybe that's part of your charming personality, I don't know. But let me make it clear that is not going to happen. I am not the least bit afraid of you...or your friends. Now you have a choice."
"And what would that be Four-Eyes?"
"You can take the low road and just leave me alone, because I don't find you the least bit impressive. Or you can back up your big talk with your fists. Ordinarily, I'm not a fighting guy, but for you, I'll be happy to make an exception. Like I said, you don't scare me at all."
With that, Mitchell lost his cool and grabbed Clark's collar. Kent quickly took hold of Rip's wrist and began squeezing. Mitchell screamed.
"What's going on back there?" asked the bus driver.
"Answer him Rip, or do you want me to break it?"
"Nothing. Everything's cool," he replied.
"Well, keep it down."
Continuing to apply pressure, Clark spoke, "Now, which will it be? Ya gonna take the low road and forget all about me or you going to be Mr. Big Shot and have it out."
"I'm sorry, what was that, Rip?"
He could barely manage to whisper, "Low road. Low road."
"Have I your word on that, because I really don't have the time to be concerned about this any more?"
"My word. You have my word."
Kent released his grip. "Good. You'd better wipe your forehead. You're perspiring."
The bus came to a stop in front of the Benson farm.
Chester Sartania was waiting near the drop-off point at SHS for the school buses when Kent's pulled up.
The door opened, and slowly the students disembarked. Chester saw Rip Mitchell head for the front door of the building. Several kids later, Clark appeared.
"Morning, Clark. Anything happen with Mitchell on the bus this morning?"
"He had a few choice words for me, but other than that, nothing much. Maybe we came to an understanding. I'll just have to wait and see."
Was Rip Mitchell the type who would keep his word?
Being another gym day, Clark was extra careful with his book satchel and its contents. His first stop was his locker on the main hall. Quickly opening the combination lock, he sat the satchel inside and closed it back, making sure the lock was secure.
The homeroom bell sounded, startling some of the students underneath it.
The first two periods of the day passed without incident, somewhat a rarity since Clark Kent had begun his duties as Superboy. Life as Clark Kent had been troublesome on its own from time to time, but now, leading a double life was almost overwhelming at times.
After his physical education class and second shower of the morning, he made swift work of donning his outfit from the locker and headed to third period civics, then fourth period English, which came with a surprise for all...a pop quiz.
"We haven't had a week of class yet, and she's giving us a pop quiz?" Pete Ross complained.
Rusty Ellsworth reminded Pete that just as soon as English was over, it would be lunchtime. "Use that as your motivation, Pete. You'll make it."
The quiz was passed out half-way through the period. The teacher informed them they could go on to the cafeteria as soon as they handed in their test.
That came as a blessing for Kent as a few minutes after starting the test, his super-hearing detected several sirens in the distance. His telescopic vision confirmed several fire engines headed out Maxwell Street away from town.
"This may be a job for Superboy," he thought. Using his super-speed, he answered all the questions, then took his paper to the teacher.
"I'm finished. I can leave, right?" he asked.
"Well, yes, but don't you want to look over your paper?"
"Very well, you may go," came the instructor's remark.
Kent grabbed his books and headed out the door, drawing some stares of surprise from several classmates.
Walking briskly past the cafeteria entrance, he exited the back door. Finding the area clear, he quickly shed his outer garments, and Superboy was soon flying in the direction of the sirens.
"Clark sure did get finished in a hurry," Rusty whispered to Pete.
"Quiet! No talking," alerted the teacher.
The second fire engine was coming to a halt. A brush fire had started and was in danger of spreading. The last ten days in Smallville had been void of precipitation, and the possibility of considerable damage was strong. The culprit to it all was a snapped power line which had come down sparking in the brush.
"Jack, put some water over there around the origin, so the power line won't cause anything else to start up. I'll call in and have them kill the power. JEEZ!" shouted the chief, jumping back as Superboy landed right near him.
"I'll have it out for you in just a minute, Chief."
Launching back into the air, the red and blue-dressed lad flew circles over the burning grass at a speed so fast, the wind choked out all traces of flames.
"Now for the power line. Stand back, please," he requested the firemen.
Bending down to pick up the hot cable, the Chief yelled not to touch it.
"It's O.K. Chief, it won't hurt me."
Grabbing it with his bare hand, he floated upward just enough that he could reattach it to the spot near the pole, where it had come down.
"I guess that's it, Chief." Extending his hand, "It's very nice meeting you, by the way."
"The same here, Superboy. Thank you so much. You saved us a lot of time and a lot of water."
"Glad I could help. I'm always available for the Fire Department, Chief. But now, if you'll excuse me, I must go."
"Thanks again, Superboy."
Pete, Rusty and Lana were standing together in the lunch line, about ten students back from being served.
"Clark should be in here since he left class fifteen minutes ago," Rusty observed.
"There he is," Pete replied, seeing his friend walking into the cafeteria. Lana decided to drop back in line to join him.
"Where did you go this time?" she inquired.
"What? Oh, I had something I needed to do. No big deal."
"This something you needed to do...Superboy wasn't involved, was he?"
"Oh Lana, please don't start that again. Do you see Superboy around anywhere? Well, do ya?" he snapped.
"O.K., so there."
"Well, what's the big secret? Where have you been for the last fifteen minutes? You certainly ran out of the classroom fast enough."
"Lana, if you must know, I've been in the rest room."
"That again! For fifteen minutes! Did you ever go to the doctor like I suggested? You must have a serious problem."
"I do," Kent thought to himself, "and her name is Lana Lang."
Heading toward his fifth period Civics class, he was stopped in the hall by Coach Gibson.
"Say, Clark, several guys who have study hall sixth period are coming to the weight room to get in some extra time. How about joining them? I've cleared it with the Office."
"Uh, sure, Coach, I'll see you then. Thanks for including me," came his response.
Even though that meant he'd have to change again, he didn't want to get on the coach's bad side by refusing. Not that he needed weight lifting. It would certainly never make him stronger than he already was, but it was best he go along and comply.
The routine of getting his red and blue outfit back in his locker took a bit longer than it had been due to several guys hanging around the rest room before sixth period. But he was able to manage it and was only a minute or two late getting to the weight room.
"Sorry I'm late, Coach."
"Hey, no problem, Clark. Guys gather around, I was thinking we could spend this extra time by getting in some work on your legs."
The instruction went on for forty-five minutes before Mr. Gibson announced that the final bell would be ringing in ten minutes.
"I'm not requiring a shower this time, fellows, since it's the last period of the day. But any of you who want take one, can go now."
Clark told Chester he thought he would since he had to go straight to the store for the duration of the afternoon. Chester decided to pass.
"I've got to help my dad in the barn when I get home so I'll wait until that's finished. I'll sit by an open window on the bus going home."
The two friends laughed.
"I'll catch up with you outside," Kent told his friend.
Clark's timing was perfect in terms of his shower. Just as he left the boys' dressing room, the final bell blared, spilling rushing bodies into the hallway of the main floor, all scrambling for their lockers, then the front door to freedom.
He made his left turn into the calamity, squeezing his way through one student after another on his trek to his bin. Just as he reached his destination, Pete Ross passed him and yelled, "I'll see ya out front, Clark."
"O.K. Be right there," he shouted back, hoping Pete could hear him.
Reaching for the combination lock on the metal door of the storage unit, he suddenly froze. The lock was in place but it wasn't locked! Careful not to rip it and the door off with too much force, he swung the door open to find it completely bare.
His Superboy outfit was gone!
The "adrenaline rush" during PE days prior was nothing compared to the anxiety that shook Clark's entire body.
Examining the lock, he saw no signs of tampering or vandalism. It must have not clicked shut when he rushed to the weight room before sixth period.
His own irresponsibility. But still, someone seeing the lock not properly closed, entered his locker illegally and stole his property.
"Someone has my Superboy outfit because of my own carelessness."
He headed for the front door, surveying every student he saw, hoping the book satchel was still in the vicinity. As he passed the office, a voiced yelled out, "CLARK KENT!"
He stopped, then stepped inside to see Principal Winters.
"Did you lose this?" the administrator asked, holding out the precious satchel.
"Yes sir. Thank you so much," the relieved student responded. He quickly used his x-ray vision to peer through the canvas material long enough to see the proper contents were there.
"You're lucky, Mr. Kent."
"Who turned it in, Mr. Winters?"
"No idea, son. Someone tossed it in here on the floor during the mass exodus we just had."
"Did you open it?" the boy asked, hoping for the right answer.
"Didn't have to. Your name's on the outside. Kent, students are responsible for all of their personal property while at school. There's very little I can do when things go missing. So make sure you either lock up or nail down anything you bring to school that you want to take back home."
"Thank you, sir. I'll be more careful. Thank you, Mr. Winters." He stepped back out into the now almost deserted hall.
Instead of leaving the building, Kent walked the opposite direction to the rest room. His x-ray examination had been brief. He needed to be sure his outfit was intact. Opening the book satchel, he was joyous to find it was. But stuffed inside with the red and blue uniform he found a twice-folded piece of notebook paper.
On the paper was scribled a message...
Very nice costume. I'll be in touch Clark or should I say Superboy?
May 15, 2014
"Like The Only Real Magic -- The Magic Of Knowledge"