Here I Come To Save The Day
“This feels good,” Chris said, setting the clippers down and wiping the sweat from his forehead. Kelly, his wife, handed him a glass of ice water and gave him a peck on the cheek.
“Yard work feels good?” Kelly asked, her eyebrow arching. “Since when?”
Chris, looking around the glass, countered with an eyebrow of his own. He handed back the glass and leaned against the weed-choked rock wall that rambled between his yard and the neighbors.
“Since we actually own the yard we're working on,” he replied, as if the answer were obvious. “We never get a chance to do this. We bought a house and now we spend most of our time working and trying to pay for it. Feels good to be able to take a day and make it look nice. Now, when we spend time out here, we can appreciate the work we've done.”
“You're right,” Kelly said, sitting next to him on the wall. “I'm glad we decided to take a 'staycation' instead of heading back east.”
“Don't call it that,” Chris said, disgusted. “That word makes me want to puke. It isn't even a word.”
“What word? Staycation? Whatever is wrong with Staycation?”
“Yeech,” Chris twisted his face and mimed puking. Slapping his wife on the thigh, he straightened up and picked up his clippers. “So what's your plan?”
“I was thinking about weeding the garden. If I get started now, the tomatoes may have a chance at life. Are you going to mow? I was thinking that....uh oh.”
“You have to be polite,” Kelly said, giving Chris a stern stare. “Promise me.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Look,” she said dejectedly. “Up in the sky.”
“Goddammit,” Chris swore softly, throwing the clippers back to the ground and not even looking up.
Superman was slowly soaring overhead. The couple watched as he waved in the direction of the Johnson's house down the lane and began to drift their way.
“Maybe if we pretend we're having an argument..,” Chris began to suggest.
“He has super-hearing,” Kelly reminded.
“Let's just go in the house.”
“We could...Why don't we...”
“Howdy, neighbors!” Superman said enthusiastically as he floated down into their back yard. He looked a little older than he had in his heyday and had long since replaced his signature cape and tights with a pair of jeans and a flannel shirt.
Doesn't stop him from wearing tee-shirts with a giant “S” on the chest though, Chris thought moodily, and what makes someone think it's okay to just land in another man's yard without permission?
“Hi Superman,” Kelly said politely.
“Now now, Kelly,” Superman said, wagging a chastising finger at her and flashing her a charming smile. “I told you, call me Kal. I've spent way too much of my life having three names. Now that I've retired, I only want to have to remember one. Am I right?”
Chris picked up the clippers again and began to cut back the ivy that had slowly been taking over the place.
“Looks like you have your work cut out for you,” Superman observed, walking over and patting Chris on the back. “Why don't I help you out? My super-breath makes a fine leaf blower.”
“No, I think we got it,” Chris grumbled, not looking up from his task.
“I could use my heat vision to burn 'em up after I gather 'em,” Superman offered.
“There's a burn ban in effect,” Chris said, a little harsher than he intended.
“Oh,” Superman said, sounding a bit dejected. “Well, if you have it all in hand,II guess I'll go. See you around Kelly. Bye, Chris.”
And with that, Superman drifted up into the sky and made his way slowly back to his own house. The sight made Chris feel guilty. He knew Superman was just trying to be helpful, be a good neighbor. And he wasn't a bad guy to have around or anything. Maybe a bit stiff. But he meant well. But damn, he was just so...super. It was a bit annoying.
“Feeling like an ass?” Kelly asked, putting her gardening gloves on.
“A bit,” Chris sighed. “I know he's just trying to be....hold up.”
Superman was flying back towards them, two large yard waste bins held effortlessly in both hands. He'd also changed into a pair of overalls that Chris had seen him wear when he made his rounds picking up litter and trimming back the wild growth in the suburb's common areas.
“I figured if there's a burn ban we could use some extra space for all the clippings,” Superman shouted as he floated down to the ground. “I already emptied these at the dump earlier today, so here we go.”
“I'm going to go mow out front,” Chris said. “Holler if you need me.”
“Will do!” Superman shot him a thumbs up.
Chris thumbed the latch to his gate and walked around to the front of his house. Mandatory overtime at his job had cut into his mowing time and his front lawn was overgrown and dehydrated. Long brown grass grew out of the cracks in the pavement of his driveway and weeds had all but overtaken the flowerbeds. It would feel good to get it all in order again.
He hadn't even gotten a chance to look at his entire lawn before he heard Superman calling his name. Letting out another bone-weary sigh, Chris turned around and walked the ten feet to his back yard.
Everything looked immaculate.
Karen still sat up on the rock wall, a dazed look on her face.
“One second he's standing there,” She said, eyes wide, “then he gets blurry and the lawn looks perfect. He even used his his heat vision to make the tomatoes ripen. I don't think I had time to blink ”
“Hey, Chris” Superman called from the front yard.
“Oh, no,” Chris said, running to the front of the yard. “No no no no”
The front lawn looked equally fantastic. The flowerbeds were weeded and fresh mulch was applied lovingly around each flower stem. The driveway didn't have a speck of vegetation on it. The lawn even looked greener and more lush.
It was like Home & Garden magazine puked perfection all over his house.
And in the middle of it all, looking somehow humble, was Superman.
“Nothing like a good day's work, huh?” Superman asked, surveying his handiwork. “I love getting in there and getting my hands dirty. Makes a man feel like a man, you know?”
“Oh, I know,” Chris said wistfully.
“You know, it's a well-known fact that crime takes root in communities that don't take care of themselves,” Superman said, taking on a professorial air. “Back when I was writing for the Daily Planet, I came across a study that Metropolis University had conducted. They took two empty warehouses in a rough part of town, painted one of them and made it look all nice while the other they just broke a single pane of glass on one of its windows. You know what they found when they went back a week later, Chris?”
“What was that, Superman?” Chris knew the answer but was concentrating on not clenching his jaw.
“The painted one remained untouched, but the one with the broken pane of glass had had all of its windows busted. Plus a healthy dose of graffiti and broken drug paraphernalia strewn about as well.”
Superman leaned against the side of Chris's garage and put a hand on his shoulder.
“You see, Chris,” Superman began. “crime, much like those flowers over there, thrive in areas where conditions are made ideal. It blossoms in neglected neighborhoods much like those roses blossom in the rich combination of soil and fertilizer I planted them in.”
“What are you saying, exactly?”
“Oh, I'm just musing,” Superman said, already rising into the air. “I'll be back for those bins a little later on, I want to check in on Lois. Remember what I said though. Nice looking neighborhoods make for nice neighbors. See you later, Chris.”
Chris wondered if it was too early for a beer. Or maybe some scotch.