MASON LERNER

Super-hero

         “I’m a super-hero,” Normie told himself, just as he did every morning as soon as
his mind was aware.
         This morning he decided to linger in bed a bit longer than usual, and let his eyes
and heart get some extra rest. It was tough work being a super-hero. Sometimes the
stress got to him.
         There was a hard knock on his bedroom door. His father forced the door open a
crack, disrupting the pile of clothes that Normie always left at the foot of the door so he
would have an extra second to prepare in case he ever needed to spring into action against
one of the myriad super villains that were perpetually plaguing his existence.
         “Get up and get dressed,” his pops growled. "Your mother already has breakfast
on the table.”
         Normie didn’t budge. He didn’t say anything. He was too busy preparing himself
for the difficulty of another day of living his double life. He pulled the covers up tightly
under his chin and wondered what Veronica in his Pre-Cal class would think if she knew
the truth about him.
         Would her breath be taken away upon learning that feeble little Normie Turner
spent a good chunk of his life fighting bad guys and trying to save the world, or would
his great powers freak her out and force his lifelong crush to remain unrequited?
He was trying to gather up the courage to tell her when his pops burst into the
room.
         “I said ‘Get out of bed’,” he hollered as he grabbed Normie’s single bed frame at
the base and flipped it over as easily, if not as casually, as he would flip a light switch.
Normie tumbled out of the bed, still wrapped in his covers, and lay in the crevice
created by the overturned bed and the wall, as his father continued his rant.
         “Godammit, I said, ‘Get up’,” he yelled as he flung the bed back to its upright
position. The legs of the bed crashed into the plush blue carpeting of Normie’s bedroom,
by chance, missing his body entirely as they descended.
         “There’s something wrong with your head, boy,” his pops managed to throw in as
he exited and slammed the door shut.
         “I don’t even need my super strength for this one,” Normie thought with
satisfaction as he pushed his bed into its proper position in the corner of his room and
made his way to wash his face and brush his teeth.

         Normie sat himself at the kitchen table. Although he technically no longer
needed to eat, because of his powers, he didn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable,
so he dove right into the bacon and eggs that sat waiting on his plate. His mother
leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek before settling into her chair.
         “Well, good morning to you,” she said through the shy smile that always rested
naturally on her otherwise weary face.
         Normie winked at her and kept on eating.
         She was struggling to open a jar of jelly, but she kept on with the banter.
         “Did you finish your English paper?” she asked, the veins in her thin hands
popping into visibility as they tightened around the jelly jar’s twist off cap.
         His father didn’t even look up from the morning news. He just scratched at one
of the three tiny pieces of toilet paper stuck to the dried blood on his newly shaved face.
         “Take away the razor and what we have here is a full-on gorilla,” Normie mused,
but what he said was, "Of course, Ma. Don’t I always?”
         Without ever looking directly at his pops, Normie began to concentrate. The
harder that his mom struggled to get into that jelly jar, the harder Normie concentrated.
Situations like this often called for a subtle nudge of mind control.
         “Oh, for Christ’s sake,” his pops murmured and grabbed the jar from his wife,
twisted it open, and handed it back without ever taking his eyes off of yesterday’s box
scores.
         “Works every time,” thought Normie as he set his dish in the sink and grabbed his
backpack from the kitchen counter.
         “And don’t forget that you have an appointment after school,” his mother
reminded him.
         “Don’t worry, Ma. Do I ever forget?”
         With that he slung his backpack over his shoulder, downed the last sip of OJ from
his glass, and began his journey to school.

         It was a typical day at school. Some teachers taught. Some teachers called roll
and then dozed.
         Normie turned in his English paper. He was pretty sure that Veronica had smiled
at him when she turned around to pass him his graded Pre-Cal test. He got a 68.
         “Nothing worse than a dumb nerd,” the wise-ass sitting next to him had opined.
         When no one was looking he even managed to use his super-speed to help a
crying sixth grader find his lost protractor.
         When the final bell rang he walked home and waited for his mom to get back
from work so she could take him to his appointment with Dr. Zach.
         Dr. Zach’s office was a pretty comfortable place. It had your standard couch that
no child psychologist can go with out, an EZ chair for the good doctor, and paintings of
clowns, both sad and happy, hanging on the walls.
         In the corner there was a tub of sand with some action figures, toy cars, and
dinosaurs lying half buried. On his first visit Dr. Zach had asked Normie to set up a
scene in the makeshift sandbox using its contents.
         Normie thought that it was a pretty silly thing to do, but he went along with the
idea. He decided to try to recreate rush hour traffic by placing the toy cars bumper to
bumper. He used the action figures to direct traffic. The dinosaurs he left untouched.
They were just a figment of some crazy drivers imagination he had explained.
         “Interesting,” Dr Zach told him. "Very creative.”
         She was a short, portly woman that exuded warmth. Normie didn’t like being
there, but he did like Dr. Zach. Still, he couldn’t figure out the point of making a
fourteen-year-old boy play with dolls.
         After the reconstruction of afternoon gridlock, Dr. Zach invited Normie to have a
seat on the couch. She asked if he knew why he was there.
         “Your mother is worried that you don’t smile enough,” she explained.
         Normie admitted to her that he was sad a lot. He couldn’t say exactly why.
         He just knew that every morning when he woke up the first thing that ran through
his mind was, “Why does everything have to hurt so bad?”
         Dr. Zach was sympathetic and said that everybody lets life bring them down
sometimes. The important thing was to try and get through it, or else he would never be
able to enjoy life’s happy moments.
         “Now before you go to sleep at night,” Dr. Zach instructed, "I want you to think
about something besides being sad. It can be anything. Anything that makes you feel
good about yourself. Try to picture yourself doing something that makes you happy.”
Normie said that he would try.
         “When you wake up in the morning, instead of wondering why everything hurts
so bad, try to focus on that one thing that you would really rather be instead of sad.”
Normie promised that he would.
         “And than that’s what you’ll be,” she assured.

Today Dr. Zach wanted to focus on why Normie had such a hard time opening up
to people.
         “You’re a very nice, bright boy,” she said. "One might even say charming.”
         “Uhmm, thanks.”
         “I can also tell, just by the way your gaze seems to absorb your surrounding so
deeply, that you have a lot inside of you that a lot of people would benefit from if
you would just share it.”
         “Maybe. I don’t know.”
         “Why do you think it is that you keep so much to yourself, Normie?”
         “Now that’s a loaded question!” thought Normie.
         Normie wished that he could share his secret with Dr. Zach. Finally telling
someone that he could bend steel with his bare hands and change the course of the tides
with a breath would make him feel as relieved as if Cisyphus were allowed to drop the
boulder from his back and take a few minutes to knock back a cold one.
But he knew that he couldn’t. His personal feelings paled in comparison to Dr.
Zach’s safety. The less people he put in jeopardy with the knowledge of his double life,
the safer those that he cared for would be.
         “I’m just shy that’s all,” Normie sputtered. Shyly.
         “Well, our time is just about up, but in between now and the next time we meet I
want you to concentrate on opening up with people. Share what’s inside you. I think
you’ll be surprised at how people react.”
         “OK, Dr. Zach. I’ll try. I promise.”
         “Well, thank you, Normie. See you next week.”

         That night as he fell asleep, Normie thought about the doctor’s words. In between
rushing off to save a drowning infant from a flood in a small village in Nepal and
dropping off a tray of his mother’s goulash to some starving refugees in southern Sudan,
Normie lay with his eyes closed and pondered the possibilities.
         “I wonder what Mom will think? She’ll be proud, but she’ll probably worry, and
doesn’t she have enough problems already?”
         “Dad will just criticize me and wonder why I’m not more like Superman.”
         “Dr. Zach, well, I figure Dr. Zach has hit pay dirt. She can write a book or
something. Call it “The Id, the Ego and the Super-Hero,” or something like that. She’ll
probably be on Oprah.”
         “The kids at school will be surprised, that’s for sure. Little Normie the Nerd,
moving mountains with a thought. I could finally cut loose the next time someone tries
to give me a wedgie. That’s a plus.”
         “And Veronica. Sweet, beautiful Veronica. I mean, I have to believe that super-
hero is a step up from dating football players, right? A natural progression even.”
“That’s it,” Normie told himself. "Tomorrow I’ll show everyone who the real
Normie Turner is.”
         And with that Normie slept through the night with a soft smile on his face.

         “I’m a super-hero,” thought Normie.
         He sprang from his bed as quickly as possible. No need to repeat yesterday’s
shenanigans.
         He went through the usual morning motions. He ate his breakfast heartily and
kissed his mother on the cheek on his way out the front door. He walked to school a bit
more briskly than usual. He enjoyed the extra bounce in his step that he knew came from
the fact that today was going to be the most important day of his life. “Today it all ends,”
he told himself.

         The school day started like any other. Normie suffered through the curse of first
period gym, which actually was the only time that he figured being a late bloomer
actually worked to his advantage. Because the showers in the locker room were
constantly under repair, there was no opportunity to wash off the sweat and grime
accumulated through the forty-five minutes of whatever sport it was today that Normie
was letting his classmates dominate him in.
         Though he was embarrassed about the fact that he was in eighth grade and he still
hadn’t sprouted first fuzz below the waist, at least his hormones did not yet force him to
carry around the spoiled tuna fish stench that many of his more developed peers emitted
throughout the rest of the school day.
         “After all, that would be worse than a dumb nerd,” Normie often thought. "A
dumb, smelly nerd.”
         After PE it was off to English class, the one class that Normie excelled in. Like
Dr. Zach, his English teacher found him quite creative.
         But today he couldn’t focus on the lesson. After second period came homeroom,
and that’s when Normie decided would be the best time to make his move.
As the class discussed The Outsiders, Normie put the finishing touches on his
plan. How could he worry about whether or not Pony Boy would ever see Cherry
Valance again, when the entire fate of the world would be forever altered by what he was
about to do?
         Besides, he figured, no self-respecting super-hero could ever really support a so
called “coming of age classic” that at times really seemed like a marketing campaign for
big tobacco.
         Yes, in fact, the first thing he would do after revealing his secret identity would be
to do a few “cigarettes aren’t cool” PA spots for both radio and TV.
         “My Normie, he’s such a good super-hero,” he could already hear his mom
saying.
         Normie managed to make it through both first and second period without uttering
a single word except for “Here” to anyone. That was par for the course. Although
invisibility wasn’t officially one of Normie’s powers, the fact that no one really ever
noticed him much made it easier for him to slip away unnoticed when the time came.
After the bell rang to end second period, Normie casually made his way to the
school’s courtyard. When it rang again to begin homeroom, he carefully rested his
backpack and armful of books next to the staircase at the school’s main entrance and
jumped up the five stairs that led to the door. With a strength that very few would ever
suspect a squirt like Normie to posses, he quickly shimmied up a drainage pipe and took
a seat on the roof, underneath Old Glory.
         He rose to his feet and formed his hand into a visor above his eyes and surveyed
the courtyard like he was the first man to reach the summit of Everest, straining to see the
edge of Tibet.
         “Empty,” Normie lamented. "Oh well, after homeroom it should fill up.”
Just than he saw Kenneth Evans leaving the sixth grade building, heading toward
the main building as he struggled to balance a box twice his size filled with school
directories.
         “Kenny,” Normie shouted, making sure to lower his voice a few octaves for full
dramatic effect, the way he did when telemarketers called so he could avoid being
referred to as “ma’am”.
         Kenny looked up so quickly that he tripped on a crack in the cement, causing the
box he was carrying to topple and sending directories flying in every direction.
         “Damn,” thought Normie. "If I wasn’t so stuck in the moment, I could have saved
him. Oh well, too late now.”
         “What are you doing up there, dude?” Kenny asked from the crab position he had
assumed as he pulled himself up off the ground.
         “Well, citizen, you can be the first to know. After the bell rings to end third
period, I intend to jump off of this building and fly away. I have chosen you to be my
herald. Go now and yell it in the halls: Today is the day that Albert Sydney Johnston
Middle School gave birth to a super-hero!”
         “Holy shit, you’re crazy,” Kenny said while running to the door, leaving behind
the box and the directories to twist in the suddenly growing wind.
         Just as the door to the school slammed shut behind Kenny, the bell rang ending
homeroom. Normie watched as a deluge of students filled the courtyard on the way to
third period.
         He struck the most heroic pose that he could. His hair rustled in the wind and the
flapping of the flag above him assured him that he was doing the right thing.
None of the kids scurrying through the courtyard even noticed Normie. It wasn’t
until Kenny returned, dragging Vice Principal Mock by the coat sleeve, that a crowd
began to gather.
         When Mr. Mock looked up and saw Normie, he immediately hauled ass back into
the main building, yelling into his walkie-talkie all the way.
         He emerged moments later with a bullhorn. By that time all traffic in the
courtyard had stopped to ogle the scrawny eighth grader standing triumphantly on the
school’s roof.
         “Everybody keep on moving,” Mr. Mock bellowed through the bullhorn. "Get to
class immediately.”
         “Fuck that shit,” screamed a voice from the throng. "I wanna see if the nerd
jumps.”
         “I know who said that,” Mr. Mock lied, and with that he shrugged his shoulders
and turned his attention back to Normie.
         “Now just what is going on, young man?” Mr. Mock asked. "You need to come
down from there immediately.”
         “Oh, I will come down in due time,” said Normie. “But first I have an
announcement to make to the school.”
         “The police are on the way,” said Mr.Mock. “Now please come down before
somebody gets hurt.”
         “Silence!” Normie boomed with a voice as resolute as a hurricane’s thunder. The
assuredness of the, heretofore, almost completely anonymous Normie, hushed the
murmur of the crowd and caused Mr. Mock to lower the bullhorn.
         “Now I have something to say and I’m going to say it,” Normie continued.
         “For many years I have walked among you as mild-mannered Normie Turner. I
have been content to be considered a nobody because it served a greater cause. Today I
am on this roof to announce to this school, no, to announce to the world, that Normie
Turner is more than he seems.”
         “Are you gonna jump or what?” yelled a kid from the crowd.
         “What are ya, Normie?” another voice from below asked.
         With that Normie made the most serious face that he could muster and stared off
into the distance. He gathered all of his resolve and than addressed the crowd.
“I am…a super hero!” he proclaimed. "And I am about to jump off this roof and
fly.”
         With that, pandemonium broke loose in the courtyard. Police and firemen were
filing in from every angle and the kids were going wild. Everybody began to throw out
their two cents. With his super-hearing Normie could hear every pithy comment.
         “That nigga is crazy!”
         “You don’t have the guts to jump!”
         “Jesus, Normie’s gone completely Columbine.”
         “Who’s gonna get his locker if he splats?”
         “Don’t do it, Normie! You’re a good nerd!”
         “You know, I did hear that he has three nipples. Is that a super-power?”
         “He’d be kind of cute if it weren’t for those ears.”
         “Whatever this dude is on, I ain’t the one he copped from.”
         A ladder clanged against the rooftop only feet away from where Normie stood.
He quickly pushed it over before the fireman that set it up could begin his ascension. The
crowd loved it.
         “Please, Normie,” implored Mr. Mock. “Just tell us what you want.”
         “I want truth, justice, the American way, and if possible to go to homecoming with
Veronica Pulasky.”
         And with that Normie crouched down like an Olympic swimmer on a starting
board and jumped. It was time to save the world.


Mason Lerner is a 29 year old journalist and writer from Houston, TX. He is
currently a correspondent for the Houston Chronicle and the Associated Press. He
claims to be, pound for pound, the strongest Jew in Texas, but that is unverified.
He is certainly the sweetest. Just ask his mother. He does not have super powers,
but he has not yet given up all hope. Every night before he goes to sleep he closes
his eyes, says the "Sh'ma" and throws in a prayer asking that he wake up with
super-human abilities. No luck so far, although he has developed the uncanny
ability to consistently get his car washed just hours before a thunderstorm.







© 2005 Underground Voices