By Jude <firstname.lastname@example.org >
Submitted April 2000
Summary: Lois dreams of a tormenting tennis match and wakes to find her subconscious has served up an earth-shattering discovery.
I hope you'll like my 'singles' competition. I tried to write a story that works on more than one level, so if you're not into tennis, maybe you can still enjoy it. It is an unseen portion of ATAI that provides a slightly different answer to the question, "How did I figure it out?"
My gratitude to my tennis consultants, Anne Carlson and Erin Klingler, both USTA players who advised me on current jargon, clothing, tournament protocol etc… Special thanks to Erin who walked me shot by shot through the game I had written and helped bring my 1970's tennis memories into a contemporary mode.
Feedback is solicited and welcome either publicly on the list or privately to: email@example.com
The usual disclaimers to Warner Bros., and D.C. Comics. The characters are theirs but the events are mine.
She stood on a tennis court in the bright warm sun. A very warm sun. In fact, a hot sun. And she thought that it wouldn't take more than a rally or two and she would be sweating like a…forget that! Not a good metaphor; no, not a good metaphor at all. She saw that she held her trusty old tennis racquet in her hand and wondered <Why am I holding this? I haven't played tennis in years. Where am I? >
She looked to her right and saw the Umpire's chair and beyond it, tier after tier of seats stretching up so far she couldn't see the top. Wide-eyed she thought again <Where am I? Why am I here? Do I know these people? >
Sitting courtside to the right of the Umpire's chair were Louie and Rosalie, smiling and waving. <Well, it's not a doubles match with Rosalie sitting up there. But it's obviously an important singles game. This isn't the college court though. Of course not, Lois. Don't be silly. You haven't been in college for 5 or 6 years. What *is* this place? > She looked up again at what could only be described as a 'royal box'. <Was that Prince Charles? And Princes William and Harry? No! It couldn't be! Was this Wimbledon Centre Court? >
< This can't be happening. I've gotta find out what's going on. > She saw that someone was sitting in the tall chair. <The Umpire should know something> After walking over, she stood looking up at a figure that seemed familiar, but the face, shadowed by the bill of a baseball cap, was indiscernible.
"What's going on here? Where is this place? Why am I here?" One question was never enough for Lois Lane.
The figure spoke in a vaguely familiar voice, "Championship singles match. Miss Lois Lane playing against Mr. Clark Kent, Miss Lane serving. Commence play, please."
She gasped and quickly looked across the net at her opponent. <Since when was there a mixed singles competition? >There he was, impeccably dressed in classic tennis whites, <He would be! > flashing that drop-dead gorgeous grin, holding a racquet easily in his left hand. <A lefty. That could be… Ooh did he look great in that clinging Tommy Hilfiger tennis shirt; and those snug white shorts were…> He bent over to pick up a random tennis ball, tightening the already tight shorts across his derriere.
Whoosh, she exhaled at the sight.<Did he do that on purpose? > She saw him shoot her a sly look as his hand reached for the errant sphere. <So that's the strategy is it? Keep me distracted so he can control the game. Well, two can play that way> She knew how well she looked in tennis clothes and was sure she could distract him more than he could distract her. She couldn't remember which of her tennis outfits she was wearing but hoped she had selected the form fitting v-necked top and the short short skirt that accentuated her long legs.
Looking down, <What!?>she was horrified to see that she was wearing an old oversized faded green T-shirt emblazoned with the words 'Born To Win', denim cutoffs and, on her feet, the ratty sneakers she wore when she cleaned her apartment. Cinching the waist of her T-shirt was a man's necktie, bizarrely patterned in vivid hues of red, blue and yellow. <No, No! This isn't right. > Lois, addressing the Umpire again, said "Look, there's been a mistake. Really, I can't play this way. See, I need time. Time to change into something better."
The Umpire intoned, "Miss Lane to serve. Please commence play."
"You can't do this. It isn't fair. Don't you see you're giving him an advantage?"
"I am the Arbiter of your fantasies and the Umpire of this game. I keep score. I do not explain. Commence play, please."
Turning away in frustration, she saw Louie and Rosalie smiling, shaking their heads 'yes' and giving her thumbs up. Louie shouted, "You can do it, doll. Go get 'im."
She whirled and stalked to the baseline. <Nothing to be done but get this over as quickly as possible. It's too late to avoid embarrassment now. >
Taking her place at the service line, she realized that she had a brand new fuzzy yellow ball in her left hand. She bounced it twice, looked at her opponent and glared at the Umpire.
She looked at Clark one more time, saw that he was in an aggressive ready position, bounced the ball again, then tossed it over her head at the same time cocking her racquet behind her and bringing it over to meet the ball at its apex. <Left-handed huh? Well then let's see how you handle this high spinner in the corner away from your backhand. > Eyes focused on the ball which seemed to hang suspended above her, she saw the strings flatten the spheroid, hold and then brush across it as ball and racquet carried forward toward the opposite service court.
At the impact she shouted, "WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS RUNNING AWAY WHEN WE'RE TALKING?" And she stood watching as the ball ticked the corner and bounced high and away to the side. <Ace! >
But no! He was there catching the ball on his racquet like a leaping outfielder, flicking it back cross court calling, "I HAVE ERRANDS TO DO, LOIS. I'M SORRY IF THEY SEEM TOCOME AT AN INCONVENIENT TIME," catching her off guard and out of play. The ball bounced once, twice, as she watched flat-footed.
<Pretty good, Kent. I underestimated you. It won't happen again. > Back to the service line. <So high kicks don't bother you. Let's see how you feel about this blast to your backhand. > Once again she tossed, once again strings met fuzz, this time powering the ball straight at the center line corner of the service box where it bounced, and with increasing velocity shot toward the baseline. As she made contact, simultaneously leaping forward slightly to punch with all of her body, she called out, "NOBODY GETS THEIR TEETH CLEANED THREE TIMES IN THREE MONTHS, KENT"
This time she got him. He had no time to recover and watched speechless as the ball spun straight back off the court.
<Okay. Even again. Now to pick it up a little and close it out. > She wondered how he would deal with a slice into the body. Once again the toss, the focus, the unwinding, the impact as the racquet brushed down and away impelling the ball toward his backhand corner. As she struck she shouted, "WHY DID YOU LEAVE DURING OUR CHESS GAME?"
He smiled confidently and turned to reach for the bouncing ball when to his surprise it veered sharply back into his body. He managed to get his racquet between his chest and the ball, which rebounded toward the net as he replied, "I TOLD YOU, I HAD TO RETURN A VIDEO." The ball fluttered like a sick chicken barely hitting the tape and rolling down the net on his side.
<Lame return, Kent. Lame as that excuse. Now, what'll he do with topspin right at him? > But she misjudged her toss and hit the ball slightly off-balance. "WHY DIDN'T YOU BRING ME BACK SOME YOGURT? YOU THINK I'M FAT DON'T YOU?" The ball sailed beyond the service court.
Clark smiled sympathetically and shrugged. "IT WAS A JOKE, LOIS. AND YOU'RE NOT FAT."
"Out," called the line judge.
<Sheesh, Lois. Concentrate! It's getting really hot out here, so you can't drag this out. Just don't give him anything he can do anything with. Softball him with a twist so he can't get any power into it. > So it was: the throw, the controlled serve upon which she taunted, "WHY CAN'T YOU BE HONEST WITH ME?"
He hit the return down the line to her forehand saying, "I'VE ALWAYS BEEN HONEST WITH YOU, LOIS."
She sent the sarcastic reply cross court, deep to his backhand, "SURE YOU HAVE, CLARK. WHAT DO YOU THINK I AM, GALACTICALLY STUPID?"
He took the bounce easily and returned to her backhand not quite as deep. "OF COURSE NOT. I'VE ALWAYS BEEN HONEST WITH YOU EXCEPT FOR ONE THING."
He was softballing her and she knew it. He was giving her nothing to play off, so that she had to generate all the power for the return. In this heat, she would wear down quickly. <Okay, let's see if you notice this! > She sent the shot deep to his forehand, calling, "WHAT IS IT?"
He ran over and returned gracefully, hitting hard and flat to the baseline right of center. He yelled at the impact, "I'VE BEEN TRYING TO TELL YOU."
She took the ball on the rise and sent it back deep to his backhand corner. "SO WHAT'S STOPPING YOU?"
Running back to that side, he hit the ball in stride. "WE KEEP GETTING INTERRUPTED." The best he could do was return short and down the middle.
She hit flat and deep again to his forehand corner. "WHY CAN'T YOU TELL ME HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT ME?"
He ran back across the court to intercept the ball, pushing it back deep to her forehand. "I GET TONGUE TIED."
Returning deep to his backhand, continuing the rhythm, she yelled, "WELL, UNTIE IT!"
He ran across the court again, barely reaching the shot to send it to her backhand court, saying, "IT'S COMPLICATED, LOIS." As he hit he stopped and turned running back in the opposite direction.
She had moved up toward the net anticipating the return and smiled as she hit a crisp volley to the corner behind him for a clean winner. "YOU COULD FIND A WAY IF YOU REALLY WANTED TO."
<One more point and it was over. Boy, is it hot. > The rally had really made her sweat; she was covered in perspiration. Asking the ball girl for a towel, she wiped her face and glanced up into the stands where she saw Prince Philip leaning forward staring at her as though hypnotized; he licked his lips. Looking down she saw that her T-shirt was soaked and clinging to her upper torso in an embarrassingly revealing way. She could have been the instant winner in a wet T-shirt contest. <No-o-o-o this isn't happening to me. > She would have blushed, but her face was already bright red from the heat.
Looking across, she saw that Clark was also mesmerized by her appearance. "Gimme a break!" she muttered to herself, rolling her eyes heavenward. She noticed that Clark suddenly was having trouble keeping a straight face. <Okay Buster. We'll just take care of this whole thing NOW. >
She bounced the ball and looked to see if her opponent was ready. "Hey," she asked the Umpire, "What's going on?" It wasn't Clark facing her across the net. It was Superman! He looked serious and determined. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Clark on the doubles partner side. <I have to play both of them? This isn't fair. This isn't *fair*. This *isn't* fair." By this time she had reached the Umpire's chair and stood glaring up at the entity seated there. "I'm not supposed to play *both* of them. This isn't a threesome. There's no such competition. It isn't fair. Why is this happening?"
The voice from the chair answered, "I am the Arbiter of your fantasies and the Umpire of this game. I keep score. I do not explain."
"You mean you aren't going to stop it? How can you allow this?"
"I am the Arbiter of your fantasies and the Umpire of this game. I keep score. I do not explain. Continue play, please."
"I protest. I officially protest. I'm playing the rest of this match under official protest!"
"Continue play, please."
Stalking back to serve, she tried to regain her control. <Don't panic, Lois. Be calm. This is not the time to panic. Oh yeah? Well you just tell me when it *is* time to panic, because I don't see how I have a hope in Hades of winning *this* point. >
<What kind of serve do you use against Superman? Boy could I use a Kryptonite chip serve! Cheap shot, Lois! Give him the soft slice into the body and maybe he won't kill you with the return.>
Toss, brush, follow through. "YOU KNOW THIS IS TAKING UNFAIR ADVANTAGE, DON'T YOU, SUPERMAN?"
He nonchalantly blocked the ball back; "IT LOOKED TO ME LIKE CLARK WAS BEING TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF. I JUST WANT TO EVEN THE SCORE."
The ball zipped to the sideline, but Lois was there ready with her forehand. <Great! I'm still alive. Well I sure won't give him another chance to hit the ball. >
She sent a drive along the sideline toward Clark saying, "SINCE WHEN DID YOU AND SUPERMAN START PLAYING TOGETHER?"
He returned short to her backhand forecourt, "YOU KNOW HOW CLOSE WE ARE LOIS. WE DO EVERYTHING TOGETHER."
She was to the ball quickly, noticing peripherally that Superman had come forward to cover the center of the net.
Grasping her racquet with both hands, she took a three-quarter back swing, and smiling smugly punched a zinger down the line, jumping off her feet and throwing her whole body weight into the stroke as she called, "HA, SUPERMAN! YOU FORGOT WHAT LOUIE SAID ABOUT MY BACKHAND!"
But Superman was there to take the ball in front of him and send it cross-court for an unchallenged winner. "I NEVER FORGET ANYTHING ABOUT YOU, LOIS. YOU KNOW THAT."
She was there in front of the chair again. "Didn't you see that? Didn't you see how he used his Super powers to win that point? How can you allow this to continue?"
"I am the Arbiter of your fantasies and the Umpire of this game. I keep score. I do not explain. Continue play, please."
It was useless talking to this… this… whatever *this* was. *It* obviously had a very limited vocabulary and an even more limited brain. <At least this time I have a chance; I'll be serving to Clark. >
Familiar as she was with doubles play, Lois concluded that Superman and Clark would follow the same strategy that she and Rosalie did. Superman would be the power hitter like Lois, and Clark would be the spin artist like Rosalie. She thought for a minute about the kind of service return she would like to get back from Clark and decided to use reverse spin, going for his forehand corner with the bouncing ball veering into his body towards his backhand. <If I can just get him to block the ball back with a high lob…>
Looking over at the stands she saw Louie and Rosalie, fists high shouting encouragement. "You can do it, Lois," called Rosalie. You know what to do."
She heard Louie, "Aah, go get 'em, Kid. Dese guys er a coupla meatballs. Chew 'em up!"
She looked across at her opponents. Superman was wearing Clark's glasses and Clark was wearing Superman's cape; they held huge racquets that had giant heads. <This is ridiculous! >
She served the ball with "I THOUGHT YOU WERE A STRAIGHT- UP GUY, CLARK. I DIDN'T THINK YOU'D HIDE BEHIND SUPERMAN!"
Her strategy worked perfectly. He blocked the serve back with a high lob. "HE'S JUST HELPING ME EVEN THE PLAYING FIELD, LOIS."
<Sports metaphors! > She *hated* sports metaphors! She felt a sudden shift under her feet. The tennis court had tilted in a seesaw fashion, leaving her on the down side having to hit uphill. That was definitely it. Mad Dog Lane would show no mercy. <This game is *over*. >
The lob was beginning its descent and she watched the falling object, concentrating, focusing completely to the exclusion of all else as it increased in velocity.
Gauging its angle and speed, she planted herself, left foot slightly in front, left hand upraised, index finger pointing at the ball, right hand tightly clasping the racquet cocked behind her back. <Wait… wait… wait… NOW! > She unwound and met the dropping ball perfectly, shifting her weight forward as racquet and ball collided "THWACK" and followed through on a point toward a spot just inside the exact center of the baseline where the overhead smash would touch down. As she smacked the ball, she shouted triumphantly, "I KNOW THE *TRUTH*!"
She watched the ball touch down and careen back out of play as Superman and Clark, converging from opposite sides of the court, frantically tried to reach it.
"Game, set, match, Miss Lane."
Raising clenched left fist and right hand clutching racquet in the air she yelled, "YES!" and ran to the net, still watching Superman and Clark who now, having reached the center point, crashed together in a blinding flash of incandescent light that seemed to last forever.
In the phosphorescent haze, she could see a single outline—Clark wearing his glasses… and Superman's cape.
She closed her eyes to shut out the glare and when she opened them she saw the walls of her bedroom. Lying in her bed, wearing a totally drenched faded green T-shirt pronouncing 'Born to Win', she was wound up in a sheet that was also damp and clammy. <It was a dream! A crazy dream! >
She'd had a temperature the night before because of the cold she caught from being frozen by Superman; that's why she'd been so hot. The fever must have broken causing her to perspire… <I need water! >
Stumbling to the kitchen, Lois filled a glass from the chilled spring water bottle. She drank thirstily, leaning against the sink, while she pondered her dream. <How odd that I can remember it all so well. Nobody ever remembers all of their dreams. And what on earth does it mean? 'I know the truth?' What truth? Why would Clark and Superman combine to play against me? >
Her brow wrinkled as she puzzled over the enigma. <Superman and Clark. Clark and Superman. Together. How would Superman know about my backhand? He didn't hear Louie say that. >
She poured more water and pressed the cool glass against her warm cheek still ruminating over the puzzle. <Superman wearing Clark's glasses. Clark wearing Superman's cape. How peculiar.> She drank the water and placed the glass on the counter. <Clark and Superman; Superman and Clark. Clark and Superman together. 'We do everything together'. >
Staring at the floor, unseeing, she repeated the litany in her mind; then her eyes focused and narrowed. She said out loud, "Clark Superman; Superman, Clark. Together." And with an astonished cry, "Clark, Superman; Superman, Clark! Together?!", she looked up, eyes open wide as she assimilated her shocking discovery.
She started toward the bedroom, swung around and returned, pivoted and went back again chanting, "Omigod, omigod, omigod," alternating between wringing her hands and flailing her arms about.
She continued back and forth, talking aloud to herself, "Why didn't he tell me? How could he do this to me? After I let him almost kill me to save his parents. After I told Clark that Superman and I were just friends After I told Superman to tell Clark that I loved Clark, I mean… after I told who, whoever… told… whoever… whatever… or whatever I told whoever or is that whomever… Whatever I told who… whom… whatever! Lois, get a grip! >
< He's always been *honest* with me 'except for one thing'. That's a pretty big thing don't you think, you liar? Ooh is he gonna pay."
At this point she was headed in the direction of the bathroom so she continued on and into the shower, where the soothing water flow calmed her to the point that she could begin to think rationally.
<Okay, Lois, we'll just find out what dumb excuse he has for not telling you. He's got a *million* of those. Just how outrageous will this one be? 'I had to go check out the new tie shop at the mall, Lois.' 'My Optometrist was having a 2 for 1 special, Lois." "I was expecting a Twinkie delivery from HomeGrocer.com, Lois." Oogh! You haven't seen *mad* yet, Farmboy…Flyboy. > She was getting excited again. <*You* are in big trouble you… you… boy, are you in trouble. >
When she went back into the bedroom to dress, she glimpsed the photograph of them on her nightstand with Clark holding his Kerth award, reminding her that she had concealed how proud she had been for him, and how she had secretly enjoyed hanging on his arm decoratively and playing the adoring partner.
Well she *was* his adoring partner, now. Face it; she was crazy about the guy and no matter how mad he made her, she knew she was going to forgive him. What had he said in the dream, 'I've been trying to tell you, but we keep getting interrupted.' She had to admit it. He *had* tried to tell her, even getting to the point of saying "Lois, I'm Super…" when the phone call had interrupted and he'd come up with that *stupid* excuse about his barber. How much longer would he wait to tell her what he had been hiding?
At that moment, the telephone interrupted *her* thoughts and when she answered she heard, "Hi. It's me. Are you feeling better?" Her heart went thumpety-thump, and she knew it would be very hard to stay mad at him for long.
"Hello, me. I'm feeling much better, thanks. You?"
"I'm great, now that I'm hearing your voice. Did you see the paper yet?"
<Tongue-tied? Not when he could come up with a line like that.> "No, did we get a headline?"
"Front page and scooped all the other papers. You feeling up to some company? I'll bring over a copy."
"I'm feeling so great, I think I'd like to get some fresh air."
"Okay. Maybe we could take a little walk — over to Centennial Park? There's something I've been wanting to talk to you about."
"Sounds perfect. We *do* have a lot to talk about. Pick me up in half an hour?"
"I'll be there."
Hanging up the phone, she thought, that yes, she would forgive him, but maybe not right away. She needed to hear what he wanted to talk to her about. Was he finally going to tell her the truth?
She grinned impishly and said aloud, "This should be *some* walk in the park!"
AND THE ANSWER IS…