By Richard Frantz Jr. <email@example.com>
Submitted: March 2004
Summary: Even Clark Kent has trouble getting a birthday card delivered on time, but his obstacles are a little more super than most people's.
Comments appreciated at firstname.lastname@example.org
[Disclaimer: Clark Kent, Superman, etc, are not my property and are used solely for noncommercial purposes.]
The clerk in the card, gift and candy store looked up as the bell hanging from the door tinkled. She smiled, it was her best customer, the nice-looking young man with the glasses and the dark hair and the muscles…yeah, the handsome one.
Normally, he went over to the cards immediately and started browsing, always in the section immediately across from the cashier's desk. After the first few times she'd fantasized that he was shy and trying to get her attention (no such luck, unfortunately). This time, he came right up to her immediately. "Can you recommend a -"
Before he had a chance to finish, she filled in, "birthday card."
He nodded glumly.
He'd been in every day for over a week buying a birthday card each time. She'd asked him, finally, if it wouldn't be more efficient to buy several at once and his face had frowned so far she thought he'd have to undo his tie so she could see his lips. It turned out that ALL the cards had been for the same person, for the same birthday. Somehow, he said, none of them had managed to arrive intact yet.
"A belated birthday card. For a woman, who may not have wanted to be reminded of her birthday in the first place."
"Sure, I think we can find something. Do you want something humorous? Just for a friend? Or for someone 'special'?"
"Romantic," he said hopefully. Then after a second he backpedaled, adding, "-is probably premature." He considered. "I'm already a week late. Got anything humorous?"
She smiled at him reassuringly. "Sure." She was used to men in trouble over forgotten things like birthdays; for forgotten anniversaries they usually went to the clerk at the jewelry store. She led him over to birthday cards, directly across from the cashier's desk.
She showed him several different cards and finally he selected what had been the first card she'd shown him (a sure sign that he was nervous about this person, romance was definitely hinted at).
She accepted his payment, gave him his change and watched as he pocketed the card and strode briskly out the door. She sighed. "Why are all the good ones taken?" she wondered. She hoped that this time the card would actually make it to its intended recipient, whoever the lucky woman was.
Clark walked briskly, muttering to himself. A week late and it's just a card. Imagine if I'd tried to get her flowers or something, it'd be next year before they got to her!
Let's see, what happened to the first card? I know I got it early. Oh, yeah. Water damage. And smoke damage too; it got doused while I was helping at that fire.
So I got a replacement the next day. That one was in the pocket of my cape when I went to the car fire.
So I got another replacement. Was that the one that got blown up by the bomb or the one that got shredded by the air friction when I was trying to catch that crashing jet? No, those were the two the next day.
He mused, trying to think back, trying to remember the depressing details. Yes. The one he'd skipped over was the one that had been dumped in the sewer while rescuing a sewer worker. The card had still been OK, but the envelope had smelled…offensive…was probably the best word.
What had happened next? Oh, yeah. The one that had been in his pocket when he stopped Lex Luthor's new, and leaky, nuclear reactor. It was now under Yucca Mountain, because it glowed in the dark. (Nice touch but not something to give to Lois.)
The next card had shattered. It had been splashed with liquid nitrogen when he stopped the tanker jackknifing on the highway. Then he tried to unfold it and the paper had just broken into little pieces. Too bad, that had been a particularly pretty card.
The destruction of the last card really hurt. Hurt because it wasn't defensible. The other cards had been destroyed in manners that were somehow not his fault, they were necessary sacrifices to make the world a better place. But how do you explain 'I spilled coffee on it'?
Lois saw the card, which surprised her, on her desk when she arrived at the Daily Planet. She put down her purse and picked up the card. She opened it and was even more surprised to find it was from Clark. She'd thought he'd forgotten her birthday (or better yet had never found out when it was.)
Clark came up behind her and handed her a cup of coffee made just the way she liked it.
"Thanks for the card, Clark. It's only 51 weeks early for next year."
"Sorry about that. It is a 'belated birthday card', after all, specifically manufactured to be given after the occasion. It would be inappropriate not to deliver it after the fact, and downright disrespectful to the artists who made it."
"Nice try, Kent. But just admit it: you forgot my birthday and finally remembered it." While she'd been speaking, Clark had gotten that far away look he often got. It must be some kind of defense mechanism, she thought.
"Lois, you know how I remembered that I forgot your birthday? Well, I just remembered that I forgot to return a video." Then he turned and fled.