Still Life With Python

By Mary Potts aka Queen of the Capes <>

Rated: PG

Submitted: November 2004

Summary: Having chosen a new pet, Lois has only one problem: keeping it alive. A story written for the Guess the Writer Challenge.


"I'm telling you, this parrot is DEAD!" Lois fumed at the clerk behind the counter. Why did he have to make things so difficult? Why couldn't he just give her money back and be done with it?

"It's not dead," the clerk insisted. "It's just asleep. Parrots always look like that when they sleep."

"ASLEEP?!" Lois glared. When the clerk maintained that this was the case, she snorted. "All right then, if he's asleep, let's wake him up!" She shook the cage violently, causing its contents to rattle and bang against the bars. "Hello! Wake up! Wake up, Polly! Rise and Shine!" When the deceased parrot did not respond, Lois opened the cage door, removed the bird's carcass, and slammed it onto the counter. "SEE?! I told you; the parrot is DEAD!"

"No, he's not."

Lois was about to explode! The only thing that saved the clerk from having a birdcage shoved up his—nose—was the arrival of a certain blue-tighted demigod.

"Is everything okay in here?"

"Superman!" They both spoke in unison.

Superman stepped over the threshold of the pet shop, his red cape flowing majestically behind him. He walked over to Lois and looked at her, the parrot, and the clerk. He quirked an eyebrow. "I was flying overhead and heard a commotion. Does anyone care to explain what's going on?"

Lois flushed. "Oh, it was nothing, Superman, I was just…" She trailed off, her girlish, giddy smile fading, replaced by the scowl of earlier. "No, actually, it *wasn't* nothing; this guy is trying to cheat me! I bought a parrot here because my sister was over at my apartment last week and she accidentally spilled her soda in the fish tank, so all my fish died, and she gave me a coupon for this place—half-off any parrot and cage—to make up for it. Although, frankly, I don't think this makes up for it at all; I was really attached to those fish! There was this one cute one that would always blow bubbles when I—" Superman stood there smiling at her, and the clerk stared at her as though she belonged in an insane asylum. Lois cleared her throat. "Anyway, the parrot died an hour after I got it, and this creep won't give me my money back!"

Superman turned to face the clerk. "Is this true?"

The clerk shrunk under Superman's gaze and cowered behind the counter like a frightened little mouse. "Well, sir—um—if the lady is not satisfied, we at Fred and Ozzie's Little Critters will gladly refund her money and give her any pet in the store— free of charge!"

Lois folded her arms. "Now, that's more like it!"

The clerk opened the drawer of the register and counted out the proper amount of money, which he then set on the counter. Lois snatched it up and counted it again. When she was finally assured that the clerk had given her the correct amount, she snorted and stuffed the money into her purse.

"So, Miss, what pet would you like?"

What pet indeed? With so many adorable creatures around her, practically *begging* to be taken home (and in the dogs' case, they were), Lois suddenly found it hard to choose! What would be the ideal pet for Lois Lane? "Well, let me see what you got."

The clerk rose from the counter and led her to the back of the shop with an intrigued Superman tagging along behind. All along the back wall were rows and rows of aquariums populated by schools of happy little fish. "Since you seem to be so fond of fish, perhaps you'd like one of these cute little fellows?"

Lois pondered the myriad of colorful sharks, guppies, neons, and tetras. A small goldfish in the corner of the tank caught her eye. "That one's pretty cute. I'll take him."

"'Kay, I'll get him for you." The clerk reached for the net, but upon seeing him raise his arm, the fish made a mad dash for the nearest hiding place.

"That's amazing!" Lois gaped at the tank, wide-eyed. "He knew you were going to try to get him!"

"There's no way!" said the clerk, scratching his head.

Superman shrugged. "Well, I guess it just goes to show that no one really knows just what a fish knows."

"Or what a fish sees." Lois turned towards the little black cat that had just come padding up, curious to know who these strangers were.

"Now, how did you get loose?"

It was such a cute little cat; its eyes were like two bright emeralds that stood out against its ebony fur. It licked one paw and dragged it across its ears, as though it wanted to look its best before meeting a lady. It looked from Lois, to Superman, then back to Lois again, then settled at Lois' feet and began purring.

"Aw…" Lois allowed a little squeal to escape her as she bent down to pet the kitty. As soon as her fingers brushed against the soft fur, the cat leapt up and tried to scratch her. "Sheesh! It's cute and harmless, until you get up close! Then it's a killer!"

Superman mumbled something about Lex Luthor.

The clerk scooped up the cat and returned it to his cage. "Sorry about that. You want the goldfish, right?"

Lois shook her head. "I changed my mind. I don't think I want any more fish; not for a while, anyway." At least not until Lucy gave up drinking soda. Besides, Lois thought, fish were pretty boring; all they did was eat, sleep, and swim. Maybe she should get something a bit more interesting, maybe something cuddly. A gerbil might be nice…

The clerk led her and Superman to the section where the rodents were kept. Most of them were gone, but one specimen remained, running on its little wheel as fast as it could, as though it actually thought it might go somewhere. Lois eyed the creature with great curiosity. "Is that a rat?"

"Yes, Ma'am." The clerk replied, "A lab rat, actually."

Superman arched an eyebrow. "What's a lab rat doing in a pet shop?"

"Well," said the clerk, "some of our pets are, in fact, second hand. This particular rat was once part of a STAR Labs experiment to see if rats could type. From what I hear, she performed amazingly well at this task, but then one day she just stopped doing it. No one knows why. They couldn't use her in their project anymore, and Dr. Klein didn't have the heart to put her to sleep or anything like that, so she ended up here."

Lois wagged her finger at the rodent. "That's what you get for lying down on the job!"

They browsed the rest of the aisle, looking at various snakes, lizards, and reptiles, none of which Lois wanted. The dogs were too slobbery; the cats, too stuck up; the pig—too…Canadian. After considering and ruling out practically every pet in the store, Lois found herself being led to the bird section.

The bird section was a cacophony of squawks and tweets as cockatoos, canaries, and finches conversed and argued with each other through the bars of their cages. Doves, cockatiels, and Macaws all shouted and cried for the visitors' attention. Lois rapidly became enchanted by the beautiful plumage of the various fowl. As she let her eyes wander from cage to cage and perch to perch, she was quite dumbstruck to see a *pelican* sitting atop an artificial ficus. Superman voiced her astonishment, and the clerk explained to him (and indirectly to her) that this was a special breed of domesticated pelican imported from Norway, very rare, very valuable, and very unusual.

"Hello, Sheila. G'day, Mate."

Lois whirled around, wondering who had spoke. A beautiful, brightly colored Macaw parrot sat on the roof of its cage watching her and Superman.

Superman smiled and walked up to the bird. "Well, hello there!"

"G'day, Mate. G'day, Mate."

Lois turned to the clerk. "Is this another second-hand pet?"

The clerk nodded. "Yep. Got him from a guy who moved to Metropolis from Sydney and couldn't keep him in his new, small apartment."

"Hello, Sheila. Hello, Sheila."

Superman grinned. "He's saying hello to you, Lois. Come on over here and talk to him!"

Lois smiled. Well, why not? She'd spoken to interviewees with less intelligence. She walked up to the cage and looked at the squawker perched on top of it. "Well hello, there. Who are you?"

"I'm Marvel-boy, Sheila. I'm Marvel-boy, Sheila."

"Hey!" said Lois, "He actually answered my question!"

"If you're interested in talkers," said the clerk, "I have a cockatoo here that—"

Marvel-boy squawked. "Ah, shut your trap, you little bugger!"

The clerk's mouth shut with an audible clap. Lois found herself giggling uncontrollably. This parrot was not bad, not bad at all! Where was he when she'd come in earlier? His feathers were absolutely gorgeous! And unlike the first one she'd bought, this one was a real talker, and clever to boot! "I'll take him."

Moments later, Lois and Superman walked out of Fred and Ozzie's Little Critters with Lois happily toting Marvel-boy's cage. Superman smiled at her. "You sure seem happy with your new parrot, Lois."

Lois nodded. "Oh, yes. In fact, this could work out quite wonderfully!" A mischievous smile slowly spread across her face.

"Um, what do you mean?"

"Just think," Lois grinned. "Now I can get Clark to baby sit Marvel-boy and find out if he's been keeping any juicy secrets from me!"

Superman shot her a look of alarm.

"Oh, don't worry, Superman. I wouldn't *really* use a parrot to spy on my friends."

"I should hope not!"

"That's what the surveillance equipment is for."

The look of shock on Superman's face was priceless! Lois tried her best to keep from giggling. Boy, she wished she had a camera! Where was Jimmy when you needed him? At last, she simply couldn't contain herself and she burst out laughing.

Superman sighed and rolled his eyes. "You're something else, Lois." Just then, he cocked his head. Apparently, someone needed his help. He bid her goodbye and took off.

Lois waved after him, then continued home with her new pet. Once in her apartment, she set Marvel-boy's cage on the table and opened the little door. "Okay, Marvel-boy, what do you think of your new home?"

Marvel-boy didn't answer. In fact, he didn't even move at all.

Lois took Marvel-boy out of the cage and inspected him. "Hey, this parrot is dead!"