Little Bird

By Debby Stark

Summary: Clark is in major trouble when he learns that all Daily Planet employees must be subjected to blood and urine tests — no exceptions, and no excuses.


Clark tried to look busy, but couldn't pull his mind off the contents of the memo he'd found in his inbox that morning. He went through the motions of catching up on everything he had missed, and also managed to visit the water cooler three times, when people who would be in the know were there and he could casually question them about the memo. But it all came down to talking to Perry White about it.

Perry's office often resembled Metropolis's Union Station for the first two hours of the morning. Wishing this morning there had been some miracle exception, Clark could only cool his heels and concentrate on his work. Eventually things calmed down and Clark held himself back to give the man a peaceful, five-minute break before mounting the stairs himself and knocking on his editor's door.

"Come in, Clark… Now what do *you* want?"

"It's about this blood and urine test thing, Chief…"

"Yeah, that was some memo to come back to from vacation, hmm? Well, don't let it worry you because you can't do anything about it anyhow. You can go with Maria and hold her hand."

Clark wished it were that easy. The urine bit, yeah, he didn't worry about that much, if only because he could produce it. Too, he'd been consuming all kinds of Earthly things for about 98% of his life and that had to be all that would show up. After all, they weren't looking for Superman, they were looking for contraband drugs.

Giving blood though… He'd considered going with a group and using superspeed pilfering a bit from some healthy male person like Jimmy when his back was turned ("Gosh, I thought they'd filled up that test tube." "It's hot in here, it must have evaporated…"), but Maria was seven months pregnant and she was the only other one he could discretely discover who hadn't been tested yet. No one could believe that she hadn't been excused, what with all kinds of notes available from her obstetrician. Too, he had learned that the union was posting witnesses to protect the employees' rights and of course the blood was drawn on the spot, which ruled out zipping home and asking his Dad for some (asking his mother was iffy because he sometimes wondered if she hadn't smoked her share of marijuana in her hippie years…).

So what hope do I have, Clark wondered. Could he claim a violation of his Constitutional rights? Apparently no one else had in the short time he had had to investigate the matter. Lois had been away from her desk all morning (after a surprising but brief good-to-see-you-back I'm-out-the-door hug that he had thought would make his day until he read the memo), or she would surely have given him all the dirty details. But then maybe no one had complained because, to soften the blow that his lawyers and insurance mongers had insisted Mr. Stern inflict on the staff of the *Daily Planet*, the publisher treated everyone from the janitors to Perry to a sumptuous dinner at one of Metropolis's finest restaurants. Too bad he, Clark, hadn't been here to enjoy it, but he couldn't use that excuse to challenge the procedure.

No, it had to be the First Amendment protest or maybe it could be a religious thing…

"I won't mind holding her hand, but I can't give any blood."

Perry tried to look interested. "Oh?"

"It's a…" which one, which one… A Constitutional thing? And if I have to quit and get another job and they want a blood test *before* hiring me? "a religious thing."

"A religious thing."

"Yes, it's against my religion to give blood…"

"Which religion?"

Well, "One I discovered when I was in India a few years ago…"

"Ah, yes, I remember glancing at your Indian trek articles in your portfolio. They showed you had talent, you were right to include them. Smallville *Journal* ran them, didn't it?"

"Yes, sir." Well, that made it easier, didn't it? Perry was happy (after twenty minutes of chewing out the city desk reporter who had botched a good lead on some city hall illegality), so Clark hoped he had inadvertently laid clear ground for himself. "I didn't get serious about it until recently, when I started studying it and found out that it more than just a, oh…" try to make it sound like it was an esoteric, cult-like, secretive religion that he couldn't easily explain…



"You're babbling. Stop it."

Ah… "Yes, sir."

"Be glad you didn't set your little story in Borneo because I've been all over Southeast Asia, and they seem to like to shed as much blood as preserve it."


"Take off your jacket and sit down before people start wondering why you came in here and then start trying to read our lips… Good. Now loosen your tie and relax… That's better. I know you'd no more use drugs than Alice's Chihuahuas would play the stock market, despite that cock-and-bull story you tried to slide past me."

"Well, that's right, Chief, I wouldn't — I *don't*. Should I, ah, mention my Constitutional rights in all this?"

"Don't you dare. Lois had us tied up for three hours with that one and she lost anyhow. It wasn't pretty. Unless you plan to stand on your principles and quit over it—and I'd be proud to say I knew you if you did—you don't stand a chance."


"And you like your job."

"Oh, sir, I… I can't imagine doing anything else with my life."

"I see…" Perry gave him a long look that Clark had no idea how to decipher. In time, his editor said, "Well, that being the case, between you and me," and Perry's voice lowered to a serious whisper that Clark realized wouldn't carry any further than he wanted it to, only a few feet, a voice all the bugs in the world couldn't pick up (Perry had his office swept for them periodically) "and it *is* between you and me, son, this absurd drug testing rule shouldn't be allowed to make you a nervous man. You do a fine job for the *Planet*, and, on your own time, you do a fine job for, let's say, the world, too."

Huh? "Sir…?"

Perry wagged his finger gently from side to side. "Don't ask. When you have as much experience under your belt as I do mine, you'll realize that you just know things that other people don't want you to know, and you know when to use them and you know when to keep your peace. Now, I want you to get all the experience you can get because you're a good reporter and I'm making you a better one. I want you to out Murrow Murrow. And if I can help you get that experience by signing a waiver for you, I'll do it. But news of this does not go beyond these walls."

"No, sir…"

"Or everyone else will want one, too."

"Yes, sir."

"And you'll have to start wearing saffron robes and shave your head."

"That's a possibility I hadn't though of…"

"You didn't have time to think of it, I understand that. Everyone's taken by surprise now and then."

Mostly now, Clark thought. "Yes, sir."

"Of course, if I do find out that you're flying around high on drugs, I'll tan your little blue hide and hang it on that wall over there."

"I understand. You'll *never* have to do that."

"I believe you. Now, you get back to work and I'll take care of this end. You disappear for a while this afternoon, and if anyone in the office asks, you can say you had it all done, the urine, too on your afternoon break, and I'll back you up."

"Yes, sir… Thank you…"

"Think nothing of it," Perry nodded, exuding quiet confidence, and returned to the report he had been reading when Clark had knocked on his door. Clark truly felt dismissed.

Lois had come back and was sitting at her terminal typing furiously, but she looked up when he returned to his desk. "You look like someone hit you with a sock full of cold spaghetti. What was it? — Oh, I know, you had a great idea for a story and Perry deep sixed it."

"Yeah, exactly."

"Don't let it bother you, happens to me all the time, but then I turn around and think of something even better and surprise him with it. You'll think of something to surprise him with, too."

I doubt it, Clark thought, but then Lois's perky, confident attitude and Perry's "think nothing of it" were too much to ignore, and as it all sunk in, he began to feel better.


(This story was written to illustrate that not *every*body is blind… and I couldn't put this at the top because you, gentle reader, are not blind, either.

(The "sock full of cold spaghetti" is a Goon Show reference. Lois might be a fan, too…)