ADMISSION (or DEDICATION, if that sounds better): I would like to acknowledge the work of Bruce Ferber, Donna Cavanagh and James Thurber. Because of them, I have superheroes, daredevils and daydreamers on my mind, screaming to come out.
“It’s only Wednesday,” I think. “Over-the-Hump Day, but there are still two days left before the weekend.” I lean my elbows on the desk and rest my head in my hands. The job of a college receptionist involves alternating periods of aggravating, brain-twisting madness with mind-numbing downtime. This is one of the quiet times. Nature abhors a vacuum, and my brain begins to fill this vacuum with meanderings.
I rise from my desk. The excess pounds around my middle drop like olive oil on salad. My muscles strengthen and I grow four more inches in height. I am wearing a purple leotard with a big, red G printed on it, red tights and a red cape. My gray hair tumbles over my shoulders in a mass of curls and I am wearing a bright red fedora.* I have morphed into:
Hidden by my cloak, which doubles as an invisibility shield, I fly out of an open window, over the campus and into the town, eventually lighting on top of a Volvo parked in front of the fire hydrant next to the Burger King. I am careful not to scratch the car with my purple iron ballet slippers even though its owner is breaking one of the laws that I exist to protect, nurture and preach about.
The quiet of the street is broken by a scream. I turn and see a teenage boy in jeans and leather jacket knock a tiny, frail elderly woman to the ground and run off with her purse. I spring into immediate action, flying to the fleeing boy and landing in front of him, stopping him cold with my outstretched right hand.
“Unhand that purse!” I say.
“Make me, old woman!” he says with a sneer. He attempts to punch me, but I knock him to the ground with a well-aimed judo flip. The purse falls from his hand and lands on the pavement. I pick it up.
“I’ll let you go this time, young man,” I say. “I know you are a good boy who just got mixed up with the wrong crowd and that you will take a lesson from this. Crime does not pay.”
*ring ring* *ring ring*
The sound startles me. I jump a little in my chair, blink my eyes several times and stare at the telephone. After several seconds, I pick it up.
“Tumblesmith College School of the Arts”
“Professor Scribe, please. This is his wife.”
I buzz the professor on the intercom, and he picks up the phone.
“Your wife is on Line 7.”
I watch the blinking light on the phone until it becomes steady, signaling that someone has picked up the call. The blinking light has a slight hypnotic effect.
“There’s a fire on the third floor!” The young student is out of breath and he is sweating. “Professor Scribe is trapped in his office!”
Oh no! Beloved old Professor Scribe, the friend of every student and mentor of every faculty member, is trapped on a burning floor. I jump up from my desk, set off the fire alarm on the wall and run down the stairs to the third floor, taking two steps at a time, despite my considerable bulk, my bad knees and my poor balance.
The third floor hallway is thick with smoke. I take off my shirt and wind it around my head to help keep the smoke from my lungs. At a time like this, I can’t be concerned about people seeing my brassiere. A female student is standing in the hall, coughing and crying.
“I was just smoking a cigarette,” she gurgles. “I dropped it accidentally. Now Professor Scribe is going to die a horrible death!”
I grab her shoulders, shake her and give her face a sharp slap.
“Get hold of yourself! Professor Scribe is not going to die. I’ll save him. You get out of here before you burn up! And from now on, remember that this is a non-smoking building!”
She runs to the exit and I act quickly, knowing that I cannot wait until the firemen come. I cannot get into the professor’s office because his doorknob has melted. The door to the next room is open, though, and I enter it, go to the window, open it wide and step onto the ledge outside. Forgetting my bad knees and fear of falling, I make my way over the ledge and open the professor’s window. I see him lying on the floor, overcome by smoke. I climb through the window, run to him, pick him up and sling him over my shoulder. Very carefully, making sure not to drop him, I carry him out onto the ledge, into the next room, through the hallway and down the stairs, to safety outside the front door.
There are several photographers there, and they eagerly snap our pictures. The professor begins to come to.
“Excuse me,” says a female photographer, doing an elaborate pantomime of someone putting on a shirt. I suddenly remember that my shirt is on my head and the only thing covering my top is my brassiere.
“Excuse me,” the voice says again.
“Hmmm?” I blink my eyes several times until I get them back into focus. I see Ms. Murgatroyd, the school librarian, standing in front of my desk.
“May I help you?” I say.
“I have an appointment with the Dean.”
“Yes. He’s expecting you. You can go right in.”
“Thank you.” She starts to walk to the Dean’s office, but turns around and says, “Are you all right?”
“Oh yes. Thank you. I’m fine, just a bit tired.”
She looks doubtful, but says, “Okay,” then turns and walks away.
Professor Scribe can wait until the next time my mind wanders to thank me for saving his life.
* Hey, it’s my fantasy and I am the superheroine. I want a red fedora on my head, and I will have it. So there.