Becoming Clark Kent – Paul Edmonds

Hero Underneath

Morton Gaines holds the package against his chest and watches the mail truck disappear around the corner. He turns, walks up to the porch, and collapses into his splintered Adirondack chair.

Morton’s calloused, cigarette-stained fingers brush the package’s smooth paper wrapper. He loosens the packing tape at one corner, savoring the process and engaging his excitement in a delicious foreplay of restraint.

The final corner is worked; the paper falls to the floor. A trio of Made-in-Taiwan stickers decorates a plain white box. Morton parts his lips and runs his dry tongue over the spider web grooves of his lower lip. His head casts a shadow onto the box—a  dark gray smear that looks like a pineapple robbed of color and life.

His expression falls into a blank stare. He cradles the box and scans the front yard for peeping eyes and lurking figures. A car drives by. He commits the tag number to memory. He looks down at the box in his lap, smiles, and goes inside.

His bedroom is a den of sweltering air. He places the box on the bed and sits down next to it. Particles of dust rise from the bedspread and move around in the slants of pale light which enters the room through rips in the drawn curtains.

He opens the box and studies its contents. Tears glaze his cheeks. He closes the box and lies back on the bed. His head feels heavy, his heart tired and maudlin.

Clouds congregate in the afternoon sky, replacing the sunlight with a soft gloom. Morton dabs his eyes with the bedspread. He makes his way to the closet and pulls a light jacket from one of the hangers. His wife’s clothes hang from the metal bar that stretches from wall to wall, and the faintest tease of perfume still tickles his nose every time he opens the door.

*     *     *

Morton parks his car on a patch of grass beside one of the cemetery’s winding paths. A light drizzle paints the rows of headstones. He steps out, secures the box under his arm, and turns up the collar on his jacket.

Flora’s grave is fourth from the front, twelve paces—enough distance for Morton’s breath to fog his glasses and commingle with the humid summer air. He kneels in front of the grave and places the box on the close-cropped grass. A rusty bottle cap sits against the headstone. He makes a tutting noise, picks up the bottle cap and squeezes it into his back pocket.

He puts his hands on the box’s lid and looks at the memorial stone.

“This is for you.”

He opens the box and holds out its contents. The dildo is bright orange, with a complicated network of raised veins running along the smooth plastic like tiny snakes. The head is frighteningly large. The long shaft begins to curve a few inches above a fake ball sack which ends abruptly, mid-scrotum, in a clean and even line.

Morton traces a long vein with his finger. He reaches into his jacket pocket and removes the purple velvet bag he purchased to hold the exotic toy. He studies the small valleys and peaks that form under the plush fabric, and then places the dildo inside its new home. He pushes the box aside and rests the bag against the headstone.

Two years have passed since Flora was discovered behind a collection of discarded wooden crates in the alley next to the club. Her eyes had been burned with cigarettes. The bottom half of her leather outfit was missing, the soft meat of her inner thighs cut away with some serrated instrument. Semen and blood matted her gray hair to her cheeks in thick clumps.

The investigation returned several pieces of information that hammered Morton’s soul into butter. The first and foremost was the fact that his wife not only frequented that club, but several others like it throughout the city. She was known as ‘Lady Smut’ on the circuit. On the nights she kissed Morton goodbye and told him she was off to garden club or a pot luck, she would use the bathroom at the gas station up the street to change into something otherworldly, like Clark Kent in his phone booth. A superhero of sadism.

Morton continues to blame himself and his frigid nature. Flora had suggested racier antics throughout their marriage, which he would invariably dismiss with the wave of a hand and the suggestion that she start dinner.

The rain begins to pick-up.

“I hope you like it,” he says. “They said it was a good one.”

He wants to understand, needs to, and by embracing the darkest secrets of his wife’s final years, he finds himself in a place where he can dive face-first into the flood instead of having it drown him one drop at a time.

“I’m trying,” he says, rising to his feet. Rain crawls down his face. He turns and makes his way to the car, as the cracked and bleeding cigarette burns on his legs press dark red stains into his crisp khakis.

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About the Author
Paul Edmonds lives in Massachusetts.  His recent credits include fiction in Big Pulp, FreedomFiction.com, and anthologies from Horrified Press and Rainstorm Press.  Please visit him at pauledmondsfiction.blogspot.com.