The Superman Theory

The Superman Theory
J.E. Tirey

Tiny insects hovered around Peter’s hair-lined ears. He waved with his liver-spotted hand, but summer heat makes even bugs lazy. They flew in a perfunctory circle before landing, again, just under the brim of his straw hat.

Cicadas argued in the bushes that guarded his porch. Stray dogs put aside territory squabbles to take shelter under a sycamore in Peter’s yard. Mary Jane was in the kitchen, mixing up lemonade and lingering in front of the open refrigerator.

Five boys on bikes weren’t smart enough to know it was high July. They pedaled up to Peter’s porch in a pack, none of them with shirts, most of them with freckles and all of them open mouthed. They were going to ask. They always do.

“Hey, mister!” one freckle-faced boy yelled.

Peter prolonged the inevitable. He pursed his lips together. Where were his dentures? He’d have to ask Mary Jane.


Same kid. They were all straddling their bikes now, these strange seekers of knowledge.

Peter met his gaze.

“Mister, I heard you was Superman.”

Peter emitted a dry laugh. Old age was his kryptonite, inducing impotence, incontinence and indifference.

“Scoot,” he said. “Get on back home. Leave an old man alone.”

“Ain’t you Superman?” the kid pleaded.

He stood from his chair and stretched. He wondered if Mary Jane had finished the lemonade and decided to find out.

“He ain’t no Superman.”

The eldest punk chucked a rock that whizzed past Peter and struck the house. A cicada riot ensued. Shirtless boys sped off before Peter could retaliate with choice words and a switch. Mary Jane was calling. The lemonade was ready.

“More boys?” she asked as he ambled into the kitchen.

Peter nodded.

“Thought I was Superman.”

“I’m sure they meant Spiderman, dear,” she assured him. She handed him his drink and sat down. Pointing an arthritic wrist, Peter shot a web toward the ceiling and it clung neatly to the corner.

“Still got it.”

about the author
J.E. Tirey is a recent transplant to Dayton. She studied creative writing at Indiana University, and writes flash fiction and poetry, if someone sends her a writing prompt. She make a living writing about places she has never been. J.E. Tirey lives with her boyfriend, his two babies, two black cats, and a mastiff.