Sunday, January 6, 2013

Man of Steel

STREET SCENE: JOE and JERRY walk down an otherwise-empty urban sidewalk, the camera preceding them down the sidewalk, slightly higher than eye level, so that we look slightly down on them.


JERRY has stopped. He puts out his left hand to stop JOE from moving forward, though JOE doesn’t notice at first.

JERRY LOOK . . . .

JERRY’s right hand slowly rises, index finger pointing towards something higher than our POV.

JERRY (In an awed half-whisper) UP IN THE SKY . . . .

Ted read over the scene again, grinning. It was good. It was very good, the perfect opening scene for Superman: City of Tomorrow. It established the theme of a world whose wonders could easily be missed, ignored or taken for granted. Superman would serve as a metaphor for the marvels all around, the everyday miracles of life, science and human creativity. At the end of the film, Joe would spot a rare bird and point it out to Jerry, who would express surprise at Joe’s noticing it. Joe would grin and say, “I spend more time looking up these days.”

Okay, so he had a beginning and an ending. Now he just had to fill in a hundred or so pages. That, and find a way to get some studio person to take a look at it, and he still had small idea of how that was done. It was all so complicated, and did middle-aged men ever actually break into scriptwriting? Not in big-budget franchise pictures, he knew that much. He probably shouldn’t even be working on his Superman movie – better to concentrate on learning how to write basic scripts for low-budget pictures, the kind he might possibly get a shot at – not that he knew much about how even those kinds of films got made.

But the Superman project was what he wanted to work on. It was what fired him up. He liked Superman.

He looked down at his T-shirt, at the red “S” centered on his chest like a target. So he was a grown man who liked Superman. Big deal. Some people drank.

He saved the file, “SCOT1”, and massaged his aching wrists while the computer shut down.

It will get easier, he told himself. As with all things, it came with practice. Facility, speed and confidence would all increase, the more of it he did.

He got up, flexing his fingers the way the physical therapist had shown him. The pain in his hands reminded him that sometimes doing a lot of something for a long time could also use up your capacity to do it. He’d had a good run as a massage therapist, almost twenty years, but it was anybody’s guess how much longer he could go on doing it. Joints and tendons wore out, that was all there was to it. And as much as he enjoyed the work, there were simply too many massage therapists in town, and he had never made a grown-up living at it.

He’d already decided to become a nurse. True, there was a long waiting list for admission to the nursing school, but he could take the various prerequisite courses while he waited for his turn. He’d get in eventually, and he still had his massage practice, and in the meantime he was still working in the healing professions.

Nurse’s aide was a healing job. Sure it was. It didn’t require a lot of training, but it was a responsible job.

And it required strength. A lot of strength. That very morning, he’d gone to a patient’s home to help him get out of bed and dressed. It had taken a tremendous amount of strength and self-control to maintain a professional demeanor through all of his griping, nitpicking, rude questions and insults. This morning, the old man had for some reason pressed him for details about the kind of services he performed.

“Really, sir, I can’t say much about other clients. It’s a question of professional ethics.”

“Huh. I wouldn’t call someone who works for minimum wage a professional.”

A) "What the hell business of yours is it how much I make, you nosy bastard?"
B) "I’ll have you know I get the highest rate the agency pays."
C) "Go to Hell, why don't you?"
D) “Well, sir, to my way of thinking, even a convict on a work gang can act with professionalism. That depends on your own personal dignity.”

Choosing "D" to say out loud had taken plenty of strength. More than Ted had thought he possessed. So there you were.

Ted sighed and shook himself. He had to learn to leave garbage like that behind at the end of a shift. What was the point of letting that dickhead follow him home? Time to make supper, anyway.

He headed into the kitchen, where he found his son Jake doing homework with a girl he vaguely recognized.

“I’ll need some room to work. Could you spread out a little less?”

“Let’s just go now,” the girl said. They started packing up their papers.

“We’re gonna finish up at Carol’s place,” Jake explained. “I’ll probably stay for supper, too.”

Ted nodded. If he were going to be alone for the evening, he’d probably just cook up a ramen. His wife was at yet another board meeting for the group she was keeping afloat mainly by her own efforts. He was used to eating alone.

As the kids left, Jake stared at the “S” on Ted’s chest.

“What do you wear that thing for? You’re sure not Superman.”

Ted smiled.

“You’re wrong, Jake. I am Superman.”

Jake looked at his father without saying anything, then turned and left with his friend.

Left alone, Ted went into the living room and looked himself over in the mirror hung over the couch. Not an old man, and not an ugly one. He could find another woman, he supposed. But he loved his wife and would never leave her.

The man in the Superman shirt was nothing special to look at, it was true. But Ted smiled at him anyway, and when he did he saw in those soft brown eyes a glint of something that could never be broken.

Jake didn’t know. None of them knew. But that was all right. In fact, it was exactly as it should be. It was only appropriate that no-one should suspect that beneath that mild-mannered exterior was a man of steel.