“A Proper Complement”

Rated PG-13






Clara Kent reported to Principal Kwan’s office.  She knocked on the door and was asked inside.  Principal Kwan said, “I have a little job for you today.  We have a new foreign exchange student.  I would like you to show him around.”


Clara said, “Did you choose me because I know so many foreign languages?”


Principal Kwan said, “No.  I didn’t know that you knew any.  Just out of curiosity, which foreign language do you speak most fluently?”


Clara answered, “English.”


Principal Kwan said, “Oh!  Of course.”


Clara asked, “What country is he from?”


Principal Kwan answered, “Canada.”


Clara asked, “Quebec?”


Principal Kwan answered, “Vancouver.”


Clara said, “So he speaks English.  Why did you pick me to show him around?”


Principal Kwan said, “Because you need to be more social and this might help you to open up to someone a bit.”


Clara said, “So … am I being punished?”


Principal Kwan said, “No.  This is just part of your education – an opportunity for you to become more outgoing.”


Clara said, “I wish it was a she ….  Any time I “open up” to a boy, something bad happens.  It’s like they can’t communicate until their bodies grow up and stop producing so much testosterone.”


Principal Kwan said, “Since you have to go to school with them, this will be a chance for you to try to learn to talk with one of them.  If you want, consider it learning another language.  Better get to it.  I don’t want you missing too much of your first period class.  He’s on the bench outside.  Go introduce yourself, give him a quick tour of the school and then have him follow you to all your classes for the rest of the day.  You don’t have a Physical Education class today, do you?”


Clara said, “No, Sir.  I don’t have to take gym.  My parents got that worked out before I enrolled here.”


Principal Kwan said, “I’ll have to review your file.  Drop off a list of the languages you know.  The more we know about you, the better job we can do preparing you for making your way in the world.”


Clara said, “Yes Sir.  Good-bye.”






Clara left the principal’s office and saw a young man sitting on the bench and staring at her.  She walked over to him, put out a hand and said, “My name is Clara.  I’ll be showing you around today.”  The young man took Clara’s hand and kissed it.  Clara quickly pulled her hand from his grasp and said, “In the United States, we shake hands.”


The young man said, “In Canada, the man kisses the woman’s hand.  And then they kiss on the lips.  Then they go someplace private and ….”


Clara interrupted, “Then it’s lucky for both of us that we’re not in Canada at the moment.  So from now on we’ll stick to shaking hands or politely waving at each other from a respectable distance if that’s okay.”


He answered, “It’s not okay.  It’s pretty anti-social if you ask me.  You have hurt my feelings and injured by national pride … but I’ll honor your customs until you want to experience the Canadian way of life.  You’ll come ‘round.  They always do.”


Clara said, “You haven’t told me your name yet.”


The young man said, “I thought Kwan would have told you.  I’m Thilen.”


Clara said, “I’m supposed to start out by giving you a tour of the school, Thil-En.”


Thilen asked, “Aren’t you going to comment on my name?”


Clara said, “No.  It seems normal enough to me.  In fact, it reminds me of home.”


Thilen asked, “Are you cold?”


Clara said, “No.  Why?”


Thilen said, “You wear a LOT of clothes.”


Clara said, “That’s probably why I’m not cold.”


Thilen said, “I thought the girls down here dressed with low cut tops and low cut pants … showing cleavage coming and going.”


Clara said, “This country is all about freedom of choice.  Don’t base your expectations about an individual on some stereotype.”


Thilen asked, “Is it considered stylish to keep your hair over your face like that?  How can you see where you’re going?”


Clara said, “I have excellent vision.  I see just fine.  Look.  I’m supposed to give you a tour, not educate you on fashions in America’s bread basket.”


Thilen asked, “Are you a cheerleader?”


Clara said, “No.  I’m a nothing.  Can we go now?”


Thilen asked, “Can we tour the gymnasium?”


Clara said, “I guess so.  Do you like sports?”


Thilen said, “Very much.  Can we start with the girl’s locker room?”


Clara said, “No!”


Thilen said, “I was only being considerate.  I didn’t want to suggest that you take me into the men’s locker room … but if you prefer ….”


Clara said, “NO!”


Thilen said, “I’m supposed to follow you all day, so when you take your gym class, I’m going to ….”


Clara said, “I don’t take physical education classes.  My parents arranged it so that I don’t have to.”


Thilen said, “You seem healthy enough to me … other than being so cold blooded that you have to wear so many layers of clothing.”


Clara said, “Can we PLEASE go on the tour now?  I want to spend some time in class today.”


Thilen asked, “What’s the hurry?  You like going to class that much?  Personally, I’d much rather just sit here and talk with you … unless you’ve reconsidered that tour of the girl’s locker room.”


Clara said, “No!  You’ll have to make your own arrangements for locker room tours!  And, yes, I like to spend time in class.  It makes the day go faster.  They let me sit in the back and think about things.  I was home schooled and the teachers haven’t caught up to what I learned at home yet.  They may never catch up.”


Thilen asked, “So what do you spend all that time thinking about?  Guys?”


Clara said, “Heck no!  I think about things like the unified field theory, world hunger and how to increase the world’s standard of living – especially the world’s standard of health care.”


Thilen said, “Well, you’ve given me something new to think about … like what you are hiding under all those layers of clothes and what you would look like with less clothing on and your hair pulled out of your face.”


Clara said, “Wonder all you want.  Some things will always be a mystery to you.”


Thilen said, “Ahhh.  The appeal of the undiscovered country.  That’s from “Star Trek.”  You know, the TV show.”


Clara said, “I don’t watch TV.  I’ve read some “Star Trek,” but I’ve never watched it.”


Thilen said, “Just more pleasures for me to introduce you to.  I love TV and movies and I like making videos.  Do you want to be in one of my music videos?  You would have to dress differently.  Can you dance?”


Clara said, “No.”


Thilen said, “That’s okay.  I can teach you to dance.”


Clara said, “I can dance.  I was saying ‘no’ to being in a video.”


Thilen asked, “You say ‘no’ a lot, don’t you?”


Clara said, “Yes.  Can we please go now?  My first period is almost over!”


Thilen said, “Oh!  Your first period.  No wonder you’re so crabby.  And I understand the clothes now.  Water retention?  Maybe the first stop on our tour should be a visit to the school nurse.”


Clara said, “What?  OH!  You are so gross!  I meant my first period CLASS!  I don’t have … I … I don’t want to miss my class.”


Thilen said, “It was just a joke.  I don’t think you are crabby at all.  I’d love to just stay here talking to you until lunch.”


Clara said, “That’s still a long time away.”


Thilen said, “What kinds of food do they sell in the cafeteria?”


Clara said, “A lot of different foods.  I’m no expert.  I usually pack lunch.  I know they have hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, tuna casserole, spaghetti, lasagna, … all kinds of things.”


Thilen asked, “Have you ever had Canadian sausage?”


Clara said, “I don’t think so.”


Thilen said, “You’d know if you had it.”


Clara said, “Is it like Canadian bacon?”


Thilen said, “No.  It’s very long and wide and hard.  Once you’ve tried it, you’ll never want anything else.  You’ll stop thinking about world hunger.  The only thing you’ll ever think about is getting some more Canadian sausage.”


Clara said, “I don’t want to get addicted to anything.  I like to be in control of myself and anything you want too much takes away self-control.”


Thilen said, “Not all addictions are bad.  If you want to try some, come home with me after school.”


Clara said, “Thanks, but no thanks.  I have plans.”


Thilen said, “Your loss.  Maybe tomorrow?”


Clara said, “Can we start the tour now?”


Thilen said, “Sure … f you’re done talking now.  I’m always amazed how much girls can talk when there is other stuff that needs to be done.”






Clara did her best to give Thilen a tour of the school.  In the classroom and at lunch, Clara was able to tune out the world whenever Thilen found female students interested in flirting with him.  Between classes, Thilen followed Clara and asked her personal questions about other students’ social lives and about the best places in town to hang out … things that she knew the least about and had almost no interest in.  Clara was grateful that the day was almost over.  When the final bell sounded, students burst out of the doors of every classroom.  Lana rushed towards Clara then brushed by her.  Clara’s knees buckled and she landed on her back.  Clara just lay there and watched people step over her.  It was the perfect end to the perfect day … or so she thought.  The crowd thinned and Thilen’s face appeared above hers.  He was sitting on the floor next to her.  He said, “So that’s what your face looks like.  Amazing!  I’ve been trying to get a good look at you all day.  My guess is that you have a killer body too.  We Canadians have to learn how to evaluate a woman’s figure through layers of clothing.  Watching you walk all day, I sometimes got a hint of something graceful and feline.  That last move wasn’t so graceful, but still ….”


Clara said, “Are you going to help me up … or just stare at me all night?”


Thilen said, “I choose ‘B’ … the stare option.  Such full, kissable lips.  Are you ready to say hello Canadian style?”


Clara said, “No, but I’m almost ready to say goodye Kansas style.  It involves my fist and your face.”


Thilen said, “You have the most amazing eyes I have ever seen.  They are gorgeous.  At first they looked like a pale violet, but now they are turning red.  How do you do that?  Are they special contact lenses?”


Clara sat up and asked, “Is that your idea of a complement – telling me that I have beautiful eyes?  It’s not like I had anything to do with how my eyes look.  It’s pure genetics.  It’s nothing I worked for or achieved.  If my eyes were round or oval … or square … it wouldn’t be anything I had control over.  And if they were ugly, that wouldn’t be my fault, would it?  If you want to complement me on something, complement me on being nice or helpful or for doing community service … or complement me on something that I created with my own two hands … NOT on my physical attributes!  But you can’t do that, can you?  You can’t because, like everyone else in this entire school – even the principal, you don’t know anything about the real me.  All you know is what you see.  But what I look like isn’t what I’m about.  You can’t be more than superficial if you don’t take the time to know the person you are talking to.  And superficial complements aren’t complements at all.”  Clara stood up and Thilen got up too.


Thilen said, “You need a dusting off.  Allow me.”  Thilen began to brushing Clara’s pants and shirt with his hands.


Clara said, “No, NO, NO!  You are NOT allowed to touch me!  Do you want that Kansas goodbye that I told you about?”


Thilen sang, “You say goodbye … and I say hello.  Hello, hello.  I don’t know why you say goodbye.  I say hello.”  Thilen blew Clara a kiss.  Clara grimaced then shook her hair back into her face before turning and quickly leaving the school building.




Lex approached Clara at their normal meeting place.  He said, “Hello, Angel, how was your day?”


Clara said, “Pretty pitiful.  I hope you can make it all better.”


Clara moved within a few inches of Lex and gave him a shy, but playful smile.  He watched Clara lick her top lip then bite her lower lip expectantly as she looked at him.    He could read in her face that she wanted more than his normal kiss on her cheek.  He didn’t need to be asked.  Their lips met and Clara put her hands on each side of his head to pull him even closer and make sure he didn’t stop too quickly.  Lex was surprised by how passionately she kissed him.  When she allowed it, he pulled back and studied her face.  He said, “Have I ever told you that you have the most amazing eyes.  They are so beautiful … I could lose myself in those eyes.”


Clara’s smile lit up her face.  Lex’s words made her feel all warm inside – as if her heart was melting.  Then her smile faded.  Her eyes took on a dazed, distant look.  Suddenly she frowned.


Lex said, “Clara, what’s wrong?”


Clara said, “I’m a hypocrite.  That’s what’s wrong!”







The next day at school, Clara looked for Thilen.  She found him in the hallway painting a large banner for spirit week.  It read “Smallville Rulz.”  Clara asked, “You know you misspelled ‘rules,’ don’t you?”


Thilen said, “Spelling never was one of my strengths, but I usually get my point across.  But I spelled ‘rulz’ that way on purpose … for effect.”


Clara said, “Listen Thil-En, I’m really sorry about what I said yesterday afternoon.  You complemented me and I repaid you by giving you a stupid speech when I should have simply said thank you.  So I want to say it now.  Thanks for the complement, Thil-En.  I think you’re a really sweet guy.”


Thilen smiled and said, “Good.  So do you want me to say hello to you in Canadian now … then go somewhere and make out?”


Clara’s jaw dropped open.  She shook her head in disgust and said, “Thank you, Thil-En, thank you very much.  Thank you for reminding me why I don’t talk to boys!”


Thilen said, “I understand completely.  You’re saying that there are much better things we can be doing than talking.  I totally agree with that!”


Clara said, “You’re impossible!  Excuse me while I go to see Principal Kwan.  I need to beg him to never make me baby sit a new student again!”  Clara turned and walked off towards Principal Kwan’s office.


Thilen followed her saying, “Exactly!  Having spent a day with me, you never want to be with anyone else.  So, … I guess we’ll get together later then?  And if you have a girlfriend as good looking as you, bring her along if you want.  I’m too much of a man for one woman to tackle alone … and there is plenty of me to go around.  And having two baby sitters taking care of me is one of my all time favorite fantasies.  Know any good bedtime stories?”


Clara was scared that she would get violent if she had to hear any more of what Thilen was saying to her, so she ducked into the girl’s rest room and locked herself in a stall.  She looked through the walls to watch Thilen so she would know when he left.  When he finally stopped waiting for her and went away, she reached for the door latch and saw a phone number and the words “For a gud tim, call Thilen” scratched into the paint of the door.  Clara took a couple deep breaths to calm herself.  Her eyes flashed and the paint around the scratches heated up.  Clara rubbed her hands in a blur over the door until the scratch marks disappeared.  She could hear someone else in the rest room.  She flushed the toilet so it wouldn’t look suspicious when she came out.  She opened the stall door and Mrs. Baker, her English teacher, was standing there staring at her.


Mrs. Baker said, “Have you been smoking in there?”


Clara said, “No Ma’am.”


Mrs. Baker said, “Clara Kent, I saw smoke just before you came out and I can smell it!  And it doesn’t smell like tobacco!”


Clara said, “I … but … I ….”


Mrs. Baker said, “It’s time for us to pay a visit to Principal Kwan’s office!  Smoking in school calls for a mandatory two weeks of detention.  And if I find out that you’re the one that scratched that Thilen boy’s name in these stalls ….”


Clara said, “I didn’t!”


Mrs. Baker said, “You don’t have a crush on him do you?  Just because you gave him that tour yesterday doesn’t mean he’s your property.”


Clara said, “No Ma’am.  I definitely don’t have a crush on him.”


Mrs. Baker said, “Good.  Then I can trust you in detention together.  I gave him two weeks for tracking paint all over the halls.”


Clara hung her head and mumbled, “Something bad always happens when I have to spend time with boys.”