“Dog Gone” [Rated G]
Clara had just made her last payment on her (pre-owned) car. She had the title and was trying to find a safe place to hide it. She went up to the barn loft. She wasn’t a sleeping up there so often now that she had pretty much conquered her claustrophobia. She smiled at the thought of letting her best friend guard the title for her. She went to the bed and moved the mattress slightly to allow her to get into a large compartment in her headboard. Normally, his head would flop out to greet her, but for some reason it didn't. She laid down on the mattress and reached her arm into the headboard compartment to feel around. Nothing! She used her vision powers to explore the headboard. It was totally empty. He was gone. A quick scan of the entire barn with her x-ray vision didn’t turn up any sign of him. She asked herself, "Where could he be?" He couldn't just wander off on his own. She wanted to cry, but couldn't. He was the only one that she felt totally safe sharing her tears with. She was in college now and knew that she was too old to get this emotional about something like this, but she couldn't help it. Her last childhood friend, the one she shared everything with, was gone. Krypto had disappeared.
Lex pulled up the driveway. He got out of his car and wasted no time getting up to the front door. Martha didn't know exactly where Clara was, but told Lex he could look around. Martha didn't have to twist his arm to get him to agree to stay for supper. Lex almost immediately found Clara in the barn. She was sitting on the stairs to her loft. She was hunched over and had a mournful look on her face. She didn't look at him or acknowledge his presence, but when he sat next to her and put her arm around her, she leaned up against him. Lex said, "I expected you at the rock. When he didn't show, I took my chances coming year. Since the secret of our friendship is out, at least as far as your parents are concerned, I didn't see any harm in it. So what's up?"
Clara mumbled, "Not me, that's for sure."
Lex asked, "Was it a rough day college?"
Clara said, "No. Actually it was a blast. Today I was working on making some living dolls, if you can believe that. I should have several patents before long. Everyone just leaves me alone to do what I want to. It's SO much better than high school. AND, today I paid off my car."
Lex said, "… Yet … you don't seem at all happy."
Clara said, "I'm not, but it's pretty silly, and I don't want to … I don't want to talk about it. But I feel like I lost my best friend."
Lex said, "I thought I was your best friend."
Clara said, "You are, but this is different. There are times when I can't talk to you, and some things I can't talk to you about. There are some things I can't even share with my parents. And there are times, like now, when I'm embarrassed about what I'm feeling and I have no one to turn to. When that happens, I know I can … the least I could …. Didn't I say I didn't talk about this?"
Lex said, "Well, I hope someday you'll feel comfortable telling me anything and everything. For the moment, I would hope that you would at least be comfortable enough around me, if you feel the need, to shed a few tears over your lost friend. You know, your Dad told me that you're not the kind of person that cries easily, but I’ve seen you cry more than a few times. Every time, you've had good reason, but I would like to know, … is it me? Have you just started crying since I've been in your life?"
Clara said, "I cry a lot more than I like to. Daddy just doesn't know it. I cried in front of him a couple times went I was first living with him and Mom and he couldn't take it. He's a strong man, but when I cried, he cried too. That made me even more upset, … which made him more upset. So I learned how to bottle it all up inside me until me and my friend could have some time alone together. Then I tell him everything and hold him and cry until I felt better."
Lex said, "Him? Your friend is a "him?" Who is this him?"
Clara said, "I don't want to tell you!"
Lex said, "Because you're scared I would be jealous? You don't have to worry about that, because I’m already jealous."
Clara said, “I don't want to tell you … because you'd laugh at me!"
Lex said, "I wouldn't. I swear, … or at least I'll wait till I'm alone before I'd laugh. So do I get to meet this person?"
Clara said, "It’s not a person … and it's too late because he's gone. Anyway, you already met him. You knew him before I ever did."
Lex said, "Now you'll have to tell me."
Clara whimpered, "I don't see him every day, so I don't even know how long he's been gone!"
Lex said, "Maybe I can help you find him. Describe him to me."
Clara said, "This is silly. I'll just have to live with it."
Lex said, "Come on!"
Clara said, "He's a dog with white fur. Well, his fur is not as white as it used to be … or as thick."
Lex said, "I didn't know you had a dog. If he ran away, we could check the dog pound. Does he have a tag on his collar?"
Clara said, "He couldn't run away. He wasn't a real dog."
Lex asked, "You had an imaginary dog?"
Clara said, "He was a toy."
Lex asked, "A toy breed … or ….”
Clara said, "He was a stuffed toy … a plush animal. You bought him for me."
Lex said, "You almost never let me buy you anything. I would have remembered ….”
Clara said, "You sent him to me almost 10 years ago! You sent him after we met the day of the meteor shower. He was the first thing I ever got in the mail and he reminded me of my dog on … the dog I had before I moved to Smallville. I called him Krypto Two -- two as in the number two, not too as in also. I used to wipe my tears with his floppy ears, … and I used to bury my head in his body when I was crying so that no one could hear me. He was a great listener. He never betrayed anything I told him in confidence. And he even talked to me when he visited me in my dreams. He always gave such wonderful advice!"
Lex said, "So I'll ….”
Clara said, "Don't you DARE say you buy me another one!"
Lex said, "I wouldn't say that. I know better."
Clara said, "I just thought I'd better warn you before you said something stupid -- something that would make me angry. After all, if I got mad at you, I'd have no one to discuss it with later … now that he's gone."
Lex said, "So, do you discuss me a lot with Klatu Two?"
Clara said, "That's between me and KRYPTO! His name is Krypto Two!"
Lex asked, "Did you ask your Mom if she might know where he is?"
Clara said, "I told her that I threw Krypto out. I didn't want her to think I was just a kid anymore. I can’t ask her about him now."
Clara and Lex could hear Martha calling them for dinner. Lex said, "Let's go."
Clara said, "You go. Tell Mom that I'm not hungry. I'll be out here when you're done feeding your face."
Lex said, "You ARE in a bad mood!" He went to kiss her on the cheek, and she moved out of the way. Lex said, “OH BOY! Lassie, PLEASE come home soon!"
Clara shouted, "IT'S KRYPTO TWO!"
Lex walked into the house through the kitchen door. Martha asked, “Where's Clara?"
Lex said, "She's in no mood to eat."
Martha said, "That doesn't sound like my Clara."
Lex said, "I could get in some serious trouble for this, … but you remember Klatu Two?”
Martha said, "Uh … “The Day the Earth Stood Still” – the robot from outer space?”
Lex said, “No, the dog.”
Martha asked, “The dog from outer space?”
Lex said, "No. Clara's toy dog, the one I bought for her from the hospital gift shop … back when she was just a little kid."
Martha said, "KRYPTO TWO! Yes, what about him?"
Lex said, "He's gone missing."
Martha said, "I don't think so. He's wrapped up in a quilt in my bedroom closet."
Lex said, "Clara doesn't know where he is."
Martha said, "Well Clara said she was going to throw him out. Call me sentimental, but I have fond memories of her hauling him all over the place. I was in the barn loft and found him. He was filthy, so I had him dry cleaned, re-stuffed him and took him into protective custody."
Lex said, "Clara wasn't going to throw him out. She was just embarrassed about still feeling so strongly about a toy."
Martha said, "Oh … then I better go tell her that he's okay."
Lex said, "Wait a second. … Do you want to have some fun?"
Martha asked, "What you have in mind?"
Lex said, “I understand you keep Tootsie Rolls around here … the large ones.”
Martha said, "Yes."
Lex said, "Could I have about six of them?" Martha got the Tootsie Rolls from the pantry and handed them to Lex. He unwrapped them, pounded them with his fist and bent them a bit. He asked, "What does that look like to you?"
Martha answered, "Bent Tootsie Rolls." Lex got up and put a trail of them on the hall rug leading into the living room. Martha said, "Oh! I get it!" She ran upstairs and came down with Krypto Two. She left him at the end of the trail of Tootsie Rolls – sheepishly looking out from behind a chair. Lex was grinning. Martha looked at him and said, "Get a grip. Go back and sit at the table and wait a minute for me get Jon." Martha quickly told Jon what was going and he sat down next to Lex at the kitchen table. Martha went to the back door and yelled out in the nastiest, loudest voice she could muster, "Clara Josephine Kent, get in this house this instant!"
Clara came stomping up the sidewalk and said, "Mom, I TOLD Lex to tell you that I'm NOT hungry!"
Martha said, "Don't give me any attitude, young lady! He's yours and he made a mess, so I expect you to clean it up."
Clara said, "Lex made a mess? What kind of mess?"
Martha said, "Not Lex. LOOK!" Martha pointed at the trail on the hallway carpet.
Clara said, “EWW! Which animal got in here?"
Martha said, "You're a farm girl. This is nothing. Get some toilet paper or paper towels and start cleaning this mess up."
Clara grabbed a few paper towels. She said, "Something just isn't right here!" Clara walked over and began picking up the Tootsie Rolls. She followed the trail into the living room. Martha quickly pinched herself then clamped a hand over her mouth to keep from laughing out loud. They heard Clara shout, "WHAT THE …?” Clara sheepishly reentered the room with Krypto under her arm. She was trying desperately not to smile. She looked over at the kitchen table and threw smashed Tootsie Rolls of Lex. She said, "SEE … see what I told you? Krypto TWO would have NEVER told anybody something I told him in confidence! In this world, you just have to be careful who you trust." Lex just smiled at her, picked up one of the smashed Tootsie Rolls and began to eat it.
Martha said, "Lex, don't eat too much of Krypto's number two, or you'll spoil your dinner.”
Clara shouted, “GROSS!”
Lex sat back in an easy chair in the living room. He found himself strangely at home. He could almost drop off to sleep after the massive quantities of food he just finished eating. He looked into a pair of eyes that silently stared at him from across the room. He said, “Seeing as it’s just you and me here at the moment, you wouldn’t mind if I loosened my belt just a bit, would you … at least until the ladies get back? I didn’t think you would.” Lex unfastened his belt buckle and released the clasp on his pants. He said, “Ahhh! That’s much better! Martha is one heck of a cook … one heck of a cook, that’s for sure. If Clara someday honors me by setting up housekeeping with me and if she is even half the cook that Martha is, a few years from now I’ll make Santa Claus look anorexic! That is, unless Clara and I can think of ways to work off those extra calories. OOPS! Sorry! That just slipped out. But you do know what I mean, don’t you? I guess I got just a little too comfortable and forgot where I was and who I was talking to. I know you exist to protect Clara from people that might intend her harm, so I’d better say this fast before you go for my jugular: my intentions towards Clara are strictly honorable. I would never do anything to hurt her. I swear. I love her more than I could ever express.”
Lex continued, “You know, it is good to be able to talk to someone about Clara like this. I have no one I can tell about what I feel … not even Clara. For some reason, she doesn’t want to hear it. In that way … and many others, she’s unlike any other woman I know. All I want to do is to sing her praises and that embarrasses the heck out of her. So I have to keep quiet or risk scaring her off. But it is true, Clara and I are so unalike in many ways. That’s what bothers me when my Father tries discussing her with me. When he points out our differences and I know he is right, it just kills me … but like the French say, “Viva la difference!” What differences, you ask? Aren’t they obvious? I mean other than me being follicly challenged and her having a thick, luscious head of hair. First and foremost is the age thing, but her being a few years younger than me won’t continue to be that big of a deal the longer we’re together and, believe me, I’m in this for the long haul. One small communication problem is that she doesn’t watch TV or movies and although I don’t watch much TV, the references I make are often lost on her. I’m an urban boy. She’s a country girl. I’m more than a little jaded. She’s more than a little naïve. I’m a businessman through and through. She’s a bleeding heart with an open purse. I am self-centered. She, for the most part, is selfless. I want the good life. I’m greedy for all life can offer me. Clara feels guilty about any little thing she has and is greedy for those she loves … and she opens her heart to anyone. I want recognition. She wants to hide in the shadows. I want power. She wants to help those without power. If anyone chooses to be my enemy, I want to crush them. Clara wants to convert her enemies, find common ground or, at the very least, find a way to co-exist with them.”
Lex took a deep breath and said, “You don’t have to say a word. I know that most people believe that opposites attract. You and I know that that’s not the case, don’t we? It’s the similarities that bond a couple together and keep them together through all that life throws at them. True opposites DON’T attract. But I’m attracted to Clara like I’ve never been attracted to anyone before. AND it’s not just her physical beauty … although I have a hard time tearing my eyes off her. Every night I tell myself that I don’t think I could love her anymore than I do, but each day I wake up to find that my love for her is even more intense. I can’t imagine how much I’ll love her once we have little ones. Yes, children. I never thought that I would want children, but thinking about having others like her populating this world and knowing I had something to do with it excites me more than anything I have achieved in my life to date. Maybe the reason I love her so much is that she is the person that I have secretly always wanted to be … but never had the opportunity to become. Strange, I never said that out loud before. Maybe I even kept that secret from myself. I hope that the reason Clara has feelings for me is not because of who I am today, but because of the man I have the potential to become … a man I can only become if she agrees to share the rest of her life with me.”
After a long reflective silence, Lex said, “To re-assure you a little, it is not my intention to take her away from you. I don’t know how anyone who has known her as intimately as you have could lose her and continue to exist. As long as she continues to feel the way she obviously does about you, I will consider you as a close friend, a welcome member of my household and a part of my immediate family. I hope this is all okay with you because I’m NOT going away. You know, it’s been REALLY great having this little talk. I feel a lot better about the future now. Thanks so much. Clara was right about you. You’re a good listener, Krypto.”