[Based upon episode 101 (the pilot) of “Smallville” written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. Some lines are directly lifted from the show in order to bring Clark and Clara’s realities into synchronization with each other.]
Pete Ross stood at his locker working his combination. Without turning around, he said, "My, my, you are mighty close this time. Mighty close. Could this be the day … the day I hear Clara Kent talk to me?"
With a nervous voice that cracked as she spoke, Clara quietly said, "Hi, Peter, how did you know was me?"
Pete opened his locker door and said, "I know your shadow. You cast a long one. I've learned to recognize it. It seems that every time I'm in a situation that I can't figure my way out of, I see that shadow and my problems disappear. So, what emergency has made it necessary for you to speak? Is the world about to blow up?"
Clara said, "I hope not! I don't like it when that happens."
Pete said, "You know it's very nice. You really should use it more."
Clara asked, "What is?"
Pete said, "You're voice. You still have a slight accent, but it's very sexy. So why did you pick today to talk to me?"
Clara said, "I didn’t mean to listen in, but I overheard you say to Chloe Sullivan that you are going to join the football team so that “they” wouldn't hurt you. Who are "they" and why would they want to hurt you?"
Pete said, "I believe in tit-for-tat. If you really want an answer I need something from you first."
Clara asked, "What?"
Pete said, "Show them to me. I know what you're hiding. If you want to talk with me, you'll have to show them to me first."
Clara said, "Does this always happen to guys when they join the team? I thought you were nice!"
Pete said, "When we were kids, we had one special day. And I thought you were going to be my best friend. But that didn't happen, did it? You respected me that day … more that I respected myself. But you don't respect me now. If you did I wouldn't have to ask. Show them to me! Friends look each other in the eyes. If you want to talk to me, move that wall of hair out of your face and let me see them. Let me see your eyes." Clara looked at the floor. Pete said, "Eight or nine years ago, I looked at your face and wished to God that I could have marbles that looked even half as beautiful as your eyes. They were amazing. They have haunted me in my dreams ever since then. Your smile has too. But a smile, … even a quick little flash of a smile for an old friend, ... that would be too much to ask for." Clara looked up and pulled her hair back over her shoulders. Pete studied her face intently for a few moments then said, "They're not the same."
Clara said, "Oh." She looked a little disappointed and hurt.
Pete said, "They're even more beautiful than I remembered." Clara flashed Pete a half smile, then quickly put her school day, blank expression back on her face.
Pete said, "Well, I almost got to see the smile too. You know, Clara. It really hurts me every time I see you."
Clara asked, "Why?"
Pete said, "Because I had a good look at you years ago. You were beautiful and bright eyed. I watched how you looked at the world. You just soaked in everything you saw, like a kid at Christmas looking at a freshly decorated Christmas tree. It was like you were seeing the world for the first time and that everything in it was new and precious to you. But that childhood friend is gone now, and you're here in her place. I see you hiding every day behind your wall of hair and baggy clothes in dark corners were people don't look. I can't help but think that someone is hurting you. And I can't stand to think that! Not after you … well, … not after what you did for me that day."
Clara said, "I'm happy, Peter. I'm happy at home. I just don't fit here. I don't want people to see me. I'm scared what will happen if people get to know who I am."
Pete said, "My Mother always told me, "Don't hide your light under a barrel." I didn't think there was a barrel that could hide you. I guess I was wrong. The first time I saw you, I thought that you must've just stepped out of the UFO. I didn't believe anyone so beautiful could have been born on this planet. That day will always be with me. And I always thought we would have many more times together after that. So what happened? Why didn't you come back? I always watched for you. Always! Did you think that man was going to come back and hurt me if we played together again?"
Clara said, "My parents were scared because I had left to go into town alone. They were so upset when I got home … and I never wanted to see them like that. So I didn't come to town without them again until I was 12 … and only if I got permission first. Now that I come into town every day, I'm still trying to decide where I fit in … and IF I fit in."
Pete said, "Well, you showed me years ago that I didn't have a "place" that I HAD to be … that I could put myself in whatever place I WANTED to be."
Clara said, "How did I do that?"
Pete said, "You don't remember? I could never forget THAT day!"
Clara said, "I remember the man and that he scared you."
Pete said, "You don't remember what he said?"
Clara said, "I didn't know much English at that time."
Pete said, "Then why did you do what you did?"
Clara said, "I didn't need to know what the words meant to know that they were weapons being used against you."
Pete said, "Well, I think you would know what they mean now."
Clara said, "Probably."
Pete looked around to make sure that no one was listening. No one was, but Pete cautiously leaned forward and whispered, “The man said, "Little nigger boys that play with little white girls have a way of disappearing around here … never to be seen again!" I'm surprised that I didn't soil myself. Nobody ever talked to me like that before or since."
Clara said, "Oh my God! Now that you told me, I can remember the sound of the words he said. I remember everything!" In her mind, she started to relive the events of that day.
Jonathan turned to grab more hay for the horses. He was startled to see Clara standing there smiling at him. He said, "Hi Darling, you're dressed up nice today. You are SO pretty! What's the occasion?"
Clara said, "Daddy … play … ground?"
Jonathan said, "Okay, Clara." He turned to put more hay in the horses stall and said, "As soon as I finish here, I'll take you into town." He turned and Clara was gone. Jon said, "Clara, where did you run off to? CLARA!" By the time he had finished his sentence, Clara was halfway to town.
Clara's eyes opened wide as she looked at the merry-go-round, the swing sets, the jungle gym, the sandbox and the slides. She couldn't decide what to play on first. Then she heard a voice behind her say, "Hi! My name is Peter -- Peter Pretty Boy Ross! Who are you?"
Clara turned and smiled. She had never spoken with a small human before. She was giddy and excited. She said, "Pete-Ter!" She reached out her hand, stroked the side of his face softly and giggled and in delight.
Pete pointed at himself and said, "I'm Peter." Then he pointed at her and said, "And you are?"
Clara said, "Clair-Uh!”
Pete said, “What planet are you from beautiful?" Clara giggled. Pete pointed himself and said, "Peter ...” then pointed at the ground and said, “Earth …” then pointed at her and said, “Clara ….” then pointed at the sky.
Clara said, "KRIP-TAWN!”
Pete said, "Wow, you are really good at making up names!" Clara giggled. Pete said, "Do you want to swing?" He pointed at the swing set. Clara smile widened to and her head bobbed excitedly.
Pete pushed Clara on the swing for a while, then got on the swing next to her and tried to swing as high as she did. He wondered how she could swing so high without pumping. Then they spent some time going down the slides before going over to the merry-go-round. Clara spun Pete so fast that he got dizzy. He needed to sit down for awhile. He found a cup in a trash can and filled it at a water fountain. He went to sandbox, wet some sand and began to make a castle. Clara imitated Pete by finding a cup. She ran back and forth to the water fountain and got a lot of sand wet. Then she made a city like Pete had never seen before. She even dug a river and put water in it.
Pete headed back towards the slides and motioned for Clara to follow him. She rushed over to walk with him and took his hand. A man in a black suit and tie got up from a park bench. He had been watching them for some time, but now he walked over to intercept the young couple on their way to the slides.
He smiled a sweet and gentle smile at Clara and Pete. Clara smiled up at the man. She looked at Pete and he was smiling to. The man began talking, so Clara looked at him again. She continued smiling at him as he talked. She enjoyed the rhythms of the unknown words and tried to pick out the words she knew. She felt Pete's hand tighten on hers, then abruptly let go. She turned back to Pete and saw the fear in his eyes. He was trembling. She looked up at the man and saw how happy he was to be able to scare Pete like that. In a blur, Clara's hand shot up and grabbed the man's tie. She yanked his head down to her eye level. She gave him her meanest look. He clawed at her hands but couldn’t break her grip. He tried to loosen his tie, but found that he couldn’t. He tried to pull back. Clara remembered how Jon had worked with one of his horses. She held the tie tightly and made small downward yanking motions every time the man tried to pull away. Clara looked back at Pete and his eyes were nearly bugged out of his head.
Clara looked back at the man and started tightening his necktie. She looked at Pete, and he was smiling a little. She looked back at the man. He looked a little blue in the face. She didn't know if that was a good or bad thing. She loosened the tie a little and the man started talking. She looked at Pete. He looked angry. She tightened the tie a bit. The man quickly started talking in a nicer tone of voice. Pete started talking to him in a stern and lecturing manner. The man and Pete talked awhile and then Pete smiled. Pete took Clara's free hand and said to her, "Want to go to the slides now?" Clara smiled and let go of the man's tie. He ran off across the park.
Clara and Pete laughed and played until a beautiful black woman came to get Pete. Pete told Clara that her name was "Mom." Clara thought that it was remarkable that the woman that cared for Pete was named the same as the woman that cared for her.
Pete waved goodbye as he walked away, saying, "I hope you visit from Krypton again real soon."
Pete said, "Clara, are you back on Krypton or some other planet? You wanted to know something. Oh that's right, you wanted to know who was going to hurt me and why. The football team always picks someone to be the year’s living scarecrow just before the homecoming game. They take their victim and tie him to a post in old man Riley's cornfield -- right next to the fertilizer plant. They call it a “stake out.” I'm a likely candidate. I never cared much for being a victim, so I have a plan. They NEVER pick someone who is on the football team to be the scarecrow. I have to join the football team to make sure that I don't get picked. Problem solved."
Clara said, "For you maybe. What about the person they DO pick? For instance, what if they pick me?"
Pete said, "A girl? No way! If that ever happened, the authorities would stop turning a blind eye to the whole thing."
Clara said, "It's just as barbaric whether it's done to a guy or girl."
Pete said, "If I were you, I wouldn't go on a campaign for the equal right to be staked out in a field overnight! Besides, if the team ever got someone of the female persuasion tied to a post in a secluded location and totally at their mercy, I doubt they would show her much mercy. They would be tempted to do things to her and would push each other to go further. Peer pressure and mob mentality and out of balance hormones are each powerful things on their own, but if they are combined together and focused on one individual … God help her!”
Clara asked, “What would they do to her?”
Pete said, “If they don’t have girlfriends, they would probably do everything they would want to do if they had one. If they do have girlfriends, they would probably want to do what their girlfriends won’t let them do … or won’t let them do often enough. Some of them want to do things to someone who is unwilling … kind of a power trip. You know what I’m talking about. It’s every woman’s worst nightmare.”
Clara said, “That’s terrible! A girl has the right to choose who she kisses and who she doesn’t … and WHEN she wants to and when she doesn’t!”
Pete says, “I guess that’s one way to put it in polite company, just as long as we both know that we’re talking about something far more serious and violent than spin the bottle. Fortunately, so far girls have been spared … at least as fr as I know. Smallville has more than its fair share of secrets.”
Clara said, "This entire “stake out” thing is wrong, and SOMEONE has to do something about it!"
Pete said, "I would NOT recommend taking on the football team, unless you're prepared to be tackled."
Clara said, "But somebody has to stop it!"
Pete said, "Please, Clara. Let someone else be the hero. I don't want to see you get hurt!"
At breakfast, Clara stared at Jon while he ate. She looked sad and more than a little angry. Jon said, "I thought you got over this years ago. You can eat while I'm eating. You're not over some rainbow on Krypton anymore. You're in Kansas."
Clara said, "But not Krypto too. I still miss him."
Jon said, "Something happened to Krypto Two? Is that why you look like her about the chew my head off?"
Clara said, "I meant that I miss the original Krypto … not Krypto Two."
Jon said, "If you want another pet that's fine with me. Just don't go making friends with another stupid, wild, one-eyed, barn cat.”
Clara said, "Hey! I loved Streaky … and he loved me!”
Jon said, "Yes, but you're the only human he'd tolerate. He scratched me on more than one occasion. He would go after anybody they got close to you. And he was as stupid as a brick."
Clara said, "He was not! He knew all kinds of tricks."
Jon said, "He wasn’t even smart enough to stay out from between your legs, was he?"
Clara shouted, "DADDY! You promised you never say anything about that again! I didn't mean to break his back. I didn't know he was between my feet when I went to run …!”
Jon said, "Oh, Clara Honey, I'm sorry. That just slipped out. You can have any kind of pet you want."
Clara said, "I don't want any pets at all."
Jon said, "If this isn't about getting a new pet, why are you in such a bad mood?"
Clara said, "I just got mad thinking that you could have anything to do with something like that. I always look at you and think of the man who took me in. It hurts to think that you could've been that insensitive. Tell me you didn't do it!"
Jon was silent for a few seconds. Then he said, "Yes, Clara. I'll admit it. I couldn't help myself. I was hungry. I ate the last brownie."
Clara said, "Not THAT, Dad! I'm talking about …." Clara stopped what she had been saying. Her eyes got real big. She said, "Wait a minute. You did what? I was saving that brownie to pack in my lunch!"
Jon asked, "If it wasn't the brownie that is bothering you, what is?"
Clara said, "Smart move, Dad. Change the subject. But you won't like the other subject any better. Homecoming. Football. Living scarecrow. Does that mean anything to you?"
Jon said, "That's ancient history."
Clara said, "Not to the people it was done to … or the ones living in fear that they'll be next."
Jon said, "What do you mean ‘next’? I meant ‘ancient history’ because I personally put an end to that barbaric ritual when I was quarterback. I told the coach and other players that I wouldn't play for team that did something like that. So they didn't do it and we won the game anyway. I showed them that the tradition didn't give them luck and had nothing to do with winning a game."
Clara said, "I heard they do it every year … and that there is a man in a coma right now who was tied up in Riley Field when my spaceship crashed. I visited him in the hospital a several times and held his hand. I never knew how he'd gotten injured until this week. He’s been in a coma over nine years now, but I think he'll be waking up soon ... maybe even today. I’m going to check on him tonight at the hospital."
Jon said, "I heard he was just out in the field … that it was just a rumor that he was staked out like a scarecrow."
Clara said, "So you called it a "stake out" too. That sounds like the person has their hands and feet tied to stakes in the ground … still pretty gruesome."
Jon said, "I always thought it sounded like a police stake out … like when policemen sit in a warm car, sipping coffee all night while they watch for something to happen. It's nicer than saying that someone is tied to a poll in their shorts during a cold autumn night."
Clara said, "Even that is making it sound too nice for what it REALLY is! Read this." Clara got a paper out of her book bag and handed it to Jon. Clara said, "Let's call a crucifixion a crucifixion."
Jon read the paper then said, "My God, Clara! This part about mankind evolving in mind, body AND soul is good but this: “… and they stood and watched it did nothing as Roman soldiers put Him on the cross. Was it fear of Roman power, apathy about the suffering of another … or a shared joy in torturing another human being that stayed the people’s hand in helping the One who had come to save them? Are our football players latter day Roman soldiers … or Pagans making a sacrifice to their gods for a homecoming victory? And who is to be crucified? Will you stand by and pretend it isn't happening as long as you aren’t the one being victimized? What will you want others to do if it IS you that is chosen? Don't let them do unto another, what you don't want them to do to you. You may be next!" Clara, exactly what were you planning to do with this?"
Clara said, "I was going to get a thousand copies made of it and post them on the walls at school, but I changed my mind."
Jon said, "Thank God!"
Clara said, "Copies are expensive, and I write neat and fast, so I saved money by copying it by hand a couple thousand times."
Jon said, "You only typed one of the copies?"
Clara said, "No. I did them all by hand. Typing is too slow and typewriters break too easily."
Jon looked again at the paper Clara had given him. He stared as close as he could. If he didn’t know Clara better, he would've thought that she was lying. He couldn't tell that the statement was written by hand. He said, "Clara, I'm sorry you did all that work for nothing. You can’t post this."
Clara asked, "Why not? Did I misspell something?"
Jon said, "I think you spelled everything just fine … including "sanctimonious assholes” and "ignoramuses.” What I don't like is the last line."
Clara said, "Was wrong with ‘I swear that I will do everything that it takes to keep this barbaric ritual from happening again -- on this or any other homecoming’? I thought that was a good closing."
Jon said, "That's not the last line."
Clara said, "Yes it is! I should know. I wrote it two thousand times."
Jon said, "The last line is ‘Sincerely, Clara Josephine Kent.’”
Clara said, "It is meaningless if it is anonymous. I mean what I said, and I'll stand by it.”
Jon said, "I know you aren't a coward, but you have worked very hard to remain anonymous so that you can use your powers to help people. In fact, you go overboard and totally isolate yourself to keep your secret. But this will focus a lot of attention on you. You need to think long-term and pick your battles better."
Clara said, "You don't think that crucifying a person is something worth stopping?"
Jon said, "Your alter ego can stop it without posting this open invitation to harassment in the hallways of the school."
Clara said, "I don't JUST want to stop it. I want them to know it's wrong. They should learn to stop themselves. It's like teaching someone who is hungry how to fish, rather than giving them a fish. I want to teach someone who is morally starved to care about other people rather than to physically stop them every time they do something they don't consider wrong."
Jon said, "Point taken. Go ahead. Post the statement. Just clip your name off first."
Clara said, "Dad! No! Please. I'll do it if you tell me that I have to, but I don't want to."
Jon said, "And I don't want you to get the kind of attention you'll get from this. If you want attention, show your classmates who you are and get positive attention. Dress up to show them what a pretty young lady you are and go to the dance tomorrow night. Join the choir and let them hear you sing. Write a column for the school paper. Just don't post this proclamation."
Clara said, "This is me too, Dad. This is very much me."
Jon said, "Clara, I don't want to see my baby girl get hurt."
Clara said, "That's it? You're afraid they’ll hurt me? They CAN'T hurt me. Nothing could get through my thick skin."
Jon paused, took a deep breath and said, "Clara, I am so totally disappointed in you that there are no words for it! I'm ashamed of you."
Clara's mouth dropped open. She used all her will power to keep from crying. Jon could hear the pain in her voice as she said, "I'm sorry, Dad. I'll tear them up … and then burn them. I'm sorry."
Jon reached across the table and took his daughter's hand. He said, "Clara, what I said … it wasn't the least bit true. I'm very proud of you. I can't imagine ever being ashamed of you. But what I said … that hurt, didn't it?"
Clara blurted out, "YES!!" Her eyes were glazed over with tears, but she didn't let any escape.
Jon said, "It hurt me to say it, Honey. But you have to know that you CAN be hurt. The kids at school WILL hurt you. What I just did now was cruel, but I don't know anything about cruelty compared to your classmates. They are geniuses at it. Take your name off the statements and post them when no one is watching you. But first, come give me a hug.” Clara jumped out of her chair and walked over to sit on her Father's lap. She wrapped her arms around him and leaned her head on top of his. Jon handed her a napkin from the table and said, "You can go blow your nose if you can do it without leveling the entire farm."
The proclamations were posted everywhere in the high school. No one guessed that Clara had anything to do with it. The football team started taking them down, but any copy that was removed was replaced with a new one within the hour. A football player named Mark Jefferson stood guard over a location where he had removed one. He turned around and found that a new copy had been posted. Whoever did it would have had to pass by him, but he had seen no one get near him. After this had happened several times, Mark removed the latest copy and stood staring at the spot from which he had removed it. His face was less than 16 inches from the wall when a new copy seemed to pop into existence in front of him. This made Mark freak out a bit, but he was still as determined as anybody else on the team to find the author of the proclamation and stake him out in Riley Field for homecoming.
Clara was standing at her locker and saw Chloe Sullivan reading one of the proclamations. Clara smiled to see that Chloe was reading something that she had written, because Clara read "The Ledger" from cover to cover in a couple seconds whenever a new issue was printed. Clara admired Chloe's writing skills, philosophy and dedication to getting at the truth. Clara would have liked to get to know Chloe better, but she was afraid that Chloe might get at the truth behind Clara’s secret.
Chloe threw her hands over her mouth. Chloe looked closely at the bottom edge of the proclamation. She pulled an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper from a book she was carrying and compared its size to the size of the paper that the proclamation was written on. Chloe took a moment to glance up and down the hallway to see if she was being watched. Clara pretended to be occupied with something in her locker. Chloe snatched the posting off the wall and scurried off down the hallway. Clara was sadly disappointed to see the Chloe was helping the football team by removing one of her postings. She took a new copy from her book bag, shut her locker door and headed to where Chloe had been standing. Clara lost her balance and fell. Her book bag came open in several of her proclamations spread out across the hallway. Lana Lang knelt down and said, "Are you all right? It's okay. I don't think anyone was around to see you fall like that."
Clara said, "There must not be anyone else around or you wouldn't risk being seen with me."
Lana said, "That's not very nice."
Clara said, "Not nice, just true. I missed having a friend next door, but I know that you don't like being considered my Siamese twin. I'm a head taller than you now, and I keep my eyes covered, so maybe no one would notice any similarities in our appearance. But of course, we travel in different circles these days."
Lana said, "I didn't think you like having me around. I've never known anyone to literally turn green with envy, but you do … any time I get near you. It's Whitney, isn't it? You want Whitney. That's why you have these flyers, isn't it? You are taking them down and hoping he'll notice and come thank you. Well, he might touch you with a 10 foot pole, but he's not touching you with anything else if I can help it. But keep taking the notices down, if you want. They're obviously the work of some paranoid. Whitney told me that he never would do something like that … and that nothing like that has happened in years."
Clara gathered her papers as Lana spoke. She crawled to the wall with one of her copies and some tape and pulled herself up. Without looking back at Lana, she posted a statement were Chloe had removed one and said, "I'm not taking them down. I'm the paranoid putting them up. If you are so concerned with Whitney, take off that damn necklace of yours and stop focusing on what happened nine years ago. Whitney needs you right now and if you don't start paying attention to what's going on with him, he will find someone else to meet his needs. And, Sister, he could do a lot worse than hooking up with me … in fact, he already has."
Lana said, "You're saying that he's already hooked up with you?"
Clara said, "No. I'm saying is already done far worse -- he's hooked up with you!"
Lana turned and stormed off down the hallway. Clara felt much better physically now that Lana's necklace was far away … but she felt bad about being mean to Lana. She still grieved the loss of their friendship and watched over her like a mother hen. But she didn't want Lana near her with that will necklace on -- and Lana rarely took it off.
Clara picked up her book bag and hurried to her next class.
Lana walked out onto her back porch with a mug of hot chocolate and sat down on the porch swing. Whitney came up from behind her, took her head in his hands and kissed her on the cheek. As he walked around the swing to sit next to her, she said, "Whitney, watch it! You almost made me spill my hot chocolate. And be careful what you do with your hands. My Mom and Dad will be home any minute."
Whitney said, "Aw, come on. Let's live life on the edge!"
Lana said, "Yeah, well, if Mom finds us out here, your life won't be worth living. It's not like Aunt Nell's around anymore to get her to lighten up on me."
Whitney said, "She's been dead about nine years now, hasn't she? You must have had a special relationship with your aunt to think of her so often after so long."
Lana said, "That's why I wear this necklace – to remind me of her. My life would have been so much better if she wouldn't have died in that meteor shower. I sometimes fantasize about how it would've been if Mom had moved to California like she wanted to and left me here to be raised by my Aunt Nell. But Aunt Nell left me."
Whitney said, "You don't have much choice but to "leave" when a quarter ton meteor rock lands on you." Lana shuttered. Whitney continued, "Coach said that a scout from Kansas State will be at the game tomorrow."
Lana said, "That's great!"
Whitney said, "I don't want to be a "remember him." Smallville has more than enough of those guys."
Lana took off her necklace and gave it to Whitney saying, "I want you to wear this to the game tomorrow."
Whitney said, "Is that really made from a piece of the meteor that, … you know?”
Lana said, "So much bad luck has come out of it. There can only be good luck left."
Whitney pulled her close and asked, "Where are your parents anyway?"
Lana said, "At the Luther mansion. Lex threw an impromptu party tonight … celebrating being alive."
Whitney said, "He's been alive … what … 25 … 26 years? I guess you can celebrate every day when you're rich."
Lana said, "I think he celebrating surviving his near death experience a couple months ago. Have you seen him? I didn’t see him often before the accident, but he sure is different now. He used to have this little smirk of a grin. Now he smiles so much you'd swear he can't close his lips."
Whitney said, "I never knew that you and your parents know the Luthers."
Lana said, "Dad sold them a ton of land."
Whitney said, "The Luthers own the Metropolis Sharks. They could put in a good word for me."
Lana said, "If you want someone to put in a good word, ask Clara Kent. She saved Lex Luther's life. On second thought, I'll have my parents put in the recommendation. Don't go near that girl unless you decide to slap her."
Whitney said, "I wouldn't treat a girl like that. Obviously you don't know me well enough. I suggest we get better acquainted."
Lana said, "Move your hand or you'll have to have a surgeon’s helped to re-acquaint yourself with it.”
Whitney said, "Not to make this into a discussion about your neighbor, but how did such a weakling … a person who stumbles every time we pass her in the halls … how does someone like that rescue Lex Luther from a river with a current that strong? I went fishing in it once and almost got knocked over by the current by standing in the water where it was only 2 inches deep."
Lana said, "Well, I guess she can still swim. Despite having some kind of lame excuse to get her out of Phys Ed, I see her out there working the farm almost every evening. She lifts things that look awfully heavy, and she never seems to take a break. She chased down my horse on foot once when he was running loose. She was certainly the strongest friend I ever had when I was a kid. I must've had some wild imagination when I was young. When I think back now, the images I have my head of things she did … well, I know now that they're just not possible. I must've read way too many Pippy Long Stockings stories back then. When she first moved in with the Kents, if she got excited, she started talking in her native language. I used to do things to set her off just so I could hear it. I used to imagine that she was from Mars. … But, she can swim all right. Boy, can she swim! She should be on the Smallville High swim team. But, she won't take gym classes. I bet it's because she doesn't want to shower with the other girls. Believe it or not, she was a pretty little girl. If people saw us together, they thought that we were sisters. I guess some people flower and others just wilt. Her body must be pretty gross now. Do you notice how she layers her clothes and dresses in baggy flannel shirts all the time? Maybe she had a farm accident. Maybe that's why she trips so often. Maybe she's in pain all the time … otherwise, why would she be such a bitch?"
Whitney said, "I didn't know that a girl needed a reason."
Lana said, "I guess not." Lana's eyes kind of glazed over. Half lost in her memories, Lana said, "I never saw someone swim like that without using her hands. Not before. Not since."
Whitney said, "What are you talking about?"
Lana said, "Remember my friend Emily?"
Whitney said, "I try NOT to. Didn't she run off to follow some musician on a rock tour? She was pretty creepy … the way she would focus in on someone and become obsessed with them."
Lana said, "It can be quite flattering to have someone that devoted to you. But you see how it is with me? I always have my best friends desert me -- first Aunt Nell, then Clara, then Emily.”
Whitney said, "I won't ever desert you, Lana."
Lana said, "Time will tell. Why was I talking about Emily?"
Whitney said, "Something about Clara Kent and the way she used to swim."
Lana said, "Oh, right -- the tea party gone bad. Emily, Clara and I were having a tea party. Oh, this is funny! Mom always put iced tea in my teapot, but it was always hot when I poured it. Hmmm. That's odd. It seemed normal when I was a kid, but saying that just now …. I must've really lived in a dream world! Anyway, Emily wanted to go out but it was raining hard and Mom told us we had to stay inside, … so we had a tea party. Mom got on the phone like she does … talk and talk and talk and talk and ….”
Whitney said, "I get the idea. I'm glad that's not hereditary."
Lana said, "So Emily wants to sneak out and go play by the river. Yes, the same river that Clara pulled Lex out of -- the one right over there beyond that line of trees. Clara didn't want to. She was big on following rules, so Emily and I ran off without her. But Clara followed us. She was all “yak, yak, yak, yak, come back, come back!” We tried to ignore her, but she just didn't shut up. I don't know how anyone can stand a girl that whines like that. On and on and on and on and on and ….”
Whitney said, "I get the idea."
Lana said, "I thought Clara was going to start crying. Maybe she was crying. In the rain, who could tell? Clara got so excited that she started yakking away in that strange language. Emily and I couldn't help but laugh at the sound of it as we ran away from her. We got to the river and there used to be a rickety old bridge there. Someone … God knows who, built a sturdy bridge in its place, with very high handrails. Anyway, Emily said that she knew where some Indian caves were across the river. I didn't want to cross that bridge. But when I stepped on it, Clara went crazy in that language of hers and Emily and I almost wet ourselves laughing. Maybe we did. It would have mattered. We were drenched anyway and the rain wasn't letting up. The river was swollen. I never saw it that high before. Anyway, we learned that if Clara calmed down, all we had to do to get her going again was to step further onto the bridge. Emily wondered what Clara would do if we went to the middle of the bridge and leaned over the handrails really far. Emily was anxious to cross the bridge anyway to get to those caves. So we went to the middle of the bridge, where the wood was all slimy and slick with mold or moss. I might not have gone onto the bridge if it wasn't for Clara. So basically, it was all Clara's fault. Well, to make a long story short ….”
Whitney said, "Too late for that."
Lana said, "What?"
Whitney said, "Ummm, too late to … to regret going on the bridge now. What happened? I'm dying to find out."
Lana said, "Look, you started this. If you don't want to know ….”
Whitney said, "Please continue. I'm serious. Nothing is worse than half the story. Please don't stop now."
Lana said, “Where was I? Okay, so Mom poured the iced tea into the pot ….”
Whitney said, "NO. You are already at the bridge and went to the middle of it. It was slippery…."
Lana said, "Oh yeah. Clara was hysterical -- hysterically upset and hysterically funny to watch. So Emily leaned on the rail. She pretended like she was going to fall. Then she stood up and said, "I didn’t get to see Clara while I leaned on the railing so it's your turn." So I leaned. Only I didn't need to pretend the fall. I fell. And I didn't know how to swim. But even if I did, like you said, that current was something else. Now, Emily claims to have jumped in to save me, but she might have fallen too. She was right there with me, and we were being swept down river. We were both in trouble, and I knew I was going to die. So I saw Clara on the bridge. And I thought she was smart enough to run for help … rather than do what she did. She didn't jump off the bridge, … she DOVE off. If you'd seen her, you would swear that that girl could fly. It seemed like she was in the air for ever. When she entered the water, there was hardly a splash. Before I knew it, she had one of each of us under her arms and was swimming like an eel. Boy, was she rough. I got a pretty good bruise, and so did Emily. She got us out of the river and pushed our chests to get the water out. The rain stopped and Emily and I got warmer. By the time we got home, we were dry."
Whitney asked, "How long did it take you to get home?"
Lana said, "Four or five minutes."
Whitney said, "And you were dry?"
Lana said, "Yes, but my hair was a mess. Clara wasn't dry. She was still soaked."
Whitney said, "Didn't that seems strange, that you two dried out so quickly and Clara didn't?"
Lana said, "Now it seems strange, but back then we just figured that foreigners don't dry as quick. I always thought that's why they were called ‘wet backs.’”
Whitney said, "So basically, what you are telling me is that Clara was a hero back then too?"
Lana said, "Didn't you listen? She MADE us go on that bridge. It was only right that she pulled us out."
Whitney said, "So did your Mom thank Clara or anything."
Lana said, "No. She saw that Clara was wet and asked if the was from her being out in the rain. I told Mom that it was from her swimming in the river. Then Mom saw the bruises on Emily's arm and on mine and asked how we got them. We looked at Clara. Mom grabbed Clara and a hairbrush and paddled her harder than she ever spanked me. She yelled at Clara, calling her Clara a stupid foreigner and some words that neither Emily nor I knew. She said that Clara could've gotten us killed by making us play near the river."
Whitney said, "What did you say?"
Lana said, "Nothing. Not a thing. When Mom was spanking her like that, all I could think of was that I was glad it wasn't me. Plus, a lot of what Mom was saying was true. Clara COULD have gotten us killed, she WAS a foreigner, and she was pretty stupid to jump in for us like that!"
Whitney said, "She sure was."
Lana said, "Plus, no matter how hard Mom hit her, Clara didn't cry out … even when they hairbrush broke. So, it didn't really seem to hurt her … although I could see that she wasn't too happy about it."
Whitney said, "How could it have not hurt?"
Lana said, "I don't know."
Whitney said, "And she didn't cry out when she was hit … only when she thought you and Emily were in danger?"
Lana said, "She may be mildly retarded. When Mom sent her home, she didn't even go home the right way … she went back towards the bridge."
Whitney said, "But you and Emily learned to stay off the bridge?"
Lana said, "No. We learned to not lean on the guardrail. We still wanted to see the caves, but when Emily and I went back the next day, the bridge was gone."
Whitney said, "That sounds like Clara is a pretty decent person. I'm sorry that you aren’t still friends with her."
Lana asked, "Why? So I could ask her to talk to Lex Luther about you and the Metropolis Sharks? Don't make her out to be some kind of saint. That was years ago and she certainly isn’t very nice now. You wouldn’t believe how nasty she was to me just today when I was trying to help her after she fell again. AND I wouldn't count on her helping you with Lex or in any other way, considering how she feels about football players."
Whitney said, "What does she have against football players? Her Dad was a great quarterback. No one has been able to break some of the records he set."
Lana said, "Well, I don't know why she hates you so much, but she does. So don't get all sweet and sympathetic about her."
Whitney said, "Personally, I don't care how she feels about the team. I'm just mad that we spent all that time talking about her when we could've been doing … other things."
Lana said, "You would be a lot madder if you knew."
Whitney said, "Knew what?"
Lana said, "Knew that Clara Kent is the one posting that open letter to the student body about sacrificial rituals. She's the one spreading lies about the team still doing stuff like that … that … stake out thing.”
Whitney said, "Are you sure? The team made me promise to … do something to whoever posted that stuff. I didn't think it was a girl doing it when I agreed. Why would a girl do something like that? It wasn't like there was any chance that she would be picked to be the living scarecrow … umm … IF we still did something like that."
Lana said, "Unless you are planning to beat the person up, what difference does it make whether it was a girl or guy that wrote it? But promise me something, if you fill her locker was shaving cream, I'd like to be there when she opens it! … Oh, here comes Mom and Dad. You'd better get out of here. Love you. See you tomorrow."
Whitney said, "I love you too." He kissed her on the cheek. Whitney shot a quick glance towards the Kent farm and saw Clara's silhouette in the loft window of the barn nearest the farmhouse. As he walked to where his car was hidden, he tried to think of how he could convince the team not to do what they were determined to do.
Clara wasn't happy to see that all the copies of her "open letter" had been removed from the walls of the school overnight -- probably by the janitors on order of the principal. She decided that she would just have to settle with making a visit to Riley Field to free whoever was chosen to be this year’s unfortunate victim. She went to pick up the latest issue of "The Ledger" and hesitated. She was still a little hurt that Chloe Sullivan had taken down one of her postings. But Clara went ahead and picked up a copy of the school newspaper anyway. Clara decided that, just because Chloe didn't share her views on what she had written, she shouldn't automatically disregard Chloe’s opinions on other topics. She started to read and the words seemed familiar. She did a double take then read the introduction again.
"I am a big believer in signing any work you are responsible for creating. Whether it is good or bad in other people’s opinion, if you believe in what you stand for, you should take credit for it. The fact that the bottom two inches of the document I am reprinting here were missing indicates to me that the writer did initially sign what they wrote but, for unknown reasons, decided better of it. Despite feeling that people need to stand up for their beliefs, I can understand why the person that wrote what follows would choose to remain anonymous. It is hard to go against tradition and the football team -- especially when everyone is whipped into a frenzy of school spirit during homecoming week. What is printed below is an open letter to the student body calling us to action to stop the practice of making an unwilling student serve as a living scarecrow on homecoming night. This plea contains some intellectual arguments, but is basically an outpouring of righteous indignation by someone who truly cares about this world’s underdogs and begs us to care too. So for any of you who somehow failed to notice the thousands of copies of this letter that lined the hallways of our school yesterday, I reprint it here exactly as it was written. Chloe Sullivan, Editor."
Clara said to herself, "I'm sorry I doubted you, Chloe."
Clara was used to getting a cold shoulder at school. She was the ultimate outsider. But today, everyone was just a little bit colder. People turned their backs on her as she walked by them. Some looked at her like she had died.
Pete Ross came up to her and said, "Clara, you really did it now!"
Clara asked, "Peter, what's going on?"
Pete said, "Word is circulating that you wrote that "open letter" to the school."
Clara said, "I don't mind if you know. I DID write it. My Dad let me post it but he wouldn't allow me to sign it."
Pete said, "Go to the nurse. Say you're sick. Get out of here now!"
Clara said, "I still have another class today."
Pete said, "Clara, you're it!"
Clara asked, "What? Are we playing tag? I don't understand."
Pete said, "Whitney doesn't want them to, but the team insists that you're this year's scarecrow. At first the guys thought they couldn't do it, but Mark Jefferson got up and said that you were right that some traditions should end."
Clara said, "That's great! I never would've expected that from Mark."
Pete said, "No, you don't understand. Mark said that the tradition of limiting the scarecrow selection to guys should end. He said he'd much prefer tying up a girl … after stripping her down to her underpants in painting and “S” on her chest. Whitney tried to calm them down, but they're like a pack of wild animals. He told them to imagine someone tying their sister or mother to a post, but they wouldn't listen. The game is an hour and a half after school, and they are in a game mindset. They want their good luck charm -- their living scarecrow. Whitney had promised the team that whoever wrote that letter would be this year’s scarecrow. They're holding him to that promise. There's no way he can back down and save face. You'd better get home while you can!"
Clara said, "I can take care of myself, Peter. You were very sweet to tell me this. No one else said anything … and I bet that a lot of them knew what is going on."
Pete said, "You can’t take on the entire football team. And if they strip you down to just your underpants, they might not stop there. I've heard nasty rumors about Mark Jefferson, Jed Copan and Bryan Tate. They are more suited for a juvenile correction facility than a high school. You can't risk letting them get their hands on you. GO HOME!"
Clara said, "Peter, I can't tell you everything, but I am prepared and able to handle this on my own. I might even let it go so far as to let them take me out to Riley Field. I have someone I turn into ... TURN to when I need help. Have faith. I'll be okay. I'm worried about you talking to me like this. What would the team think if they saw you warning me?"
Whitney said, "They would think that the newest member of the team is a traitor who needs to spend the evening locked in the janitor's closet."
Clara turned to face Whitney and her knees buckled. A football player covered Pete's mouth and two of them carried him away. Clara leaned heavily against her locker and fought for the strength to remain standing. She said, "Whitney, you're better than this. Don't do it. You'll regret it."
Whitney said, "We haven't done anything … yet … but be careful what you say to me right now. I don't like being threatened."
Clara said, "I didn't threaten you."
Whitney said, "Then what does ‘you'll regret it’ mean then?"
Clara said, "It means that you'll think back on today and feel sorry for what you're considering doing to me now.”
Whitney said, "I'm not sorry. Are you sorry for writing and posting that trash? I've half convinced these guys that if you come to the locker room right now and tell them how sorry you are and make them believe it, that we won't have to do this. Are you ready to kiss and make up now? You might actually enjoy it."
Clara asked, "Are you telling me that you won't crucify someone this year if I apologize?"
Whitney said, "We don't ‘crucify’ anyone. It's a harmless tradition. We go through more pain each week training to play football for your entertainment than the living scarecrow will have to put up with.”
Clara said, "I'm sure you've never hung out there yourself to know if what you're saying is true or not. But even IF it IS true, the members of the football team all CHOSE to be part of the team. No one volunteers to be the scarecrow.”
Whitney said, “It’s like getting drafted into the army. Someone gets picked to sacrifice one single night of their life for their school’s morale. It’s always been like this and it always will be. Get off your high horse and accept it or you will be up on that pole!”
Clara said, “So, if you don't put me out there, it will be someone else? You're asking me to save myself and turn my back so that someone else can suffer? That would make me your co-conspirator. Who do you think I would allow you to do that to? Who would you put out there in my place?"
Whitney said, "I think I can convince them to stake out Seth Williams. His sexual orientation makes a lot of them nervous. On the other hand, we could put Pete out there for betraying the team by telling you our plans."
Clara said, "I wouldn't stand by and let you put my worst enemy on that post. I wouldn't even let you do that to Lana. As annoying as it is seeing you put her on a pedestal, I wouldn't want to see her on a post. If you let me go and put someone else up there, you had better believe that I’ll be there within seconds of when you leave to take that person down! So here's the deal. Take me to your locker room and I'll tell the team that I'm sorry … that I'm sorry that you guys are such a bunch of jerks! You just aren't supposed to let other people suffer for the sake of making your own life easier. If letting me off the hook means that someone else is put on that hook, I guess I will have to be this year’s scarecrow. And I guess I’ll have to be the one to show you how humans are supposed to behave. You'll never know just how ironic that is."
Whitney said, "Pete and Seth are GUYS. Well Seth is ALMOST a guy. But even Seth could handle being the scarecrow better than any woman could."
Clara said, "And women have an extra layer of fat to stand up to the cold better. And we have a higher tolerance for pain so that we can stand childbirth … and so that we can put up with men’s stupidity. And that tolerance for pain peaks during football season."
Whitney said, "Look, I’m trying to help you here. I know you have a special interest in Pete. I’ve heard that you sleep together, so I can understand why you’re trying to protect him. I'll try to convince the team to leave Pete alone.”
Clara said, "Peter’s a great guy but to set the record straight … for Pete’s sake, I only share my bed with a plush toy dog.”
Whitney said, “Does that mean that you want it to be Pete?”
Clara said, “NO!”
Whitney said, “I didn’t think so. I don’t care what dog you sleep with, but I know you aren’t sleeping with Seth. He wouldn’t sit up and beg for you like Pete would. And Seth would probably enjoy being manhandled and having a hard post at his back."
Clara said, "And to think I wanted to like you! Why don't you just take all three of us out there? It would be like Calgary. Maybe your pagan gods would grant you an easy victory tonight if you sacrificed us all."
Whitney said, "I appreciate this. You're making what I have to do SO much easier!"
Clara said, "You don't HAVE to do anything. My Dad didn't."
Whitney said, "Yeah, I'm sure he didn't."
Clara said, "And I'm sure your Dad wouldn't approve of this either."
Whitney said, "Don’t you DARE say a word about my Father! How would you know what my Father would approve or disapprove of?!"
Clara said, "I think I know him pretty intimately. He has shared things with me that no man ever did before."
Whitney said, "Bullshit! You’re just saying that because you’re angry … because I said I don’t care who you sleep with."
Clara said, "I don’t sleep with your Dad! We’re both wide awake when we’re together … well, he gets tired and falls asleep sometimes but I don’t. And I don’t have any reason to lie about knowing him. You should thank me. Being with me has made your Dad happier. He told me so."
Whitney said, "Why are you saying stuff like this? Do you WANT me to hurt you? You don't know how hard I fought to get the team to consider making someone else the scarecrow. Do you really KNOW the traditions … all the traditions? The tradition is for the guy to be left out in just his underpants. They want you out there topless. They want to humiliate you for what you wrote. I had to use all my influence with them. I wouldn't even allow them to put you on the post in just your underwear -- your underpants and bra. I insisted that you would have to keep your clothes on or that we would have to pick someone else. They are going to spray paint an “S” on your shirt. That's it."
Clara said, "Thanks a lot Whitney. At least my body won't be found naked."
Whitney said, "This won't kill you."
Clara said, "Look at me, Whitney. I'm sick. Can't you tell?"
Whitney said, "It’s nerves. It will pass. But stop telling lies about my Father or I'll wash my hands of this and let the team decide what to do with you."
Clara said, "Now you're making a Pontius Pilate reference."
Whitney said, "And what would that make you … the daughter of God? Did you come from heaven? Put your stuff in your locker. Don't make a scene."
Clara said, "I didn’t lie about your Father. I only you told about our relationship so you'd know that I know the kind of man your Father wants you to be."
Whitney said, "You are asking for it! I LOVE my Dad … but I love my Mother too. How am I supposed to feel when you tell me that my Dad does stuff with you … stuff that he should only do with my Mother?! You just have some kind of martyr complex or something. You engineered this entire thing! First, you wrote that stupid proclamation. Then you let Lana see you posting it knowing that she’d tell me …."
Clara said, “Lana!”
Whitney continued, “… and now you’re making up lies to make me so angry that I’ll actually put you on that post. Do you want to have that done to you for some sick reason? Do you WANT to be the first female scarecrow? Do you want the football team man handling you and tying you up? Is that it?”
Clara said, "I don’t want ANYONE getting put on that post! And I’m NOT lying! Your Dad feels he can't burden your Mother anymore … but he needs someone and it's not healthy for him to keep it bottled up inside. Your Father NEEDS someone like me right now. I'm GLAD I can be that person! Maybe you can’t believe me because you spend all your time thinking about yourself and can’t imagine that someone would give a damn about someone else’s needs."
Whitney said, "Prove that you know my Father the way you say you do! He has a birthmark ….”
Clara said, "On the upper thigh of his left leg. It looks like a butterfly to me."
Whitney's eyes got large. He said, "How could you possibly have seen that? Who told you?"
Clara said, "I didn't mean to see it. I thought we were finished for the day but he asked if I could stay while he got a bath so that we could be together some more. I have to get used to seeing things like that. It's part of what will be expected of me later."
Whitney said, "Your big mouth just earned you a place in Riley Field, bitch!"
Clara pleaded, "Whitney, please don't! If you don't care what your Father thinks about you … and you don't care how you’ll feel about yourself once you've done this … think about how Lana will feel knowing that you're capable of treating a girl this way."
Whitney said, "Enough with the threats already! I'm so pissed off at you right now that I have to do this." Whitney pulled Lana's necklace out of his pocket and put it around Clara's neck. Clara gasped and breathed hard to handle the pain. Whitney said, "Knowing that you have this necklace around your neck will force me to come back for you in the morning. Otherwise, I'd probably just leave you out there."
Clara had a blank expression on her face. She started to slump to the floor. Whitney caught her and carried her to the door of the school. One of the football players held it open for him. Whitney carried her out to the parking lot and walked to the passenger side of his truck. As he opened the door, Clara whispered, "Whitney ….”
Whitney said, "Shut up!"
Clara said, "Tie me up if you want to, but please don't put me inside the truck. Please put me in the back."
Whitney was going to ignore her, but he got a good look at her face for the first time and was shocked by her beauty. A single tear rolled down her cheek. He hoisted her over the side of the truck. Two football players crawled into the back of the truck with Clara and one got in the truck cab with Whitney. He started the truck and headed off towards Riley Field. Two more pickup trucks followed him.
At Riley Field, Whitney got out of the truck and looked into the truck bed. He shouted, "What the HELL are you guys doing?"
Bryan Tate said, "Stripping her down to her underwear. She has on cotton boxers. Kind of sexy but I was hoping for a thong. Maybe there's one underneath. I'll know soon enough. You won't believe the nice legs she's got. This is almost like Christmas. We're just taking off a second flannel shirt now. She must have two shirts under that one before we get to the goodies."
Whitney said, "We agreed. She keeps her clothes on!"
Bryan said, "Really? That must've slipped my mind. Maybe you'll change your mind when you see her legs."
Whitney said, "Hand her out to me."
Bryan said, "I can handle her. I don't mind. In fact, I think I'll enjoy a whole lot."
Whitney said, "Hand her out to me right NOW!"
Bryan said, "Okay. We'll be done with her in a minute. We want to do a precision paint job. You know … dot her eyes and crossed her titties."
Whitney shouted, "Now! NOW or I'll drive her back to town and have you benched for the rest of the season."
Bryan said, "Okay, OKAY! Jeese, it's not like she doesn't owe us for what she said about us! Here!" Bryan roughly lifted Clara and threw her down to Whitney.
Whitney shouted, “Be careful! You could have injured my arm!”
Whitney got scared seeing that Clara’s skin was a pale shade of green. Her breathing was shallow and she may or may not have been conscious. He couldn't tell. She made no attempt to hold her head up as he carried her to the post. Her arms hung loose at her sides. Three of them pushed her up against the post while a fourth team member standing on a ladder put her arms over the cross rail and bound them in place. Clara’s inner two shirts were short sleeved so the ropes dug into her skin.
Whitney said, "Not so tight guys. Don't cut off her circulation."
One of them lifted her shirt enough to pull a rope around her waist. He said, "This won't take as much rope as I thought.” He squeezed and rubbed Clara’s abdomen with his hand and said, "She is toned and tight!"
Whitney said, "You should go over the shirt not under it. We don't want her to get cut or burned by the rope."
Bryan Tate said, "If we go over her shirt, how can we take it off to paint her chest?"
Whitney said, "Don't you guys even have a combined IQ of 60? The shirt stays on! In fact, take her back down. We need to put her pants and the shirts with long sleeves back on so the ropes won’t cut her if she struggles to get loose. I’ll let you paint a little skin if you want to for revenge, but her shirts stay on! We agreed. You can paint the "S" on her shirt."
Bryan said, "YOU agree. WE didn't!"
Whitney said, "What's the difference? I tell the team what to do. Move it! We don't have much time here. I'm visiting Dad before the game. Then there's a quick pep rally … then the game. Remember, a scout from Kansas …. MARK!!! What are you doing?"
Mark said, "I'm pulling out her waistband so I can spray some paint down her front. You said we could paint some skin. Hey, Bryan, to answer your question, she doesn’t have a thong under the boxers, but it looks like Clara has had more than a bikini wax! She doesn’t even have a four o’clock shadow!"
Whitney said, "Jerk! Stop that! We’re out of time here. Look, I’ll give in a little bit. You don’t have to take her back down, but loosen the ropes a little so she won’t get cut. If she frees herself before morning, so what? Since her legs are exposed, you can spray paint them a little bit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in a skirt before so know one will see the paint if she can’t wash it off. So, paint her legs then paint the “S” on her shirt, and you're done. That's IT! Come on, let's move it!"
Mark said, "Since you're in such a big hurry, why don't you leave us to deal with this? Unlike you, we don't have to go visit anyone before the game."
Whitney said, "I'm staying. As much trouble as you guys have following orders today, I'm not leaving you unsupervised." Someone tied Clara's feet to the post at her ankles. Her bare feet rested on a small platform that she could push against to relieve the stress on her arms. Whitney said, "Run to get me the water jug from my truck." Bryan ran to Whitney's truck and came back with water jug. Whitney said, "I want her conscious before I leave." Whitney climbed the ladder and splashed water into Clara's face.
Clara said, "Huh?”
Whitney said, "We're leaving now. I'll come back for you early in the morning. Are you okay before I leave?"
Clara said quietly, "Oh, I'm fine. Just leave me some extra towels in the bathroom and put up a do not disturb sign on your way out."
Whitney said, "Be grateful you have that necklace on or I’d leave you to rot."
Clara said, "Believe it or not, I'd prefer that you take that necklace and never come back."
Whitney said, “I don’t care what you want!” He climbed down the ladder, turned to the others and said, "You have your scarecrow. I hope you're satisfied."
Mark said, "If you want me to be satisfied, give me 10 minutes alone with her."
Bryan said, "Alone with her? Where's your team spirit, Mark? Shouldn't we share? Shouldn't we all get a piece of the Clara pie? I’ll admit it. I started the Pete Ross rumor. This pie may be cherry!"
Whitney said, "That's not funny. She's off-limits. And Bryan, what’s with you, man? You swore tom me on your Mother that you walked in on Pete and Clara one night after hours in the school library.”
Bryan laughed and said, “I don’t have a mother. She walked out years ago. And what kind of chump are you to think that I’ve ever been in the library let alone know where it is?!”
Whitney said, “You guys are done here. I'll come back for her the morning."
Mark said, "Why don't you let us get her? You’ve got Lana to come for."
Whitney said, "Jefferson, there's a bench with your name on it. If you want to see any game time tonight, shut your trap. We've got a game to win tonight. Let's go!"
The other players left but Whitney stayed a few seconds longer. He looked up the Clara and said, "Damn it! Why couldn't you keep your stupid mouth shut?"
Whitney made his way back to his truck and left. The other trucks followed him, but one of them circled back. Mark Jefferson pushed his way through the corn and grabbed the ladder. He climbed up and began tightening the ropes until Clara groaned loudly from the pain. Mark said, “That sound is music to my ears. I’ll be hearing a lot more of that later tonight at our private party after the dance. I don’t want to take any chance that you will get away before I’m finished with you. He noticed how tight the buttons on Clara’s shirt were as he unbuttoned them. He noticed that the buttons on the shirt below it were under even more of a strain. He almost fell off the ladder when he unfastened the last button and saw the size of Clara's chest. He shouted, “Jackpot! I hit the mother load!” He reached his arms under her shirts and around her and tried to unfasten her bra, but her back was held too tight against the post and he didn't have the time to try to unfasten the clasps. He decided to cut the straps of Clara's bra, but when he patted his pockets, he found that he had left his pocket knife at home. He swore then he leaned over and whispered in Clara's ear, "If my friends and I don't get lucky at the dance tonight, we'll come back and do a little dance with you. From the looks of things, I don't think I could find anyone finer than you at the dance … or as unable to resist my charms. So consider it a date." Mark pulled each side of Clara’s innermost shirt back as far as he could and knotted it at the back of the post so that as much of her skin could be exposed as possible. He shook his can of red paint and removed the cap. He began spraying on Clara's left breast and made an arc over her right breast. He completed the “S” by spraying across her abdomen and circling her navel. He said, “Oops, got some paint on … is that Lana’s locket? Now Whitney can’t say a word about ANYTHING we might do to you! If he even thinks about it we can threaten to tell Lana who he gave her precious necklace to!” After getting down from the ladder and throwing it back into the field where he had found it, he stood staring at his paint job and said, "I LOVE tradition! The old tradition has been upheld and a new tradition begins after the dance!" He rushed off through the corn stalks, got into his truck and headed home to get his pocket knife.
As the paint dried on Clara's skin, she felt slightly better. It wasn’t lead paint, but at least the meteor rock was no longer directly in contact with her skin.
Whitney knocked on the door of his father's hospital room. Mr. Fordman said, "Son, come in. You really didn't have to visit me before the game. I really wanted to be there tonight. The doctors don't believe it when I tell him that I feel better."
Whitney said, "Better is a relative term, Dad. And a football game isn't that important."
Mr. Fordman said, "Don't let your team hear you say that! I don't know why the doctors wouldn't let me out for one night. Attending one football game won't kill me."
Whitney said, "It might, Dad. It just might."
Mr. Fordman said, "Well, it wouldn't be a bad way to go … cheering my Son as he plays his best."
Whitney said, "Good for you maybe, but I'd rather have you around longer. So be careful, okay?"
Mr. Fordman said, "Whit, I just took another series of tests. I had hoped that the slow pokes in the lab would've got the results back to me by now so I could've gone to the game tonight. Believe it or not, I am feeling great. I'd arm wrestle you to prove it, but it won't want to mess up your throwing arm before the game."
Whitney said, "You're still sick, Dad -- very, very sick. I've heard that sometimes being with the younger woman can make an older man feel better but … never mind."
Mr. Fordman said, "Uh-oh! I could see that something was eating you since the moment you walked in that door. I thought it was a normal stuff -- worrying about your sick old man, but this is different. I don't want you going to that game tonight with something bothering you, so spit it out."
Whitney said, "I don't want to judge what it's like going through what you're going through. I've heard about having a last fling and going out with a bang … but Dad, messing around with a young woman could kill you."
Mr. Fordman said, "That would be some way to die too! You're serious? With all the drugs I'm on right now, what you're talking about probably isn't even physically possible."
Whitney said, "I know ALL about it, Dad. Clara told me herself that you two have been intimate."
Mr. Fordman pressed the button by his bed. A nurse came into the room and said, "Yes, Mr. Fordman. What do you need?"
Mr. Fordman said, "Clara, my son says that you told him that we've been intimate. Next time we’re intimate, do me a favor and wake me up."
Nurse Clara said, "I'm a little TOO busy for jokes right now!" She stormed out of the room.
Whitney said, "Not her. She's old -- 30 or 35!"
Mr. Fordman said, "Young is a relative term too."
Whitney said, "Clara Kent. I'm talking about Clara Kent. She told me all about what you do together."
Mr. Fordman said, "Josie? You mean Josie! I can’t have two Claras running around here. Miss Kent is Josie to me. If you see her before I do, tell her to wake me up next time before we have sex. It seems that I'm sleeping the best parts of my life away."
Whitney said, "This ISN’T funny! What happens if your heart gives out while you're having sex with a minor? Mom would never live that down!"
Mr. Fordman said, "I've never cheated on your Mom, Son. Never have, NEVER will. Josie's a good kid. She can do a far sight better than hooking up with old man on his last legs. And she's going to make a damn fine doctor one day too. She can already diagnose patients faster than any physician in this place. You'd swear she has x-ray eyes. She tells me that I'm going to fully recover. And when she says it, I believe it. I REALLY do!"
Whitney said, "She saw you naked."
Mr. Fordman said, "She has been kind enough to assist me with a bedpan a time or two. Nurse Clara doesn't usually come right away like she did a moment ago ... she just probably wanted to get another look at you. I've been very lucky. Josie is in demand. I get more than my fair share of her time. I can't tell you how much she's helped me."
Whitney said, "Does she help you dress?"
Mr. Fordman said, "She has never seen me dressed. I'm always wearing this stupid hospital gown. I don't know if she'd recognize me in my street clothes."
Whitney said, "She saw you're birthmark."
Mr. Fordman said, "Hmmm. Oh! Bath day. I asked her to stay. I thought my bath could wait, but Clara insisted on bathing me."
Whitney said, "Clara bathed ….”
Mr. Fordman said, "NURSE Clara bathed me."
Whitney said, "Why didn't Clara leave while Clara bathed you?"
Mr. Fordman said, "Josie is going to be a doctor, so some doctors give her special privileges … although seeing me naked isn't the privilege it once was."
Whitney said, "What about you two being intimate?"
Mr. Fordman said, "Boy am I glad this came up BEFORE the game! I can't imagine how you would have concentrated on the game with all this rubbish running around in your head. Son, let me be blunt with you. YES, I am intimate with Josie. NO, I don't have sex with her. What you don't realize at your age is that you can have sex without being intimate and you can be intimate without having sex. Dying is a very personal thing, Son!" Mr. Fordman clamped his eyes shut for a few seconds and breathed deeply. A few tears rolled down his cheeks. He continued, "Sorry about that. Your Mom is having a tough time with this. You're having a tough time with this. You both are trying to cope with the possibility of living without having a great man like me in your life. The only thing that I have had to cope with is dying. You have enough on your plate and so does your Mother. So I like to joke around when you Gloomy Gus’s visit me. But sometimes … sometimes … I get a little mad or sad about leaving this world. I need to do something with those feelings, but I can't. Josie … Josie … Josie…. I'd trade two bottles of morphine just for one of her visits. If I knew what cabbage patch Jon Kent plucked her out of, I'd wheel myself over there right now and pick up two or three of her. I even feel a little jealous when I see her from time to time holding hands with other patients. She gives them the same kind of undivided attention she gives me."
Whitney said, "Do you love her then?"
Mr. Fordman said, "God yes! GOD YES! I most certainly do! It's not like I love your Mother … not at all. Kind of like I love you, … but more like the way I love your sister."
Whitney said, "I don't have a sister."
Mr. Fordman said, "Exactly!"
Whitney said, "What does she do?"
Mr. Fordman said, "She knows how to listen. She's a great hand holder. AND she is really great at doing nothing. I never knew that ‘nothing’ was an art form. She can just sit there and say nothing. But I know she's there, so I don't feel so alone. I feel strangely protected when she's near. She often reads to me … well not really. The first time, I thought she was reading to me, but I looked over and she was sewing while reciting a book from memory. I don’t know how accurately she recited the stories, but they sounded good to me. Have you heard her accent? It's musical! Oh my! Speaking of music, she sings for me occasionally. One time, she sang me to sleep, and I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. It sounded like an angel singing to me. I never had the nerve to ask her this. Does she have a boyfriend? I bet she has twenty."
Whitney said, "Clara Kent? She's the biggest outcast in the school. I doubt that she's ever been kissed."
Mr. Fordman said, "Young, stupid fools! It's true. Youth IS wasted on the young. The man who lands her is going to be the richest man on Earth. Of course, I was a lot more superficial when I was your age. I’ll bet Josie is pretty plain … or has acne. The way she hides her face you’d think she’s a regular Freddie Kruger. You're still with Lana, right?"
Whitney said, "Yes, Dad. And I will be with Lana forever."
Mr. Fordman said, "Life sentence, huh? What was that riddle? Oh yes. What is the longest sentence in the English language? Answer: I do. That's okay, Whit. Love will conquer all. Just be careful that you don’t marry a real witch! I was just asking about Lana because maybe she could give Josie some make-up advice or something. Lana seems pretty up on all that."
Whitney said, “They used to be friends, but now there’s some bad blood between Lana and … Josie. Besides, I got a good look at her for the first time today. Either she doesn’t wear make-up or knows how to put it on so that it looks like she doesn’t wear any.”
Mr. Fordman said, “That’s my point, with a little make-up, she might open some doors for herself … get enough confidence to meet a special guy who will appreciate her inner beauty.”
Whitney said, “You don’t understand, Dad. If Clara … sorry, … if Josie doesn’t wear any make-up, she doesn’t need any. I never saw a face that perfect before. I almost dropped her when I saw ….”
Mr. Fordman said, “Dropped her …?”
Whitney said, “Um … dropped my books when I saw her. She has a kind of un-earthly beauty. If she just pulled her hair back out of her face, she would have every guy in school all over her.”
Mr. Fordman said, “Really, I had no idea. So she’s the whole enchilada? Heart, beauty and brains.”
Whitney said, “Brains? If you really knew her, you’d now how stupid she is. She is doing all kinds of things that will make her some very powerful enemies. I’ve never known someone who is so socially retarded.”
Mr. Fordman said, “I know for a fact that she isn’t stupid. She may even be a genius. She might be naïve but, around here, she is genuinely loved. Do me a favor, Whit.”
Whitney said, “Anything Dad.”
Mr. Fordman said, “Keep an eye on her for me. Be a friend or a big brother to her … or if Lana … never mind that. It sounds like she could use some fiends her own age. Be there for her. Keep her out of harm’s way. Encourage Lana to forget about whatever the problem is between her and Josie. I feel like knowing Josie has saved my life. She would be the kind of friend that you … and Lana could count on.”
Whitney said, "Dad, what would you think of a woman who, when she is rescued from drowning in a river, complains about a bruise she got … or how messed up her hair was ... and then stood by and let the person who rescued her get punished for it?"
Mr. Fordman said, "Not much. But believe me Son, Josie is nothing like that! I can’t believe that you have formed such a low opinion of her."
Whitney said, "What would you think of a man that took Clara … Josie, out into a field … and tied her to a cross … but made sure the ropes didn’t cut her and that she wasn’t humiliated very much and that no one tried anything … sexual with her?"
Mr. Fordman said, "Someone who would do that isn’t a man at all. If you hear that someone ever plans to do that to my Josie, come and tell me. If I have to, I'll crawl out to that field and put a stop to it.”
Whitney swallowed hard and said, "Dad, I'll be late for the game if I stay any longer. The pep rally has probably already started."
Mr. Fordman said, "Then hurry on out of here. Don't worry about me. I think Josie will be in later to read … correction, recite to me. I'll be fine."
Whitney said, "Dad … I'm sorry … I'm sorry I haven't been a better son."
Mr. Fordman said, "Come closer, Whit!" Whitney leaned over and Mr. Fordman yanked Whitney into an embrace with such force that it knocked the wind out of him. Whitney was stunned. The week before, Mr. Fordman couldn't even lift a spoon. Mr. Fordman hugged Whitney so tight that he couldn't move. He kissed the side of Whitney's face and whispered into his ear, "Son, you're the best. Of everything I have done in my life, the best thing I've ever done is to father you. Where you are concerned, I have no regrets … except maybe not being able to see you play tonight … and not being able to stay around forever just to point at you and tell people that you're my son. I love you, Whit! I'm proud of you. AND I’m glad we had this little talk. Now you won't have anything weighing on your mind when you hit the playing field."
Whitney swallowed hard and said, "I love you too, Dad." He kissed his Father on the cheek and quickly left the room.
Jeremy stood in the cornfield looking at Clara tied to the post. He said, "I thought things never change … but they do change … they get worse."
Clara mumbled, "Who's there? Please ... please help me. I'm so cold … so very cold.”
Jeremy said, "It hurts … doesn't it?”
Clara said, "Aren’t you Jeremy … the man from the hospital? I heard you woke up … left.”
Jeremy said, "Yes. And you're the girl that held my hand. I woke up and saw you there … but I didn't let you know. I needed to leave. I didn't want you to let them know that I woke up. You wrote it, didn't you? You wrote that letter condemning the football team. That's why you're here."
Clara said, "Yes. They put you out here too, didn't they?"
Jeremy said, "I have the honor of being the first … the first to be the scarecrow twice. When I got down the first time, I swore that I would find a way to keep this barbaric practice from ever being done again. I went to Metro U to become a teacher. I began working as a teacher's assistant at Smallville High while still in college. I spoke out against the stake out. They came for me after class. It was like returning to hell. I begged them not to do it the first time. They staked me out anyway. I reasoned with them the second time and, again, they staked me out. I've come back again to punish those who did it to me. I thought they would get the message. I hoped to find Riley Field empty tonight, but here you are. It will never stop until someone stops it." Jeremy turned to walk away.
Clara said, "Wait! Where are you going?"
Without turning back Jeremy said, "To the homecoming dance. I never made it to mine."
Clara begged, "Get me down, PLEASE!"
As he walked away Jeremy said, "You are safer here."
Lex was driving to the fertilizer plant. He saw a man jump over a fence surrounding a cornfield. Lex stopped his car and stared at the man. Jeremy looked back. Lex's mind flashed back to when he was 17 years old and saw that same man tied to a pole in the field ... the same field. Lex climbed out of his car, but Jeremy was gone. Lex walked to the fence and looked round, then turned to go back to his car. In the silent, cold air he heard a soft cry that sent a chill down his spine. The voice said, "Don't leave me here. Come back. Come back … come back … please … come back.” Even though the voice was weak and faded quickly to silence, Lex didn’t fail to notice the slight accent. He felt a powerful adrenaline rush as a feeling of terror came over him.
Lex ran to his car for a flashlight. Then he ran back to the fence and jumped over it. He began frantically looking around in the cornfield. Finally he saw her silhouette hanging above him. Her head was hung forward. He shined the light up the pole and saw blood drenched ropes around her ankles. He looked at her arms and saw blood there as well. He braced himself. It would be bad to see anyone tied up there … but there was one person in particular that he prayed it wouldn't be. But he knew. In his heart, he knew. He moved his flashlight to illuminate her face and screamed, "CLARA!"
Lex quickly looked around and found the ladder lying nearby. He propped it against the post and climbed up to her. He lifted her head and looked into her eyes.
Clara mumbled, "Lex, is that really you?"
Lex asked, "That man who was just here, did he tie you to this post?"
Clara said, "No."
Lex asked, "Then who did? I want names!"
Clara asked, "Why?"
Lex said, "I'll hunt them down like the dogs that they are and make them suffer like they've made you suffer. I'll let everyone know that they can't mess with you and get away with it! Tell me who did this!"
Clara said, "No, Lex. I don't want anyone to get hurt. And I don't want to turn you into the kind of man who would hurt anyone."
Lex said, "I already am that person! Now tell me!"
Clara said, "No, Lex."
The tears pour down Lex's face as he said, "I … I won’t get you down … unless you tell me who did this."
Clara said, "I guess I ... I guess I have to stay up here then.” Clara forced herself to smile. As her eyes glazed over with tears, they intently studied every detail of Lex’s face as if Clara was memorizing it. She softly said, “Good night, Lex … and ... goodbye."
Clara’s eyelids fluttered then shut. Her breathing stopped. In a panic, Lex struggled to untie Clara's shirt from the pole. He untied the ropes as quickly as he could. When the last rope was undone, Lex guided Clara's arms over the crosspiece. Her dead weight fell over Lex's shoulder. Lex held her legs in front of him and let her upper torso dangle loosely behind him as he carefully and quickly climbed down the ladder. The necklace worked its way down Clara’s neck and over her long hair. It fell to the ground at the base of the pole. Lex carried Clara over to the pile of her clothes that the team had left there. He gently put her down on top of the clothing. He held her hand by the wrist and felt for a pulse. Finding none, he sat beside her and stroked her hair as he cried. The tears struck Clara's face and her eyes popped open.
Clara said, "Thanks Lex, but I still won't give you any names."
Lex lifted Clara to a sitting position and hugged her as he said, "Oh Clara, Clara, Clara my sweet angel! I thought I'd lost you."
Clara said, "Lex, I hate to cut the short, and as strange as this might sound … I have to go to the homecoming dance right now."
Lex said, "You have to go to the doctor!"
Clara said, "I don't believe in doctors."
Lex said, "But you want to be a doctor."
Clara said, "Well, I believe in myself. Besides I feel great. You never know how good you feel until you've been in pain and it goes away. I've never been in that much pain before … so now, I feel better than I ever have before. Oh DANG! They got paint on my new bra! And my shirt is ruined! Well, it's one of my inside shirts so, as long as I wear something dark over it, I guess I can still wear it to school."
Lex said, "Please tell me who did this."
Clara said, "You don't have to fight my battles for me, Lex. There are many times ahead when I will have to fight on my own … but it helps knowing that you are behind me. I have to get dressed now. Could you turn around please?"
Lex stood up and turned around. He said, "Clara, I really think you should see a doctor. You've lost a lot of blood and your cuts need to be bandaged. I have a personal physician who is excellent. Clara? Clara?!" Lex turned around and Clara was gone. He spun around and looked in every direction but she was nowhere to be seen. He said, "Oh, Clara, what will I do with you?" He saw something at the base of the pole in the beam of his flashlight. He stared at it and realized it was a necklace with a green crystal pendant on it. He jumped in surprise when he felt a tap on the shoulder. He turned and saw a pair of big, dark eyes and full, parted lips coming at him. He barely caught his breath before hand slid around his neck and up the base of his skull and pulled him into a passionate kiss. He wrapped his arms around Clara and held her tight.
After about a minute, between small kisses, Clara said in a breathless voice, "I'm sorry Lex. … I forgot my manners … for a second. … I forgot … to thank you … for saving my life. … It’s only proper … that I thank you … the same way … you thanked me … when I helped you.”
Lex said, "I consider myself thanked. What's the proper way for me to say ‘you’re welcomed’?”
Clara stroked the back of Lex's head and pulled him close for another kiss. Then she whispered in his ear, "I really do have to go now … but I'll save you the last dance." She pulled away and took a couple steps backwards.
They stared at each other for a few seconds. Then Lex broke the silence by saying, "Oh, I saw you dropped your necklace over by the post. Let me get it for you."
He turned, went to the post and knelt to pick it up. He heard Clara say, "Keep it in a safe place for me … and don't give it back to me unless I ask for it."
As Lex stood up he said, “How are you planning on getting back to town? I know you won’t consider riding in my car, but after losing so much blood ….” Lex stopped talking when he turned to see that Clara was gone again."
Inside the dance, Whitney and Lana wore the crowns of the homecoming king and queen. Both made attempts to smile when photos were taken. Lana was mad because Whitney was cold and distant and wouldn't dance with her. Whitney was a zombie. He, more than anyone else, had cost his team what should have been an easy victory. His mind wasn't there. He was thinking about what he had done that day to someone who he now considered kind, noble and heroic. In the same way that Mrs. Lang had punished Clara for rescuing Lana, Whitney had punished Clara for being an angel of mercy to his dying Father. He founded it fitting that he and Lana now wore crowns. They were the king and queen of callousness. All he could think of was rushing to Riley Field and cutting the ropes so that Clara could be free. He wanted to fall on his knees and beg for her forgiveness. But instead, he stood there and did what was expected of him. He had his image, but he feared for his soul. He realized that what Clara had told him was true. It hadn't been a threat after all. He would probably regret what he did to her for the rest of his life.
The door to the janitor's closet swung open. Pete saw familiar figure in the doorway. He said, "I should have known it would be you, Clara. Did they hurt you?"
Clara said, "It doesn't matter Peter. We're survivors, you and I. Thank you for sticking your neck out to warn me."
Pete said, "No problem. Any time. Just don't make a habit of putting yourself in danger."
Clara said, "I guess I just can't help it."
Pete said, "Please try. I'll probably smell like Lysol for a month!"
Clara said, "I think someone must be waiting to dance with you -- probably many someones. I'm waiting for someone who said he was heading this way, but I might have a minute or five to kill. Peter, would you mind helping me spend the time by dancing with me?"
Pete said, "You’re not on my dance card, but, considering the circumstances, I’ll make an exception for you. Besides, the mop and brooms have already had their turns with me."
Clara said, "I promise … I will look into your eyes to show you I respect you … because I do respect you Peter! But looking into your eyes may make it harder for me to keep from stepping on your feet."
Pete said, “I DO have big feet, don’t I. You know what they say about guys with big feet, don’t you? Well, I’m proud to say it is true!”
Clara said, “No. What do they say about men with big feet?”
Pete laughed then realized that Clara didn’t know. He remembered her as the little girl in the park and decided didn’t want to say anything that might offend or embarrass her. He said, “Um … they say that … um … they can stand up better in strong winds.”
Clara said, “I guess that makes sense.”
Pete slowly stepped over to where Clara was standing and gently took her in his arms. Pete held her in the janitor's closet and they swayed to the music from the gymnasium. Pete said, "Of all the janitor's closets in all the schools in all the world, how is it that you stumbled in the mine? We may not have tomorrow, Clara, because I can tell you love another … but we’ll always have the park … one perfect day in the park."
Clara smiled and giggled. That sight and sound took Pete back to that moment when they first met. His face broke out in a smile that lit the small room. They enjoyed their dance knowing that they would soon go their separate ways.
Clara watched Jeremy open the box containing the controls for the gymnasium sprinkler control system. She said, "Jeremy, you need to stop this."
Jeremy stopped in surprised and looked behind him to see Clara standing in the distance. He said, "I don't know how you got here, but you should have stayed away."
Clara said, "I won't let you hurt my friends."
Jeremy said, "Those people in their aren’t your friends. They hurt you!"
Clara said, "I healed. You can heal too. I'll help if you let me … and we can work together so that no one spends a night like that in Riley Field again."
Jeremy said, "They don't change! They had a chance but now it's too late for them. The sprinkler system will get them nice and wet. I'll handle the rest."
Clara said, "Jeremy, please stop now. The people who are dancing in the gym tonight never did anything to you."
Jeremy said, "I'm not doing this for ME. I'm doing this for you and all the others like us."
Clara said, "What happened to you … that meteor shower … it was my fault. The coma … the 9 missing years of your life … the way you’ve changed … I’m the reason all that happened to you. Don't blame them. Blame me. I understand the pain of being different from everyone else."
Jeremy said, "I'm not in pain. I have a gift … and a purpose … and the destiny."
Jeremy turned to go back to his work and found Clara standing directly in front of him. She said, "I have a purpose as well ... to stop you." Jeremy put a hand on each of Clara's shoulders and flooded her body with electricity. Clara smiled and said, "Oh! That's so nice! Normally, I have to catch a lightning bolt to get tickled like this."
A security guard stuck his head around the corner and said, "You kids stop necking back there! None of that on school grounds!" Jeremy turned and pointed a hand at the guard. His hand crackled with energy. Clara tossed Jeremy into a nearby car as a bolt of electricity shot out of his hand. The security guard ran for his life. Jeremy got up and looked angrily at Clara.
Clara said, "Give it up, Jeremy. Let's talk some more."
Jeremy got into the car and used his finger to send a spark into the ignition. The car started and he hit the accelerator. He drove the car into Clara. The car pushed Clara through a block wall with an emergency waterline built into it. The pipe burst and began filling the car with water. Jeremy convulsed as the electricity from his body was short circuited by the water. Clara pushed the car away from herself then rushed over and pulled the driver's side door off the car. The sparks of electricity along Jeremy's body faded and stopped by the time Clara helped him from the car. Jeremy looked up at Clara in confusion. Clara asked, "Are you okay?"
Jeremy said, "Who are you? Where am I?"
Clara said, "I'm your friend, Clara Kent. And you're in Smallville."
Jeremy said, "I'd like to go home."
Clara nodded and said, "I can call your parents. I know they will be thrilled to have you back."
Clara was returning to the dance when she saw the three trucks belonging to the team members who taken her to Riley Field. She got a big grin on her face. She bit her lip for a few seconds and then began talking to herself. She said, "Oh no, Clara Kent! You're a good girl. Behave yourself. Don't do it! … Well, … they did give you a paint job … I guess it's only fair ….”
Clara ran into the school’s vocational education's body shop and got what she needed. At blinding speed and with great precision, she painted the trucks. She applied many light layers, drying the paint with her heat vision as she applied it. In a slightly lighter shade of paint, she added swirling accent lines, flowers and hearts. Then she applied a tough clear coat finish. Satisfied that her paint job on the three trucks was as fine as any professional could have done, Clara went back inside the school.
Clara found Lex in the balcony. She said, "I'm sorry that I'm not really dressed up for the occasion. I promise, next time you see me at a dance, I'll be all dolled up."
Lex said, "You always look great to me, Clara. How do you get back here so quickly? It would have been a long walk and you don't look like you've been running."
Clara said, "We can talk if you want, but then I probably won't be in the mood to dance."
Lex said, "But if we talk, will I get the answers to my questions?"
Clara said, "I doubt it."
Lex said, "Well, there’s no point in me trading my chance to dance with you for a game of words."
Clara said, "Is that punch for me? My mouth is kind of dry."
Lex said, "You can have it."
Clara drank the punch then ran her tongue slowly across her lips. She said, "Manners dictate that I thank you properly for the beverage."
Lex embraced Clara and they kissed as they moved to the music floating up from below. Lex said, "I dare not imagine how you would thank me if you ever let me buy you a meal at a fine restaurant."
Clara said, "There isn't much more that I could do for you than I haven't already done, is there? I haven’t denied you anything, have I? Or is there something I don't know about that friends like us should be doing?"
Lex laughed and said, "Well, we'll discuss that when you're little older." Lex saw a trace of confusion in Clara's face. Lex said, "You were kidding, weren't you?"
Clara said, "I thought we were going to dance. We shouldn't waste the music. We can talk any time."
Lex said, "I always hear music when you're around."
Clara said, "You should tell that personal physician you have about that! That could be serious."
Lex said, "Yes, it is serious. Very serious."
Clara said, "Are you sick? Maybe I could help you."
Lex said, "You’ve helped me plenty. But, like you said, we're here to dance. So let's just dance."
Clara put her head on Lex's shoulder and they continued to slow dance even through the faster songs. When people started to leave, Clara said, "It's been a long day but I still have something left to do."
Lex said, "Could I help?"
Clara said, "It's my battle Lex, but, believe me, you've helped me more tonight than I can say. There is something though that’s bothering me. I have been visiting a man in the hospital. I’d like to talk to you about his son Whitney."
Lex said, “I would rather not have any one else’s problems intrude on us when when have so little time left tonight.”
Clara said, “I know … but his Father is a friend and I’m worried about what will happen to his family after what happened tonight. I need to tell you this now. Later might be too late.”
Lex nodded his consent and they talked quietly for a few minutes. When they were done talking, Clara gave Lex a shy smile before they had a final, lingering kiss. They held hands for a moment more, then their open hands slid apart as Clara walked away backwards so that she could look at Lex a little longer. After one last, hungry look, Clara lowered her head allowing her hair to fall across her face, turned suddenly and ran down the stairs.
Five football players approached Whitney. Mark Jefferson said, "Whitney, tonight was brutal, so were heading off to the liquor store and then to a private party. We weren’t able hook up with any willing ladies tonight so we are going to visit someone who is outstanding in her field and bound to please us in every way imaginable. We would invite you to join us, but you already have a main squeeze to squeeze."
Whitney said, "Whatever. I'll see you at practice Monday … if I'm not too embarrassed to show my face in school again. I'll walk out to the parking lot with you. Lana took my keys and is already out there waiting for me."
When the six young men got to the parking lot, Mark Jefferson said, "What kind of fruit loops would drive trucks like that?" AND they have the NERVE to park in our spots!"
Whitney looked at one of the trucks and saw Lana sitting in the passenger seat. She was smiling and waved when she saw him. She shouted out to him, "I LOVE this! This is GREAT!"
Whitney looked at the license plate and saw “4D MAN.” He screamed, "For the love of God! My truck!"
The owners of the other two trucks realized that the outrageously pink vehicles in the parking lot where theirs. Mark shouted, "DAMN IT! This has been the week from hell. I'm sure glad I have someone to take my frustrations out on tonight." He turned to the others and said, "Let’s go. I don't want to keep the lady waiting."
Lana got out of the truck and hurried over to Whitney. She said, "Your truck is so beautiful this way. Every vehicle we ever own will just HAVE to be the same color!"
Whitney felt someone touch the arm of his letterman jacket. He heard Lex Luther say, "Whitney …. Are you Whitney Fordman?"
Whitney said, "Yes, unfortunately, I am."
Lex said, "Oh, hi Lana. Um. Whitney, sorry about the loss tonight. Bad break. I heard there was a scout at the game. Everyone has days like that. Don't sweat it. Things could be a lot worse. Believe me. I almost lost a dear friend tonight.”
Lana said, "Oh, that's sad. Anyone we would know?"
Lex said, "Probably. She's your neighbor, Clara Kent. Someone staked her out in a cornfield near the fertilizer plant. She was tied to a post wearing not much more than her underwear. She was cold as ice by the time I got to her. Her arms and legs were cut up pretty badly. Her legs were covered in blood."
Whitney asked, "Are you sure it wasn't paint on her legs?"
Lex said, "Paint? Yes, there was some paint, but she HAD lost a lot of blood. How did you know about the paint?”
Whitney said, "Uh. Well, I've heard stories about people being tied out there and painted."
Lex continued, "Oh, well I’d better NEVER hear about anybody doing something like that again! I take that back. I wouldn’t at all mind hearing that the people who did that to Clara got staked out in that field so they could experience first hand what they did to her. In this case, I don’t believe in an eye for an eye. Staking them out isn’t enough punishment for what they nearly did to Clara. When I managed to get her down, I swear she had stopped breathing."
Lana said, "That's terrible! What kind of low life would do that to another human being … a girl! Oh, wait a minute! That's right! She wrote a nasty note and posted it everywhere. That made some people pretty angry. You know, maybe they felt that she had already accused them of doing things like that … and that she had made them appear guilty in the eyes of the student body … and that they might as well do what they were accused of. And who better to do it to than the one who messed with their reputations? In one sense, they made an honest woman of her. She said that the football team was going to stake someone out in that field, I know for a fact that they had no intention of doing something like that, right Whitney? By putting her out there, they kept her from being branded as a liar. Bottom line: She chose to do something that she knew would piss off the wrong people. And if you stir up a hornets nest, you have to expect to get stung.”
Lex stared at Lana for a few seconds before saying, "Yeah, I guess she deserved it. Just like all those other idiots that made waves by standing up for their beliefs and the rights of other people. People like Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King … and there was some other guy … with the beard …. I think they put him on a cross too."
Lana said, “That’s a lame comparison if you don’t mind me saying so. She just made a pathetic move to get some attention. The football team wouldn’t notice her … and why would they? For someone like that, negative attention is better than no attention.”
Lex said, “In this country, everyone is entitled to an opinion no matter how uninformed or incorrect. But in the future, keep in mind that Clara Kent is a close personal friend of mine – someone I owe my life to. So if by some necessity you are anywhere near me, I would appreciate you keeping your personal opinions about her to yourself.”
Lana said, “Well, I guess since she saved your life, it means that you HAVE to be nice to her.”
Lex said, “Obviously not.”
Lana’s mouth dropped open. She was about to ask what Clara had told Lex about her, but Lana’s rare and momentary silence gave Whitney a chance to speak. He asked, "Did Clara say who did it?"
Lex said, "No. I begged her to name names but she wouldn't. She also told me to drop it. She made me promise to never try to find out who did it.”
Lana said, “Boy is she a nag! You’d think she was your wife or something.”
Lex said, “And you would think you were deaf or something. What did I just tell you not to do? Well, I guess I owe you a thank you. I don’t have to break my promise to Clara since you all but told me that it was members of the football team that tied Clara to that post."
Lana said, "I didn’t tell you that … did I? … Look, Clara was probably being smart for once by telling you to drop it. Clara has good reason not to name names. She is probably scared to death that whoever did it will hurt her if she talks."
Lex said, "I know Clara. That wasn’t her reason for not telling me. She was scared that if I knew the names of the people who were responsible, I would kill them."
Lana said, "Why would she think that?"
Lex said, "Because she knows me well enough to know that that's exactly what I would do."
Whitney said, "I can’t believe that she didn't tell you anything about anybody?"
Lex said, "Well, despite refusing to talk about everything else tonight, she did make a point to tell me all about you, Whitney."
Whitney swallowed hard. He said, "I thought she would. What did she say about me, Sir? Never mind. I know what she must have said. I'm afraid … I'm afraid it's all true ... every word of it. Whatever she said."
Lex said, "Really? Be glad I'm not a fan of false modesty. She told me that you were the greatest quarterback Smallville High ever had … except for her Father. I think she's a little prejudiced in her Dad's favor."
Whitney said, "What she said about Jon Kent is true. I'll never be the quarterback he was in his day. And I'll never have the leadership qualities or character that he has."
Lex said, "Well, I guess there IS some modesty in you after all. Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll grow out of it."
Whitney said, "Clara must've told you about me last week or sometime sooner, right? I'm sure her opinion of me wouldn't be the same tonight."
Lex said, "From what she told me, I think Clara must have heard about the game even though she was too … tied up … to see it herself. But I know that what you did tonight didn't change her opinion of your skills as a quarterback."
Whitney said, "Talk to her again. You'll see."
Lex said, "Clara isn't the kind of girl to change her mind every five minutes … and we just talked about five minutes ago."
Whitney asked, "She called you?"
Lex said, "No, she was just here. When you are ready to talk about joining the Metropolis Sharks, come talk to me. I trust Clara's judgment in all things. Drop over to the Talon any day this week. I'm meeting with contractors to discuss making renovations to the building. Lana's Mother talked me into re-opening it to the public. She suggested that I turn it into a coffee shop, but I think the one coffee shop Smallville has is probably enough to handle the demand."
Lana said, "Oh, please! I wish you would tear that eyesore down. Too bad a meteor didn't hit the Talon rather than my dear, sweet Aunt Nell. For years, all my Mother has talked about is how she had her first date with Dad there. I'm sick of hearing about it."
Lex said, "No point in being sentimental when it comes to business, right?”
Lana said, "Exactly!"
Lex said, "By the way, Whitney, is that truck that Lana was sitting in yours by any chance?”
Whitney said, “Yes. Want to buy it?”
Lex said, “Not really. That is an interesting choice of colors. Very Mary Kay. You have to be VERY secure in your masculinity to drive something like that!"
Whitney said, "Errr … thanks.”
After Lex walked away, Lana said, "I wonder why Clara gushed to Lex about you? I don't want you going anywhere near her. Understand?! She obviously wants you. If you so much as touch her, don’t even think of coming near me again. I couldn’t stand to smell her stink on you. Oh, by the way, where's my necklace? Obviously, all the bad luck wasn't out of it yet."
Whitney said, "Don't worry. It's some place safe."
Two pink pickup trucks arrived at Riley Field and five football players got out. They had almost reached the fence when Jed turned back. Mark said, "Where you going?"
Jed said, "I left my wallet in Jim’s truck."
Mark said, "So …?”
Jed said, "My PROTECTION is in my wallet." Mark and Brian laughed. Jed asked, "What's so funny?"
Mark said, "You don't need any protection with a girl like her. She's not going to give us any diseases … and it's not like we care about her."
Jed said, "Yeah, but what if the police check her for evidence later?"
Mark said, "Girls like her are too embarrassed to tell anyone what we do to them. The more we humiliate her, the less likely she is to talk later. Considering what I'm about to do to her, she'll never go to the police, tell her mama or even confess this to a priest. She will probably be too embarrassed to even talk to herself about it. Unless, of course, she decides she likes it and we can make this a regular thing with her."
Jed said, "She may be a talker, considering that letter she posted all over the school hallways and had printed in the school paper."
Mark said, "Did she sign it? NO! Did she ASK that Sullivan bitch to print it? NO. Chloe and I are going to settle up accounts about that before long. But tonight is Clara’s turn. She's perfect for this kind of thing. I know how to pick them. And despite what you think, this Clara is one hot chick. I saw a lot more than you guys did. When I painted her up I got a good look under her clothes and tested the waters so to speak. But before I forget, let me tell you two newbies something to put you minds at ease. We know how to do this so that there is no chance of getting arrested. We don't take chances leaving evidence. We'll only start out here. The next stop is a motel near Metropolis. After we have a little more fun with her there, we'll take her into the bathroom and make sure she's squeaky clean. I already bought all the necessary cleaning supplies at the drug store."
Jim Hansen leaned over the fence and threw up. He headed back to his truck. Mark yelled, "Where you going?"
Jim said, "This isn't right. I just wanted to get laid. This isn’t … isn't some game. I don't want to hurt anyone. I have a sister. I have a Mother. I can't. No way!"
Mark said, "You didn't have any trouble tying her up did you?"
Jim said, "Yes … yes, I did. And I don't think I'm a saint by walking away … because I'm not doing anything to try to stop you. I'm just turning my back on it and refusing to do more than I already did. Jed, are you riding back with me?"
Jed said, "Hell no! She deserves everything she's going to get for what she wrote. I'll take your turns."
Jim said, "I'll put your stuff in Mark's truck. I'm leaving."
Mark said, "Goodbye you pussy. I'll tell you about what you missed on Monday … and for the rest of your life. And if you EVEN consider telling anyone about this, remember what you told us. You have a sister. You have a Mother. And you know how we get even with people we’re angry with." Mark turned to the others and said, "Come on guys. It's show time!"
The four men went through the fence and headed for the post. In the moonlight, they could see a woman’s body hanging from the crossbar. They marched towards her but the ground gave way under them. They fell twelve feet straight down and splashed into something thick and wet. They quickly got to their feet and brushed what they could of the liquid pig manure from their faces. They were standing in four feet of it. The walls of the trench were vertical. There was no way to climb out without using each other as a ladder – and none of them were willing to be the one to have a pig manure covered team mate crawl over him. They felt something drop onto their heads and faces. Someone had thrown down some clean, moist shop rags. A female voice said, "Clean your face and hair as best you can. I’ll throw you more towels in a minute."
Mark yelled, "Just get us out of here!"
The voice said, "I'm sorry. You pigs will just have to spend the night in pig manure. Try to get out and I’ll just knock you back in and forget to throw you any more towels. It's hard to stand all night, but it might be better than hanging from a pole. What do you call it? A stake out? Well this is a new tradition -- a "stink in" … until it sinks in! If the stake out continues every year, so will the stink in. But this is just a mild warning of what I'll do to you if you EVER lay a hand on Clara Kent or any other female without their consent again. And don't bully any boys either. You’d better even help your Mom and Dad with the dishes once in awhile … and rake the leaves! I'll be watching … and avenging! Payback is hell. In fact, I think you'll agree that it stinks. Here are more towels. Make sure that you clean out your eyes and get anything out of your mouth. I don't want you boys to get sick."
Mark yelled, "Get us out of here!" But there was no answer.
Clara walked up to the front porch and sat down next to her Father on the porch swing. Jon said, "Clara, it's very late. You didn't come home after school. You didn't call. Your Mom and I were sick with worry."
Clara said, "I didn't have a choice, Dad. Please believe me. I came home to say that I am okay. I have to go back out. I left four guys out there in a trench and I have to make sure that they can make it through the night."
Jon said, "Why didn't you pull them out?"
Clara said, "Because I put them in it … for a reason. They staked someone out tonight and they were going back to mess with that person some more, so they needed to be punished."
Jon asked, "Did you help the person who was staked out?"
Clara said, "No, unfortunately I couldn't. But someone else did and I made sure he got rewarded for it."
Jon said, "You know, we are a country of laws, Clara. It isn’t your job to judge people or to punish … or even to reward anybody. Virtue is its own reward."
Clara said, "Punishing them made me feel sick inside … but they wouldn't stop and nobody else would stop them. Anybody who tried, got hurt. I won't ever punish anyone if I don't feel I have to. The reward part … I really LIKED doing that! I think that good deeds need to be recognized sometimes … just to tell someone that they are on the right path. Sometimes a little lip service isn’t enough to say thank you … but sometimes it's plenty!"
Jon said, "Clara … be careful. Okay?"
Clara leaned over and kissed Jon on the cheek. She whispered, "Good night Daddy." Then she turned his head and kissed his other cheek and said, "Give that one to Mom for me." Then Clara was gone.
Clara laid on her stomach by the trench looking through the ground to make sure that the four guys were okay. One by one they passed out. Clara immediately pulled each of them out as a lost consciousness. When the last one of them was out of the trench, she filled it in and re-contoured the ground so that it looked like the trench was never there. Then she pulled the post from the ground and drove into the ground 150 feet away so that no one would look for the trench in the right spot. She arranged the three unconscious boys together under the post.
Clara ran to Crater Lake and swam a few laps to get the pig manure off herself. Then she went to the grounds of the Luthor mansion and sat on the lawn while looking through the wall to watch Lex sleep. The guard dogs ran up to her but she continued to sit with an undisturbed calm. They somehow understood that she belonged there and that she meant no harm to anyone. The dogs laid down on each side of her and pushed close. She stroked the dogs’ fur and softly sang to them while watching Lex and imagining a future that she knew deep inside that she could never have.
After a while she went home. She looked in on her parents then went to her loft to sleep. She said a prayer for her parents, for Lex, for Mr. Fordman, for Jeremy and for the boys who had hurt her that night. She was totally alone again and decided that it was safe for her to cry a while ... but she didn't. She stretched out on her bed without getting under the covers. Soon she was dressed in a soft but tight sleeveless, sparkly white dress with a plunging neckline and back. She had her hair braided and hanging behind her. She wore long, white gloves that matched her dress. Her only ornament was a string of white pearls around her neck. Lex approached her in a black tuxedo. He had on a starched white shirt with golden cuff links. His black shoes were polished to a brilliant shine. He reached out for her hand and they began to dance in the balcony over the high school gymnasium. Jor-El and Alura stood nearby with Jon and Martha and they watched their daughter. In their eyes, Clara could see that they approved of the man she had chosen. She felt happier than she had ever been. Tomorrow we come soon enough. But tonight, in her dreams, Clara danced.