I have a super power. No, I’m not faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, or able to leap tall buildings at a single bound. I can neither fly nor become invisible. What I can do is make young women cry.
I discovered my power some years ago, I had dinner dates with three different women in one week. In all three cases, my dates were reduced to tears at some point during the meal.
No, the food wasn’t bad. And my company was good enough that I had subsequent dates with each of them. Each of them had a drink or three, started talking about their lives, and at some point in their refrain, tears flowed.
OK, all of them were actresses (or wannabe actresses). Years later, one of them finally made it: she starred in her own sit-com. Too bad I didn’t marry her…I could’ve made substantial money in the inevitable divorce.
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But that was when I realized that I had the power to make young women cry.
As powers beyond the abilities of mortal men go, it’s a pretty lousy power. Worse, it’s inadvertent. I can’t turn it on and off. Believe me, I’ve tried. As I writer, I’ve written very sad things, and read them to attentive audiences. The closest I’ve gotten was “that was so sad I ALMOST cried.”
“Almost,” as the saying goes, only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Well, and bocce ball. And when you’re grading on a curve. Come to think of it, “almost” counts in a lot of things. But I digress.
My power to make young women cry manifested itself a few weeks ago. My sister asked me to baby-sit her two daughters. I brought them a take-out dinner, played a board game with them, and then supervised their homework.
The older girl, aged 12, had somehow decided to do a book report on The Odyssey by Homer. The book was difficult for someone her age, and she was having trouble with it.
“So what’s your favorite part of The Odyssey, Uncle Tony?” she asked.
I had skimmed through The Iliad and The Odyssey some 30 years ago, and my memory was hazy.
Before I could bring it up, she pre-empted me with, “I liked it when they blinded that mean Cyclops!” She has a thing about bullies.
“Mmmm, yes. Poly-what’s-his-name the Cyclops. Unpleasant guy.”
The younger girl, aged 9, chimed in, “What’s YOUR favorite part, Uncle Tony?” She hadn’t read the book, but she likes to hear me tell her stories.
Suddenly a memory returned to me. “The dog!” I shouted triumphantly.
“When Odysseus finally comes home, he’s in disguise. And the first one to recognize him is an old, old dog lying on a dung heap.”
“EEEEW!” screamed both girls.
“The dog was a puppy when Odysseus left, 20 years ago. Now he’s old and dying, but he recognizes his master. He whines for Odysseus to acknowledge him, to pet him. But Odysseus is in disguise, so he turns away. And this breaks the dog’s heart, and he dies then and there!”
“H-he dies?” the younger girl stammers.
“That’s so sad!” the older girl says.
“The doggie dies?” the younger girl whines, tearing up.
“That’s SO SAD!” the older one says. “All he wanted was for his master to pet him!”
Realizing my mistake, I tried to soften the blow. “Well, I’m sure the doggie had a good, long life. He lived for more than 20 years! Most dogs only live for 10 years, or even less.”
“Less than 10 years!” screamed the younger girl. “But Sheba is the same age as me!”
Their whines had woken the beast in question, an odiferous black Labrador named Sheba. The creature had been sleeping on a rug, exhausted after a long day of chasing its tail, barking at nothing, and rolling in anonymous excrement.
“Don’t die, Sheba, don’t die!” both girls sobbed, embracing the canine.
This was when my sister returned home, to find her daughters sobbing and distraught.
So, for once, my super power actually saved someone. It saved me from ever being asked to baby-sit again.
Tony Conaway also runs a Virtual Panel. It offers a great look into the minds of various writers featured on The Story Shack, as well as other platforms.