Wow, nice one, Superman. I thought you were “The Man of Steel” not “The Man of Sucking at Ping Pong.” Ha, I’m just playing with you. You should see how your little curl is shaking right now.

But, you know, this really makes me wonder. If you’re supposedly faster than a speeding bullet, and I can beat you at Ping Pong, how fast does that make me? Like, faster than a speeding bullet from a gun that, like, itself is being shot out of another gun?

I bet you’d totally like to fly around the world to turn back time so you could redo that last shot, huh? Maybe next time you won’t put down your paddle to help some choking little girl. So lame. Unless you were just trying to give her pointers on how to choke. Because if you were trying to do that, then great job. I mean, you gotta be thinking right now that little Megan would’ve worked through that Cheeto. All about keeping your head in the game.

This is kind of like that time Lex Luthor weakened you by sneaking Krpytonite into that wayward baby carriage. (Oh yes, Lois keeps me well apprised of your exploits…) Then again, with the baby carriage scenario you ultimately emerged victorious, because Lex Luthor didn’t yet know that radiation from the Earth’s sun is what gives you your powers. So that part is different. The whole “emerging victorious” part. Seems like this time, nothing could save you from the Kryptonite of my vicious cross-over lob.

Two out of three? You know I totally would, but— I think I just heard Lois calling me from the kitchen. Really? You didn’t hear that? Well, ordinarily I would never doubt your super hearing. But kinda seems like you’re having an off day.

Calm down. There’s no reason to go all bizarro on me. I think you can give me this one thing. Because don’t even get me started on the way Lois compares me to you. You should’ve seen how she looked at me the other day when I couldn’t open a jar of pickles. Then again, I’m less about power than accuracy. Ping Pong’s really a finesse game, you know?

Tell you what. Why don’t you go visit the buffet and maybe later tonight, we’ll rematch. You’ve got the whole table to yourself now, so practice up. I’ll come check on you in a few hours, maybe.

There you go… All in the wrist. Be the ball, Kal-el, be the ball.


Dang Llama

By Erika Rae

Memoir

I passed a llama on the road today. I was in my Jeep and it was in the back of a pick-up truck. It all happened in a moment: it looked at me, I looked at it. We made eye contact.

***

It startled me at first to see a face up there, hovering Cheshire-like over the cab. Ears bent back stiffly in the wind; fuzzy, cleft granny lips.

The sides of the pick-up had been built up with plywood to form a stall of sorts. It was tall, but not so high that the llama couldn’t see out the top, riding around like it was peeking out of a sunroof in a limo. Beneath him, Snoop Dogg was sloshing around in a hot, nekkid lady and llama soup.

When I was a child, my grandfather brought us back a llama carpet from a trip he took to Peru. In the center of this wall-sized masterpiece was a design inlaid to resemble the animal from which it hailed. The perimeter was bordered in alternating brown and ivory diamonds, which gave way to long tufts of shag at the ends. My parents saw fit to hang it in the den, behind the ping pong table as a sound dampening backdrop. In the middle of summer when I was taking a break from building log cabins out of fallen branches or digging up arrowheads from the red, Oklahoma dirt, I would sneak into the den in the cool dark and bury my hands and face in the carpet. It was plush and soft like a ridiculously shaggy rabbit. For several minutes, I would pretend that I had actually rotated 90 degrees and was lying down on the floor with it, pressing my thighs stomach ears into the thick fur.

We pronounced it the Spanish way, although none of us spoke Spanish. Yama. Not Llama. As in, como se…. I don’t have much of an explanation for this other than the fact that my family has always had an above average interest in languages. My mother, for example, spent some time before I was born in Iran engaged to an Iranian man. She may not have come home with a wedding ring, but she did manage to bring back his pronunciation of the word “hummus”. To this day, she will ask me if I would like some “chch-hoomoose” with my carrots.

My grandfather was a straight laced man who believed Jesus’ return was imminent and that figs were a divine fruit. He was an engineer by trade and designed several of the dams in California back in the day. At some point in the 50s, he built a small bungalow style house on U Street in Sacramento for my grandmother and painted it pink. When I was little they shopped at Trader Joe’s and ate baked white fish sprinkled with kelp five out of seven days of the week. The fence around their yard was thickly draped in concord grapes, which he pressed once a year and bottled under the attic stairwell. Not for the purpose of making wine, mind you, but as grape juice. Pieces of masking tape displayed the original bottling dates on each.

Once when my grandfather came for a visit to our house, I was setting the table for a meal and dropped a fork on the floor. “Dang,” I said. I was about 12 years old, awkward with hairy arms and legs and a big, squishy nose. As a prepubescent primate growing up in the turquoise studded Bible belt of Oklahoma, it did not occur to me to say anything harsher than that. “Dang” worked, and it was accessible. Everyone else I knew said it. It was innocuous. My grandfather did not agree.

“What is that language coming our of your mouth?” He demanded to know from across the room, where he sat reading the newspaper on the sofa. He was wearing his gray three-piece Sunday suit and had his hair slicked back neatly with a comb. “Don’t ever let me hear you say that again. Foul language from a young lady. I’m going to have a talk with your mother.”

For a man who lived in a house the color of Pepto Bismol, he didn’t have a very pronounced sense of humor.

I like to imagine him carrying the huge llama carpet back to us from Chile, fur exploding through the rolls and dipping down to occasionally scrape the street. Pushing it back up again to a proper cylindrical state. Folding back down over his shoulder. Suitcase in the other hand. Grandma walking helplessly three feet behind him, fretting over missing their airplane home.

I wonder if he swore.

Dang yama.

***

I passed a llama on the road today. I was in my Jeep and it was in the back of a pick-up truck. It all happened in a moment: it looked at me, I looked at it. We made eye contact.