Probably, they saw themselves
wearing the white heads of doves;
who knows what they imagined
before the man of steel came
to lift up those shadowy getaway cars
and toss the crooks around like dice;
maybe they dreamed they were crows
swooping in dark V’s, stopping time
in quiet, bright blue June noons;

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.


So Brad… can I call you Brad?

Sure, for now.


Ten years ago, after you made a couple of appearances on national television and a book of yours was getting some attention, a widely-read newspaper columnist wrote a little piece about you.

I don’t think I like where this is going…


If memory serves, the opening line was: “Brad Herzog. Remember the name. He just might be the next Stephen King or John Grisham.”

(rubs temples and winces) And your point is?


I’m just wondering… What do you think of that now, a decade later? Hmmm….?

Three words come to mind: “Dewey Defeats Truman.”


Surely, the guy had a sense of your literary potential…

Absolutely, except that he hadn’t read anything I’d written… And he was a TV columnist… For USA Today, which is the Hannah Montana of newspapers. I’ll just settle for people remembering my name.


Obviously not, given your latest narcissistic endeavor, TURN LEFT AT THE TROJAN HORSE. Okay, it’s a travel memoir. I can understand the travel part – a cross-country jaunt to a college reunion. Fine. Lots of angst and Angus cows. But look at the other memoirs published this year – there’s one written by a playboy, a dominatrix, an internationally successful model, even a master falconer…

Don’t forget Laura Bush.


That’s what I’m saying. You don’t own a whip and high heels. You don’t know a peregrine from a pelican. You didn’t sleep with a guy who had one finger on the button and the other nine on Mad magazine. You’re just an average schmuck like me.

Essentially, yes. And him (points to imaginary bystander in the room, who turns tail and runs).


Who?

Everyone. Most guys, at least. I have a wife, two kids, an unfathomable mortgage, aches where I didn’t know I had muscles, professional frustration where I wasn’t aware I had ambition. Frankly, while I’ve been entertained by the memoirs of heroin addicts and Hall of Famers, I’ve never been particularly enlightened. How accessible can it be if I can’t see hints of myself in the protagonist’s journey?


So you took off on your own journey – a road trip toward your alma mater in Ithaca, New York…

Right. And I revisited the original hero’s journey – the homeward voyage of Odysseus, King of Ithaka – by passing through tiny hamlets like Troy (Oregon), Calypso (Montana), Siren (Wisconsin) and Apollo (Pennsylvania). I channeled Socrates (“The unexamined life is not worth living”) and Kerouac (“The road is life”) and cobbled together an early midlife memoir of an Everyman in search of the hero within.


You’ve been working on that one, huh?

Guilty.


Fine. So it’s more than your usual travel memoir. I’d even call it epic yet intimate.

Oh, that’s good. I’ll have to use that.


But the Greek mythology? Really? Didn’t we suffer enough in high school?

Nah. We just didn’t learn it right. Those myths are a sort of collective unconscious, embedded with universal truths. We weren’t made in the image of gods. The gods and heroic archetypes – those crazy stories passed through the ages – were created in our images, reflecting our fears and our fantasies.


Are you supposed to be Odysseus?

Nope. It’s the other way around. He’s just a manifestation of my psyche. He is me.


You mean, he is I.

Yep, you too.


You arrogant bastard.

Hardly. Odysseus is the prototype of the flawed fictional hero. At times, he could be hypocritical, unfaithful, merciless, an astoundingly unsuccessful leader, physically unimposing. Even one-eyed Polyphemus called him a “short, worthless-looking runt.”


You know you’re no physical marvel if you’re being dissed by a Cyclops.

He’s why Superman falls prey to kryptonite, why Sherlock Holmes prefers his seven-percent solution…


Why Indiana Jones hates snakes.

Exactamundo.


Now you’re channeling Arthur Fonzarelli?

It’s in my DNA. I dressed up as the Fonz for about six Halloweens in a row. Slicked back my hair with Brylcreem.


You should have used Rogaine.

Now I’m going to kick your ass.




My mother never trusted my brother and I in the bathtub alone for too long.

She knew our three-year-old, TV-watching brains were hotwired for action and violence.

If left alone for too long, she knew one of us could easily become the victim of drowning, suffocation by shower curtain, you name it.

Soon, mom would be coming through the bathroom door.

To make sure her boys hadn’t killed each other.

Before that moment, though, my brother and I had already safely gotten out of the tub, and were standing wet and naked, discussing that old cartoon, Underdog.

Specifically, Sweet Polly Purebred.

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“What’s that thing between her legs?” I said.

My brother shrugged.

This had become an on-going topic of conversation.

My brother and I were completely mesmerized by that strange upside down triangle-of-sorts we’d  spotted between Polly’s legs.

The triangle just below her belly button and slightly above the place where her thighs met.

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The triangle was nothing like anything we’d ever seen on TV superheroes like Superman.

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Or Batman and Robin.

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Those were guys with real crotch bulges.

Like they were packing rocks in their underwear.

But not Polly—and that understated triangle between her legs.

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To better improve our understanding of that triangle, my brother I figured we should try to recreate it.

“I’ll go first,” I said.

I bent slightly forward, tried tucking my tiny, soap-slippery penis between my thighs.

It sprang back out.

My brother laughed.

I laughed.

After a few more attempts, I finally achieved my goal.

“There’s that triangle,” said my brother. “Like Polly.”

“Now you try,” I said.

He imitated the pose.

“Look,” I said. “We’re Polly.”

In unison, we sang: “We’re Polly. We’re Polly.”

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That’s when our mother came through the bathroom door.

“What are you doing?” she screamed.

Since I didn’t fully understand that I’d just transformed myself into one of her new twin daughters, I was stunned by her reaction.

I snapped to attention. My brother snapped to attention.

Our tiny penises sprang out from between our legs.

“Don’t ever let me see you do that again,” said mom.

“But what did we do wrong?” I said.

Mom began crying.

My brother and I began crying.

Through my tears, I again asked that question: “What did we do wrong?”

All mom could say was: “Just don’t ever, ever do that again.”

Without another word, she dried us off, got us dressed and put us to bed.

Alone in our dark room, I whispered to my brother: “We did something bad.”

He agreed.

And so that night we made a pact.

We never watched Underdog again.

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We never, ever wanted to be Polly Purebred again.