(Blame SamuraiFrog for this one, folks — he gave me the title! I deny all accountability. Except for the part where I write the following tale. Which I’m doing stream-of-conscious, right off the top of my head. No editing.)
Lore has it that there is one, and only one, substance that can stop Superman dead in his tracks.
Irradiated fragments of rock hurled into the deep dark of space when his planet exploded, Kryptonite’s radiation and other qualities unique to its place of origin make it near-lethal whenever Superman comes in contact with it. So, of course, every one of Superman’s antagonists knows of this weakness, and they all try, at one point or another, to use Kryptonite to get the drop on him.
What they don’t know is that there is another substance that can significantly weaken Superman. This one is not so lethal; in fact, it’s not lethal to Superman at all. He survives a brush with this substance within a day, and he’s back to normal. But he finds its effects extremely unpleasant, both because of what they do to him, and what he has to do to keep those effects from being lethal to those around him, because his body magnifies those effects over what they would do to a normal human being.
What is that substance, you ask?
Whether out in public as Superman or as Clark Kent, the fact remains…Kal-el cannot eat beans.
He was never able to figure it out, but as a kid, the first time Ma Kent put beans on the table — of any kind, except for jelly — he became very, and explosively, gassy. Imagine Kal-el’s digestive tract, super-charged as was every other aspect of his body over the normal human version. Gas, for him, was survivable — but disastrous for anybody nearby. So, no beans.
This was pretty easy to deal with, as he got older. Nobody really ever tried to give him beans to eat as Superman, and as Clark Kent, he could just claim either allergy or that he didn’t like them. Problem was, he said the latter to the wrong person.
Enter Lois Lane.
Now, Lois Lane is a great reporter. One of the best. She fearlessly charges in to get stories that no one else can get, and she reports them with snappy writing that defines her newspaper, the Daily Planet. But to anyone who isn’t remotely as strong-willed as she is, or possessed of super-patience (like Mr. Kent), Lois Lane is basically a giant pain in the ass. It’s true. She has to have the last word on everything, she has to be right, and if you disagree with a single position she takes, she will make it her mission in life to show you how wrong you are. So when Clark Kent told her one night when they went out to dinner at a Mexican place that he didn’t care for beans, she said a polite “Mm-hmm” as she filed that away in her head.
I’ll change your mind about beans, Clark. Oh yes. I will change your mind about beans!
Lois Lane could be a little bit creepy and weird, come to think of it.
So there was Lois one day, hatching a plan to convert Clark Kent to liking beans. Her scheme involved getting him to eat some without him knowing that they were beans, and when he said how much he liked the dish, she’d be able to spring on him the fact that he’d just eaten beans and liked them so he could now see how silly he was being with that whole bean thing.
Yeah. As plans go, that’s about as complex as Lois Lane could muster. Lex Luthor, she wasn’t.
Which brings us to: Lex Luthor.
See, Lex Luthor was pissed off that year as Christmas rolled near, same way he was every year when Christmas rolled near. He was angry because his schemes had been thwarted. He was also angry because the snowmobile he was on kept wanting to tilt over to the right, because of the weight of the rocket launcher they had with them.
“I can’t believe it,” said Lex. “How hard can it be to figure out where Superman goes all the time! It’s not that big a planet! There’s only so much ‘north’!”
“Maybe he starts out north and then turns left,” his henchman offered. This henchman was fat and portly and looked something like that guy from the movie Network.
“Shut up, you nitwit. Let me think.”
He pulled the snowmobile over — who knows why, they weren’t even on a road — and looked at his map. “I’ve triangulated every course Superman’s ever taken when he flew north from Metropolis. I can’t believe he’d fly in anything other than a straight line, but the lines never converge on anything. And yet, I swear he must have a Fortress up here somewhere!”
“Maybe he just likes his solitude?”
“Oh shut up.” Lex fired up the snowmobile again, and off they went. (How did they have enough gas to snowmobile all the way that far north? Why are you asking me?!)
Meanwhile, some hundred miles south in the city of Metropolis, someplace in the eastern United States but totally not New York City even though it really looks like NYC and all, Clark Kent arrived at Lois Lane’s apartment. He awkwardly knocked on her door, and she opened it and let him in.
“Hi, Clark! Merry Christmas! I’m glad you could make it.”
“Oh, well, gosh, Ms. Lane, thanks for inviting me! You know, I was really surprised that you invited me to your Christmas party. I just figured I’d stay home and read some more Reader’s Digest.”
“Don’t be silly, Clark! It’s Christmas! Look everybody, Clark’s here!”
The other guests all just kind of nodded in Clark’s direction. Anyone other than Clark Kent would have thought the whole lot of them a bunch of assholes, but not Clark Kent. He was nice, that way.
“Want something to drink, Clark? Bar’s over there. You know where it is.”
“Oh thanks, Lois. I just thought I’d have some water.”
“Uhh…sure. Water. Well, there’s that, too, I guess. I have to go check the food!”
And with that, Lois disappeared into her kitchen, where wonderful smells were wafting out. That piqued Clark’s curiosity, so he wandered toward the kitchen door and peaked in. Jimmy Olsen was in there, doing all the cooking, while Lois buzzed around him. That explained it. Lois could barely boil water without burning it.
“I don’t know about this plan, Miss Lane,” Jimmy said.
“Just do it, Jimmy. I have to find out the truth about what Clark says.”
“This seems kind of mean though!”
“Just get it done!”
Clark turned away, alarmed. So that was it: another one of Lois’s hare-brained schemes to see if he was really Superman or not. Why wouldn’t she just give it up! Clark sipped his water, wondering what it was going to be this time.
Meanwhile, way up north, Lex Luthor was getting more and more angry. He pulled the snowmobile over again, shut it off, got off, and kicked it.
“Careful Mr Luthor!” his henchman said. “You broke your foot doing that once!”
“Then maybe I’ll kick something soft and fleshy!” Lex shouted. “Like…your ass!”
His henchman shook his head in amazement at the way Mr. Luthor’s voice in such moments always managed to sound like a blend of Gene Hackman and Kurtwood Smith.
“I can’t believe I can’t find Superman’s fortress! It has to be up here somewhere! He can’t just break laws of physics like that!”
“He can fly,” the henchman offered.
“Shut up!” Lex began to pace. “All right, think. He’s always up here. He always goes north. Why north? What is up here? Polar bears? Inuit natives? Frozen white men from Europe who thought they’d find the North Passage? What could possibly be up here?”
“Maybe that train can tell us,” the henchman said.
“Train? What the hell are you babbling about now?”
“Look,” the henchman said. “A train.”
He pointed. Sure enough, there in the distance was…a train. Six passenger cars, pulled by a locomotive whose headlight cast a golden sheen across the ice in front of it.
“A train? Up here? Where could that be going?”
“Maybe Superman doesn’t have a fortress!” the henchman offered. “Maybe he flies up here and catches a train!”
Lex stopped and slowly turned toward his henchman as his brain tried to process what it had just heard.
“You think…that Superman…flies thousands of miles to catch a train?”
“Er…well…maybe he likes trains. Maybe they’re his hobby. Kind of like you and those magazines you collect, the ones with the pictures of pretty–”
“Sorry, Mr. Luthor.”
Lex turned his attention back to the train. Where could it be going…and then, in a flash…he knew. A grin spread across his face.
“Come on,” he said to his henchman. “We’re going to need that rocket launcher after all!”
“Oh! Did you find Superman’s fortress, Mr. Luthor?”
“No,” Lex said. “But there is a fortress up here. And it belongs to another superhero with whom I have a score to settle.” He got the snowmobile running and gunned it, almost before his henchman could jump on board again. He needed to get there. Oh yes, he needed to get there, indeed. And a certain other superhero, this one whose suit was red, had some answering to do for a broken model ship Lex had got for Christmas when he was ten.
Meanwhile, at that moment, Lois started putting out the food that Jimmy had made. And he’d done a great job of it, too: crab puffs, lobster dainties, shrimp shrimp and more shrimp, Buffalo chicken wings, authentic Metropolis-style pizza (indistinguishable from New York thin crust, but let’s not go there right now, shall we), and chips with the most creamy, luscious, cheese dip you ever saw, cut with just the right amount of hot sauce and spices. Everyone tucked in, and Jimmy headed for the bar to make himself a reward drink when Lois slapped his wrist and sent him back to the kitchen to wash dishes.
“Aren’t you going to eat, Clark?”
“Uhhh…sure, Lois.” What was the trick here? How was she using food to test him? What was this all about? Best just to go along with it, he thought. So he made himself a little plate of food, returned to his corner where he resumed his conversation with the potted plant, and ate. It was all really good, but Oh my God, the cheese dip was fantastic! He’d never tasted anything so wonderful in his life. The creaminess, the smoothness, and the blend of cheese and heat from the sauce! Clark made a mental note to take Jimmy aside next week and ask him why he was doing photography for the Planet when he could be cooking in a restaurant.
Clark didn’t notice Lois’s smug expression of victory when he went back for more cheese dip.
Meanwhile, Lex Luthor guided his snowmobile to the edge of the icy sea, where the train rumbled across a series of bridges made of brick toward a gleaming city of brick. “The North Pole,” he said.
“Why doesn’t it look like it did in National Geographic?”
“That’s the geographic North Pole,” Lex said. “This is the mythic North Pole.”
He could practically hear his henchman’s brain gears a-grinding away on that one.
“All right.” He checked his watch. Fifteen minutes to midnight. “Help me get this rocket launcher ready. It’s almost time.”
“Time for what?”
Lex couldn’t keep it in any longer. He laughed and laughed and laughed.
“We’re going to shoot down Santa Claus!”
“Awwww!” His henchman began to cry as Lex got the rocket launcher ready.
Meanwhile, in Lois Lane’s apartment, Clark Kent’s super digestive system began to go…awry.
It started with a simple little gurgling feeling, but that gurgling became stronger and stronger. Clark leaned into the corner, behind the potted plant, and emitted a belch as stealthily as he could. It made no sound, but the plant’s leaves rustled and then wilted a bit. When he stood back up, he felt worse. A lot worse.
“Oh my,” he said. “Uh, Lois?”
“Yes, Clark?” Lois said sweetly.
“I don’t mean to accuse you of doing anything nasty,” Clark said, “but were there, by any chance, beans in any of the food you made tonight?”
“Just in the cheese dip,” Lois said, with triumph in her voice. Sweet, sweet triumph. “And you always say you hate beans! Now how do you feel about them, Mister Kent!” She put her hands on her hips. “How about that, folks! Clark Kent likes beans now!”
Oh God, Clark thought. His stomach was starting to churn like something that churns a lot. An old-school butter making thing, perhaps. “Lois, was this just…” he pushed down a burp — “…a scheme to get me to eat beans?”
“Not the whole party,” Lois said. “I do like to have people over. You’re just icing on the cake!”
The silence in the room was pretty awkward at this point — not the least for Clark, who desperately wished for loud music and loud conversation to drown out what he needed to do.
“Well gosh Lois I really wish you hadn’t done that,” Clark said in one big rush. His stomach felt like he’d eaten Kryptonite, and the feeling was already spreading…down. Lower. Farther into the tract. “I…I need to go. Sorry!” And with that he grabbed his hat and his coat and ran out the door.
Lois frowned. “Now where do you think he’s off to?” she asked.
“Hey listen!” someone shouted. “Sirens! There’s a fire down the street! Maybe we’ll see Superman!”
Lois’s eyes narrowed. Funny how Clark and Superman were never in the same place….
Superman did make an appearance at the fire. He stopped in the air long enough to blow it out with one super-gust of air. Then he tore off. He was going to explode, and it was going to be ugly. He had to get away from the city, away from everybody.
He had to get north.
Lex Luthor checked his watch. One minute to midnight. “All right, here we go.”
“Awww gee, Mr. Luthor. Thinka the children!”
“Children? I’m doing them a favor! Now they’ll all be equally disappointed. That’s a good lesson to learn. You want something in this life, you gotta go get it! Oh look! There he is!”
And in fact, something was arising from the glittering city. Lex Luthor lifted the rocket launcher to his shoulder and put his eye to the scope. There it was: the great sleigh, powered by whatever magic impelled it into the air. There were the nine stubby beasts flying it, the one in front with that mutant nose of his. And there, in the driver’s seat, was that fat bastard who had broken Lex’s heart so many years before when he’d put the wrong toy, that stupid doll in his stocking. Meanwhile someone else played with his toy ship.
“I’m gonna get you,” he said. “Ho ho ho!”
He squeezed the trigger, and the rocket launched. Right toward Santa Claus and his sleigh.
Meanwhile, Superman whipped through the air. He knew he was going north, but he wasn’t paying total attention to where he was going. He wasn’t even going to the Fortress; he just needed to be someplace where nobody lived. He used almost every ounce of superstrength he could spare from his flying effort to hold shut his…well, it’s not a muscle that Superman tended to give a lot of thought to. But now, it had his undivided attention. Finally he reached a spot where he could do the deed. No one around for hundreds of miles. The only thing in sight was a shooting star, up ahead.
Superman turned around, bent over, and then a BRRRAAAMMMMMPPP! sound echoed across the entire Arctic circle. It sounded like the most righteous guitar chord ever struck by a guy in a metal hair band. Just like that, all the pressure in his body, from Lois’s damned beans, exploded out of his…well look, there’s not really any polite way to say it.
Seconds after midnight on Christmas night, Superman hovered in the air near the North Pole and ripped a super fart.
If such things were written in the history books, this one would lead the way. Surely someplace, in some time, there is a being who chronicles all the greatest farts of all the ages of man and beast. If you could look in those books, there you would find Superman’s fart from that night, on Page One.
“What was that?” Lex’s henchman screamed.
“GET DOWN!!!” Lex shouted. He and his henchman threw themselves to the ground as a breeze with the force of Dorothy Gale’s tornado ripped across their exposed spot. Following that wind was the most awful smell anyone could ever remember, anywhere. It was the smell of every questionable casserole ever served at a church potluck, combined with the scent of every moldering corpse and every rotting carcass on the planet. It was the foulest-smelling thing ever, and Lex and his henchman were in the middle of it.
The super fart had one other effect: it knocked the rocket off its trajectory, sending it careening wildly through the air until it landed and detonated, about thirty feet from where Lex and his henchman stood. The explosion caused the ice on which they stood to break free, and in that moment, they stood atop an iceberg as it calved and started floating away, into the currents of the Arctic Ocean.
In the sleigh, Santa reached down and made a note on his Naughty List. Clearly, one of his elves had fed Rudolph a can of that Beef-a-rino stuff again. Just like in the Seinfeld episode. “On boys!” he shouted as he took out a can of spray deodorizer that emitted scents of pine, baking cookies, and old bookstores.
Superman, for his part, just hung there in the air, letting the sweat drip from his face. Thinking no one was nearby, he let out a Super Sigh of Super Relief. Santa heard it, though, and laughed. Superman’s cheeks turned red. “Sorry, Santa,” he said.
“Think nothing of it, Kal-el!” Santa shouted back. “And to you, a good night!”
Superman gathered his wits and flew away again, back toward Metropolis. Stupid beans! He’d have to talk with Lois about that.
Meanwhile, Lex Luthor paced back and forth on the iceberg as the henchman tried to get a cell phone signal. “How long until we get to a cell tower, Mr. Luthor?”
Lex Luthor shook his head.
And that is how Superman’s butt saved Christmas.