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American Friendship Coming of Age

Shane wasn’t like most super heroes. He didn’t come from a far away planet or get bitten by a radioactive spider. In truth, he was the last person you would expect to save the world, but in his own little way he did just that.


   The Parker’s, Mary Louise and Peter, had long since given up hope of having a child when Mary found out she was pregnant. The news, however, was as welcome as it was shocking. It was probably for this reason that they seemed to be the only two people not disappointed when Shane was born with an extra chromosome. From his first day on earth, his dad called him “Clark Kent” because he instinctively knew his son would one day be great.


   For most kids, sharing a nickname with the alter ego of a superhero would be oppressive, but not for to Shane. He embraced his namesake and would run around the neighborhood sporting a cape he had fashioned from a red towel. His smile, as ever-present as his cape, was the kind that could light up a room. His daily responsibilities included helping old women cross the street, chasing away raccoons from the neighbors trash, and reporting any oddities to his superiors-his mom and dad.


When he wasn’t patrolling the neighborhood, Shane would revert to his alter ego and do his most favorite thing, paint rocks. Shane could thank his mom for his everyday passion as she was a painter by trade and passed on that love to her only son. 


All of the trees in Shane’s yard were surrounded by his brightly colored stones. His mom told him that whenever she had a bad day she needed only to look at her son’s handiwork to make her day better. 


It wasn’t as easy to please the neighbors, however, as most kept to themselves. There was old Mrs. Wiggins and her German Shepard. Her face was a virtual wrinkled roadmap. If it had a legend it would reveal a hard life with many stops for disappointment. Shane’s mom said Mrs. Wiggins used to be a seamstress, but she had been forced into retirement by fingers that had grown feeble. She never seemed to stray further than her front yard and only seemed capable of saying one thing out loud, “You kids git or I’ll set my dog on you!” 


It was an idle threat as her German Shepard seemed as old as Mrs. Wiggins and rarely left the front poach. Most of the neighborhood kids found tormenting Mrs. Wiggins to be a sort of local Olympic sport. They would take turns invading her privacy, forcing her to yell her catchphrase. They would then scatter only to reform to rate the success of their intrusions. 


Shane, on the other hand, would have none of that. He would stop running whenever he would pass the Wiggins’ home and walk by respectfully, making sure never to trespass on her beloved grass.


   There was also Crazy Man Johnson who walked the entire neighborhood twice a day. That wasn’t his real name, but it’s what all the kids called him—all the kids but Shane. Shane called him Mr. Johnson, even though the old man never responded. He would just mumble under his breath words no one could understand. Shane’s dad confided in him that Mr. Johnson used to be very friendly before he lost his wife. 


“I’ll help look for her,” Shane said in his best superhero voice. 


“It’s not that simple,” Shane’s dad replied. He then cleared his throat but eventually went quiet without giving any further explanation.


   Last but not least was the neighborhood Super-Villian, Billy Melbourne, Billy the Kid to his band of marauders. He was the de facto leader of neighborhood boys and he bullied Shane relentlessly. 


“You’re a retard!” Billy would yell as Shane ran by. “That’s not a cape, it’s just an old towel.” Shane tried to ignore the taunts because, as a superhero, he needed thick skin, but one taunt caught Shane completely off guard. 


   “If you’re a superhero, what’s your superpower?” Billy’s words hit Shane like a sledgehammer. Shane knew his cape was made from a towel, but it was still a cape. He, however, had no answer for the latest unkind inquiry. Billy, it seemed, might just be right. Shane couldn’t fly, or run faster than a locomotive. He didn’t have super strength or “Spidey-sense.” He didn’t even have a cool utility belt like Batman and Robin. In an instant Shane felt ordinary and it made him immeasurably sad.  


   “Those boys are just bullies,” Shane’s dad told him as he tried to wipe away his tears. “Most bullies are just scared little boys—they aren’t superheroes like you, Clark Kent.” There was something about hearing his dad call him Clark Kent that would always give Shane back his smile. He didn’t often forget that he was a superhero, but when he did, his dad had found the perfect way to remind him. “You don’t have to have a superpower to be a superhero,” his dad continued. “You just have to have the heart of a superhero, and we both know you do.”


   It wasn’t in Shane’s nature to be sad for long, but the realization that he had no superpowers was a punch in his gut. Deep down he knew he was still a superhero, but for the first time in years he started to walk the neighborhood without his cape. On these slower walks, Shane contemplated how a superhero with no superpowers could still rightfully hold the moniker. 


As he walked by Mrs. Wiggins house, he instinctively looked up and noticed something very unusual. Mrs. Wiggins was on her front porch, but her trusty sidekick was nowhere to be seen. He had seen Mrs. Wiggins angry before, yet something was different this time.. Even from the sidewalk, he could see she was crying. Summoning up the courage of a superhero, Shane walked up the driveway, being careful not to step on the lawn. In a moment, he was face to face with a bereft old woman.


   “Are you alright?” Shane asked politely. “Can I help you?”


   “Aren’t you sweet,” Mrs. Wiggins replied, trying to force a smile. “No, I just need time to be sad.. You see, I lost my dog today.”  


   Shane didn’t completely understand, but he remembered what his dad had said, so he just said, “I’m sorry.” Then he left quietly once again, making sure not to step on the grass.


   The walk home from Mrs. Wiggins wasn’t a long one, but it was long enough for Shane to come up with a plan. He didn’t have any superpowers, but he could sure paint rocks. His mom had told him how his rocks had always made her happy. He was going to paint a rock for Mrs. Wiggins and deliver it to her personally.


   The rock he chose was a little larger than the ones he had distributed around the trees in his yard. It had to be for what he had planned. He first painted the whole rock white. Once it was dry, he used brown and black paint to complete his masterpiece. As soon as it was done, Shane ran out the door and back to Mrs. Wiggins’ home. She was still on her front porch and still just as distraught.


   “Mrs. Wiggins,” Shane said, as he made his way up her driveway, “I don’t know how to help you find your dog, but I made this for you.” Shane handed Mrs. Wiggins the rock he had created for her, which had a childlike painting of a German Shepard on a white background. “Anytime you miss your dog, you can look at this rock and remember him.”


   Mrs. Wiggins’ eyes welled up with tears, but this time they were accompanied by a large smile. “You wonderful wonderful boy,” she said as she hugged Shane, “You’ve made my day. Thank you so much for my gift.”


   “You’re welcome!” Shane responded, as he headed back home. 


He had another rock to paint. For the next rock Shane used gold and cream and blue paint. It took two days to complete, and when it was perfect, he headed out the door to look for Mr. Johnson. It didn’t take long to find the old man, as it was right at the time when he would take his afternoon walk. 


Without fear, Shane walked right up to Mr. Johnson and handed him the rock. “It’s a picture of your wife,” Shane said proudly. “I hope you like it. I remember she had blonde hair and blue eyes. I wanted you to have something that looked like her so you wouldn’t miss her so much.”


   Mr. Johnson, not one for words, smiled and simply replied “Thank you.” It wasn’t much, but to Shane it meant the world because it was the first time Mr. Johnson had ever spoken to him. As he turned to leave, Mr. Johnson said, “Wait.” Shane turned back to see Mr. Johnson’s outstretched hand. Shane shook it . He felt very grown up that moment as it was his first hand shake with anyone other than his dad. Shane then turned back towards home. He had one more rock to paint.


   Back home again, Shane set to painting his finest rock yet. This one would take almost a week and required a mirror. Shane did his best to paint a picture of himself on this last rock. He wasn’t sure if it would have the desired effect, but he was willing to try. 


It is said that courage isn’t the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. For this last rock, Shane would have to overcome his greatest fear. Knocking on Billy’s door was the hardest thing Shane had ever done, and Billy’s initial response to Shane didn’t make it any easier.


   “What do you want, retard?”


   “I want to give you a gift,” Shane answered, as he handed Billy the rock. “My dad said bullies are bullies because they are afraid. I’m not sure if that’s true but I don’t want you to be afraid of me.” Billy was caught off guard by the gesture and was unexpectedly touched by Shane’s gentle spirit. There were no great professions of friendship, but in the end there was also no more bullying. Shane had defeated Billy without a fight just like a real superhero would.


Happy and relieved, Shane headed home to tell his parents about the rocks. Shane’s dad gave his son a big bear hug while Shane’s mom cried happy tears.


“I guess I can be a superhero without any superpowers,” Shane said to his father with a smile.


“What do you mean, no superpowers? You have the greatest superpower of them all, kindness,” Shane’s father said, as he too shook his son’s hand.


Just then there was a knock at the door. Shane walked over and opened the door to see Mrs. Wiggins holding a gift-wrapped package.


“This is for you, Shane. It’s my way of saying thank you for my gift.”


Shane took the package from Mrs. Wiggins and opened it immediately. Inside was a hand-sewn Superman cape. It took only a few seconds before the cape was secured around Shane’s neck. After an extended thank you hug, he ran out the door and into his neighborhood to protect all his new friends.



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August 12, 2021 21:23

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10 comments

K. Antonio
19:42 Aug 14, 2021

THOM! I found this story so adorable and I loved the moral of it all. Shane was endearing from the start.

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Jon Casper
10:33 Aug 13, 2021

Charming story, and a great message.

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17:19 Sep 25, 2021

🎵 oops, you did it again 🎵 i seem to find this mistake in all of your stories, thom... it hurts. :( basically, the beginnings are amazing. chef's-kiss. five stars. but the ending gets stiff. sentences like this- "billy was caught off guard by the gesture and was unexpectedly touched by shane’s gentle spirit. there were no great professions of friendship, but in the end there was also no more bullying." it goes so far in the future and strays away from the not-so-distant past tense you usually use. it kills me. your writing's amazing, but the...

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I.B. Dunn
17:40 Sep 25, 2021

You made my day. I sure would have liked it if you had said the whole story was brilliant but it wouldn't have helped me get better. You cared enough to let me know where I fell short and gave me the chance to do better next time. I earnestly thank you.

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02:23 Sep 26, 2021

🎵 you've got a friend in me 🎵

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Jonathan Blaauw
12:27 Sep 13, 2021

Thom! Hi! Long time! I love stopping by your page because I know I'll always find something worth reading. I enjoyed this story for what it was: a feel-good adventure with a sweet ending. And I connected with it because I happen to think that kindness is indeed a superpower and in this world we live in, as rare as climbing walls and x-ray vision. And, arguably, more important. I've spoken before about your ability to write clearly and directly, and this story proves that you can use that to write excellently for a younger audience. I say t...

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13:12 Aug 17, 2021

This was such a sweet story! It's nice to read works that remind us kindness is truly a superpower. Your dialogue and descriptions were excellent and brought all the characters to life. Well done!

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H L Mc Quaid
09:27 Aug 17, 2021

Lovely story, great hero, and fantastic message. One small thing, I think it's "German Shepherd" not Shepard (though I have at least 3 people spell it that way in the last two weeks, so maybe there are two spellings). :)

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Andrea Magee
11:47 Aug 15, 2021

Excellent story....I really enjoyed it!

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Karen Kinley
15:58 Aug 14, 2021

Love your style, as always! Your writing always has heart, Thom. Well done. I feel like I knew Shane by the end and certainly wish a little boy like him lived in my neighborhood!

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