Up Up and Midway!

Submitted into Contest #141 in response to: Start your story with someone receiving a one-star review.... view prompt


Speculative Funny Inspirational

MidWoman tapped at the blinking band on her wrist. She blinked back at the new notification. There it was, a one star! And the comment began with ‘The ill-fitting costume didn’t inspire confidence…’

She fumed as she loosened her belt with a ridiculously big M for a buckle. She had an inkling the old pervert would do this to her. He shouldn’t even have been there at the rendezvous.

That meant she had to meet TheBoss.

She knew she was not in her prime but had she lost her sheen completely?

She teleported to a deserted alley. Took a deep breath. And used her average hero powers on herself.

The dopamine kicked in. A smile broke on her lips as her nose picked up the aroma of samosas being fried on the main street. Her tranquil mind advised her not to give in to temptation, her belt was already tight. She sighed and teleported again.

The corporate office of YourAverageHero.com was a nondescript structure. It stood on the last lane of a busy market street. A tin board painted in dull yellow hung at the entrance. TheBoss wanted to keep a low profile. He didn’t want ShinySuperHero.com to know there was an increasing demand for ‘saving a day’ in that sleepy little town.

MidWoman sauntered into the building. She high-fived GaySaver in the lobby and watched him dash through the door in his rainbow spandex. As she descended into the dusty labyrinth of the office, she saw TeenTender flirting with a sweaty back-office geek. She gave a toothy smile masking her clenched jaw as she thought Enjoy it while it lasts you young stupid…. The dopamine was wearing thin already.

She knocked on the door twice before entering the cabin of Thippeswamy aka TheBoss.


Every hero has an origin story. Even the average one.

When Madhuri teleported to Mrs. Dave’s terrace and stopped her from jumping down, she was only 10.

Madhuri’s mother came to know about it. She was not shocked. It seems she had suspected it could happen.

You see, the mother was a super hero herself who was not allowed to don a cape by her parents. I will spare you the details.

Anyway, Madhuri’s mother was determined to see that her daughter reached her full potential, even at the cost of her bewildered NoPowers husband. She would fly through her daughter.

‘Parental expectations’ is a boomerang that can send even superheroes scurrying for cover.

As Madhuri grew into a teenager and expanded her horizons it was clear to her mother that she had given birth to an average hero.

Madhuri’s average powers (apart from teleporting) included sensing the mental state of middle-aged women who had suddenly woken up to the fact that they had not lived their life; and injecting optimism into them that would send them off happily on the path of chores, loneliness and… no not a hike, down the aisle of a geriatric ward in time.

In short, she was a lifesaver but not a game-changer.

So, the super hero mother groomed Madhuri to embrace her modest destiny.

At 18, Madhuri had two career options to choose from,

1.    Be employed in multi-national corporations based in cities as a junior level AverageHero.

 Pros- city life, cowl

Cons- be subservient to SuperHero, half a cape

2.    Be employed in a small town start-up as a star AverageHero.

 Pros- teleport without impedance from radiation, shiny full belt.

 Cons- pay per case and ratings, wide-rimmed goggles

She had chosen the second one, as being a star meant something to her- MidWoman- the beacon of hope for the middle-aged women in crisis! The full belt had welded her idealism to her body. But it struggled to keep up with her expanding girth 20 years later.


TheBoss was sitting on a swivel chair that no longer swivelled. A sky-blue towel with a red YAH.com embossed on it lay crumpled on its backrest. It was 5 p.m. and he was scrolling down his iPad with a scowl on his face.

MidWoman smoothed down her long pencil skirt with her stomach tucked in. And coughed softly to gain TheBoss’s attention.

He gestured for her to sit.

She sat down and exhaled, her belly easing behind the table.

“Okay MidWoman, since it’s late in the day, let’s get to the point straight away.”

MidWoman smiled and nodded.

“As you know, this is for the third time this month your rating is below 3 stars. What is your action plan?”

“Ahem…firstly, in my defence I would like to say the husband shouldn’t have been there at the rendezvous. The company rules clearly state it. It botched the operation…”

TheBoss cut her sentence with, “You know, the customer is still the…”

“KING…yeah, I know,” MidWoman shrugged her shoulders trapped in a full-sleeved tank top. Then continued, “Secondly, I would like to upgrade my costume.”

TheBoss frowned and wagged his index finger,

“I hope you are not suggesting a saree or a salwar. We had this discussion earlier. We have to give our customers what they want. Miniskirts may be a little too bold for a small town like this, but they will still want you to arrive sporting an international look.”

“How about harem pants?”

TheBoss ran down his fingers on his non-existent moustache.

“See, your rescuee may be middle-aged, but don’t forget they like to be rescued by a pretty, young hero. So, you have to look the part even if you are not...”

“Not what?”

TheBoss cleared his throat, fixed his gaze on his old photo hung on the opposite wall-the DealMaker in his heydays - and let the words out in the musty air.

“Young and pretty!”

The words hung there for a moment.

“How about capable?” MidWoman grimaced, her eyes reduced to slits behind the inscrutable electric blue goggles.

TheBoss guffawed,

“C’mon. That’s a given. Don’t tell me you are so naïve.”

“naïve? Me? No, I think I have a perfect solution,” MidWoman said examining her manicured blue nails.


Mrs. Kumar opened the wardrobe. She was opening it after two months. She had dreaded that moment. The whiff of sweat mingled with mothballs hit her. Tears welled up in her eyes as her unsteady hands smoothened the maroon school blazer that hung. Her boy had outgrown the blazer. He had outgrown the home. He had left for college in spring. She felt her energy drain from her feet.

She dragged herself to her easel. A bare tree stood on it. She picked up a size 10 cat’s tongue brush, scooped up a bit of viridian and sap green from the pan, and mixed them. Then she flicked it above the trunk. A set of hollow leaves grew on it. She sighed, threw her brush back into the palette, and headed to the kitchen.

She put a couple of bay leaves and a spoonful of grated ginger into soaked rajma and set it on the stove to boil. The onion basket was empty. She took it to the pantry. Filled it back up. As she tied the sack, an instant mix packet of gulab jamun fell from the top shelf. She picked it up, held it to her chest, and sobbed.

Back in the kitchen, she sliced the onions thin and long, followed by juicy red tomatoes that bled on the chopping board. The knife was sharp and she needed a release…The doorbell rang.

She dropped the knife. Wiped her cheeks. Muttered to herself, “Who could that be?” And opened the door.

A middle-aged woman in a shiny, red, satin lehenga and an electric blue tunic beamed at her. A flashy ‘M’ was embroidered on her bodice.

Mrs. Kumar nearly shut the door but the lady in lehenga blocked it with surprising agility. Mrs. Kumar was stunned and about to raise an alarm when she felt an overwhelming sense of calm and peace course through her. She said instead, “Hello! that’s an interesting costume you have on… what is that propped up on your head?”

“Oh! it’s just my eyewear. Does not go too well with my outfit, I’m afraid,” MidWoman giggled.

“If you can carry off those boots, I guess you can get away with those oversized goggles too,” Mrs. Kumar smiled before adding, “What can I do for you?”

“Um…we…my husband and I moved to this neighbourhood yesterday. I was wondering if you could guide me about stuff like shops, restaurants, entertainment, etc…”

The April noon threw hot coals outside.

Mrs. Kumar offered, “Sure, why don’t you come inside? We can talk over some lemonade.” She ushered MidWoman into the living room. Then went to fetch lemonade.

MidWoman repositioned her eyewear, spread her arms wide, and inhaled deeply into her beltless abdomen. Mrs. Kumar’s living memories of the house flowed into her.

A young Mrs. Kumar in a red kanjeevaram and jasmine in her hair gently kicks the kalash at the doorstep as Mr. Kumar looks at his new bride with love... The new mother of a delicate boy decides to leave her career and take care of him…Mr. Kumar is too busy at work and misses most of his son’s hard-won milestones... One fine day the little boy is grown up and leaves for college… Mr. Kumar is a respected entrepreneur who does not bring jasmines for his wife anymore…and Mrs. Kumar is a bitter woman painting her regrets as trees and butterflies.

Mrs. Kumar returned holding a tray with two tall glasses of lemonade. The glasses had bright yellow wedges of lemon painted on them. She handed one to MidWoman.

“Thank you, you are very kind,” MidWoman said to Mrs. Kumar. The goggles sat gleaming on the coffee table.

Mrs. Kumar made space for the tray on the coffee table by moving the eyewear. Then on an impulse tried them on.

Her unlived memories of the house flowed into her.

A young Mr. Kumar comes home with jasmines for a pregnant Mrs.Kumar, cooks dinner before she returns from the office… He looks at the exhausted young mother sleeping with her tiny baby next to her and tucks them in… He sighs with guilt at her stowed away vacuum-sealed work clothes... He caresses his son’s hard-won marathon trophy late at night after a long day at the office… One fine day the little boy is grown up and leaves home after giving his mother a tight hug… He is left with a wife who won’t wear the jasmines he brings anymore… They grow apart under the same roof pining for memories they could have made.

“Mrs. Kumar, is there something on the stove?” MidWoman’s voice jolted Mrs. Kumar.

She pulled off the garish accessory, put it back on the table, and said,

“Yes, rajma- I guess I’ll let it simmer for some more time.” Then asked hesitantly, “Where did you buy these…um…goggles from?”

“Oh, these? I got them from a gypsy at a flea market… and she gave me some strange advice with it,” MidWoman said spinning it with her index finger.

“What kind of advice?” Mrs. Kumar surprised herself by asking the question.

“Ah… nothing great… something like… see with your eyes closed and live with your heart open or some blah blah.”

MidWoman took leave shortly after that.

Rajma was cooked and served with love. Mr. and Mrs. Kumar fed gulab jamun to each other.

A 5-star rating by Mr. Kumar flashed on MidWoman’s wristband.

MidWoman sat with her salad bowl on the patio and looked at the stars reaching for the earth at the horizon.

She didn’t know it yet. She had unlocked her potential to be a superhero- by sharing her average powers with an average person.

April 15, 2022 05:58

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Zack Powell
07:10 Apr 21, 2022

Suma! I've been on vacation and I'm just now coming back to read this, and I really enjoyed it. What a fun use of the prompt. I'm a sucker for good structure in stories, so this was right up my alley. I love how you formatted this one ---> introduction, backstory, conflict with boss, MidWoman using her powers effectively to end the conflict. Very clear beginning, middle, and end - you've told a complete story. I really, really love the use of the goggles being the thing that unveils the memories. Great symbolism (goggles being something that...


Suma Jayachandar
08:13 Apr 21, 2022

Ah, that's a kind, kind comment, Zack. You have no idea how much joy you bring to others by your thoughtful, heartfelt appreciation. A vacation..you say? Ah good on you, friend. Surely you would have picked a few nuggets from there. Can't wait to find them shining in your work!


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Michał Przywara
17:40 Apr 16, 2022

Ha, this is fantastic! I love a twist on the superhero genre, and this was a creative approach to the prompt. I guess there's always been heroes with powers of questionable use, so it's nice to see an entrepreneur realize that and fill a niche. "In short, she was a lifesaver but not a game-changer." There were a number of good lines, but this one caught my attention. It's good on it's own, but it seems like it's a deeper comment on a lot of what we do in life, on all the industries out there to help us avoid problems instead of dealing wit...


Suma Jayachandar
04:40 Apr 17, 2022

Thanks for the read and kind words, Michal. I was tempted to throw a shade at certain societal norms this week and creation of an 'average hero' seemed like a good vehicle for it😂 Thanks once again for the appreciation


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