Superman took up residence on the upper east side of Manhattan after a unanimous vote by the citizens of Metropolis forbid him from continuing to live or work in the municipality. As a former Metropolitan, and current New Yorker, I was conflicted– he once saved my father’s life but he also nearly breath-froze my best friend Jim to death when we were eight. Jimmy’s eyelashes never did grow back. Still, the cardinal rule of real estate during a recession says to never turn a renter with disposable income away. On May 5, 2009, I became Superman’s landlord.
When I was seven years old my father, a detective, moved our family from New York City to Metropolis. Being the budding economist that I was (my mother read my younger brother and me bedtime stories from The Atlantic, and The Economist), I queried my father, “Why give up a secure higher paying job and pension in the world’s greatest city to move us to Metropolis – a city that amounts to little more than a comic parody of our old home – and take a pay cut?” He replied, “Superman.”
You see, Superman’s popularity and effectiveness and sanity were still to peak at the time and my father, weary of a case gone wrong leaving his family without support but unwilling to ride a desk from nine to five, saw a solution in the red-caped hero. The frequency of injuries to cops began a steady and steep decline upon Superman’s entrance into criminal justice. Yet, because of a fierce union police salary remained level, even achieving a slight increase per year to accommodate rising costs of living.
My father’s decision proved prophetic a year later. A couple of overweight, suited-up goons hired by a local mobster he was about to bring down tried to “persuade” him to keep his mouth shut. As one goons’ foot persuaded my father in the gut repeatedly, the other loaded his closing argument into a silver and black 9mm Glock. Hope drained from my father’s thoughts and his mind set to the required flashback until Superman descended as if from heaven to emancipate my father from his executioners. With a burst of laser from his huskie-blue eyes Superman dispatched the criminals before ever putting his feet to pavement.
“How can I repay you?” father asked.
“Do not worry, citizen.” Sensing my father’s reticence to accept aide without offering some gift of gratitude he continued, “You can help me out next time I am in trouble.”
And with a smooth sane grin and wink – a grin and wink that eventually degenerated to cackle and twitch – he disappeared, a goon per hand, into the morning’s red sky.
Dad’s assessment of the quantity of injuries suffered by cops turned out to be too conservative. After almost a decade of activity in Metropolis, Superman had eradicated nearly all of the city’s crime. Not only were cops not being injured in the line of duty, they were being laid off or forced into earlier retirement with only partial pensions. A blanket of safety not experienced by any other city in history quelled initial frustration. Yes, a partial pension meant a smaller apartment, but our family made it work. We all made it work and we were thankful.
That’s when madness began to take hold.
Eventually, Superman cleaned up Metropolis so thoroughly that he resorted to forcibly thwarting the child’s game ‘Cops and Robbers’ to fulfill his insatiable duty for crime stopping.
At first Metropolitans said nothing – Superman had earned their indulgence, at least, for a time. After all, was he not the man who once repelled General Zed, outsmarted the devious Lex Luthor, and prevented Doomsday from wreaking destruction on the city’s gentle and otherwise helpless citizens? Not long after his digression into a tolerated super-bully, however, there were no more ‘Cops,’ no more ‘Robbers.’
Superman began spending a lot of time in court.
“Yes, your honor, Jimmy padlocked Timmy to a set of imaginary train tracks and strapped an inordinate amount of imaginary C-4 to his head, chest, and legs. I had to freeze-breath the eight-year-old because he was about to press the detonator.”
The judge replied, “The detonator was a Push-Pop, a piece of candy. Your ice breath left the child severely burned! He has to undergo months of painful medical treatment to replace the frostbitten skin.”
“Crime doesn’t pay. I don’t know about you, your honor, but I could not live with myself if I had to tell Timmy’s parents that he was turned into an imaginary suicide bomb and not only been exploded himself but was the instrument of death for every passenger on the incoming imaginary train.”
Despite the court ruling against Superman, indeed they declared him medically unfit to participate in society on numerous occasions, the Kryptonian continued to fulfill his mandate to eradicate evil wherever he saw it. The recession had hid Metropolis hard: the city overextended itself, ordering nearly forty new towering buildings – condominiums – all designed by Frank Owen Gehry; each a unique design. Barely halfway through the massive building project the housing bubble popped and the city’s funding dried up. Metropolis’s financial situation became even more dire when the fifteen completed buildings failed to secure even twenty-five percent capacity. So, despite the courts numerous rulings against their now mentally unstable former savior, the money to purchase the amount of Kryptonite needed to construct a cell capable of holding the domestic terrorist in place was unavailable.
Still, Metropolitan patience persevered amongst the childless demographics – singles and marriages consisting of a barren woman, impotent man, or both. Superman’s popularity during this period in fact grew amongst the curmudgeonly retiree demographic whose spokesperson was once quoted saying “those children deserved what they got. Freeze breath? If only my father would have just frozen me! When I was in ‘Nam…” When lack-of-crime ennui saw the Krypotinian take to bursting through suburban ceilings (lack of in-flight combat engendered severely diminished aerial precision) to rescue suburbanite’s from the dreaded “what is for dinner?” monster, however, the tainted memories of past heroisms faded into outrage for the childless. He lost the curmudgeons when he apprehended the actor playing Matlock for unlicensed construction of a bomb.
Several years later having returned to New York City and become involved in real estate I found myself flirting with financial ruin. When the housing bubble burst in late 2008 three of my properties – my nicest and most expensive - remained vacant. And it was right then that my childhood hero reappeared in my life. Thrice evicted from apartments all over the five boroughs Superman landed in my office, homeless. When it finally became clear to my father that Superman would be evicted from Metropolis, he befriended the mentally unstable hero and gave him my number.
Spread thin financially and in no position to turn away income, I offered him a spacious 500 square-foot studio apartment in an up and coming Manhattan neighborhood for $3,200 a month, which I assured him was a steal. He refused to steal. We reached an accord - $5,000 a month, provided I paid for cable and Internet. His negotiating skills were now as deft as his moral judgment. Am I proud of taking advantage of a madman and former childhood hero? No. Truth and justice were not present in our transaction but “the American way” was, and that did provide some comfort. So did the $5,000 cash per month.
I am not completely self-centered, though. In truth, I agreed to sign the lease partly in order to honor my father’s wish to repay Superman for saving his life years ago. After all, Superman, besides my father, was my hero as a child. So when he walked into my office on signing day adorned in cape, suits pants, and thick black-rimmed glasses calling himself “Clark Superkent” my heart broke. Maybe we asked too much of him, maybe he needed more time to himself. Where do intergalactic superheroes go on vacation? It is perhaps more likely that Krypton was never destroyed and he was sent to Earth for the same reason that deficient Spartan babies were sent to the bottom of chasms and craters. On May 5, 2009, when he signed the obviously used paper towel on my desk that I told him was the leasing agreement and subsequently burst through the ceiling of my office, I learned an important lesson: always ask for a double deposit.
--- Steven Demmler
Steven Demmler received his undergraduate degree from Palm Beach Atlantic University in Philosophy. He has recently graduated from Harvard with his masters in Theology and is now pursuing his writing career with his lovely wife in South Florida. Look forward to seeing more works done by this brilliant rising star. Follow his blog HERE
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