Superheroes in Disguise

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[Weekly Writ is an entertainment project where we take story suggestions from our Your Ad-Vantage Facebook page and turn those ideas into a flash-fiction story every week. This week was written in honor of Veteran’s Day by Loren Rugen.]

Little Lisa couldn’t believe her luck. The newest assignment was a persuasive paper, and while most such assignments were greeted with sighs and groans, this one was met with hearty approval. The purpose of this paper, the teacher explained, is to choose your favorite superhero and support your choice with evidence and persuasion. While every seventh grader met the challenge with enthusiasm, and immediately began debating with themselves and their peers about which superhero beat out the rest, Lisa sat still in quiet confidence. In her mind’s eye, her superhero of choice would be superior to anyone her peers chose. She wished she could bring her choice to school to show off while she read her essay out loud. The thought brought a smile to her face as she began writing her first draft.

She was proofreading her second draft when she discovered she left an important factor out of the essay, something that would add an element of true understanding to her work. She discovered that the most realistic superheroes always have a quirk, a problem of sorts that they have to work through. Furthermore, her superhero suffered from several thorns in his side, and to her, they were suddenly very daunting. At first, this dismayed poor little Lisa, and she nearly started to cry as she picked up her paper to crumple the neat handwriting. But wait, a quiet voice began a persuasive speech of its own in her head. Of course every superhero has his own set of problems, the voice began. Not only does it teach them humility, but it teaches them to rely on others, and gives others a chance to be helpful, to be a superhero in their own way. As she pondered this, she concluded an extra paragraph was needed, but wasn’t sure whether to place it toward the beginning of the essay or at the end. She decided that it would be best to consider this quirk early on, so that people can see how it only makes the rest of her positive points all the more impressive.

The due date arrived and Lisa was ready. She eagerly waved her hand in the air to be chosen as the first student to recite her persuasive speech. As she stepped up to the short podium she carried a bundle in her arms that her mom helped her to prepare. Her superhero might not be here to stand beside her, but she could at least show off what kind of outfit he wore. Ever so carefully, she laid out the bundle’s neat contents onto a nearby table and began.

“Superheroes are often the subject of legend, with superhuman exploits that seem to separate them from the rest of society. As you hear my explanation for who I deem to be the best of superheros, I hope you will also see how true superheroes are not above, beyond, or apart from society, but are an essential part of it, whether they are performing superhuman feats or displaying everyday human traits. What is more, superheroes want and need to be accepted and needed for the everyday tasks and liked as an everyday friend. I say this because I know my superhero well; you see, my favorite superhero is my dad.

“He served in the U.S. Military, periodically traveling overseas, and was part of the counter-terrorist surge in Iraq. I have many tales to recount concerning his bravery, courage, good humor, patriotism, selflessness, and military prowess, but I wish to begin by detailing the finer points of what I already hinted at—how even superheros have needs.”

At this juncture Lisa gave a sigh, more to settle her nerves than to put much needed oxygen through her lungs.

“Indeed, even superheroes have needs. That is because no superhero, no matter how super the hero, is entirely invincible. Superman has his kryptonite. Tony Stark, Iron Man, has a piece of shrapnel near his heart, and also happens to be a headstrong alcoholic. Matt Murdock as the Daredevil is blind and impulsive. My dad, after an especially hectic deployment, suffered from PTSD, which is short for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

Lisa continued to explain how her dad was made a better man as he dealt with PTSD. It was harder than anticipated, however, since people could not relate to that kind of psychological stress. Through mentoring, prayer, and lots of family time in-between deployments, he kept a handle on it. Lisa made the point that some superheroes are defined by their inner battles just as much as the external ones. When a man has the strength to address those weaknesses humbly yet with dignity, that, too, is a superhuman accomplishment, even if it is as a superhero in disguise, under the cover of his civilian alter ego.

Once that paragraph was exposited, Lisa rallied through several paragraphs of what she deemed as awe inspiring virtues. She then took the leisure of one more calming sigh before she began the conclusion.

“In summary, I find that the most endearing traits of the superhero are not in talents larger-than-life. Rather, his life showed me that my life is not just about me, as his life was not just about him. Living that out is a display of true strength.” Lisa stooped to take off a medal from her dad’s uniform as she spoke, trying to keep her voice from wavering. “In 2007, while on his last tour in Iraq, for his remarkable valor in saving three civilians when a suicide bomber detonated, he posthumously received this purple heart.”

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