The Price Of Progress


The cry was almost inaudible, a faint, plaintive “help!”, rather like the one Penelope Pitstop emits when tied to a railway track.

It wasn’t inaudible to Superman. His super-ears picked up the cry, his super-nose picked up the scent of fire, his super-eyes spotted the wisp of smoke, miles away.

Someone was trapped in a burning building. It was time to shift his super-arse.

Which was why Melanie, staring helplessly out of her fifth-floor window as the smoke thickened behind her, suddenly found herself face-to-face with a man hovering in mid-air outside.

The man was wearing a suit, a shirt-and-tie and horn-rimmed glasses.

“Who are you?” asked Melanie.

“I’m Superman,” said Superman.

“No,  you’re not,” she said.

“I am.”

“Prove it,” said Melanie.

Superman pulled at the buttons of his shirt to reveal the famous symbol beneath.

“Huh,” said Melanie. “You’ve got a Superman T-shirt. Big deal, my nephew has Superman pyjamas.”

“I’m floating five storeys above the ground,” said Superman.

“That’s a better argument,” said Melanie, “But I’m still not convinced. Why aren’t you wearing the outfit?”

“Mobile phones,” said Superman.

“I’m sorry?”

“I said mobile phones,” said Superman. “Now that everyone carries a phone around with them there’s no need for phone booths anymore. I have nowhere to get changed.”

“Isn’t there anywhere else you can do it?”

“No,” said Superman. “I tried changing in the lavatory in the Metropolis branch of Macy’s and was asked to leave unless I was going to buy something. I tried changing in a skip before going to stop a runaway bus, and arrived smelling like a wart-hog, with a banana-skin draped over one shoulder. I even tried changing at the top of an electricity pylon, and found that I was picking up Radio Luxembourg on my belt-buckle for two days afterwards.”

“I never thought of that,” said Melanie. “It must affect you pretty badly.”

“It does,” said Superman, “though not as badly as it affects someone called Madame Zalina, who now has nowhere to leave the business cards on which she describes herself as a Spanking Good Masseuse”.”


 (PS – To my niece, who’s 23 today and who I know reads this blog, have a really Happy Birthday.

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