Too Many Long Boxes!
   
   

End of Summer
 

The Kidnapping of Superman, Jr.

by Syl Francis

"I don't know about this, Jack. Ouch!"

"How many times do I gotta tell ya, Twitchy?" Jack hissed. "You don't do no thinking. I do all the thinking for this gang!"

"Gang?" Twitchy asked fearfully, rubbing his head where Jack had hit him. "Uh, I didn't know we was a gang."

"Of course, we're a gang. How else we gonna get any respect in this town?"

"Yeah...you're right. W-We'll be just like Rupert Thorne's Gang!"

"That's right," Jack said, adjusting his binoculars.

"L-Like the Daggett Gang!"

"Yeah," Jack said.

"Like the--Ouch!" Twitchy cried out, holding the crown of his head. Jack had just conked him with his binoculars.

"Shut up, already!" Jack snapped. He returned to his lookout position, annoyed that he once again had to readjust his sights. "Now, see what you made me do! I think I broke 'em!"

"Whatcha hit me for?" Twitchy asked, his voice whiny. "All I said was--"

"All you said was nothing!" Jack retorted. "You talk and talk and you never say nothing! That's why I do all the thinking. Understand? And the talking!"

Jack's face had turned beet red, his eyes had taken that 'I'm going to kill you' glint that always concerned Twitchy for his brother's health.

"Jack...remember your blood pressure," Twitchy said worriedly. "Ma always said that if Papa had been more mindful of his blood pressure, he wouldn'ta croaked in the middle of that bank robbery."

Jack glared almost maniacally at his brother, his face going from beet red to purple. He held his hands out, miming a chokehold, his body shaking from the volcanic explosion that threatened.

"Remember your promise to Ma," Twitchy said soothingly.

Jack raised his hands over his head, let out an incoherent sound, and started kicking stones, roots, and anything else that got in his way.

"Jack, count to ten," Twitchy said helpfully. "Breathe in...breathe out. That's it. Everything's gonna be just fine."

Jack stood under a giant oak, his breathing coming in deep gulps. He held his hand out in a 'keep away' sign. Twitchy waited patiently while his brother worked through his almost daily routine.

Finally, Jack spoke.

"Remember, I do all the talking. Got it?"

"Sure, Jack. I got it," Twitchy replied. "You do all the talking."

"Good," Jack gasped. "Let's go."

The brothers started walking down the easy, tree-covered slope that overlooked stately Wayne Manor, carrying a ladder between them, Jack in the front, Twitchy in back. Twitchy suddenly stumbled and went flying into his brother. Both men went tumbling down the gentle slope, landing dazed at the bottom.

"Jack?" Twitchy asked tentatively. "You okay? I'm real sorry." Jack glared at his brother. Twitchy's hair was covered in wet leaves, dirt and grass. Jack lay back down and sighed. Not saying anything, he stood stiffly and bent down to pick up the ladder.

Believing that he was forgiven, Twitchy smiled happily and eagerly moved to take up his position in the rear again. Jack stopped him. Without saying a word, he pointed at the front end of the ladder. Hanging his head, Twitchy nodded and did as directed.

Stealthily, they tip-toed to a spot just under the balcony doors that Jack had been watching earlier. He leaned the ladder against the small balcony and started climbing.

Twitchy didn't move. He looked guilty all of a sudden, and he stared at his brother as if he were dying to ask a question but was too afraid.

"Jack," he said in a little boy voice. Jack stopped and looked back, annoyed.

"What is it now?" he hissed.

"What if the little boy cries? What if he wants his Ma or Papa? What'll we do?"

"Do?" Jack whispered, an octave higher. He jumped off the ladder and grabbed his brother by the shoulders, shaking him.

"We let the little brat cry is what we do! Don't you understand, Twitchy? We're kidnapping the Wayne kid. We're kid-nappers--not babysitters. We don't care if the brat cries. Can-you-get-that-through-your-thick-skull?"

Twitchy blinked a bit confusedly for a second, seriously assimilating the information that his brother had just imparted. After awhile, he beamed a bright smile.

"Oh! I get it! We're like the bad guys, then, huh? Like Papa was when he robbed banks. Only we're gonna snatch kids."

Jack sighed at the description. He hated it when his brother put things in his own twisted perspective. Slowly he nodded.

"Yeah, Twitchy. We're the bad guys...like Papa was." He went back to the ladder and started climbing. After a moment, he realized that he wasn't being followed. He looked down. Twitchy was looking up at him, with that same, 'I've got a question' look.

Jack put his forehead on his arm.

"Why me?"

He climbed back down.

"Now what?" he asked impatiently.

"Jack, I don't like snatching no kid from his Ma or his Papa," he said shamefacedly. "It don't seem right."

"Look, Twitchy, didn't I promise Ma that I'd take care of ya?"

"Yeah," Twitchy said hesitantly.

"Then you just let me do the worrying," Jack said. "I promise that we're not gonna hurt the kid." At his brother's doubtful expression, he added, "Look. We snatch. We make the ransom demand. We collect the ransom. We return the kid. A, B, C. No fuss, no worry."

"Promise, Jack?" Twitchy asked. "We won't hurt him?"

"Of course not!" Jack said, insulted. "What do you take me for? Look, I may be down on my luck, but I don't hurt no kids. I like kids!"

"No, you don't," Twitchy denied. "Remember the little Allen kid who used to live down the hall from us? You was always yelling at him to stop hitting the ball against the building."

"Well, what did you expect? He was driving me nuts! Every Saturday morning--there he was with the ball and the bat." Jack waved his arms for emphasis. "Hit the ball with the bat. Slam the ball against the wall. Hit-slam! Hit-slam! At six a.m.! We hadda move away. I woulda killed him otherwise."

"See? You hate kids," Twitchy said fearfully.

"I don't hate kids," Jack insisted. "That particular kid--only a mother could love 'im." Twitchy looked at him uncertainly.

"Look, Twitchy, if it'll make you feel better, I tell you what. I'll put you in charge of the kid once we get 'im to the hideout--"

"We have a hideout?"

Jack sighed. "The trailer," he said.

"Oh. I didn't know hideouts came in mobile homes," Twitchy said thoughtfully. Smiling he added, "This is so cool, Jack! We have a hideout that we can use as a getaway car, too!"

"Yeah, Twitchy," Jack said. "Really cool. Look, we gotta do the snatch. Are you done? Any more questions?"

Twitchy shook his head 'no.'

"Good, can we get on with it?" Jack asked a bit impatiently. Seeing Twitchy's hurt look, he relented immediately. "Look, let's just get it done, okay? And remember--" He put his fingers to his lips. "--No talking!"

Twitchy nodded.


They stood over the dark-haired boy, a foolish expression on both their faces. The boy seemed so small. He'd kicked his blankets off and was currently curled up in bed, snuggled next to a stuffed elephant.

Twitchy yanked at Jack's arm. Jack looked at him, questioningly. Twitchy pointed at the boy's Superman pajamas. Even Jack's otherwise hardened look softened somewhat.

"He's so cute!" Twitchy whispered loudly. Jack immediately slapped him upside the head and made shushing motions. The boy stirred a little in his sleep, mumbled something, and then settled down again.

Twitchy pulled his brother back towards the balcony. Jack struggled uselessly against his much stronger and larger 'baby' brother.

"Jack, I can't. Look at him. He's so little! He still sleeps with a stuffed animal."

"So what?" Jack asked. "You still sleep with your Teddy bear."

Twitchy immediately put his hand over his brother's mouth, muffling his words. "Shhhhh...Jack, you promised never to mention Pookie!" he said, hurt.

Jack nodded vigorously, his eyes panicked. Twitchy released him reluctantly and Jack fell to his knees gasping for air. He held onto his brother's trousers for support. Finally, getting himself under control, he stood.

Locking eyes with Twitchy, he said in a familiar dangerous tone.

"Twitchy, you're either with me on this caper, or you're against me. What's it gonna be?"

Twitchy hung his head ashamedly. Jack was his brother and he'd taken care of him since his mother was sent to the Women's Reformatory in Blackgate Prison. They called her once a week and visited her twice monthly. On Mother's Day for the past five years they'd given her flowers. On her last birthday, they'd sent her a cake with a file in it. The file had been Jack's idea.

Jack was a good son, and a good brother.

Twitchy nodded reluctantly.

"I'm with you, Jack," he promised. Jack nodded and the brothers shook hands.

"Let's do it."


Later, as the paddy wagon pulled away from stately Wayne Manor, Jack watched disgustedly as Twitchy, smiling a bit uncertainly, waved at the small boy who stood on the elegant portico. He wore an open robe over his Superman pajamas and clutched his stuffed elephant under one arm.

Towering over the small boy, his guardian had a laid hand protectively on his shoulder. Another gentleman, wielding a dust mop like a sword, stood on the boy's other side.

Jack flashed back momentarily to the horror of the dust mop being shoved in his face. He'd been overcome almost instantly by a sneeze-attack.

"How did they know I was allergic to dust?" he muttered. "Did they know about the kidnapping attempt ahead of time?"

After a moment's hesitation, the boy waved back at Twitchy. He leaned his head back as far as he could and spoke to his guardian. The guy looked down and gave him a proud half-smile, ruffling his dark head affectionately.

Jack leaned back on the metal bench, his shackles digging into his wrists and ankles. His eye was beginning to swell. At least he wasn't sneezing anymore.

"No one told me we needed Kryptonite on this caper!" he grumbled.

"What? What you say, Jack?" Twitchy asked. "Isn't he just the cutest little kid? And did you see how he flipped over and over in the air before he kicked you in the eye? And then in the head? And the stomach? Oh, and the eye again?"

"No, I didn't see him flip over and over!" Jack mimicked. "I was busy trying to protect your rear end, remember?" He glared at his brother. "I told you not to talk, Twitchy. Why did you have to open your big, dumb mouth?"

"I couldn't help myself, Jack," Twitchy said, smiling slightly. "He looked just like a teeny-tiny, Superman, Jr. Able to leap over the bed in a single bound!" he said, laughing. "Look, up by the ceiling--it's a bird, it's a plane, it's Superman, Jr.!"

"Shut up, Twitchy," Jack said not meaning it.

"Faster than a speeding bullet--Superman, Jr. escaped from the sure grasp of the cowardly kidnappers!"

"'Cowardly' kidnappers?" Jack protested. "Twitchy, you're talking about us!"

"More powerful than a locomotive--Superman, Jr. knocked out the two bumbling bandits--"

"Bumbling--?" Jack began, and then gave up.

"--First by leaping over the bed in a single bound," Twitchy continued his recitation. "--spinning in midair, and kicking out, connecting with the gang leader's eye. And then, by doing a--uh, what did he do next, Jack?"

"He did five handsprings, and landed feet first in your soft gut!"

"Aw, Jack, that's not nice," Twitchy said, hurt. "There's no need to poke fun at my weight. You know that I've been dieting--"

"All right!" Jack cried. "I'm sorry! Okay?! It's not fair! No one--no one told me that the Wayne kid could do--that stuff."

"And, thus Superman, Jr. foiled the vile kidnappers' dastardly plans, making the world safe for, uh, kids again!"

Jack put his head in his hands. "Why me?" He put his elbows on his knees, and leaning down, jammed his head between his hands. After a few minutes of silence, he felt something tapping his toe. He looked up and met Twitchy's compassionate gaze.

"Don't feel so bad, Jack," Twitchy said. "At least now we'll be close to Ma."

The End

 
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Twitchy and Jack are © Syl Francis
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This piece is © 2002 by Syl Francis.
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