By Nan Smith
"Darn it, Clark!" Lois ran a hand through her hair. "It's like the dratted thing is hiding from me!"
"It's not alive," Clark pointed out. "It can't do anything by itself. You've just laid it down somewhere and don't remember where."
"No way," Lois said. "I remember crossing the room and laying it down somewhere perfectly obvious. I didn't put it under something, or stick it in a drawer, or anything, but now it's gone! The darned thing is deliberately hiding from me."
Clark shook his head. "Would you like me to look for it?"
"I'm going to find it myself," Lois said, aware that she was being unreasonable, but the fact that her lipstick had vanished so maddeningly was rousing every streak of obstinacy that she possessed. "It would be one thing if I didn't remember laying it down on the way to the phone, but I know I did! I was about to put it on, and the phone rang. I came in here to answer it and laid the tube of lipstick down right out in the open. It has to be here somewhere, and I'm going to find it! And don't you dare peek!" she added, as she noticed his hand straying toward his glasses. She continued to prowl around the room, checking in every possible nook and cranny between the bathroom and the phone for the missing lipstick, but the item was not forthcoming. This was just further proof of her theory, she thought, that the inanimate objects of the world were actually sentient, and that they existed solely to annoy the people that lived around them every day, gaining perverse pleasure out of their frustration.
"Honey, we're going to be late," Clark protested. "The dinner starts in twenty-five minutes."
Lois paused, a sudden idea popping into her brain. "You're right," she announced loudly. "I have a spare in my purse. I don't need the darned thing!"
Clark gave an audible sigh. "All right, then," he said. "Get your purse and I'll get your coat, and we can go."
Lois's hand descended on something hard and cylindrical that had somehow managed to find its way under the handkerchief that lay on her dresser. She was quite certain that she had not covered the lipstick with the lace handkerchief that Clark had brought her from Paris, but there it was.
"Aha," she said, quietly, and marched into the bathroom with the tube of lipstick. Clark was prudently silent as she applied the substance, and remained silent as she emerged from the bathroom, to drop the tube of lipstick into her purse. She picked up the bag and accepted her husband's help to slip into her coat.
"Are you ready?" she asked brightly.
"Ready," Clark said. He opened the door for her and together the two of them descended the stairs. Ellen Lane looked up from her seat on the sofa. CJ sat beside her, and baby Marta was snoring faintly in her bassinet.
"G'wan, Gwamma!" the little boy urged.
Ellen smiled. "Just a minute," she said, glancing up at her daughter and son-in-law. "Enjoy the party," she said.
"Wead, Gwamma!" CJ commanded impatiently.
"Make sure CJ is in bed by eight," Lois said.
"Don't worry," Ellen said. "Everything will be fine."
A few moments later, as Clark started the engine of the Cherokee, Lois took up the argument again. "It happens all the time, Clark! The dratted thing hid until it thought I didn't need it; then it surfaced just to be annoying!"
"Maybe you're right," Clark said, peaceably. "It might explain why that kind of thing even happens to me."
"Of course I'm right," Lois said, in a tone that brooked no argument. "If something like that happened to Superman all the time, you'd come to the same conclusion as me! Inanimate objects are practical jokers. No one even seriously questions that. I think it's more than a coincidence. Maybe you should start taking notes or something."
Clark was slow to answer. "You know," he said, "you might be right." Actually, he thought, such a theory might explain some of the more irritating things that happened to him regularly, when there was no reason for them to happen. His memory was as close to perfect as it was possible for memory to be. Superman shouldn't lay down his cellular phone and then be unable to find it -- and then have it turn up in a place that he hadn't been near all day. True, the idea seemed pretty fantastic when everything could be easily accounted for by an imperfect memory and coincidence, but there remained a scattering of annoying little incidents that he had never satisfactorily explained.
Well, for now he would keep an open mind about it, he decided. It was a pretty wild idea, but if, on the very remote possibility that this phenomenon was not totally accidental -- well, the inanimate items of the world had better watch out. Superman -- and more tellingly, Lois -- was suspicious of them.
The tube of lipstick lay quietly on the bottom of Lois Lane's purse. That last incident had been fun. Lois was so easy to annoy, after all. Maybe it should try to slip through the small tear in the purse's lining and then watch the fireworks. As long as the group memory of his species could remember, they had blended into the lives of the large beings that thought they ruled the planet. Living on the energy of their annoyance and frustration was an easy existence -- a symbiosis of which the humans were unaware. Slowly, using its limited mobility, and with the help of the vibration of the Jeep as it rolled over the bricks of the street in the older section of Metropolis, the lipstick tube inched its way through the tear in the purse's lining.