Helping Out

By Adrian Tullberg.


The Batman, wearing his dressing gown over his uniform, stepped out of the secret entrance and closed the grandfather clock covering the passageway before heading into the kitchens.

Alfred was there, washing up a frying pan. "Good morning sir."

"Morning. And good morning to you Martha."

Mrs. Martha Kent looked up from the stove and gave that cheery smile that everybody likes but he found somewhat unnerving. "Bruce? How are you? And how was last night?"

"Considering I wasn't woken from a sound slumber, he managed to avoid serious injury." Alfred turned off the water, and started drying the stacked dishes. "Which I consider a pity, since I have some new catgut and a freshly dulled needle simply begging to be sunk into his flesh."

"Oh Alfred. Now sit down Bruce, you must be starving."

Bruce was about to politely refuse when Martha slid a plate of bacon and eggs in front of him while Alfred none-too-gently slid a chair under him, forcing him to sit.

The two of them had to have rehearsed that.

"Now you start on that…"

As soon as his atrophied resistance to maternal coercion built up, he would be able to get on with the rest of his day.

However, he had a stack of meat and eggs to get through.


Bruce stepped outside, heading towards the gardens.

His second guest was there, tending to the roses.

"How are you Jonathan?"

The man looked up, peering through his glasses. "Oh, morning Bruce." He leaned on his shovel while getting up. "You got a good yield here."

"Hmm-mm."

"You know, I was thinking …" Jonathan swept his hand along the grounds. "You got a good twenty, thirty acres just doing … nothing."

Bruce looked at the general direction of where Jonathan was indicating.

"That's my lawn."

"No crops, no grazing …" A hint of a smile started to rise on his face, for the first time since the farmer arrived here. "… I reckon … I know that's prime growing ground."

Bruce didn't know how much more plainly he could put it. "It's my lawn."

"We could get a decent tractor … plow it now, and I mean right now, we could have it ready for…"

Bruce hurriedly adopted a different tact. "Jonathan, we're not trying to attract attention, right …?"

Jonathan stopped, then stared at the ground. "It's a big place. Nobody'd notice."

"If there was thirty acres of wheat here, somebody would definitely notice."

Jonathan opened his mouth to retort, then stopped, slumping. "Suppose you're right."

Bruce took Jonathan's shovel. "I'm supposed to get you for breakfast."

"Martha's making me eat rabbit food again."

Bruce looked around before leaning towards Jonathan. "I'll tell you what; as soon as we can figure out a way to get around her, you can have mine."

"She's making you eggs and bacon?"

"Grossly unfair."

"Mr. Wayne, I like the way you think."

"Just mention that to your son as often as possible."


In Bruce's study, the phone was ringing. The Caller ID showed that he was early.

"Bruce?"

"How are you Clark."

"All right, considering."

"Your parents are fine. Do you want me to put them on?"

"No, no ... how are they doing?"

"Martha is helping out Alfred. He's pleased to have company."

"As opposed to you?"

"Very funny. Perhaps you should speak to your father. Despite maintaining the grounds solo, I still have to stop him measuring the rear lawn for plowing."

"You know ... you can take the farmer from the farm..."

A farm that was now too dangerous for his … houseguests. Then there was the stubborn spouse. "How's Lois?"

"Not good ... half the time other reporters are trying to get a quote from her ... and the others aren't speaking to her. Jimmy won't even..."

"Perhaps you should..."

"When somebody mails you their signal watch after it's been introduced to a hammer, that's a subtle signal to give them some personal space."

"So that's the secret I've been missing all these years."

"Just ... Bruce, what would the people ... in your social circles think?"

Bruce sat down, ruminating. "To be honest? They'd think it was just a weird hobby, like extreme sports." Bruce knew a person who'd beg to go on patrol, just so he could score more points when trying to chat up girls at least half his age.

"They don't know you at all, do they?"

"I've taken a lot of time to maintain that state of affairs."

"What's Ma cooking for dinner?"

His already distended stomach, unused to constant filling, groaned in impending protest. "A roast."

"... I might come over."

Bruce pinched his nose. "The real inconvenience is not housing your parents, it's your more frequent visits."

"Does that mean we're not going steady anymore?"

"Sometimes, Kent, I wish that was the case, because I could really make you suffer."

"But you let me marry Lois?"

"I always defer to the experts ..."