"Auntie Em: Hate you. Hate Kansas. Taking the Dog. – Dorothy." – Bumper Sticker

Stand-In

For the man in blue Chrysler

Thanks for the quote.

I hate Kansas.

More specifically, I hate Smallville.

More specifically, I hate the weather in Smallville. I mean, aside from the fact that we suffer meteor showers the way most states endure the rainy season, at this very second the temperature has reached the untold height of one-hundred and twenty-five degrees. We have officially out-boiled Pakistan for the hottest day ever recorded.

And I, accompanied always by the infamous Lane luck, am without an air conditioner.

Who, I ask you, in this day and age, builds an apartment without so much as a ceiling fan?

Chloe tells me that the unbearable heat is being caused by some upstart Met U kid with the power to control the weather. She seems to think that this will comfort me. But really, it's just another tick mark on the long, ever-growing list of reasons why I cannot, cannot, for any reason, put down any roots this pathetic, small-town dump.

I don't understand why the meteor freaks insist on causing all this trouble. I mean, Weather Boy can't possibly be comfortable right now. If I had the power to decide the weather, we'd all enjoy sunny, mid-eighties, low breezes . . . what could possibly inspire you to wind up the thermometer to one-hundred and twenty-five degrees? Trying to sweat off a few pounds?

Of course, now that I think about it, Weather Boy is probably sitting inside of his nicely air-conditioned, seventy-five degree dorm room. I am the only person in Smallville who's suffering right now.

And there's another reason: why, I ask you, do all the weird things that have ever happened in the Smallville, ever, affect me? If I'm not the one directly involved, it's Chloe, or Lana, or Clark, or Mrs. Kent. I mean, really. Can't the meteor freaks pick on someone else, for once?

For example, although the weather is torturing everyone in Smallville, who is "investigating the problem, Lo, don't worry"?

Who else?

Clark and Chlo, the latter working magic on her computer and the former is . . . well . . . doing whatever it is that Clark does in these situations. I've learned that it's probably better not to ask questions, at least where Boy Scout Kent is concerned.

This brings me to the last, and most compelling, argument for leaving this rathole behind. Clark Kent, King of Non-Verbals, miraculous appearances, terrible sense of timing, and a mind that I do not now, nor will I ever, begin to understand.

So, okay, maybe sometimes I don't mind the way that he can show up out of nowhere and save me from, say, a life as a sex slave or impending death, but really. What is so captivating about that boy? Lana's hung up on him, Chloe's hung up on him, and Lex Luthor is totally obsessed (although let's hope not for the same reasons). I mean, yes, he's the bravest, most selfless person I've ever met and he really just wants what's best for everybody, but that's . . . idealistic, not endearing. And sometimes when he looks at you it feels like you're the only person in the world—which is totally unnerving and not at all attractive.

The Boy Scout thing is annoying, not sexy, and I am really not at all impressed that he can pull off the color red (which, I'll admit, is really quite difficult to do).

If I don't mind the non-verbals so much, as long as I'm the one who's engaged in them, well . . . I mean, come on. It's kind of fun to be able to communicate, "Smallville, you're an idiot," without having to say anything at all.

And anyway. Anyone who has seen me perform a lap dance in a sailor costume must be excommunicated immediately. (It did not, I might add, feel good sitting in his lap and knowing that he was completely flustered. I was not thrilled when I realized that, despite his best attempts, Clark couldn't completely hide the fact that he was . . . shall we say . . . excited?)

There is a knock on my door. I'll bet I can tell you who it is without getting up.

A short-ish boy, around my age, appears in the doorway. He doesn't seem at all affected by this heat. "Lois Lane?" He asks.

"Weather Boy," I return.

He looks relieved to see me. "You're coming with me," he demands, wrapping a hand around my wrist and dragging me to my feet.

"Of course," I say dully. Because of course he would hunt me down to use me as bait. I already know how this story is going to end. "But just to warn you, it's not going to work."

"What's not?"

I roll my eyes. "You know. You take me somewhere remote, tie me to something or whatever, monologue a bit about how you were in love with Chloe and so hate Clark, or didn't have any friends and got shut down, or wanted to play football but Clark beat you to it . . . and then describe how I'm bait to lure him and you'll use your meteor power to destroy him, etc."

He blinks at me. "Why won't it work?"

"Because," I explain, "This is Smallville. Look at the track record. We both know that Clark will come and do something that is actually kind of amazing and brave in retrospect, but at the time totally idiotic, and you are sent to Belle View or wherever, and Lex Luthor experiments on you for the rest of your life."

But Weather Boy just shakes his head. "Kent will come for you. And when he does . . . "

I zone out. They're all the same. I ought to just drop-kick him right now. I probably could, but it's just so damn hot that I can't summon the energy. All that talking really took it out of me.

" . . . I thought about kidnapping Lana Lang, you know, but then there's the problem of Lex Luthor . . . and of course Clark doesn't feel quite as strongly for her anymore, so it wouldn't hurt so much—"

"Wait," I interrupt. "You think that Clark likes me more than he likes Lana?"

What is it with people thinking that Clark and I are a thing?

"Yes."

"Weather Boy, you need to get your head checked. Smallville and I are barely even friends."

He thinks about for a minute. "Well then," he says, "explain why, when I told him that I'd taken something of utmost importance to him, his mind jumped immediately to you."

I stare at him. And then I find the answer. "Because everyone in this freak town thinks we are an item, so he naturally assumed that you did too."

"Which should probably tell you something," he snaps finally. "You're the new Lana, Lois. Deal with it."

I consider his words. You're the new Lana. All things considered, it's not too bad a position to be in. She's got a lot going for her (or she had, before she up and married Lex Luthor for whatever reason).

And, okay, since it's this hot and I'm tired and there's no one here to care, anyway, it's sort of a nice thought. Having Clark in love with me. Just because . . . you know . . . it's flattering. And it's Clark, and he always makes me feel . . . safe.

Which doesn't mean that I like him, or anything. Or Smallville. Or Kansas for that matter.

And my new position as Lana's stand-in doesn't mean that I'm going to play her usual role of "oh shit, oh shit, where the hell is Clark?!"

I'm not that flattered.

I punch Weather Boy in the nose. He goes down like a little whining baby just as Clark appears in the doorway. I study him for a second. He's . . . frazzled, eyes wide and fists clenched. He looks . . . scared. For . . . me?

I roll my eyes. "Clark," I tell him in exasperation, "If I'm the new Lana, you're going to have to figure out a new approach to saving me."

He doesn't get it.

But hey. I can work with this.

The dog, however, has got to go.