By 7 p.m. Sunday, Kid Flash was back at his home in Jump City, in civilian clothes, in his tiny room. He lay on his bed a while just trying to adjust to the change. This was something Flash had never talked about. How do you go from doing the most exciting, most important things in the world to . . the life of junior high school? How do you see the most amazing things on the entire planet like the Watchtower . . and then go back to listening to fat old Mrs. Campbell or Pruneface or clumsy Mr. Keller drone on and on for hours? What do they know about anything important?! The gross national product of Ecuador is blah blah blah. I've been to Ecuador! I'm a freaking Flash and I sit there listening to all those dopy teachers day after day. God! . . . and fricking Speedy doesn't even go to school at all! All so that I can keep my secret identity. Fuck my secret identity!

And then he remembered the cloaking feature Flash said J'onn J'onnz had added to his ring. He got up from the bed and went to the mirror standing against the wall just past his bed. He pressed the side of the ring where Flash had instructed in the pattern Flash had instructed, seven pulses, pause then eleven pulses. There was a momentary fluctuation or haziness in the image in the mirror. The only immediately observable change was that it seemed like it made his shoulders look narrower. He pressed the reverse sequence, eleven pulses then seven. His shoulders looked back to normal, wider.

Wally went to the door of his room and checked to make sure no one was around. Because the point of J'onn J'onnz working up a cloaking ring feature for him wasn't for when he had his clothes on. It was so that he could go to gym class and undress without everyone immediately seeing his impossibly well conditioned, speedster shaped body and wondering how anyone but Kid Flash could look like that.

After one last glance toward the empty kitchen, Wally pulled off his civilian clothes. He looked at his reflection for a moment with a proud smile. Yeah, that was obviously Kid Flash. Okay. Deep breath. He pressed the side of the ring to activate the cloaking feature. His reflection fluctuated for a second and then Wally's jaw dropped. No!

He turned this way and that inspecting what other kids would see in the locker room. He was horrified. J'onn J'onnz had gone way farther than he had to.

"Oh, come on, J'onn!" he grumbled. The point had been to change the way he looked to other kids so that they wouldn't wonder if he was really Kid Flash. But he didn't have to go this far! Looking over his shoulder at his back, Wally was mortified to see that cloaking ring Wally not only didn't have a speedster booty, he pretty much didn't have any booty at all.

"I look worse than Chan!" he groaned and remembered all his jokes to Chan. Should have taken those pants off before having your mom iron 'em! Chan, dude, eating gluten free doesn't mean you should have no glutes.

Ugh. On top of that, any apparent muscle tone had been lost as he seemed to have a layer of a half inch of fat under his skin all over. But most horrifying of all was the change between his legs. The improbably large organ that, in Flash's words, had suggested "great fecundity" in the bulge it unavoidably made at the front of his Kid Flash suit had been diminished by J'onn J'onnz to seem way less than average, miniscule, a tiny target fitting for derision.

What?! Micropenis?!

His head dropped. I have to walk around school with everyone thinking I have micropenis?! What's more, J'onn had tweaked the cloaking so that he also appeared to be circumcised. Wally shuddered. So. Gross. He considered contacting Flash right away. This was too much. J'onn could have left me with a good pair of buns and at least average equipment and no one would think I'm Kid Flash. This . . . !

Word gets back to girls, J'onn freaking J'onnz! They'll all whisper about me. He looks normal but Billy and Johnny said . . . !

I'm gonna be freaking ruined for trying to see civilian girls. He sighed in defeated resignation. It probably wouldn't work with a civilian girl anyway. He looked over his shoulder again and noticed that, in addition to editing out his speedster buns from the cloaking ring version of him, J'onn had also given the cloaking ring version of him backne. Oh come on! He fumed over this for a while but realized that Flash would just think it was a great way to hide his identity. He would think it was a smart thing for a hero. Never mind that he had to also try to live as Wally West.

Sure enough, he had gym class the next day. He reluctantly pressed the side of the ring in the required pattern before undressing. Afterward, a group of 8th grade boys were laughing at him and gave him the nickname "Twig". It was just another on the pile of dissatisfactions he had being a boy superhero and trying to make the best of his life. The cops still snickered at him, less than initially but they still did.

School was nearly impossible. He had practiced and refined his ability to speed read and could now read in five seconds the chapter of some book that they were being tested on in one of his classes and know it completely. He spent much of his time thinking about what he'd done in his last patrol as Kid Flash or what he would do in his next one. Where he'd previously been laughed at for being a nerd, now he was laughed at for being a nerd and some kind of stoner, space cadet.

And all the while, he would hear girls giggling about or speaking in hushed tones about "that little hottie Kid Flash". Once he saw a paper being passed around among the girls in English class. At the top of it, it said "Bieber or Kid Flash" and each successive girl put a check in one column or the other. The last he saw, Bieber was ahead 11 to 10.

Boys would make fun of Kid Flash's suit and call him gay. The fact that he was becoming known as the favorite of the "theater district" wasn't helping in this respect. But underneath it all and once jokes about his suit were out of the way, it was clear that the boys in 7th grade completely envied Kid Flash.

This dichotomy between being scorned but indirectly idolized was incredibly frustrating. Sometimes, Wally fantasized about just standing up in class and announcing to all the other kids that he was Kid Flash and then doing some super speed trick to prove it to them and then telling all the ones who made fun of him to fuck off. But he could never show that he had these incredible abilities oh noooooooo. He couldn't do that.

Well, there was one time. But it wasn't quite an "ability" that people would necessarily realize that Kid Flash had. It was Field Day, the last day of school where the whole junior high would go down to the fields behind the school and they would have contests in all the track and field events with individual awards and points recorded for each class. There were also the sort of games you see at a state fair with stuffed animal prizes.

Wally couldn't compete in all the track events. But there was one other contest. Every year they had a hot dog eating contest. For the last two years a giant kid now in the 8th grade, six foot three and two hundred forty pounds had won easily. Each time, both the other contestants had gotten sick trying to keep up with him and had still finished 15 hot dogs behind him. Stevie and Jeff had nicknamed him 'the Gut'. No one wanted to take on the Gut. Teachers were trying to recruit two more contestants but no one wanted to be seen puking a stomacheful of half digested hot dogs in front of the whole school. Finally, they got some bursting at the seams 6th grader to take him on. The teachers wanted to have a 7th grader in the contest, too. At one corner of the field they implored some 7th grader to compete. Aaron and Jeff pushed Stevie forward from the crowd but he ran back to where he was.

Wally smiled. Why not? He raised his hand and stepped forward.

"Very funny, Mr. West," Mrs. Campbell snorted.

"I'm serious."

"Wally. You weigh less than half what the Gut-I mean, Billy Sinclair, weighs."

"I want to compete. No one else wants to so why don't you let me?"

The teachers tried but couldn't get anyone else. So they let Wally West enter the hot dog eating contest. The Gut looked at him with a smirk of complete disrespect when he sat down next to him at the contestants' table. A big school cafeteria pan of hot dogs was put in front of all three contestants and a teacher barked to the crowd of kids watching that they'd have six minutes to eat as many hot dogs as they could. Partially eaten dogs wouldn't count, may the biggest appetite win.

Wally glanced down at his lower abs. Interdimensional lower intestines don't fail me now.

The teacher waived one arm and blew a whistle and they were off. To the accompaniment of 50 or 60 kids screaming, they wolfed down hot dog after hot dog. At first, Wally just stayed with the Gut. He could see that the 6th grader on the other side of him wasn't keeping up. The Gut would have a warm hot dog in each hand and cram one in his mouth, doing a little chewing as he did and then the other, again with a little chewing and then swallow. Wally just did the same. A few times the Gut glanced over thinking he would be pulling away from the other contestants like usual. He was surprised to see the rail thin West kid keeping up with him. He picked up the pace. But then Wally picked up the pace even further. He started chewing hot dogs at a rate that anyone without super speed would have a hard time doing. He mostly kept one hand or the other in front of his mouth so kids couldn't see what he was doing and went through the hot dogs in his pan faster and faster.

The Gut had never finished an entire one foot by three foot and three inch deep pan full of hot dogs before. Wally finished his and shouted to the teacher overseeing the contest, "I need more!"

"What?! You can't need more. No one's ever needed more."

Wally took a couple from the 6th grader's pan. They he took a couple from the Gut's pan. Then he took a couple more. And a couple more. The Gut leaned back stunned with his mouth open, still filled with half chewed hot dogs. When the teacher finally blew the whistle ending the contest there was no doubt who had won. Wally let out a thunderous belch and stood up with both hands raised in triumph. 10 points for the 7th grade! The Gut entered a dark period of his life plagued by self doubt.

Wally went off for summer vacation. Though the frustrations of keeping his secret identity were less in the summer they were still there. So, when Aunt Iris asked if he wanted to see the Abra Kadabra puppet show making fun of Flash, Wally was okay with it.

It wasn't like Wally didn't feel ambivalent about it.

He did.

He identified with Flash.

Hell, he *was* a Flash now. When the news showed a clip of Flash smacking The Top over the head or knocking out Captain Cold, he could barely keep from jumping up and cheering. He felt a loyalty, a connection to Flash, even a pride in what Flash did, not just the pleasure of a fan. That was his guy, his team. A speedster did that! More than once his answer to stupid cops who wondered out loud why they should listen to a skinny boy in a ridiculously tight suit had been "I'm a Flash." It was more than just a name or a set of powers. It was a track record of reliability and heroism.

Hell, he was only Kid Flash at all because he'd been there to meet Flash. And Flash had taught him how to use his speed. He was his mentor.

But . . . still . . .

When Aunt Iris asked if he wanted to see Abra Kadabra's puppet show making fun of Flash, he shrugged and said "Sure."

It wasn't like he didn't have minor grievances against Flash. There was his bizarre lack of understanding at how embarassed Wally would be to be seen in public in his rubbery body coating of a suit. There was his oblivious reaction when Wally was angry after realizing he'd been given a dance belt to wear under the ridiculous uniform, that the supporter he'd been given to wear was a ballet dancer's sort of jock. There was his casual assumption that Wally wouldn't mind continuing to be humiliated at school, or even actively seeking out chances to be humiliated in order to protect his secret identity. There was the humiliating cloaking ring which instead of just toning down his Kid Flash athleticism made him look kind of pathetic instead. There was the sometimes annoying repitition of the training he'd been given. No, try the arm cyclone again. Still not quite right, try it again. Better but maybe still not quite right. One more time. Almost. One more time. One more . . .

He was always nice about it. It wasn't like what they said at the Watchtower about uber jerk Batman training the little elf shoed fascist. But still . . .

Sigh.

There was his initial assumption that Wally should train for a year or more before ever actually patrolling. There was the annoying sidekick status of his initial patrols alongside Flash where Flash seemed to expect him to just run beside him but never actually do anything. There was even Flash's over the top nerdyness that had all the Justice Leaguers expecting that Kid Flash, too, would be a complete and total nerd.

And, just a week before that, there had been Flash's "great" idea. Wally had run out of the house on a Saturday morning saying something over his shoulder about staying at Jeff's house that night. Of course, he wasn't going to Jeff's house. But he knew his parents would never check. They were content enough that he was gone. He ran up the street in his oversized clothes, into the woods and then in a fraction of a second changed into his Kid Flash uniform. He carried his regular clothes in a ball all the way to Aunt Iris and Uncle Barry's house in Keystone City.

When he ran through the back wall of their house, he found Uncle Barry and Aunt Iris just finishing up brunch. And when they saw him, Uncle Barry was all excited. He had a great idea for Wally he said, but first he insisted that Kid Flash changed into civilian clothes. He zipped into the next room and came back in his oversized regular clothes and red knit hat.

Uncle Barry launched into his great idea but he did it in steps. Show Aunt Iris how incredibly flexible you are, Uncle Barry told him. Wally shrugged. He dropped to the floor and easily did splits to the side and front and back. Uncle Barry launched into one of his three minute long science monologues about he being loose was inherently part of being fast and how the speedforce had altered the collagenous fibers in some blah blah blah way that made the viscoelastic properties of their connective tissue blah blah blah. Wally couldn't follow it all. Neither could Aunt Iris. She threw him a glance that sufficed in place of her rolling her eyes at Uncle Barry. The quality of it was like her saying to Wally, "Don't worry. It'll blow over in a minute."

That part being over, Uncle Barry launched into praise for his jumping ability. Wally half wanted to run outside and dunk a basketball to show her but he was pretty sure Aunt Iris already knew how well he could jump.

Then, Uncle Barry continued. He said that he just thought of this next thing the other day and this is what gave him this great idea that he still hadn't told to Wally. He said he was outside doing yard work and one of the neighbors kids, a 13 year old just like Wally, tripped in their yard. The kid's father was raking by the edge of the Allen property and remarked that his boy was a bit awkward right now. He'd just had a growth spurt.

"That's when it hit me," said Uncle Barry. "I never noticed it because it was something that wasn't there. You had a growth spurt, Wally, a growth spurt to end all growth spurts. Five inches taller in 10 seconds, all in your legs. And pelvis narrowed and your feet got how much bigger, four shoe sizes?"

Wally nodded. Four sizes.

"That all happened in 10 seconds and did you ever look uncoordinated or trip? Did you ever look awkward?"

Wally shrugged. "Hmmph. I never thought of that, but no, I guess not."

"Right! Do you realize how incredibly coordinated, how incredibly graceful a boy you have to be to not get thrown off kilter by that? You must have the most incredible proprioceptive sense. I think a good study would be-"

Wally sighed. Uncle Barry launched into a typical three minute long monologue laced with terms like "proprioception", "kinesthetic" and "posterior column medial lemniscus pathway". Wally glanced at Aunt Iris with both eyes rolling. Does he really have to do this? She sent a glance back that told him to be patient. It'll be over in another minute. He sighed and waited for Uncle Barry to finish. His mentor concluded with a pat of Wally's shoulder. "You're an incredibly graceful boy, Wally."

Wally smiled. Um, okay. Not bad I guess.

"So, I put it all together Wally and it's just so obvious."

Wally waited, still perplexed, as Uncle Barry paused for dramatic effect. "Uh . . huh."

"You should be a ballet dancer!"

"What?!" Wally recoiled in horror.

Uncle Barry went on as Aunt Iris stifled a laugh. "You're flexible, graceful and a terrific leaper. You're a very handsome boy and you have just the sort of physique that's perfect for ballet with good shoulders and a narrow waist and hips but powerfully muscular glutes. Women . . and homosexuals, will love to see you in tights. You're perfect for it."

Wally was not just recoiling mentally or in body language but actually stepping back from Uncle Barry now. "N-no I"m not."

"Sure you are, Wally. And it was so obvious. I can't believe I didn't see it sooner. But, don't worry! Aunt Iris and I will pay for you to attend the Jump City Youth Ballet school. You'll still be in Jump City, so you can still see all your friends-"

Wally shook his head. As if I'd want to see anybody once they knew I spent the whole day running around in ballet tights!

Wally looked desperately to Aunt Iris for help while Uncle Barry continued on.

"It'd be a great crime fighting angle. With the bias to think of ballet dancers as effeminate, your secret identity would be secure-"

"Yeah, while my public identity is . . . being effeminate," grumbled Wally.

His mentor barely noticed and kept going. "You'd be able to fight crime from high society. I think that's an angle that's pretty much unused by crime fighters."

"Yeah, I wonder why."

Uncle Barry looked at him with disappointment. "You don't see what a good fit it is for you?"

Wally sighed. Uncle Barry was honestly trying to help. He was just so . . oblivious sometimes. "I-I already spend part of my day running around in a-a unitard with a-a man-thong underneath and you want me to wear something like that all day long! With people knowing it's me!"

"Wally! I thought you said you'd actually grown to sort of like wearing your dance belt."

"Uncle B-!" he cut off an angry reply. How could he repeat that in front of Aunt Iris?! Didn't he realize anything?! He turned to her to elaborate.

"Tolerate. I-I said I can sort of tolerate it now," he explained to her and not Uncle Barry. "Tolerate."

"I thought you said you realized it was very comfortable," said Uncle Barry.

Wally shook his head in despair and looked to his aunt. "Aunt Iris! Please!"

She was stifling a laugh with one hand but then regained her composure. "Barry, are you sure that it'd be okay for Wally to be showing himself off like that in public? Don't you think people might look at the orange haired boy leaping around on the stage and see the orange haired boy running around Jump City saving lives and notice the similarities?"

"Yeah!" Wally desperately seconded. "Similarities!"

"Hmm," Uncle Barry rubbed his chin and turned to his wife. "You really think so?"

Aunt Iris nodded. "Women and, I suppose, gay men look at those dancers pretty closely."

"Really?"

"Verrry closely Barry. They'd notice."

Uncle Barry sighed. "I suppose. Maybe it is too conspicuous."

"Way, way too conspicuous!" agreed Wally.

Uncle Barry let it drop. Wally silently mouthed the words "Thank you" to Aunt Iris. She nodded but again, also had a hand over her mouth to cover a big smile.

A week later, Kid Flash sped to Keystone City. He was supposed to patrol with Flash, again. Only Flash wasn't around. Aunt Iris said that Flash had mentioned some sort of Justice League thing might come up soon. She said that must be it. He'd been patrolling like crazy lately said Aunt Iris. He'd been irritated that Abra Kadabra, the magician supposedly from the 64th century had started a puppet show making fun of him. He'd even gone to the show with Aunt Iris. She said it was dumb, slapstick comedy but funny just the same. She said Uncle Barry had hated it and hated that people were laughing at his alter ego. So he been patrolling the city practically every spare moment.

Now, the neighbors' ten year old boy Charlie wanted to see Abra Kadabra's show. Like most boys in Keystone City, he idolized the Flash but Kadabra's show was a huge hit all of a sudden and all the kids wanted to see it. Suddenly, it was the "in" thing to do. But Charlie's parents weren't happy about it. They were strict church goers. They believed in children being taught right and wrong. They thought that Flash deserved better for all he'd done for Keystone City, a man like that giving so much of his time and taking on so much responsibility without any pay, helping people as the Lord would wish it. Yes, he should dress more modestly. That outfit was sinful in its exhibition of him but, still, he shouldn't be made fun of like that. They wouldn't take him but compromised at letting Charlie go with the Allens' nephew, Wally.

Aunt Iris filled Wally in on the background and asked if he had a problem with taking Charlie. Wally mulled it over a few seconds then shrugged and said he was fine with it.

"You don't mind seeing a show all about making fun of Flash?" she asked.

Wally shrugged. He strongly identified with Flash but . . . but there were those minor grievances. He nodded, okay, he'd do it. He'd go with Charlie. Aunt Iris thanked him with a kiss on the forehead. She explained that she had things to do to wrap up an investigative report she was working on, so she would drop off Wally and Charlie at the Abra Kadabra puppet show and pick them up afterward.

Charlie, in jeans and a t-shirt, gave Wally, in his red knit hat, giant shirt and giant pants a funny look but didn't say anything as Aunt Iris introduced them. They plopped down side by side sharing the other front seat of her expensive sports car. Wally smiled at Charlie's nervous expression when Aunt Iris first sped off. Charlie looked anxiously at him but Wally gave the younger boy a look dismissive of any chance of danger. Don't sweat it. My aunt knows what she's doing. She expertly weaved through traffic delivering them at the theater. They paid for tickets at the box office off the sidewalk and went inside.

It was an old style theater. There was a big lobby with all sorts of ornate woodwork and high ceilings, expensive looking carpets, velvet ropes and, against one wall, a huge display case with a life size puppet of Flash held by strings. Wally and Charlie sauntered over to it as an older girl told some younger kids that, technically, he was a marionette, not a puppet but everyone still went on calling it a puppet.

Wally coudn't take his eye off the Flash puppet . . marionette. Whatever! There was just . . something about it. But what had first caught Wally's eye was the uniform, the Flash suit stretched tight over the wooden pieces of the puppet's-marionette's body. It was perfect. He frowned. How could that be? The suit was perfect.

What the . . ?!

Being a Flash uniform, it was so tight that the wood grain of the pieces of the puppet's-marionette's body showed through. From what Wally overheard, a few kids seemed to think the puppet was painted. He sighed to himself. Flash suits only seem like they're painted on. But this was a Flash suit or at least an amazing copy of one. What was startling was that there was nothing at all off about it. Nothing. It was exactly like Flash's uniform.

But, they never got the uniform right.

Never.

Whether it was a "dramatization" for some tv news show where they made up some stuff with a guy in red spandex playing Flash, or somebody's youtube video or a promotional thing at a mall where a guy walked around wearing a red rubber suit. They always got the suit wrong. They always went spandex or rubber or, ugh, not quite opaque or it was shiny or they got all the lightning bolts wrong. They never did good ear wings. Never. They'd get the boots wrong or the gloves or just how much of their faces the mask covered. They always got the suit wrong. Always.

That's why the one on the life sized puppet in the display, okay, marionette actually, caught Wally's eye. It was perfect. It was the right red. All the lightning bolts were right. The ear wings were spot on, too. The suit was much closer to rubber than spandex but wasn't quite that either, just like real Flash suits. It was really, really thin but completely opaque. It didn't squeeze but stuck to surfaces, not that this was the greatest test of that particular characteristic given that the Flash puppet, okay, marionette, was made of wood. But you could see the wood grain under the Flash suit.

But as accurate as his uniform strangely was, the Flash marionette, puppet, whatever within it was intentionally not accurate. Its body was a sort of caricature of Flash. Wally was sort of offended by this. Even though he was an incredible athlete with an amazing physique, Flash would get snickered at for being skinny compared to ridiculously barrel chested Superman and some of the others. It was totally not fair! But this caricatured Flash took that snickering image of being skinny and extended it to absurd limits.

The puppet Flash had big flat, rectangular feet. But his legs were spindly stick legs. They were in three separate pieces, lower legs barely thicker than broom handles, literally ball joint knees and upper legs only slightly thicker than the broom handle lower legs. He had a sort of bulb or block of wood for his hips narrower than Flash's were with no equipment bulge at all in front but extending extra far back of him. Wally gritted his teeth watching a couple kids point and laugh at Flash's butt. Ha ha Flashes have big butts.

"Flash's got a big butt! Flash's got a big butt! Flash's got a big butt!" they laughed and sang.

"Even more than the real one," laughed a blond girl leaning into Wally as she chortled.

He scowled imagining what they must say about him. Very funny.

There was a separate extra narrow disk of wood that was his waist almost as if someone had cut through from front to back where he might have worn a belt. Another block of wood that was round edged and widened at the top made up his chest. His shoulders were comical little epaulets that topped off spindly arms, both upper and lower arms being broom handle thin. His hands were frozen in a sort of half curled position. His head looked almost exactly right except for his separate lower jaw that moved straight up and down. And his face was frozen in an expression that cried out for a thought balloon of "Duh!".

Kids were pointing and laughing. Wally stared. As ridiculous as the multi-piece wooden Flash puppet looked, and all the other kids including Charlie were now giggling at it, there was something about it, that he couldn't put his finger on. There was something, even with this caricatured shape that seemed as though it had captured the essence of Flash somehow. Wally couldn't stop staring. He stared and stared, so intent on figuring out some obscure mystery that this puppet presented that he didn't notice that all the laughing had stopped.

Suddenly a hush came over the kids in front of the display case. Wally noticed, belatedly, that all the kids around him were looking over his left shoulder. He turned and followed their eyes to see who but Abra Kadabra, the supposedly ex-villain himself. He was even skinnier than a speedster and towered over Wally at six foot five. He was dressed in his signature outfit of light gray satin with a same colored cape. He had black, thinning hair combed forward and his expression was pure smugness.

"Well, what have we here," he pronounced, staring right at Wally so that the 13 year old gulped nervously. The other kids were all watching him now. And then he plucked Wally's knit hat off his head.

"A whelp with the same curious hair as," he added extra disdain, "Kid . . Flash."

Wally swiped his hat back and pulled it down on his head. "No! Thank god. He was at my school in Jump City. His hair's even brighter than mine. And he's like five inches taller than me, too, in case you have any crazy ideas."

"Is he reeeeealllly?" asked Kadabra with a sinister smile.

Wally wasn't sure if he'd convinced him or not but Kadabra lost interest in him quickly enough and pointed to the display case, into which another puppet, okay, marionette magically dropped through the solid looking ceiling.

"Look, 21st century children!"

The kids all applauded this trick. This puppet had a face just like Kadabra himself and wore a head to toe chef's outfit in white.

"Captain Creampuff!" shouted a nearby girl eliciting a smile from Kadabra.

"That's right!" said Kadabra. "And let's see who's stronger, the . . fastest puppet alive, or Captain Creampuff."

And with that, the two puppets somehow started fighting despite Kadabra not being there to pull their strings. Captain Creampuff windmilled first one fist then the other onto the top of the Flash puppet's head over and over. Five times over, the Flash puppet started to gather himself and rush at Captain Creampuff only to have the pastry chef windmill a fist and bonk Flash over the head. A voice just like Uncle Barry's only sounding very dumb would yelp, "Ow!" eliciting laughs from the kids that only grew with each repetition. Kids love physical comedy. Finally, the repeatedly battered Flash puppet bent over in a curious position, shaking his wooden head as if to dispel the cobwebs, oversized wooden hands on the floor, his head just inches off the floor and his exaggerated wooden butt high in the air. Captain Creampuff danced a few jaunty steps around the seemingly stunned Flash puppet as the kids all smirked in anticipation. Then, as expected, he drop kicked the wooden Flash's butt into the air. Giggles erupted from the kids watching. Even Wally giggled a little.

"That's all for now, children," declared Kadabra and both puppets stopped, though the Captain Creampuff puppet stopped while leaning casually against the side of the case. The Flash puppet stopped while still slumped in an ungainly heap on the floor. "Buy yourselves some . . sodas and popcorn and candy treats. The show will begin promptly at 1 p.m."

With that, Kadabra disappeared from behind them in a puff of smoke and reappeared opening the door at the back of the display case. The kids all clapped at this trick as he gently picked up the Captain Creampuff puppet with an arm around the waist and grabbed the Flash puppet's ankles dragging him along behind him with his chin on the ground, the door to the display "accidentally" shutting hard on the Flash puppet's head eliciting another doltish "Ow!".

Wally didn't know what to think. Kadabra was supposed to be reformed but he still seemed sinister somehow. And though he found the Flash puppet getting repeatedly bonked over the head then drop kicked sort of funny, he felt a bit guilty about it. The whole thing was a little creepy. The way they had decorated the theater was creepy too. There were all those posters of Kadabra on the walls. But why did they need to advertise for him, thought Wally? Everyone was already at one of his shows. And the posters were creepy. It almost seemed like Kadabra's eyes in the poster followed you in a weird way, like he was trying to get you to look at him. After one shudder inducing glance at them, Wally resolutely avoided them. He stared down at the rich red carpets to avoid looking at the posters.

But 10 year old Charlie didn't feel guilty about it, at all. He thought it was funny as hell. He laughed and laughed, mimicking some of the actions as they went to the concessions stand. With the money Aunt Iris had given him, Wally bought sodas and popcorn for Charlie and himself and also a pack of licorice, a box of Goobers, a box of Raisinets, a box of chocolates and Skittles for himself. They got perfect seats dead center and seven rows back from the stage and settled in. The show was on a regular stage like one that might be used for a play, because all the puppets, okay, marionettes, whatever, were life sized.

"You don't think it's bad for us to laugh at Flash?" Wally asked Charlie between sips of non-caffeinated soda as the lights were dimming.

Charlie chuckled. "It's just funny to see Flash get his butt kicked cuz in real life he always wins."

Wally nodded and munched a handful of popcorn. Yeah, he thought. This is harmless. And when the show started and everyone else was laughing at Flash, something in him overrode his reluctance to laugh. Maybe it was the knowledge that it was harmless. Maybe it was the minor grievances like Uncle Barry's great idea. Whatever it was, he laughed along with everyone else, maybe not as much but he laughed.

The show was definitely geared more toward a younger boy Charlie's age. It started off with Captain Creampuff entering with a tray of pastries celebrating his triumph of creating the world's best cream puffs. Another chef came onto the stage and idly pronounced them so good it was practically criminal. The puppets, okay, marionettes had voices in this show. Captain Creampuff and his chef helpers had voices just like Kadabra's.

Enter Flash who, in a voice that sounded a lot like Flash's only very dumb, declared Captain Creampuff a criminal and said he would cart him off to jail. The little kids laughed and groaned at Flash's stupidity. They didn't think anything was amiss when Captain Creampuff and the other chefs refused to do what Flash said. There began a whole series of slapstick comedy bits. This Flash wasn't too bright. He fell for the same tricks over and over again, whether it was getting up a head of steam and rushing at Captain Creampuff only to have Creampuff step aside and trip the speedster puppet as he went by or having creampuff after creampuff thrown in his face only to bend over, oddly, while he wiped the creampuff out of his eyes resulting in, every time, Captain Creampuff or one of his helper chefs jauntily stepping around the bent over Flash puppet and then dropkicking his caricatured wooden butt. This Flash never learned and was portrayed as a sort of overbearing doofus who deserved the repeated physical punishment he got. At one point, Creampuff even helicoptered Flash off a wall, grabbing him by the ankles and spinning in a circle before letting the doofus puppet speedster go flying. The Flash puppet repeatedly groaned and yelped in a version of Flash's actual voice that sounded so dumb that the kids all started laughing at each "Ow!", "Yeow!" and "Oof!"

It was dumb comedy well executed. And Wally's reluctance to laugh at Flash was worn down so that, at the end of the show, he clapped along with all the other kids.

As they got up, he saw that they had some time before Aunt Iris was due to pick them up and Charlie said that he, too, needed to use a bathroom. They went toward the bathroom on that level but there was a hoard of kids ahead of them. Wally pointed to a nearby set of stairs and led Charlie up to another bathroom that was supposed to serve the balcony audience only the balcony wasn't open for these performances so there was no one there.

As they entered the bathroom, Wally and Charlie hustled past another of those strangely lifelike posters of Kadabra with a smirk on his face. Wally shuddered. Kadabra was staring out with a creepy sort of smug look on his face. Wally couldn't look at them. He would shudder. Charlie went to one of the stalls and as Wally went past the poster he could have sworn he heard Kadabra's voice in his head saying "Look at me, boy!".

Double creepy.

Now he definitely wouldn't look. Wally used a urinal, zipped up and went to one of the five sinks in a long low counter in front of a single fifteen foot wide, three foot high mirror. He glanced back toward the stalls. There were Charlie's sneakers visible under one of them. As he looked, he almost thought he heard Kadabra's voice, again, saying "Alright then, whelp, the mirror." But that couldn't be. Kadabra wasn't there. Wally shook his head to dismiss these imagined voices and turned around to face the mirror. He turned on the water, pressed the soap dispenser and froze.

There in the mirror, was Kid Flash.

Only, it wasn't Kid Flash, it was a caricatured puppet, okay, marionette version of Kid Flash, whatever, like the Flash one in the show. Wally shot frantic glances to both sides. Was anyone else seeing this?

But there was no one else in there. And, out of the corner of his eyes he saw that the marionette version of Kid Flash had turned left and right when he did.

Wally clamped his eyes shut. Nothappening!Nothappening! This. Is. Not. Happening.

Deep breath.

He opened his eyes and the caricature version of Kid Flash was opening its eyes in the mirror. Wally gawked, transfixed. Just as with the puppet version of Flash, this version of him had an absolutely perfect reproduction of his Kid Flash suit. But, like the Flash puppet, its body was made up of what looked like separate wood pieces. His arms and legs were comically spindly. His hips and waist were even narrower, his butt even bigger back of him.

Hey!

His feet and hands were slightly larger which made them look clown-like next to his miniscule wrists and ankles. There wasn't even the slightest bump at the crotch of its suit where there should have been an impressive hinted shape hinting of "great fecundity".

Hey!

The head was just right but, as with the Flash puppet's, the face was cast in a perpetual expression of "Duh".

Hey!

He shook his head and closed his eyes. Nothappeningnothappening!

This isn't real. This isn't real. This isn't real. No one knows I'm Kid Flash. How . . ?

As insane as it was, he couldn't look away. He moved his head this way and that, moved his arms in circles and back and forth. No matter what he did, the puppet Kid Flash followed his every move. Finally he gave up but he couldn't stop staring at this surreal, caricatured version of himself, eventually reaching hesitantly toward the mirror, knowing he shouldn't but strangely unable to stop himself. And then, just when it couldn't get any more bizarre, it did.

All of a sudden, two of Captain Creampuff's helper chefs were there in the mirror pointing at him and laughing. Wally glanced quickly to his left and right at the sinks where the puppets would have had to be for their reflections to show where they did. But there were no helper chefs beside him. They were only in the mirror. And he looked like his regular self looking down even though there was a caricatured Kid Flash puppet, er marionette, in the mirror.

What the . . ?! How can . . ?!

And then, they suddenly, both helper chefs, had creampuffs in each hand. The one on the left wound up and threw it at him. What the . . ?!

Wally ducked just in time. But, what the hell, that creampuff must've been going a hundred miles per hour! He was so surprised by this that it was too late when he noticed the other one doing likewise and, WHACK! He got hit, hard, right in the forehead. His head snapped back, like getting hit in the face by a snowball.

"Ow!" he muttered, stifling it as much as possible so that Charlie didn't hear. But somehow his voice came out in a stupid sounding version of his actual voice. What?!

WHACK!

While he was noting his ridiculous voice, the chef on the left had thrown another creampuff and this one, too, smacked him right in the face. He was blinded now, his face covered by creampuff. He went to wipe it out of his eyes with one hand and for some reason bent over to do it with his face inches off the ground and his butt as high in the air as could be.

Just as he started to wonder why the hell he was doing this and remembered what happened to the Flash puppet every time he did this, he got his butt drop kicked from behind.

"Ow!" he muttered again and was again annoyed that his voice somehow came out sounding incredibly dumb.

He straightened up and turned to face the helper chef that must've kicked him but there was no chef there. They were both in the mirror. As he tried to figure his next move, he stopped for a moment, facing them, to rub his sore butt. As soon as he'd dropped his hand, the chef with one remaining creampuff whipped it at him.

WHACK!

Right in the face.

How do they throw them so fast, he wondered angrily as he wiped creampuff off his face. And, as he did, he sniffed. The stuff sure smelled good.

He knew he should resist. He somehow knew it was dangerous. But he couldn't help himself. It seemed to be food. It smelled good. He opened his mouth. The wooden mouth of the Kid Flash puppet in the mirror opened. He let the creampuff drip down into his mouth. After a few seconds, most of it had dripped down. He swallowed. This was crazy. You can't eat something that doesn't exist, he told himself. There weren't any actual creampuffs. How could something appear out of the mirror and hit him in the face? But all the same, he swallowed. And he could feel creampuff going down his throat. It tasted good but immediately he started feeling . . funny.

There was a weird sort of buzz in his ears and a tingle went up and down his body. He wasn't sure how but he had the strangest feeling that he was turning into a puppet.

Where, before, there had been the weird visual trick of the mirror and what he saw while his body still felt normal, now, he felt . . weird. Really weird. He realized he should make sure the chefs weren't about to attack him again and adopted a defensive position but even this slight movement to adopt that stance was difficult. His arms and legs, his hands and feet, his whole body didn't quite respond to his commands it was like only half the electrical impulses were getting through. His movements were jerky and unsteady.

What the . . ?!

The helper chefs were now laughing at him. One ran up and windmilled his fist as though about to hit him. As soon as he turned, far from smoothly, to face him, the other snuck up behind him somehow and dropkicked his butt.

"Ow!"

They both snickered and then backed off. Then the other one approached and windmilled his fist.

Wait a minute!

But before Kid Flash could react to what he now realized was coming, the other one had drop kicked him, again.

"Ow!"

That's it, he decided. I've had enough of this. He was going to go after them this time instead of waiting to be humiliated.

He put one foot up on the counter and saw, curiously, that looking down, not just in the mirror but looking down his foot was now the rectangular foot of the caricature Kid Flash. He leaned toward the mirror and as he did, he could feel himself losing all control, he could feel himself somehow becoming all puppet. His spindly puppet self swayed right in front of the mirror and he was just able to stop himself. He backed away, feeling more control with each inch he got further back from the mirror. Then he stepped down to the bathroom floor.

What am I doing?!

Then, there came a sound from behind him.

WHOOOOSH!

SLAM. THUD.

And with the noise, it was like a spell had been broken. Charlie emerged from the bathroom stall, the door slamming back and forth behind him, and made his way to the sink beside Wally.

"I love it when toilets are, like, jet engine sounding," laughed Charlie

Wally nodded and shuddered and snapped out of it and as Charlie started the water running he glanced at Charlie then back at the mirror. Orange haired Wally West was reflected in the glass, next to dark haired Charlie starting to soap up his hands. Wally gave a sigh of relief. Moments later he and Charlie left the bathroom never glancing at the strangely lifelike, frowning image of Abra Kadabra in a poster on the wall.

But Wally could not forget what happened. It disturbed him. This power, this . . magic, if that's what it was couldn't be fought. It was scary. He kept quiet till they'd dropped Charlie off but immediately started telling Aunt Iris when they got in the house and she was making dinner for them.

It seemed too incredible to believe but, to his surprise, she took it in stride. Yes, I think I almost got turned into a puppet by Abra Kadabra. She believed him. But he wasn't sure what to do next. If that nutcake really was that powerful then he had to be approached carefully. He had to go back to that theater but he had to have a plan for how to do it. The thing was, he was having trouble coming up with a really good way to do it.

But then, he didn't have to and he saw how really dangerous this Abra Kadabra character was. At the 7 o'clock show that night, the Flash puppet suddenly started turning into Flash, into Flash himself. At first his uniform just started to swell around him as though it was pumped up with air. Then, the Flash puppet broke its strings and knocked out Captain Creampuff. Finally, witnesses said a stunned Abra Kadabra hurried onto the stage only to get punched by the sort of half puppet Flash. And then the rebellious puppet grabbed Kadabra's magic wand, turned it on himself and was suddenly the Flash!

The internet was exploding with stories and a couple people had grainy cell phone video up on youtube within minutes. The evening news was all over it.

Wally talked with Flash about the whole deal before going to sleep. Flash was calm, almost matter of fact about it. But it made a deep impression on Wally about how dangerous magic could be.