by Jennifer Sears
A glossy black car speeds quickly down Highway 24, southwest of Boston. In the front passenger seat, a man dressed like Batman curses at a driver dressed like Robin. Large pink letters painted across both sides of the car read, “Hanky’s Panky Entertainment Services” and below that, “Heros for Parties: 59 Bucks,” and then inred caps, “Boston’s Best in Balloons!” An enormous bouquet of foil and helium and curled red ribbons bobs above the back seat. Happy Birthday! is printed on them and, in orange magic marker, “Billy” has been added with a flourish that suggests a woman’s touch.
Robin, a small man with large hearing aids sticking out of both ears, wears a yellow cape that has gotten caught in the door once again, making that flapping noise Batman can’t stand. Robin pays attention to the road, ignoring Batman who is often drunk and yelling about something. Though it is difficult to determine Batman’s exact build under his blue cape and hood, he is clearly a large man with cultivated quads and biceps, a man physically confident enough to don a baby blue unitard. He continues to yell at Robin who drives too fast down the divided road. Both want only to hand over the bouquet, smile for the rug rats, collect their Bat tips, and split.
A cattle truck pulls onto the highway and merges too close to the unconvincing Batmobile. Horns blare. Batman lets loose a stream of expletives as the collision sends both vehicles onto the grassy median. Both drivers jump out. No person or animal is hurt though the cattle bellow and stamp in the trailer. Both drivers, polite yet certain the other is at fault, turn to call authorities from cell phones.
Batman remains in the passenger seat. His scalp sweats beneath his vinyl hood. Pushing aside his cheap cape, hepulls a flask from his belt and takes a bat nip. He is the only one who notices the impact of the accident caused the back door of the truck to spring loose. A curious white face sniffs the weather and contemplates the drop to the ground. The wide bovine eyes make him think of Billy, poor Billy waiting anxiously at his own birthday party for the Super Friends to arrive and impress his friends.
Refusing to come to the rescue, Batman takes another swig.
The cow bawls, makes the low jump, and lumbers onto the grass that spreads like cow manna across the median. Batman takes his third swig as the next cow follows, bellowing loudly.
With bovine equanimity, the cows tumble down after their leader. The truck driver and Robin come running, but it is difficult to stop jumping cattle from below. Robin slaps one in the hindquarters because he doesn’t know what else to do as the driver forces his way into the trailer and throws out small white fences on wheels and then jumps down to roundup the leader.
Cattle wander the median. City people driving by honk excitedly. A few stop and eagerly offerassistance, yelling things only city people would yell in attempting such a task, including “Suey” and “Yippee-yeah-ki-oh.” A woman pesters the driver to find out where she too might purchase such an adorable portable corral. A sports utility vehicle hits a young cow that has stepped into the fast lane.
Robin, a vegetarian, starts crying.
Finally, Batman steps out of the car. The wind toys dramatically with his cape. People cheer. He wishes he wasn’t wearing a batsuit. He walks toward the cattle, his physical size and stride and numbed senses giving him an advantage.
The press arrives to document the calamity just as the cattle, minus one, are safely contained inside the fences. The fact that Batman won’t speak adds to his bat mystery. In reality, the Caped Crusader is just sober enough to realize he’ll be unemployed if word gets out that Batman was drunk.
On the next day’s front page, Batman closes the flimsy cattle gate in one picture and in another, gallantly givesaway Billy’s balloons to the small children who, as always, manage to arrive on his scene.
Hanky’s phone rings incessantly. Hanky gives Batman gets a raise.
Robin, charged with reckless driving and endangerment to animals, gets fired but is quickly replaced with a slender magician who not only fits into the stretchy red suit--he can produce a pear from Batman’s sharp little ear and slowly make it turn blue.