Proper Attire, by Ken Poyner

Have you ever seen Clark Kent go back for his clothes?  I can’t remember a single episode or volume where he did.  He could not have worn them into service as Superman:  his tights could hide under his suit, but he could never have gotten a suit under those suggestive tights.

If he did not go back for them, then there are hundreds, if not thousands, of sets of abandoned Clark Kent suits.  Replacing them must have cost him a fortune.  I doubt he shopped high-end, but I doubt he went for the thrift-store, either.

All those clothes.  I am sure a lot of them were found:  the next person to use the phone booth, the next occupant of the men’s room, a couple squeezing through a revolving door that only seconds before disgorged a Kent spun into Superman.

Many people would simply ignore the clothes.  Many would recoil, imagine a number of bad ends, exit quickly to go commit their tiny business elsewhere.

But, for some, the clothes certainly would be a welcomed find.  A tie for a dreamed unlikely job interview.  Miraculous shoes with good soles and un-scuffed uppers. A suit coat with a small threat of protection from winter left in it.  They would hurry away with their prize in a ball held to their chests with both rejoicing arms.

I doubt any of them might know these were the discarded disguise of Superman.  Even when they slipped on the glasses and found no magnification, would they suspect other than that this was an ordinary man’s costume:  it would serve the man right to lose the accoutrements of whatever sham he was projecting himself into.

Yet, in some episodes, Kent’s transformation space was so obscure that his clothes might be waiting there yet.  Unclaimed, un-stolen, un-discarded.  Most likely they would rest folded meticulously:   shoes at the bottom, pants over the shoes, shirt onto the pants, suit coat balanced, with the fedora and glasses at the apex.  All waiting unimpressed to be discovered.

How many people, knowing these were Clark Kent’s clothes, might consider them special?  Would they consider them worth a premium, just to be able to sleep at night with Clark Kent’s tie folded gracefully beneath their cheeks; or to show up billowing at the Baptist Sunday Social sporting Kent’s pants, taken in or let out as appropriate?

I think there could be a few.  Chest in or chest out, there could be quite a few.

So I have bought as many of the comix series as I can find, ordered all the remastered video episodes (thankfully on CD), purchased each of the movies and remakes.  I ignore the obvious changing places, the ones where surely within hours someone ran off with their find of unexploited cloth, or where maintenance would have surrendered the clothes to lost-and-found to be within the week tossed in the rubbish chute.

With the others, I make two columns:  possible and likely.  Kent has, on occasion, enhanced himself into Superman in some godawfully remote places.  Other stashes of empty clothes could have serendipitously been left undisturbed, could have been placed so as to be not obvious to someone not searching for them.  Given all the volumes, all the episodes, all the movies, all the remakes – even if I can claim a fraction of Kent’s abandoned clothes – and convince people these are the discarded clothes of Clark Kent – I could have a small fortune on my hands.  Sell the clothes with a proving snippet from the volume or episode or movie as a CD, affixed to unavoidably prove these are clothes left behind by the transformation of Kent into Superman.

Ordinary, unremarkable people:  able to buy the dispatched clothing of a man most unordinary, an extraordinary man disguising himself as a common citizen.  Someone seemingly as useless and unspectacular as they – yet, underneath, in red, white and blue underwear, and a singular hero for everyone.  Revel in the feeling.  Imagine the thread count, perhaps a shred of wear at the jacket’s elbows:  imagine the simple, serviceable, thin thread count.

What better way for me, and the awed customers, to catch the American dream?  What better way to allow my fellow citizens to walk about, looking as common as beggaring house cats, but feeling the wealth of power lurking within?


Ken Poyner’s collections of short fiction, Constant Animals and Avenging Cartography, and his latest collections of poetry, Victims of a Failed Civics and The Book of Robot, can be obtained from Barking Moose Press,  He serves as bewildering eye-candy at his wife’s power lifting affairs.  His poetry lately has been sunning in Analog, Asimov’s, Poet Lore; and his fiction has yowled in Spank the Carp, Red Truck, and Café Irreal.

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