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If I Were a Superhero

I wouldn’t hide who I am.    

photo of kristin lewis
By Kristin Lewis
Other Key Skills: figurative language, narrative writing

Internal conflict is a struggle that takes place within a character’s mind.

External conflict is a struggle between a character and someone or something else.

If I were a superhero, I wouldn’t wear shiny suits and silly masks. I’d wear jeans and my favorite hoodie and my hair in a ponytail. I don’t understand when superheroes just let their long hair flow free. Doesn’t it get in the way? My hair would be stuck to my face in five seconds, what with all the jumping and kicking and flying and sweating.

If I were a superhero, I wouldn’t have a scary name like Red Scorpion or Poison Oak either. I’d have a name that made people feel safe, made them feel like they weren’t alone. And I definitely wouldn’t hide my identity. I’d tell the entire world who I was. I know there is that whole protecting-your-loved-ones-from-supervillains thing, but I think that’s hyped-up drama for the movies.

In truth, I don’t think the world has many supervillains. I think most of the terrible stuff in the world is just regular people forgetting themselves.

Like how yesterday, my dad and I were in line at the grocery store, and when he went to pay, he fumbled with the money. He couldn’t grasp the bills in his wallet because he has a degenerative disease that makes it hard for his fingers to bend and straighten sometimes. It’s as if his fingers decide to go on strike. When it happens, he gets deeply frustrated.

But he is also proud. I know not to help him. That only frustrates him more. So I stand there and watch, and I get this strange feeling in my gut, as if I woke up to find that everyone in the world had vanished but me.

Well anyway, this woman in line behind us was apparently in some kind of rush. She only had a banana and a carton of chocolate ice cream, which was starting to sweat all over the conveyor belt. This woman began sighing loudly and muttering to herself about how people should hurry up or get out of the way. She pulled out her phone and started texting someone, her fingers jabbing at the screen—as if that would help convey Just How Irritated she was.

The lady at the cash register gave my dad a sympathetic look and offered to help, but he said, “No, I’ve got it.” And he kept digging in his wallet with his gnarled fingers.

Finally the woman in line behind us exploded. “C’mon!” she wailed. “Some of us have lives to live!”

Lives to live. What a thing to say.

If I were a superhero, I would use my superpowers to zap that woman into my dad’s body. Then she could experience what it feels like to have your fingers go on strike. But I don’t have superpowers.

So I turned to her. “Are you having an emergency?” I asked, my voice shaking. “Because if not, well, we are doing the best we can.” I took a deep breath. “I just . . . wanted to say that,” I added.

The woman’s face contorted into shock, as if she hadn’t realized we could actually hear her. Then she got quiet. I don’t know if she was still mad; I didn’t look back to find out. Instead, I watched my dad as he finally handed the bills to the cashier.

“Have a nice day,” the cashier said.

As we walked out, I turned back to look at the woman. Our eyes met. She gave me a timid smile, and I thought maybe I have superpowers after all. 

This story was originally published in the December 2019 / January 2020 issue.

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