“I’m tired of doing the superhero thing already,” RedGirl sighed, wiping her brow. “Back in the good old days, there would have been men to do this kind of work for us.”
“Oh, stop it,” I said. “We don’t need men anymore. I can achieve great deeds without anybody’s help, thank you very much.”
We were sitting in a stall at the Farmer’s Market, surrounded by cages of fruits and vegetables, some of them still half-alive and wriggling in their enclosures, as they hadn’t been hacked to death with quite the precision that they should have been.
RedGirl nudged me in the ribs. A potential customer was poking our meanest carrot with a stick through the bars of its cage. It grabbed the tip of the stick and snapped it in half with its jaws.
“I would love to cook this one,” he said.
“He’s kind of a freak,” RedGirl whispered to me, as he continued trying to spear the carrot.
I groaned. “Do you want me to talk to him for you?” My sister had a hard time admitting to herself that she liked the freaks.
“You rarely see ones as big and juicy as this,” he said, standing up and handing me a couple of rolled up dollars in payment. I opened the cage and stepped back a little.
He pulled the carrot out of its cage, still hissing and spitting, took a knife from his belt and stabbed it through with one long slice, the carrot juice splashing some unfortunate hippies, who shrieked and ran away.
I turned my head to see that, quite predictably, RedGirl’s jaw had dropped. “Wow….that was so beautiful,” she managed. She squeezed my arm. “Come on. You always talk to strange people like this.”
“How do you usually cook these?” I asked, irritated.
“With meat,” he replied.
“So do we!” RedGirl said.
He shook the limp body of the carrot and started cutting out its teeth.
“Aren’t you scared of eating them?” I wasn’t very good at promoting our mutant veggie stand.
“No, I wish they would legalize them already,” he said. “They’re not any worse than regular vegetables, they just make you feel more powerful.”
“We’re gonna have that potluck dinner,” RedGirl suggested to me.
“We would love to have you come to our potluck dinner,” I snapped. “Do I need to give him my phone number, too?” I asked her.
“Well, I’m certainly not giving him mine,” she bristled. “Just give him our address.”
He took the slip of paper from me and went on cleaning his knife.
I threw a bag of potato chips down on the table. “There, I’m ready for the potluck.”
RedGirl pretended to be outraged, even though I contributed a bag of chips to any event I was involved in, including baby showers and Christmases. “You will never impress a guy like Paul this way.” The carrot-killer’s name turned out to be Paul.
“That’s good, because I don’t want to impress him. No worries, I’m sure he’ll love whatever greasy thing you grill up.” I grimaced.
“My bacon is delicious. You can make fun all you want.” She hesitated. “He did say he was in favor of legalizing the genetically modified vegetables. Maybe he’s my conservative guy and I don’t even realize it! Maybe he’s RedMan, but he’s in disguise.”
“Or he’s a crazy bum with a knife who’s coming over to dinner.”
“I’m sorry I was having a romantic moment,” she said. “I forgot you’re a bitter feminist who doesn’t approve of this kind of stuff.”
“That’s not what I….”
We couldn’t continue our argument, because the doorbell rang, and it was time to start welcoming the potluck guests, most of them either Mother’s friends, fashionably dressed and bringing homemade pastries and unnecessary husbands with them, or my sister’s friends, dressed like sluts and bringing junk food. Paul arrived too, with a bowl of his supercharged stew, ogling the skimpy-skirted girls.
My intuition instantly told me that he was a dastardly character. What was he going to do to my sister? He went out to smoke on our patio, huddling in the first cool air of the early fall, and I followed him out. The crumpled remains of giant corn still lay scattered all about.
“So is it true that you’re kind of a family of political bigshots?” he asked.
“You could say we have special connections, yeah,” I said.
“What a waste of your time,” he observed.
“You think so?” I watched him blow out smoke.
“Yes, and it doesn’t matter to me which party you’re working for. They all fuck you over the same way.”
“I don’t believe that’s true.”
“Excuse me….I have to go.” He stubbed his cigarette out and went back inside. I looked in the window and saw that RedGirl was flashing some good old-fashioned cleavage at him.
At this rate, I wouldn’t be able to stop this disaster. The heartless man would probably have sex with her, too. My sympathy went out to her.
So sad did I feel for her that I waited for him to go into the kitchen when he was on a break from his flirting, knocked him unconscious with a bolt of energy and locked him in our storage closet. It was unusual for me to feel so protective of my sister.
In the living room, the party was swinging. The guests laughed loudly and devoured sweet cakes and RedGirl’s bacon. Father came out of his room for once and, trying to be necessary, handed out champagne.
“Where’s Paul?” RedGirl asked. “He was talking to me.”
“Who knows? I’m sure he’s gutting and skinning one of our houseplants.”
“Whatever. You don’t have to put him down just because you can’t cook. His stew is ah-mazing.” Her eyes scanned the room for him once more, and then she walked off to search for him.
Her comments left me frustrated, as usual. I couldn’t understand the desires of everybody else around me. I didn’t understand why you would want to spend hours cooking, when you could buy food ready to eat and have more time for other things. I didn’t understand why you would want to be stuck in a relationship, when you could be free. I wasn’t missing out on anything.
Of course, the fact that I felt this way possibly meant that there was something very big missing inside of me, but I preferred not to think about that.
“What did you do to him?” My emo moment was disrupted by RedGirl, who had come back from her inspection of the house. She was jabbing her finger in my face.
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“What did you do to Paul? I could tell you were into him ever since we met him, and now he’s disappeared. I know you had something to do with it.” Her eyes drilled into me. “Give it up.”
“Like I care about your little rightie. Maybe your conversation was boring and he left.”
RedGirl stalked away again, but she kept watching me. She and her screeching friends circled the party like a flock of multi-colored hawks.
I escaped to my bedroom. I couldn’t wait for this evening to be over with. I needed to get rid of Paul somehow. My sister already thought I was involved in some pathetic girlie competition with her, and if he came rolling out of our closet, she would be convinced of it.
Well, it was almost nine p.m. The guests would be leaving shortly.
I cracked the window open. Outside, the air was muggy and thick with rain. It had gotten a lot warmer.
In the back, people gathered out on the patio, listening to the downpour in the steamy heat.
“Fall can be such an interesting time of year—the weather changes every minute,” one of the ladies commented.
The rain seemed too intense even for an interesting fall night. Puddles and pools were forming in the grass, rising until there was water on the concrete slabs in front of our doorstep.
“Are we getting flooded?” Mother wondered. “Everybody, please collect your possessions and we will continue the party up in the attic.” As she said this, snow started swirling out of the sky.
“It’s obvious this is global warming,” I said, as everything around us froze into sheets of ice.
We closed all the windows and doors, and had hot toddies. A half hour later, the cold wind was still blowing, and our yard still gleamed in the moonlight, frozen solid. It became clear nobody was going anywhere for a while. We were iced in. I put my head in my hands.
“We’re running out of tea biscuits,” Mother said to Dad. The guests had stopped joking about the weather and were clustered around the fireplace. “Be useful, dear, and go check the storage closet.”
I didn’t even have time to be horrified, because right then, Paul strolled into the living room, a half-eaten bag of pasta in his hand.
“Where have you been?” RedGirl asked, suspicious.
“Oh, just taking a little break over there.” He grinned at me, which I didn’t appreciate. “May I have something to drink, please?”
“Go for it, get the man a drink,” RedGirl said to me. “Since I can tell that you really want to.”
“No….” I began. But that would be very bad manners. With all eyes on me, I picked up a whiskey bottle and showed it to Paul. He nodded, and I poured him a glass, simmering with hatred.
“Thank you,” he said. “It’s okay…I won’t reveal your secret,” he added in a half-whisper.
This was going to be a very long potluck.
We woke up to a perfect Christmas morning view. We had snowdrifts and everything.
“Well, sometimes winter comes a little early. It’s not like there’s anything abnormal about that,” RedGirl said.
In the distance, shafts of lightning struck the ice. A tall snow funnel slowly travelled along the horizon.
“Are we going to wait until we have no food left?” Paul asked.
“Won’t there be an evacuation of some kind?” I replied.
Paul burst out in mocking laughter. “Are you seriously hoping that the government is going to help you? Good luck with that. We need to mount an expedition for supplies.”
“Would that mean going out into…the snow?” I shrank from the window.
Paul’s eyes had a glint of unhealthy excitement in them. “Are you scared of the cold? You can always just stay here and suck your thumb like a little girl. Maybe someone will give you a handout.”
“No, I’ll go with you.” Somehow, I had volunteered myself for a polar explorer mission into a blizzard. “As you know, I have energies that could help you.”
“I have energies too,” RedGirl reminded us.
“Oh, good. Then you can go instead of me,” I said.
“I’ll be more than happy to take both of you,” Paul said with a smile. “Double the special powers, right?”
The air was crisp and the sky was clear when we waddled out into the street, wrapped in our warmest layers.
“It’s a beautiful day for an adventure,” Paul said, pulling RedGirl and me into a big bearhug.
An impromptu neighbourhood committee had held a meeting and agreed that sending the three of us off in the direction of town was a fabulous idea. They were also nice enough to provide us with a mode of transportation.
A line of dogs sat on the ice, all of them tied to a rope, which was attached to a ramshackle sled nailed together out of pieces of nonessential furniture. One of the dogs distantly resembled a husky, but the line also included a couple of overweight retrievers and a pug. Of course, all the dogs wore little coats and sweaters, and booties on their feet.
“Let’s see how well these guys can handle our weight,” Paul said.
We climbed onto the sleigh, my sister and I on either side of Paul. The dogs wagged their tails and waited for treats.
“Hold on, I’ll get some milkbones,” the pug’s owner called out. “He likes those—he’ll run for them.”
“If we wait for them to go, we’ll be here until the snow melts, and then there won’t be a point to it anymore,” Paul grumbled. “Would you be able to use those energies you’ve been talking about, girls?”
“Not if you keep referring to us as girls,” I said. “That’s BlueWoman to you.”
“Don’t be so insecure,” Paul said. “Can you help get us going?”
I frowned, but I sent a jolt of blue light at the dogs. It shoved them forward a small distance, but they were insulted at this treatment, and refused to move any further.
“Here, take my hand,” RedGirl stretched her arm out to me. As we held hands across Paul’s lap, a stream of purple energy shot out from us and the sled hurtled over the white streets, the surprised dogs flying before it.
We ended up on the side of a hill, the rope tangled and dog legs and tails sticking up out of the snow.
“We’ll have to find a better way of doing this,” Paul said from somewhere underneath me.
“Do we have to keep going on to town?” I yelled out.
“Yes, otherwise we’ll starve,” Paul called back to me.
“Can’t I just lie down and rest here on the snowbank for a while? It feels so warm,” I said.
“You wimps. Aren’t you the ones with the superpowers? Keep pulling!”
Paul and the dogs were sitting on the sled. RedGirl and I were in front of it, holding on to the rope.
“If you and I team up, we can still overturn him into a ditch somewhere,” I suggested to my sister.
“Yeah, what a great way to make me look bad to him. No, thanks.” RedGirl walked back to the sled. “Paul, I have something private that I want to share with you. I can fly. I think I can pull us to town through the air. BlueGirl can’t fly, by the way.”
“She’ll have to sit up here with me, then.” Paul moved the husky to a back seat. The expression on his face made my stomach turn.
Soon, we were flying along. I clung to a rail out of habit, but the ride was pretty smooth, considering that it was RedGirl who was driving us.
Then, we were circling over a sparkling downtown, attempting to make our approach, and we were hit by turbulence, the sled shaking and creaking on the way down like an old Soviet airplane.
“I have something special to share with you, too,” I said to Paul. “I attract accidents and falls. Hold on!”
We landed right in the center of the shopping district. The sled bumped along the frosty ground a couple of times, scattering chair legs and sofa cushions as it went, but it held together, and nobody was hurt.
Downtown was completely abandoned. Which made sense—the snow and ice had struck in the evening, when there wouldn’t have been anybody here. The skyscrapers were empty and silent.
Paul knelt down, picked up a little snow with his fingers and tasted it. He pointed in an eastern direction. “We have to go that way. The Grocery Outlet is over there.”
“The Grocery Outlet? Ewwww!” RedGirl recoiled at the thought.
“You have to trust me. Their food lasts forever.” We moved down the street, armed with the bedposts from my old canopy bed, the one I was now kind of embarrassed about.
I held Paul back just as the Grocery Outlet sign came into sight. “There’s someone in front of that store….somebody with a gun.”
“Probably the store manager. Ugh. I wonder if he’ll trade with us.” Paul pulled out a fur-lined pouch.
“It’s….not a manager. It’s one of the Squircal executives,” I said in disbelief.
“Don’t come any closer.” The executive aimed the gun at me. “I remember you.”
I should have expected this. The Squircal guys had most likely created this entire winter event, as part of their plan for some sort of resource grab. And now this man would ration the food in town to us at a high price, if he even felt like giving any of it to us at all.
Then I looked at his face and saw something which chilled me even more: panic.
I walked up to him, in spite of myself. “You’re not in charge of this weather thing, are you? Not anymore, right?”
“The climate changes are within our control,” he snarled. “You’ve caused us problems in the past. Be careful.”
“Yeah….?” It was obvious to me from his tone that he wasn’t in control of a single snowflake.
“I’m willing to let you go now only because you’re connected to a higher power.” He was referring to the Bat, of course.
He shivered in his small jacket. Like the rest of us, used to our mild climate, he was not prepared for these kinds of temperatures. I was wearing multiple sweaters, one on top of another.
“So….can we get some food?” I shivered, too. “I mean, what happens now? How do we survive? Or do we all die because you guys messed up the planet?”
He didn’t lower his gun. “What if there isn’t enough food left for me?”
“We have money.”
A fire came back into the man’s eye. A familiar instinct stirred him. “Money?”
I turned back to my friends. “Er….we do have money, right?”
I was broke, Paul had mostly beads, but between the three of us we managed to scrape up almost ten bucks.
“Now, naturally some serious inflation will apply,” the executive said. “But I would say that I can sell you a box of Cup’O’Noodles soups in exchange for your payment of eight dollars and ninety-nine cents.”
“What?! That’s outrageous!” RedGirl said.
I held out my hand to quiet her. “I think this may be our only option. We’ll accept the deal.”
We left the man shaking with cold as he guarded his giant food stash, holding on to our money with near-frozen fingers.
Paul carried the box of soup cups. “What are we gonna do with this?”
“Are you kidding me?” I flashed him a smile. “Paul, you’re in luck. I don’t like to cook, so I have a thousand and one methods for making a Cup’O’Noodles meal.”
He seemed slightly nauseated. “That’s….great. Thanks.”
Later on, Paul and I were standing and waiting by the sled. RedGirl wanted to check if the mall was closed.
“I like it when I find a woman I can have an intelligent conversation with,” he said to me.
I remained guarded. “Is that so?”
“Yeah. You’re pretty cool, you know.”
“But aren’t you interested in RedGirl?”
“Wouldn’t you prefer a girl like her?”
“Why do I have to choose?” He chuckled quietly. “I can just have the two of you.”
“Huh? Can you get away with that? I thought you were a Republican.”
“There’s your first mistake.” He stretched. “I’m not a conservative. I’m a libertarian. I can do whatever the fuck I want.”
My eyes shifted to his left. There, right behind him, was RedGirl, glowing with the crimson light of vengeance, her chest heaving. She had heard every word. I gave her a tiny nod and a moment later, Paul lay face down in the snow, unconscious.
“I feel so much better. But isn’t it cruel to leave him here like this?” RedGirl asked.
“Nah, he’ll be okay. This is wilderness man we’re talking about,” I said. “We’ll be lucky if he doesn’t come after us with his crocodile hunting kit.”
“I guess you’re right,” RedGirl agreed. She exhaled. “Man, courting the libertarian vote is *so* not worth it.”
We made the dogs pull us all the way back home.