Willy Bupkis was a dreamer. Not a big one who made things happen like Lawrence of Arabia (how he had loved that movie). Willy had Lawrence's build: 130 pounds sopping wet, but his fantasies were pickayune. Basically, he was the creep who got sand kicked in his face. Born losers used to beat him at everything and the only reason nobody took away his girl was because he never had one. Willy's great desire was to switch from kickee to kick.
In his favorite role, Willy would be Superman, dashing about the city knocking crooks' heads together and having beefy blue-coats gaze at him in awe.
One summer day Willy was dreaming his way home from his Willy-type job. He had just leaped a tall building with a single bound and saved Miss America from the clutches of an evil rapist (who looked remarkably like his boss), when suddenly a cool cat in a candy-striped bathrobe and about ten yards of terrycloth on his noggin stepped out from behind a tree.
“Shalom, Willy,” said he.
Willy stopped short. “Uh-?” he gargled intelligently.
“I said, 'Shalom'! Anyone with a good Hebrew name like yours should know from Shalom.”
“Yeah, sure...,” stuttered Willy. “Who're you?”
“I am a Genie,” said the man, bowing low.
“You're a nut!” said Willy, beginning to back off while looking up and down the empty street for help that wasn't there. “Besides, where's your lamp or jug or whatnot? I thought King Solomon bottled all you guys up!” Willy might be a creep, but he was a literal creep.
Oy, oy! What a schlemiel!” groaned the Genie. “Here's how it was. He jugged the whole bunch but me. I converted. Now I'm a strictly kosher Genie. Oh, he put me out of business, but every millennium I can do my bit just once for a lucky Hebrew. This time you are it!”
Willy swallowed. Now he was sure this guy was not playing with a complete deck. “But...but I'm a Presbyterian!” he quavered.
Mmmh—,” the Genie got an abstracted, flipping-the-page look in his eyes. Apparently he was an up-to-date type despite his appearance, for he produced a small pocket computer and energetically punched a few keys. “Yeah, I see your grandpop passed and married a Goy. Doesn't change things. It says here you're of the Lineage and are the Chosen One of the Chosen People today. So, make your wish already—I haven't got all day!”
“Wha—what?” gurgled Willy.
“Oh, forget it — your mind was shouting it to the whole continuum just before I showed up. I can't make it permanent, but for twenty-four hours you are Superman!” The Genie made a sweeping pass at Willy who shrank away.
“Enjoy, enjoy!” cried the Genie as he faded out of sight.
Willy began to sweat. The guy had really disappeared! He leaned against a tree and mopped his brow with a corner of his cloak.
He held the red material before his eyes in disbelief, then felt his chest and arms before daring to look down at his body. His suit had disappeared. He stood before the world in a standard-issue Superman suit that showed every muscle he had (that was something new also —he'd never had a discernible muscle before). In something of a daze, he reached out a tentative finger and poked a bicep. Hard as … as a diamond!
He reached up and pinched a six-inch branch off the tree using his thumb and forefinger. It was true. He was Superman! Exhilerated, he set to do mightly deeds and undo great wrongs.
Twenty-four hours later, the Genie found a dejected Willy sitting on the edgeof his bed clutching assorted subpoenas,summonses, writs, notices,and other official-looking documents. He was holding his head and moaning.
“What's wrong, Willy?” asked the Genie solicitously. “Didn't you like being Superman?”
“Does this look like it”” exploded Willy, shaking his fistful of documents under the Genie's nose. “It wasn't like in the comics—not at all! First I tried to run fasterthan a speeding bullet. Fifty-two pedestrians and seven cars got caught in my slip-stream.forty-three hundred windows got broken by the sonic boom. So, I took to the air. Above 1,000 feet I got into the airport traffic pattern and the FAA slapped me with all kinds of paper for not having a pilot's licewnse, no registration number on my tail, no registration, no navigation lights, and for just plain being in the way. So I slipped down under 500 feet and got hollered at by the cops for being too low over a populated area and in an air-space reserved for police and emergency aircraft. I decided to walk. Some bluecoat stopped me and tried to take me in for vagrancy (you took my wallet and I.D. Along with my clothes, you kno) and added general nuttiness when I tried to tell him about you. I ran to get away from him and forgot to hold down my speed for just a second—but that was enough. 7,000 window-panes. I had passed the largest greenhouse in town.
“Didn't you get to capture a crook or anything?” asked the Genie.
“I'm getting to that,” Willy said. “I decided to try out my X-ray eyes to see if anything criminal was going on. Ye Gods!” He grew red at the memory. “I'd gotten to a residential district and it was getting late. I saw plenty of things I considered indictable and a few I thought were impossible, but nothing I-uh-really thought Superman should bother with...”
“Mmm, yes,” mused the Genie, nodding understandingly.
Then I used my super-hearing to tune into the police calls. When I finally heard of a crime in my neighborhood, I managed to get there ahead of the fuzz, even though I kept it to a walk. Two guys were robbing a store. I busted in at super-speed (that was a mistake; the place specialized in rare antique glassware) and collared the crooks. Boy, it was a real pleasure to knock their heads together! It was only later I discovered they were both girls. Who can tell with the long hair and loose clothes these days? Were they mad! They really gave the cops an earful. Claimed I'd used 'gestapo methods' and 'unnecessary violence' against them and hadn't reminded them of their rights—or even of the fact that I was making a citizen's arrest. Besides, they said, they were just innocently looking around; they hadn't taken anything yet. One cop took a look at the place and said to me: 'Look, chum, next time let 'em rob the place. It'd cost the owner a lot less in the long run!' Can you beat that?”
“Tsk, tsk”, sympathized the Genie.
“After that I said to hell with the crook-catching business. It's gotten too damn complicated. Walking home I saw that old condemned building they want to tear down to make the new kids park. I figured here's something I can do. So, I demolished it (hospitalizing two drunks and a junkie in the process—I forgot to check it first). I used the bits and pieces to build playground equipment and a snack bar and stuff. Took me quite awhile, too, cause I've never been too good with my hands and you didn't include knowledge of carpentry or mechanical engineering in the package. So, you know what happened?”
“More paper?” suggested the Genie.
“You bet!” growled Willy. “No demolition license. Failed to get permission of owner. No building permit. Building with sub-standard materials. Completed structures failed inspection. Even the building trades unions are after me as a scab!”
The Genie was beginning to be embarrassed by Willy's troubles. “You know, Willy,” he said, “I've come to take your powers away. I wish I could do something about your problems, but you only get one wish, you know...”
“Take 'em. Please take 'em,” pleaded Willy. It's better to be willy Bupkis than Superman. Besides, I told them all my name was Clark Kent!”
With a wave of his had and a final “Shalom!”, the Genie disappeared.
Willy doesn't dream much any more. He's afraid to.