I picked out the cat food from the trash and delivered it to the nearest animal shelter after realizing how stupid I was to just throw it away. The old lady at the desk thanked me, and as she gave me an appraising look I felt compelled to explain that my cat didn't like cat food and refused to eat anything but human food, and the food wasn't really poisoned or anything, even if the bag was already open.

She gave me a strange look, said, "Ah," and went back to typing on her computer and answering calls. I left feeling suitably chastised.

The cat-guy gave me an ugly look when I returned and dashed to the window, scratching it with an ugly 'screech'ing noise.

"Do you want me to open the window?" I asked. He looked over his shoulder at me with an utterly blank look, but after I'd opened the window he scratched my hand with a flick of his paw and leapt out onto the fire escape. "Ow," I told him, since it hadn't really hurt. He twitched his tail and his nose before leaping onto the windowsill of the apartment across the alley and began to go around the building using the ledges. ". . . So, back by six?" I called out at his vanishing form.

I pulled my head back in and courteously didn't close the window again, even though I wanted the face in the window to come back and she'd never appeared in any other window besides this one before (after that candy store incident, at least—that was embarrassing, and I still don't shop there). She'd been gone for about ten hours, and I was sure she'd return to talk to me soon.

So I put on Shawn of the Dead (much better than Dawn of the Dead, in my opinion—it's more lighthearted in its take on zombies, yet is still serious) and sat down on my dilapidated couch. It fell to one side, and I had to get up with the previews still rolling to replace the books that held it up.

I sat waiting for someone to come (either the cat-guy or the face in the window), but eventually I forgot about them in order to enjoy the movie.

Therefore I was very surprised when the face in the window's voice said, "There's a call for you." I jumped and fell off the couch spectacularly.

I looked around for her, but although I could hear her snickering she wasn't in sight. The phone rang. I picked it up and said, "Hello?"


I was immediately suspicious. Nobody called me sweetie. "Who is this?"

"It's your mother."

Oh. That almost made sense. Almost. "Uh, I hate to break it to you, but my mom's dead."

"Yes, I've realized that. Where do you think I'm calling from?"


"Oh, ha ha. Very funny. See if I call you again."

"Okay, 'mom.' You're dead."

"Honey, we just went through this. It's okay if you don't believe me. I just called to say hi, tell you your father and I are doing alright, and to give you some advice. Do you realize how dirty your ears are? And how dare you have a man in your house!"

This . . . really sounded like my mother. Maybe she actually was. Or maybe she was a stalker. Anyway, weirder things had happened to me, so I just decided to go with it. "MOM! Are you spying on me?"

"Well, there's really not that much to do here, considering we have eternity and all."

"But—wait—what man?"

"Your little cat-man. Watch out for him, by the way. He's twenty one, and a guy. I mean, seriously, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!"

"Mom!" I was cowering. She wasn't in the room, and she had me cowering. Great—just great. "He just—he came in and ate my bird, my . . . my poor little bird, but he looked so hungry and a little ratty and dusty, and, well, you remember that animal shelter I always wanted. . . ?"

"Fine, fine. I know there's nothing I can do about that."

Then I was suspicious again. My mother never gave up. For anything. "Uh-huh. . . ."

"But enough about him. Really, he's already played his part, and botched it up quite nicely, too. I mean, how hard is it to find a good superhero these days? Seriously. Dear, when you get up here, you're going to laugh at all the silly creatures still on Earth and their futile actions."

". . . Right."

"Why, just listen to me. I've become bitter!" She paused. "I didn't really call about that, though. I called about the Evil Bird Master."

"Um, right—"

"You've been chosen to fight him."

"Ugh. . . . Really?"


I thought about that. The faint sound of something resembling elevator music drifted up from the telephone ". . . Do I have to?"

"Of course! Otherwise the world will fall to the birds!"

"Oh. Right. And that's bad, right?"


"Right. So . . . no choice?"

"No choice. You were selected. You're now an honorary superhero. Congratulations!"

"Wow, uh, thanks. I guess. No, not really—Mom! Please stop screaming."

"I'm sorry, honey. It's just so good to see you doing some good in the world! Superheroes and supervillains shape the world, you know. So many don't know they really exist, but the world revolves around them. Imagine! The world revolving around my daughter! What could make me more proud?"

"But, mom, seriously, I don't want to. And besides, what powers would I have? None."

"Don't be silly. You talk to the dead."

A moment of shocked silence. I think it was entirely appropriate. ". . . Huh?"

And mother just kept right on talking. "At least you know. Many superheroes find out they're superheroes the hard way, with their loved ones being killed off by their villainous archrival. Your loved ones are already dead! Isn't that lucky?"

My voice sounded distant, even to me. "Yeah. . . . Lucky. . . ."

"However, we still haven't talked about what we're supposed to. This call is a warning, and it's the only advice I'll ever be able to give you: Beware his talons."

". . . Mom, do you realize how weird this is?"

"I've got to go, honey. Kisses!" She made a smooching sound and hung up the phone, although before she did I could hear her yelling, "PAUL, DON'T YOU DARE!"

I gently lowered the phone. Then I started banging my head against the edge of the sofa.

"Hey, hey! No killing off your poor brain cells!" came the mocking voice of the face in the window. Who wasn't in a window I could readily see.

"Sorry," I automatically apologized and pulled myself back onto the couch with a sigh.

The cat-guy came in through the window. I said, "You missed an interesting phone conversation." He started licking the blood off his tail, and I checked the clock. It was 6:00 exactly.

The window slammed down, and cat-guy and I flinched. "Did you have fun?" grinned the face.

I looked at the blood, which was also on the cat-guy's paws and nose. "What happened?"

"Ah, now that would be telling." The face in the window turned around and froze. She vanished.

There was an awkward silence.

". . . Would you like something to eat?"

We had a calming dinner of tuna and crackers, the cat-guy and I. He didn't mention the phone call, I didn't mention the blood. All was peaceful.