Read part 1 of “DadMan” to get caught up

Buzzwords was a trendy coffee shop near the university campus, full of tweedy young professors waxing dialectic, shy college students hunched over chessboards, and aging hipsters with a veritable prism of hair colors. It wasn’t where I’d have chosen to meet for a first date, but Frank, the beefy accounting executive of my dreams, lived in one of the medium-rise condos nearby and suggested meeting there. As I walked from my car to the cafe, I wondered which building he lived in. Whichever it was, my modest suburban townhome paled in comparison.  

I arrived first, ordered a coffee, and claimed a table by the windows to catch Frank’s arrival. I didn’t have to wait long. I hadn’t been seated for two minutes before he rounded the corner with a bounce in his step and a casual grin on his face. He was dressed in a navy blue two-piece suit that so accentuated his build that it must’ve been made to measure. Each step he took up the sidewalk drew my attention to a different part of his body: his big thighs, his broad shoulders, the way his belly strained at the buttons of his dress shirt. He caught me staring through the windows as he made his final approach and smiled wide. I stood to greet him, and we shook hands when he arrived at my table.  

“You look great,” he said.  

“So do you.”  

“It’s nice to see another guy putting the effort into looking sharp for a date. A part of me was worried I’d see you sitting here in basketball shorts or something.”  

I laughed. “No way. Not my style.”  

Frank went off to place his coffee order, allowing me to survey this handsome hunk from behind. I knew he was my type after getting an eyeful of his arms, ass, and calves, but when he returned to our table with a coffee in one hand and a plate of doughnuts in the other, any lingering doubts left my mind. He was perfect.  

“I hope you don’t mind,” Frank said, offering me a doughnut. “You’re not some health food nut, are you?” He punctuated the wry question with a smirk. 

I broke the doughnut in half and dunked it in my coffee. “I get to the gym when I can, but I won’t pass up a good snack when I see one.”  

My amateurish attempts at flirting notwithstanding, our date proceeded in the best possible way. The usual getting-to-know-you small talk quickly led to deeper conversations about our lives, professions, and even our upbringings. Frank cracked me up with stories of his brief stint as a professional actor in his wayward youth. I impressed him with photos of my most recent handyman projects around the house. All throughout, however, my secret loomed large. “DadMan,” as the newspapers had taken to calling me, had to remain unknown to Frank. I couldn’t let my so-called “superhero” identity sabotage things with him.  

Frank had just finished telling me that splitting with his ex-partner precipitated his relocation from Boston when an outburst by the bar captured our attention.  

“This happens every time I come in here! What is so hard about a hazelnut soy latte?”  

Everyone within earshot looked over at the customer causing the scene, including Frank and me. He looked about 30 and more than a little bedraggled, like a stereotypical punk but without an audience to keep groomed for. Already, I felt my powers coursing through my veins. I took a few deep breaths and willed them back to dormancy. I was still new to the whole superpower thing, and my abilities occasionally got the best of me.  

“What’s this guy’s problem?” Frank whispered to me as the customer demanded to see the manager. “He needs to switch to decaf.”  

The poor barista, shaken by the unexpected outburst, dropped a pitcher of steamed milk. It ricocheted off the bar and splashed everywhere, including onto the irate customer’s Che Guevara t-shirt.  

“You idiot! This is vintage! You’re going to pay for this shirt.”  

I felt my powers start to build up in my hands. I needed to do something to bring this guy down a notch, or else I might go full “DadMan” on some unsuspecting passerby. But could I do it safely? And more importantly, could I do it without Frank noticing?  

“Mike, what the hell is going on with your hands?” Frank whispered.  

I looked down at my clenched fists. Tendrils of electric blue energy swirled around my fingers.   

Fuck. Secret’s out.  

The buildup had caused me to break a sweat. I leaned forward and whispered a warning to Frank. “Get down.”  

Bless the guy for not asking any questions. My beefy date hit the deck; he was probably too freaked out to think straight. Overcome by my powers and afraid I might explode if I didn’t do something, I thrust my hands out in the customer’s direction. A beam of iridescent blue light arced from each palm and, on contacting the customer, encapsulated him.  

“What the fuck!?” he said. As much of a jerk as he was, I still felt bad for him. Immobilized by my supernatural energy, he could only wait for it to finish with him. At least he’d be much happier when it was all over.  

Frank, hunched over between his chair and the wall, peeked over the table’s edge just in time to see the transformation begin. The customer doubled over as his vintage tee lightened from black to grey to white. The short sleeves extended down his arms, forming tidy cuffs at each wrist. A split formed down the shirt front, only for the raw edges to neatly button themselves back together.  

“What the fu—… What the fudge is going on here?” he shouted, his voice already lacking the ire and rage of a moment ago. The many fashionable tears in his skinny jeans repaired themselves, and the waistline rose to his natural waist, resting just below his navel. His white collared shirt tucked itself neatly into his new pleated slacks, and the neon yellow belt festooned with safety pins transformed into a pair of wide, black button suspenders. On his feet, a pair of dirty Converse sneakers morphed into black wingtip Oxfords. He returned to a standing position, a mixture of shock and horror on his face, and then stared momentarily at his crotch. No one would have noticed, but I knew from previous interactions with citizens that this guy now sported a metal chastity cage, securing his cock and balls from any attempts at stimulation. From now on, his only true pleasure would be community service. 

“Hang in there,” I said, half to the target of my superpowers and half to Frank, who was still on the floor. “It’s almost over.”  

Frank didn’t acknowledge me. His gaze remained fixed on the spectacle playing out before him. The last transformation took place as the customer’s unkempt, artificially green hair returned to a natural dark brown with a short back and sides and a left side part. Blue lightning flickered up and down his body and grew in intensity. The buildup of static electricity made Buzzwords feel like it might blow at any second. This was the big finish, the inexplicable final part of the show that would keep me out of trouble with the papers. I reached forward and placed my hands on Frank’s shoulders, letting my power shield him from the inevitable shockwave.  


A moment of temporary blindness followed, and everything returned to normal. Buzzwords resumed its low murmur of conversation and eclectic background music as if nothing had happened. 

“Large black coffee for Kyle,” the barista announced.  

Kyle, the formerly irate customer, was now the epitome of a model citizen. In addition to his new wardrobe, he now carried a leather briefcase instead of a messenger bag, and a copy of the Three Cities Financial Review was crooked under his elbow. With a new look came a new attitude, as well. He stepped forward, claimed his coffee from the bar, and dropped a folded-up bill into the tip jar.  

“Thank you kindly! And have a super day.”  

Frank finally got up from the floor and dusted himself off, just in time to watch Kyle stop at the milk bar and give it a quick tidy. As he left Buzzwords, he was whistling. Frank looked around the cafe, incredulous.  

“Did nobody notice what the hell just happened in here?”  

“Their reality has been changed,” I said, panting. “They don’t remember it.”  

“Then how come I—”  

Frank looked at me for the first time since the ordeal. I was exhausted, and it showed. My favorite charcoal gray suit was torn and frayed from my little display of supernatural ability. I’d burst through at least three buttons on my dress shirt, exposing my lycra suit underneath. My damn necktie I’d spent so much time tying perfectly was shot to hell. I was drenched in sweat.  

“I protected you from the reality change.” I wasn’t sure why I did it. If I were honest with myself, I felt there might be potential for something special between Frank and me. If that were so, I didn’t want our relationship to start with a lie.  

“You—” Frank said. I could see the pieces falling into place for him. “You’re the guy they mention in all the papers—the crime stats, the urban renewal. You’re the superhero.”  

“DadMan,” I said. “At your service. I didn’t want you to find out this way. I’m still kind of new and I haven’t mastered my powers yet.”  

“I’ll say.” 

We both laughed. Frank crooked a finger into my open dress shirt and peeked at my sweaty, lycra-encased upper body. I blushed. “Like what you see?”  

“Yeah,” he said. He was serious. “I really do. How about we go get you changed? We can’t have DadMan walking the streets with his secret identity on full display.”  

I pulled my shirt closed and stood up from the table. Frank smiled at me. Something told me he would enjoy watching me strip down to my DadMan uniform more than he would my getting redressed in a clean shirt and tie.  

“Listen,” I said once we were back on the sidewalk. “I’m taking a risk letting you know about this. There are people out there who are onto me. They’re trying to figure out who I really am.”  

Frank stopped and pulled me into a deep, slow kiss. I was speechless.  

“Don’t worry,” he said. “Your secret is safe with me, DadMan.” 

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