In the settlement of relative conundrums—I mean, honestly, what use could there possibly be for a superpower like mine? There I was, once again contemplating the drawbacks of my power when I realized I had overlooked something quite important. I did think about them briefly, but I didn’t give them enough time or thought, truly. I should have known better. I should have realized what I needed a lot sooner. It’s so… obvious.
I am not talking about a superhero costume, either. Oh, it would be so much easier if I was. If my only concern was cape or no cape, tights or spandex, that sort of question, that would be easier than this.
But remember, I shrink. Or grow. Not quite like the hulk, but it’s not like you can wear a six year old’s clothes underneath your suit and call it good. You don’t fit. Period.
So how do you have clothes that fit at any age?
Let me tell you, it’s not something you really want to know.
“There you are, Clayton. I haven’t seen you in a few days.”
Clayton forced an uneasy smile. There was no good way to explain that he’d caught the chicken pox in his eight year-old form and been forced to stay at home until he recovered and could resume his natural form again. Nope. He was sticking to the I’ve been sick line and saying nothing else. “Under the weather.”
“Liar. You don’t get sick.”
In his base form, no, not usually. As a child and probably as an old man, yes. “I was sick. Look, you’ve been doing research on fabrics, right?”
“Yeah. You know, I’ve found three that prolonged exposure to is toxic. I mean, toxic. And this is what we’re dressing our kids in.”
“You don’t have kids, Larabee.”
“Not the point, Clay. They’re putting toxic ingredients in clothes they recommend for children. Rip and tear resistant, sure. But toxic.”
“Okay, I get it,” Clayton agreed, trying to stop the lecture that he knew was coming. Larabee could go on for hours if he got started. Sometimes he liked that. Larabee could be the best part of delivering the mail around here. Sometimes. “What about… stretchy fabric? Like… Something that would look good no matter what size you were if you were going to… abruptly shift size?”
“Oh, most styles incorporate a bit of fabric in case of bloating.”
“I’m not talking about bloating,” Clayton said wearily. If he told his… er, friend that he could turn himself into a child, the man probably still wouldn’t believe him, and if he did, he’d want proof. And it was hard to admit to a superpower when you had a cool one—notice how so many of them had secret identities—but his was bizarre at best. “I’m talking about someone who can be a child and a grown up all in the same day.”
“Well, acting like a kid and being an adult, yeah, everyone does that,” Larabee agreed. “In the other sense, not possible. I guess… spandex.”
“Spandex?” Clay’s heart sank. “There has to be something other than spandex.”
“This some kind of contest in your office or something, Clay, because it really doesn’t matter. I mean, the usefulness of such a fabric is pretty limited. Why would anyone go for it?”
“Never having to buy clothes again?” Clay suggested weakly. He didn’t have any better reason, but that one had to be the lamest one on record.
“Intriguing thought, but imagine if it had come around in the eighties. An eternity of fashion with… big hair and ruffles.”
“Okay, I concede the point, but what about the idea? Is there anything that could do it besides spandex?”
“There has to be something other than spandex. I mean, there’s got to be something that would have a reasonable—what am I saying? There’s nothing remotely reasonable about shifting from a child’s size six to a men’s thirty-six. Just not reasonable.”
“You know, Clay, buddy, I think you’re still sick. In fact, you don’t look very good. You feeling okay?”
“Uh… No, actually,” Clay said as he realized that he was about to shift again. “Excuse me for a second.”
“Okay, officially, that was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.”
“What was?” Clay muttered and then winced when he heard his voice. “Never mind. I take it you saw all of that. So… about those clothes…”
He lifted up a hand covered by his sleeve and flopped it around a bit. Twenty minutes and counting. At least Larabee didn’t have the chicken pox. Clay didn’t want to be out for a week again. Just twenty minutes. It would pass soon enough.
“Clay, back up a minute. What just happened to you?”
“Spontaneous age shift. It happens. Thus the need for clothes that stretch,” Clay explained. “Twenty minutes, and I can go back. Can I have something to drink?”
“Um—Right. Sure. Clay, how—”
“I don’t know, exactly. I just know that I can be any age I want to be, and at least once a day I have a random shift like this. That’s why the clothes issue is kind of… important. Do you know how hard it is to hide for twenty minutes when your clothes are too big? I need something, Larabee. Something I can wear no matter what size I am.”
“Yes, I can see why you’d ask. You’ll have to give me some time, though. I’ve got ideas on what might work for you, but as I told you, it’s not something that has been researched.”
“I don’t care if it has been researched, only that it will be,” Clay muttered, hating how he sounded like a little kid pouting. “No spandex.”
“Oh, come on. Spandex is a must have for all superheroes,” Larabee teased, grinning widely.
“I will only be small for another thirteen minutes, and when I’m not, I’m going to kick your—”
“Easy, easy now. Let’s discuss this rationally. I mean, you need me. No choice. I can help you find something other than spandex, and you won’t hurt me,” Larabee said quickly. “I can be your tech person as you battle crime.”
“How exactly am I supposed to battle crime like this?” Clayton demanded, pointing a finger at Larabee accusingly. “I’m a bloody midget. How am I supposed to battle crime? My clothes don’t even fit. This isn’t a superpower. It’s a curse.”
“Well, some of us would like the idea of perpetual youthfulness, but though you give new meaning to the words,” Larabee joked, and Clay sighed. This was the reason why he didn’t tell anyone about his ability. “I wonder if there is anything to make cotton stretch…”
This, Clay knew, was going to end badly.