“Superhero” is the Christmas play that’ll never get produced. That’s how this story began—as a holiday stage show I planned at my church. But as I scripted it, I realized I’d never find a 10-year-old kid who could memorize all those lines and deliver the powerful performance the story needed.
I resurrected the tale a couple of years ago when a magazine put on a Christmas story contest. I dug up the script and turned it into a short story. A lot of the original story made the jump—in the script, Barry’s dad is much more involved and a MUCH bigger jerk, and the playground experience was far more involved (and embarrassing for poor Barry).
This isn’t a science fiction story, but it features a boy who lives in that sphere. In some ways, Barry Parker is me at that age—obsessed but unable to share it with anyone else. I distinctly remember how my interest in all things SF made me a pariah starting in second grade. I feel Barry’s pain.
But it’s not just the people around Barry who learn an important lesson about compassion, mercy and grace. Barry himself learns that his love for superheroes must be tempered with love for other people—real people, folks who need to know they’re loved.
I volunteer as a mentor in writing for a middle school, and “Superhero” is a favorite with the teacher and students I work with. I wonder how many of them can relate to Barry’s struggles. They need to know they’re loved, too.