Martha Kent watched the world pass by out the window as her husband, Jonathan, drove the pickup towards home. They had been in town, shopping for tulips at Nell Potter’s flower shop. Lana, the Langs’ pretty girl, had been at the shop while they were at the Homecoming game, and that’s why Martha was sad.
Martha had resigned herself to the fact that she’d never have a Lana of her own. She and Jonathan had talked about their options many times, but overall they couldn’t afford it.
Jonathan touched her leg comfortingly. “Thinking about Lana?”
“Yes,” Martha admitted with a sigh.
Jonathan squeezed gently, one eye on the road. “Maybe we should look into adopting from the p—”
“Jonathan! Look out!”
The county road in front of them blew up suddenly. Jonathan grabbed the wheel with both hands and jerked the truck to the right. Lines of fire streaked from the sky, impacting with explosions of dirt, rock, and smoke all around them.
The truck bounced off the road and into the Baker’s cornfield. Corn stalks whipped the windows and sides of the truck as they barreled nearly out of control through the field. The sky was falling on top of them, and Martha screamed. “What’s happening?!”
“Hold on!” Jonathan wrenched the wheel to the left as the earth exploded in front of them. The tires hit a rut and the vehicle flipped.
Martha smacked her head on the passenger side window and everything went dark.
Martha came to with a painful moan. She blinked open her eyes and immediately closed them again. She was hanging upside down in the truck and other than her headache she was uninjured – thank God for seatbelts.
“Martha…” Jonathan croaked beside her. She turned her head slowly, sending another thanks heavenward that her husband was alive. She opened her eyes again and saw the back of Jonathan’s head. Wondering what he was looking at, she focused past him out the broken driver’s side window and gasped.
A tiny dark brown and tan puppy was crouched outside the truck, tongue lolling and tail wagging, looking right back at them with vivid green eyes.
Martha fell instantly in love.
It took a few minutes to extract themselves from the truck, but the moment Martha was free, she scooped the puppy in her arms while Jonathan looked around at the damage. “Who’s a good little boy?” she cooed, earning licking kisses from the pup.
“Martha, look,” Jonathan beckoned.
Martha’s steps faltered as she joined Jonathan. A deep furrow sheered the ground, as if something skidded to a stop from a great speed. That something rested at an angle in the ground, silver and open, and unlike anything she’d ever seen.
Jonathan looked disbelievingly at the puppy snuggled in Martha’s arms. “Dogs don’t just fall out of the sky, Martha.”
“Then where did he come from?” Martha said pointedly.
“I don’t know, but he must have owners,” Jonathan said.
“Well, if he does, they’re definitely not from Kansas,” Martha said, petting the puppy lovingly.
“Sweetheart, we can’t keep him just because we found him.”
“We didn’t find him,” Martha corrected. She smiled at the pup. “He found us.”
Clark bounded downstairs and into the kitchen on a sunny, fall morning. His big paws skidded on the linoleum floor as he bypassed his water dish and slid to a stop in front of the sink. The dark brown and tan mutt rose on his hind legs and nosed the faucet. The tags on his collar clinked against the curved waterspout.
Cold water flowed from the spout and Clark stuck his pointed muzzle under the stream. His pink tongue lapped the water, drinking happily.
“Clark, use your water dish,” his mom scolded, coming into the kitchen. She reached around him and shut off the tap. He looked at her with big, green eyes, long tail curved under.
She ruffled the shaggy hair between his triangular ears that flopped at the tips. “Puppy eyes don’t work on me, mister. Go outside and play.”
“Arf!” Clark wagged his tail, dropped down on all fours, and scooted through the dog-flap on the kitchen door. Outside, the scents of the farm assaulted his nose immediately and he snorted. His dad was out fixing the fence, but Clark didn’t go over to him. Clark’s chores – herding the animals and chasing unwanted pests from the fields – were finished for the morning. He would work again that afternoon, but for now he was free!
Clark sped off at a run, faster than anyone could see. He whipped through the farm fields, rows of corn and wheat waving in his wake. His paws ate up the distance between home and the park within seconds. Nothing else mattered, because this was the best feeling in the world: he was running free.
He slowed to a normal trot at the edge of the Riley’s property, the last cornfield before the street. He looked both ways before crossing the county road. Although he was faster than the fastest Porsche, his parent-owners drilled safety and caution into him.
The park was filled with all breeds of purebreds, some who’d brought their parents-owners or human siblings. People littered the park, spread out on blankets or sitting in chairs. Dogs mixed together, the free ones teasing those on leashes. The usual games of fetch and Frisbee gathered crowds. Clark pretended it didn’t bother him that he was not allowed to play.
His two best friends, Chloe the blond Terrier and Pete the black Pitbull, joined him at the outer edges of a Frisbee game. Chloe had a bright pink scarf tied whimsically around her neck. She had moved from Metropolis to Smallville with her dad, but she was as purebred as all the other Smallvillian dogs. Clark was the only one without a pedigree. He was a stray mutt, having found his parent-owners in a cornfield after a meteor shower.
“Woof!” Pete barked deeply in greeting before falling into his normal silent stance.
“Woof!” Chloe launched immediately into a story about a glowing green squirrel with two heads after saying hello. “Arf, arf, arf, arf-arf, woof, bark-bark, arf!”
Clark stopped listening mid-bark, when he saw the bitch of his dreams, Lana. Lana was exquisite, with long chocolate fur and dark haunting eyes. She was an Afghan, always impeccably groomed and had perfect manners. Her Aunt Nell had adopted her when her parent-owners had been splatted by a meteor like cosmic roadkill.
Lana had a boyfriend, though: Whitney, the Fordman’s Golden Labrador. He was the dog that everyone loved because he could do the most impressive Frisbee tricks. Clark could catch the Frisbee with his paws tied together and his eyes closed, but his parent-owners forbade group games.
“You’re stronger than other canines, Clark,” his dad had told him. “What if you bit another dog, or worse, a person? You could be taken away and put to sleep or sold to a cosmetic test lab.”
Clark did not want to be a cosmetic tester – he looked silly in eye-shadow – but that didn’t refrain him from wishing he was like the other dogs.
The Frisbee game ended, and Lana rose and walked in Clark’s direction. Clark panted, his tail wagging wildly. He took a step forward, then another. He could at least say hello to her. It would be polite. His parent-owners had taught him manners (though he still sneaked drinks out of the toilet bowl).
Clark was almost to her when he tripped over his big paws, suddenly feeling ill. He stumbled, knocking into a stack of books piled beside a human. They fell over, scattering on the grass. The human shouted at him.
Lana saw the commotion, came closer, and began sniffing around. The green crystal jewel attached to her collar caught the sunlight, making it glow.
Clark’s tail curved down and he hung his head as the human chewed him out. His ill feeling increased when Whitney swaggered over, wearing his red Frisbee team bandana around his neck. Whitney snorted at Clark, nudged Lana, and the two wandered off together.
Clark watched forlornly as they left and glanced over at Pete and Chloe. Pete was giving Chloe a milkbone. Another bet lost and won on Clark’s clumsiness. What else was new?
Lex was running the moment his paws hit the pavement after being let outside. His father, Lionel Luthor, had banished him to Smallville, finally fed up with him. The sleek, pale greyhound had done everything, from chewing up imported Italian shoes, clawing antique furniture, defecating on the oriental rungs, running the Metropolis streets for hours, and humping and being humped by every stray he found. However, it had taken losing race after race after race at the track for him to be ostracized.
“If you weren’t Lillian’s dog, I’d have you put down,” Lionel had spat before shoving him in the limo and ordering the driver to take him to Smallville.
So here he was, in the middle of nowhere, without sidewalks littered with food scraps, strays to hump, or the occasional human to scratch an itch. It was too quiet and the air smelled too fresh. The only plus was the lack of people and cars in the way of his run.
Lex’s powerful legs ate up the pavement, his lean body cutting through the air with little wind resistance. He ran with his mouth closed, his pointed muzzle and tail forming a straight line from nose to tip. He shot around the curve in the road, enjoying the feeling of just running without the pressures of a race.
His blue eyes alighted on a truck carrying coils of wire driving on the opposite side of the road. He heard the snap under the rumble of the diesel engine and nimbly dodged the coil that fell onto the pavement. He glanced behind him as he zipped onto a bridge, adrenaline pumping at the near miss. The truck whined as the trucker braked, noticing his fallen load.
Lex turned forward again and yipped in alarm, having come face to face with another dog. He tried to stop running mid-stride, but it was too late. He crashed headlong into the other canine, his speed sending them both through the gap in the bridge rail and falling thirty feet into the river with a belly-slapping splash.
Clark plunged beneath the water, searching for the other dog that had yet to come up for air. He spotted the greyhound floating a short distance away and swam quickly to him. Latching on to his collar, Clark pulled him to the surface and dog-paddled to shore.
Clark dragged the greyhound onto the rocks and released him. Panic infused Clark when the dog didn’t immediately snap-to. He began licking and nudging the unmoving dog.
The greyhound coughed suddenly, hacking up river water. He rolled on his back, exposing himself to Clark’s view. Clark averted his eyes, but not before he noticed the dog was not fixed. He was glad his fur hid his blushing.
The greyhound rolled over, opened his eyes, and sat up. Clark moved close, supporting the dog with his body.
“Rrr-bark,” the dog said, and Clark eyed the distance between the bridge and the water. There was no explanation why he was unhurt and alive, while the greyhound had come close to dying.
“Ruff,” Clark lied. “Rrr-urf.”
The greyhound had a skeptical look in his blue eyes, but before he could question Clark further, Jonathan scrambled down the incline.
“Clark!” Jonathan exclaimed, hurrying over to the two dogs. “Are you all right, boy?”
“Arf,” Clark reassured his dad. He made sure the greyhound wouldn’t fall over before going to Jonathan.
“I stopped to help the trucker and he said two dogs collided and went over the side of the bridge,” Jonathan said as he checked Clark for injury. “Who crashed into who?”
“Bark-bark,” the greyhound said, admitting to causing the accident. “Bark, arf, bark-urf.”
Clark ducked his head, diminishing the praise. “Woof.”
Jonathan went to the greyhound, checked his tags, and frowned unhappily. “Next time, Lex, property of the Luthors – run slower.”
Jonathan collected Clark and the two climbed the hill. Clark looked back. Lex sat on the shore, pale against the muddy rocks, all alone.
Clark returned home the next day from a visit to the park. It was all over town that Clark had saved the Luthors' prize-winning racing greyhound, Lex. Even Lana had spoken to him, though he felt nauseous the entire time. He felt pretty good now, both his tummy and about himself. It was nice not to be ‘that Kent mutt’ for a change.
Clark trotted through the yard, onto the porch, and stopped abruptly when he saw the gift. It was a large gold dog dish, wrapped in a purple bow. He sniffed it curiously and looked up when Martha came outside.
“It’s from the Luthors,” she said. She had a card in her hand. “In thanks for saving Lex’s life.”
Clark’s mouth stretched in a doggy grin. Presents! He wagged his tail enthusiastically.
“We can’t accept it, Clark. It’s real gold.”
Clark’s tail topped wagging and he whimpered. Martha shook her head. “Puppy eyes won’t work this time.”
Clark hung his head. Martha petted him before returning inside. Clark glanced at the dog dish and then went to find his dad.
“No, Clark,” Jonathan said immediately upon seeing him. Jonathan was outside the barn, using the wood chipper. “Luthor gifts always have strings.”
Clark whined, but Jonathan cut him off. “Do you think you deserve a prize for doing the right thing? We didn’t raise you like that.”
“Aroof,” Clark complained. He understood, but he never got anything new. Everything was second-hand for the second-hand mutt.
“Clark, I know you’re upset, but it’s normal.”
“Rarf?!” Clark stalked to the wood chipper. “A-rarf?!” He leapt into the chipper, earning a terrified shout from his dad. But Clark wasn’t normal and the chipper blades ground to a halt against his impervious body.
Jonathan shut off the motor. Clark popped his head out and gave his dad a long look. Jonathan swallowed thickly and motioned for Clark to heel. “Come on. It’s time I tell you the truth.”
Unhappy but intrigued, Clark jumped from the chipper and followed his dad. He led them down into the storm cellar. He stopped in front of something covered by a tarp, appearing resigned.
“Clark, you know you’re not a purebred,” Jonathan began. “But your mother and I didn’t get you from the pound. We found you, or rather you found us, in a cornfield the day of the meteor showers… along with this.”
Jonathan removed the tarp and Clark sat, stunned. In front of him was a silver vessel shaped like a big dog biscuit. There were fins on the sides and writing across the top he didn’t understand.
“It was open when we saw it. Inside was enough space for a puppy,” Jonathan said. “We think you came down with the meteor shower.”
Clark blinked and lay down slowly. He’d known he wasn’t a purebred, but at least he had thought he was still a dog!
“I’ll, uh, leave you alone,” Jonathan said awkwardly. He started up the stairs, but paused. “You know that this doesn’t mean we love you any less.”
Clark didn’t reply.
The dog dish was solid gold, but it weighed nothing to Clark. The cook let him in the kitchen door, took one look at the dish, and led him further into the Luthor castle. She opened a door and stepped aside. Clark went partially into the room and stopped when he saw Lex.
Lex was growling deeply, crouched low facing a masked human dressed in padding. She had a switch in her hand. With impressive speed, she flicked her wrist and the switch came down at Lex. Lex jumped out of the way once, twice, three times. But on the fourth he was caught on his left haunch. He snarled, but didn’t attack her, and Clark realized it was a game when she dropped the switch and removed her mask.
Lex grabbed the switch with his teeth and shook it roughly. He threw his head to the side suddenly and the switch sailed through the air right for Clark. It hit the wall beside Clark’s head with a thwack.
Lex started in surprise. “Ark!”
Clark set down the dog dish, glanced at the switch, then at Lex. Lex dipped his sleek head in apology.
“Rr-woof,” Lex told the human before heading to the door. He eyed the gold dog dish but said nothing about it.
Clark followed Lex, leaving the gift behind. The castle was large and musty. There was lots of room to run and play. His nails clicked on the hardwood floor. “Ruff-rrar.”
Lex snorted at the compliment to his home. He ran nimbly upstairs, down a long corridor, and into an agility gym. Fences, teeter-totters, beams, pipes, and A-Frames were set up around the room. Lex bypassed everything for a refilling bowl that had an upside down dark blue bottle of water.
He drank for a moment and then moved to sit in front of a mirror. Clark came and sat beside him, and as Lex talked about how people had treated him differently as a winning racing dog and then a losing one, Clark wondered who the other two dogs were, though one of them looked like Lex’s twin. He was a pretty boy. Clark became aroused and shifted uncomfortably.
Clark knew better than to just jump another dog, especially a purebred. Besides, he didn’t smell the twin’s answering arousal.
Lex, however, stopped talking abruptly and looked at him. Clark could smell the peppery scent of doggie desire beginning to waft from Lex. Clark knew he had to leave before instincts overrode common sense and he forgot he wasn’t even a canine let alone not a purebred.
Clark made quick excuses, escaping for the door. He heard Lex call from behind him, “Arruff woof roof, ruff bark.”
Clark was at the park, feeling down. He was attempting to come to grips with his newly discovered heritage. Lex had said they were destined to be friends, but would he still want the friendship if he learned Clark wasn’t an earthpooch? What about Lana, what would she think? Would she allow him to hump her if she knew he had alien sperm, or he did before his neutering as a pup? Would Lex, who’d desired him earlier in the day?
Then there was the fact that his biological parents cast him out in a big silver biscuit. Why had they sent him away? Was his home planet pureblooded and his mixed blood the cause? Was he ugly? Merely unwanted? Dangerous?
“Woof,” he heard behind him and turned around with a depressed sigh. He saw Whitney and four of his friends, all wearing red bandanas around their necks.
“Rrr,” Whitney growled, stalking closer. “Rrrr.”
Clark’s hackles raised. Lana had been the one who’d spoken to him, not the other way around. “Rrr,” he growled back, not wanting to deal with such a trivial issue. He was faster and stronger than Whitney, anyway.
“Rrrarrr,” Whitney snarled in return. He leapt, tackling Clark to the grass.
Clark felt weak suddenly and couldn’t throw Whitney off. He saw Lana’s collar hanging loose around Whitney’s neck. The green jewel seemed to glow.
Whitney snorted in Clark’s face, dropped his head, and the collar slid over his skull, down his nose and onto Clark’s. He used his teeth to tug it over Clark’s head. “Woof woof Rara.”
Clark never felt such pain or so weak since he was a puppy. He could barely put up a fight with Whitney and his friends. In the end, he lost and was dragged off by his own collar, across the street and into the cornfield.
Lex ran, the moonlight illuminating the street. His paws hit the ground in a hypnotic rhythm and he fell into the mindless joy of the run. He had been punished for humping his trainer’s leg after Clark’s visit, swatted on the backside and locked in his kennel. He’d been cooped up all afternoon and evening, and when he’d finally been released, he had to get out of the castle and run.
Rounding the corner, Lex’s nose picked up the scents of other dogs. On his left stretched a park, and Lex slowed to a trot as he investigated. He obliterated a few markings with a raised leg, making a mental note to return during the day.
“Aroooo…” A ghostly howl pricked Lex’s ears and he raised his head. He scanned the area, sniffing the air.
“Arooo…,” came the cry again, and Lex tracked it out of the park, across the street, and into the cornfield. He paused, waiting for another howl. When he heard it, he headed in that direction, sniffing the ground.
He picked up a scent that was recently familiar and put on a burst of speed. “Ark!” he barked, nearly crashing into the mutt for the second time in as many days.
Clark was leashed to a scarecrow post, a wire noose looped around his neck. He was laying on the ground on his side, panting harshly, his tongue lolling in the dirt. There was a bowl of water just out of reach.
Clark’s tail thumped once when he saw Lex, his green eyes begging for freedom. Lex wasted no time, knowing exactly how it felt to be restrained. He knew how to release Clark from the slip noose, having been on the receiving end of one many occasions. With his front teeth, he grabbed the wire knot at the back of Clark’s neck and pulled up. The loop rose along the wire, loosening the noose. He whined when he wanted Clark to move.
Clark drew his head back, the wire noose scraping along his skull as he freed himself. Another collar with a shiny bauble on it came off at the same time. He back-stepped rapidly and Lex dropped the leash.
Clark circled around him, grabbed the water bowl with his teeth, dragged it a few feet away, and began drinking thirstily. Lex was not put out by his actions. Instead, he understood, though how Clark could drink rainwater was beyond Lex.
Lex sat and waited. He wondered who’d leashed Clark. He could smell other dogs and the set up didn’t need a human’s opposable thumb to noose another animal.
Clark finished drinking, licked his chops, and looked at Lex from beneath his lowered lashes. “Ruff.”
Lex rose, walked over to Clark, and nuzzled his neck. Clark turned his head and licked Lex’s nose. Lex smiled a doggy smile, looked off into the corn and back at Clark. He nipped suddenly at Clark’s ear and took off running.
“Yip!” Clark was after Lex in a shot. Impressively, he caught up quickly, exiting the field onto the street, and the two of them ran side-by-side down the county road.
Lex didn’t know what tomorrow would bring, or what he’d do when he found the dogs that had leashed Clark. But he did know Clark was unlike any canine he’d ever met and he would let nothing stand in the way of their friendship.
Clark ran beside Lex, keeping pace on the empty street. He still had questions, about himself, where he was from, and why Lana’s collar hurt him. He had revenge to think up and thanks to give. But for now, none of that mattered, because he was enjoying the best feeling in the world: he was running free, with Lex.