| THREE SUMOS AND A BABY
She tried to take her front row seat as quietly and inconspicuously as possible. But that is very hard to do when you're a six-foot tall Amazon mother carrying your redheaded eighteen-month-old daughter in your arms -- especially when you've decided to live in a country where the average height for a man is 5'4". You do have a tendency to stick out.
She knew she shouldn't have come, but after being semi- retired for nearly two years, she was ready to climb or maybe tear down the walls of her house. Besides -- she lied to herself -- A-Ko could use the outing and some culture.
Her daughter A-Ko stood on her lap as they waited for the opening ceremony of the Hatsu Basho, the Grand National of Sumo, to begin in the downtown Tokyo Arena.
A-Ko had her harness on and was security-chained with the titanium leash her mother made. Her mom was sure to always hold it tight in her hand when they were out in the world. Not yet two years old and barely talking, her daughter already could run thirty-six miles an hour and was capable of making twelve-foot leaps. That was the reason for the harness and the chain. It was one of the reasons her mother decided to put her own colorful career on hold because A-Ko needed constant supervision. A baby sitter was just out of the question.
Her husband helped, of course -- more than any ordinary father could. Her mind wandered back to that very morning. She was standing in the doorway of the nursery, secretly watching her husband changing A-Ko's dirty diaper. On the entire planet, he had to be the only father who actually enjoyed changing dirty diapers.
But -- since he wasn't from this planet -- maybe that could explain it. Little A-Ko was on her back laughing hysterically as her father played piggy with her pudgy little toes. She giggled and waved her legs and arms in the air as her father kissed her round little belly and made all those disgusting sounds that A-Ko found so amusing.
She left them alone to share what time they had together, and retired to the dining room to finish her breakfast. She was enjoying her second cup of coffee that morning. She had missed her coffee these past two years. She first gave it up when she discovered she ws pregnant, and and continued the self-imposed ban all the time she was nursing her daughter. Now that A-Ko was on solid foods, she was once again free to indulge in one of the pleasures she discovered when she left Paradise Island and traveled to the world of man.
She thought back to her childhood home. For a brief moment, she remembered her own wonderful childhood. Suddenly, the memory of that awful day came flooding back -- the day when she told her mother the Queen that she was pregnant. She winced in pain as she recalled the yelling and the arguing and the condemnation of daughter by mother. The worst part of all was the pain of a daughter fighting with her own mother and sisters to escape from her own childhood home, all to be with the man she came to love.
It was only the sight of her smiling daughter being carried in her father's arms that lightened her mood. She tried her best to hide her pain but failed. Her husband saw her anguished face, before it changed at the sight of their daughter.
A-Ko began to squirm and fuss soon as she saw her. "Daddy may be dandy, but nothing beats mommy," he said as he placed A-Ko on the floor to complete the rest of the journey herself. She stood there on unsteady legs for a moment, then slowly began walking towards her mother. It was a strange quirk of A-Ko's parentage that made it easier for the child to run at full speed than to walk.
Her mother knelt down and engouraged her to walk to her, holding up her hand and repeatedly saying, "Slowly, A-Ko, slowly; don't run, walk." When she was within ten feet, her self-control gave out and she covered the last ten feet with one quick jump. Her mother was ready and was able to catch her before she either hit the floor or bounced off the wall.
A-Ko's mom carried her to the dining room as her father set up the reinforced stainless steel high chair. Little A-Ko used to have a regular high chair; several, in fact. Each one usually lasted (on the average) for three days. A-Ko usually destroyed them by using the plastic tray as a drum and performing a drum solo with her special spoon made from a part of her father's old rocket (she kept biting her way through the regular spoons). She could also destroy one by simply squirming with joy whenever she ate something she really enjoyed.
Her mother placed A-Ko in the high chair as her father locked the stainless steel serving bowl into place. The latches for the bowl was added as a precaution. One day, in a burst of childlike exuberance, A-Ko had slid her bowl off her serving tray through the far wall of the kitchen and across the yard. It only stopped when it imbedded itself in their neigbors' garden wall.
As was his habit and his pleasure, it was A-Ko's father who insisted on feeding A-Ko her breakfast every morning.
"Anything special planned for today, hon?" A-Ko's mother asked.
As he fed his daughter her oatmeal, he replied, "The city fathers are planning to reopen the rail service into Hobbs Station, and they need someone to clean out the wreckage from the old rail tunnel leading into Metropolis." He cleaned oatmeal out of A-Ko's red hair with a paper towel (A-Ko enjoyed playing with her food). He then added, "The folks over at Steinway left a message with the League that the replacement leg for the piano is ready."
"About time," she complained. "It's been over a month since we ordered a replacement leg." The reason they needed a new leg for the grand piano was because the month before, their daughter was having a little teething problem which she solved by gnawing through the leg of the family's grand piano while her mommy was busy doing the wash.
"I might have a surprise when I come home tonight,"said her husband.
"What kind of surprise?"she asked in return.
"If I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise now, would it?" he replied. "Besides, I don't want to get your hopes up if things fall through." She was about to start an argument about being treated like a child when he slyly cut her off by asking, "And what are the two of you planning on doing when I'm gone?"
"We girls have our plans to keep busy,"she answered. In fact, she had been planning this little excursion for over a month now, making sure never to let her husband find out about the planned trip to Tokyo to attend the Grand National Championships. He would have deemed it too dangerous a thing for the both of them to do. But A-Ko's mother had come from a culture with three thousand years of martial arts philosophy. She had studied and practiced armed and unarmed combat all of her life. She had never experienced the pageantry of Sumo in person, and was determined to attend the matches in person along with her daughter. She might be exiled from her home and culture, but that wasn't going to stop her from exposing her own daughter to it. This Sumo tournament might be a good a place as any to start, as long as A-Ko's father didn't find out.
He didn't want his daughter following in either of their footsteps. He hoped she would never have to burden herself with the terrible responsibility her parents had to carry in both of their colorful lives. But A-Ko's mother knew there was another reason he insisted on all these precautions. He had all ready lost one beloved wife to the whim of a madman. He was bound and determined it would never happen again. She knew a day did not pass without her husband thinking about or mourning for her. Strange as it sounded -- she felt the same way about her too.
After he left for his day in the States, she had only one choice to make -- to either take the 300-mph bullet train to Tokyo and arrive in one hour and fifteen minutes, or to fly there under her own power (taking it slow for A-Ko's sake) and arrive in twenty minutes. There was no real choice for her to make. She already knew that the only thing her daughter loved more than the sheer exultation of speed was her mommy and daddy.
Instead of being frightened by the crowds and all the noise in the arena, little A-Ko seemed to love it. She stood up on her Mother's lap wide- eyed and smiling at all that was going on around her. Her mother, in turn, listened to the radio commentary through her microportable radio from Daitokuji Electronics, a small but rapidly-expanding defense contractor.
Both mother and child were fascinated by the pageantry of the event. It was during the preparation for the first bout that A-Ko became the most excited. As the two giant sumos stripped down and threw salt to the four winds to purify the ring, she turned to her mother and said, "Babies!" Considering how they were dressed and their corpulent appearance, they did look like overgrown infants -- 400-hundred-pound infants.
After a few minutes of foot-stomping and deep knee bends, the two behemoths came crashing together. "That's IT????" A-Ko's mother thought to herself. I came all this way, deceived my husband, and for what? Ten minutes of strutting around and six seconds of wrestling! A-Ko, on the other hand, was bouncing up and down while clapping her hands and laughing gleefully. Her mom wanted to get up and leave, but her daughter was having such a wonderful time she decided to stick it out for her sake.
It was during the fourth bout that the commentator announced an apparent attack on the sports arena by the Aum Shinrikyo cult -- the same infamous group that at the end of the last century had perpetrated the sarin poison gas attack in the Tokyo subway system! A new century had produced new tactics in terror. Gone was the poison gas, only to be replaced by giant robots or mechas. One of these strange and violent cultists was at this moment making his way towards this very arena.
A-Ko's mom was in a dilemma. Her warrior instincts told her to confront the threat. Her maternal instincts told her to pick up A-Ko and get the hell out of there. In the end, it was her feeling of responsibility to the innocent people around her that pushed her into action.
She took the end of little A-Ko's chain and attached it to the arm rest of the seat she was in. Standing up, she stroked her daughter's flaming red hair and told her, "Mommy has to go outside for a short while, A-Ko. You wait here and watch the big babies play with each other and Mommy will be right back."
A moment later, she was gone. She hit the lobby of the sports arena almost faster than the human eye could follow. Using the revolving door to get outside, she waited for the arrival of the cult member in his power suit. She didn't have a long wait. The enormous mecha came around the corner, firing laser bolts into the crowd.
Her plan was both simple and effective. All she had to do was get the idiot in the tin suit to fire at her, and all of this would be over with no one the wiser (especially her husband).
Just as her mother was waiting for the mecha and its pilot to attack her, A-Ko was having some fun of her own. The chain that was now attached to the armrest was broken. It had snapped like a rotten piece of string when A-Ko got it into her head to climb on the stage and join the fun with the big babies she found so fascinating.
At the same time, her mother was finally drawing the attention of the cultist. Baby A-Ko was climbing up on to the stage. When her mother had so enraged whoever was controling the mecha into starting to fire on her, A-Ko was standing in the middle of the circle of rope, stamping her tiny little feet into the dirt as she copied the Sumo she had been watching.
A-Ko's mom was using her bracelets to deflect the laser blast directly back into the mecha itself. A 400-pound Sumo bent over to pick up the little redhaired girl with the strange eyes. A moment later he found himself sailing through the air, only to land with a crash in the front row of seats. The reason for this sudden flight was A-Ko, who picked up the Sumo and tossed him to the crowd below as she giggled and said, "A-Ko play too!"
The unfortunate airborne sumo's more stable competitor came to the aid of his friend. Or a more accurate description would be that he tried. A-Ko picked him up and sent him crashing to his back. The child began jumping up and down on the huge stomach like a fleshy trampoline. She often played this game with her father. But while her father couldn't be hurt, the poor soul upon whom she was bouncing was about to lose this morning's breakfast of five pounds of sushi.
As A-Ko's mom knocked off the robot's leg in a shower of sparks with a righteous left hook, A-ko was being chased around the rope ring by six different Sumos and the referee. To the men, she was a demon sent to destroy their time-honored traditions. To A-Ko, it was nothing more than an innocent game of tag.
Once again A-Ko picked up the Sumo with the sore stomach and sent him crashing into the others who were trying to catch her. One of the more enterprising wrestlers managed to grab hold of the chain she had been dragging behind her, but made the mistake of wrapping it around his wrist. So when A-Ko began to miss her mommy and decided to run off and look for her, he was dragged behind her.
A-Ko ran under the seats towards the lobby. The poor Sumo didn't fit. As a consequence, all he did was plow up row after row of seats as their frightened occupants jumped out of the way. When little A-Ko reached the lobby, her mommy was tearing the head off the mecha to get at the man inside. Just as she ripped him free from his harness, A-KO discovered the revolving door.
Running around and around inside, A-Ko dragged the poor Sumo with her. She ran faster and faster but couldn't understand how to get out. Still, the door spun faster and faster until A-Ko and the Sumo were just a blur inside.
Her mother was bending the bars of a iron fence to put the head of the cultist through it. When she finished, she then bent them back so he would still be there when the police came for him later.
Just as her mother finished her job, little A-Ko discovered how to get out of the revolving door. The poor Sumo went along for the ride as A-Ko's harness finally broke, letting the poor man fly free in a long graceful arc across the busy intersection. Unfortunately, he crashed into a twenty-foot statue of the Colonel on top of the largest K.F.C store in the City of Tokyo. He fell through the roof and into the mashed potatoes vat.
A-Ko started jumping from car rooftop to car rooftop, making her way down the crowded highway looking for her mother. It was after the twenty-third dented roof that A-Ko's mother swooped down and took to the skies with her daughter in her arms. The first thing she did was kiss her, happy in the knowledge that her child was safe in her arms. When she knew all was well, she scolded A-Ko as she said, "You are a naughty little girl. Just you wait when I get you home!"
They arrived home with about an hour to spare. After a quick bath and change of diaper, A-Ko's mother turned on the TV to watch the news while waiting for her husband.
He soon came home, carrying a package. She shut off the sound and stood up to greet him with a hug and a kiss. He placed his package on the couch, and returned his wife's greeting. As they hugged -- much to her horror -- over her husband's broad shoulder she saw their daughter on television, tearing up the afternoon's Sumo matches. It was just at the time that A-Ko was using the poor man's stomach for a trampoline that her husband started to turn around. To prevent hin from seeing their daughter on TV, she started to nibble on his neck and to hold him even tighter.
"What's all this for?" he asked. "Can't a girl greet her lover?" she answered, as A-Ko being chased by the Sumos came on the screen. When the newscast went on to something less incriminating, she said, "You promised me a surprise."
His face saddened as he said, "I talked to Donna Troy today at the Titan Tower. She told me she returned home to Themyscira to speak with your mother to plead your case."
"What happened?" she asked in a voice filled with hope.
"Your mother forbade her to even mention your name in her presence," he told her.
She lowered her head as she bit her lip. Tears began to well up in her eyes as she lay her head on his chest and said, "Then my old life is truly over. I guess they're right when they say you never can go home again."
"Maybe -- maybe not," he said.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
He took out an ornately-carved wooden box and handed it to her. He said, "Your mother told Donna that she wanted nothing around of yours to remind her of the daughter she lost. She gave her this box and told her, 'I hope you can find someone who can use these'."
She eagerly opened the box and looked inside. Inside were three sets of bracelets, smaller versions of the ones she wore now.
"These are my old amazon bracelets," she said. "the ones I wore as an infant, the pair I wore as a young girl, and my first adult pair. Do you think she sent them for A-Ko?" she asked.
"I hope so," he answered with a smile.
"I saved my black bracelets for her when she got old enough -- the ones I was married in -- the same ones I wore when I was pregnant with A-Ko. But I didn't know what I was going to do to control her beserker rages as she grows until now."
"One more bit of news," he said.
"What's that?" she asked.
"I took a leave of absence from the Justice League today," he said.
"Won't that leave them shorthanded?" she asked.
"No, I already found them a replacement," he replied.
"Who?" she asked.
"Who else but you?" he said. "You've been shut up at home for almost two years. I've seen how restless you've become. It's time for Wonder Woman to take her rightful place again," he said. "Besides," he added, "It'll be fun staying home with my daughter for a change."
She gave him a long passion-filled kiss, which he returned. They held each other close until he asked, "Can I ask you a question, dear?"
He was kissing her neck when she said, "Ask away."
"Why is A-Ko standing on top of the kitchen table wearing nothing but a diaper, stomping her feet, and throwing salt around the room?"
She turned slowly and looked into the kitchen, only to see her daughter imitating the Sumo wrestlers she had seen that morning.
Wonder Woman looked at her husband. She smiled. "Kids. You never know what they're going to do next."
It was only early September, but already there was touch of Autumn in the air. A crisp, refreshing breeze was beginning to stir the first fallen leaves of Summer.
It was the first day of a new school year. It was also, for the gathering group of five and six-year-olds, the first day of kindergarden and their first step on the Journey of Life. This was the starting point for the children that would, for the next twelve years, lead some of them on to college; others to jobs and most all of them to families of their own.
On this, the first day of the rest of their lives, the children came with their parents. Too few came with both of their parents. Most came with only the one parent, almost always alone with their mothers.
For the little girl with the flaming red hair, this was not to be. She walked up the walkway to the entrance of the halls of academia between her two towering parents. She walked hurridly, trying to keep in stride with her parents' long legs. She walked with her arms outstreched, her tiny little fingers intertwined with her parents'. She often found herself walking on tip-toes because of the height of the two towering figures that walked on either side of her.
This was to be expected. Not only did her parents tower over her but also everyone else who was gathered there. Her father was very tall, well over six feet, and massive to boot. Even her mother was over six feet tall in her low-heeled shoes, and towered even over the few fathers who had accompanied their daughters on the first day of school.
The little family stopped before the entrance to the kindergarden. A-Ko's mother bent down and adjusted her backpack as an excuse so she could take her daughter into her arms one last time and kiss her before A-Ko began her Life's Journey.
When she finished fussing over her she asked her, "Do you remember everything we taught you?"
A-Ko was anxious to be off to discover the world of learning that awaited her and annoyed that her mother was delaying that exploration. Still, she repeated what she had been taught by rote. In her small voice A-Ko said, "I'm not to tell anybody who my parents really are. If anyone should ask, I will tell them my daddy writes books for a living and my mommy flies to America on business."
"And the most important thing of all?" her mother reminded her.
"I will never, ever take off my bracelets or ever let anyone else do it, either," answered A-Ko.
A-Ko's mother smiled at her and stole one last embrace as she said, "Work hard in school and make us proud of you."
Her father got down on one knee and brushed aside the red bangs from his daughter's face. He gave her a sweet but very sad smile which caused A-Ko to throw her arms around her popa's neck.
In a quavering voice filled with sadness and a touch of pain, he took his small daughter into his big arms and told her, "I want you to remember to respect your teacher. Have fun, and try to make some new friends."
He then added, "Aways remember if something goes wrong, or if you get into trouble, your mother and father will always be there for you."
It was her mother who interrupted their moment together by telling her daughter, "If you're old enough to get yourself into trouble, then you're old enough to get yourself out."
With a last pat on her head from her father, A-Ko ran to the steps of the front entrance of her school. She stopped on top of the front steps and meekly waved "so long" to her parents with only the quavering of her lower lip to betray her show of confidence.
Soon as she was out of sight, her father turned to the women he loved and said, "We don't have to do this. We can teach our baby ourselves at home or I can hire tutors like you had growing up on Themyscira."
She shook her head and with the slightest of smiles and said, "Man of Steel, Father of Jello."
She then added, "I grew up in isolation on an Island Paradise, so that type of social intercourse was good enough for me. But that world is lost to me now and, more likely than not, to A-Ko as well. She must make her life here in the real world just as her father did, and just like her father started in school in Smallville. Our daughter must start her Journey in the here and now."
She tried pulling him away from the school with a strength that could lift and toss a seventy ton main battle tank the length of a football field. Yet, it would take much more than that to ever budge him.
When she finally gave up he told her, "Wait a minute, I only want to stay long enough to see her settle in."
She smiled in turn and held him by the arm as he continued to stare at the red brick walls of A-Ko's school.
He watched and listened as his daughter took a seat next to a little blonde girl with a ready smile and even bigger mouth.
"HI!" she screamed, "My name is C-KO! Wanna be friends?"
He watched as his daughter smiled broadly and start to giggle as she said, "Sure, why not?"
He smiled and turned to his wife who asked, "Feeling better?"
"I do now," he said as he walked back to their car, arm in arm with the woman he loved.
What he failed to notice as he observed his daughter was a pudgy little girl with lavender hair in a bowl cut. She was fingering a solid gold pencil case.
She slide back the cover and studied the monster she had trapped inside of her case. It was the biggest, ugliest spider she had ever seen in her young life.
Wickedly, she thought just what to do with it. She planned to put it down the back of some unsuspecting classmate during recess when there were few teachers to catch her.
One by one, she mentally went over each and every one of her classmates until she picked the perfect victim. The small blonde who was sitting next to the girl with the silly red hair and the strange amber eyes.
Not the End, but the Beginning!
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