“Which superhero or villain would you want to change places with for a day and why?”
Our Superpower Scholarship let’s the imagination run wild. While the winners won’t gain the ability to walk through walls or the power to read minds, they do receive a “super” scholarship prize. See our past winners and their scholarship responses below.
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Spider-man saved New York from Dr. Octopus’ wrath. Captain America saved the world from Red Skull’s insanity. Iron Man saved civilization from Thanos and his need for perfection. Superheroes for decades have been putting their lives at risk, just to help those who live normal lives, all because they know that it’s the right thing. But who saves us from the little things. Heartaches, panic attacks, insecurities, daily battles that we take on ourselves. As someone who’s suffered mentally and physically, I’ve had my fair share of pain in my life.
I fought for so long on my own, until I met Robyn. Robyn is my therapist. She knows every inch of my mind, she’s helped me to grow, fight my own villains, and become my own person. Robyn is my superhero. She uses her powers for good, to help people of all ages come to terms with their trauma, their fears, their pain. Robyn is who I would trade places with, and I would spread everything that she’s taught me. I would do all that I could to help others and show them that they can learn from their pain. I would teach people to understand that the past cannot hurt you, and that the life we all have is good and inspiring and full of opportunity. Robyn is my superhero, and she deserves the day off. So I would gladly trade with her to carry her message for the day..
Faster. I must go faster. I must finish this assignment, so I can write my next essay, so I can leave for tennis, and if I’m fast enough, I’ll have five minutes for a protein bar before my next club meeting. Faster. Quicker. It makes life better. Or does it? No matter how hard I try, I can’t extend my day. Time moves on, unrelenting in its current, and I am often swept away. Quiet things are missed, the moments and faces and savored words that give life definition. Faster, yet blurrier. What if it didn’t have to be this way? Ironically, the Fastest Man Alive has the solution. See, the Flash is renowned for his speed. Well, to us. While the citizens of Central City feel a whoosh and see a scarlet and gold blur, the Flash sees the world in slow motion. To me, that is his greatest superpower; not his speed, but rather the opposite — slowing down. How great it would be, for one day, to slow down; to be free from the constricting vice of the clock, to savor each moment before it slips by, to appreciate each facial expression and small word, and to know that, no matter how long it takes, there will always be more time. More than just powers, the Flash’s attitude in slowing down the world allows us to find rest through life’s crazy race. Slower, yet clearer. It makes life better. Slower. I must go slower.
If I could change places with a superhero or villain for a day, I would change places with the infamous Thanos. As of April 2018, Thanos was in possession of all six infinity stones. He used them to murder half of all life in the universe in a single snap of his fingers. He wanted to achieve a perfect balance of resources and the inhabitants using them. Thanos had a brilliant concept, but he executed it completely wrong (pun intended). I admire his desire for balance, and if I harbored all six infinity stones, I would build upon his idea. I would create a balance, but not by killing 50% of all life in the universe. I’d create a balance of good and evil. What’s light without darkness? What are dreams without nightmares? Let’s not forget the opposing idea, though. Too much darkness or recurring nightmares could have deadly results. It goes both ways, so a perfect balance is so important. However, one essential stipulation for this to work is that the day I switch places with him is before April 26th, 2019. I’m not entirely sure, but it is likely that Thanos will not have any of the infinity stones after that day. If I were to change places with a superhero or villain for one day, it would be Thanos because I would have the power to balance good and evil in a snap of my fingers. And so…
Between you and me, I think Batman is one of the worst superheroes I’ve ever heard of. His powers are essentially being able to afford everything and having a cool butler. I don’t think Batman would be too happy with me if he ever found this out, but that’s nothing compared to how angry he would be if he ever found out what I would do if I could change places with him for a day.
According to Forbes, Batman’s net worth is approximately $9.2 billion, while Wayne Enterprises brings in $31.3 billion in annual revenue (https://www.forbes.com/special-report/2013/fictional-15/bruce-wayne.html). With access to all of Batman’s assets for a day, I would take the opportunity to create several charities. One would be focused on providing the necessary resources to teenagers who wanted to escape abusive homes. This charity would cover travel costs for them, six months’ rent for an apartment, and would help the teens find a sustainable job. The second charity would provide microloans to immigrants in the United States who are trying to start a business. The program would be designed to help small businesses get off the ground and succeed in the free market.
It goes without saying that Batman uses his fortune to help a lot of people. However, it’s also obvious that he could be doing so much more, and that would be my mission if I had the opportunity to switch places with him for a day.
Quite frankly, it would’ve been too easy to conquer the world.Melissa collapsed onto the park bench, ignoring the pigeon’s indignant squawk as it flapped away. Absently, she swung a foot back and forth.Anybody could guess Putin’s password. Manipulate France’s leader? Child’s play. Honestly, she was surprised no one had hacked the nuclear codes thus far. She considered doing it herself (her afternoon was free), before deciding against War Games Part 2.A campanile rung out five chimes. Frustrated, Melissa stood and whirled around, slamming her fist against a tree. Bark cut into her knuckles, and Melissa flexed the bleeding appendage. Five bells. Three hours until her gift faded, brain faltering. Time enough to vanquish the world — that was easy. But to change it forever? Not so much.The idea was barely a flicker, quieter than a breath. But an image slowly formed in Melissa’s mind: lies, such as needing to floss, a place where everyone had to see through bullsh … “alternative facts.”
Her knuckles still stung, but Melissa didn’t mind; she’d take technologically-advanced neurons over enhanced muscles any day. Already she could visualize snugly fitted gears. Building the machine wouldn’t be a problem; but try as she might, even she couldn’t predict the reaction — hate? gratitude? — for forcing humanity to confront the truth.It didn’t matter, Melissa decided. Hero, villain, each spouted honeyed words, different only in name. Grimly smiling, she straightened her back.Three hours.180 minutes, only her brain to change how the world viewed reality itself.Go.
When writing scholarship essays, especially fictional essays, I try to put myself in the place of the character or description that I am writing about. It helps tremendously to treat it like I am getting an actual grade on the paper from a professor. That way, I am more likely to double-check my work and make sure that it is worthy of submission. I always try to find essays that are fun to write.
When looking for scholarships, I try out different scholarship websites that I know are reliable and convenient, such as School Soup, Cappex, and Unigo. I usually search for scholarships weekly and apply for as many as I have time to work on. This greatly increases my chances of winning.
Virginia Beach, VA
Vaughn: A 31-year-old student seeking his doctorate in clinical psychology.
Kang the Conqueror: A Marvel supervillain and time-traveling despot from the 30th century.
(Vaughn sits at a coffee table contemplating life. In an email offering a scholarship, he is asked the question; who would you be, a superhero or a villain? Turning to his lovely wife, he proclaims …)
Vaughn: I should be the villain.
Caroline: What? Why!?!
(Vaughn stares into the distance; entering a world beyond imagination.)
(Kang’s first officer sees his commander open his eyes after a prolonged pause.)
Officer: Sir, are you alright?
(Vaughn’s influence takes control.)
Kang: Status Report!
Officer: We remain in geosynchronous orbit over Earth! The fleet stands by for your orders. Their champions, the Avengers, approach.
Kang: Just as planned… Commander! Withdraw the fleet. Set a course for the galactic center!
Officer: But sir …
(Vaughn, asserting his newly found power.)
Kang: You question, me!?!
Caroline: Earth to Vaughn! Where did you go?
Vaughn: By taking the place of the villain, I would be stopping him from “conquering.” If I became the hero, Kang would not be stopped in a day, but if I became the villain the problem would be solved. In terms of powers, I would want to be a character in command of time and space. With such power, technically, one day could last for an eternity. There are so many options!
(Caroline rolls her eyes and finishes her chocolate cake.)
I would want to change places with my boyfriend, Alex Amador, for a day. Oh, he’s not a superhero, you say? Well, to me he is. He’s an active duty soldier in the U.S. Army. I’d rather be him for a day than sit here, stuck in the stagnation of my senior year. Alex is out helping people and doing things, and I’m sitting here in my bedroom typing on my laptop. Alex is the superhero who sacrificed being able to talk to his family and see his friends. He gave up being able to sleep in, and the ability to make fast-food runs past midnight. He’s let go of the things that make him enjoy being a human, because that’s how it works—he sacrifices his freedoms as a civilian so that we could have ours. He doesn’t understand why people thank him for his service, but every soldier is giving up something, and it eventually takes a toll on them. Like Batman who has nightmares about his parents, or Superman who can’t be with Lois Lane, Alex hums cadences in his sleep. He grinds his teeth and twitches at small noises; he doesn’t even respond to his first name sometimes. My boyfriend serves his country, without fancy gadgets or inhuman strength; he has tan boots and his dog tags and he’s in it for the moral satisfaction. He’s a real-life superhero, and that’s why I’d rather be him than any other hero for a day.
It is hard to live in a world filled with judgment, bullying, and violence. Rarely is there someone that is able to influence and inspire people to be better human beings. However, in my mind, there is one person who can. It would be an honor to trade places with Ellen DeGeneres for a day because she can easily be considered a superhero. Every week day at four, she somehow manages to change the life of at least one person. She makes people feel happy and better about themselves by simply dancing with them. Despite being gay and vegan, which are two things that sets her apart from many people, Ellen doesn’t let that stop her from being a smart, funny, free spirited person. She may be considered different, but to me, that different is the best different anyone could be. Ellen DeGeneres could brighten anyone’s day, whether it be giving them a hug or $5,000. It would feel so great to change someone’s life and just to make the world a better place, which it can easily be said Ellen does. A superhero doesn’t need to be someone who wears a cape or uses super-strength. A superhero is someone who doesn’t take life for granted, accepts people for who they are, and wants to do anything she can to change the world for the better, one kind and simple gesture at a time.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” The scientist beside me looked at me expectantly as he led me to the test chamber. Clearly, he wanted me to say no. I decided to disappoint him. “I’m as sure of it as I was when you asked six minutes ago. Stop asking me.” He sighed and opened the chamber door, ushering me in as he did so. I jumped as he slammed the iron door behind me and sealed the vault. I felt a new tingle of fear rippling through my nerves as I considered the price of superheroic science. I had volunteered to take on, for a day, the powers of the famed superhero Dr. Manhattan. The government wanted to know if miracles such as the strange electromagnetic phenomenon that had created him could be repeated. Condensed. Accelerated. For my end, I wanted his ability to be everywhere at once. To copy myself and get everything done I had ever wanted or needed, I had volunteered to take on the burden. Of course, power had its price; I would have to go through the same process he did, so many years ago. I felt the electricity arcing around me, extending my hair on end. This was going to hurt worse than anything I had ever felt before…
“If you were granted a superpower for just one day, what would it be and how would you use it?”
Sara’s tiny fist gripped her pencil tightly as her blue eyes filled with tears. Just seven years old, Sara had never developed the ability to speak as the result a severe form of autism. As Sara and I spent time together, I witnessed her struggle to express her thoughts, and I felt a great desire to help her.
Imagine if Sara could speak. No longer would communication be a challenge, and knowing what Sara wanted, those around her could assist her easily and effectively. This is one of the many reasons why, if I could choose any superpower for a day, I would select the power to give a voice.
After aiding Sara, I would give a voice to those who are exploited – those who are silenced by control and domination. Women sold into human trafficking, powerless against their masters. Children forced to work in factories, exploited and defenseless against their superiors.
There exist people all around the world, whose oppressed voices are longing to be heard. It would only take one day for me, with a superpower, to infuse them with a voice. My gift to them would serve as a catalyst, giving rise to actions that would become the foundation for change. Speaking out would enable them to unite and come together for a brighter future.
Everyone has dreams, but not all have the power to express them and to be heard by others. That is why I choose this superpower: the power to give a voice.
As I walk home, I gape at the wonders of nature. A slight breeze grazes my face, and I stop. Something about this breeze feels extraordinary. Just then, a sudden gust stirs the leaves into action, whispering promises I can only dream of. Such power, what if I possessed such power? I am the wind; I’m flowing, flying, and gliding majestically. I am the electrically charged particles of the sun’s solar breath, my energy enough to power earth for generations to come. I am the jet stream, circling, calculating, perspicacious, and acute. I have the world’s climate in my grasp, hurricanes, monsoons, bitter winters, and scorching summers. Nature can be cruel, but also fair. I shift a little north or south, east or west, people of disaster struck nations can take a breath, because I understand. Kids dreaming of a white Christmas can smile, seeing the flakes flying, because I understand. People wishing for sunny days can play, because I understand. People wishing for rain can sing and dance as the drops slide down their faces, because I understand. I am the universal conveyor life, beauty, and hope. I give joy to the despairing, forlorn, mournful, troubled, and ill. I descend upon them, whispering promises of better days ahead and fade away, seeing the smile on their faces, knowing that I have made a difference. I open my eyes and smile at the trees and leaves around me as they dance. What is the wind whispering? I think I know.
The swoosh of clothing. The scritch-scratch of a pen. A sudden gush of air. Out of nowhere comes a small toy that wasn’t there before. Next to it stands a man in tight, muscle gripping spandex with underwear on the outside. O.K. so maybe I’d ditch the spandex and underwear, but if I could have one super power for a day this would be mine. The ability to draw and create using only a pen as my writing utensil, and the air as my drawing pad. Now of course I’d need a name. Nothing too cheesy like Inkman or Five Fingered Art Boy. No, it would be something more elaborate, something all inclusive. Like The Architect! That is a good name for a good hero. The Architect wouldn’t run around fixing leaky sinks, or draw ladders to pull cats from trees. The Architect would draw a waterfall over a burning building, or a wall in front of escaping robbers. He would travel to third world countries and draw the biggest crate of water bottles and fresh food you’ve ever seen. How can he do this all in one day you ask? He re-draws time. Anything he can dream of he can create. Of course I’ll need to start wearing glasses to mask my identity, but that’s beside the point. The Architect would be a hero like no one has ever seen. My superpower would be to create a new and better world.
West Covina, CA
The typical person will, on average, reference the weather at least three times in daily conversation. Yes, you do. Think about it: “Oh, it’s so hot.” “Wow, really windy today…” Just to refresh your memory. Weather is something that we tend to take for granted; it is something perceived as a natural, uncontrollable facet of one’s life. But what if we could change that?
If I could pick any superpower, I would want to change the weather. Imagine the power of the elements at your fingertips! Rain pouring down at my request, snow slinking down at my beckoning! But of course, this won’t happen without careful thought. After all, weather affects everyone, regardless of wealth or status or even location. Weather is omnipresent; it is a united frontal force that — if properly harnessed — will require a tremendous deal of responsibility. But as I said, I want it. I would use my weather-controlling powers to connect the emotion of the world. I could make days brighter with sunshine; I could enhance holidays with snowfall or a bit of refreshing mist. No longer would sporting events be postponed, or the fireworks show at Disneyland canceled; families would be free to plan days accordingly. And when one person’s day goes well, that happiness becomes contagious. Success is a domino effect; our actions are in direct correlation with that of those around us. And I could help cultivate it all with the power to shift weather climates.
Now, how about that weather?
I once had a friend who “suffered” from insomnia; he had a 4.0 GPA and learned the Korean, Spanish and Mandarin languages. As I start my graduate education, plan for our first baby and begin to orchestrate the already seemingly endless yet not so dreaded Master’s thesis while looking for a part time job, I’ve realized how much easier this could all be if I too, “suffered” from insomnia.
Imagine if Superman, too tired from his busy day at the office, chose to go home and take a nap instead of saving his love interest, Lois Lane, from the plummeting plane. What if Spiderman, too overworked and thinly spread from his classes and dissertation research, huddled into a ball and cried like a school boy from all of the fatiguing stress instead of combating his arch nemeses?
Imagine the learning potential, the breakthroughs in science and technology and the benefited children and significant others everywhere whose parents and loved ones are finally not too tired to be an active and more consistent part of their lives. All due to the superpower of superpowers: indefatigability.
I would be indefatigable.
Imagine this: you are standing on a precarious coastline cliff, hundreds of feet above the thunderous waves below. Your toes curl just over the edge; you close your eyes and lift your face towards the warmth of the sunlight. Breeze blowing through your hair, you casually lean forward and let yourself plummet towards the rocky earth below. Mid air, you instantly transform into an eagle. You spread your wings and fly up into the wind towards the endless sky. The world beneath you begins to shrink and appear tranquil as you glide effortlessly amongst the clouds. Suddenly, you begin a rapid descent. You intentionally spiral downwards towards the vast ocean. Just as you are about to hit the choppy water, you transform into a sleek and elegant dolphin. Chirping happily, you fly as fast as you can past your fellow ocean creatures, playfully jumping up through the air. As you approach a menacing shark, you quickly morph into an enormous and cumbersome hump back whale. After some awkward leaps towards the surface, you transform back into an eagle and glide towards land.
Were I to choose a superpower, it would be the ability to transform into any animal in an instant. I could thus experience every unique power that the animal kingdom possesses: the speed of a cheetah, the grace of an eagle, even the discreetness of a fly. I could escape danger or save lives, defying nature while at the same time embracing it to its fullest extent.
A frail elderly woman was sitting at the bus stop. There was sadness to her demeanor, but she managed to turn her lips into a slight smile. Something told me to ask the woman if she needed help, so I ran back to her. “Oh yes, thank you. I don’t have enough money for the bus. I want to visit my son today.” I dropped the elderly woman off at her destination and felt good that I was able to help.
Eight months later…
I awoke in my hospital bed and was startled to see the elderly woman I had met several months ago. “You have the power to save lives,” she exclaimed. The woman saw the confused look on my face and continued, “The day I visited my son, he was going to commit suicide. I was able to stop him because of you.” “Wow,” I said.
She went on, “You saved a man before his truck exploded and many other people. You can see things before they happen.” I was amazed at how much she knew about me. “You were hit by a car when you saved that little girl, but you did not see your own future. My son has the same rare blood type as you. He was able to give his blood so you can live. The day you saved his life, you saved your own as well.” Tears streamed down my face. She smiled, “Get well soon. We need you to save more lives.”
Emerging from a foam shadow [ominous music plays] strikes a super hero with the wit of Kermit the Frog, the vocal prowess of Miss Piggy, the eloquence of lab assistant Beaker, and a grasp of the English language like the Swedish Chef. I emerge …The Muppeteer.
Sound silly? As a mom of three young boys, The Muppeteer makes perfect sense to me. Most days my world feels like an episode of The Muppets, a day filled with controlled chaos and a lot of surprises. Like Kermit the Frog, I am the manager of my home. Kermit managed his Muppet friends with wit and charm and could control any situation. Miss Piggy sang her way through every day, and her singing abilities (or lack thereof) didn’t hold her back. As The Muppeteer, singing like Mike Piggy will get homework and chores done in record time…just to make the singing stop! Beaker had the unique ability to talk his way out of anything using one syllable words. With this superpower, I just might get to the bottom of figuring out who colored on the wall in permanent ink with as few words as possible. The extraordinary language skills of the Swedish Chef might just help me understand something that my 1-year-old babbles all day, but really, the Swedish Chef is just plain funny, and every family could use a little laughter!
“If you were granted the superpower to read minds, whose brain would you tap into and why?”
As I crawl from the depths of the cave, magic lamp in my hands, I stop to rest in a small alcove. I muster the courage to give it a rub. Suddenly, a whirlwind gusts through the room, sweeping the lamp from my grasp and into levitation! Afraid and excited, I duck for shelter until the wind subsides. Once the dust settles, I rise to face a giant mirror, framed in polished antique gold, much like the now absent magic lamp. Confused, I slowly approach the mirror. As I get closer, the reflection begins to swirl and words are forming in its place. Now before me, framed instructions. “One mind, you may see. Choose wisely,” it reads. I hesitate for only a moment, until an image of Samantha appears in my mind. I haven’t said it aloud yet, but already the mirror begins to swirl yet again. In this moment, I am afraid. What will I find in the mind of a small child, unable to speak? Before I can ponder the answer, the mirror becomes still. The image within it is breathtaking. I see a glorious pink sunset atop a lakeside reflection and I am instantly at peace. A relieving warmth overtakes my mind and soul. Although having endured a horribly devastating loss in the battle against cancer as a mere infant, I know now that she is happy. She is wrapped in comfort, peace and love. A calming feeling of understanding overwhelms me as a single tear falls.
I feel the cold sting as my hands pitter-patter against the linoleum. I am almost there! I race forward to get there before I am discovered. Victory! I climb up onto my knees and dig in to the wet soil. I giggle at the cool sensation on my skin and clump the dirt in my little palms as I open my mouth wide. “No-no!” I hear as I am suddenly yanked away! I pout as I am placed back where I started annoyed to have my fun interrupted. I wind up making my disappointment known, but oh wait, what is that over there? I speed off again as I catch a glimpse of something brown. I giggle as I pull back into my own mind and watch my son crawl after his favorite teddy. In the last ten days, since the appearance of my new superpower, I have rediscovered the joy in simple things: the vividness of color, the comfort of waking up to a loved one, the freedom in movement, the texture of food, the melody of life’s daily rhythms. Even when not tapped in to my son’s mind, I find myself noticing how blue the sky is and taking the extra minute to greet my neighbor. I’ve found the true fountain of youth, through the mind of a child. All I needed was a reminder.
The lights fall dramatically across the dimly lit stage. Just two of us sit in the middle of the coliseum-like arena, performing for the crowd of onlookers whose rapid heartbeats and shallow breaking saturate the scene with a frantic sense of expectancy. Low and intimidating music only adds to the uneasy environment. Despite my focus, the gravity of the situation shakes me. My palms sweat, and I become aware of my own swift heartbeat. The scent of the hot lights overwhelms the “theatre”. She looks across the three feet of space between us and asks, “Well Alex, it all comes down to this. What will it be?” She’s a much better actress than I have proven to be. Although her exterior shows minimal panic, I know her thoughts. She’s rooting for me. I almost feel guilty for how easy she makes it. In her mind she is nearly screaming, “D! D! D!” “Well,” I slowly begin, “I’m going to say that,” as I take a deep breath, “the British artist who designed the symbol for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, that became more commonly known as the peace symbol is… D, Gerald Holtom.” In the space between my words, I am thinking of everything this would mean for me. “I get my Doctorate! I would pay off my parents‘ house! I would invest! I would travel back to Brazil! I might even-” She looks at me expectantly. I nearly forgot. “Yes. Final Answer.”
I prance around in my underwear while he lays and watches. I repulsively sing at the top of my lungs and he doesn’t say a word. I make quirky combinations of foods in a blender and he eats them without wincing. He listens to my problems without ever judging. I’ll gossip about his closest friends and he’ll never tell a soul. If only I knew what he really thought about my dance moves then maybe I’d be able to sleep at night. I always know what my friends are thinking, but my best friend leaves me wondering because he has a hard time discussing anything let alone the weather with me. Maybe that is why he’s my best friend, because he doesn’t laugh at me when I wrap a towel on my head and sing into the hairbrush “Hakuna Matata”. I would love it if he could tell me everything he thinks, but that would be giving him the superpower, and this essay is about me! He’s a real friend, a real trooper, and a really great Labrador Retriever.
New York, NY
I saw Mickey watching me make breakfast for my son. The mouse and I fearfully studied one another as I debated whether to catch him myself or wait for my husband to come home. Aha! I trapped Mickey under a plastic container, and realized I didn’t know what to do with him. I called my husband at work and told him we had a mouse under a plastic bowl on the floor and I needed him to rush home and relocate Mickey. Meanwhile, I tried to feed the mouse brownie crumbs thrust quickly under the bowl. My husband came home and observed that to get little Mickey he would have to lift the bowl. Ooops, little Mickey ran very fast under the refrigerator. For the next six months I was torn between thinking he was cute and wanting to get a cursed rodent out of my house. This conflict persisted for quite a while as Mickey seemed much smarter than we, eluding spring traps, glue traps, electronic traps, specially scented mechanical traps, flying boots and my husband’s cursing to dance merrily across the living room while I jumped on the couch. I was thinking that maybe we should just accept him to the family when little Mickey finally got careless and was trapped in the glue. His frightened, pleading expression still haunts me; he stimulated guilt better than some mothers, so I wish I’d had the superpower to read his mind that we might have negotiated a more amicable parting.
“If you were granted the superpower to manipulate time, how would you use it and why?”
“It’s too soon, Mom. I can’t do it alone.” There was no response, no word of comfort as I stared at the grey headstone. A fat drop of rain hit me on the nose, cold and unpleasant. The downpour broke as I turned to go. Every street was dark and empty. I proceeded down a narrow alley in hopes of a little more shelter, not that I could feel much anyway. The numbness from the inside had soaked its way outward.
“I can give you what you’re looking for.” An unfamiliar voice broke through my daze. In a ramshackle doorway leaned a woman in strangely bright dress.
“Come inside.” Without thought I followed. The room was dim and lined with shelves of bottles and jars. She handed me a tiny cup and motioned for me to drink.
“What is this?”
“Time. That’s what you want, isn’t it?” My face clenched as the bitter liquid worked.
“What are you doing, Dear?”
“Mom? Is that you?”
“Of course it is.”
“But you … you’re dead.”
“Only physically. Now, wasn’t there something you wanted?”
“I need your help, Mom. I need your advice; I don’t know what to do.”
“Don’t be silly. All you need to do is. . .”
“Mom?” I sprang forward. Gone. The strange woman stared at me. I held out the cup.
“I need more time!”
She put her finger to my heart. “The power over time is in here.”
Owings Mills, MD
It‘s a cold, crisp New York City morning. Head guard Joe Schmoe at the Museum of Modern Art has just started his morning rounds and, much to his surprise, he finds a certain masterpiece by Salvador Dali has gone missing. A light outline of dust remains where the classic melting clocks once were portrayed in all of their decomposing glory.
Meanwhile in 1907, on a very similar day in Vienna, a young Adolf Hitler walks down the street with his less-than-decent portfolio tucked snugly under his arm. Suddenly, a curly-haired teenager bumps into him, sending young Adolf‘s paintings flying every which direction. Muttering an apology in a strange accent, the boy helps him pick up all of his papers, and young Hitler continues on his way down the street towards the Vienna School of Art for his hopeful admission into the University‘s prestigious ranks.
Thumbing through self-portrait after self-portrait, the Dean of Admissions can‘t help but think that this young boy is much wirier and droller than he drew himself. Reaching for his giant red “denied” stamp, the Dean suddenly stumbles upon something extraordinary. Stuttering with amazement, the Dean asks the apparent prodigy what he calls this f-f-fine work. Confused but elated, Adolf Hitler is accepted.
So as the Holocaust never came to be, we eternally enjoy the classic painting “Deez Clocks, Dey Are Melting Ja” by Adolf Hitler, 1907. A fair trade off, most would say. All thanks to a boy, a boy with a very special power.
My health teacher entered the room on that fateful day in eighth grade, holding a plastic bag brimful of immense plantains . . . and condoms. I squirmed nervously in my seat. My then heart-throb sat with his friends looking utterly calm. The teacher demonstrated the process of “deploying” a condom using an enormous plantain, and then passed out the remaining giants to pairs of students. My friend and I sat immobilized, each attempting to convince the other that she should do the deed. Finally, I snatched up the plantain and attempted to slide on the tiny piece of latex. Suddenly, I felt the condom rolling back up under my fingers. I let go — the condom sprung off the plantain, bounced off my forehead, and plunged down my blouse. My face blushed intensely as I fished out the condom, my friend laughing hysterically and my crush grinning. Still, I summoned my resolve and completed the task.
How would I use my ability to travel through time? I would travel back to this event and others like it — not to erase them but to record them. These are the moments that have shaped my character the most — many related to sexual identity. Today I am committed to the fight for ready access to birth control. If I were able to re-experience these pivotal moments, it would strengthen my confidence and deepen my passion for reproductive freedom. At the very least, I would have a good laugh.
In my mind, there‘s no greater tragedy than the death of an artist. History‘s greatest artists, in the era they lived, were thought as indestructible, impervious to sickness or death. Looking at a Dali replica, or reading Emerson, or listening to John Coltrane, my heart sinks as I realize that I won‘t have the privilege to meet them. If I was given the gift of time manipulation, I would use it to go back in time and give that morose old fool Edgar Allen Poe a hug or two, and tell him to “for God sake, lay off the whiskey.” Or perhaps trade sax mouthpieces with Paul Desmond and make sure to leave him a few nicotine patches after a short chat with Brubeck over coffee, discussing what in the world inspired him to write in a nine-eight time signature. I‘d go back and introduce Walt Whitman and Henry Thoreau to an amazing invention called the Gillette razor, hopefully get rid of their grizzly beards. If I want to satiate my curiosity, I would go way back to George Orwell‘s childhood and leave him a copy of the Communist Manifesto, just to see if he‘d still write Animal Farm. But of course I would be but a villain if I didn‘t travel backwards in time and tell Shakespeare to stop shoving apostrophes and accent marks in words where they don‘t belong, before I get HIM to a nunnery!
The skies are piercing blue, pristine and cloudless. The weather is balmy and comfortable, what is expected for the start of summer. Yet to the crowd gathered here today, everything is a shade of gray, and all around is suppressing heat. Funerals tend to feel this way.
We stand with our heads bowed, pretending to listen to the epitaph but in actuality busy with our own thoughts. I only hear traces of the speaker‘s words: kind and caring? mother of three? was only 43? lung cancer?
And I imagine that these kinds of things happen everyday, that people die and leave a lot behind. But then I think to myself, why does it have to happen to someone I know? And then I feel very selfish indeed.
I clench my fists and squeeze my eyes shut, blocking out all sounds around me, compressing myself until there is a ringing in my ears…
Then, I see her, lying on the couch, cigarette held casually between two fingers. She sees me and smiles warmly, and beckons me over with a wave of her arm.
I will be brave today. I approach her and place my hand in hers. “Please, put down that cigarette…”
“If you could have one superpower, what would it be and how would you use it?”
The Power of Shoes …
Shoes, you ask? What kind of superpowers could shoes have?
Consider the power to give a young girl born without sight the chance to walk in Neil Armstrong’s shoes, allowing her a view of the world that few of us will ever have. The power of shoes could benefit a boy with cerebral palsy. I could give him the control he so desperately desires in allowing him to walk, or rather, run and jump in Michael Jordan’s Nike’s or to glide along the ice in Michelle Kwan’s skates.
I could easily turn the anger and violence of prominent KKK and pro-Nazi organizations upside-down in making them wear the shoes of a poor, 19th century black man stripped of his clothes and dignity, or perhaps those of a young, Jewish mother who watches her children starve to death in a German death-camp.
I could give the drug-addicted the freedom of rehabilitated shoes. Well-fed shoes would rain down on the poor. Young-at-heart shoes would wait in the mailboxes of the elderly. Shoes of peace could march war veterans out of their inescapable memories.
And to the young child left paralyzed because of a drunk driver, I would simply give walking shoes.
We come from all walks of life, traveling different paths to infinite experiences. We could share with each other these experiences of our humanity by the mere sharing of our shoes.
That’s the power I want.
The ability to morph into anything is my superpower.
Why you ask?
Have you ever had five kids?
I am the nurse, the doctor, the cook, the taxi, except at prom…then I am the limo driver. I am the banker, I am the teacher, I am the doll the girls dress up and the wrestling dummy for the athlete. I am the maid, the pool cleaner, the warden when they are grounded and the handyman when they break things. I am the referee, the coach, the beauty consultant, and fashion designer. I am the psychologist, the prenatal coach, the wedding planner and the caterer.
And when I am tired of hearing “Mom, I need you,” “Mom, take me to the mall,” “Mom, I need money,” I am the dog.
Basking Ridge, NJ
“Stop! I command you to stop in the name of chocolate ganache meringues!!!”
Slowing first to cast a curious glance behind them, the thieves finally turned, shooting me a scoffing, scornful smirk. Admittedly, my fruitcake-Kevlar composite flak vest was a poor complement to my beer-battered beef ball earmuffs, but shouldn’t fashion be abandoned in the face of danger? Besides, a superhero has got a job to do, and with my considerable cooking superpower, I had set out to do just that, fashioning weapons from preposterously punning alliterative accessories, and vowing to battle not only the injustice of wilted arugula and deflated soufflé, but also the immorality and depravity of crime. So, against the unwitting criminals, I launched the first of the peppermint brittle grenades with my Bazooka machine gum, and followed it frantically with flaming fruit fricassee. And thus ensued a fierce struggle–Operation Dessert Storm.
Once the final Korean-BBQ-smoke bomb cleared, the victor was immediately obvious; the two thieves flailed fruitlessly, ensnared in a mire of Black Forest torte and raspberry cabernet glace. Their eyes watered with what I had hoped was repentance but, I reluctantly conceded, could probably be attributed to the stinging kimchee tear gas coupled with the indignity of being beaten by a honey-cured ham bludgeon. And so I once again triumphed against evil–today criminals, tomorrow the tyranny of overcooked steak and burnt caramel fudge.
A Superpower Short Story
Last night, I dreamt a haunting dream. I dreamt that there was a machine that could give people any one thing they wanted. Lines instantly formed. Some asked for precognition. They predicted tumultuous times ahead. Others asked for money. But money was rendered useless due to abundance. People asked for power. Soon, many wars broke out among them. Others asked for ignorant bliss, and lived a life nullified from any pain.
Soon there was no death and no pain. Life was hauntingly surreal. Most wandered aimlessly, having accomplished what they thought were their wildest dreams. In this sense, everyone was lost in their quest to do what the thought they truly wanted.
Suddenly it was my turn. I thought for a while, and I knew. My superpower, then, was the ability to illuminate peoples’ true desires and the paths they should take, but had otherwise forgotten.
I set out, discovering that at the heart of everyone was the desire for good, and that each had a singular dream to fulfill. People soon recognized that the machine had stolen the significance of this dream.
Realizing the evil of the machine, the population soon began to dismantle it. People dropped from the skies, losing the ability to fly. Others died, the natural equalizer of life being back in power. As I had always wanted to know my own path, I turned introspectively to ask myself, but I too had lost my power. I woke up, disappointed.
WARNING! The contents that you are about to read contain multiple secrets that, if revealed, could result in bad luck for the rest of your life. You have been warned, so continue reading if you dare.
No one in the world knows the huge secret that I am about to reveal to you. I have kept this a secret for seventeen years from my friends and family. You are the lucky person who gets to know the ultimate secret of the universe. I am a Superhero! If the world found out about my powers, my life would be destroyed. I would never get to experience a normal college life. My happiness lies in your hands.
I am a superhero with the power to turn into steel. This steel is sturdy, bullet proof, and unbreakable. Because of this ability, I have never broken a bone in my entire life. This steel will come in handy in college because it will always serve as a reminder to me. When I am being peer pressured, the steel will symbolize the steadfastness of my beliefs and allow me to say “No!” with conviction. It will remind me that I am impenetrable, and no words can break my spirit. In times of immense pressure, this reminder comes in handy. I hope to use this power to be a symbol and a leader for other college students. I want to show them that they too can be “steel-proof” and just say no to peer pressure.
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