Chapter 3: Just Visiting
The man's back was to him, but Clark broke into a huge smile. "Mr. Jones!" he exclaimed with no small degree of excitement.
The tall man with sandy brown hair and eyes to match turned quickly. "Clark Kent," he said warmly. "Well, look at how you have grown."
Clark walked over and extended a hand. "It's great to see you, Mr. Jones. How have you been?"
"Oh, fine Clark. Just fine," Mr. Jones said as they shook hands. "And you? You've certainly grown up since I last saw you."
Clark smiled. Mr. Jones had a way of making you do that. "I've been fine, Mr. Jones." Before he could elaborate, the front door to the store opened, and Red Marks walked in. "Hi, Mr. Marks," Clark said.
"Red," Jonathan Kent said to the arriving customer. Jonathan was just about to move to offer his assistance when the door opened again and George Flagg stepped inside.
"Mr. Flagg," Clark said.
"George," Jonathan said. As Mr. Jones nodded hello to the new arrivals, Jonathan added, "Can I help either of you gentlemen with anything?"
"Uh, no," both men said more or less simultaneously. "Just ... looking," Mr. Marks said.
"Yep," Mr. Flagg echoed. "Just looking."
"Well," Jonathan said, "just let me know if you need anything." It was curious, Jonathan thought as he headed back to the other end of the counter. George Flagg had moved to Smallville almost a year ago, and Red Marks had arrived about a month later. They didn't seem to be friends, exactly, but he never seemed to see one without seeing the other. He shrugged mentally, chalked it up to the probabilities that go with living in a small town, and returned his attention to Mr. Jones.
"You staying long?" he asked.
"Only for the day, I'm afraid," Mr. Jones replied. "I, uh, have to be in Metropolis tomorrow afternoon."
"Then you'll come to dinner tonight?" Clark said eagerly, before remembering his manners and looking to his father. "I mean, if it's okay with you, Dad?"
Jonathan smiled. "Of course it is, son. Just let me give your mother a call. I'm sure it will be fine with her too. If, of course, Mr. Jones doesn't have other plans."
"Not at all," he answered. "I'd be delighted."
"And could we invite Lana and Pete?" Clark said as his father moved towards the phone in the back. "I know they'd love to see Mr. Jones, and since he'll only be here the one night..."
Pa smiled again. "Sure, son. They're more than welcome. I'll let your mother know. She needs a good two hours to whip together one of her famous meals. If you gentlemen will excuse me?"
As Jonathan Kent walked to the phone, Mr. Jones asked, "So, young Mr. Kent. How have you been? Enjoying your summer?"
Clark nodded. "Yep. It's been great."
"And how are Pete and Lana?"
"Oh, they're fine. Pete's working part-time at the drugstore, and Lana has been off on her annual summer expedition with her father. But she's back now."
Mr. Jones nodded, and catching something in Clark's expression, said, "I suppose you were pretty glad to see her return."
Too quickly, Clark grinned, then just as quickly looked away. "Sure. It's ... uh, always nice to have Lana around."
Mr. Jones nodded again. "I imagine it is." They were quiet for a moment, then Mr. Jones said, "So, I hear that Smallville has become famous since the last time I was here. Do you know this Superboy that's in the news so much?"
"Sure. I guess everyone in Smallville knows him by now."
"What's he like?"
Clark hesitated. "Oh, other than being super, I'd say he's a pretty normal guy."
"Really. So he's pretty nice then?"
"Well," Clark said, "I don't know him all that well, I guess, but from what I can see ... yeah, he's pretty nice."
Mr. Jones nodded. "That's good to hear. With all the things he can do, I was ... running into a lot of people who were afraid that he might ... oh, I don't know, might not have completely good intentions."
"I don't think you need to worry about that," Clark replied quickly. Less forcefully, he added, "I think he just wants to help people."
Mr. Jones looked closely at Clark's face, and didn't say anything for a moment. "Good," he said eventually. "That's ... very good."
"Martha can't wait to see you again," Jonathan announced as he returned to the counter. "Is seven good for you?"
Mr. Jones turned back to him. "Seven sounds wonderful. I'd better get going, but I'll see you then."
"Bye," Clark said. "See you tonight."
"Take care," Pa called.
As Mr. Jones waved and headed out the door, Pa asked, "Clark, could you watch things for a while? There's an order I need to finish so it can go out tomorrow."
"Sure Pa," Clark said, and then he eased behind the counter as Jonathan returned to the back. Clark was busying himself with tidying up when Mr. Flagg strolled over. "Say, Clark. I don't believe I've seen that fella in town before."
"Oh, that's Mr. Jones," Clark replied casually. "He's an old friend."
Mr. Marks had moved closer as well. "You have known him for a long time, then?" he asked. Mr. Flagg hadn't realized how near Mr. Marks was, and seemed to jump a bit at the sound of the other man's voice.
Clark broke into a grin. "Oh, sure. Since I was real young. Probably about ten years now. He stops by whenever he's traveling through the area. Usually has dinner with my folks, or with the Langs, or with Pete Ross and his family. He's a great guy."
"Oh," both Mr. Flagg and Mr. Marks said. "What does he do for a living?" Mr. Flagg asked.
Clark shrugged. "I don't really know. Some sort of business."
One of Mr. Marks' eyebrows raised. "Very ... interesting."
"Yes," Mr. Flagg echoed, "very interesting."
Clark chuckled to himself, then said, "Uh, come to think of it, I maybe remember him mentioning that he's in real estate. I think he looks at property for some company in Metropolis. Or Star City, maybe. I can't quite recall."
"Oh," Mr. Flagg said. There was a pause, then Mr. Marks said, "Oh." Both looked a tiny bit dejected. They lingered a moment, seemingly searching for some other question to ask about the visitor to their town. Thinking of none, Mr. Flagg said, "Well, I guess I ought to get a move on."
Mr. Marks looked at him curiously for a moment, then said, "Oh. Yes. I as well need a ... need to get a move. On."
Both stood there a moment more, until Clark said, "Well, come again." He watched the pair with a smile as they headed out, neither having bought anything. When they reached the door, there was a moment of confusion as each tried to let the other exit first. After a full ten seconds of, "No, after you," exchanges, Clark was hoping that his remarkable array of super-powers included laughter suppression. Grateful that they finally reached a compromise that allowed them to more or less exit simultaneously, Clark was still laughing out loud when his father returned.
"Something funny?" Pa asked.
"Oh, no," Clark said with a snort, "not particularly."
Pa looked at him and pursed his lips. "Well, try not to laugh too hard at the customers, son." Smiling wryly, he added, "Even those two. Have you noticed that there's something not quite ... right about them?"
Clark had managed to moderate his amusement to a broad smile. "Ah, you know how it is Dad. They're just not from around here."
Pa laughed, then said, "Well, neither is Mr. Jones."
"No," Clark agreed, "no, he's not. But he sure is a good guy."
|STRANGE VISITOR Copyright 2000 Samuel Hawkins.  All rights reserved. This story is neither authorized nor endorsed by DC Comics. Superboy and all related previously established characters are TM DC Comics & © DC Comics, Joanne Siegel, and Laura Siegel Larson.|