I gave the prize I got for my brilliant drawing on Zeebo the Clown’s show to my sister Linda. As embarrassed as I was to have won a girl’s doll, I had to admit that it was pretty neat, as dolls go. It was not just some cheap little plastic thing; it was substantial and well made. Its eyes closed and opened when you laid it down and picked it up. Its clothes were fancy and not just glued on like they were on some low-end dolls; you could probably buy new clothes for it and dress it up. The coolest thing about it was that it had movable shoulder, hip, elbow and knee joints, so you could put it in just about any position and it would stay there.
I figured that, even though I had given the doll to Linda, I retained some usage rights since I was the one who had won it, and I had a terrific idea for something to do with it.
I would give it super powers.
Every Wednesday night, instead of in the dining room, we would have supper in the bedroom Linda and I shared. Our room had a water-cooled fan in the window, and Mom would set up a card table in front of it. There was just enough space between Linda’s bed and mine for the table. Linda and I would sit on our beds and Mom and dad would sit on folding chairs between the beds. On hot summer nights, dining in front of the cold air blowing from that fan was an indescribable delight. Dad would bring the radio in from the living room and park it on a fold-up TV tray at the foot of my bed.
Mom would serve the food and we’d turn radio on just in time to hear the immortal words:
“A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty ‘Hi-Yo Silver!’ The Lone Ranger! With his faithful Indian companion, Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early Western United States. Nowhere in the pages of history can one find a greater champion of justice. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. From out of the past come the thundering hoof-beats of the great horse Silver. The Lone Ranger rides again!”
I liked the Lone Ranger, and I enjoyed the show, but my heart was never really with the heroes of Westerns. Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and the Cisco Kid were okay, but only one hero would do it for me: the Man of Steel from the planet Krypton.
Dad often forgot to take the radio away after supper, and I don’t think he or Mom minded that Linda and I sometimes listened to it in our room before it was returned to its rightful place in the living room a day or two later.
For their mad scientist son, the device was much, much more than a radio. Depending on the fantasy of the day, it was a time machine, a teleportation device, or in this case, a super-power dynamo, capable of temporarily bestowing super strength, invulnerability, x-ray vision, and the ability to fly. Linda’s doll was the ideal test subject. If the machine worked as expected, it would be transformed in mere minutes from a weak, pathetic girly doll into the strongest doll on Earth, a doll that was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound.
I took the doll and stripped off its clothes. No super-powered female would be caught dead wearing a lace-trimmed pink dress and frilly bloomers. Once I had demonstrated that the machine worked, as I had no doubt that it would, my plan was to have Mom sew a more suitable costume for the newly empowered SuperDoll.
I placed it on the tray and turned the radio on. It took a little while until the tubes warmed up, and then I rapidly turned the tuning knob up and down the dial, making weird science-fiction-sounding squeals as the device bathed the doll with its magical transmuting rays.
It wasn’t working. Clearly, it needed more power. I turned the volume up, and tried again. The squeals from the speaker were louder, but it was clearly still not enough. I had miscalculated. This transformation would take a tremendous amount of electrical energy, much more than I had anticipated. I turned the volume knob all the way up. The radio now screeched and wailed as I spun the tuning knob as rapidly as I could. I only hoped that my plan succeeded before the incalculable power drain blew out the transformers and left the entire city in darkness.
“Eddie! What in the world are you doing?” Mom reached around me and turned the radio off.
Nooooo! I was SO close!
“That’s not a toy. You’re going to ruin it if you keep doing that.”
Then she saw the doll. She stared at me suspiciously. Then she looked again at the doll.
The naked doll.
“What are you doing with this?”
I tried to explain. I told her about my plan to turn Linda’s ordinary doll into the most powerful doll on Earth. I told her that the radio was no ordinary radio but an actual super-power-generating dynamo. I explained that this could be a staggering leap forward for science, but my words fell on deaf ears.
Mom grabbed the doll and picked up its clothes.
“This is Linda’s. I don’t want to see you with it again.”
“But, Mom!” I was so close.
Do you understand?”
“Eddie, do you understand?”
“Yes, Mom. I understand.”
And I did. I understood. This was probably not the best time to ask Mom to make a super costume for the doll.