One evening my wife mentioned, casually, that she had been talking to the son of one of her friends, a little boy named Alexander, about his upcoming fourth birthday.
"Alexander says he's having a Batman party," my wife said.
"Hmm," I said.
"So I told him that maybe Batman would come to the party," my wife said.
"Hmm," I said.
My wife said nothing then. She just looked at me. Suddenly I knew who was going to be Batman.
I was not totally opposed. In my youth I read many Batman comics, and it seemed to me that he had a pretty neat life, disguised as wealthy playboy Bruce Wayne, waiting for the police commissioner of Gotham City to shine the Bat Signal onto the clouds. (It was always a cloudy night when the commissioner needed Batman.) Then Bruce would change instantly -- it took him only one comic book panel -- into his Batman costume and roar off in the Batmobile to do battle with the Forces of Evil or attend a birthday party.
Of course, Bruce owned his own Batman costume. I had to rent mine. It consisted of numerous black rubber pieces, similar to automobile floor mats, with strings so you could tie them to your body. One piece was shaped like rippling chest muscles, so you could transform yourself, like magic, from a flabby weakling into a flabby weakling wearing an automobile floor mat.
It took me a lot longer than one comic panel to get into this costume, but finally I was ready to speak the words that strike fear into the hearts of criminals everywhere: "Michelle, could you tie my G-string?" It turns out that a key part of the Batman costume is this triangular floor mat piece that protects the Bat Region. It's very difficult to attach this piece to yourself without help, which could explain why Batman hooked up with Robin.
At last I was ready. In full Bat regalia, I stepped out of the house, and -- as crazy as this may sound -- for the first time I truly understood, as only a crusader for justice can understand, why people do not wear heavy black rubber outfits in South Florida in August. Staggering through the armor-piercing sunshine and 384 percent humidity, I made it to the Batmobile, which was disguised as a wealthy playboy Toyota Celica.
When we got to Alexander's house, in accordance with our Bat Plan, I remained outside in the Batmobile while Michelle went to the back yard, where the party was going on. We had bought Alexander a Batman walkie-talkie set; Michelle gave Alexander one unit and told him to use it to call Batman. These Batman walkie-talkies contain actual transistors, so when Alexander called me, I was able to hear, on the other unit, clear as a bell, a random bunch of static. Interpreting this as the Bat Signal, I pulled the rubber Bat Cowl over my head, thus rendering myself legally blind, and drove the Toyota Batmobile into the back yard.
The effect on the party guests, as you would expect, was electrifying. The adults were so electrified that some of them almost wet themselves. The younger guests were stunned into silence, except for Matthew, age 1, who ran, crying, to his mom, and probably did wet himself.
With all eyes upon me, I stopped the Batmobile, flung the door open, and in one fluid, manly motion, sprang out of the seat, then got retracted violently back into the seat, because I had forgotten to unfasten my seat belt. Eventually I was able to disentangle my cape and stride in a manly, rubberized way over to the birthday boy.
"Happy birthday, Alexander!" I said, using a deep Bat Voice. After that the conversation lagged, because let's be honest, what are you going to talk to Batman about? The pennant races? So we just stood there for a while, with Alexander staring at me, and me trying to look manly and calm despite the fact that after 30 seconds in the sun I could have fried an egg on top of my cowl.
Finally the cake arrived, and everybody sang "Happy Birthday," and I announced that I had to go fight crime. Striding back to the Batmobile, I opened the car door, turned dramatically toward the youngsters and said, quote, "BWEEPBWEEPBWEEP-BWEEP." Actually, it was the Batmobile that said this, because I had forgotten to deactivate the Bat Alarm. I climbed into the front seat, slammed the door with several inches of cape sticking out the bottom, and backed manfully and blindly into the street. Fortunately there was nothing in my way, because I definitely would have hit it, and the law would not have been on my side. ("Mr. Barry, please tell the jury exactly what you were wearing as you backed your car over the plaintiff.")
The next day, Alexander's mom reported that the first thing he did when he woke up was turn on his walkie-talkie and call Batman. He said he could hear Batman, but Batman couldn't hear him because he was busy fighting evil supercriminals named Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze. This was almost true: Batman was actually battling Heat Rash. So he will be out of action for a while. The next superhero from this household to visit Alexander -- and I have made this very clear to Michelle -- will definitely be Cat Woman.