Sweet / Sentimental

Career Day: The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round.

Career Day
By
Grover
4/19/2010

Notes:
Last night I had a dream. Not a nightmare, or even the other extreme where you wake up smiling. No, this one made me look into the mirror searching my heart for whence this dream had come. I think it could best be said that it gave my life-long desires and daydreams a different slant or Point of View if you will. I’ve tried to as best as I can present that ‘dream’ here in a form that is understandable and in a way that gives you the reader the same impact that hit me. So please bear with me as we start our journey.

Career Day
The wheels on the bus go round and round.

I knew I had to be dreaming. The early spring forest was just beginning to wake. The woodland scents filled the cool crisp dawn breeze. The reason I just knew this had to be a dream was because I could see clearly without my glasses. But what made this so unforgettable was the beautiful silence. Oh there were the bird calls and rustles of the leaves underfoot. Each and every sound crisp and clear. However that was all I heard. The demonic ringing tones I’d lived with for so many years were no more.

Happy contentment filled me as I strolled. I felt reborn. Each step without aches or pain my made me more confident they were now nothing but history.

The chill air was invigorating and yet relaxing. My pace quickened as I spied the lightening dawn. Breathing in the scents of the pines, cedars and other plants and flowers, my troubles and worries evaporated like the morning dew. There was an opening in the trees ahead, a glade.

I began running so I could catch the rising sun as it broke though the trees. Joyfully I ran into the light.

A gentle hand shook me awake.

“Time to get up Ernie,” said a voice I hadn’t heard in 30 years.

More than a little confused I blinked rubbing the sleep from my eyes. My so vivid dream had me befuddled. Even in the murky morning light, I could see I wasn’t in the apartment I shared with my friend whose luck was just as hard as mine.

Still trying to wake up and make sense of this, I was snuggled down deep in warm blankets. It felt so good. All the usual ‘growing old’ distractions that usually woke me was missing this morning. A tentative hand outside of my cocoon found it was cold out there.

Burrowing, back down into the warmth, I pushed the encroaching real world away. Vainly I wanted to return to my dream that even now was fading away. Disappointed I peeked out of my burrow.

Next to my cozy sanctuary was another bed, with a large shadowy shape standing next to it.

“Adam, time to rise and shine.”

My mouth went dry and I thought my heart would burst from my chest. Despite the cold I threw myself out from the covers searching wildly for proof this simply could not be!

My hand found the lights, and the room stood revealed. Painted a baby blue, it had two beds with a pair of desks at their foot. Both pieces of furniture overflowed with the usual schoolboy clutter of books, papers and comic books.

In that other bed, a boy grumbled loudly at the introduction of bright light into his morning. He was about ten with close cut dark brown hair. Shooting me a glare that could kill, he reached for his black plastic frame glasses. Years ago in the army we used to call those ugly things birth control glasses because no girl would touch you wearing those things. Only young kids wore those things. Kids like my younger brother Adam.

But it was the man standing there looking at me strangely that caused me to freeze. Although he seemed huge to me, I knew that he really only stood 5 feet 6 in his socks. As usual, he had on a pair of denim coveralls with a pair of battered boots on his feet. His face was lined with his 69 years, but his full head of iron gray hair still had traces of the red from his youth. He was my father, Big Ernie. That’s because I had that dreaded ‘junior’ hanging off the end my name. I’d been called Little Ernie.

The only problem with that was he’d died of a massive heart attack 20 years ago. Even more impossible what I was seeing before me was right out of my youth years before even then.

Both my father and brother stared at me.

“Ernie, you alright?,” my father asked in his soft tenor.

I’d always been fair complexioned because of the red hair I shared with him. Blood drained from my face as I turned even whiter. I don’t know if it was because the cold or shock of waking up here. Making my poor blood starved brains work, I stammered, “I have to use the bathroom.”

Grabbing the jeans and shirt hanging off the chair in front of the desk, I fled. Trying to dress, and looking all about in near panic, I damn near ran into the huge antique dinette in the dinning room. I couldn’t keep myself from checking the floor under my feet. Only a few weeks ago, I’d been here. But it’d been a half burnt ruin! The roof was caved in and you took your life in your hands if you dared go inside. I foolishly had because I was looking for some memento of this place where I’d grown up. I’d found nothing inside, but outside I’d found a patch of my Mom’s violets that somehow survived the years of neglect and weeds.

I passed though the kitchen rich with the delicious smells of what was thought as a healthy breakfast in the 70’s. Bacon, eggs, and toasting bread kept warm in the oven. This also was the only heated room in the house. Passing though, I nearly ran to the only bathroom that was off of my parents room.

Panting more from my continuing shock than from my brief run, I grabbed the sink under the mirror. What I didn’t see was my near 50 year, worn out old face. No balding red hair or double chins caused by far too much weight. My hazel eyes lacked the heavy sedimentary lines of too many sad years trying to be someone I wasn’t.

Tears fell as I tried to make sense of this. Had I finally gone crazy, or was this really time travel like it seemed? I stared at the mirror again.

At a guess, I was in my early to mid teens since I’d been a late developer. I didn’t get hit by puberty until I was nearly 16. My face was still smooth and lacked the pocked scars that rampant acne left behind. Lifting my shirt I lacked the hairiness that’d given me so much anguish and such a rotten self-image. Over the years those caused me to let myself go so badly.

“Hey! Let someone else have a turn.” Adam yelled banging on the door.

“Give me a minute!” I hollered back. Rushed, I sat fishing out my penis to pee. Thankfully, I didn’t see any signs of puberty like pubic hair. Resisting the urge to start crying, I finished my business grabbing my toothbrush and the paste. Those were easy to find because I was the only one who even tried to brush regularly.

One of my health problems always been my teeth. As our house had only one heated room even in the winter proved, we were quite honestly poor white folks. Perhaps some might even call us ’white trash’ given neither of my parents had even finished high school. Part of the price of that life was inadequate attention to things like dentistry.

Even in the 70’s good health took money that we simply didn’t have. You would think that would make prevention even more important, but it didn’t work out that way. Having your teeth rot, fall out, and replaced with dentures were thought of as the normal progression of things.

I’d no clue as to what was happening to me. However, developing and keeping the habits that let me keep most of my teeth into my late 40’s wasn’t easy. It was harder when you’re so buried so far under with depression that even doing simple things was like climbing an impossibly high mountain. If I’d indeed been given some kind of second chance, by Gawd I was going to keep my teeth in better condition than the first time.

Letting Adam have the bathroom, I brushed away going back to the warmth of the kitchen. My Mom was up lighting up her first cigarette of the day with a cup of hot coffee in her hands. As usual for her, she looked so sad. It was as if she wanted to be anywhere else in the world but here. Already she had one of her romance paperbacks in hand. I knew she would escape into its pages at the first opportunity.

I really couldn’t fault her because I knew she’d been horribly abused as a young girl by those who should’ve protected her. Stuck here deep in the rural south with four guys would’ve been tough for any woman. For her it must’ve, no was doubly so.

Seeing her young and not bowed by time made my heart ache and hurt. Avoiding the burning ember at the end of her hand, I hugged her. “Good morning Mom,” I greeted around the toothbrush.

Sleepily she looked at me surprised, but smiled back. Scooping up my youngest brother Darryl, she had that cancer stick hanging off her lip.

I kept from wincing at the sight. In about 15 years, cancer would cause her to lose one of her breasts and finally give her the motivation to stop smoking. Stop or die the doctors told her.

My Dad was retired from the Railroad after 47 years. He was the primary carer of the family doing most the cooking and chores. Seeing him serving breakfast, I took out my toothbrush, as Dad said blessing for breakfast.

Now that Adam was busily eating I went back to finish my brushing. Checking out my mouth in the mirror I was a little surprised. The damage wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. Strange because I knew at this time, I hadn’t cared for my teeth. Even the toothbrush was school supplied as were those red tablet things meant to rub it in just how bad the dental plaque build up was.

Rinsing my mouth out I was not complaining. Staring at myself in the mirror I wondered again what in the hell was happening. Able to think somewhat I again, I tried to work it out.

Trying to pick out differences between what I was seeing and three decade old memories didn’t help much. My last trip out here to the old place made me realize how small it was and yes, poor even if hadn’t been burned out.

What I was seeing now, here, didn’t look shabby or rundown. Oh it did have the clutter of three kids, and two adults living in a two and a half bedroom house. I call it a half-bedroom because the small room was the nursery where brother Darryl slept. Seeing as how he looked about three or four, that would put me at about 13.

All of which meant I had a couple of really big problems. My parents health concerns aside, I was staring right into the maw of puberty, again. Hell, the first time was worse enough.

Sighing, I had to write all of this down. I knew me. My memory wasn’t very good even in the best of situations which this wasn’t. Everything I could remember about events and stuff that was going to happen up the last day I could remember, March 29th 2010 had to go down on paper. Next I had to find out just when I was. Fortunately we got the newspaper everyday which should solve that problem. The third thing on the list was going to suck. Us being woke up so early meant today was a school day.

I doubted I could even find my way to the right room, much less interact very well. Unprepared didn’t even began to cover it. This wasn’t going to be a lot of fun.

Par for the course, Adam had cleaned his plate and was staring greedily at mine.

Looking down at the plate full of grits, bacon, eggs and toast, I halved it. I’d been a big eater growing up, and had paid the price in my latter years. I was not going to end up fat again. “You want it?” I asked.

Like a staving wolf, he nodded yes, “Sure give it here!”

Both my parents noticed that. “You feeling okay, Lil’ Ernie?” My Mom asked.

Remembering how rare leftovers were in this family that left nothing eatable behind, I did my best to imitate a teenager, “I’m okay. Just not hungry that’s all.”

My Mom and Dad cut each other a sharp glance.

“Nervous about Career Day?” She asked.

I froze. Career what? I didn’t remember a damn thing about any Career Day.

Sneaking a look at my Dad, his brow could only be called thunderous. He was old fashioned and hard in a way that most could never figure out. The whole reason my brother and I were going to the school we did was because of segregation. As far as he was concerned the Whites kept to their side of the tracks and the Black had better the hell stick to theirs.

I don’t think he was a bigot so much as he was bound and set in his ways. Many of our rural neighbors were Black and he seemed to be on good relations with them. It was more, I think, that all of us, poor White and Black, being at the bottom fought for the same scarce resources. The operative word here is poor.

Seeing the veiled storm in his green eyes, whatever this Career Day was he didn’t like it one damn bit.

That made me look over at my Mom. I’d always been closer to her. Because of that I was certain I didn’t see any anger but she was definitely concerned about me.

Just what in the hell was Career Day and did I dare ask?

I think it was the anger I saw in Dad’s eyes that gave me my answer. “I’m okay. No biggie.”

The whole family looked at me. Whoops, slang. I tried to remember just when that had come into use. Damn I was going to have to be careful. “Hmm… It’s no big deal.” I corrected myself.

My Mom shook her head. “You kids watch way too much TV.”

I kept my smile to myself. I knew she spent a couple of hours a day watching her soaps.

Speaking of TV, I looked up at the small set we had in the kitchen. Growing up, I’d watched a kid’s morning show called Mr. Knozit. Played by the local weatherman, he gave out information about how to dress for the weather, as well as birthday announcements and other local stuff.

My mouth dropped open. The little 13 inch was set in a nook so the whole family could see it. I’d watched countless programs on that little TV. The problem was it was a Black and White set. We were struggling here. No color TV’s for us.

But right there in front of me was a color TV.

What was going on here? We’d never had a color set. The first color one I’d ever had was the one I went out and brought after I joined the Army. That wouldn’t happen for another seven years.

Carefully I looked around for other artifacts that shouldn’t be here. Shocked and dazed, there was a couple things I didn’t notice the first time. The gas heater that I’d warmed myself so many times was gone replaced by a plain vented box with a GE logo on the front. The gas stove was also gone with one that kinda looked liked an electric with a Kenmore label. I say kinda because it didn’t have elements but had instead much more advanced gray markings where the elements were.

Even in the apartment I shared in 2010 our stove had those spiraling electric elements. Trying not to call attention back to myself, I looked back at the TV. There in living color was this huge space station. The title read Skylab.

A space geek, even I wasn’t sure when Skylab had gone up. I think it was sometime in 73, but it sure as hell wasn’t this thing. When I say huge I mean like it made the International Space Station look like a toy. It was at least three times larger. Hell it looked liked there was even something that looked a lot like the ‘Discovery’ from the movie 2001 docked to it.

My poor brains picked out at least three winged shuttles of some sort docked to it too. Wondering again just what was going on I finished my bacon and eggs. I was still a little hungry but it was no contest. No matter when or where I was, I was not going to end up fat again.

Then my brothers and I was rushed out the door to start our journey to school. Thank Gawd, my book bag was already loaded. Lugging the heavy thing outside, I got another shock.

During these years when we were driven to school, my Dad had this red Ford Country Squire station wagon. The thing was a land barge of the first water. However what set out in our drive looked as if it’d mated with one of the winged and nose-coned Dodge Daytona’s.

I damn near broke my neck stumbling down the stairs because my younger, shorter legs had to take larger steps. Desperately needing some time to adjust I climbed into the back. Lucky for me the the folding rear seat in the cargo area was still there.

Dad was still very ‘unhappy’ about this Career Day thing. He’d given me a startled look when I’d hugged him, but there was no way I wasn’t going to. The last time previous to this little time trip of mine that I’d seen him was in a funeral home. He must’ve thought the affection was because of whatever was going to happen today. I think I heard him and my Mom arguing about keeping me home, but for some reason they couldn’t. I think I saw him looking at the locked gun cabinet which didn’t help my confusion or growing fear at all.

Adam was just as happy to have the backseat to himself because Darryl was up front with my parents. My brother cut me a look that said so clearly I could almost hear him say it, “Better you than me.”

If memory severed, I had about 30 minutes before we got to school. Oh, the joys of living in the country. Without missing a beat I emptied out my book bag looking for clues. Shifting though the pile of English, Science, and Math books, I found my first one.

A math test with my name and Mrs. Lambert on it. Okay Sixth Grade and because I was a May baby that would make me 13. Next year, I would start Junior High School. That would make this easier since I wouldn’t need to switch class rooms. Harder because I would be with the same kids all day. Much greater chance of screwing up using slang not in use yet or goodness only knew what.

Next I found the science book. It was a choice between that and history, but being a space freak it was no contest. Checking the text book’s table of contents I surprised myself by going right to it. Anti-gravity, discovered by Sir Herman Bondi. The first negative gravitational mass propulsion system flew in 1960, the year before I was born.

There was lot more, but I didn’t have a lot of time. I had to at least look over my other assignments. Besides me being undersized, some of the redneck gorillas in my class were already shaving. I also had a few learning disabilities just to make life interesting. If I wanted to keep from being a target I had to blend.

The weird thing was I didn’t have any homework other than a writing assignment. That was just a few hundred words about what career I wanted to pursue. It seemed to tie into whatever the hell Career Day was all about. Scanning it, I knew for sure this was nothing I’d written in my own universe. The thing was, I could’ve. Back then I was aviation crazy. This paper was about being a pilot and astronaut.

I figured that I had to have fallen though not just time, but into another dimension. Nothing else made sense, given the available information. Just how and why I was here was still a mystery. I did remember something about the Hadron Collider gearing up for some big test, but that was about all. The doomsayers had been crying for months that the European machine would make black holes that would swallow up the whole planet.

Maybe it had somehow sent me here. Could be I’m dead and this is a very strange Purgatory. Just no damn way of knowing. I did know I still had a problem. I was transgendered. As far as I could tell that hadn’t changed. I’d always felt Mom was closer to me in heart and soul. While I loved my Dad, he was the strong silent type never showing his emotions much in front of us kids. When I’d hugged my Mom earlier I’d felt the same way I’d always felt.

Damn big guesses on little evidence, but I had to work with what I had to hand. I had to assume, for my own peace and sanity, that I was still me no matter what. However that also meant that the same prejudices were in place, just like they were 30 years ago. I’d heard some real horror stories about the so called cures for people like me. It’d taken 30 years before at least some of the quacks admitted Gender Identity Dysphoria just might have a physical cause. Back when I was right now, for a boy named Ernie to wear a dress could get him sent to a mental institution, or worse.

First order of business was to get though this Career Day thing. Then catch myself up on changes between wherever, whenever here was and what I remembered. Possibly I could plan things out to take advantage of companies and stocks that, in my world, made it big. That way I could have enough financial security to deal with my transgender condition.

All too soon we were there. Something about Mr. Knozit’s show kept sticking in my memory. Damn, but it’d been a long time since I’d thought about any of this. Okay, checking my notebook I found a calendar, alright February 9, 1973. Hey, it’s a Friday.

Finding myself 36 years in the past made me miss that important piece of information. Get though today and I had the entire weekend to try to deal with my temporal/dimensional displacement. The weekend before Valentines but no biggie since I was a loner.

Then it hit me. The weatherman turned kid show host had cracked a joke about the Farmer’s Almanac calling for snow. Oh-My-Gawd! The blizzard of 73.

I couldn’t forget that day. It started snowing around the first recess, but all the teachers claimed it wouldn’t stick. I’d left my jacket in the car because Mister Knozit, after joking about the snow, said it should get up into the 50’s, sweater weather.

An hour after that the snow began coming down hard. It didn’t stop for nearly two days. Maybe up folks up north were used to weather like that, but this part of the South, Hell no!

Another important tip, I needed to write down. Assuming I was right, whatever anti-grav or other discoveries this dimension had made, weather forecasting wasn’t one of them.

Alrighty then! The first change to the time-stream coming up. Lil’ Ernie going to be warm instead of freezing his butt off! That jacket was coming with me.

Just to show what a nice sibling I was, and that I didn’t harbor any ill feeling towards all the bad stuff I knew he was going to do, I said, “Better take your jacket Adam. You know if the weatherman is calling for a nice sunny day it’ll probably rain. Who knows, it might really snow!”

He gave me the evil eye, still holding a grudge about me turning the lights on so early. “Yeah, maybe you’re right. I don’t have Career Day today, you do!” Adam said making me know for damn sure that he thought it was a really bad thing.

Clambering out the station wagon, I was really grateful over losing some 36 years of aches, pains and other infirmities. That’s not beginning to mention, being able to see and hear without glasses and hearing aids. I could only hope that I managed to do a better job looking after myself this time around.

Standing there in the cold I turned looking at my Mom and Dad. I really wanted to hug both of them hard and never let go. However, while I may have forgotten a lot of the details, I knew if I did, my schoolmates would be throwing it in my face. Thirteen going on 20, all wanting to grow up too damn fast.

Sighing, I settled for waving bye. Again not something I did normally, and no doubt they thought it was about this Career Whatever-the-hell-it-was Day. No, it was just seeing them alive and well after missing them for so very long.

Turning and walking to the school I saw another difference to this timeline. There were Blacks among the older students on the High School side of things. Considering that this private school had begun two years ago because of desegregation that was a huge change.

I sighed. Welcome to the South in the 1970s. I remember a little ditty I used to tell myself. “A person is a person, no matter how tall, wide, or short. Color nor sex matters not at all because a person is a person and that is all.” It’d been my defense against turning into one of those hate filled fools.

Going inside, I saw a few Career Day posters on the wall, but they didn’t say a single useful thing. Since I’d found out who my sixth grade teacher was, finding the right classroom wasn’t hard. Finding the right desk was. I solved that by not taking a seat and looking out the window until the last moment before roll call. Then slipped into an empty one. No one complained so I must’ve guessed right.

Mrs. Lambert was a former high school French teacher slumming on the Elementary side of things. She’d a habit of using French at times such as ’quieting’ her boisterous class.

I used the roll call to try and remember everyone’s name. Lawrence Applegate the class clown, to Chris Sawyer the class’s red neck bully, I counted them each off. Of the girls Laurie Green, who’d ‘blossomed’ during the summer vacation, to Becky Driggers the tomboy. Each and everyone were dancing about nervous as shit.

Even Lawrence, although he tried to cover it up, with bad jokes. Amazing how this looks though the eyes of a 49 year old. I’d four times their experience, but they at least had some clue as to what was coming. I was unfortunately in the position of being relatively calm because I was clueless.

Despite Mrs. Lambert’s best efforts everyone jumped out of their seats as this large bus pulled up outside. Peering out the window, I saw it was much like other buses that used to visit the public school I once went to. They were traveling clinics for immunizations and other things.

What wasn’t usual was the National Guard ¾ ton weapons carrier and the deuce and a half. It wasn’t for show either as the troopers filed off carrying M-14 rifles. My question as to just what was Career Day was becoming more pertinent by the second.

A couple of folks filed off the bus and began setting up this large privacy screen to hide the front entrance as well as the exit. Looking rather cold they kept glancing over their shoulders at the Guardsmen as well as further away. Peeking around, I saw a small group of, I think, frozen looking protesters. But of course they were too far away for me to read the signs they carried. Back towards the entrance to the Career Bus, I saw a line forming there of those Black and other minority students I’d seen earlier.

Then she came into our classroom. What can I say? The whole class went silent as if they knew a big nasty predator was near. This one was tall, blond with a smile that would make any lawyer or shark envious. A witch was a witch no matter how attractive she was. This one introduced herself snubbing our teacher Mrs. Lambert with barely a glance. “I’m Ms. Johnson. I’m here today to introduce you children to our Career Day program. It will widen your horizons and heighten your understanding of the real world.”

It was said in such a nasty sweet voice, I knew this was a bad thing. I closed my eyes betting I knew what was going to come next. It did.

“Are there any questions,” She asked but her tone assured anyone daring to do so would regret it.

Even so I saw Becky the tomboy thinking about it. I didn’t miss our teacher’s so slight shake of her head saying please no don’t do it.

Just what in the world happened to the United States to cause this? Did the Soviets somehow take over or did we had a dictator now?

I saw our headmaster standing at the door as it opened. Reputed to the be a descendant of one of the biggest advocates for slave owners back before the War between the States, he’d practically built this school with his own two hands. He did not look happy.

With him was another man I didn’t recognize. Dressed in a dark suit he had that official presence thing written all over him. He whispered to Ms. Witch.

Giving us more of that false smile she said, “As your name is called please get up and follow Mr. Smith.”

As it became apparent she was using the alphabetical roll call, I turned my attention back outside. With my last name being in the “Y’s” I had a while. What I was really wondering was if fate would give me and Vonda Summers, the next to last names, a reprieve.

I saw the first five of my classmates disappear behind that screen. However, I couldn’t see anything of those who exited. Then I saw what I‘d really been searching for.

Floating deceptively gently downward was a snowflake.

Hal Shaw, a kid I remembered who liked to draw a lot, asked, “What are you looking at?”

Ms. Witch was still droning on about absolutely nothing, but I’d dealt with those like her before. No way was I going to be caught talking.

Writing at the top on my notepad, “It’s snowing.”

The white stuff is rare this far south. He blinked and started staring out the window too. We were both soon rewarded by more falling flakes.

I smiled. Thank you Mr. Knozit and Gawd bless the Farmer’s Almanac.

Another five were called but not one returned yet. More snow fell and more students were called, but still no one came back. I admit I was nervous. What’s going on and where is everyone?

By the time Ms. Witch got to me, Hal, and Vonda, it was snowing hard. Just as I remembered, Mrs. Lambert remarked, “It won’t stick.”

Ms. Witch with unsettling satisfaction called out the last name on the list, me, “Ernest Younger.”

I got my coat and went to the door. Ms. Witch kinda glared at me I guess because of the jacket, but I simply looked at the snow falling outside.

It really wasn’t very deep yet. Just enough to really cover the ground, but it was showing no signs of stopping. I knew that by the time it ended some areas would have two feet of snow, an all time record that would stand at least as far as 2010. Don’t you just love foreknowledge.

As we marched to the bus our Headmaster and Ms. Witch followed us. Reaching that screen I lagged behind when I heard them arguing. “We’re closing the school early. Everyone is closing. We’ve already notified the parents. I know you have a schedule. If this keeps up road conditions are going to get very bad. You can continue this later.”

Wicked Witch of the South wasn’t going to back down. “That won’t be a problem. Processing will finish with this last group in less than 15 minutes.”

It was clear that he didn’t like her one damn bit. “You’re going to just run them though your damn machine and let them go without any kind of orientation or preparation? What kind of person are you?” He angrily accused.

Her tone turned as frosty as the falling snow. “I trust you’ll keep a civil tongue! This is a Federally mandated program. You don’t like me and I don’t like you. However, I have the authority here. We will keep on schedule.

That’s when she looked in my direction. Ducking out of sight I decided discretion was the better part of valor. I did find out that whatever this was, I wasn’t marching into the Nazi ovens, I hope. Also this definitely wasn’t a 'what do you want to be when you grow up' thing. The National Guard, protestors and Ms. Witch made that perfectly clear.

Hal just went in leaving poor Vonda as next. The poor child was shivering and I don’t think it was only the cold. I might be in a 13 year old body, but my mind and soul was 49.

I did what an adult would do. “It’d be alright. Just smile and think happy thoughts.”

She looked back at me. Probably wondering what was up with me. Here was the painfully shy retarded kid offering her comfort.

Meeting her eyes, I kept on smiling. “Just imagine them as an animal. What do you think Ms. Johnson is? I’m thinking a shark with big nasty teeth!”

Vonda looked at me as if she’d never seen me before. “You sure she isn’t a snake?” She said back in a low whisper.

I replied, “Could be. So shiny and pretty, but watch out for those big cruel fangs.” I said making the fanged ‘mean’ symbol in American Sign language.

I doubt she knew of the double meaning of my gesture, but I did coax a smile from her.

Then the door opened and it was her turn.

Left alone, I pulled my jacket tight against the cold. It was sheltered from the wind but a few drifting flakes still found their way inside. The awning roof was bulging heavy with snow.

I thought of that Christmas tale of the snowflake with an entire world contained within; Of Horton and the voice he’d heard. How had I ended here, in a place so familiar and yet so very different. At first I’d believed I’d somehow been granted a second chance, but now I wondered. Was there a reason I’d been brought here?

The ominous door opened. “Ernest Younger?”

Seeking serenity and calmness I went up the steps inside the belly of the beast.

I was in a small clamped space with an area that reminded me of an airport metal detector or those shoplifting scanner things at Walmart.

A man told me, “Please step forward into the circle on the floor. This will take just a moment.”

In the low light I couldn’t see much, but looking down there was scuffled white circle in front of me. However no profit in balking at this point. I stepped forward. There was a bit of a hum from under my feet, but nothing uncomfortable.

With my hearing back at where it was when I was 13 I heard almost everything. Maybe it was just me so used to listening for every last sound. Perhaps it was something else.

“Ah, John, there’s a problem.” a guy sitting looking at some kind of screen said.

“What is it? We need to finish this up! It’s snowing like crazy outside. There’re cars jammed up with parents trying to pickup their kids. Hell, they’re probably waiting for this kid.” John said.

“You mean we’re going to process this one and just throw’em out without any clue? That’s not what this is suppose to be about, John!”

“Hey, Robert I didn’t make the call. What’s the problem?”

Robert sighed I think, “Look at this reading. This is nothing like what his tests results say they should look. I know his file is flagged that he has learning disabilities, but this looks like a girl’s pattern. And this activity is all wrong! This is what I would expect from a adult brain not a teenager. I don't think the preplanned program is going to work. It‘ll trip the safeties for sure.”

John answered, “So run it instead as a follow up. The original program will be just a guideline, but that should be enough of an change to satisfy you know who.”

“Ernest,” the man I now knew was Robert said. “Please walk down the hallway. You’ll see pictures of people on both sides. When you see one that suddenly glows for you, stop there. Now don’t try and be cute. We’ll know when you’re in the right spot, understand?”

I thought about letting him know I overheard everything the two of them said, but thought it better to keep my own counsel for now. “Yes sir. I understand. Walk down the hallway and find the picture that looks the brightest.”

A curtain opened, and I stepped forward. Just like he’d said on both sides of me were pictures of people. More correctly, they were images, probably holographic. A quick glance told me they were all women. Did this bus have some kind of brain scanning machine? Even in 2010, only MRI’s could tell the difference in male and female neural patterns. I’ll buy anti-grav accelerating the space program, but the medical field too?

I sighed again, more mysteries in this strange somewhen.

Giving the hallway more of my attention, I saw the life size images at eye level were all girls around my age. Above them were what looked to be the grown up version. The kids were all dressed in 1970’s fashions that looked really dated to my eyes from 2010. The adults were, however, in the professional garb of the time. Most were stereotypical careers for women of the time; nurses, teachers, and others. A few were those dominated by the male of the species; Pilots, Firemen, and of course Astronauts.

Walking along I enjoyed looking at the show. As a transgender male to female I believed a big misnomer was what cross dressing was all about. It wasn’t about men wearing women’s clothing as much it was about being feminine by wearing the other gender’s attire.

I had no idea about others but for me it was as if I had this femininity within my heart that demanded expression. Walking along admiring the clothes and the so prefect images I was doing just that. Maybe I should’ve been scared about what was coming but hey, you find what you seek.

I’d always leaned towards red hair because I’m red headed. There was no desire to look the same as some movie star. I only wanted to see a feminine version of me when I looked into the mirror.

It surprised me when I stepped in front of this one and it lit up like a spotlight had hit it. Looking eye to eye with the kid sized image I found myself liking her. She had shoulder length dark brunette hair and a light tan compared to my red headed fairness. Her eyes however were just like mine. That green with amber flecks that some call hazel. I looked up at the adult and I also liked what I saw. She was well dressed, but I honestly couldn’t pick out a profession. With her business suit she could be in any number of different careers; banker, business woman or a score of others.

Okay I thought to myself. That was it? What’s the big deal?

Then the lights went out.

For the second time today I was dazed and confused. Okay I was standing at the exit. In front of me was this Asian girl about my age. She had longish straight black hair that fell pass her shoulders. I thought she was rather cute. Then I saw her green eyes.

No way! It couldn’t be!

Slowly I raised a hand and so did she. Wondering I reached towards her hand and surprise, surprise, touched a mirror. How could this be possible here in the 70’s?

“Here is your case of appropriate clothes,” said a voice I recognized as Robert’s. He handed me a small suitcase.

He then fastened a button with the Career Day logo but with my name boldly on the front. “I’m sorry about this but usually you would’ve gotten an orientation session.”

I looked up at him still smiling. I couldn’t help myself.

Robert blinked startled by my smile. Sighing, he fished a book out of a box. “Here is a book with the same stuff that your orientation session would’ve covered. There is some other things too that you probably won’t understand. Ignore that stuff. We don’t normally pass these out so keep it to yourself.”

“But there is no way I’m going to just throw you in the deep end of the pool.” He said opening the door for me.

Snow was blowing in as I stepped down suitcase in hand. Slipping the book under my jacket, I turned facing him.

I could see the uncertainty in his eyes. Quickly I hugged him and had the joy of seeing complete astonishment on his face. “Thank you!” I giggled as I hurried away.

The Headmaster met me as I rounded the corner, and I knew that he would take my happiness in exactly the wrong way. Calling on self-control that’ll shielded me from harm for almost 50 years I made my face blank.

“Ernie?” He asked.

“Yes sir,” I answered showing him my name button.

“Let’s get you out of this cold. Your parents should be here soon for you and your brother. I know this is going to be hard on you but hang tough son, Okay?” He told me.

Fighting back my desire to do somersaults and flips of happiness, I nodded in what I hope was in somber and respectful manner. The tickle of my much longer hair on my face and neck didn’t make that easy.

However, the irony didn’t escape me either. All my life I’d read sci-fi and fantasy books, hoping, praying that science would make changes like this possible. How did I finally find it? Time traveling back to where it all began.

Stepping into the warm lobby felt delicious. Most of the student body were excited and outside playing in the snow. Of course the National Guard guys were in the way of the harried parents rushing in to pick up their kids.

I was in no rush. There were two and half days more of this cold wet stuff coming down. Honestly, I simply wanted to explore the possibilities of this Asian girl I saw looking back at me in the mirror. First I went to the classroom to get my book bag.

However, my thoughts of sneaking into the girls bathroom afterwards got derailed. There in a corner unhappily huddled together were a group of ethnic kids each lugging a suitcase like mine. A glance at the gaudy Career Day name badges told the rest of the story. They were my classmates who were transformed just as I was.

A grain of anger slowly began to burn. I still had to read that book, but something suddenly came into focus. Whatever the justification of this ’program’ was simply BS. This whole damn thing was an attack on these children’s parents. How they’d physically transformed us into different racial/cultural minorities was one thing. Using it in this way was altogether different.

Kids knew all too well the costs of being different. Some used it against others in petty power games of cliques. Others were on the receiving end. All the oddballs, the nerds, geeks, and everyone who just didn’t fit in. So what did this program do? It turned the entire mess on its head.

Despite my happiness, I felt ill as well as mad. This had all the hallmarks of some stupid arrogant idiot trying to prove some pet theory. I didn’t want to think about how much and how many this thing had traumatized. Add their parent’s ignorance and intolerance into the mixture and I’m sure the trail of bodies was stacking up.

Stepping closer I picked out at least one other male to female gender change, the artist Hal. She was the same height as before but now Black. Unlike me she’d been crying.

Holding her was a girl who appeared Hindu. Glancing at her badge, it was Vonda.

“I think you were right,” I told her. “Most definitely snake.”

She blinked a little but was still preoccupied with Hal.

“You okay?” I asked Hal.

She shook her head making her afro wave about. “No. My dad is going to kill me!”

I gently touched her arm. “Will your Mom understand?”

The new girl hesitantly nodded, “But what can she do?”

This really sucked. I took a deep breath. “Be smart. If you’re really afraid of what he might do, first get her on your side. Show her the button with your name, and talk to her. Make her see that you’re still her child. Then stay out of your Dad’s way. If need be have your Mom bring your food to your room. Claim you’re sick with a cold or something.

“He knows about this, everyone does. You might be surprised, and have nothing to worry about. But you know your family better than I do.”

“This snow is going to be around awhile I think,” I said throwing my head at the blizzard outside the lobby’s window. “Think about where else you can go if you have to. A neighbor, friend, or anyplace safe, but don’t forget we don’t know how to deal with this kind of weather. You can die out there.”

“I’m not telling you to run away. I am saying be smart and be safe. Stay alive until Ms. Snake can change you back.”

Looking away from the frightened girl’s eyes, I saw I’d an audience. Some were staring at me in wide-eye shock while others nodded agreeing with me. One or two tried to see the name on my Button, not recognizing me at all.

Trying to keep situational awareness, I saw my younger brother, Adam looking for me. I had to smile. Oh he wasn’t going know me at all. In a way this was a good thing because anything really weird I did would be chalked up to this change.

Looking at my transformed classmates, I repeated, “Don’t start seeing trouble where there’s none, but don’t be blind either. Like I said, be smart and careful. We got it right between the eyes with this. The snow is going to keep most of us inside and unable to get around. It might stay around awhile keeping us like this for a couple days. Look how it’s coming down.”

Everyone looked outside.

“You’re sure taking this well,” Lawrence no longer the merry jokester snarked. He was now a hulking Black kid who didn’t look smart enough to tie his own shoes.

More than ever before, I was certain that someone was getting payback and revenge for past wrongs. Problem was none of us had done anything. Too damn young to have done so. This psycho was attacking everyone who they’d ever imagined as doing them a wrong. My guess was Ms. Witch had used the gizmo in the bus for her own makeover and then went looking for payback. However once again first things first.

“I’m already an outsider. Why should this change anything?” I pointed at myself. “Besides I know who I am. This didn’t alter that. If it had, I don’t think I would be able to even ask the question.” I explained.

The Headmaster appeared at the door with my Mom waving for me.

“Hey, gotta go! Remember, be smart.” I said leaving.

***

Vonda passed her friend Hal a tissue. She watched the slim girl meeting her family for the first time since this ‘change.’

Ernie always was weird. He often had trouble talking, but she knew from sitting near him that he always got good grades. Most everyone else left him along, since he was so clumsy. It didn’t help he was so small either. No one in their right mind wanted him on their team. It didn’t help he was so small either. He kept to himself drawing in his notebook margins or reading.

But this Oriental girl was something else. If Vonda hadn’t talked with him right before and after going though that thing she would’ve never believed it was the same person, despite what they were told about those buttons always showing the right name.

Before, it was like what you saw was different from what he was like. It reminded her of a term from her Piano lessons, discordant. That was it exactly. There was a sad dissonance about him. That was then. Now there wasn’t. This girl was so sharply focused it was scary by comparison.

Vonda thought she might’ve been trying to cover up this happiness that seemingly rolled off of her. Be that as it may, the advice she gave made sense. Although she wasn’t Black, she was so dark she might as well be. She knew her parents didn’t really care to associate with anyone other than other Whites.

Fortunately, Vonda’s parent’s had talked with her about this. No matter what she was turned into, they loved her. It wasn’t her fault, but someone else’s.

Hal had gotten the double-whammy of Black and a Girl. His Father was going to be so mad. If he’d only been made darker it probably would’ve been okay. But because of the time Hal had gotten caught in a dress playing with her, his Father threatened to really hurt him next time.

Vonda didn’t know how much Hal’s Mom could do. Her family could hear the fights over there all the time. In this case, Ernie’s ideas were really good.

“I think we should do what she said,” Vonda said. “Your Father will still be at work so we’ll have a chance to talk to your Mom. I have to talk to my parents too, but you spend a lot of time at my house anyways. With both of us being girls now they can’t object to us having a sleep over.”

Hal gave her a stare.

She sighed, “Okay they can say no, but I don’t think they will. With him working for electric company he’ll be very busy because of the snow. With you staying at my house you should be okay.”

Hal nodded, “I think Mom will cover for me. Dad just gets so mad sometimes she gets so afraid.”

She gave her friend a shove as the Headmaster waved for them to come. Vonda squeezed her friend’s hand. “It’ll be alright you’ll see.”

***

Adam beat me there next to her. However I saw both of their eyes pop open as they saw my name Button.

“Mrs. Younger, here is Ernie.” He sighed frustrated. “I tried to get the Feds to hold off, but they rushed them though fast. They didn’t have time for their orientations. I hope he doesn’t have any problems. You should have everything you need to know in that packet you were sent last week.”

“I know you want to get home so I’ll wish you a safe journey. Now excuse me but I have to reintroduce another parent to their child.” He then hurried off back into the cold mush.

I think I heard him mutter something about ‘Damn Feds’ but I could be wrong about that. Then again I’d never liked him much because he was a unrepentant racist. However his concern for the children under his care was genuine. Like the song in few years from now said, ‘Russians love their children too.’ Even bad guys had families they loved and cared about.

“Ernie is that you?” My Mom asked uncertain.

I smiled, “It’s me.” Touching my hair I said, “We have the same hair color now.”

Adam was still staring. “You’re a girl” he accused.

I nodded enjoying the feel of my hair swishing again. “Yes, I sure am.”

Taking my Mom’s hand I opened the door heading outside. I guess since most of the other White boys were turned into Blacks that was what she’d expected. An Asian girl wasn’t on that list.

My father was eager to get a move on before road conditions got any worse. His double take was priceless. Obviously he’d expected the same thing as my Mom.

“Hi Dad it’s me, Ernie.” I said taking a seat and buckling up.

I knew he was worried about the drive when he made certain everyone was seat-belted before we started moving. Thirty-six years ago we’d made the trip home without a problem. But, things were different now. We were later moving out because the National Guard and the Career Day bus had caused a mess. Additionally, my Dad had a bucket load of stress poured on him with my transformation.

Adam on the other hand wanted to play his old games of push, shove, and poke.

Knowing that Dad didn’t need any distractions, I tried the easy way first. “Please don’t do that Adam,” I asked politely.

I saw the glint in his eye. The little stinker was used to getting away with bedeviling me. He knew to a Tee how far he could go. If I retaliated I was automatically in the wrong, because of course he was the younger.

“Why not? Because you‘re girl?” He asked already planning his mischief.

I let my hair swirl around as I turned my head. Damn but don‘t I love how that feels. “We’re get to that later. No, the first reason is there’s a snow storm going on. We need to be quiet and not distract Dad from driving. The second reason is there’s a snow storm and if you look I’m sure you’ll find accidents all over the place. Third reason.

Adam interrupted sarcastically, “I know. There’s a snowstorm.”

“Nope grasshopper,” I corrected. “Third reason is I just turned into a girl. Do you want to find out if it’s catching and contagious?” I said holding out my hand.

Younger brother froze. That got his attention.

Meanwhile we were moving out of town slipping and sliding ever now and then. I was so glad I didn’t have to drive in this stuff. But being only 13 I’d a few years yet before I had to worry about that again. By that time I’m sure I would be chomping at the bit for the freedom.

As Adam considered if he wanted to risk girlhood, little brother Darryl, was peeking over the front seat at me. He was only three. I’m pretty sure he didn’t get it that this cute Asian girl was his red headed brother.

Shyly he ducked and hid as I winked at him.

Mom kept glancing back at me.

I honestly didn’t know how to handle this. My own feelings told me to behave as the girl I’d always wanted to be. But I had to convince her that I was really her little boy inside this girl.

My, wasn’t the irony heavy today. After 49 years of the girl being trapped in the man, now I had to make people believe there was a boy inside the girl. That was purely a short term goal. After they accepted that, then I could work on what to do next.

Sighing, I let my legs drift apart more like a boy usual sits. I settled on crossing my arms as being the safest thing to do with them. I could only hope my facial expression would work. It’d been a hell of a long time since I was 13.

Adam kept cutting me unsure looks, but he took my advice and rubbernecked at all the stuck and wrecked cars. Even 30 years in the future damn few around here knew how to drive in snow and ice. Fortunately for us, our father was one of them.

“Lil Ernie keep your legs together.” Mom finally broke down and corrected me.

“Why?” I asked hoping I’d figured out this script.

She replied, “Because girls don’t sit like that.”

I could see she was having problems processing all this. I was hoping she could make the next leap without help from me.

“As long as you’re a girl you’ll have to act like one. It just doesn’t look right you sitting like that.” She said.

I closed my legs together feeling a wave of relief. It didn’t feel right for me either, but for this to work I had to make intentional snafus.

“But Mom,” I whined. “I don’t know nothing about how girls sit and stuff.” I lied. “Will you show me?”

I saw love and compassion in her eyes. “Of course I will Ernie. Now be quiet so your father can concentrate on getting us home.”

All of us breathed a thankful sigh as our station wagon crunched into the snow in front of our home. The cedars surrounding the green shingled house looked like something out of a Christmas card with snow covering them. By now there was a couple of inches of accumulation, which made going up the steps inside a little tricky. More so for me since I was dragging my book bag and that suitcase.

Adam was still giving me the evil eye, but he was still unwilling to risk losing his peter. That didn’t mean I couldn’t expect trouble. With that in mind I took that suitcase to our parent’s room hoping both brothers would stay out of it. That worry disappeared as both bundled up as fast as they could to go and play in the cold.

Finally that gave me the chance to examine me. I’d just taken off my shirt when Mom knocked on the bathroom door.

“Come on out. I know what you’re doing. I need to see too,” she ordered.

'Damn it.' I grumbled to myself. “Okay, I’ll be out in a second,” I called, putting my shirt back on.

My parents cranked up the heater while getting themselves some coffee. I saw they were keeping an eye on my two brothers outside making snowmen, but were looking at me too.

I sat down, remembering to not act feminine. Strange it felt so natural to simply let myself finally relax and be me.

Mom corrected me again. “Legs together Lil Ernie, and don’t slouch.”

My Dad, still simmering, asked, “What was it like?”

Listening to my interrogation, she put on some hot coco.

I nodded, sitting right. “There was really nothing much to it. I walked inside and stood in this circle. Then they told me to walk down this hallway with all these pictures of women until I saw one light up.”

Now I knew my Dad was mad, but not at me. I don’t think most people would even pick up on it. He’s one of those sorts that gets cold if you know what I mean. However I needed him to know I was still me too.

“So you stopped at the Chinese picture?” He guessed.

I shook my head. “No sir. She wasn’t Chinese. She kinda looked like Mom. Maybe a little taller with longer hair. It was like a light hit that one. Then I stopped. She was dressed really well and sharp, but not in the pilots, firemen, and other uniforms most of the rest were in.

“Then the lights went out and I was at the exit. I didn’t know anything had happened until I looked in the mirror.”

“This guy gave me that suitcase, and said they didn’t have time for orientation because of the snow.” I said not mentioning the book Robert had given me.

Dad was not happy. “That was it? They threw you off the bus and that was that?”

“Yes sir.” I answered. “The Headmaster took me inside and I got my bag. I found some of my classmates. One of them got changed into a girl too, but she’s Black now. It was hard to tell because nobody looked the same. One of girls who sits near me, is really dark now, like she’s from India.”

Mom handed me a mug of coco. Sipping it, I saw him thinking.

Dad said, “Maybe we can make this up to you in the summer. For family vacation, we’re thinking about going back to Disney World, what do you think?”

I had to keep from grinning. He’s trying to trip me up. Every year we farmed enough so there was money for about one week in Florida. Budget conscious, my father’s Scottish blood knew how to pinch a penny. However we all still had a good time. But we’d never ever been to Disney World as a family. In my old time line I would finally make it there in about nine years.

“That would be great, but we’ve never been there before. It’s expensive too. How about Weeki Wachee? We didn’t get to go last year.” I answered.

Cagey old man making sure I was still fruit of his loins so to speak. Besides the attraction I wanted to see at Disney World didn’t exist yet. Science geek that I was, Epcot was 10 years away. As for Weeki Wachee, who had a problem watching beautiful girls swim around in mermaid costumes? Not me!

His suspicions at least temporarily set at ease, he said, “We’ll see. That government voucher we got because of this is going to help. But you might need new clothes now and that’ll take a bite out of that hush money. We didn’t think you would need any, but that was what it was supposedly for.

He looked at Mom using his pet name for her, “Ray, I think it’s warm enough now. Why don’t you and Ernie see what’s in that suitcase? We’ll have a better idea what he … she’ll need.” He said stumbling over the pronouns.

I stood and hugged him. “Okay Dad.”

Uncomfortable, he hesitantly returned it.

I wasn’t offended. He might’ve intellectually accepted I was the same Ernie he’d waken up this morning inside, but I still looked liked an extra from that TV series Kung Fu.

Mom tarried behind. I overheard them talking.

She spoke first. “I think that’s our son.”

Dad agreed. “I think so too, but every time she opens her mouth I expect to hear an accent. It’s cotton pickin’ strange to hear her speak with his voice.

Mom added. “Her voice is a little higher and sweeter, but the way she speaks is the same. Not to mention, her knowing about our vacation last year.”

I heard Dad’s voice get cold again. “I wish I had those Sonabitches in my sights. They have no right to do this to my child.

Mom said, “Ernie does seem to be taking this pretty well. I saw some others who wasn’t. He’s always been a quiet child with his problems and all.”

“I think everything will be alright until she gets changed back.” Mom finished.

Dad half prayed, “I hope so.”

Quickly I stepped away so I wouldn’t get caught eavesdropping. As soon as she shut the door I started undressing. Mom’s vanity had a big mirror so I could see what I looked like now.

I didn’t look anything like I did before. No sign of my Dad's Scottish ancestry was visible. My reflection was of a slim Asian girl perhaps in the first stages of puberty I was guessing from the slightly enlarged nipples. There were maybe the beginnings of pubic hair too.

The epicanthic fold, Asian complexion and straight black hair made my green gold flecked eyes ‘pop’ even more. No wonder I’d been getting some stares.

My parents called my appearance Chinese but I knew that was their ignorance speaking. I didn’t know enough to place my new racial background with any confidence. My time in Korea while serving in the Army taught that there was a lot of variance between the different nationalities. Asia was a big place. I could only guess East Asia which includes better than half the people on the planet.

I could see she was uncomfortable with this, but so was I! This was Mom watching me.

For her benefit I did lightly touch my genitals, “It’s gone.”

She blushed looking away. “Don’t touch yourself there. You’ll have to sit down to pee now and you’ll have to wipe afterwards.”

My touch did tell me that, yes, there was hair down there. I thought about pulling her chain about the touching thing. How was I supposed to wipe if I couldn’t touch, but decided to let it drop. My folks were products of their upbringing. Not exactly prudes, but they had some strange ideas just the same.

I decided to just nod.

That bought me up to the next thing. I’d gashed the inside of my right pinky finger on my Mom’s 27th birthday. Pulling the finger back, there it was a triangular scar.

“Hey Mom, it’s still there.” I said showing her the one bit of proof I was still me.

She nodded, opening that suitcase.

Curious, I wanted to know what was inside too.

Opening a plastic package, she tossed me a small bundle. “Put these on.”

Catching it, they were panties. I turned them this way and that buying some time to figure out how to handle this. Nothing special here. Just a pair of white cotton girl’s underwear. Should I freak out a little or just accept?

I went with the middle road. “Mom where’s the front?” I asked thinking that a reasonable question. Boy’s briefs had that handy “Y” to help you tell front and back.

She didn’t look up. “Find the label. That’s the back. Get back dressed.”

I shrugged. Picking up my jeans, they were cut a little different from when I put them on this morning. The T-shirt was as well. The Tee was softer and fit snugger than before. A good thing considering my more sensitive nipples that’d crinkled up in the cool room. The only things that didn’t change was my briefs, socks, shoes and sweater. However I was transformed, it’d affected my clothes too. Like Alice said, “Curiouser and curiouser.”

Finally I got a chance to see inside that suitcase; A couple of packs of panties, a hairbrush, at least two training bras, a nightgown, a couple of shirts and lastly a box of sanitary napkins. Well it was a small case.

“Turn around Ernie,” my Mom directed.

Now facing the mirror, I saw a problem without my sweater I was making ‘points’ in my Tee.

Looking back at her, I saw she’d pulled one of the bras. I could see her wondering how she was going to get a bra on a teenage boy. Good question, okay how do I do this?

I stared at the bra and asked, “It’s because of these isn’t it?” I pulled at my shirt making my nipples dimple the soft material. I winced a little as the sensitive things rubbed against it.

For the first time today I saw her smile. “You won’t do that again will you? But yes, because of those.”

Mom turned the cups inside out to show me. “The insides are padded. They’ll help with those and help hide them.”

I made a show of defeat. Sighing I took off my tee again. This time careful about that rubbing thing.

It took a bit of lifting and adjusting straps but we got it on me.

Looking in the mirror my breath caught in my chest. Standing next to my Mom dressed as a girl here in this place caused feelings to well up inside me. My eyes stung as the first tear formed.

I was a girl.

Trying to hide my crying I put on my shirt. Unable to stop the happiness flooding out of me I hugged her fiercely. The last time I’d seen her in my old timeline she was so old and bent by time. Strokes, cancer and hardships had taken their toll. Somehow I would keep this from happening to this woman, my Mother. I loved my Mom.

“Are you crying?” She asked her voice full of concern.

I’d learned the hard way that some things couldn’t be denied. “A little.”

“Is it because you was changed?” She softly caressed my hair.

Forcing myself not to breakup, I replied, “Unh, unh, this girl thing ain’t that bad. I’m crying because I’m home with you and Dad.”

I looked up at her. “I’m happy! I guess it’s a girl thing. I love you Mom,” I said as more tears poured.

“I love you too, Angel,” she whispered into my ear.

Then we were hugging again. I must’ve confused her. Then again I’d been bewildered since I’d woke up this morning in a place I thought I would never see again. Only fair it was someone else’s turn.

“Let’s get both of us cleaned up. Your father just wouldn’t understand.” She smiled a little as she wiped both of our tears. “Let’s get some lunch. Your brothers should be ready to come in now.”

I nodded sniffling a little. “I’ll help.”

Happier than I could ever remember we went to fix lunch.

As expected both brothers were near frozen but still had to be dragged unwillingly inside to eat. I don’t think they even noticed what it was they were eating in their eagerness to get back to their snow fortress or whatever they were building.

For me, I had a lot on my mind. I did decide to go with the Purloined Letter approach for hiding my notes. By slipping loose leaf notebook paper inside my spiral books already filled with notes, hopefully my thoughts will be safe. Just to be sure, I might start a diary too. It is a girl thing after all and should be a nice red herring. Knowing my brothers I would need all the help I could get from the two nosey brats.

I bundled up but didn’t go outside. My goal was the unheated living room. Cold, yes but it had this wonderful window seat just perfect for thinking. Adjusting a makeshift cushion from a blanket, I rubbed the polished wood.

Thirty-six years from now in my timeline this was all gone. Burned and looted by unscrupulous neighbors there’d been nothing of value left when I’d last visited.

Another tear ran down my cheek. I was well aware of the priceless gifts I’d been given. This return to the home of my childhood memories was wonderful and yet bittersweet. I knew what the future held for us. I might or might not be able to change them for the better. I could very well make things worse.

Let’s not forget this crazy history shift here. Anti-gravity with real honest to Gawd Von Braun Spaceships. How that lead to the machine in that Career Day Bus that transformed the racial backgrounds of my entire six grade class I’m clueless.

Even my clothes were altered although we all stayed about the same height. I’d no idea of how complete this change was. Did it go all the way to the genetic level or only cosmetic?

The only two methods that came to mind could easily do either. Nano-tech nanties could rebuild just about anything from the molecule up. The problem I had was how fast it happened. There was no pain, discomfort, or even awareness of time passing. One moment I’m a red headed skinny white boy and the next a cute Asian chick. It would take a very advanced technology to do that.

It could also be matter transmutation, the yea old Star Trek transporter. Turn your subject into energy and simply rearrange things the way you want before reintegrating them back into solid matter. That would take some really super advanced tech shit to pull off.

Which brings up for either to work you have blueprints and a damn good idea of how the entire human package was put together. Something 1973 completely lacked. Hell the mapping the human genome wasn’t even a twinkle in it originators’ eyes yet.

And speaking of twinkles, the programming would be a solid gold bitch. Aside from the Oh My Gawd pure numbers crunching both approaches would demand, writing the code for any of it would take real genius.

Steve, the Woz, Wozniak, Bill Gates and others that would jump start the computer age were still in school or college right now. There just wasn’t the talent right here and now in 1973 to do it.

But it was possible because I was staring at my almond shaped green eyes‘ reflection. The snow was deep enough now that drifts were starting to form. I shivered thinking back in time. As a boy I’d been out there with my brothers just as snow mad taking advantage of this singular unique event.

If the ability to do this wasn’t here then it had to come from somewhere else. Baring the discovery of the lost secrets of Atlantis, it had to come from out there, beyond the stars.

Perhaps our discovery of Anti-Gravity had tripped some kind of Star Trek like finding Warp Drive trigger. The Vulcans, Vorlons, Asgards, or whoever suddenly appeared with the red carpet welcoming Mankind into the Galactic Federation of Peace, Love and Galactic tranquility, Not!

I’d seen no footprints of a major event like that. I would have to dig into my history book to be sure, but I was fairly confident that scenario didn’t happen. That left finding a wreck or some other remains of alien technology.

Mulling it over, that seemed to fit what I was seeing so far. Perhaps not completely understood, but they were able to use, maybe even duplicated it. Okay, I could buy that.

In a strange way it made me feel better. As a Sci-fi fan boy, hmmm, girl, I’d read tons of time travel and alternate reality stories. One of my reservations about changing history were the consequences. All the lives I’d touched in the last 36 years would be without my influences. Maybe I flatter myself, but I like to think I’d made some positive differences over the last three or so decades.

However this world’s alternate history had already changed that reality. I could see the differences of a higher standard of living that let my parents provide better heating and improve maintenance of our home. Remembering my teeth from this morning, improved health care too.

As time passed, there would be many more changes making whatever I’d did in my old timeline immaterial. Besides, since this was in another timeline all the lives I’d touched was still there. It was me who was some when/where else.

Looking back into my almond eyes, I had some big decisions to make. I was girl of an ethnic minority. Additionally, evidence said this was only temporary. It was also suggested that, to be changed back, I needed to be run though the Career Bus’s machine again. If I didn’t I would remain like this. The million dollar question was did I want to?

Yeah, I was transgendered, but that didn’t automatically mean I was a woman trapped in a man’s body. I humorously describe myself as having too much Yin in my Yang. I was male but with a very strong feminine side.

That side needed, demanded, expression. In my younger days playing female characters in Dungeon’s and Dragons sufficed. Later on I moved into playing computer games but that wasn’t nearly as satisfying. Like others I also crossed-dressed sometimes. That was harder to cover up much less explain if I’d gotten caught. Not to mention the danger since gay-bashers loved catching girls like me and making an example of us.

I’d taken the COGIATI gender identity test and had ended up right in the middle as androgynous. However many of the questions involved hearing and communications skills. Factoring in my hearing loss as well as my learning disabilities I could only guesstimate that I was probably closer to the feminine side of the scale. What I did know for certain I was not a transsexual. I didn’t hate my genital nor had I ever tried self surgery to rid me of them.

In the movie ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” Dorian Grey was asked, “What are you?” He replied, “I’m complicated.” That’s me!

I couldn’t deny my happiness from the very moment of finding myself transformed. Even barely into puberty as I was now, never before had I appeared so feminine. I couldn’t deny how that made me feel. The question was if I be able to cope with the gender change and all it entailed. I did not miss the significance of that box of sanitary napkins included in that suitcase. Periods, possible pregnancy, and all the biological processes that was part of being a woman. Plus, the social problems of being woman in a man’s world wasn’t inconsequential either.

Under the blanket, I softly touched my stomach and groin wondering just how I felt. I wasn’t playing with myself. It was trying to use my sense of touch to make it, I don’t know, real?

A noise made me stop. There looking at me was my Mom.

“How are you doing dear? Aren’t you cold in here?” She asked.

Smiling I said, “It’s warmer in here than outside with Adam and Darryl. As for how I‘m doing, I guess okay. I‘m trying to figure out how I feel about this.”

Mom rolled her eyes. “Those two! We had to practically drag them inside. I swear they were half-frozen. They’re thawing out in front of the heater right now.”

I playfully rolled my own eyes, “At least Darryl kept his clothes on this time.” I said making light of how during the summer he used to strip his clothes off within minutes of going outside. It’s really kind of funny watching Mom chase my streaking little brother around the yard, Boogity, Boogity there he goes!

She came next to me. Putting my notebook away, I made a spot for her to sit.

For a few quiet peaceful moments we watched the snow fall.

I guess she was waiting for me, but I didn’t know how much I could risk saying. Obviously the truth of coming back 36 years into my own past wouldn’t work, not even adding in I was from an alternate world. Under no circumstances I didn’t want my parents to start to doubt I wasn’t their child.

The problem was she was my Mom. I wanted to tell her. While growing up, she was often the only person I could talk to. Not for the first time I reflected, life really, really sucked sometimes.

Let’s try part of the truth. “Mom have you ever had times when you thought something would brother you but it doesn’t?”

She smiled. “Yes I have. Sometimes you’ll find you’re stronger than you think. What you thought would be hard, turns out not to be after all. Is that what you mean Ernie?”

Oh boy, this was going to be hard. “Kinda Mom. Being like this doesn’t bother me. I think it bothers me more that it doesn’t bother me.”

Then I realized I truly wanted to stay like this. Part of me must’ve already known my decision. The first time around I tried to live as a man. That hadn’t worked out so hot. This second life I would live as a woman.

Mom hugged me. “Honey, it’s only been a few hours. Don’t you think it’s a little early to know yet for sure?”

Keeping my revelation to myself, I answered, “I guess. Some of my class sure seem to know right off. Hal, the other boy who was changed like me sure didn’t like it. She, I mean he was crying.”

She stroked my hair like she’d done before in the bedroom. I could get used to this, laying my head against her. As a boy I was too old to do this but as a girl it was fine. Now that I’d made my decision a kind of peace filled me.

Wondering if I was pushing this too far too soon, but I needed feel her out on this. “Mom is it okay to like this? I don’t mean being a Chinese girl but just a girl?”

She sighed. “Most boys wouldn’t, but you’re not like most boys are you?”

I looked up at her and said from my heart, “No Mom. I’ve never been like everyone else. I’m the one and only. Ain’t never been but one of me. The world couldn’t take two!”

Laughing, she hugged me again, “I suppose we should be glad there’s only one.”

Getting up Mom pulled me from my cozy nest of blankets. “Come on. We’re going to take Darryl’s bed apart and move you into the nursery on a cot. He’ll sleep in your bed until you get changed back.”

Putting on my most innocent expression I asked, “Does that mean if I stay this way I get my own room?”

Startled she looked back at me, but smiled as she saw my hopeful puppy eyes. “Oh you! Now come on. You won’t feel the same when you see how small it really is, but you’ll have some privacy till this is over.”

I guess she saw something in eyes when she said that last. Mom did know me after all. “When we finish moving the bed, I’ll introduce you what that box in your suitcase is for. There’s lots to being girl that’s very not nice.”

Taking her hand, I just smiled. I knew about the abuse she’d received when she’d been about my age. I’d learned the hard way that there are times when you shouldn’t say a thing. This was one of them.

Shaking her head at me, but smiling, we went to start work.

Hours later we finally finished. Doing my damnedest not to let her know it, that frakking pad was uncomfortable as shit. It felt like I had a damn mattress between my legs. Of course she’d stacked the deck knowing all the moving about I would be doing helping get what she thought as my temporary room ready. I was bound and determined to prove her and my Dad wrong on that particular point.

What Mom was right about was about the space. With only a bed there was very little room. I however had a solution. After living hand to mouth in some just as small places, I’d become adept at making the most of what I had. Necessity is a great motivator.

Adam and my beds were bunk beds but after much fighting we decided it was better for them to be use simply as normal beds. I intended on suggesting a small platform be built turning my bed into a loft or captain’s style. Although, drawers were far beyond me, I was sure with Daddy’s help I could make a simple desk top and shelves.

All that would take would be careful measuring and cutting that I’m sure he wouldn’t let me do. However he’d built this house as well as the additions all himself. I was pretty sure if I came up with a set of clear plans he would help. Particular if I kept working on my sad puppy eyes. Judging from my experience with Mom my technique needed refining.

I bounced on the cot, but I had a room of my own! For my plans to record all I could remember of my own future as well as keep my journals secret I had to have some privacy. I certainly wouldn’t get any with Adam right next to me. Oh the stories I could tell of that sneaky little, but that was in another time and place.

Looking out the window, it was still snowing. Evening was on the way and looked even later because of the heavy clouds. That made me decide on what I should write down first. Every natural disaster I could remember. Other events might change, but not volcanoes, earthquakes or tsunamis. I got out my notebook to start. Mid January 2010 major earthquake in Haiti. Searching my memory, I couldn’t remember the exact date, but there was another one in Chile about a month later in February.

I sighed. With my damn bad memory for dates this wasn’t going to be easy. I got back to work. This was important and could save lives. Okay what’s next. How about that Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004? This was going to take a while.

Our Lady of Sorrows

Somewhere in Heaven (probably downtown where all the freeways come together, near all the other government agencies...) is an office building about the size of Mount Everest, where angels with great ledger books keep the balance of our sins. When we do or think something bad it is noted in our account summary, and when we go to confession the priest gives us the bill for whatever we declare, and as we do penance our balance is brought back to zero. The Church is nothing if not well-organized.

I knew that the key to ever being able to behold that colossal building---and all the other  monuments, rides & attractions that Heaven has to offer---was in making sure you didn’t die when you were in the red. But certain thoughts and deeds of mine seemed too strange and terrible to ever admit to, so I confessed to invented sins that I hoped would be bad enough to stand in for those shameful wanting-to-be-a-girl ones. It was a pretty nifty little system I had worked out. Until that Sunday when I was twelve, when my whole clever scheme came crashing down around me!

Night of the Rose


The Night of the Rose

Love is in the air as two singers perform in the grand stage of life;
a comic opera of lovely proportions made sweet
by the joyous passion between two star-crossed lovers!
Okay...just some nice girls who kiss at the end.
_________________________________

Innocence Lost And Love Gained

As I look back over my life, I have loved many different women but of all I have to admit that my childhood sweetheart Becky will always be the one that shines the brightest in my heart. To understand why I must go back in time to my childhood so long ago and explain.

    At the tender age of eleven I was as innocent protected child. My Mother watched over me like a hawk. One day at school things changed though, as my innocence was soon lost. There were four guys at my elementary school that were typical bullies. They were constantly challenging each other and fighting with other guys. They lived for it. John was big for his age and was one of the bullies. I happened by while he was attacking a guy my size and two heads shorter than him. I was keeping my distance when I heard him say "Fuck you!!" "I am going to tear your head off, brat." He proceeded to bust the poor guy in the nose. The guy's nose bled badly as he ran off. John high fived a couple of his gang who followed him around to keep from becoming one of his victim's. I had a small hearing problem so I thought John had said "Thuck you."

To Hope Again Part 3 A Day to Remember A "Home that Love Built" Story by Angelina Marie Abruzzi

Sometime in the future:

Dear Reader: I was delighted to find that this writer account was still open after all these years. I wanted to write this story to tell you something about my family. I haven’t much experience with writing, so please bear with me, okay? I hope this blesses you. Sincerely, Angelina Abruzzi

To Hope Again
Part 3
A Day to Remember

A "Home that Love Built" Story
by Angelina Marie Abruzzi
Thanks Daddy!

Just when you think love is a distant dream
Oh, fate give you wings

Last time:
Drea was surprised that Janet had remembered so many details of her story after hearing it only the one time. She was about to say, “And?” when Janet said,

A SISTERS LOVE

A SISTERS LOVE
By Roni

As I look out my kitchen window I see my two daughters playing in the back yard and it brought back memories of the times my sister and I would play. I remember the first time we played together; my sister is five years older than me so growing up she was always more of a caretaker to me than a sister. Because I was so much younger than her she would use me as a living doll and dress me up in her old clothes. Now this might not sound so unusual to what most sisters do except that I was a boy! Mom would look on and smile allowing her to dress me up; I didn’t mind either I liked wearing her clothes. As we got older the dress up play time got less and less but my desire to wear her clothes didn’t diminish. When I was fourteen she caught me in her room trying on her clothes; I had thought she was away at school but I misjudged the days and she was home for the summer. The look of fear on my face was evident but all she did was smile and then offer to help me out. I loved my sister; she was so open and understanding and never judged me for what I liked to do.

Tears. A Home That Love Built Story, by Grover

Not every tear is one of sadness and despair. For each one cried in sorrow, the ones that fall in happiness are all that much more precious.

Tears
By
Grover
Silently, Irene passed a tissue to her crying friend. She’d had one of her ‘feelings’ that more than a few would be needed today and made certain her purse was well supplied.

Although Cathilynn often teased her about being ready for anything, Irene did her best to stay prepared. She guessed you could take the girl out the Army, but not take the Army out of girl. Simply too many years spent training to stay ready for anything. Even that was easier than trying to take the girl out the boy.

To Hope Again. A Home That Love Built Story by Andrea Lena DiMaggio

To Hope Again
Part 1
Hope Promised

A "Home that Love Built" Story
by Angelina Marie Abruzzi
Thanks Daddy!

Just close your eyes

Reach for the moment

Before it slips by

Here is your second chance

The figure walked up the path from the driveway to the front entrance. She appeared to be about seventy or so, attractive for her age, albeit for her decidedly short hair, which still held some bits of brown mixed in with the white. She wore a long sweater-coat, green and hooded, over a v-neck black silk top along with jeans and some low heeled calf-length boots. Her make up, such as it was, did little to hide the wrinkles around her eyes and mouth, but she was fine with that. Over seven decades of a wonderful life, filled with so much experience, both good and bad, gave her pause to treasure the rich life the lines bore witness to. Failing to notice the doorbell, she knocked on the front door, hard enough to remind her of the arthritis that now beset her hands. After a few moments, the door opened to reveal a very friendly face belonging to a nice woman likely ages with her.

The Home That Love Built. Set-up, Story, and rules. New Universe.

This part is a re-post of my original Universe introduction.  More stories have been written and will be posted here as soon as possible.  Catherine Linda Michel:

 

 

The Home That Love Built
A new universe from Catherine Linda Michel

Consider this an introduction to my dream of a place where abused, impoverished, cast out T-girls could go to and be respected, helped, and loved. It's been my dream for many years of such a place, and I thought I'd write about it.

The Deep Dark Secret

It was on Paddington Station in the heart of London that their eyes met across the crowded platform...



The Deep and Dark Secret


by Susan Brown