Ira Nayman – Both Sides. NOW!
c) 2014 by Ira Nayman
50 Evanston Drive
North York, Ontario
* SLAP *
“What is that?”
“That. That thing. There.”
“It…it looks like a penis, Doctor.”
“It does look like a penis, doesn’t it?
“In fact, given my 30 plus years in obstetrics, I would be willing to state definitively that it is, in fact, a penis. Yes, a penis is definitely what it is.”
“Is there something wrong?”
“Damn! I was hoping that maybe we had mixed up the charts.”
“Does that happen often?”
“No, it does not happen often! It doesn’t happen at all! What do you think – this birthing centre is run by the Three Stooges?”
“Okay. Fine. Whatever. What about my daughter?”
“Your child is perfectly healthy, Mister Torremolinos.”
“Nurse, if you will allow me…”
“Your child is perfectly healthy, Mister Torremolinos. Eight pounds one ounce and in perfect health.”
“That’s good, then.”
“Well. The ultrasound you had done two weeks ago showed that your wife was carrying a young girl, did it not?”
“Are you sure the woman who just gave birth is your wife?”
“Of course she’s my bloody wife!”
“In the heat of the moment, mistakes can be made…”
“What are you talking about?”
“Well, ah, Mister Torremolinos, your child – the child that your wife just had – the one, I will remind you, that is perfectly healthy appears to…to have a…well, there’s no point beating around the bush – which it doesn’t have, because it seems to have a penis. Now, in most cases, this would indicate that the child was a – well, there’s really no good way to break this to you, so, I’ll just – your child is a – you have a son.”
“That is correct. Yes. A boy child.”
“Alright! That’s great news! Isn’t it?”
“It’s a bit of a puzzle, actually.”
“And the doctor hates puzzles.”
“Loath them with a passion undying. If I had wanted to solve puzzles, I would have gone into diagnostics.”
“You know. Like that Doctor House. From the TV show. Oh, what was it called again?”
“Yes, that was the character’s name.”
“No, I meant the show House.”
“Ah. Ermm…no, I don’t think that was it.”
“Look. I have a healthy child – that’s all I care about.”
“That’s the problem with people who are not medical professionals – you have absolutely no concern for the bigger picture!”
-- @ --
Pete’s dad Jerry was a cop. Okay, he was the field agent who had been taunted by the coded messages of the Sagittarius Slaughterer which meant nothing top him because of his lack of knowledge of the Fibonacci Sequence or the life cycle of rutabagas. The Sagittarius Slaughterer, who took credit for forty-two murders, was never caught, although Jerry was the leader of a team that was convinced they had him cornered in an abandoned toaster oven canning factory. Still, Jerry lived and died a cop.
Pete’s granddad, Noah, was a cop. He was, to be sure, the cop who arrested the wrong man for the Nantucket Chum Bucket robbery, but you have to understand that there was considerable outrage, especially on behalf of the three year-old, whose injuries would ensure that she would never grow up to appreciate Van Halen, and the media circus had five rings and pressure to make an arrest was intense and unrelenting and came from the highest offices in the city. In any case, it only took forty-two years for the real robber’s conscience to get the better of him (after the money ran out), leading him to confess, so justice was done. Eventually. In the end. Still, Noah died in the uniform. In an old age home. Long after he had retired. People at the home are still trying to understand how it was smuggled in to him. Still.
Pete’s great-granddad Ezekiel was a cop. Forty-two of his cases had to be retried when it turned out that he had built a workshop in his basement where he manufactured evidence. You have to understand that that was how it was in those days, although few cops handcrafted their own used cigarette butts and lipstick-stained bar napkins. That speaks to a certain kind of dedication to duty, if nothing else. Family sentiment was split on the rumour that Orson Welles’ character in the film Touch of Evil had been based on Ezekiel, although they all agreed that it was a classic of the genre. Despite this unfortunate blot on his record late in his life, Ezekiel was one of the most decorated officers on the force.
Peter Docherty-Baye came from a long line of cops. They may not have been particularly good at their jobs, but they filled the uniform heroically, and broad shoulders and piercing blue eyes are often enough to instil confidence in a wary public unsettled by high crime rates and general social unrest.
At the age of forty-two, Pete found his level of incompetence: security detail for the President. Returning from an unsuccessful trip to Europe to try and get the British Prime Minister to wind down the War on Nouns and lower tariffs on processed American asparagus spears, Pete mused about how much his job sucked. Six hours in the air without access to ESPN or beer! This was the thanks he got from a grateful nation for safeguarding the life of the most powerful man on the planet (outside of Bill Gates…a couple of Russian oligarchs, oh, and the Chairman of the Communist Party of China – mustn’t forget the Chairman of the Communist Party of China!)? He should have gone into private security with his brother!
The President was sleeping in The Cocoon. This was not the group of like-minded politicians, staffers and media types who surrounded the President at all times and kept him away from anything approaching an original idea (something they did, all agreed, with the purest of motives: the President was a smart man who could be dangerous with an original idea, especially in these times of high crime rates and general social unrest). No, that was The Bubble. The Cocoon was a section of Air Force One set apart from the rest of the plane by a thick black curtain that allowed the President some privacy when he wanted to rest. And after dealing with British politicians for three days, he really needed to rest!
Pete checked his watch. We’ll be getting into Washington in less than half an hour, he thought. Time to wake up POTUS. (That would be Pain-in-the-ass of the United States, but Pete had never shared that opinion with anybody – it would probably get him permanently busted to traffic cop – even though he had really enjoyed the calm, measured rhythms of most daytime traffic that one week – but, it would just kill his mother – so you didn’t hear it from me.)
Pete pulled back the curtain and respectfully said, “Mister President? We’ll be landing in a few mi – WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU?”
Five hours earlier, a middle-aged black man with short-cropped prematurely greying hair (it was the office) had gone to sleep in The Cocoon. In his place, there was now a twelve year-old white girl, with flowing blond curls and achingly adorable dimples.
Pete drew his gun and trained it on her.
“What are you yelling about?” the girl woke up irritated. She wiped the sleep out of her eyes with her knuckles.
“WHO ARE YOU?” Pete shouted.
“It’s me, Pete,” the girl calmly stated. “The President.”
“The President does not have flowing blond curls and achingly adorable dimples!” Pete loudly insisted.
The President, sitting up in the bed, looked at her hands. They were small. Dainty. And very white. “What the hell…?” she said.
The Chief of Staff appeared next to Pete. The Chief of Staff was a pleasant, slightly roly poly man with a crown of white hair that gave people the impression of a halo. It was a misimpression of a halo, of course, given the thirty plus years he had spent as a political fixer, but that was one of the main qualities that made him so good at his job. “Hey, hey, hey,” he calmly stated, “What’s all the shouting abou – HOLY MOTHER OF CHRIST, WHO ARE YOU?”
“Not you, too, Dave,” the President sighed. “Say – why is my voice so high?”
The Chief of Staff ducked out of entryway to The Cocoon for a few seconds, then returned with a mirror, which he handed to the President. She studied herself in it for a minute or more, reflected this part of her and that. Finally, setting the mirror aside, she told Pete, “I can see how this could be awkward for you.”
“Thank you for your understanding,” Pete replied. “Now, who the fuck are you?”
“I’m the President.”
“All due respect, ma’am,” Pete insisted, “the President of the United States does not look like Shirley Fucking Temple.”
“Pete,” the Chief of Staff, who had quickly recovered, “is the drama really necessary? And by drama, I mean primarily the gun, although the language and shouting are a part of it, too.”
“All due respect, sir,” Pete replied to him, “yes. The leader of the free world has turned into a beloved children’s entertainer! Yes. Yes, I would say that, under these circumstances, the drama is necessary. I can’t think of a situation in which the drama would be more fucking necessary!”
“Pete,” the President coolly asked, “do you think of me as the Pain-in-the-ass of the United States?”
“Who told you that?” Pete roared. (I didn’t tell the President! Did you tell the President? How could you tell the President? I told that to you in confidence! How am I supposed to trust you if –)
“Joe Rigoletto, who was on my first security detail, told me that’s what he thought of me,” the President said with a smile. “I’ve asked all of the men and women who guard me if they think of me that way, and all of them, every single one, said they did.” (Okay. Phew. Dodged a bullet, there. I…I’m sorry I doubted you.)
“Lucky guess,” Pete said, never taking his gun off the little girl in front of him. “It doesn’t prove shit.”
“Okay,” the President thoughtfully nodded. “Do you remember when you were first assigned to me? You nearly shot me because I was in the White House kitchen after midnight looking for cookies.”
“You always did like your chocolate chips,” Pete almost smiled. Then, he shook his head. “Okay, in the first place, I am a highly trained, highly decorated peace officer. I would never shoot the President by accident in the middle of the night.”
“Never said you did,” the President stated. “I –”
“Second,” Pete continued, ignoring her. “How did you know that? It’s not possible that you could know that.”
The President stared at him with a level gaze. “Think this through, Pete. What makes more sense? That somebody found a way to access Air Force One in mid-flight and replaced the President with a young girl, one that seems to know everything that the President knows, or that, for reasons we have yet to determine, while he was sleeping, the President was transformed into a little girl?”
Pete didn’t particularly care for either option. Before he could express this opinion, though, the Chief of Staff said, “I believe you, Mist – uhh, what should we call you? Under the circumstances, Mister President doesn’t seem entirely appropriate, and Mistress President has…unfortunate connotations.”
The President considered this for a moment. “POTUS still works,” he finally said.
Yeah, that sounds like something the President would think, Pete thought.
“Hey, guys, what’s going on back –” the Press Secretary started to ask. The Chief of Staff quickly drew the curtain on the scene, turning to face her.
“Oh, hi, Linda,” he cheerfully greeted the Press Secretary.
“Okay,” she said, “what’s going on?”
“The President is…changing,” the Chief of Staff stated. “His clothes, I mean. He’s changing his clothes. He’ll…need a couple of minutes to…make himself presentable.”
“Sure,” the Press Secretary responded. “Only, I thought we should talk about the trip before we land. There will be reporters at –”
“NO!” the Chief of Staff exploded. “No reporters! Not now!”
“The trip was a disaster,” the Press Secretary reminded him. “Reporters will have questions – gleeful, gloating, hurtful questions – that they will demand the President answer.”
“Tell them the President is tired from the trip, and will hold a press conference in two days.”
“How are you gonna get the President past them?”
“Oh, she’ll…uhh…no, I meant –”
“Sheila? Who is Sheila?”
“Sheila? Oh, Sorry. Woman I met in London. Long story. I meant, he – he – the President, will leave the plane by the back door. It’s the middle of the night. Reporters will never know he’s left until it’s too late.”
“Your plan is to sneak the President past the reporters?”
The Chief of Staff glanced at the curtain. “Honestly, that’s going to be a lot easier than you think.”
The Press Secretary gave him a penetrating look. Then, deciding that there was nothing to be gained by fighting it, that she would find out what was going on when she needed to know, she said, “Tell him that we really need to get out ahead of this thing, okay?”
“Couldn’t agree with you more,” the Chief of Staff agreed. He watched the Press Secretary walk away for a couple of seconds. Then, he parted the curtain just long enough to walk through it.
“…through the rotunda and halfway up the stairs before he realized that he still had the chicken on his head!” The President laughed. Pete, his gun still trained on the young girl, almost allowed a corner of his mouth to tic upwards a minimally small amount.
“Mister Pre – POTUS,” the Chief of Staff firmly stated, “we really need to get out ahead of this thing!”
“What would you suggest?” the girl responded.
“Well, to start,” the Chief of Staff suggested, “you should fire all idiot Secret Servicemen who train guns on you.”
“I don’t believe she is the President,” Pete responded, “so she does not have the authority to fire me.”
“You could authorize me to fire his ass on your behalf.”
“Don’t worry too much about it,” the President said. “Pete would be almost as embarrassed about shooting a little girl as he would about shooting the President, wouldn’t you, Pete?”
“I hope not to have to shoot anybody,” Pete answered.
“There you go, then,” the President said. “So, what was that about getting ahead of this thing?”
“Okay,” the Chief of Staff started. “First: we need to convince the public that you are the President. I would suggest that you tell stories of your childhood…”
“You know I’ve never liked to do that,” the President mildly objected.
“I know that,” the Chief of Staff continued. “But, I think you can appreciate that it will be an uphill battle to convince people that a young white girl is actually a middle-aged black President. Even the low information voters.”
“I’ll try to come up with some stories that I would be comfortable telling.”
“Good. Next, we have to do something to show that you’re up for the job, that you’re still tough. I would suggest invading another country.”
“Hmm…you know I don’t approve of unnecessary military interventions.”
“That’s the great thing about the War on Nouns,” the Chief of Staff argued. “Any military intervention can be justified as necessary!”
“Can’t we just wait for the next budget crisis?” the President insisted. “I can be tough.” The Chief of Staff rose an inquisitive eyebrow. “I can be tough!” the President pouted. She was adorable.
“Putting that question aside, a budget crisis might not come soon e –” The Chief of Staff was cut off by the squawk of the plane’s intercom system. “Uhh, this is your co-pilot speaking,” the co-pilot spoke. “We’re about to start our approach to – WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?” The intercom quickly cut out.
The Chief of Staff looked at the two men for a moment, then said, “I’ll be back.” He ran past the curtain, through most of the body of the plane to the cockpit. He tried the door – it was ajar. So, he opened it and walked in. Co-pilot Simon Turklington, a good looking young blond was sitting in his chair. A bombshell brunet, a little past her prime but with still enough good looks to cause forest fires to smolder, stood awkwardly next to him.
“What’s going on here?” the Chief of Staff demanded.
“I…I don’t know,” the woman, a little dazed, said. “I laid down to get an hour’s sleep before we landed, and I woke up like this.” She swept an arm down her body.
“Captain Johanson?” the Chief of Staff asked.
“Yes?” the woman responded.
The Chief of Staff laughed. “What’s so funny?” Turklington asked.
“It could be that something strange is happening on the plane,” the Chief of Staff told him. “I prefer to think, though, that it is a worldwide phenomenon that will sooner or later happen to everybody.”
“What is?” the woman asked.
“Men turning into women and women turning into men,” the Chief of Staff informed him.
“And you hope that will happen to everybody?” Turklington asked.
“I like to think I’m an optimist.”
-- @ --
Lisa Gropnik resented a lot of things. She resented the fact that she was…plump, and the only men that her form seemed to be pleasing to had been dead for 400 years. 100 years she could have handled. 300 years would have been hard to take, but she could have learned to live with it. But, 400? 400 years felt like a slap in the face from the universe, and she was pleasant enough so what could the universe possibly have against her?
Lisa Gropnik resented having to wear glasses; it’s not like the world was full of things she wanted to look at. Eww! She resented people who were taller than she was, because she felt they always looked down on her. Advice givers on television who made it look so easy to lose weight/drop that indifferent boyfriend/put down that ferret that was definitely a mistake to get as a pet? Lisa Gropnik resented the hell out of them! She resented the fact that she couldn’t find a radio station that played her favourite polka songs. She resented that, after 31 calls, tech support still treated her like a vegetable – a half-nibbled on carrot, perhaps, or shredded cabbage – that had somehow miraculously learned how to dial a telephone. She resented people who were shorter than she was because other people thought they were cuter.
People who honked their horns a split second before the light at the intersection turned green? Lisa Gopnik was mildly unhappy about their behaviour (it’s not like she was a confident driver to begin with!), but she decided to resent it anyway because she was on a roll. She resented people who were the same height as she was because they probably thought they saw eye to eye with her, and they couldn’t possibly know what it was like being Lisa Gropnik. Nobody knew what it was like being Lisa Gropnik.
But, most of all (at this particular moment in time), Lisa Gropnik resented having to be on the night shift at the Pizzennmacher Sleep Institute.
Everybody knew that nothing scholarly paper-worthy ever happened at night. Real science always happened during the day. Lisa Gropnik had the midnight to six am shift, at which point Trevor (or, as she liked to think of him, Treeeeevoooor) would show up with his puppy dog smile and hangdog eyes and freshly baked butter tarts reeking of a five mile run before work and greet her with a cheery, “Heighdy-ho, Lisa How’s it going?” Sometimes, she felt like punching him in his smug, big face, but she knew that she would just skin her knuckles without doing much damage to him and maybe even get fired, although he had clearly had it coming.
Lisa Gropnik resented the fact that the universe worked that way.
Lisa Gropnik was a medical intern at the Pizzennmacher Sleep Institute because, well, she had a keen in interest in child psychopathy, and the two were kind of related. If you squinted. And maybe went off to watch Mad Men on DVD and didn’t think about it too much. And it was the only institution that offered her an internship. (She had a reputation for being difficult to work with – you have no idea how much she resented that!) Although it was based in Calgary, most of its test subjects had to be bussed in from places like Toronto and Montreal (the public perception was that sleep disturbances were a sign of a guilty conscience, and nobody in the oil or related industries would admit to that!). The study she was currently assisting with was designed to determine whether eating spicy foods before sleeping affected dream cycles, and if so, whether antacids in any way mitigated the ensuing nightmares.
Science lurches on.
The sleep lab she worked in consisted of sixteen beds with various pieces of human vital sign monitoring equipment on one side of a wall with a large one-way window (one of the few times in life anything went her way) and several computer work stations on the other. Lisa Gropnik was supposed to monitor the vital signs of the seven study subjects in the lab and make note of any irregularities in their patterns; mostly, she played Angry Birds or wrote Firefly/Peanuts crossover fan fiction. In a perfect world, Joss Whedon would invite her to join the writing team on his next TV series; in this world, she received a series of increasingly strident cease and desist letters from the estate of the late Charles Schultz. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how she felt about that.
Lisa Gropnik was concentrating so much of her energy on seething about the fundamental unfairness of the universe that she didn’t notice that the vital signs of one of the study subjects – Anocronistes F. – had changed – her heart rate and blood pressure had dropped. By which I mean that Lisa Gropnik did notice the change, but was so busy resenting how unlikely it was that she would do anything scientifically significant in the sleep lab – or, her life – that she dismissed it as one of those inexplicable but perfectly natural fluctuations of the human body.
When, twenty minutes later, a second subject’s vital signs changed, Lisa Gropnik couldn’t ignore it because the person’s skyrocketing heart rate and pulse set off a flashing red light at her work station. Lisa Gropnik had long suspected that she would resent the flashing red light if it ever went off, and she wasn’t disappointed. In a way.
Lisa Gropnik reluctantly shuffled out of the well lit monitoring area and over to Bed 11 in the dimly lit sleepers area. She was expecting to find a petite twenty-three year-old Asian woman named Michelle P. What she found was a tall black man who looked to be in his eighties with a long face (not Our Hitler long; more like There Will Be Blood long). Oh, Great! Lisa Gropnik resentfully thought. There’s been a mix-up in the subject files! Arrrgh! You know who’s gonna get blamed for that! I mean, it was only that one time, but the system never forgets! After that thought had run its resentful course, she realized that the problem had to be something other than a clerical error: the study was designed for people in the 18 to 34 age group – there was no way an elderly black man would have been allowed to take part.
Returning to her work station, Lisa Gropnik reviewed the vitals for the person in Bed 11. There had been no break in them: one second, they were steady, the next moment, they were steady at a higher level. Worse: readings from the brain indicated that it hadn’t changed. Thinking furiously (a style she usually reserved for resentment, but this was an emergency), Lisa Gropnik came to the obvious conclusion: somebody had replaced a subject with an altogether different person without her noticing it and had tampered with the monitoring equipment to make it seem as if the transition had been instantaneous and that the new person’s brain patterns matched the original person’s. Yeah. That made sense. It was probably Byron on the shift before her – yeah, he liked playing tricks. Like, that one with the case of light bulbs, the 12 lab mice that had been developed with only one eye and the Executive Director’s Ferrari. Yeah, this sounded like something Byron would do. If it was physically possible, which, despite the neatness of the explanation, she rather doubted.
Lisa Gropnik was tempted to wake up the old man and demand to know how he had gotten in Bed 11. Unfortunately, the study protocols were very clear on this point: 3. DO NOT WAKE UP A SUBJECT (UNLESS IT IS DEAD). Lisa Gropnik could have argued that the person in Bed 11 was not the person who had signed up to be a subject for the study, but the Ethics Committee would have argued back that the unbroken brainwaves of the body proved that it was the same person, and that if she had really needed to wake him up, she probably should have killed him first. The Ethics Committee always argued back that the unbroken brainwaves of the body proved that it was the same person, and that if she had really needed to wake him up, she probably should have killed him first. They were bastards that way. In any case, the old man certainly wasn’t dead; in fact, he didn’t appear to be in any distress. His vital signs were higher than the person she had thought had been sleeping here, but not necessarily out of line with the person she had actually found.
Lisa Gropnik spent the better part of an hour and the worse part of an additional twenty-five minutes pondering what had happened. Before she could come to any conclusion, the red light flashed at her workstation, indicating a problem with the person in Bed 5, Marvin P. A. His brainwave patterns appeared to be unaffected, but his physical vitals were all over the map. Lisa Gropnik walked over to Bed 5, dreading what she would find there (given the highly unusual circumstances, I think she has earned the right to emotions beyond resentment, don’t you?) She found a fourteen year-old girl, her breasts just starting to bud, her face a complicated map of acne.
This was really getting out of hand!
Lisa Gropnik went around the room and checked on every occupied bed. Sure enough, four of the others had changed their bodies without her even noticing. The only one left the way he had come in was Elijah M. in Bed 3. Lisa Gropnik pulled a chair up to Bed 3 and stared at Elijah M. with all of the energy she could muster. Blink management was the key – as quickly as possible and only when absolutely necessary. For over forty-five minutes, she stared at the sleeping man’s body, hoping to catch it in the act of transformation, but nothing happened. (Well, nothing happened to him – Maryke M. had a “mild heart incident” which could have been nipped in the bud had Lisa Gropnik been paying attention, but, since she wasn’t, would leave the study subject with impaired speech and a better appreciation for the artistry of Uwe Boll.) Just as she was building up a boiling potful of resentment (Oh, sure, it would be just my luck that somebody else would get the credit for watching the transformation even though it happened on my shift – I would have been better at this if my parents had only shown some faith in me when I was at med schoo – did I…did I break a nail typing notes into my computer work station earlier?), Treeeeevoooor waltzed in with a cheery, “Heighdy-ho, Lisa. How’s it going?”
Lisa Gropnik turned to face him as he put his backpack down next to the door to the sleep lab, but, of course, being on the other side of the one-way mirror, only saw herself. The shushing had barely left her lips when she realized the mistake she had made; even before she turned back to the subject, she knew what she could expect to find. No, not a wizened old crone of a woman with spider thin limbs – that was a bit of a shock, actually. No, what she had expected to find was failure, and she found it. In clubs. (And yes, she hadn’t mixed up her suits: she knew the phrase was actually “in spades,” but a blunt instrument better reflected her mood.)
Lisa Gropnik wearily trudged back into the monitoring room and answered, “All of the male subjects have turned into females, and all of the female subjects have turned into males.”
“I know,” Trevor stated. “Radio interrupted my favourite song to announce that this was starting to happen all over to people in their sleep. Have you heard of it? ‘The Beer Barrel Polka?’”
Just when she thought she had sunk as low in the resentment barrel as she could possibly go…!
As she logged off the system for the end of her shift, Lisa Gropnik realized that, even though she had been given a front row seat to an out of town production of history, it would do her no good. When she fell asleep, she would wake up in a man’s body, and the other people who worked at the Institute would deny her identity and claim the credit for what she had almost witnessed.
She really resented that!
-- @ --
“Baby’s crying,” Rosemary grumped.
“So wha?” Guy groaned.
“It’s your turn to deal with her,” Rosemary pointed out.
“I dealt with her last night,” Guy tiredly argued.
“No, you didn’t,” Rosemary insisted.
“Yeah, I did,” Guy insisted right back. “Remember – she was scared of the shadows on the wall? The ones that looked like aliens?”
“That wasn’t last night,” Rosemary argued. “It was the night before. Last night, Pat was frightened by the squeaking of the swinging chair on the porch – I always told you that it sounded like the strings from Psycho!”
“Honey,” Guy argued back at her with all the calm he could muster, “you’ve got the nights mixed up. You know I’ve always said that that you’re chronologically confused.”
“Fine!” Rosemary announced. “We’ll both go.”
That was the protocol that Rosemary and Guy had worked out shortly after Pat(ricia) was born: if neither of them could convince the other one that it was their turn to look after their daughter, they both went. They could argue about it later, when they were both wide(r) awake.* Rosemary and Guy wearily hauled themselves out of bed and, ignoring the clock on the nearby table that read 4:17, shuffled out of the door framed by two paintings of angels, down the hall past the reproduction of a part of the Sistine Chapel featuring adorable cherubs** and into their baby’s room, which didn’t contain any representations of angels because, they reasoned, it contained a living, breathing one.
Some illusions die harder than others.
“Hey, baby,” Rosemary cooed as she walked over to the crib, “don’t cry. Mommy’s here. It’s gonna be okay.”
“What’s with your voice?” Guy asked.
“It’s deep. Really…deep.”
“There’s nothing wrong with…something’s happened to the crib.”
“Guy, turn on the light!” Rosemary shouted. “Something’s wrong with the crib!”
Guy groped for the switch and turned on the light. The couple gasped as they saw that the crib had been smashed to pieces; amid the wreckage lay a naked man, maybe thirty years old, on his back, wildly flailing his arms and legs. He had long, unkempt hair and shoulders so broad you would swear you could fly planes off them while he was swimming
Then, they looked at each other. Rosemary looked a lot like Gandhi. Not the older Gandhi, praise the lord, but the young lawyer who was only just starting to develop a political conscience. John was a middle-aged woman with buck-teeth that were so prominent, they would more accurately be called buck-and-a-half-teeth and skin that was so blotchy, it looked like sand after a brief rain.***
“Oh, my Lord, Jesus, who are you?” Rosemary moaned.
“W…w…who are you?” Guy countered.
“Get out of my house!” Rosemary shouted.
“It’s my house, too!” Guy shouted back at her.
“Get out of my house or I’ll call the police!” Rosemary re-shouted.
“Sweet muffins of mercy!” Guy continued with the shouting.
Rosemary tipped her head quizzically. “How,” she quietly asked, “how did you know that was our safe phrase?”
“How did you know that that was our safe phrase?” Guy asked back.****
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph, are you really…?”
After a couple of seconds, their heads slowly turned (in cinematic, not Satanic fashion) and they looked at the bawling figure on the floor (the classic sitcom trope of growing trepidation, mingled with the hope of not finding what you strongly suspect is there). Rosemary rushed over to it and cradled its head in her arms. “Don’t cry, baby,” she softly said. “It’s gonna be alright. Mommy and daddy will figure it out.” After several seconds of rocking back and forth, Pat stopped crying. Rosemary stopped rocking, causing Pat to look at her with calculatedly watery eyes. Rosemary started rocking her child again.
“What do we do now?” Guy asked.
“I don’t know,” Rosemary replied, quickly adding, “Phone Father O’Malley. He’ll know what to do.”
Guy thought this was a good idea, so he slipped out of Pat’s room and down the hall to their bedroom. He dialled the Priest’s number. The line was busy. He returned to his daughter (now son)’s bedroom. “The line’s ; - what’s that smell?”
Rosemary indicated a puddle on the floor near where she and Pat where sitting. Very close to where they were sitting, in fact.
“Awwww, that’s gross!” Guy exclaimed.
“She’s scared,” Rosemary admonished him as he stroked Pat’s head. “I think she’s doing very well, under the circumstances.”
“What are we going to do about him?”
“I don’t know,” Rosemary started, quickly adding: “We’ll get her adult diapers tomorrow.”
“What about tonight?”
Rosemary thought for a moment. “Get me a towel.”
“I’ll never dry my hands on the towels in this house again!”
“We’ll throw it out after it’s been used!” Pat started to snuffle, so they decided not to continue this line of discussion at the decibelage that it had attained. A couple of moments later, Rosemary asked, “What did Father O’Malley say?”
“Oh,” Guy informed Rosemary, “the line was busy.”
Rosemary sighed. “Try again,” she commanded, quickly adding, “and keep trying until you get through.”
“Oh. Yeah. Okay,” Guy agreed, then slipped and dialled. It took him seven tries, but eventually he got through. Say what you want about Guy – admittedly, you can’t say much because you don’t know him very well, but I know him very, very well, so I can say whatever I want about him – he may not be the swiftest thinker in a crisis, but when given a task to perform, he can be tenacious about seeing it th –
“Hello?” a woman’s voice answered.
“Oh, sorry,” Guy said. “I must have the wrong number.”
“Who were you trying to call?” the woman asked.
“This is Father O’Malley.”
Guy thought about this for a moment. “How do I know this is Father O’Malley?”
“Who is this?” Father O’Malley asked.
“Your last confession involved twelve watermelons, a Phillips’ screwdriver, a vintage copy of Penthouse magazine and a scale model Thomas the Tank Engine.”
“Now, tell me something only Guy would know.”
“It happened outside a 7/11 in Dubuque when I was fifteen. Oh, and there were only eleven watermelons and the screwdriver had an adjustable head, and –”
“What can I do for you, my son?”
“It didn’t even feel that good –”
“GUY, I BELIEVE YOU! Now, ahem, what can I do for you?”
Guy outlined the situation, then asked the Priest what he should do. “Well,” Father O’Malley advised him, “Your daughter may now inhabit the body of a thirty year-old man, but she still has the mind of an infant. The best thing you can do is keep treating her as though she was an infant.”
“What about Rosemary?”
“Do not treat her like an infant. She is a proud woman, and she certainly won’t like it!”
“No, I mean…what should we do – you know – about the changes we went through?”
“We don’t know what happened or how long it will last. Keep living your life as though nothing has happened, and the future will take care of itself.”
Guy returned to his child’s bedroom. When Rosemary asked him what Father O’Malley had said, he told her: “Keep living our lives as though nothing has happened, and everything will soon return to normal.” Now, you were there, so you know that Father O’Malley said no such thing. But, Rosemary was not, and she was comforted by what Guy told her, especially his embellishment. Do you want to tell her that he made it up?
In the past, when Pat had had trouble sleeping Guy would carry her into their bedroom where she would sleep between him and Rosemary. When Rosemary suggested they try that, Guy shrugged and said, “He’s two hundred and thirty, maybe two hundred and fifty pounds! You want me to get a hernia?”
“You grab one end of her,” Rosemary suggested, “and I’ll grab the other.”
Guy shook his head. “He’s too heavy, Rosie! We’ll drop him, and then he’ll start crying harder than ever!”
Rosemary thought for a few seconds. “Okay,” she finally said, “You grab under one of her arms and I’ll get the other and we’ll kind of drag/walk her into our bedroom.”
Grumbling, Guy helped Rosemary do just that. Pat dropped heavily onto their bed, and they wearily flopped into it around their child.
After a couple of minutes, Guy said, “His…peepee is poking me.”
“So?” Rosemary sleepily responded.
“So, I’m uncomfortable with this.”
“It’s just the way the male body responds to the warmth of other bodies – she doesn’t mean anything by it.”
“I’m sure he doesn’t. Still…”
“She has the mind of a three month old. She wasn’t in control of her old body – why would you think she can control this one?”
“I understand that. But I’m really not comfortable with his peepee poking me in the –”
“Oh, for crying out loud! Look – you’re a woman, now, right?”
“Umm…for now. Yes.”
“Get used to it!”
* They went together about half of the time. The other half of the time, one or the other of them was too tired to argue. It wasn’t a perfect system, but, they had only had three months to come up with it (if you don’t count the nine months Rosemary had been pregnant…or the two years they had been courting when they talked about the eight children they were going to have…or all of the years before that that they had been taught that raising a family was their purpose in life – and it’s a good thing we weren’t counting any of that, because it would make it look like they were totally unprepared for parenthood even though they had been preparing for it for most of their lives).
** Don’t let Renaissance art fool you – cherubs are the troublemakers of the heavenly host. Because of their short stature, they have an inferiority complex. On top of that, nobody takes them seriously! But, the worst part is that you can’t really cause trouble in heaven. What are you going to do? Tip people’s halos off the tops of their heads? Sing praises to God off key – on purpose? Millennia of pent-up frustration at wanting to cause trouble but not being able to has really messed with cherubs’ heads. If you ever have the misfortune of meeting one in person, whatever you do, don’t mention Michelangelo!
*** The following day, when Guy had his first chance to get a good look at his new self in the mirror, his first thought was: I wonder how this is going to affect my golf game…
Soon after, when Rosemary had the first chance to look at her new self in the mirror, her first thought was: Praise the lord for this miracle! Guy can have the next seven babies in the family!
Guy’s second thought was: This body is not going to impress anybody on a jury. And the voice! Oh, crap – I sound like I’m on a permanent helium high! This might be a good time to consider moving away from litigation and into mergers and acquisitions.
Rosemary’s second thought was: If we lengthen the term of our mortgage and forego the trip to Disneyland, I could finish law school! I always thought I would be good with juries!
He thought a lot of things, of course, but Guy’s conclusion was: Okay, some changes will have to be made – minor adjustments, really. But, things can go on much the same as they always have.
After much thought, Rosemary’s conclusion was quite different: We should preserve as much of the past as we can, but this changes everything. WOO HOO!
May the lord have mercy on their souls.
**** You may be wondering why a good Christian couple has a safe word. They weren’t always as devout as they are now, you know, and anyway, what your Priest doesn’t know, you can’t be condemned to Hell for, right?
-- @ --
“Don’t freak out.”
“Don’t freak out? I’M A FUCKING MIDDLE AGED CHINESE WOMAN!”
“Yes. I’m a doughy middle-aged man. So?”
“At this point, not freaking out is not an option!”
“Well…don’t freak out more.”
“I don’t think it’s possible for me to freak out more.”
“I’m taking your wallet.”
“Aaaand I was wrong. WHAT?”
“I think my career as a prostitute is over, don’t you? Unless balding and flabby is the new tawny and curvaceous.”
“How will taking my wallet help that?”
“I’ll be able to top up my retirement fund.”
“You can’t do that.”
“Mmm…you ever been fucked in the ass?”
“You know, I’ve never met a girl yet who enjoyed being fucked in the ass.”
“So, you would do well to keep in mind that you are no longer the person who holds the power in this relationship.”
Mark, who was actually quite amused for somebody who claimed to be freaking out, sat ramrod straight in the bed. He had gone to sleep a strapping, youthful forty year-old black man. He was the kind of man who didn’t have to pay for it; there was something charismatic about him that was a magnet for women. He paid for it anyway, partially because he had a lucrative legal practice and enjoyed flaunting his wealth, but mostly because non-commercial relationships (like marriages) were messy, and he was a neat freak.
“Come on, baby,” Mark cajoled. “I thought I meant more to you than that.”
Lucia snorted. “Yeah. No. Johns like to think that sometimes, but, honestly, you know better. Do you think you mean more than a commercial transaction to your lawyer? Your plumber? Your auto mechanic?”
Lucia had been tall and leggy with naturally pouty lips and long, full chestnut hair. This new male body was something of a comedown for her, but it was still a head taller than Mark’s new body, so…there.
“Actually,” Mark mused, “my lawyer is kind of hot.”
Lucia smiled to herself as she pulled on Mark’s pants.
“Wait – what are you doing?” he asked.
“You don’t expect me to leave in my dress, do you?” she replied. “I don’t think it will show off my new figure to its best advantage.”
Mark looked at the slinky black thing draped over a chair in the room. “You don’t expect me to leave in…that!” he exclaimed. “I would swim in that thing.”
Lucia shrugged. “Naked is the new black.”
Mark watched as Lucia buttoned up his shirt. The clothes were a little tight on her, but not absurdly Beckettianly so. He looked around the room for something he might attack her with, but it was your standard low-budget tryst issue: plain bed, a plain small dresser on either side, neon flashing on and off through the plain (and not very effective) curtain. He momentarily considered attacking Lucia with the Gideon Bible he knew was in one of the drawers of the dresser, but that was just wrong. So many levels of wrong. The ambience of the place had always appealed to him, but Mark realized that if he had sprung for a more lavish place to meet Lucia, it likely would have supplied him with something he could use as a weapon. Lesson learned.
“Can you at least leave me some money for a cab?” he asked as he stretched his new body across the bed.
“Why don’t you phone your wife?” Lucia smirked.
“Why have I never seen this ugly side of you?” Mark wondered.
“Sex blinds men to a lot of things,” Lucia told him.
“And what am I supposed to tell her? That I was mugged by a woman? And then the mugger and I fell asleep and changed into members of the opposite sex? And that the mugger was kind enough to let me wear her clothes because she no longer needed them?”
“Is that one supposition too many?” Lucia innocently asked.
“That’s three suppositions too many!” Mark told her, grinning.
Lucia stood by the door, hands on her hips. “What do you usually do after we…meet?”
“I slip into the house, out of my clothes and into bed beside her,” Mark explained. “Linda is a heavy sleeper – she’s never noticed. The problem is, even if I had a way of getting home, she could very well be in a new body herself, a body that doesn’t sleep as well as her old one.”
“Sucks being you,” Lucia smiled and blew him a kiss. “Take care, Mark. You weren’t my favourite trick, but you were in my top five.” She tilted her head for a moment, then snapped it back upright. “Maybe ten. Still, high on the list.” Then, she walked out of the room.
Mark groped on the dresser for his watch to learn how much time he had left on the room, but, of course, it was gone. With a sigh, he wearily pulled himself out of bed. He held Lucia’s bra up to his chest. His new breasts disappeared into it like a cherry would disappear if dropped into the Grand Canyon. He put on her panties; they quickly slid down to his knees. Ever resourceful, Mark pulled the panties back up to his waist, folded down the waistband and put the bra under it. Because his waist was wider than his chest, the bra actually fit him down there. More or less. The bra cups did stick out, though. After a moment’s reflection, Mark spun the bra around so that the cups projected out of his ass; he hoped that they would be less noticeable that way. If anybody asked, he could always say that he was planning on having his asslets surgically removed. Then, he put the dress on. Several inches pooled around his feet; Mark felt like a seven year-old girl playing in an adult’s clothing. He looked like an alien trying to hide the tentacles it moved on instead of feet. He shook his head in disbelief.
Fortunately, Mark was only going three blocks.
“My husband’s a alien!”
“Is that why you stabbed him?”
“Ain’t you never seen any alien invasion movies? This is how it starts!”
“Did you wake up the same as when you went to sleep?”
“What does that tell you, sir?”
“THE ALIENS GOT ME, TOO!”
The First Street police station was a blur of bodies in motion with a cacophony of loud voices soundtrack; Mark was hit by the chaos the moment he opened the door. He slowly but purposefully made his way through the bodies (most in ill-fitting clothes, a couple wearing no clothes at all – the new black, indeed!) towards the desk set back from the front door. Most of the people he walked past were shouting out grievances, even if there was nobody listening. Didn’t I read about this in Dante? Mark thought. Or, maybe, saw it in a Metallica video?
A couple of minutes later, to reach the desk Mark stepped in front of a tall man wearing a skirt that barely covered his groin. When he was a woman, she probably thought it was the best way to show off her assets. When she was a woman, she may well have been right. I bet after tonight a lot of people will be reassessing their fashion priorities, Mark thought. Out loud, he said, “Sergeant McGerritty!” His take command voice wasn’t nearly so commanding coming out of this small body, but he would work on that.
The man behind the desk turned his attention towards Mark. “And who might you be, my dear?” he asked.
“Mark Jefferson,” Mark answered.
“Is there a full moon out tonight?”
“I, ahh, don’t think so. Quarter moon – half at most.”
“Then, can you tell me, please, WHY EVERYBODY IN THE CITY IS GOING MENTAL?”
Just then, a police officer with a firm grasp on a little old lady’s arm walked her past the counter.
“I’m innocent!” the little old lady was shouting. “I have no idea who Fergus Gezundheit is!”
“Oh, yeah?” the cop roared back. “Then how come you shot at me with his gun? The gun which, when ballistics come back, will prove to be the gun that killed Angus Ah-Shu!”
“I…I only take that gun out on weekends,” the little old lady lamely stated.
“What were you doing in Gezundheit’s apartment?” the cop continued.
“I was…I was looking for my lost dog. She’s a schnauzer. Poodle. Schnauzoodle. Gertrude.”
“Yeah. Yeah. Tell it to the –” And they were sucked back into the crowd.
“Look, Dean,” Mark turned his attention back to the desk sergeant. “I need your help.”
“You got any ID?”
“I was mugged. That’s part of the problem!”
“Without any means of identification, I’m afraid I can’t –”
Mark lowered his voice and said, “Do I have to remind you of the Oxbow incident?”
“HOW DO YOU –” Sergeant McGerritty froze. A couple of seconds later, he fiercely whispered, “How do you know about that?”
“How, indeed?” Mark mused. “Only seventeen people know about the Oxbow incident. Four of them are dead, two are on Death Row, three got on a flight to Pittsburgh and were never heard of again, five are incarcerated in mental health facilities in different states so that they don’t come upon one another and accidentally trigger an ugly incident and, in any case, nobody would believe a word they said if they decided to talk about it, one turned to a life of mime, and there’s you and Mark Jefferson.”
Sergeant McGerritty had his finger calculator out and hastily tried to follow Mark’s math. A couple of seconds later, he said, “Holy Mother Mary McReady, the math checks out. You really are Mark Jefferson! What can I do for you, lad?”
“Well, I was mugged…” Mark began.
“Ah, well, you’ve caught us on a bad day, I’m afraid,” Sergeant McGerritty told him. “Could you come back in three –”
“If I’d wanted to have tits,” a woman shrieked, “I would have gone with Terrance to Sweden!”
“Maybe four days?”
Mark was suddenly weary and decided that he really didn’t want to be there any more. “Okay. Yeah. Sure. One other thing.”
“Is there a female cop my size that I can borrow a pair of pants from? This dress is really droughty…”
When he got to his house, Mark was relieved to find that Linda was, as expected, asleep. Or, at least, a young man in Linda’s pyjamas occupied her place in bed. They would both have some explaining to do in the morning, no doubt. Stopping only to get a pair of his wife’s pyjamas, Mark went into his study and flipped on his computer. He changed while it booted up. Then, he opened a browser and went to his online bank.
His first task was to report that his wallet had been stolen and to freeze his credit cards. Once that was done, he looked over the list of charges that had been made to his credit card. A plane ticket to Paris leaving the next day. Humph, Mark thought. Good luck getting past the TSA! Lucia must have thought the same thing, because soon after she bought the plane ticket she purchased a bus ticket to Schenectady. You want to go to Paris, you’ll settle for Schenectady – these truly are days of diminished expectations, Mark thought with a grin.
Lucia bought a meal at an all-night diner. Several meals, judging by the size of the bill – that woman could always put it away! Then, she bought a large number of small things from an all-night drug store. It could have been worse, Mark nodded to himself as he closed the laptop.
As he lay in bed waiting for sleep to bludgeon him into insensibility, Mark decided that he wouldn’t go back to the police station. With Lucia out of the city, the risk to him was minimal. The last thing he needed to worry about was somebody finding out what he had been up to – Uncle Rufus would have a field day! Realizing that he had had a narrow escape, Mark vowed to do better by Linda in the future.
Mark fell asleep with a self-satisfied smile on his face.
-- @ --
>;;; candyassdandy: Check CNN.
>;;; yaktecsup007: I’m busy.
It was true that Kenji Yashita was busy – he was tweaking the interface of the spreadsheet that kept track of all of the income and expenses for the Shinjuku Prefecture Yakuza. Apparently, the column for bribes of government officials above 1,000 yen was too easily overlooked. This was the sort of thing that raised Kenji’s blood pressure so high he had to watch a Gaki no Tsukaii marathon to calm himself down. He had only been working for the Yakuza for three years, but he had already developed a healthy contempt for the people he created software for. If he could have created a programme with two big buttons, one for inputting numbers and the other for printing out the spreadsheet, he would have, but that would not have given his bosses the information they needed to properly run a 21st century criminal enterprise.
I know what you’re thinking: An Asian IT guy? Could you imagine anything more stereotypical? As a matter fact, I can imagine plenty of things that are more stereotypical. But, uhh, enumerating them probably isn’t going to help make my case. Let me point out, instead, that this story takes place in Japan. Asian IT guys in the United States are stereotypical. Asian IT guys in, you know, Asia are just typical. I mean, really. WHO DO YOU THINK DOES IT IN JAPAN? AMERICANS? IF THEY’RE LUCKY, THEY DO ADS FOR JAPANESE PRODUCTS, BUT IT? FORGET ABOUT IT!
Honestly, people can be so touchy!
>;;; candyassdandy: Drop what you are doing and check CNN.
>;;; yaktecsup007: I have CNN on a comedy filter.
>;;; candyassdandy: There’s no such thing. Turn on CNN.
>;;; yaktecsup007: Seriously. I wrote the code myself. If I turn to CNN, all of their anchors look like Groucho Marx and sound like they were born in a helium factory.
Kenji took a sip of a flat cola of a mystery brand. You might have thought that it was flat because he didn’t have a refrigerator, but Kenji insisted that he liked soda better that way – the carbonation didn’t get in the way of the taste of the syrup. In fact, he had written about this subject for Otaku Confidential. At length. Often. Readers complained that his articles weren’t so much esoteric as they were pointless. At length. Often. Fortunately, the editor, Ichi Michi Mee, believed that the more letters you generated from readers, the better writer you were, regardless of the actual content of said letters. In fact, Michi Mee forwarded letters about Kenji’s articles to him unread; he had written an app that rated the letters for “vituperativeness,” “creativity” and “that mystical quality: entertainment value.” On those rare occasions when he had free time, Kenji would sift through the messages to try and find something he hadn’t thought of himself.
Kenji placed the can down beside his prized possession, a six inch tall Robbie action figure. Although his apartment was smaller than the hole in a donut, it contained shelves to show off his collection of famous robot figures. Whenever he became frustrated by hitting a wall in a programme he was writing (and didn’t have time to watch a Gaki no Tsukai marathon because he was on a tight deadline), Kenji would stare intently at the Terminator figure above his computer.
By the way, you might think that Kenji’s online name – yaktecsup007 – sounded like the name of an Egyptian god. You should tell him some time – he could use the laugh. (Anything that happened before the release of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis was like a dream to him, a poorly conceived, disjointed dream with dull characters and banal events.) yaktecsup007 was actually short for “Yakuza Tech Support” (the 007 was because Kenji had gone through a brief period of infatuation with British spies when he was twelve and he still had a soft spot in his heart for Sean Connery). Of course, if his Yakuza bosses ever found out that he identified himself online in this way, he would be deader than Blofeld sucked out of an airplane window at 50,000 feet. Still, we’ll have our little jokes, won’t we?
>;;; candyassdandy: I don’t believe you. But, in case you’re not bsing me, turn the comedy filter off. You want to see this.
>;;; yaktecsup007: Can’t. If I try to turn the comedy filter off, the Random Bambi Generator kicks in.
>;;; candyassdandy: Random Bambi Generator? Okay, now I know you’re bsing me!
>;;; yaktecsup007: Seriously! The only thing it will allow my Web browser to display are pages with ‘Bambi’ on them! All I can see is Disney and porn. The Internet is very confusing to me…
>;;; candyassdandy: Why would anybody create such a foolish thing?
>;;; yaktecsup007: I really don’t like CNN.
>;;; candyassdandy: You don’t have to like CNN! Idiot! You have to like weird Western nonsense! And you do!
>;;; yaktecsup007: Why don’t you just tell me what’s going on?
>;;; candyassdandy: You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. Some things you just have to see for yourself.
candyassdandy was an old friend of Kenji’s. Toshiro Araki was not, all things considered, gay, but he never seemed interested in girls and didn’t put up much of a fuss when the schoolyard taunts about his sexuality started. Toshiro never had much of an imagination, so, unlike Kenji, who was living in techno-poverty as one of the Shinjuku Yakuza Society’s top programmers, he had been content to stay in school, eventually get a medical degree and start work at a hospital in Kagoshima. Sucker, Kenji thought.
Kenji didn’t have anything against CNN. Oh, sure, the anchors sometimes talked too quickly for him to understand (his English wasn’t bad, aside from confusing words such as “perfect” with “errant,” but it was by no means errant), but he was generally able to follow what was being said. It was just a pattern that he and his grade school friend had developed over the years: the more insistent Toshiro became about something, the more resistant Kenji became to it.
>;;; yaktecsup007: Oh, man, WTF!
>;;; candyassdandy: What does it look like?
>;;; yaktecsup007: The title says ‘Wolf Blitzer,” but the person talking is a teenage black girl.
>;;; candyassdandy: What’d I tell you?
>;;; yaktecsup007: Wolf Blitzer is not a teenage black girl.
>;;; candyassdandy: He is now.
>;;; yaktecsup007: No shit?
>;;; candyassdandy: No shit.
>;;; yaktecsup007: No way! Did he get a sex change overnight? I know Americans have no patience, but there are certain biological processes that even they cannot change so quickly!
>;;; candyassdandy: Do you have the sound off?
>;;; yaktecsup007: Umm…no.
>;;; candyassdandy: Why are you not watching with the sound?
>;;; yaktecsup007: My computer has an S-Chip.
>;;; candyassdandy: A Stupid Chip?
>;;; yaktecsup007: If I ever watch CNN with the sound on, it triggers a fire alarm in apartment 4G in a building three doors down. It really drives them crazy!
>;;; candyassdandy: Why are you trying so hard to be an ass?
>;;; yaktecsup007: Makes a nice break from work.
>;;; candyassdandy: It’s not just Wolf Blitzer! Half of Americans have changed their sex!
>;;; yaktecsup007: That’s crazy.
>;;; candyassdandy: That’s what I’m trying to get you to understand.
>;;; yaktecsup007: There aren’t enough surgeons in the world – I mean, properly trained surgeons capable of doing sex change operations.
>;;; candyassdandy: Check your Twitter feed.
Kenji opened another window on his desktop (it made little chirping noises as if there was a bird outside an actual window; some days, the sound made him feel better about not having an actual window in his apartment, although staring out the window at the side of a run-down Beard Papa’s franchise would have been dispiriting in its own unique and special way) and sifted through his Twitter feed.
@sad128sack grew tits and a vag overnight – this is a new look!
@ditzymitzy husband’s clothes don’t fit my new body – like I needed another excuse to go shopping!
@321gopostal dogs bark when I pass/bags heavy on my new chest/dread first sign of red
@nationalenquiringpost BATBOY SEX CHANGE SHOCKER!!!!!!
@rhondahatesu2 last night, grew beard down to here – now, how’m i ever gonna get a date 4 prom?!!
@redstatebluesmichel Don’t panic? TOO LATE!
In among the Tweets of appreciation for Full Metal Alchemist and offers to help increase your Twitter followerage (for a modest fee), there was a torrent of scared, confused, amused and intellectually suspect messages. The main thrust of the messages was abundantly clear.
>;;; yaktecsup007: So, men are turning into women?
>;;; candyassdandy: And women are turning into men!
>;;; yaktecsup007: Just when you thought gaijin couldn’t get any weirder!
>;;; candyassdandy: It seems to happen when people fall asleep.
>;;; yaktecsup007: So?
>;;; candyassdandy: So? It could happen to us!
>;;; yaktecsup007: Us? We’re not that stupid.
>;;; candyassdandy: Are you being intentionally obtuse? IT HAPPENS WHEN PEOPLE FALL ASLEEP. It’s still early in the evening here – most people haven’t gone to bed yet.
>;;; yaktecsup007: But –
>;;; candyassdandy: Did you hear about The Pussycat?
Makoto “The Pussycat” Miyagi had been a Sumo wrestler, until he was caught throwing a match. Now, he worked as a bouncer in a strip club owned by the Yakuza, which meant he had to live on a much reduced income, which had caused him to lose weight. But, that, uhh, isn’t what is relevant here. What is important is that he worked during the evening and slept during the day.
>;;; yaktecsup007: What about him?
>;;; candyassdandy: He now looks like your grandmother. Well, your grandmother if she had been born in Africa.
>;;; yaktecsup007: Oh.
>;;; candyassdandy: Kenji?
>;;; yaktecsup007: I must think about this.
>;;; candyassdandy: No! WAIT!
Kenji shut down the browsers on his desktop computer and got out his gaming laptop. Yes, he had a gaming laptop but no refrigerator. And he had a desktop but no light bulbs (he moved around at night by the glow of his computer screen). And he had a laptop dedicated to communication, but no bathroom. What? Are all of your consumer choices sensibly beyond reproach?
Kenji lived in a part of Tokyo that you don’t see in movies or tourist getaways; it was the broken part where things go to die. Every city has such an area, but Tokyo’s seemed darker, dirtier, less friendly due to comparisons to the bright, shiny areas people tend to see in movies and tourist getaways. Now, being the tech wizard for the Shinjuku Yakuza Society was one step up from being its accountant and one step below drug mule; still, his connections meant that he could walk through the neighbourhood carrying a computer without fear of having it tithed to some street level hood.
Rankness has its privileges.
Kenji took the gaming laptop to Popeye, a nearby Internet café; he liked to play games while he thought. All of his favourite games were loaded onto the computer – his Yakuza protection did not extend to the anonymity of a Wi-fi connection, after all. Outside of software problems, Kenji wasn’t a fast thinker, so he would sometimes spend days in the café, sleeping in one of the small pod-like areas created for just that purpose. At various times, Kenji thought of the pod as: a sensory deprivation tank that was poorly designed for its purpose; a torpedo tube, except that, rather than blowing up passing ships, the ideas developed in it could set the world on fire, and; a strawberry shortcake muffin (what? – spending a substantial amount of time in the pod made him hungry, okay?). Kenji was afraid that this might be a three game problem, so he fired up his favourite, Tetris, and lay down with a cup of coffee.
Mmm…Tetris. Purple tees, blue ells, yellow squares, red bars, all wafting gently towards the bottom of the screen…sooooo calming…
And Kenji thought: shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit – I don’t want to be a woman – okay, I have no idea what it would actually be like, but – it doesn’t look like a lot of fun – for one thing, I would have to deal with men like me – for another thing, I would have to cook for everybody all the time…okay, I cook for myself now, but that’s a choice, not an obligation. If I want ramen noodles five days in a row, I can without having to justify it to my husband. Okay, I choose to eat ramen noodles five days a week because it’s all I can afford, but the principle still holds! And…oh oh oh oh oh, what would happen to my porn collection? I mean, would I still find it hot? Maybe if I turned into a lesbo – yeah, yeah, that WOULD be hot, it could be fantastic hot – IF I WAS STILL A MAN! Fuck, no, I’m only just perfecting loving myself as a man – I don’t want to have to start at the bottom of a new learning curve! I don’t want to be a woman! Not that my life has been a katamari of joy, exactly…oh, I should warn Haruka of what’s coming – if she’ll even talk to me – what if her dad answers the phone? Or her husband? What would – damn useless blue square! I should have finished my Tetris laser shooter mod when I had the chance! I wonder what Toshiro will look like as a woman – tee hee…no, but, seriously…he’d probably be an old bag – ha ha ha! I always knew he had an old soul, I just never knew he had borrowed it from his grandmoth – okay, but, no, really, this is most serious…I wonder how Maki Horikita would look as man. Aww, who am I kidding – he would be gorgeous! Okay, that had to be said, but it really is time to get serious now…how did this happen? One scientist said that the Large Ha…umm, cyclotron thingie was somehow responsible…one Priest – American, of course – said that god looked down on the world we had made and wasn’t happy, so he decided to shake things up a bit – hey, man! I’m just a computer programmer – how am I supposed to decide between two equally sensible answers to the question? Aww, what does it matter, anyway, why this happened? The point is, what do we do now?
And on it went. Kenji eventually decided that if he was doomed to become a woman when he fell asleep, he simply wouldn’t fall asleep. He was certain that the Shinjuku Yakuza Society leaders would come to the same conclusion, And perhaps this would show them that he truly belonged in the organization. This was not a decision taken lightly – it took Kenji three days of intense playing to come to. When he emerged from his pod after three days, the world had completely changed, but Kenji had not. Would not. He had done his share of all-nighters, so he felt up to it.
Not sleeping for the rest of your life – how hard could it be?