The McComber Switch
By Karen Singer
Chapter 57 Part 3 of 3 – No News Would Be Good News
“Cosinger!” the older pastor said as he shook the Reverend’s hand. “Good to see you again.” His face turned more serious. “Sorry to hear you had a problem in your church on Sunday. And Easter Sunday at that.”
Reverend Cosinger nodded. “It…wasn’t good. I have no doubt that I’m soon going to be out of a job. The church board is meeting tonight about it.”
“Good luck,” the older man replied softly as he sat in one of the easy chairs in his office. “What happened?”
“I lost my temper,” Cosinger replied as he took another of the chairs. “I got stupid.”
“It happens from time to time with all of us. We’re only human.”
“But as you’ve told me in the past, nobody else views us as human.”
“All too true. And I still don’t know any way around it. So what happened?”
“The transgendered ones of course. The news mentioned them and you yourself have complained about them to me in the past.”
“You saw the newspaper? Our newspaper? All the way out here? We’re nearly in Little Rock!”
The older man shrugged. “It was there in the Little Rock paper that we get. Front page I’m afraid.”
Cosinger shook his head. “I came to see if you know of any churches that are in the market for a new Reverend.”
“There are always churches looking. I’ll keep my ear to the ground for you, but after this…I’m not sure how easy it’s going to be for you. The paper said everyone walked out on you.”
Cosinger nodded. “I shouldn’t have lost my head. It’s just that…it was Easter. And such a beautiful day to boot! Things were going so nicely, and my church was full to overflowing with people. The most ever!”
“You said you were hoping that maybe because of the way your church was growing that it would help you land a better one.”
“I was hoping,” Cosinger replied.
“But now,” Cosinger agreed. “What am I going to do?”
“I don’t know. Have you tried apologizing to the family? Have you talked with any of the board members yet?”
“No. Not yet. I only know that the board is meeting tonight about it. That’s all.”
“You might want to at least try apologizing. It’s the least you can do.”
“Apologize? But you know how I feel about the matter. You know perfectly well what the bible says about it. It couldn’t be clearer! ‘The woman shall not wear’…”
“Don’t go quoting the scriptures to me,” the older man said. “I know them at least as well as you do.”
“They’re an abomination!” Cosinger replied. “They don’t belong in the church!”
“But now you’ve gone and stuck your foot in the political problems of the people, and because of it, your entire congregation walked out on you.”
“I was only following the word of our Lord!”
“Were you? Or were you following your own prejudicial inclinations?”
“My own… I was following the word of God!”
The older man backed down to collect his thoughts. He finally spoke. “You know the Baptist religion is different than most others. We don’t have the internal political structure above us to answer to that most religions have. Most of us have to find our own churches to lead and we do our best to help the many people that choose to follow us. Remember the old joke about putting two Baptists in a room together? Neither one has the same religion. That’s pretty much true all the time. We have so many followers of our faith, but we don’t all believe things exactly the same way. Oh, we have a core list of tenets, but there are many finer points that get interpreted and viewed according to the individual. You, for example, take every word of the bible more seriously than most.”
“Shouldn’t I? It’s the word of God himself!”
“Of course it is! But that doesn’t mean we don’t have to look at things from someone else’s point of view once in a while. For instance, those two twins.”
“What about them?”
“According to the article, they’re both transgendered.”
“According to the article,” Cosinger replied.
“You mean they’re not?”
Cosinger shrugged. “What difference does it make?”
“Have you talked with them about it?”
“No!” Cosinger replied firmly. “They’re an abomination! That family should know better. The entire clan!”
The older pastor took a deep breath. Cosinger was set too firmly in his beliefs…which was usually a very good thing. He chose another tactic. “Two years ago,” he said, “I had the sorry duty to comfort a family who had just lost their son. He committed suicide.”
Cosinger nodded. “It’s horrible. I’m so glad I’ve never faced anything like that.”
“Yet!” the older pastor replied. “But do you want to know why the boy killed himself? Why he chose to take a walk along the Interstate, and then suddenly throw himself in front of a tractor-trailer?”
“Because he kept insisting he was a girl and not a boy, and the family wouldn’t listen to him or allow him to express himself femininely at all. They totally shut his feelings on the matter down. And the result…”
“So he killed himself.”
The older man nodded. “And he’s not alone. I had to do a lot of research on the subject after that. Turns out that the suicide rate for these individuals is through the roof! It’s unbelievable! And if it’s not suicide, then so many of them get attacked, raped, or murdered – often!”
“It’s horrible,” Cosinger agreed. “But what does that have to do with me?”
“Those two twins you keep complaining about. The boy I had to deal with killed himself because he couldn’t be who he wanted to be. He thought he was a girl inside, not a boy at all. What do those two twins think? You live in Northern Arkansas. Not exactly the most open minded place in the world. Wouldn’t their family put a stop to the business of them switching around if it wasn’t so serious?”
“Huh! The McComber Clan. Hunting and showing off for everyone around is their game.”
“So what’s really going on with those kids? How do they feel about things? Is it bad enough that the family is just trying to prevent them from…shooting themselves or something?”
Cosinger looked horrified. “They wouldn’t!”
“The boy I dealt with, purposely ran in front of a truck – on the interstate. There was a good reason why the casket was closed. Horrible!”
Cosinger said nothing, he only sat there and looked horrified.
“All I’m saying,” the older man suggested, “is that maybe you should go back and try to see things from their perspective, and not just your own. If a boy really thinks he’s a girl, then is it an abomination for him to be wearing girls clothes or not? He wouldn’t think so. He believes he is a girl.”
“You’re splitting hairs!”
“Of course! But that hair is still someone else’s concept of reality.”
“Maybe,” Cosinger replied as he tried to wrap his head around the concept. “I guess I can think about it.”
“Good! Do that. The way all this transgendered stuff keeps popping up on the news, I have no doubt that we’ll all be dealing with it more in the future.”
“The word of God…”
“Is what each of us interpret it to be,” the older man finished. “Whether it’s true in the bible or not. As preachers, we’re not human…according to everyone else,” the older man said. “But by that logic, everyone else is even more fallible than we are. Just think about it!”
--- §§§§§§§§§§ ---
The editor of the County Chronicle was pouring over all the birthday pictures that had been sent to the newspaper. “What a shindig!” he exclaimed.
“That’s one of the twins there,” the reporter pointed out as they looked at a picture of the two birthday girls with their arms around each other, smiling for the picture. “The one in the gold shirt.”
“Great outfits!” the secretary exclaimed, looking at the pictures from over the editors other shoulder. “And she actually looks pretty! Astonishingly so.”
“Which one is the other twin?”
The reporter searched through the pictures. “There isn’t much on her…or him. Here!” he said as he selected one and enlarged it.
“Nice!” the editor exclaimed. “Perfect picture. And with him sitting on the horse, it makes it look even better.”
“Goes with the western theme of the party. Quite nice,” the secretary agreed.
They all looked up as the door opened and two people walked in. The editor thought the beautiful young woman looked familiar. “Can I help you?” the editor asked.
“Amanda Dwyer,” the woman introduced herself. “Little Rock News.”
“We’re here about that story you uploaded last night to the Associated Press. I was wondering if you had any more information about any of it. We tried to talk to Reverend Cosinger, but he wasn’t home, and his wife wasn’t interested in talking.”
“I’ve been digging into it all day,” the reporter told her.
“And?” she asked.
“And I’m not sure we should be sharing what we found,” the editor interrupted.
“We’re all just trying to get the story out,” Amanda told him. “Anything you give me will be duly accredited to your paper. I can promise you that.”
“Everything!” Amanda agreed. “Professional curtesy. We do it all the time.”
“I don’t know much about television,” the editor replied.
“So what have you found? My editor put me on hold as to talking with the McComber family for now, and the Reverend wasn’t there. So can you throw me anything at all?”
“How about some pictures?” the editor suggested.
“And I’ve got some interviews that were very enlightening,” the reporter added.
“But I want full credit for everything we give you!” the editor insisted again.
Amanda Dwyer smiled. Twenty minutes later all the birthday pictures were being sent to her TV station, with the added provision that the paper would be well paid for each and every one. As soon as she could, she and her camera man were back in their van and heading back to the church. Even without Reverend Cosinger, she had a lot of great material for a story. Most of it was about how generous the McComber family seemed to be. The same family that now held a bizarre set of twins.
As her camera man drove, she furiously wrote notes on what she would say in front of the camera. And who knew, maybe by the time they got back to the church, the Reverend would be there! That would be a double bonus. This little story that she had complained about being assigned to was rapidly turning out to be very interesting!
--- §§§§§§§§§§ ---
Late in the afternoon, Doctor Hapkins office was again visited by the same reporter. Again the doctor got up to shake his hand before the two sat down again. “So, did you get the answers to my questions?” the doctor asked.
“I did,” the reporter replied with a nod. “It wasn’t all that difficult. As you suggested, there’s all too much information about it on the internet.”
“And did you manage to keep your film crew away from that family?”
“For now,” the reporter agreed. “Seems they dug up more than enough material from other sources for a story tonight.”
“At least the children won’t be on TV.”
“That part I can’t guarantee.”
The doctor was disappointed. “Why not?”
“Because we’ve got a bunch of pictures of a big birthday party bash that was thrown for them on Friday. And it includes pictures of the kids. Pictures we’d be crazy not to run with.”
The doctor shook her head. “You know the jeopardy you’re placing those children into.”
“You’re worried about hate crimes.”
“That, and the problems that the publicity might bring to their quiet little life. Too many people might recognize them. They won’t be left in peace.”
“Not my call anymore. Newspapers and TV stations everywhere have picked up on this story. It’s too bizarre! And the fact that the Easter church service was cancelled because everyone walked out on Reverend Cosinger is simply too big a story right after Easter for all the news sources not to run it. I’m afraid it’s already being broadcast pretty much everywhere. If it hadn’t been Easter when it happened, they might have stood a chance. But the big holiday simply assured it would get picked up by everyone.”
“That, and what’s happening to those twins was labeled as bizarre by the paper,” the doctor said with more than a hint of annoyance.
“Afraid so. So now, what can you tell me about them?”
“Not much, I’m afraid. “Or rather, I’m glad I can’t tell you much, for obvious reasons. I was first made aware of them by one of my colleagues who is consulting on the twin’s case. I was brought in as an additional consultant on the hormone levels of the two. I talked with their doctor right here in my office about them as well.”
“Is it normal for that much consultation?”
The doctor shrugged. “Sometimes. Actually, more often than you think. But in this case, what’s happening with the twins isn’t something the family wants at all. They were trying to keep things going slowly. And unfortunately, too slowly.”
“What do you mean, too slowly?”
“The twins are both on hormones. They have been since just after Thanksgiving. The hormone levels they were being given were actually too low for the first few months, which was causing undo emotional stress to the twins, particularly the female to male one.”
“Jimmy Joe,” the reporter replied.
“The name he evidently goes by now.”
“I don’t know any of that,” the doctor said. “Anyway, the hormones they were being given were so low that their bodies natural hormones were at constant war with them, resulting in drastic mood changes that I’m afraid came out as somewhat violent, particularly in the case of the female to male patient. Fortunately, nothing too bad. Adjusting the hormones to more proper levels solved the issue, and I have no doubt made each of the twins much happier too since the changes they each were after began showing up more prominently.”
“And that’s your only knowledge of them?” the reporter asked.
“That, and I get monthly reports showing me their blood levels. But that’s it. I have no other knowledge of them at all. I didn’t even know their names until now. Jimmy Joe, you said?”
“Jimmy Joe,” the reporter confirmed. “I have some pictures. Would you like to see?”
“I’d love to,” the doctor replied, very curious now.
The reporter pulled out his cell phone and found one of the pictures. “This one is Jimmy Joe,” he said as he passed his cell phone to her. “If you move to the next picture, that one is Jade.”
“Evidently that’s the name she chose for herself.”
The doctor studied the picture. It showed a boy on the back of a horse, obviously very happy to be there. And without a doubt the one now called Jimmy Joe looked just like a boy. She move to the next picture and smiled. “And this is Jade?”
“That’s her,” the reporter confirmed again.
“I got to tell you, they both surprised me. A lot!”
“I can see why,” the doctor agreed. She passed the phone back to the reporter. “Look at those pictures again, and tell me what you see.”
The reporter looked again. “Two kids. One boy, and one girl. No doubt about either of them from the pictures.”
“No, that’s not what I see.”
“No, what I see is two perfectly happy kids. Two kids that look for all the world like they’re living just as they want to be. That’s what I see.”
“The reporter nodded. I think you’re right. At least that’s what the picture seems to show.”
“And a picture is worth a thousand words.”
The reporter nodded. “Yes, but if each picture is worth that much, how much more is TV video of them worth?”
The doctor shuddered at the thought.
--- §§§§§§§§§§ ---
“Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn!” Jacob swore as he watched the evening news. He was only watching it because Brain had warned him there might be a story about the church and the twins. And unfortunately, Brian had been right. He watched the attractive blonde woman standing in the church parking lot with the church right behind her, talking about what had happened on Sunday. But then she went on to mention the charitable food that the McComber family had given out, some of it by the bizarre set of twins themselves. She was being nothing but nice about the family. None of that bothered Jacob at all. It was when she turned her comments to talking only about the twins that got him upset. And mostly, because along with her speaking about them, the TV station was now airing a picture of each of the twins side by side. Jimmy Joe was smiling down from the back of a horse, and Jasmine Jade was smiling at the camera in her fancy cowgirl outfit.
Little Rock TV was airing the story, and Jacob had no doubt that there would be more requests directly to the family for more interviews – and pictures. And there were things about what was happening with this family business that nobody but the family needed to know. Not to mention, he didn’t think he wanted those twins plastered all over everyone’s TV sets.
As soon as the piece was finished, he turned to his wife. “We got to keep the press away from those kids.”
“How?” Rose asked.
Jacob thought for a few minutes. “From what I heard they’re almost focusing more on us than on what the Reverend done. Any way we can turn this thing back so they’re more interested in him instead?”
“I don’t know how. And don’t forget, the paper labeled the twins as bizarre. That reporter herself even used the word on TV.”
“Maybe you can discuss it with the church board tonight. See if any of them have any ideas. I don’t want this thing blowing up any bigger than it already is.”
Rose nodded. “I’ll bring it up. See if we can come up with anything. But don’t hold your breath.”
--- §§§§§§§§§§ ---
Reverend Cosinger sat quietly in the church office waiting. His wife was next door in their home…on pins and needles. Both of them knew what the end result of the church board meeting had to be. He was only surprised that the meeting was taking so long. Forty-five minutes already! And he already knew that most of the people on that board wanted him gone for what he had done. And he couldn’t blame them. He had talked with his best friend and mentor. He had talked with his wife. He was ready to accept their decision and move on. Most likely moving on would mean moving far away. But that was fine too. He would start again, and he would do better next time.
His phone suddenly ringing almost made him drop the thing. “Hello?”
“Could you come over to the church and talk with us?”
“I’m already here,” he replied. “I’ll be there in a minute.”
He hung up the phone and took a deep breath. It was time. He solemnly walked the short distance from his little office to the church annex door. He paused for another moment to take a big breath, and opened the door. His eyes scanned the faces of each of the seven church board members. Four of them were McCombers – Rose, Valerie, Brian, and Pete McComber. And the rest…old and faithful church members who were also good friends with each of the McCombers. He had no chance…but then he knew he never did. He deserved this.
He walked up to the head of the long table. “Before we begin,” he said, “I’d just like to apologize for what I’ve done. Words can’t begin to undo the damage I’ve caused, not just to this church, but for my wife and I…and those two twins. I’d undo it all in a minute…if I could. Every bit of it. I only wish I could do something to make up for it. I know you’re going to dismiss me now. And I agree, I deserve it. It’s time for my wife and I to move on. I just wanted to say again…that I’m sorry. So very, very sorry.” He stood there and looked at each of their somber faces, waiting for one of them to speak.
It was Brian who finally broke the silence. He was the current president of the board. “Do you want to leave?” he asked.
The Reverend was surprised. “I think I deserve it.”
“That’s not what I asked. Do you really want to leave?”
An odd question. “No. Not really. My wife and I need this job…this church. I’ve been proud of the number of people that have been coming lately. Very proud! Trust me, I’d do anything to be able to stay. Including, and especially, apologizing to those two twins! I’ve never really talked with either of them since this situation all started. I know nothing about either of them anymore. According to a good friend of mine, it was…presumptuous of me to believe so strongly against them, when I really know nothing at all about them.” He watched as all the church board members seemed to look at each other for a moment. He hoped he had said something helpful.
“You said you’d do anything?” Brian asked.
“Are you willing to give me another chance?” the Reverend asked hopefully. Because trust me, I’d relish the opportunity.
“Maybe!” Brian replied.
“Maybe!” Rose echoed firmly.
The Reverend’s hopes had been rising, now they sank a bit. But there was still hope.
“We find ourselves with a situation…concerning those twins,” Brian told him. “And it’s not so much anything to do with this church, but it is related because of what you’ve done. Because of that, you’re tied directly to their problem.”
“Their problem?” the Reverend asked.
Brian nodded. “The news is trying to make a big deal about them switching places. Susan and Clint have received several phone calls from different news sources asking for interviews with them.
The Reverend rolled his eyes. “My wife fielded quite a few phone calls for me as well,” he replied. One TV station out of Little Rock even showed up at our door. Fortunately, I was out at the time.”
“We don’t want the TV…”
“Newspapers either!” Rose added.
Brian nodded his agreement. “We don’t want them bringing the twins up. We want this to just settle down and be quiet again.”
“And what do you want me to do?” the Reverend asked.
“Find some way to keep the interest on you, and take it away from them,” Brain told him. “At the family’s request, the board here had been dickering with trying to come up with some way to help the family, and we’re pretty much stymied by the problem. We were going to dismiss you right now, but one of us came up with this one idea that maybe you can somehow help.” He nodded toward one of the members who wasn’t part of the McComber family. He continued speaking to the Reverend. “You’re the one who caused the problem. See if you can help fix it! If you can, then you can stay.”
The word “stay” was almost a relief. “I guess, I can try,” the Reverend agreed quickly. “But to be honest, I don’t know how to do what you’re asking.”
It was Rose who spoke next. “You’re dismissal will be brought up again at our meeting next month,” she told him. “If any of us feel you need to go, it will take very little convincing for the rest of us to go along with it.”
The Reverend nodded. He was being put on probation.
“Find a way to help those twins!” Valerie implored. “Please!”
“We don’t want our family business aired all over the planet!” Pete added.
The Reverend looked at each of them and shrugged. “I can only promise to try. But I don’t know how I’m going to do it.”
“That’s all we ask,” Brain told him.
“May I speak with the twins?” the Reverend asked. “I’d…like to get to know them a bit better. And I’d really like to apologize to them and their family.”
“No!” Brain stated firmly. “And we don’t know if they’ll be in church next Sunday or not. We don’t know how we’re going to handle this situation right now. From what I heard, the story was picked up all over the country – because of it being Easter Sunday. Now we’re at our wit’s end.”
“So am I,” the Reverend said quietly. “But you’ve given me another chance at least.”
“Now give us another chance too,” Rose requested quietly.
--- §§§§§§§§§§ ---
Susan walked into Jimmy Joe’s bedroom. “All set for bed?” she asked, trying to sound as normal and happy as she could.
“Yeah, kind of,” Jimmy Joe replied as she got into bed and under the covers. Her mother pulled them up a bit higher towards her head. “Mom! That was so cool! I was on TV tonight. They had my picture, and they even mentioned that I had delivered that food to one of the families. I wonder which one it was.”
Susan was less thrilled about it. “I don’t know,” she replied. “There were quite a few.”
“It was still so cool!”
Susan didn’t want to think about all the possible trouble that little news story could be for not only her twins, but her entire family. “Good night Jimmy,” she said as she leaned over and kissed her new son.”
“Night, Mom,” Jimmy Joe replied, still sounding all too excited about what she had heard on TV.
Susan left the room, turning out the light and closing the door. The family had only watched the news because Brian had warned them that it was possible something about the twins could be on it. The news had hinted about the report all through their broadcast, but had saved the actual news piece until near the end. At least it hadn’t been first. She crossed the hall and went through the open door into Jasmine’s room. He was already in bed, waiting for her. “Good night Jas,” she said as she went over and kissed his cheek.
“Night, Mom,” he replied. “Mom?”
“That picture of me on TV. Did I look that pretty at the party? The reporter even said the picture showed how pretty I was.”
Susan stared down at him. “You were better than that,” she told him. “You were gorgeous!” She wasn’t sure now if she was glad she had gone to so much trouble dressing him up or not. As a mother, her pride was certainly at stake. But if she hadn’t, maybe the news wouldn’t have paid so much attention to him…either of her twins. She knew better though. That one word – bizarre! If not for that, maybe this whole thing would have blown over.
“Thanks, Mom,” Jasmine said with a big smile on his face.
“Good night, Jas,” she replied.