The McComber Switch
By Karen Singer
Chapter 9 Part 1 of 2 – Family Meeting
“I see Val’s here,” Susan said as they drove up to her father-in-law’s house.
“Jed’s truck is over by the garage too,” Clint noted.
A few minutes later, they entered the kitchen to find Jed and Valerie there, along with their daughter Ashley. After the greetings were done, Jacob pulled Jed, Clint and Susan into his office, with orders to the others to keep the kids away from the door until they were called. No sense in them listening in until they figured out what to do with them.
Jacob didn’t sit behind his desk this time. Since it was only the four of them, he sat in his favorite cushioned chair instead, while Clint and Susan sat together on one of the two small leather couches in the room and Jed sat in another of the single chairs. Jacob turned to Clint first. “We’ve got to figure out what to do about that girl of yours,” he said. “Actually, about both those kids, I guess.”
Clint’s frustration over the issues involving both his kids was evident. “I don’t know what to do with either of them, Dad. I’m at my wit’s end.”
“No doubt,” Jacob replied. “One of them won’t shoot anything when he should, and the other one goes out of her way to shoot something when she shouldn’t.”
Clint could only nod his agreement.
“Now understand me,” Jacob said. “I don’t blame you. I don’t blame either of you at all. I think the problem is the fact that they’re twins. From what I’ve heard, twins are usually closer to each other than other kids. But I also think that sometimes with twins, one of them can wind up with a little something that should have gone to the other, and vice versa.”
There was a small knock on the door.
“Come in!” Jacob called.
A moment later, Brian walked in. “Sorry I’m late,” he explained. “I had a bit of an emergency at the hospital.”
Clint was surprised to see that Brian had been called in too. For that matter, he had been surprised that Jed was there as well. Two of his three brothers. But he said nothing about it.
“So what’s going on?” Brian asked as he took another seat.
“You know of course,” Jacob said, “that Jasmine went duck hunting on Thanksgiving and killed some ducks.”
“Of course. I was there. And what you put Jimmy through during dinner was more than a bit surprising.”
Jacob nodded. “We’ll get into that in a few minutes. But now that girl has gone and gotten herself into the middle of our deer hunt this morning too, and guess who walked off with the best deer in the last couple of years.”
“Jasmine?” Brian asked, completely surprised. “Why did you let her go hunting?”
“She stowed away in my truck this morning,” Clint explained. “We didn’t know she was there until we got there.”
“And then she manipulated the situation so that we finally allowed her to hunt,” Jacob added.
“And she got a trophy deer? Why didn’t one of you shoot it?”
“Huh!” Clint grunted. “None of us saw it. We managed to sneak up on a big heard. I saw the deer she was supposed to shoot, but at the last second, just before Jed told us to all fire, I saw her turn her gun in a different direction. She shot at the same time we all did. She shouldn’t have even had time to aim it properly before she pulled the trigger. But she shot the thing practically right in the heart.”
“Lucky shot, or is she good?” Brian asked.
Clint shrugged. “She’s always been pretty good shooting at targets in the backyard.”
“I wonder if she’s gonna be like Elliot,” Jed wondered. “He just barely looks at something and he can hit it.”
“My daddy was like that,” Jacob said. “Runs in the family sometimes. But the point is, she’s a girl. I made a big mistake letting her shoot those ducks. Big mistake! And now she’s manipulated things again and gone and killed a deer. And we don’t know what to do about it. Personally, I think a good beating wouldn’t be out of order at all!”
Clint shook his head as he remembered strapping her all too recently. “I did that already. It was the one and only time I’ve ever taken my belt to her, but I beat her bad Dad. Real bad. As bad as Jimmy…maybe worse. But the thing is, it didn’t do one bit of good.” He looked at everyone in the room before continuing. “Whenever I’ve had to punish Tommy or Jimmy that way, they always wound up crying. But not Jasmine. Not at all!” He shook his head. “She was too determined, too proud of what she had done to cry. She even told me before I started that she wasn’t sorry in the least for what she had done. And so when I started hitting her, and she still seemed so damn proud of herself, and she absolutely refused to cry, well, I guess it made me hit her all that much longer. But she never cried. Not much past a few tears in her eyes at least. Not really at all. And today, when I told her she was going to get punished again, she said she didn’t care. She expected it!” He looked back and forth between his two brothers and his father again. “She expected it…and she didn’t care!” He shook his head again. “Punishing her like that, isn’t going to do any good. Not at all.”
It was a moment before any of them spoke. “She’s still got to be punished somehow,” Jacob said. “Jimmy too.”
Before anyone could say anything else, Brian spoke up. “Dad, don’t get me wrong, you know how much I like hunting. Heck, since I’m a doctor and I meet so many other doctors and professionals, I probably lead more hunting trips than anyone else. A lot of those people love hunting. But you’ve all got to understand this, the fact that Jimmy doesn’t want to kill anything isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, in most places, that kind of attitude is not just common, it’s the way people want everyone else to think. It’s just not the normal thing in this part of the country, and especially not in this family.”
“But that boy does live in this part of the country, and he is a part of this family,” Jacob replied. “And he’s got to understand his place not only in this family, but in this world. The fact that he doesn’t necessarily like to kill anything isn’t the point. He’s got to understand the whole process. He’s got to understand how it feels. Without that, he’ll never be able to relate to anyone around him. Not to mention, he’ll probably feel the shame of it his entire life.”
Brian nodded. “There is that of course. So what do we do?”
“Not a clue,” Jacob replied.
“At least there wasn’t any note like she cooked up last time,” Brian noted. He shook his head. “I still can’t believe you put Jimmy through that.”
Susan hadn’t planned on saying anything. The words just slipped out of her mouth before she knew it. “Actually, she did leave a note.” She saw all the men looking at her. She was sorry she had mentioned it. “I…didn’t want to tell you because it’s such total nonsense.”
Clint just sat there for a moment with his jaw open. “She left another note? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because it’s all just more of the same stupid stuff she put in the last one.”
“Stuff they both put in the last one,” Clint replied. “Because Jimmy signed the damn thing.”
“Jimmy did the same with this one too,” Susan told him. “Just like the last time.”
“Where is it?” Clint asked, closing his eyes to the headache now threatening to hit him.
“In my purse. I wasn’t going to bring it, but…”
“Just get it,” Clint said in no uncertain terms. “I seem to remember Jasmine saying something this morning about Jimmy already being her.”
“I found Jimmy this morning, just like I found him last time,” Susan admitted. “She had him in her bed, in her nightgown, and he was all safety pinned together so he couldn’t get the thing off if he tried.”
Clint shook his head. “Where’s the note?”
Susan went out to the kitchen where her purse was and pulled the folded paper out.
“How’s it going?” Rose asked before her daughter left the kitchen.
“Not so good,” Susan replied. She carried the note back into the room and closed the door behind her again. She tried to hand the folded paper to her husband.
“You read it,” Clint told her, not wanting to touch the thing.
Susan sat again and opened the note slowly, and started reading what she had only read once.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Jasmine wants to go hunting again, and again she’s convinced me that I have to agree to all her demands and to also be totally honest about myself.
The first thing I have to do is to admit something you already know. I missed that deer on purpose. I’ve always missed on purpose. It bothers me too much to even consider killing another living creature. I constantly worry that somehow they’re going to haunt me and get back at me for it. I know it’s silly, but Jasmine has demanded that I admit I’m simply too much of a wimp to go hunting anymore or even think about doing anything like that. Jasmine though is much braver than I am. She’s not afraid of anything.
Since Jasmine has decided to go hunting as me again, then she has demanded that I agree to be her again, and I’ve agreed to do that. I’ve agreed that from now on, any time she goes hunting, I will be her for not just that day, but now for two full days.
For those two days, I have agreed that I will try to act only like a girl and will do everything possible to not act like a boy at all.
I have agreed to help Mom as much as I possibly can for those two days.
I have also agreed that I will continue to wear mostly skirts and dresses since I don’t want anyone to think I’m trying to be anything but a sissy girl.
I have also agreed that since I may have to be Jasmine more often now, that I will not get my hair cut so it can grow as long as her hair or longer.
I’m sorry that I have turned out to be such a disappointment. But Jasmine and I agree that this will be for the best – for everyone. This way, none of the family rules are being broken. Jasmine gets to go hunting, but she goes hunting as me. So anything she kills, she kills as Jimmy. And in return, I will stay home and be the girl of the family.
Your loving son – and sometimes daughter,
Jimmy / Jasmine
There were more than a few grunts around the room when she had finished.
“Why does she have it in for her brother so much?” Jed asked.
“I don’t know,” Susan replied. “They’re twins, but since he’s a boy and she’s a girl, they’ve never really been that close. But there’s never been a problem between them.”
“It’s a shame,” Brian added thoughtfully.
“What’s that?” Clint asked.
“It’s a shame Jasmine has turned out to be such a tomboy, not into the usual feminine things at all. And Jimmy, I don’t know what he’s into, except evidently, it’s not hunting.”
“He loves mechanical stuff,” Clint told him. “Anything at all to do with machinery. Lately, he’s been really interested in figuring out how to fix one of our ATVs. He’s got the manual for it in his room. I bought some new parts for it and we’re planning on working on it together, first free chance I can get. I figured I’d let him have at it by himself while I watched in case he needed help, but I have no doubt he can probably fix the thing almost as well as I can. And last month I took him with me when I had to go up to the old saw mill to fix an electrical problem. While I was working, that boy went over every belt, every gear, everything – just to see how it all worked. I have no doubt that if the thing broke down now, you could send Jimmy up to fix it, and he would!”
“And Jasmine isn’t a tomboy either,” Susan added. “At least not that much. In fact, she’s not like that at all. She’s always been very much into her dolls. She’s got a huge collection of them. And now, for the last few months, she’s been absolutely obsessed with fashion. She was even talking yesterday about starting her own blog about the tights she wears.”
“What’s a blog?” Jacob asked.
“It’s…an internet website,” Brian explained, trying to be as simplistic about it as possible. His father only nodded.
“And that’s not all,” Susan continued. “Don’t ever get her started talking about her fascination with fashion models. She idolizes them. I think that’s what’s driving her sudden interest in this fashion show the school is putting on next spring. She’s designing and sewing all the clothes herself. Well, she’s just starting to. I’m afraid sewing like that is something new for her. But she’s adamant about doing it. And that dress that Jimmy wore to Thanksgiving dinner, she picked that out specially. We even shopped for the matching bow to go in her hair. She was really looking forward to wearing it. And the odd thing is, she was actually jealous when she saw her brother in that dress instead of her. Jealous! Her only problem with all the fashion and modeling is herself. She’s only eleven years old, but she wants breasts like…an eighteen year old. It’s driving her crazy.”
There was no sound in the room for a few moments as everyone took that information in. And then Brian grunted. “And there,” he said as he continued to think, “may be the only possible solution to this whole problem.”
It was a moment before anyone could reply. “What do you mean?” Clint asked.
But Brian continued to stare off into space as he tried to think through the idea further.
“Brian?” Clint prompted.
Brian finally shook his head. “It’s a bad idea,” he said. “Bad. But it’s the only solution that I can see that might work at all right now.”
“What is it?” Jacob asked.
Instead of answering that, Brian asked his father, “What is it you really want here, for Jasmine to not hunt anymore?”
“Of course,” Jacob replied. “But the girl just doesn’t seem to want to get that through that thick skull of hers. She’s snuck off to do it twice now, and I have no doubt that she’ll continue to try to do it again.”
“What if…” Brian continued as he tried to think through what he wanted to say. “What if we could get her to swear that she’d never hunt again? Isn’t that what you want?”
“Pretty much,” Jacob agreed.
Brian looked at Clint. “Is that the way you see it too?”
Clint nodded. “I guess. But if you bring her in here right now and tell her to do that, I don’t think it’s going to work. She can be more than a bit stubborn about some things.”
“She can be stubborn,” Susan echoed. “Very stubborn!”
Brian nodded. “I guess then it’s all going to depend on how stubborn she is about wanting to keep hunting.”
“She seems to be awfully determined,” Clint replied. “I mean, she even stowed away in my truck last night, without me knowing it.”
“And don’t forget what she said in that note too,” Jed added. “Something about her going hunting more often now.”
“There’s that too,” Brian replied. “But the question is, would she rather hunt, or have breasts?”
Everyone in the room was taken aback by the unexpected question. “What are you talking about?” Susan asked, clearly confused.
“What would Jasmine rather do, go hunting or have breasts?” Brian reiterated. “Would she be willing to swear off hunting, to have breasts like any other girl?”
“I’m sure she would,” Susan replied. “But she’s a girl, and while her breasts are just now starting to grow, they are growing.”
“But they haven’t grown much,” Brian stated, more than asked.
“Uh…not really,” Susan agreed. “She’s only eleven.”
“Then we keep her breasts from growing.” Brian stated. “And this could work for Jimmy too. What if we gave those breasts to Jimmy instead, until Jasmine swears to not hunt anymore, and maybe until Jimmy goes hunting, and actually kills something again.”
Everyone’s head was spinning, but it was Clint who uttered a simple, “Huh?”
“You can’t keep her breasts from growing,” Susan said. “She’s a girl. And what are you going to do to Jimmy, make him wear a bra all the time and put stuffing in it?”
“Not really,” Brian replied. “Not that at all. And I can keep Jasmine’s breasts from growing. Look,” he said as he got to his feet. “The answer to this whole thing is right in front of us. Right there in that note that they wrote.”
“This?” Susan asked incredulously. “This is trash!”
“Of course it is,” Brian agreed. “But what if it wasn’t?”
“What are you talking about?” Clint asked.
“Look,” he said. “One of the areas in medicine that’s had a lot of major changes in the last twenty years has been in the field of transgendered people. Changing one sex to the other.”
“But Jimmy and Jasmine aren’t that way,” Susan countered.
“Of course not. But what if we forced them to be that way? At least to a point. Isn’t that what Jasmine herself demanded in that note? And isn’t that what Jimmy agreed to when he wrote it? She was to become Jimmy when she went hunting, and he was to become Jasmine.”
It was a moment before Susan could reply. “Maybe,” she conceded.
“Then we use that note against her,” Brian suggested. “What do you think would happen if Jasmine saw her brother developing breasts like she wants, and wearing all the clothes like she wants, and doing all those things she wants to do so much...while her breasts don’t develop at all and she isn’t allowed to play with the clothes or makeup or anything else she likes so much. And while her brother is doing all the things she really wants to do, she’ll start looking less and less feminine? Don’t you think she’d reverse her course about the hunting then?”
“Of course,” Susan replied. “But…”
“Then that’s what we do,” Brian suggested. “We go along with every one of Jasmine’s demands. When Jasmine goes hunting, then she goes hunting as Jimmy, and Jimmy stays home and becomes the pretty little daughter instead.”
“But what about the breast thing?” Susan asked.
Brian smiled. “I’m not an expert in this, but I do know something about it. I’d have to check with some of my contacts as to the best way to go about it, but I do know that I can put them both on a low dose of hormones that will take care of everything for us. They’ll stop Jasmine’s breasts from growing any further…and eventually give her a few more masculine features as well.”
“Like what?” Susan demanded.
“Like eventually, a more masculine musculature and body. If this goes on too long, she could also develop a bit of a beard she might have to shave as well. Other boys her age would be starting to have some facial hair. So she could very well have to deal with that too.”
“And Jimmy?” Clint asked.
“The hormone changes would probably show up faster in him,” Brian told them. “His skin would soften, he’d lose muscle mass. And with enough time, his breasts would grow like any other girl.”
“And what happens when Jasmine swears off hunting? Are they going to be stuck that way?” Susan asked.
Brian shook his head. “We just stop the hormones, or reverse them for a short time. Jasmine would have no problems at all. Her body would revert to a more feminine form, probably rather quickly, and her breasts of course would grow as well, possibly faster than they are now. Jimmy though, depending on how long it went on and how much breast growth there is, he might have to deal with a bit of surgery to get them back to normal. But in all other ways, he would revert quickly too. I would think at least.”
“This is nuts!” Clint exclaimed.
“Thank you,” Susan added, echoing her husband’s opinion.
“Yeah, it is nuts,” Brian agreed. “But it could work. And right now, I really don’t see any other way.”
“I think this would be punishing Jimmy more than Jasmine,” Jed noted.
“Maybe,” Brian conceded. “But if Jasmine really does want to be all grown up, with breasts like any other woman…and maybe even look further into all this fashion business that Susan says she’s so focused on lately, then it’s even more likely that in the long run it would be worse for her than it would be for Jimmy. To deny her the body she seems to want so much… It could be devastating for her.”
He looked around at the others in the room as he saw a few heads nod in agreement. “And maybe it will be punishing Jimmy more,” he continued, “but don’t forget, Jimmy agreed to everything in that note. He’s just as much a party to this thing as well. And maybe him seeing his sister doing everything that he’d rather be doing, while he’s stuck sewing and doing women’s work around the house will be the catalyst he needs to get his life back on track too.”
Nobody said anything for a few moments while they all considered things.
“I still think its nuts,” Clint said, although with a lot less certainty this time.
Susan heard it all. She agreed with her husband. She didn’t even want to contemplate the thought, but… “But…it…could work,” she hesitantly admitted. “Jasmine did say she wanted to be Jimmy. And Jimmy, heaven only knows why, agreed to all her demands and agreed to be Jasmine.” She looked up at Brian. “But it was only for the times when she goes hunting. Not any other time.”
“But she did say that Jimmy would have to be her for two full days now instead of one,” Brian pointed out. “And by her own logic, that would mean that she too would be forced to be Jimmy for that extra time when she wasn’t hunting. She wouldn’t be able to do any of the things she really loves. She’d have to watch Jimmy doing it all instead of her.”
“I wonder if she even thought about that.” Jed threw out.
“Probably not,” Susan replied with a shake of her head.
“Two days isn’t going to matter much to that girl,” Jacob noted.
“No, of course not, Dad,” Brian replied. “That’s where the hormones come in…and perhaps a few little tweaks of our own that we impose on this grand scheme that she cooked up.”
“Tweaks?” Clint asked suspiciously.
“Look,” Brian said, “Let’s try to take this process from the beginning. We bring Jasmine in here tonight and tell her she’s got a choice, she either swears to us that she won’t ask to go hunting anymore, or we impose the very scheme she came up with on her and her brother.”
“But that’s what she wants,” Susan replied.
“Exactly!” Brian pointed out. “Then we remind her that whenever Jimmy is being the girl, then she’s still going to have to be him.”
“Okay,” Susan agreed, “but that doesn’t get us anywhere.”
Brian nodded. “Then we tell her that if that’s the way she wants it, then she’s going to have no choice at all in when or if she goes hunting…and it will be a lot more often.”
“Except that most of the time, when any of us goes off into the woods, were not out there to hunt for ourselves,” Jed noted. “Most of the time we’re guiding groups or working the land. But if you’re looking for suggestions, I guess we could have her do other things than just hunt.” He noticed the looks of interest on all their faces. “I’ve been taking Justin out with me, just like I did his brother Ethan, to learn about the land and how to do the job,” he told them. “I could start bringing her with me once in a while too. Its man’s work for sure out there. And a lot of it is hard tiring work! So since it would be man’s work she would be learning, then I would think that would probably work just as well as hunting. Wouldn’t you think?” He saw nods of agreement all around.
“So basically,” Brian continued, “we start sending her out more and more often as Jimmy, and in the meantime, those hormones in their systems are changing them more and more. We could even go so far as altering things a bit. Say for the first entire month, they’ve only got to be each other for two days, whenever she goes hunting. Then if she still hasn’t agreed by the next month, we make it three full days. After that, four.”
“But what about school?” Susan interjected quickly. “Even three days would mean we’d have to send them to school that way…unless we delay everything to just weekends.”
“It’s a problem,” Brian conceded. “Something we’d have to work out.”
“Why don’t we ask John about it?” Jed suggested. “He’s the school principal. Let’s get him over here and get his take on all this.”
“Hold on a moment,” Jacob said, stopping everything. “I’m starting to think this here is too big a deal to just decide between the few of us. This could have some major consequences throughout the entire family. I think we should bring all the parents in. Not the kids of course. I’d rather none of them get even a whisper of this outrageous idea. But I think something like this should get the approval of all the family.”
“I think it’s a good idea, Dad,” Brian conceded. He looked over at Clint.
Clint looked at his wife. “Do we really want to look further into this?”
It was a moment before she could reply. “Not really,” she replied, “But we’ve got to do something, and right now I don’t see where we have much choice. Especially in light of that note they left us.”
Clint nodded. “I guess,” he said to his father, “call them in. And while we’re waiting, can you pass around something strong to drink? I think I’m going to need it.”
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