The McComber Switch
By Karen Singer
Chapter 55 Part 1 of 3 – There Be Horses
Very early Friday morning, Susan was faced with three closed doors. That didn’t surprise her at all. Tommy’s door was the first one that was closed. But then Tommy had no reason to get out of bed early – unlike herself and Clint. She stopped and stared at the other two closed doors. She had no reason to go into Jimmy Joe’s room on the right. Despite it being her birthday, Jimmy Joe had no major plans for the day. But Susan did need to go into Jasmine’s room on the left. She opened that door and went in. By the dim early morning light filtering through the window, all she could see of him was a bit of messy hair barely sticking out over top of the covers.
“Happy Birthday, Jas,” she called softly. The hair moved a bit, then stopped. “Jas…happy birthday,” she said again as she sat down on the bed. This time the hair moved a bit more, and a moment later, a head appeared and turned over to reveal a face. “Happy Birthday,” Susan said again.
“Uh…thanks,” Jasmine replied. He woke up enough to notice that it was still somewhat dark. “What time is it?” he asked sleepily.
“Early!” Susan replied.
“But it’s my birthday. Can’t I sleep a little while more?”
“Not today,” Susan told him. “We’ve got a lot to do today, so I need you up now.”
“A lot to do?” And then Jasmine woke up enough to remember something. “Mom! We’ve got horses coming today. Horses!”
“Yes dear, I know. Your father is already getting dressed to start getting things ready. And now I need you to get in the shower and start getting ready too!”
“Me? But what do I have to do?”
“Start getting ready for your party.”
“But the party isn’t until this afternoon.”
“But you need to start getting ready now!”
Jasmine rolled his eyes. “Okay. I’m getting up.”
Susan smiled. “Get your shower. And make sure you wash your hair. And don’t forget the conditioner!”
“Yeah, yeah. Okay.”
Susan got up from the bed. She stopped and watched him until his legs actually got out from under the covers.
“I’m getting up. I’m getting up,” he complained.
Susan smiled. “After your shower, don’t dry your hair,” she told him. “Just put your robe on and come find me.”
He looked at her for a moment. “Okay,” he said. “I’m guessing you’re going to do something with my hair then?”
“You guess right,” Susan told him before walking out.
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“Tell me again why we’re doing this,” Clint said as he climbed into Pete’s truck.
“Because we’re both suckers for our daughters,” Pete laughed as he started his truck. “Face it, they’ve got us wrapped around their little fingers, and there’s no way out!”
Clint shook his head. “Yeah, except that my daughter is really my son. So how did I still get roped into so much?”
“Doesn’t matter,” Pete replied. “Jimmy is now Jasmine…or Jade, as most of the kids call him now. And from everything I’ve seen, he’s now your daughter instead. And since he…or she…or whatever you want to call him, is still your kid, I don’t think there’s any hope of things being any other way.”
“Maybe,” Clint replied. “Or maybe it’s just that my wife got too many big ideas into her head, and once she’s that set on something, there’s no stopping her.”
“Not just your wife. Don’t forget, my wife is just as much to blame for all this too.”
“And the result is that we’re going to deplete the family fortune – by a lot!”
Pete just laughed, but Clint sat there quietly wondering about things. His son was going to have a fancy girl’s birthday, and his daughter was going to have a basic boy’s birthday – with no frills at all. And he really wished things were the other way around.
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Wearing only his robe, Jasmine Jade sat on a kitchen chair while his mother worked on his hair. His hair was still dripping wet. So wet that he could feel it soaking the shoulders of his robe. His hair was long enough now that it nearly touched his shoulders when it was wet and his mother combed it straight down. But when she did that, it seemed to drip all too much water with each stroke of the comb.
“You could have at least run a towel over your hair when you got out of the shower,” Susan told him.
“You said to leave it wet!”
“Well, it’s not just wet, it’s soaked! Now hold still.” She ran the comb down his hair again, then took her scissors and trimmed along the very bottom of his hair, trying to even up the edges. She did that over and over again, all the way around his head before she finally set the scissors down.
“Are you done now?” Jasmine asked, already knowing that his hair was just as long now as it was before.
“With trimming it,” Susan replied. “Now let’s see what else we can do with it.”
What else? Ugh! But he sat there silently and waited while his mother disappeared then came back again. When she returned, he wasn’t the least bit happy to see what she had with her. Twenty minutes later, Jasmine had two very, very large rollers seemingly pasted vertically against his temples, slightly smaller rollers were now plastered firmly all over the rest of his head, and his hair wrapped around each of those rollers had been treated with a healthy dose of styling gel.
“Okay,” Susan told him. “You can get dressed now, but don’t you dare put on what you’re going to wear for the party. We need to keep that clean!”
“Oh Mom!” Jasmine replied. “Do I have to wear another skirt?”
Susan thought about that, then she considered everything that was going on that morning before the party. “Better not. Find some jeans that aren’t…too good.”
Jasmine was quick to disappear before his mother could come up with anything else to make his birthday uncomfortable. Finding a pair of jeans to wear was easy. Finding a top to go with them was easy too. Getting the top on over all the huge rollers stuck in his hair wasn’t so easy. In fact, it was somewhat of a challenge. But eventually he managed it, and then chose a sweater to go over it that he wouldn’t have to pull over his head. How long was he going to have to keep the dumb rollers in his hair anyway? Hopefully not too long.
By the time he got back to the kitchen, his mother was well into creating a large pile of pancakes.
“Go wake your brothers and tell them breakfast is ready,” Susan told him.
Jasmine turned around and headed back down the hallway. All the big rollers stuck on his head felt weird. Surprisingly, his head felt cooler. But that was probably because his hair was still wet. He knocked on Tommy’s door. “Tommy! Breakfast is ready,” he called. He heard his older brother reply that he’d be there in a minute.
He headed for Jimmy Joe’s room. He knocked. “Jimmy Joe! Breakfast!” he called. He waited, but got no answer. He knocked again. “Jimmy Joe!” Again he waited without an answer. He took a chance and opened the door. The room was dimly lit, but he could see the big lump still filling the bed. He walked over to the bed. “Jimmy Joe!” he called. “Happy Birthday. Time to get up.”
There was no movement from the bed, but after a moment, there was…sort of...a sound. “Go away.”
He leaned over and shook the lump under the covers. “Happy Birthday!” he said more firmly. “Mom’s got pancakes made.”
“I said, go away,” Jimmy Joe replied.
“But Mom said to get you up.”
“Ugh!” Jimmy Joe grunted loudly, showing how frustrated she was. The covers came back revealing her head. “I was having a really great dream, and you ruined it!”
Jasmine laughed a little. “Sorry,” he said. “What were you dreaming about? Killing another deer?”
Jimmy Joe looked surprised. “That would have been great too. I can’t wait for deer season to get here again.”
“But that wasn’t what you were dreaming.”
“No. This was even better.”
“No. This was even better.”
“Better than hunting – for you?”
Jimmy Joe sighed. “Yeah, it was. Tell Mom I’ll be there in a minute.”
“But what were you dreaming?”
Jimmy Joe shook her head. “You don’t want to know.”
“Did it involve killing anything?”
“No. Nothing like that.”
“Then I’m interested. What was so great?”
Jimmy Joe looked at him for a long moment. Then she looked at the open door. Nobody else seemed to be around. She lowered her voice. “I was a model in a fashion show. And I was rich and famous. And everyone was talking about how beautiful I was.”
Jasmine looked at her incredulously. Then he thought better of that. “You did say that was your dream…or it used to be. I guess you’re still dreaming about it – literally!”
Jimmy Joe blushed. “Get out! I’ll be there in a minute.” Her face turned more serious. “Don’t you dare tell anyone what I just said!”
Jasmine laughed a little. “Don’t worry. Nobody would ever believe me if I did.”
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Just because it was his birthday, didn’t mean that Jasmine could get out of cleaning up after breakfast. But that was something he did so often that he hardly thought about it. He wasn’t quite done loading the dishwasher though, when he heard the dogs next door start barking. He couldn’t see what was going on, but a minute later, he saw Nichole out in her backyard watching something. He quickly finished what he was doing and ran to grab his jacket. He didn’t even ask if he could leave the house. He ran for Nichole’s backyard. “Nichole!” he called as he ran across the yards.
“Jade!” Nichole replied excitedly.
Now that he was outside, he saw his father up in his Uncle Pete’s pickup truck that was loaded with hay bales. “Hi Dad,” he called up.
“Hey Jas,” Clint replied. “Happy birthday…I think!”
Jasmine smiled. “Thanks. What’s all the hay for?”
“Target practice!” his Uncle Pete replied.
“Target practice!” Jasmine replied uncertainly. It was a moment before realized his uncle was only joking. He finally smiled.
“Happy birthday, Jade,” Nichole told him. Excitedly.
“Yeah, you too!” Jasmine Jade replied.
“Yeah, you too!” Jasmine Jade replied.
“Thanks, but I’ve still got a few more days.”
“Close enough!” Jade replied. “Besides, we’re both celebrating today.”
Nichole brightened at that. “We sure are!”
Jasmine turned back to his Uncle Pete who had grabbed one of the bales of hay that his father had thrown down off of the truck. He watched as his uncle carried the bale over next to another one and set it so they were side by side. “What are you doing?” Jasmine asked.
“Building an area for you to perform in, or dance in, or whatever. And of course you can sit on these things too,” Pete told him. “And the rest of these will go toward feeding all those horses…that I thought we had cancelled!”
“You better not have!” Nichole exclaimed.
Pete smiled. “Don’t worry. Your mother would probably kill me if I did.” He looked at Jasmine. “What’s the matter?” Pete asked. “Can’t get good radio reception or something?”
Jasmine was confused. “What are you talking about?”
“All those antennas stuck on your head.”
Jasmine rolled his eyes and blushed. “I need to ask Mom if I can take them out now.”
Pete looked at him with a quizzical look on his face. “Why? If our cell phone tower ever goes out, I’m sure we can stick you up on the hill and everything will work just fine.”
“Uncle Pete…” Jasmine complained as he tried unsuccessfully to stifle his laughing. “I guess I better go get these things out of my hair. I’ll be back as soon as I can!” he told everyone as he hurried home.
“Mom!” Jasmine called as he ran into the house. He found his mother in her bedroom. “Mom. Can I finally get these rollers out of my hair now? Uncle Pete keeps making jokes about them.”
Susan laughed. “No dear,” she said. “I’m afraid you need to put up with them for a little while more. We’ll take them out when you get dressed again after lunch.”
“After lunch! But that’s hours away!”
“Sorry dear. It’s all part of what we’ve got to put up with for pretty hair.”
Jasmine wasn’t sure if he cared about having “pretty” hair or not. “But I’m going to be wearing a hat all afternoon,” he argued.
“But your hair is still going to show, and I won’t have my daughter looking second rate – especially on her birthday!”
Jasmine had noticed that once again his mother had called him her daughter and had referred to him as a her. “So I’ve got to put up with this all morning?”
“It’s not that bad Jas. Just go and have a good time.”
Jasmine shook his curler filled head and went back outside. He was in time to see his Uncle Pete driving the truck from their backyard into his.
Nichole ran over when she saw him. “I thought you were getting the rollers out of your hair.”
“Mom says not until later – after lunch!”
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By the time all the hay had been dropped off, John and Jed came out to help too, along with most of the boys in the family. Together, they all lugged every picnic table from every yard into Pete’s back yard. The more people who showed up, the more Jasmine felt embarrassed about everyone seeing the curlers in his hair. Jimmy Joe certainly seemed to be enjoying his situation though. The amused smirk on her face over the issue couldn’t be missed. But despite that, Jasmine stayed out where he could watch everything. There was too much going on, and he didn’t want to miss any of it.
Once the picnic tables had been moved, Clint and Tommy moved their gas grill over to Pete’s house too. By the time they got it there, John and Hunter were bringing their gas grill over for the party too. There were going to be plenty of hot dogs and hamburgers for everyone. Jasmine Jade, Nichole, Allison, Olivia, and Ashley were all tasked with blowing up lots of balloons, and while they were doing that, under Marcy and Susan’s direction, Ethan, Pete, Clint, and Tommy hung big colorful birthday banners and streamers from the eves on the back of the house. There could be no doubt at all that the backyard of Pete and Marcy’s house looked ready for a party.
With most of the preparations made, it was finally time for everyone to grab a quick lunch. And Jasmine was more than ready to get the stupid rollers out of his hair!
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