The McComber Switch
By Karen Singer
Part 4 – From the Frying Pan to the Fire
Chapter 41 – Eureka
Chapter 42 – To Be, or Not To Be
Chapter 43 – Impression Complications
Chapter 44 – Deciding the Future
Chapter 45 – And the Truth Shall Imprison You
Chapter 46 – Rotten Day
Chapter 47 – Show and Shoot
Chapter 48 – Still in the Family
Chapter 49 – Nightmares in Black
Chapter 50 – Shooting and Hitting
Chapter 51 – Arguing With a Brick Wall
Chapter 52 – Pounding It Out
Chapter 53 – Jealous
Chapter 54 – Busyness
Chapter 55 – There Be Horses
Chapter 56 – Holy, Holy, Holy Cow
The McComber Switch
By Karen Singer
Chapter 41 Part 1 of 3 – Eureka
For Jasmine Jade, waking up in the bedroom that had always been his sister’s room, was feeling more normal now than waking up in his own bedroom across the hall. But he preferred sleeping, and waking up, in his sister’s pink bedroom now. Without all the dead ducks, and especially without that humongous deer head hanging on the wall, her room was a lot less oppressive.
The rows of shelves lining two walls with all his sister’s dolls didn’t bother him at all. He’d never admit it, but lately he had begun to think of some of the dolls as…interesting. His stupid sister literally had names for every one of the dolls she had – hundreds of them! Or so it seemed. Lately, she had been trying to make him learn all their names. So far, they had only covered the top shelf of one wall. He could name some of them, but he wasn’t even close to being able to name even most of them. His sister could though. She seemed to know each one intimately. Including the personality that she claimed some of them had. How could a doll have a personality? That part still boggled his brain.
He tossed Cleo aside and forced himself out from under the heavy covers and headed for the bathroom. He absently rubbed his hands over his aching breasts as he headed for the bedroom door. His breasts ached again. They always seemed to ache. Most of the time he could put it out of his mind. But that didn’t stop them from constantly bothering him. And the heavy flannel pajamas he was wearing didn’t seem to help much against his nipples. The constant motion and rubbing of the flannel against them, while not really painful, was bothersome. Why did they have to be so stupidly sensitive? But at least his pajamas were big and didn’t press against his breasts like all his bras did…his sister’s bras. Well, he supposed they were mostly his bras did now. His stupid sister didn’t have any breasts at all anymore. None. He had them now instead. And more and more now, he was finding that all his sister’s bras…his bras…were starting to get simply uncomfortable. When he spread his hands out to cover his breasts now, they filled the palms of his hands. While he knew they were in reality pretty small still and not nearly as big as the breasts all his girlfriends had, he also knew without a doubt that he was catching up quickly. That thought alone terrified him.
As he left the bedroom and wandered sleepily toward the bathroom across and down the hall, he didn’t worry about not wearing a robe over his pajamas, he rarely did. His body was more than adequately covered. The heavy pink flannel pajamas he was wearing with the little dolls all over them were his favorites and he wore them fairly often. He needed to wash them today – this morning! He wanted to take them to Olivia’s birthday slumber party that night. He was really looking forward to that party. And he was dreading it even more. And the reason he was dreading it was the same reason he had been in pretty much of a funk for the last few days. He was afraid.
After the bathroom, he wandered down the hallway to the kitchen. His mother was inside by the sink, still in her bathrobe. “Mornin’ Mom,” he muttered sleepily as he shuffled his feet right up to her and wrapped his arms around her.
“Morning Sweetie,” Susan replied as she pulled him into her and returned a nice lasting hug. It was a moment before either of them pulled away. “Want to help me make breakfast?” Susan asked.
Jasmine of course knew that the question of if he wanted to help, was more like a command that meant “you will help!” “Sure,” he replied, not really minding at all.
“How about some French toast today?” Susan asked.
“French toast? That’s not in my Home Ec book.”
“No, but it’s something fairly common that you should know how to make. Don’t worry, it’s easy.”
Jasmine shrugged. “Whatever,” he said as he stretched and let out a big yawn. Ten minutes later, his mother had him standing over the frying pan with a spatula in his hand while she worked on getting some bacon ready to put into another pan.
“Are you looking forward to the party tonight?” Susan asked.
It was a moment before Jasmine could reply. “I don’t know. I guess so.”
“You guess so? I thought you and all your friends had this thing all planned. And you’ve even got Aunt Jane and me all set to be the judges for some of your games.”
“That’s because you and Aunt Jane are going to be the only grownups there.”
“But weren’t you part of all that planning?”
“Yeah,” he replied.
“So from what I could see, you seemed to be looking forward to it all.”
“I was. I mean, I am. I guess.”
“So what’s your problem?”
He sighed heavily. With spatula in hand, he turned to face her. “What if… What…”
“What if, what?”
He rolled his eyes and turned back to the frying pan.
“What if, what?” Susan asked again. “What’s your problem?”
Again he turned to her. “What if…I like it?”
Susan blinked, not really sure she had heard him correctly. “What if you like it? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do? Isn’t that why you’re going?”
He turned away from her again. “Yeah, but…”
Again he turned back to her. “What if I like it? What if I do have fun? What then?”
Susan was lost. “I don’t understand. What’s your problem? What’s wrong with liking it?”
“I mean, I’m not really a girl. Should I go and try to enjoy it all? Or should I go and try to not enjoy myself?”
“Why would you go and not enjoy yourself?”
“Because I’m not a girl. Not really.”
“Because I’m not a girl. Not really.”
“You lost me somewhere,” Susan told him. “What’s that got to do with anything?”
Jasmine was clearly frustrated. “I mean…the last sleepover, the one I had here, we just did it to try to get Jas…I mean Jimmy…Jimmy Joe…”
“Yeah, yeah. I know who.”
“We were only doing it to try to get her to agree to quit hunting.”
“So? And didn’t you enjoy yourself? And don’t try to tell me you didn’t, because I know better!”
“That’s just it. That’s the problem. I did enjoy it!” He turned away from her and mumbled, “Too much.”
“What do you mean, too much? Why should enjoying yourself be a problem?”
“Because…I’m not a girl.”
Jasmine rolled his eyes, shook his head and turned away from her. “Never mind.”
Susan looked at him for a moment, then walked over and gathered him into her arms again. “Are you thinking that you’re not supposed to enjoy anything because you’re a boy?”
“Kind of,” he replied with his arms around her and his head resting against her chest.”
She pushed him away from her and looked down at him. “Jas, nobody ever said that you having to be a girl doesn’t mean you can’t like anything or can’t have fun. I know this is hard on you. I know you don’t want it, but it doesn’t mean you have to not like everything. As I see it, you might as well grab everything you can from this experience and try to have as much fun and enjoyment as you possibly can. You’re only young once kiddo, and trust me, I’d give anything to be your age and be able to enjoy that time again.”
“So you’re saying I shouldn’t worry that I’m really a boy and try to go along with everything and just have fun?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying!”
He shook his head.
“It’s just that…” He shook his head and turned back to the pan. “Darn! I’m burning them.” He quickly flipped the two pieces of French toast over. “Is that too well done?” he asked.
Susan looked at the pan. “No, I’ll have those. I like mine a little more done anyway.”
“No,” he sighed. “I’ll eat them. I’m the one who overcooked them.”
Susan watched him for a few minutes. “So what’s wrong with having fun?”
He sighed again. “I don’t know. It’s just…not right.”
“But you are starting to enjoy yourself with your girlfriends now, aren’t you?”
He looked up at her as visions of some of the things he had done flashed through his mind. He suddenly realized that tears were again threatening to spill out of his eyes. “Damn,” he muttered as he put the spatula down and hurried out of the room. He went straight back to his bedroom and closed the door and buried his head into the pillow on his bed. She didn’t understand. His mother had no idea of his real problem. No idea at all.
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Snow…and mud. Snow, mud, and a million tree branches that had broken off and fallen all over the roads. Big tree branches. Jimmy Joe tried to keep most of her footing in the snow, but more often than she liked, she had no choice but to tromp through the slippery and messy mud. And way too many of the branches they had to clear off the roads were big and heavy. When she could, she tried to do most of the smaller branches and let Uncle Jed and her two cousins move the big stuff. But all too often she had no choice but to grab a branch that would make a nice size tree all by itself, and try to drag the darn thing off of the road and into the woods where it wouldn’t be in the way. She was proud of herself each time she managed it though. Although she thought the least the others could do would be to mention how well she was doing once in a while. Nobody ever praised her for anything she did. Of course, none of the others praised each other either. They all simply worked, nonstop, to get the jobs done.
There was an added bonus too from all the hard physical work she had to do. With nothing better to think about, she was spending all too much time thinking about Olivia’s party later that night and the fact that they were all going to have so much fun, and she wouldn’t be allowed to go. Her screwy brother was going though. That point had been made abundantly clear. All the physical labor gave her something to work out her frustrations on over the issue. And she had an awful lot of frustrations to work out because of it. She used that frustration to help give her the added strength she needed to do the heavier work.
Jimmy Joe looked up toward where her Uncle’s voice had come from. She had nearly finished dragging yet another big branch into the woods. “Yeah, Uncle Jed?” she called.
“Give me a hand up here,” her uncle’s voice called back.
Jimmy quickly finished dragging the branch out of the way and hurried back to the road and around the bend. Her uncle was there with his big four-wheeler. An entire tree had uprooted and fallen across the road. “Yeah, Uncle Jed?” she asked as she hurried up.
“Wrap the chain around that tree while I turn this thing around,” he told her.
“You see anyone else here?”
She grabbed the monstrous chain. The damn thing was so big and heavy that at a few months ago she couldn’t hardly pick up the end of it. Now, she was grateful to be able to lift part of it and drag it over top of the tree. Having to get down on the ground, she fished the chain around the trunk and between a few branches, and fastened the hook between some of the links in the chain just like she had seen her uncle and her cousins do many times. When she was done with that part, she grabbed the other end of the chain and dragged it up to the back of her uncle’s four wheeler. Just as she has seen her cousins do, she fastened the chain to the back of the heavy-duty machine. She stood back as her uncle slowly gave gas to the engine, first tightening the chain, and then giving it more power until the tree began to move. She was amazed that his machine was strong enough to pull that big tree the way it did. A few minutes later, she was removing the chain from the tree while her uncle removed it from his four wheeler.
Clearing the road was hard work, but even though nobody ever praised her for what she did, she figured the job had its own rewards. The road that had been impassible was now open – at least up to that point. There were still a few million more branches to clear in order to open all the roads on their property. A job that according to her Uncle Jed would probably take months. That last storm that hit them, had hit hard and caused a lot of damage.
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After moving his pink pajamas from the washer to the dryer, along with an entire load of heavier clothes, Jasmine had nothing much to worry about doing for a while. At least not until the dryer finished running. Bored, he wandered around the house, but nothing interested him. He finally decided to put his coat on and head out to the workshop for a while. Maybe he could find something interesting there that he could do that wouldn’t get his clothes too dirty. That was the problem with having to wear skirts and dresses all the time. He couldn’t really wear any play clothes – except of course when he got to go sliding down the hill in the snow. But it was a lot warmer today, and just looking at it, he could tell the hill was becoming one big sloppy wet mess. He put on his sister’s coat that he wore far more often than she did, and his sister’s colorful boots that still fit his feet well enough but for some reason no longer fit his sister, and he headed out into the backyard.
The ground was still covered with snow, but it was wet and slushy snow and was melting quickly. The snow storm had hit hard and fast and had shut everything down for a day or two, but now the weather had warmed up again and the snow was melting faster than seemed possible.
With the boots on to protect his feet, he blazed a trail out to the workshop in the back of the yard. The snow on the ramp in front of the big door had long been cleared away since that’s where his father kept the snow shovels – shovels that had seen a lot of use this year. He bent down and grabbed the handle on the garage door and lifted…and soon gave up. Damn, the door was stuck. He grabbed the handle again and put more effort into it. The door finally started to come up, but darn it was heavy. Much heavier than usual. It finally started moving easier the higher he got it.
He turned as he finally got the door all the way up and saw his Dad coming back from his Uncle Pete’s house next door. “Yeah?” He waited while his father walked the distance across the yard all the way to the workshop.
“What are you doing?” Clint asked as he got to the workshop.
“Um…I don’t know. Just bored, I guess,” Jasmine replied.
“Is something wrong with the door?” Clint asked.
“I don’t know. I could hardly lift it.”
Clint grabbed the door handle and pulled it all the way down. Then he lifted it all the way up again. “Seems fine now. It was probably just stuck from the cold and dampness.”
“Probably,” Jasmine agreed as he went on into the shop and switched on the lights.
“Are you staying out here,” Clint asked, “or just getting something?”
“Um…I don’t know. Staying probably.”
Clint nodded and pulled the door almost all the way down to keep more of the cold out. He stuck a block of wood under the bottom of it so it wouldn’t close all the way. “I hear you’re going to the movies this afternoon,” Clint said as he headed toward the workbench.
Jasmine was simply wandering among some of the junk in the back of the shop. “Yeah. Mom and Aunt Jane and Aunt Marcy are all driving. We’ll pick some of the girls up at the school and then go straight to the movie from there.”
“Well, have a good time,” Clint told him as he searched the workbench for one of his tools.
Have a good time? Jasmine winced at that and turned away from him.
“I think your Uncle Pete and I are going to take Elliot and your brothers into Eureka Springs this afternoon while you’re off having fun,” Clint mentioned.
Jasmine turned quickly. “You’re going there?” he asked in disbelief. Compared to everywhere else they went, the tourist town of Eureka Springs was a special place.
“Since it looks like Elliot is doing a little better with his school work lately, Pete is going to sign him up for a shooting competition later this month. We’re going up to check it all out.”
“A shooting competition!” As far as Jasmine knew, none of the family had ever entered anything like that. “Wow!”
Clint smiled. “Well, you’ve got to admit, Elliot is a pretty good shot.”
Jasmine had seen Elliot shooing at targets in the yard frequently. He doubted anyone in the family got more shooting practice than Elliot. “Yeah,” Jasmine agreed. “He is pretty good.”
“Well, your Uncle Pete wants to see how he stacks up against some really good shooters.”
“I wish him luck,” Jasmine said as he turned back toward the junk all around him.
As Clint continued to search his workbench, he kept more of an eye on Jasmine as he wandered around among the machines and junk. He had noticed that his son had seemed rather down lately. Especially since he had gotten that last dose of hormones on Wednesday. He also remembered that he had been meaning to have another little talk with him. “You okay?” Clint asked.
Jasmine turned to him and shrugged. “I guess.”
“So in other words, the answer is no, you’re not okay.”
“I’m okay. I guess,” Jasmine replied.
Which pretty much told Clint that he did have a problem. He sat down on one of the old bar stools. “Take a seat,” he told his son, who was now much more his daughter.
Jimmy looked to the other stool and shrugged. A moment later he headed in that direction. He carefully climbed up on the stool, trying to be very aware of what his legs did in the process. Wearing skirts all the time was nothing but irksome!
“I don’t give a damn about the way you want to sit,” Clint told him. Just be comfortable!”
Jasmine smiled, perhaps for the first time in a few days.
“What’s bothering you?” Clint asked.
Jasmine shrugged again. “I don’t know.”
“You’ve been pretty much moping around for the last few days.”
Again another shrug, but no answer.
“Is it the hormones?” Clint asked. “You’ve been pretty much out of it since we left Uncle Brian’s office a few days ago.”
“Kind of,” Jasmine replied sheepishly as he looked down at the floor.
“And what else?”
“I don’t know. Just…everything I guess. Just…me.”
“What about you?”
“I don’t know. It’s just…everything.”
“Jas, everything what? You’re obviously worried about the hormones again. And I guess what they’re doing to you.”
Jasmine looked up at him briefly, then back down to the floor before he nodded.
“Jas, I see you changing,” Clint told him. “And geez, I really couldn’t miss some of it at the doctor’s office. It’s getting so that even a blind man can probably see some of those changes in you.”
The tears suddenly threatened to fall from his eyes again. He couldn’t stay there. He got up and headed a few feet further back into the workshop. But there was very little space for him to go in that direction so he wound up standing not far away with his back to his father.
“Jas,” Clint said, watching him carefully. “You do still know I’m proud of you, don’t you? You do still know that I love you, no matter what.”
His words caused a total damn break of Jasmine’s tears. He stood with his back to his father and sobbed. A moment later, he felt his father’s hand on his shoulder. He turned around and let his father pull him into a hug while he cried.
For Clint, having his…son…cry the way he did was very troubling, but he had to remind himself of what all those hormones were doing to his son – his son who was all too much of a girl now. “Don’t ever doubt it,” Clint told him. “Don’t ever doubt that I love you…that we love you – both your mother and I. And don’t ever doubt that we’re both not really, really proud of you. Ever!”
Jasmine sobbed harder. How could he possible tell his father that that was the one big thing he worried about the most? Because he was all too afraid that very soon he might make his father very disappointed in him. And that thought frightened him and worried him far more than anything else. The way things were going, he was going to have no choice but to make his father mad at him, and without a doubt, his father would no longer be so proud of him at all. Without…a doubt!
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