Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The McComber Switch - Chapter 36 - Holy Trial



The McComber Switch
By Karen Singer

Chapter 36 - Holy Trial
Feb 22


Jasmine hated church.  In the past, before he had to be his sister every weekend, he hadn’t really minded it that much.  They rarely went so it was something that was somewhat tolerable.  But now, now that he had to be his sister all the time, he hated it.  It was as if the full weight of Reverend Cosinger’s wrath was aimed right at him – every single week – through each entire service.  And worse, now that he had to be his sister most of the time, they were going to church every single week – when by his estimation, church should be a place to avoid.  But no.  According to the powers that ruled his life, which was just about everyone, the whole family was stuck going week after week.  Well, most of the family.  More often than not, his lucky sister got out of it because she was out hunting on a lot of Sundays like she was today.  Was it worth going against everything he hated and didn’t want to do, go out hunting and kill a bunch of helpless animals for no reason at all, just so he could get out of going to church?  He was starting to feel like it.  But in the end, him going hunting wasn’t going to do him the least bit of good.  His dumb sister had to finally agree to stop hunting – and he knew perfectly well now that that was never going to happen.  So he had no choice but to sit through church, week after week, and let Reverend Cosinger yell at him.  Sometimes, he still felt like standing up and giving the Reverend a piece of his mind.  It would serve him right!
Depressed, he sat down at his sister’s desk to wait until it was time to leave.  He was all dressed for church, once again a bit too colorfully for his taste, but then all the outfits his sister put together for him were too colorful for what he liked – which would be invisible if he could somehow manage it.  With an elbow propped on the desk, he rested his head dejectedly in his hand.  His eyes glanced from the desk contents to the large mirror mounted behind the desk.  He looked like a girl.  He hated looking at himself.  Even in the past, before all the problems he was facing now were dropped on him, he had never bothered to look at himself much in a mirror.  What would be the point?  Who cared how he looked?  He certainly never did.  Not really anyway.  But life was different for him now.  A lot different.  Now he was forced to look at his reflection day in and day out.  Often many times a day. 
His eyes stayed locked on his reflected image for a few moments before he forced himself to look away.  His eyes fell down to the desk again.  His sister’s laptop was closed.  He could surf the internet for a few minutes, but he didn’t really feel like it.  His eyes wandered over all the makeup and lingered on the many small bottles of colorful nail polish.  His nails were glittery purple again.  Most of them.  His sister’s instructions had been for him to paint the ring finger of each hand in yellow instead.  He wondered why.  He seriously considered not doing it, but somehow the yellow nail polish had wound up on those fingers anyway.  It was done now, even though he didn’t really care for the look. 
From the nail polish, his eyes wandered over to his sister’s jewelry box.  He was wearing a large ring with a purple crystal on his right hand and a tiny ring with a small yellow crystal on his left.  Two different gold bracelets dangled from his left wrist and he was wearing a gold pendant necklace around his neck.  His ears held the blue studs he wore fairly often.  Not thinking about what he was doing, his hand reached out and lifted the lid on the jewelry box.  Inside, it looked like a pile of junk.  Nothing was organized.  Everything was just all thrown in together.  A bunch of shiny bright objects all rolled up into one big lump.  That’s what it looked like to him. 
Strangely, there were a number of things in that pile of junk that caught his eye.  Shiny things with colors, patterns, and shapes that were…oddly interesting…oddly pleasing.  His hand reached into the pile and plucked out a long shiny shape that seemed more interesting than some of the others.  Once free of the rest of the things, he quickly saw that it was an earring.  He removed his head from his hand and searched through the junk until he found the matching one.  He held them up to look at them.  They were…interesting.  Something about the way they looked pleased him.  He didn’t know why he liked the way they looked, but…they interested him. 
He set one of them down on the desk and took the other one and held it up against his ear as he looked at his face in the mirror again.  He had never worn a pair of earrings yet that dangled.  All the earrings he ever seemed to wear were studs.  He knew though that with newly pierced ears the stud style was better for him for the first few months.  In truth though, he wasn’t interested in wearing any other styles.  In real truth, he wasn’t interested in wearing earrings period.  How long would it take for the holes in his ears to close up after his sister quit hunting?  The answer was obvious.  Never – because she wasn’t ever going to quit hunting. 
With his hand holding the earring up to his hear, it was hard to see what the earring would look like there.  His hand was in the way.  Curious though, he took the wire from the earring and hooked it over the top of the blue crystal in his ear, trying to get it to balance and stay there so he could see better. 
“What’cha doin?”
He turned abruptly and saw his mother walking in.  The earring that had been precariously hooked over top of his blue stud went flying to the floor.  “Um…nothing,” he replied, embarrassed that she had probably seen him.
Susan walked in, reached down, and picked up the earring.  “That’s a nice one,” she commented.  “Very pretty.”
Before Jasmine could get out of his chair, she came over to him and started removing the earring from his left ear.  A moment later, she hooked the dangly gold earring through the hole in that ear.  Then she went around to his other ear and repeated the process with the matching earring.  “Very nice,” she declared.  “Ready for church?”
“You mean, I should leave them on?” he asked, immediately noticing that he could feel the earrings move with each tiny movement of his head.
“Of course.  Why not?  They’re really a lot prettier than the ones you were wearing.  Now get your coat and let’s go,” she said as she started to walk out.  “And later, after we get home, you can plan on spending the day with your knees tied together again.”
Jasmine nearly died as he heard that…and watched his mother walk out of the room.  It was only then that he realized he hadn’t bothered worrying about the way he was sitting.  But damn it.  He had just sat that way because he had been alone – and bored! 

--- §§§§§§§§§§ ---

Week in and week out, Reverend Cosinger stood watching the people come into his church.  He was always interested to see who came in, always interested to get a friendly comment or two from the ones who bothered to come talk to him before the service started.  But lately, week in and week out, he was there instead watching and waiting for the McCombers to arrive.  Two McCombers in particular.  The first of course was Jacob.  The other was Jacob’s grandson Jimmy, who now came to church every single week dressed as his sister – and looking all too much lately like a real girl.  Such Blasphemy!  Right here in God’s church.  Week in and week out! 
It angered the Reverend to no end.  There was no doubt in his mind at all that Jacob was making the boy do it, just for the purpose of making him angry…just for the purpose of inventing a way to get rid of him.  The manipulation only fueled his anger, but he wasn’t going to give in over it.  Never!  God would back him up if he just stayed true to his calling.  God would back him up and God himself would eventually deal with Jacob McComber – and all the rest of the McComber clan.  God had sent the McCombers to be his one big trial in life…his one big test to show his true faith.  God had sent them…or the devil had. 
And there he was, the devil himself.  Jacob McComber.  Walking into the church with his wife like he owned it.  Well Jacob McComber didn’t own the church.  God did!  Jacob just acted like he owned the church…and everything else.  Damn the man – soon! 
The familiar white furry coat coming through the door was the usual herald to the other part of the problem.  The abomination itself had arrived.  If the Reverend didn’t already know better, he would have simply thought it was another young girl coming in.  But he did know better!  He noted that once again, the other twin was missing.  What were they doing with the girl, denying her the right to hear God’s word spoke truthfully?  What kind of trash was the family filling her head with at home?
And then his eyes locked with the eyes of the abomination.  Determined eyes.  Eyes determined to punish him and get rid of him.  The Reverend stared back with equal determination and saw those eyes become angrier.  But the Reverend refused to back down, refused to give in.  The McCombers were his holy trial.  A trial he would face determinedly and never give into.  He continued to stare back at the blasphemous boy while the rest of his family talked with some of the others in the church. 
And then, suddenly, the boy started removing his coat, as if he was determined to make him see how girlishly his family had dressed him.  And it was quickly obvious that the family had gone out of their way to do just that.  Overly bright clothing in a place where tasteful modesty should reign supreme!  And…was the skirt the boy was wearing a bit too short?  He wasn’t sure if he could truthfully say that since many of the girls often wore fairly short skirts, but he had no doubt that the family was probably pushing that issue too.
He saw the mother, Susan, turn to the boy and speak to him.  The boy seemed to back down some, but their eyes remained locked on each other.  He saw the mother speak to him again, and finally the blasphemous boy turned away, but as he continued to watch, he saw the boy’s head swing again and again in his direction.  Those eyes still holding all too much hatred. 
And then everything changed with the arrival of another girl.  Olivia.  Another of the McCombers.  Her last name might not be McComber but she was a McComber through and through.  At least with her arrival, the staring match seemed to have ended.   He watched as the two of them talked…much like any other two girls.  He even saw Olivia reach up and touch one of the abomination’s earrings.  What were these people up to?  What were they playing at? 
In disgust, he turned away to start getting ready for the service, but his mind was filled with thoughts of the evil that was already all too prominent inside his church.
The service started like all the others.  But it was only at the start, as he stood in front of everyone there, that the Reverend noticed that there were more people in his church than usual.  He had been so intent on the blasphemy that now “decorated” the middle of his church that he hadn’t noticed how many others had come in.  The increase in people pleased him…unlike the blight in his church that he couldn’t seem to get rid of.  The blight that was usually a bright white furry spot, but was instead today a multicolored blaring of femininity, placed there just to make the abomination in his church even worse than usual. 
As he made the morning announcements and welcomed the newcomers, his eyes fell to Jacob McComber – right there in the first pew as usual.  And the blasted man was simply staring up at him with a smile on his face.  A smile that the Reverend was sure was there only to mock him.  Over and over again, as he went through the various parts of the service, he looked to Jacob McComber first, and then automatically back to the blight of the boy that was dressed as a girl.  It was only by a force of will that he ever looked anywhere else at the congregation that was obviously larger than usual.  And not larger because of an increase in McCombers.  But even the new people couldn’t keep his eyes pulled away from the blasphemous boy for very long. 
When the time for his sermon came, he again stood there and surveyed the people.  But as usual, his gaze was magnetically pulled briefly to Jacob then far more forcefully back to the blight.  A blight he simply couldn’t overlook.  As it did each week, the blight fueled his anger.  The more he had to look at it, the angrier he got.  His eyes often scanned down to his notes to remind him of what point he wanted to talk about next, but when he brought his head up again, his head automatically went to the blight in the midst of all those people.  And he didn’t care if he was preaching harder to that boy than to the others.  Maybe some of it would sink in that way.  Unfortunately, so far, it didn’t seem to be working.
But the McCombers were his holy trial, and he wasn’t about to give in, or give up.  Instead, he determinedly gave them his all!
After the service, he was pleased to stand at the door and welcome all the new people…as well as some of his old congregation that hadn’t been out since Christmas.  And he was also pleased to receive so many nice comments on his sermon.  A sermon he barely remembered giving…other than having to stare at that colorful bit of total sin throughout it. 
As he shook yet another friendly hand, his eyes noticed the abomination and his family moving quickly out of the church.  This time, not bothering to even try shaking his hand.  He was glad.  He wouldn’t have shook Clint McComber’s hand for anything in the world.
A few minutes later, the man himself was there.  Last as usual.  The man and his wife.  He had no problem with Rose McComber – other than that she was simply another McComber and damned for eternity.  It was Jacob that he hated with such a passion.  There was no getting out of shaking his hand, so he didn’t even try. 
“Reverend,” Jacob said. “You are simply getting better and better every single week!  I can’t wait to hear you speak next week.”  With a nod of his head and a smile, Jacob concluded with, “We’ll see you then.” 
Reverend Cosinger watched Jacob and his wife walk off as his parting words rang in his ears.  ‘We’ll see you then.’  Indeed!  He turned and nearly ran into his wife.
“Jordan, did you see all the new people today?” she mentioned delightedly. 
Reverend Cosinger did his best to smile at his wife.  “Of course I did.”
 “And some others that don’t usually come were here too.”
“I noticed,” he replied as he turned to walk her back into the church.
“Your sermon was extra good today,” she told him.  “In fact, they’ve been getting better and better.  I have no doubt that it’s the reason more people are starting to come.”
He shook his head.  “Maybe,” he conceded.  In truth, he didn’t know if it was that…or if more people were coming just to see a church…God’s holy place…with a huge black spot of abomination right in the middle of it.  That was the more likely reason more people were there.  They were waiting for more fireworks between him and Jacob McComber – the devil himself!  But this was his holy trial.  His test of faith from God…or Satan.  And he wasn’t about to waver one bit from his holy path.

--- §§§§§§§§§§ ---

“I…don’t…want...to go to church…anymore!” Jasmine stated angrily as they got into the car. 
Clint looked to his wife at the comment.  “I don’t blame you,” he replied as he started the car.  He was more than a bit perturbed too.
“I have to agree with you too,” Susan said.  “The Reverend was getting a bit disturbing at times.”
“I don’t know,” Tommy spoke up.  “I thought he was kind of funny.”
“Funny?” Susan asked incredulously.
“Oh yeah.  I mean, he gets all worked up when he talks, and his face turns all red, and he pounds his hand on stuff all the time, and he yells a lot.”
“But he’s yelling at me!” Jasmine replied.
“So what?  I still think he’s funny.”
Clint shook his head as he drove out of the parking lot.  “I don’t know why Dad is still insisting we go every week.” 
“I noticed he doesn’t care as much about the rest of the family going,” Susan mentioned.  “It’s just us.”
“Yeah, I noticed.  The rest of the family members who were there today, were most of the ones who do go every week.”
“If the Reverend is going to continue to act like that towards us, then I’d rather not go at all.”
“Me either,” Clint replied.  “I’ll talk to Dad about it.  We don’t need this kind of aggravation every week.”
Jasmine was certainly glad to hear that.  He didn’t ever want to go to church again!  But now that that had been settled, it was time to try for something else.  “Mom, can I go out to the hill with my friends when we get home?”
“No dear,” Susan replied.  “Uncle Brian wants to see you before lunch to get another blood sample from you.  He’ll do your…um…brother… when she gets home later.  Then after that, you’ll be spending the rest of the day with your knees tied together again.”
“Oh Mom…”
“Jas, I’ve told you a thousand times, I’m at my wit’s end with you over this.  You’re going to learn to behave properly if it kills you!”
“I’d rather sit through another of Reverend Cosinger’s sermons,” he muttered.
“That can be arranged too,” Susan replied.
Jasmine sat silently in the back seat, fuming over his lot in life.  It wasn’t fair.  None of it was fair!  It seemed like God had come down on him and decided to make his life a total miserable mess…all because he didn’t want to kill some animals.  Didn’t the bible say, “Thou shalt not kill?”  So why was God punishing him so badly for it?  It wasn’t fair.  And then God sent Reverend Cosinger to yell at him for it…week in and week out!  What had he done that was so bad to deserve this?  Nothing that he could see.  All because he didn’t want to kill any more animals.  All because he…was too afraid.




Friday, April 22, 2016

The McComber Switch - Chapter 35 Part 2 of 2



The McComber Switch
By Karen Singer

Chapter 35 Part 2 of 2 - Cooking With Kids
Feb 21


There weren’t that many of them, but there were enough that with all the people sitting at the big dining room table, and with all the commotion because of the young kids, dinner seemed a lot like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner at Grandpa and Grandma’s house – only with less people.  Jasmine helped his Aunt Jessica set the table, but Susan made sure that Jasmine sat next to her when they all sat down to eat.  And Jasmine barely got into his seat when Susan was on his case about how he sat.  “Jasmine!” Susan’s voice lashed.  “You sit properly, or I swear I’ll tie your knees together right here and now.”
Jasmine wanted to scream.  Couldn’t he ever get a break?  He stood up again and sat down properly, holding his skirt under him and making sure his knees were together through the whole operation. 
“Don’t push that chair under too far,” Susan told him.  “I’m going to be checking those knees all through dinner.”
“Yes Mom,” Jasmine replied, totally frustrated with his stupid life.  He noticed everyone at the table looking worriedly at him as if there was something major wrong.  Everyone looked worried except Jimmy – who was doing her best not to laugh.  Jasmine sat straight in his chair – like his mother had so often lectured him to do, and he did his best to keep his knees pressed together – even though nobody could see them under the darn table!  Ugh!
Jessica watched the whole exchange with more interest than most.  From her seat between Melody and Caleb, she had a very good view of both Jasmine and Jimmy.  With three young kids, much of her mealtime was spent tending to their needs, but there were long spans where she could eat herself…and talk with everyone else.  No surprise, the men started talking about hunting and guns.  She remembered that Clint and Susan had bought Jimmy a new gun for Christmas, even though she was sure that it really went to the wrong child.  But in their conversation, she didn’t hear the gun mentioned.  And…she had a personal reason to want to hear about that gun.  When a small chance in the conversation gave her the opportunity, she asked, “Jimmy, was it you that got a new rifle for Christmas this year?  Or was that Elliot?”
Jimmy’s face broke into a broad smile.  “No, I got it.  Well…I mean Jas…I mean…Um…No, I got it.”
Jessica smiled.  Obviously it was awfully difficult even for the twins to talk about themselves.  “Have you had a chance to try it yet?”  The delighted answer she got back was wonderful to hear…sort of.  But Jimmy’s answer was only part of why she had asked the question.  And the moment Jimmy ended telling about how great the new gun was, Jessica turned to Jasmine and asked, “And didn’t I hear that you got a new sewing machine for Christmas?  How is it?”
Jasmine blushed a bit before answering.  “Yeah,” he replied. “I guess it really is pretty nice.  A lot better than trying to sew all that stuff by hand.”
“And are you still working on things for your fashion show?”
For his fashion show?  More like his stupid sister’s fashion show.  But the only way he could answer was, “Yeah.  Still working.  But it’s going a whole lot better with that sewing machine than without it.”
“That’s wonderful to hear,” Jessica replied before getting up to pick up the bottle that Melody had “accidently on purpose” dropped to the floor again.

--- §§§§§§§§§§ ---

With dinner over, it was only right that Susan and Jasmine spend a few minutes helping to clean everything up.  But once everything had been brought into the kitchen from the dining room table, Jessica asked Jasmine if he would mind spending a few minutes playing with Madison and Melody, and she asked Jimmy to see if she could occupy Caleb for a few minutes.  With Clint and Jack talking avidly somewhere else, that left her and Susan alone in the kitchen to talk.  “I must say,” Jessica said as Susan rinsed dishes and handed them to her to stack in the dishwasher, “the differences in the twins now are more than I imagined.  You really can’t miss it anymore.”
It wasn’t exactly the kind of thing Susan wanted to be reminded of.  “They’re starting to change a bit more now,” she replied, “but thankfully it’s not all that much yet.”
“Not much?  Goodness.  I looked at the two of them today, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out how…Jimmy – the real Jimmy, can dress like a boy anymore.  I mean, his face, his whole body looks more feminine than it used to.  And I can tell all that even though I don’t get to see him all that often.  And the same thing with Jasmine.  To be honest, she doesn’t look much like a girl anymore either.”
“It’s the haircut,” Susan told her.  “Jimmy too.  It makes a big difference.”
“I’m sure it does,” Jessica replied, but I’m looking beyond the hair.  I mean, Jasmine’s voice is even lower now than Jimmy’s.  And I went out of my way during dinner to listen to both of them talking, just so I could confirm it.”
Susan stopped dead and just stared at Jessica for a moment.  What do you mean her voice is lower than his?”
“Just what I said, your real daughter’s voice is now lower…kind of deeper…than your real son’s voice.  I first noticed it earlier, and at dinner tonight I asked them both some questions just so I could hear their voices right after each other.  Are you going to hand me that plate?”
Susan gave her the plate, but didn’t move to grab any other dishes.  “I…I hadn’t noticed the change in their voices,” she said tentatively.  “Are you sure?”
Jessica nodded.  “I’m sure.  Like I said, I even went out of my way to listen to them during dinner.”
Susan turned away from her and wrung her hands. 
“Hey,” Jessica said softly, coming behind her and placing an arm around her shoulder.  “You knew this was one of the things that could happen.”
Susan nodded a bit, but it was a small sob that left her throat.  Jessica hugged her harder and she sobbed again.  “I keep seeing little things in both of them, and I keep hoping I’m just imagining it.  I keep praying I’m imagining it.  But I know there have been some changes.  My God…I’m going to have to take Jimmy shopping for some bras pretty soon.  His breasts are growing to the point now where he’s not going to be able to wear those double ‘A’ bras of his sister’s much longer.  And Jasmine…”  She sobbed again.
Jessica led her sister-in-law over to the kitchen table where she pulled out one of the chairs for Susan to sit in.  She took another chair and pulled it closer. 
Susan’s eyes were moist, but she looked at Jessica.  “The reason that I had to take Jimmy…my…um…the real Jasmine shopping for clothes today, is because her shoulders and body are filling out and getting bigger – kind of like Tommy did when he started growing.  Jessica, she’s starting to look more like a boy than a girl!”  She sobbed again.
Jessica took her hand in hers.  “You knew these were all things that could happen – that would most likely happen.”
“But that doesn’t mean I want them to happen.  I don’t!  I don’t want it at all!”  She sobbed again.  “I want my kids back.  My real kids!”
Jessica said nothing but just let her be for a moment before saying.  “But at the same time, I couldn’t help noticing that you’re still pushing Jimmy…your real son… pretty hard to act like a girl.
Susan stared at her sister-in-law with moist eyes for a moment.  “Oh Jessica,” Susan said.  “I had a daughter – a beautiful, beautiful daughter.  Now…I don’t know what I have.  And I just want her back again.”
“So you’re pushing your son hard?  Trying to replace your real daughter with him?”
“No.  Not at all.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m not!  Well, not really.  Well…maybe…maybe a little,” she admitted.  “But what I really want is my right kids back.  I want them both back the way their supposed to be.”
“But Jasmine still refuses to quit hunting.”
Susan was obviously upset over the issue.  “Over and over again we try to convince her…try to make her see what’s happening.  But she refuses to see or believe any of it.  You can see what’s happening.  You saw the changes – in both of them.  You see it, and I see it.  Everyone sees it – except Jasmine.  She’s still refusing to believe anything’s happening to her at all.  She’s got to be the most hard-headed…pig-headed girl ever!  And sometimes I think all she really cares about is herself!” 
Susan wiped her eyes with her hands.  “So many times we’ve tried to make her give in.  Tried to make her quit hunting, and every time she’s gone all stubborn again and refused.”
“Susan,” Jessica said.  “Do you think there’s any chance that Jasmine really wants to be a boy instead?  I mean, for real?”
Susan shook her head.  “No.  She doesn’t.  I’m very sure of that.  That’s a lot of what we keep pushing at her...showing her what she’s missing.  And each time she goes nearly crazy with wanting to do the things all her friends are doing again.  But each and every time, she backs down and refuses to give in.  She wants to be a girl, but she won’t quit this stupid hunting business that the family doesn’t want.”
Jessica nodded.  “I agree, it’s kind of a dumb thing.  But it’s the way things have always been in our family, and it’s the way everyone seems to want to keep things too.  Especially Dad.”
Susan nodded.  “I know there are women out there who like to hunt.  So what?  That’s fine as far as I’m concerned.  Let them.  I don’t know, maybe it’s even fun – for them.  But it’s not something I’m really interested in doing at all.”
“Me either,” Jessica agreed, “and look at the family I grew up in.”
Susan smiled for the first time in a while.  “When Jasmine grows up, maybe she’ll marry someone and move off.  She can go hunting with him for all I care.  I just know though that the family here doesn’t want to hear about it.  But that’s all in the future.  My problem is here and now.  Jasmine seems to want to hunt so badly that even if we let the kids go back to being themselves – full time, then I have no doubt at all that she’ll sneak off and grab a gun and just go.  And Jessica, she’s just a child.  She could get hurt out there. Even the guys rarely go by themselves.  And they’re always mentioning things out there that are dangerous.  Jessica, my daughter could get hurt out there!  Especially if she sneaks off alone – which I know she will if we don’t let her keep hunting once in a while.  She could get hurt…or worse!”
Jessica stared at Susan.  “I know it’s dangerous,” she agreed.  “Heck, how many times have we killed snakes right on our own doorsteps?”
Susan rolled her eyes.  “There are times of the year you don’t take two steps outside without looking first.  Or even step out the door for that matter.  But we’ve all grown up with little problems like that.  Even me.”
Jessica nodded.  “Yeah, I know.  You’re a farm girl through and through.  At least, you used to be.”
Susan almost laughed.  “Some farm girl.  My vegetable garden last year was half the size it usually is.”
Jessica smiled, glad to see Susan coming out of her depression.  “So make it bigger next year again.  But the point is, the land the family lives on can be dangerous.  And I think you’re right being worried about Jasmine going out there by herself.  And even though the rest of us don’t like it, maybe the family is right about this.  Maybe it is the only way to make her see that she shouldn’t be hunting.  At least not right now.  As you said, what happens when she gets older and moves off to start a family of her own, well, what’s to say she can’t hunt then?  But in the meantime, maybe it’s best to do everything we can to keep her from going.  At least this way, if she’s insisting on hunting, then at least someone will always be with her to look out for her.”
Susan nodded.  “And so we’re back to square one.  Nothing’s changed.”
“Except the twins.  They’re changing into each other.”
Susan sighed with frustration.  “And I still hate each and every last little thing that’s happening.”
“But Susan, with all the changes taking place now, maybe Jasmine will finally be able to see what’s really going on.  Maybe she’ll finally see it, and agree to quit hunting.”
Susan stared at her for a moment, but there was skepticism written all over her face.  “We can only hope.  We do keep hoping!  But somehow Jessica, I doubt it’s going to happen.  That girl is just too…stubborn!”

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The McComber Switch - Chapter 35 Part 1 of 2 - Cooking With Kids



The McComber Switch
By Karen Singer

Chapter 35 Part 1 of 2 - Cooking With Kids
Feb 21


“There she is!” Susan said as she finally saw Jessica’s car coming up the street. 
It was all Jasmine could do to not say – finally!  They had been sitting in the car out in front of his aunt’s house for the last twenty minutes while his aunt was getting her kids from Uncle Jack’s mother who watched them every day while they were at work.  The house was a really nice one with a stone and log exterior.  It didn’t sit on a lot of land like the rest of the family had, but it was a bigger house than most of the others in the family had – except for Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  Jasmine unbuckled his seat belt as his aunt’s car pulled into the driveway and the garage door magically began opening.
“Jas!” Susan said before he could get out of the car.  “Don’t forget.  I expect you to act like a lady today.  And you know what I mean by that.”
Jasmine rolled his eyes.  “Yes Mom,” he replied, totally exasperated.
“Okay,” Susan said.  “But don’t think I won’t tie your knees together again if I don’t see you moving and sitting like you’re supposed to.  Even here at their house.  Understand?  I’m sure I can easily find something to use on you while we’re here.” 
Jasmine was shocked.  “Here too?”
“Anywhere Jas, anywhere.  I’m afraid I’m to the point now where I’ll do whatever it takes to get you to act properly.  And as long as you have to continue to be my daughter, then it’s for your own good – whether you think so or not.  So I’ll do anything I have to, to make you start behaving properly – and by that, I mean like a lady.”
Jasmine had to fight to keep from rolling his eyes again.  “Yeah.  I get it, Mom.  I’ll try.  Okay?”
Susan nodded.  “Good.  Now let’s go help Aunt Jessica with the kids.”
By the time they got to the garage, Jessica already had the back door of her car open and was undoing one of the seat belts to one of the three car seats in her back seat.  She stood back, and a moment later Madison jumped down.  “Haaaaaaayyy,” Madison yelled as she ran straight toward Jasmine. 
Jasmine was nearly knocked down as Madison ran straight into him and hugged him.  “Hi Madison,” he said brightly as soon as he had recovered his balance.  The little girl ended her hug and stood back to look up at him.  “Can you play with me?” she asked.
“Um…I have to see what’s happening first,” Jasmine replied uncertainly. 
Madison continued to look up at Jasmine’s face.  “You look different,” she said. 
Jasmine wasn’t sure how to handle that.  Was it because he had changed a bit?  Or was it because it had been a few months now since he had really seen and talked with Madison? Or was it because she was expecting him to be his sister instead?  “Um…maybe it’s my hair.”  He looked briefly at his mother who was looking back with a somewhat skeptical look on her face as if she didn’t know what to make of it either.
“Can I get a hug too?” Susan asked the little girl as she knelt down to her level.
Jessica was now working on the other side of her car, and a moment later, Caleb jumped down.  He ran towards Susan and Jasmine too, but Jasmine was glad he didn’t try to run into him.  “Hi Caleb,” he said to the little boy. 
“Hi Caleb,” Susan said too while she was still down at Madison’s level.  A moment later, she got a nice hug from the little boy before standing up. 
Jasmine saw his Aunt Jessica struggling to lift little Melody now out of the car.  A moment later, she set her down on the garage floor.  Jasmine looked at the small toddler, and something inside of him lurched a bit.  The little toddler was so cute!  Melody uncertainly wandered over toward him and it was all he could do to keep himself from bending down to hug her.  His mother however had no problem with it. 
“How’s my pretty girl?” Susan asked as she bent down and picked the little toddler up.  She planted a big kiss on Melody’s cheek.  “Do you know how scrumptious you are?” she said with a giggle before kissing her again.  She shifted the tiny girl to her hip as Jessica closed the car door. 
“Jasmine, can you grab the other bag for me?” Jessica asked. 
“Sure,” Jasmine replied, tearing his eyes off the cute little child.  He noted that his aunt already had a diaper bag in one hand and another soft suitcase in her other hand.  The bag on the floor was like the soft suitcase, but this one was pink and decorated with ballerina dolls.  He was guessing it held Madison’s stuff. 
They followed Jessica straight from the garage into the large kitchen where Jessica finally took the bag from him.  As they took their coats off and waited while Jessica tended to the kids, Jasmine looked around.  He had always been amazed at how bright and modern the kitchen here was.  It wasn’t as big as Grandma’s kitchen, but everything here was fairly new.  But then the house was only a few years old and Uncle Jack had tried to fix things just the way they would need them.  Jasmine knew that his uncle and aunt did a lot of entertaining because of the big store they owned, so he guessed the modern kitchen was something they really needed.  Besides, the more he looked around, the more he decided he really liked it.
“Whatcha’ lookin’ at?” Susan asked.
“I think I like their kitchen,” Jasmine replied.
Susan looked around.  “It is a dream, isn’t it?”
“It sure is.”
Jessica breezed back in.  “Okay,” she said as if she was a bit winded.  “I guess we better get busy.  We’ve got four hungry guys that will be expecting to be well fed…if they ever pull themselves away from that store!”  She went straight to one of the drawers under her counter and opened it.  She pulled several pieces of cloth out of it.  One went on the counter in front of her.  The second she handed to Susan, and the last one she tossed to Jasmine. 
“What’s this?” he asked, but he might not as well have even bothered as he saw both his aunt and mother spreading out folded aprons.
“I don’t want you to get your clothes dirty, Honey,” Jessica said offhandedly as she slipped her own apron over her head and then tied it behind her. 
Jasmine saw his mother doing the same.  It took him a moment to sort the thing out, but eventually he slipped the top of his apron over his head and was tying it behind his back.  Once done, he smoothed down the front of it.  It was an older apron since he noticed the material looked a bit faded, but it was still fairly nice.  The material was white with large red roses all over it.  There was a wide but fairly flat ruffle all around the apron and two pockets on the skirt of it that were trimmed in red.  He followed his mother over to the sink where they both rinsed their hands before drying them on a dish towel.
As Jessica opened the door to her large refrigerator, the sound of small running footsteps sounded briefly from the hall before Madison ran into the kitchen.  She had two Barbie dolls in her hands.  She ran straight to Jasmine and immediately shoved one of them into his hand. 
“Um…I think I might have to work right now,” Jasmine told her.
“But I want to play!” Madison insisted.
Jessica came out of the refrigerator with her hands full and bumped the refrigerator door with her hip to close it.  “Madison,” she said, “don’t you want to be Mommy’s big helper and help us make dinner?” she asked.
The doll still in Madison’s hand went immediately onto the table as Madison ran to the drawer where Jessica had pulled the aprons from.  A moment later, Madison had plucked another one from the drawer, a much smaller one with wild designs and patterns and three rows of different colored ruffles along the bottom.  Jessica quickly tied it onto her daughter. “Get up in the chair,” Jessica told her.  Madison ran to one of the chairs at the end of the table, pulled it out and kneeled expectantly on it, ready to do whatever her mother wanted.
While Madison was climbing into the chair, Caleb wandered into the room with a plastic truck in his hands.  He looked around but didn’t say anything.  Instead, he sat down in the middle of the floor and started playing with his truck.  And that was when Melody wandered in. 
Jasmine’s stomach felt strange and his heart did a small flip.  He couldn’t help himself.  Now with her coat off, the little toddler looked even cuter than she had earlier in the garage.  He sat down on the floor and held his arms out.  “You’re so adorable!” he exclaimed.  A moment later, Melody was in his arms and he hugged her.  He finally let her go, but all he could think about was how cute the little girl was.  He didn’t think he had ever felt that way about anyone – ever.  Even the dumb pacifier in her mouth didn’t detract from how cute she was. 
“Jasmine,” Susan cautioned.  “Watch how you’re sitting please.”
With the inevitable roll of his eyes, Jasmine stood up, but all he really wanted to do was to hug Melody again. 
With a sly smile on Jessica’s face, she grabbed a cutting board along with the carrots from among the vegetables she had taken from the refrigerator, but as she was heading around Caleb to get to the kitchen table, she stopped and stared at Jasmine for a moment before turning to Susan.  “Can she cut up vegetables?”
Susan let out a snort of a laugh.  “Almost as well as…her other half can.”
“Why don’t you grab that big roast from the bottom shelf of the refrigerator,” Jessica said to Susan, “while I get these two started here.”  She brought everything over to the kitchen table and set the cutting board down just a little bit away from Madison.  The carrots she set down next to the cutting board.  She went back to the counter and grabbed a sharp knife and brought it back to the table.  “Watch yourself with that,” she said to Jasmine.  “It’s very sharp!  And whatever you do, don’t let Madison touch it.”  She turned to her daughter.  “Hear that, Madi, don’t touch the knife!  No arguments!”  She stared down at her daughter for a moment, but Madison only stared determinedly back up at her. 
“I do this all the time with her,” Jessica said to Jasmine, “so you should have no problems.  I’ll bring you a pot.  You cut the carrots and put them in a pile.  Every once in a while, let Madison move them into the pot for you.  I recommend you let her do it often,” she cautioned. 
“Got it,” Jasmine replied.  “I think we can manage this,” he said as he looked toward Madison.  “Can’t we?” 
“I wanna’ do it!” Madison exclaimed determinedly.  “I can do it myself!”
“No!” Jessica told her in no uncertain terms.  “And no more arguing about it or I’ll send you to your room until Daddy gets home.”
Madison stared at her mother, fuming, but she didn’t say another word.  “Just watch her,” Jessica told him.
While Caleb played in the middle of the floor and Melody sat on the floor watching him, Jasmine picked up the large bunch of fresh carrots and separated a few.  He set two of them on the cutting board and grabbed the knife.  A moment later he was producing small pieces of carrots for Madison to move into one of the pots.  He already had a decent pile by the time Jessica returned and set a pot on the table.  “Looks good,” Jessica noticed before leaving them alone again. 
Now that the pot was there, Jasmine waited while Madison gradually moved all the cut carrots into it.  With her very small hands, she was only grabbing a few at a time.  Jasmine figured he could grab them all and put them into the pot in about two seconds, but with Madison, it took forever.  When the pile was gone, he went back to cutting more carrots.  Every few seconds, he had to wait while Madison automatically reached to grab the cut pieces – before she should, but Jasmine said nothing about it and let her.  He just tried to be very careful about the sharp knife in his hand.  The task that shouldn’t really take that long was made very long by Madison’s slow tiny hands.
“Wouldn’t it be easier,” Jasmine suggested at one point, if you let me get a little way ahead of you?”
“No!” Madison declared without looking at him while she transferred the latest couple of carrot slices into the pot.
Jasmine shook his head and let it go.  He said nothing at all to the couple of carrot pieces that he saw Madison stick into her mouth instead of the pot.  The raw carrots did look really good, and after watching Madison eat a few more, he realized he was getting a bit hungry.  But then he had found for the last few weeks that he was hungry more often than he used to be.  Taking a cue from Madison, he grabbed one of the slices and stuck it into his mouth too.  Madison saw him do it and laughed – before grabbing another one for herself.  “Okay,” Jasmine told her, “we better get the rest into the pot or your Daddy won’t have any!”  The delighted smile on Madison’s face made something in him jump.  Darn, she was so cute too!  Why would he think such things? 
With Susan working on the roast, and Jasmine and Madison working on the vegetables, Jessica kept a sharp eye on not only her three kids, but Jasmine as well.  She hadn’t seen him much in the last few months, but there was no missing all the changes she saw in him now.  To her, his whole body simply looked more feminine than he had that day when he had been to the store with his freshly pierced ears.  There were other things she noticed as well.  She seriously doubted that before, the child who was Jasmine today, would ever sit down on the floor to hug Melody or exclaim how adorable she was – which was totally true.  Jessica was proud of how cute her two daughters were.  And her son was going to be extra handsome as well.  But then so was her husband.  She smiled at the thought.
As she gathered the ingredients to throw a quick pie together for desert, she purposely moved closer to her sister-in-law.  “Jas certainly seems to be perfectly at home in the kitchen,” she said softly.
Susan briefly looked back to where Jasmine was working and talking with Madison.  “He better be,” Susan replied.  “I don’t let him out of anything.  I’ve always done everything with his…you know, the other Jas, and if he has to be her, then he’s going to learn to do it all.  Properly!”
Jessica smiled.  “It looks like she’s off to a pretty good start.”
Susan looked back at Jasmine again for a moment.  He seemed perfectly comfortable and happy with what he was doing.  “Yeah,” she agreed.  “He is.”
“I noticed that he’s looking a lot more feminine now than even the last time I saw him,” Jessica said.  “And in the store, I couldn’t help but notice how much…Jimmy has changed as well.  How do either of them manage anymore when they have to be themselves?”
Susan sighed.  “I guess they’re doing okay.  Jasmine…I mean Jimmy, well, the one who’s behind you right now, he can’t hide the hairdo of course, and his face is changing more than I’m happy about, but I haven’t heard of any other problems he’s having – other than his sister.  And as for Jasmine…um…the real Jasmine, she puts a couple of bows or hairclips in her hair, and with some makeup, she still manages to look pretty good.”
Jessica nodded.  “I guess the makeup would help a lot.”  She turned briefly back to look at Jasmine and Madison, then went back to her pie.  “How much makeup does this Jasmine need now to look like a girl?”
It was a moment before Susan answered.  “Not as much as he used to…if any anymore,” she added, frustrated and unhappy over the situation.
“Tee-tee!  Tee-tee!” the tiny voice shouted from behind them.
Jessica turned quickly and saw her youngest daughter standing right behind her. “You’ve got to go tee-tee?  What a big girl you are!” she praised the toddler who she was trying to wean out of diapers.  She knew she had to get her daughter to the potty chair in the bathroom quickly, but just then her hands were full and a mess.  “Oh darn,” she muttered. 
“Tee-tee, Mommy.  Tee-tee,” the little girl cried more urgently. 
“Okay, dear,” Jessica replied, trying to figure out the fastest way to stop what she was doing and clean her hands so she could take care of her daughter.  Her eyes fell on Jasmine who had turned to watch.  “Jasmine,” she said quickly.  “Can you please take her to the bathroom for me?  My hands are a mess.”  Before Jasmine could reply, she added.  “Quickly!  Things like this can’t wait.”
Jasmine set the knife down out of Madison’s reach and started for the door leading to the hallway.
“Take her by the hand,” Jessica told him.  “And hurry!”
Jasmine went over to Melody and grabbed her hand, turned her and tried to get her to hurry toward the bathroom.
“Her potty chair is next to the toilet.  You can’t miss it,” Jessica yelled after him.  “And make sure you wipe her real well before you pull her clothes back up!”
Susan watched it all with wide open eyes.  “That was surprising,” she said as Jasmine and Melody disappeared from sight. 
“Yeah.  Melody still missis more often than she manages to let us know when she has to go, so we’ve got to be quick about it every time.”
“No,” Susan replied.  “I mean, that you asked Jasmine to do it for you.”
Jessica smiled slyly.  “I figured she has to learn these things sometime.  Why not now?  Besides, even if Melody doesn’t make it, there’s no real harm.”  She turned back around to check on her other two kids again.  Caleb was still sitting playing in the middle of the floor.  But…  “Madi!  Don’t touch that knife!”  To her relief, she watched as Susan went over and took the sharp knife from the table. 
“But I wanna do it!” Madison insisted. 
“No, Madi.  I told you that already.”

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The potty chair couldn’t be missed in the bathroom – even in as large a bathroom as they were in.  Trying to figure out what he needed to do, Jasmine watched Melody struggle desperately for a moment to pull her pants down, but she wasn’t managing very well.  He quickly moved in and pulled them down for her, revealing a diaper underneath.  But the diaper didn’t have any tapes to pull apart like the one he had put on her that one time he had to change her diaper at Thanksgiving.  He quickly realized this diaper was a pull up kind and he yanked that down too.  Melody tried to head for her potty, but with everything down around her ankles, she couldn’t.  Jasmine had to pick her up, turn her around, and set her down on the thing.  Then he stood back to watch while the little girl laughed.
“Tee-tee,” Melody said again, this time delightedly.
Jasmine had never seen a girl pee before.  And the only times he had seen that part of a girl naked, was his sister in Uncle Brian’s doctor’s office, and Melody here that time at Thanksgiving when he had diapered her.  But now he was shocked to watch the pee coming straight out of that slit between her legs as she sat on the potty chair. 
“Tee-tee,” Melody said again.
“Yes, I see,” Jasmine replied, unable to take his eyes off of what was happening.  It was over amazingly quickly and Melody immediately started squirming to get up.  Jasmine picked her up and set her on her feet.  He reached for the toilet paper and pulled out a small length of it.  Very carefully, he used it to wipe the little girl – in a place he felt very uncomfortable even looking at.  He pulled up her diaper and pulled up her pants.  “There you go,” he told her and watched as Melody took off at a run.  He was about to go after her, when his eyes caught sight of the potty chair again.  He looked into it.  There was pee collected in the bottom of it.  Not sure about what he should do, he quickly figured out how to remove the pan that held the pee.  He emptied it into the toilet and flushed it away.  And before leaving the bathroom, he washed his hands extra well.

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“Tee-tee, Mommy.  Tee-tee,” Melody yelled as she ran delightedly into the kitchen.
“Did my big girl go tee-tee in the potty?” Jessica asked.
“Tee-tee, Mommy,” Melody said again.  “Oh what a good girl you are,” Jessica praised her again.  She bent down and wrapped an arm around her daughter for a brief hug, being very careful not to touch her with her messy hands.  She released her daughter and stood up again.  Jasmine still hadn’t come back to the kitchen.  “I guess it went okay,” she said to Susan.
“Evidently,” Susan agreed.
It was a few minutes before Jasmine returned.  “Any trouble?” Jessica asked as he came into the kitchen.
“No.  No problems at all.”
“Good,” Jessica replied.  “Oh, we had to move your knife to keep it out of…you know who’s hands!  It’s on the counter here.”
“Uh…thanks,” Jasmine replied.
“Did you wash your hands?” Susan asked.
“Thoroughly,” Jasmine told her.
“Then see if you can finish getting those carrots cut up and into the pot…despite Madison.”
Jasmine retrieved the knife and went back to the table where he had been working.  Madison was still there, but this time she had both Barbie dolls in her hands and she was playing with them.  He said nothing at all as he went back to cutting up the carrots.  The pile of carrot slices grew, but Madison made no move to put them into the pot while she played with her dolls.  When he finished cutting, he grabbed all the carrots and stuck them into the pot himself.  He was afraid that Madison would complain, but she barely noticed.  “Where do you want these?” he asked Jessica as he picked up the pot.
“On the stove please,” Jessica told him.
He started for the stove, and nearly fell as he just barely avoided tripping over Caleb where he was playing on the floor.  Carefully making his way around both Caleb and Melody, he continued on and deposited the pot on the stove top.   “What now?” he asked.
Jessica looked around.  “Do you think you can fix some baked potatoes?”
Jasmine shrugged.  “Sure.  How many?”
Jessica consulted with Susan on the matter, then told him, “Seven!  There’s butter in the fridge, and aluminum foil to wrap them in the pantry with the bag of potatoes.  Everything else you need should be on the counter.”
Jasmine made several trips to the pantry to bring everything he needed back to the table.  And with each trip it seemed he had to go around the kids playing on the floor.  They really needed a better place to play where they would be out of the way.  At least Madison was happy playing with her dolls at the table. 
Jessica finished preparing her pie to put in the oven and as she glanced around to check on her kids, she also saw Jasmine standing and working at the table.  “Jas,” she said, “you don’t have to stand there.  “You can sit down if you want.”
Jasmine looked at her, then shrugged.  But he pulled out the kitchen chair next to him and sat.
“Jasmine!” Susan’s voice lashed immediately. 
Jasmine was on his feet again in an instant.  “Sorry, Mom,” he muttered just before he swept his skirt under him with one hand, pressed his knees together, and sat down again.
“You remember what I told you earlier!” Susan told him sternly. 
He was facing away from his mother, so she couldn’t see him rolling his eyes again.  “Yes, Mom,” he said yet again as he went back to working on the potatoes.
“What was all that about?” Jessica asked quietly as she heard Madison giggling in the background.
“He may look like a girl,” Susan replied, “but he simply refuses to act the part.  It may not be much, but I’m doing my best to try to get him to move and behave a bit more femininely.  And I’m about at my wits end to get the point across.”
“Does it matter?” Jessica asked.
“Let me put it this way,” Susan replied.  “What would you think if you saw a nice looking woman out somewhere – but she moved and acted totally like a man?”
“Hm!” Jessica grunted.  “I’d think it was one of those crossdresser types.  A man dressed up like a woman.”
“Exactly!” Susan exclaimed.  “I’m trying to save him some of that embarrassment.  Besides, even his girlfriends have complained about it.”
“Girlfriends?”
“Jasmine’s usual mob of cousins.  The four of them, despite which Jasmine is being part of them, are still pretty much inseparable.  Although I keep hearing bits and pieces now that the four have somehow become five to include both Jimmy and Jas.”

--- §§§§§§§§§§ ---

While his mother and Aunt Jessica talked in the background, Jasmine prepared and wrapped potatoes in aluminum foil, getting them ready for the oven.  As he worked, he watched Madison still playing with her two Barbie dolls.
“I’m going hunting,” Madison said in a deep voice as she shook one of the dolls.  “You need to kill a turkey so we can have it for dinner,” she said in a high pitch voice as she shook the other doll. 
“No!” Jasmine exclaimed quickly.  “Don’t shoot the poor little turkey.”
“But we have to have one for dinner,” Madison replied in the deep voice again as she shook that doll.
“But turkeys are nice.  It’s wrong to kill the poor little animals,” Jasmine played.
On the other side of the kitchen, Susan watched the two of them playing back and forth.  She shook her head.  It didn’t sound like her real son was going to be interested in going hunting any time soon.

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