I was Mommy’s only child. We lived together in a house outside of town. I took the school bus to school. My earliest memories are of Mommy holding me and speaking softly. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember how wonderful I felt.
As I got older, and started school, I found out some of the kids had two parents, some like me had only a Mother, and one had only a father. Kids are what kids are and comparing parents, and why yours was best, was one of our favorite occupations, if you were competitive, which I was. The boy with whom I had the most disputes was Henry. He was about my size, and, I thought, aggressive. I was constantly getting into it with him. Things got so bad we ended up fighting on the school grounds, which got us both sent to the Principal’s office. Parents were called. Henry, like me, had only a mother. She was not as pretty as my Mommy, but she was pretty, I thought, as I sat examining her while we all waited together for the Principal. She started talking to Mommy and they, unlike their sons, got on quite well. I watched that and was miserable.
After a time, the lady at the desk got us and seated us in the principal’s office. He looked down at a paper and pursed his lips. He told our parents that we were constantly getting in trouble, getting in disputes, and generally disrupting the class. Outside class we constantly teased and confronted one another and this fight was, really, the last straw. He suspended us for 10 days of school and told our mothers they could pick up our schoolwork so that we didn’t fall behind in class, but if this continued, we were probably not going to get promoted to the next grade. He said he’d thought about putting us in separate classes, but that was just kicking the can down the road, not stopping, picking it up, and putting it in the recycling bin where it belonged. He suggested they come up with some solution, for both our futures.
Mommy was furious. She talked about possibly losing her job, which would put us on the street, and how thoughtless I was. She mentioned this was a reflection on her. My behavior had caused people to think she was a bad mother. After talking to me for several minutes after we got home, she sent me to my room. “I’m going to call Cindy (that was Henry’s mother) and see if we can come up with some solution for all this.”
I didn’t mind being in my room. She’d taken my phone, so I played on the computer. I laughed with my friends about what had happened, really, and bragged about my vacation from school. It wasn’t all that serious to me, once we were out of the principal’s office.
Mommy came and got me and told me Cindy and Henry were coming over for supper and they were tossing a couple of ideas around thinking about how to solve the problem Henry and I had caused. She asked me if I had had fun staying in my room. I shrugged my shoulders, “I don’t know.” I’m sure she knew I was playing with my friends on the computer.
Henry and his Mom got there after a short time and she was just as mad as Mommy was. Henry rolled his eyes, which Mommy saw and mentioned. Henry’s Mom sat him down in our living room. Mommy sat me down in a chair across the room and they stayed in the kitchen, talking.
At first, I was bored, but then Henry started making faces, and calling me names in a real quiet voice, like ‘son of a snitch’, which made me pretty mad. He wouldn’t take it back so I hit him, he hit me back and our Moms separated us.
“What started this?” Mommy was madder than I had ever seen her.
So I told her. “He called me a son of a snitch.”
Mommy’s jaw dropped, Henry snickered. His Mom didn’t. “What? You called him what?” She grabbed Henry by the arm and would have shaken him if Mommy hadn’t intervened. “No. No. We’re not going to be part of the problem. I think I have just thought of a solution.”
Henry’s mom calmed down but didn’t let go. She held Henry’s arm real tight.
“I’ll get our coffees, Cindy. Put these two young gentlemen in separate chairs and stay here with them. I think we can get this solved pretty quickly.”
Mommy was smart. She was some kind of mathematician or something at a laboratory in town. I didn’t know Henry’s Mom at all. I hoped she was mean, especially to him.
We sat down. Henry’s Mom told us not even to look at each other. Mommy came into the living room with cups of coffee and a pot on a tray.
She smiled. I didn’t like this. Henry was smirking too. He didn’t know Mommy. He was about to.
“As I see it, we have two problems. The suspensions, which mean we’re going to have to take vacation or something, to deal with the child care, and the ongoing feud between these lovely young boys.”
I really didn’t like the sound of that at all.
Cindy agreed. “What do you think we can do about it?”
“Well, we can mitigate one half the problem with the child care” and she glared at me and then Henry, “by taking five days off each and take turns watching these adorable little scamps, who it seems, have difficulty playing, in a civilized way.”
There were too many big words, and too many sarcastic references to Henry and I to make me comfortable. He still sat snickering. I started dreading what was coming.
“What is Henry’s most precious possession?” Mom asked, sweetly.
“Get it from him.”
Cindy’s mom got up and took Henry’s phone. For the first time, he looked a little uncomfortable.
“Here, let me have it.” She began examining it.
“That’s mine. I’m entitled to my privacy!” Henry positively shouted.
Mom smiled at him. “Do you want it back?”
“Give it to me.”
“First you have to apologize to Dave for calling him a son of a snitch.”
Henry looked at me. “I’m sorry for calling you a son of a snitch”, and he snickered.
“That’s nice. Wasn’t that sweet, Cindy?
“He apologizes all the time and just keeps doing it.”
“Well, Henry, your own mother is not impressed with your sincerity, your own mother. Tsk tsk. I guess you’re going to have to do something to show her you are sincere.”
“Get up, take Dave by the hand, kiss him and tell him you’re sorry for calling him a son of a snitch.”
“No.” Henry looked positively revolted.
“Ok, no problem. We just have to keep working.” She put Henry’s phone in her purse.
“Now, where were we?”
“I want my phone.”
“Oh? I told you how to get your phone. Go up to Dave, take him by the hand, look him in the eye, and kiss him and apologize for calling him a son of a snitch. That will convince Cindy that you’re sincere. I tell you what. It doesn’t have to be on the lips, I’m fair. It can be on the cheek. But if you want your phone, that’s how to get it. Now, where were we?”
“That’s not fair. I can’t kiss him.”
“Sure you can. Your mother is here, it’ll be ok.”
“I don’t want him to kiss me,” I piped in.
“He has to convince us he’s sincere” Mom replied. Henry’s mom just watched.
“I still don’t want him to kiss me.”
“Crap, it would be the best kiss you ever got” Henry chimed in.
Mommy smiled and said, “Show us.”
Henry got that stubborn look on his face and Mom said something quietly to his mother. Henry worked himself up and suddenly got up from the chair, grabbed my hand and kissed me on the cheek and said, “I’m sorry for calling you a son of a snitch.”
I wiped my face as he walked back to his seat. Mommy was waving his phone around with a smile.
“So, Cindy, how do you think that picture of these two young, friendly, gentlemen will look on their Snapchat accounts. Sweet, huh? Does the school monitor them, maybe Mr. Huggins will relent when he sees our boys being so sweet to one another.” She was still holding Henry’s phone in her hand.
“No Mommy, that’s not fair. I didn’t call him any names.” I said.
“Well, Sweetie, the problem is if we just post it to his account, everybody will see you anyway, and people will think we’re playing favorites. That wouldn’t do.”
“Mommy that’s not fair.”
“Tsk tsk. Life’s not fair, Dave. It’s a jungle.” She twitched her nose like she does when she’s trying to be cute.
Henry’s mother laughed, “Well, it certainly was cute to see you little darlings kissing and getting along so well. I liked that, I liked it very, very much.”
She had this odd look in her eye. I didn’t like it.
“You promised me my phone.” Henry who didn’t know when to keep his mouth shut piped up. I scrunched down in my chair.
Mommy did a couple of things with the phone, checked her phone and handed it back with the biggest smile.
“I sent the picture to me. Your mom got it from another viewpoint on her phone. Let’s look at them and decide which is cutest to post.”
They started looking at their phones. “This screen isn’t big enough, let’s put it on the computer.” Mommy got up and Cindy started to follow. We stayed sitting down.
Mommy looked back. “You two sweet things come on, we can’t leave you here alone, no telling what you might do.” She and Cindy laughed.
Henry and I got up and started for the hall.
“If you hold hands maybe you’ll convince us you looking friendly isn’t just fake act to get us to not post this. Come on, hold hands.” Henry’s mom watched as we looked at each other and, reluctantly, extended our hands.
His mother said, triumphantly, “Ha, got it. Thanks for standing so far apart, so we can see it clearly!”
We scooted together. “Ha, got that one too. This is fun, Emily (that was Mommy).”
We separated and the camera snapped again, “In case I didn’t get it the first time, good, more, more.”
We dropped our hands and I put mine under my armpits.
“It’s too late now, you know, we have enough pictures of you two pretty boys enjoying one another’s company. This is fun. Lord I was really mad when I came over here, but you two precious boys have made it fun. Thanks.” She took another picture. “Now, hold hands and follow us. I don’t know whether this is going to be posted, or not, but, in any case, we own you. Ha.” She smiled and turned around and followed Mommy into the computer room where she was busy firing it all up. Henry and I didn’t know what to do so we just followed.
“I got it all backed up on our cloud servers. It’s on the Internet forever.” Mommy gleefully was bringing up the pictures of Henry kissing me on the cheek.
We stood in the door and watched.
“I’ve got more.” Cindy showed Mommy the pictures she took of us walking back to the computer. They were sick. Henry and I slouched against the wall with our heads down.
All the pictures went into the cloud so Mommy could access them from anywhere with any device any time. I snuck a look at Henry.
“OK. Now here they are, all ready, with just a push of a button even from the International Space Station, I can manipulate these photographs. You sweet things think about it. Right now, we’re going to go shopping for you all, for your suspensions and our vacations. I’m going to have fun, a real vacation. Let’s go.”
We ended up in Wal-Mart. She bought girl’s shoes, socks, panties, training bras (!), blouses, pants that came down just below the knee, dresses, skirts, ribbons, lipstick (!), nail polish (!). It was quite a haul. Henry and I were quiet, hoping that nobody saw us. When we got in the car with our packages, Mommy asked Cindy if, since we were going to be the best behaved sweet children she’d ever known, would she like to take the sweet darlings to dinner. Henry and I didn’t say anything. The possibilities of this were nerve-wracking. We were a couple of subdued little boys. We ran into our teacher from school and Mommy waved her over. She was amazed Henry and I were there, together, and getting along so well, but they didn’t show her any pictures.
“Well, they just have to be adjusted. That suspension really got their attention. This is just the start, though. They are going to learn to be different during the next few days.” She looked significantly at Henry and I. “We will bring them by tomorrow to pick up their assignments.”
“That’s great. I’ll look forward to seeing whether this is a permanent change.”
“Oh, I think it will be pretty permanent, but you can’t ever tell with kids.” Mommy smiled, but, to me, it didn’t look like she was smiling about picking up our work. We got home and unloaded all the packages and put them in Mommy’s room.
Henry and his mom came over pretty early the next morning. He was dressed like normal, at first. But his mom took him back to Mommy’s bedroom dressed him like Mommy had dressed me, in shorts that had been bought in the girl’s section. I wore one of my regular t-shirts and he kept his on. For shoes we both wore flip-flops. It looked pretty girly, if you asked me, but they didn’t so I didn’t say anything. Henry raised a little fuss, at first, but his mom had gotten out one of the blouses with lace on it they bought yesterday and asked, “Would you rather wear this up to the school? It’s cute.” He didn’t like it so he said his clothes were great, but he really didn’t mean it.
“Don’t the boys look cute today?” Cindy snapped a picture. We headed out to the car with our moms talking about how this suspension wasn’t going to be that bad. Mommy had called in at work, told them the situation, and, since there was no launch for a few months she had little to do anyway, so she got a couple of weeks. Cindy had to go in to work the rest of the day and the next to train a temp, but would take eight days vacation afterwards. She talked about her boss needing her to run things in the office, so he was pretty cooperative. She did turn back to Henry, though, and say, “This is my vacation this year, I am going to have a good time.”
We got to school and visited our teacher on her hour off and got our assignments. Mrs. Quinn, our teacher, complimented us on our deportment, and made some comment about perhaps the suspension would work. Mommy smiled and said, “Oh the suspension is going to work, all right. They will be changed boys when they come back in class, I’d bet anything on it.”
“I admire your optimism. We’ll see,” Mrs. Quinn seemed less sure.
Cindy just kept looking at us and tapping her hand with her phone and smiling.
The ride home was pretty quiet.
When we got home, Cindy left for work. Mommy smiled.
“Come on.” She led us back to her room. She got out a couple of pairs of the girl’s pants they bought last night, two blouses with sleeves that puffed out, two pair of girl’s sandals and two pair of panties.
“OK. Dress in these. Choose your outfit.”
Henry made a dash for the white pants. I went for the plain panties. “Good. This is fun, now we have which pair of panties each of you is going to wear, and which pair of pants. The sandals are the same the blouses are a little different. I guess I’ll let one of you choose the blouse they want and the other can wear the other one. Henry, would you like to choose your blouse?”
He looked at the floor and looked pretty mad. “No.”
“OK, then you choose Dave, which blouse would you like to wear?”
Both of them looked pretty much the same to me, so I just picked the one closest to me.
“Great. Now. Get dressed.”
We started taking our clothes off, until we got down to our underwear. Henry said, “I’m not putting on panties.”
Mommy smiled. “Fine. That will cause me to execute the nuclear option. Do you know what that is?”
Henry snapped, “What?”
“The pictures, the cute pictures they’re going on the Internet 10 seconds after I finish talking. Once they’re gone, they can’t be brought back, you two little gems will be the stars of your own show at school. One…..two…” and Henry didn’t push Mommy to the limit, he took off his underwear, turning away from Mommy and me.
Mommy said, “Great, here’s your panties.” and she draped them over his shoulder. I just got in mine without saying anything. Henry was turned away anyway. It was pretty embarrassing. We both had problems with the blouse until Mommy explained the buttons were on the other side, because they were girl’s clothes. Henry turned red, but put the blouse on. We sat down and put on our sandals and Mommy had us stand in front of her while she brushed our hair a little different.
When we were finished, she said, “You all look adorable, this is great.” She snapped a couple of pictures and sent them to the cloud.
She kept smiling, “Now, you two adorable children need to know what happens next. We are going to do today’s schoolwork at the kitchen table, quietly and nicely. If you have any questions, ask. If you help each other, that’s a point. If you argue, you lose a point. If you end the activity with minus points, you’ll get to wear even more girl clothes, until you’re wearing lipstick and nail polish and everything.”
“What happens if we have positive points, or are even”, I asked?
“Nothing. You get to wear this, your base outfit, for the next activity. We’re going to eat meals, take lessons, and play games, everything, for the next 10 days using that system. Do you understand it?”
Henry said, “It’s not fair. We ought to get something for positive points.”
Mommy repeated what she told me thousands of times, with her big smile, “Life’s not fair, Henry, it’s a jungle. You’ve already put on your big girl panties, so pull them up and let’s get going. That’s minus one point.” She walked toward the kitchen and I followed right away, Henry was a little behind me, but he came along.
We got to the kitchen and Mommy passed out the work for that day at school, and we started the lesson. It wasn’t hard. I concentrated on it and was finished with the first project before Henry. I asked him if he needed any help. He snapped out, “I don’t need any help from you.”
Mommy smiled her biggest smile, “Minus one more.”
Henry looked at her sitting there smiling, playing with her phone and almost said something, I could tell, but he didn’t, thank goodness. I asked Mommy if I could get my phone and play with it while I waited. She said, “Sure.”
He finished a few minutes later.
“Ok, time for the next lesson.”
I put my phone down and listened. Henry said, “It’s not fair, he got to play with his phone.”
Mommy smiled at him, “Minus another,” and kept handing out the lesson.
I remember Granddad saying, “She’s like her mother, she’s like a mad dog. If she gets that way, treat her exactly like you would a mad dog. Don’t show any fear and go about your business, slowly and carefully.”
Mommy was mad, still, though Henry didn’t know it, because he didn’t know Mommy. I just wanted to tell him what Granddad told me, but I was afraid to. I kept my head down and worked on the lesson.
We stopped for lunch, which Mommy made, Henry complained about the sandwich and Mommy answered by taking another point away.
That afternoon, Henry let me help him one time, which got a point back, and I let him help me, which got another point back. We finished schoolwork that afternoon and Mommy decided we were going to have a tea party. She put ribbons in our hair and bracelets on us to take care of our minus points, and told us both how cute we were. I was disgusted, but I decided to go with it, “Thank you Mommy.”
“Oh. Plus one point.” She looked shocked.
Henry looked at me, for the first time we were a point ahead, and it was all a mistake. I pondered this development as Mommy had us sit down and serve fake tea to one another using a set she had as a girl. It went pretty well. She complimented me on putting my pinkie out, but she didn’t give us a point. Henry was on the edge the whole time. He just couldn’t go along. His mom came in while we were playing and Mommy got up to meet her, “You children keep playing, you look so cute.”
Cindy snapped a couple of pictures. “They look adorable.”
Henry then piped up, “She’s not fair. I can’t say anything.”
His mom looked at him and said, “Minus one point.”
Mommy said, “They had a positive point, too. Oh well.” She snapped a couple of more pictures.
Henry clammed up and screwed up his face. “It’s not fair, we have to act like robots.”
His mom said, “Minus one point. Ever cuter robots, though.” Mommy and Cindy thought that was pretty funny, I guess. I didn’t say anything about it.
I wanted to grab him and shake him and scream, “No more, no more!” But I didn’t and he started pouting.
His mom took a picture, “You look so cute pouting in your outfit. I love the ribbons in your hair, would you look up at the camera? I got your face but I’m not sure it was your good side.”
Henry put his head down between his knees. I felt sorry for him. I really did, so I spoke up. “It’s ok, Henry, we can do this.”
His mom looked surprised and said, “Plus one point.”
So we finished the Tea Party even. Things didn’t go as well afterwards. Somebody shared a video of one of our classmates getting beat up after school on my phone. I showed Henry and Mommy caught me.
She smiled and said, “Minus one point”.
The next morning we chose our outfits, which were girlier and, in addition, had to polish our toenails with pink polish. We didn’t get to wear socks, so the polish was visible, all day. We lost a total of two points that day, messing up playing with dolls and with just a couple of words, not an argument, about who got which blouse.
The next day we had to polish our fingernails, too. That wasn’t really as bad as one of us having to wear a skirt. The other one got flowery pants. It was my turn to choose and I chose the pants, and we started off the day minus a point. We couldn’t leave the house. Cindy’s vacation started and we all stayed out at our house. Only our moms and we were home mostly but it was still embarrassing to have to do everything like they said. We lost five points that day due to a tantrum Henry threw. We had to wear nightgowns to bed that night.
The day after that we were both in skirts, our nails all polished and they took us out shopping. We were frantic, but they took us to a K-Mart pretty far away, though Mommy kept on about, “I don’t know why you don’t want your friends to see you, you two look so pretty.” And then she and Cindy would laugh and laugh.
It was very embarrassing in K-Mart. Henry started to make a scene but his mom shut him up immediately, “Go ahead. Keep it up. Let’s get the security guard over here. We’ll be the newest Youtube sensations. It will be fun.” She snapped pictures the whole trip. They got our ears pierced. I cried. That cost us a point. Mommy looked skeptical and said, “Six year old girls get them pierced every day, they don’t cry.”
We had little pearls in our ears going home. Mommy and Cindy talked all the way about how pretty we were and kept snapping pictures of us sulking. I tried to act cheerier so the pictures would stop, but Henry looked miserable. Mommy asked if we wanted to stop for pizza, but we begged her no. We lost a point for begging.
Our days started running together. We wore skirts and blouses and sandals and polished our nails and even wore lipstick. We passed all our lessons and the tests Mommy came up with to assure we’d learned what was taught. We played Tea Party and dressed our dolls and shared. Pictures were taken of everything.
She made us kiss, on the lips, to apologize. That started more pictures. Henry asked why we had to kiss on the lips and his mom explained, “So you don’t get lipstick on your friend except where he already has lipstick, silly. Minus one point.”
We took a trip. Mommy took pictures of us the whole way. We ended up at Six Flags and we tried to blend in with everybody else, especially after I thought I saw someone from school, and five hundred miles from home! We clung to our mothers and when they got tired of this, to each other, and were very, very well behaved.
The last day of our suspension they dressed us in dresses with petticoats and took ‘graduation pictures’. We had one last tea party with our dolls, with many pictures of it. Cindy and Henry went home. I saw them as they drove away him scooted down in the car. I felt sorry for him, but glad I was already home.
Mommy helped me take off the nail polish, even made sure we got all of it. She talked to me about our suspension, which seemed like it had lasted forever. I promised to do better in school, and she looked at me and said, “That’s what I’d hoped for. You’re a good boy, and a pretty good sport. I hope you learned something.”
“I did, Mommy.”
She leaned over and whispered in my ear, even though there was nobody to hear but me, “Good. Don’t worry. If you do well in school, we can dress up on the weekends, and play, some more, just we two.”
“Thank you, Mommy.”
Henry and I got along much better at school, though we weren’t really what you’d call close friends. I did better in school.
I don’t know where those pictures are, somewhere in the cloud, I guess.