Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Dreaming of You

“Hey, I need to talk to the manager on duty,” I said. I didn’t recognize the voice so it was probably one of the new employees.

“Can do,” she said.

I hadn’t heard the hold music in about six months. Easy listening covers of Elton John hits ruin my hold experience.

“Hello?” Jack was on duty.

“Hey, Jack. I need to call out today.”

“Who is this?” he sounded confused.

“It’s Angela.”

“Sh—. No, Angela. Unless you’re bleeding, I need you in here today.”

“None of my clothes—”

“Have you turned on the TV?”


“Well, turn it on, and then put on whatever you can manage and I’ll bring you some clothes in the back plaza ten minutes before your shift starts.”

I drove more cautiously than usual on the way to work. I’d checked my license and it had changed too, but what I put on didn’t really count as ‘clothed.’

The world didn’t notice, though. They had other things on their mind than the sight of a burly hairy man barely wearing a pink robe.

Jack stood outside the back door when I arrived. He had a bundle of clothes and looked nervous.

I pulled up alongside him and rolled the window down.

“Wow, you weren’t kidding. Uh, I was expecting you to be a bit smaller, and I’m guessing you’ll need shoes too.”


Five minutes later, he had a pile of clothes more appropriately sized and some shoes.

I think I felt more self-conscious changing in the plaza than I ever had before. Wrong parts.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a weirder day at work. Everyone walked around wide-eyed, head down.

Most of my customers called me ma’am. I took my name tag off and borrowed Mike’s tag since he’d called out.

They still called me ma’am.

At 3:30 PM, Jack told me to take my break.

Only about one in every hundred people had switched genders. The news said about half of all people had experienced some side effect or another, though.

And all the dogs and cats could talk.

I walked out of the store and decided I felt like deli subs for lunch.

A few minutes into my walk, I spotted a nose-less, ear-less, but still completely male Mike. I squinted to get a better look. That bastard. He called out like he had a major problem!

I wanted to haul off and punch him, but I noticed a dog. I don’t know if I thought the dog might be a witness against me, or if I really just wanted to talk to a dog.

“Hey there, pup,” I said to the Boston-Terrier. “My name’s Angela. What’s yours?”

I knelt down beside him.

“My name,” he said in the most cutesy-wootsiest voice I’d ever heard, “is Shut Up. And some other things. I forget. Snacky-wacky?”

“Sorry, Shut Up. I haven’t got anything on me, but if you’re still around after I finish my lunch, maybe I’ll bring you some.”


Some old guy with a long beard and a cane shuffled in my general direction. I’d lost track of Mike so I walked toward the deli.

A camera crew had set up a scene with a reporter. I tried dodging their scene—no sense in being a jerk—but they stopped me.

“Ma’am, can I ask you a few questions?”

“How can you tell I’m a woman?”

“Your clothes all look like they haven’t been washed yet. I just guessed.”

“Oh. Well, I guess—”

A little boy shrieked behind us.

The reporter and camera crew swung to face the boy’s scream. The old guy flew. He’d tucked his cane under his arm, and his long beard flipped in the wind.

I ducked behind the camera crew. They weren’t interested in me anymore. Their new story was better.

It all seemed pretty familiar, so I dropped to the ground and posed like one of those sky divers you see in photos. I flexed my mind a particular way and, sure enough, floated awkwardly into the sky.

My dream flight had always been clunky. I landed as softly as I could on top of a building. I made a very loud WHUMP when I hit.

I touched the roof, ran my fingers over the rough concrete. It felt so solid. But if I had my dream powers there, I must have been asleep. Right?

If I was sleeping then, none of us have ever woken since. I switch gender every other day, Mike loses and gains body parts. Jack wakes up as a two-year-old some days.

And that old guy? Well, if you stick around here long enough, I’m sure you’ll see him.


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