Alone Together; A Tuneful Tale Chapter 1: I’m A Girl!

Alone Together; a Tuneful tale.

By Jennifer Sue

Chapter 1: I’m A Girl!


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By the age of two Earl had painfully learned not to tell anyone he was a girl. They all insisted he was a boy like his dumb brothers. Even paying dolls with his girl cousins wrong. He simply didn’t understand why they could play with dolls and he couldn’t. But he did learn not to bring the subject up. He hated playing with his brothers and boy cousins but he was not given a choice. The really sad thing is with each chastisement, the happy, smiling and often laughing toddler steadily morphed into a repressed, quiet and solemn little boy.

<*> <*> <*>

It was another happy Thanksgiving for the extended Daly family. The children and grandchildren had gathered at their parent’s home. In the crowded house three year old Earl had been able to sneak playing with his girl cousins while his brothers and boy cousins played yucky football outside. Earl was not like his brothers. They liked to play hard and make a lot of noise. Earl was shy and liked to play quietly avoiding the rough play of his brothers. His mommy, aunts and gammy worked on the meal in the kitchen while his daddy, uncles and pappy were yelling at the dumb football games on TV.
It was mid afternoon when they all sat around the two large tables to enjoy the huge meal. The yummy pumpkin pie topped by whipped cream was the perfect way to top off the delicious meal. They all sat back, smiling and rubbing their full tummies.

Then gammy began asking her grandkids what they wanted for Christmas going from the oldest to the youngest, Earl. When Gammy finally asked him what he wanted, he was afraid to say anything. He knew his daddy didn’t like him and would not be happy with what he really wanted so he just lowered his head and bit his lips and shrugged his shoulders. Gammy insisted Earl stop being so bashful and tell her what he wanted for Christmas but he kept quiet.

“Damn it Earl, tell Gammy what you want for Christmas,” James, his daddy, impatiently scolded. “Speak up, boy, don’t be such a damn moron!”

Earl knew he had to answer otherwise he’d really be in trouble. With his heart pounding and afraid of another spanking he was too anxious to make something up. “I... I want a doll...” he blurted instantly knowing he’d said the wrong thing as he clamped his hands over his betraying mouth.

The room fell silent as every eye trained on him.

“What a sissy,” his brother Jeff sneered.

“That cuts it,” James snarled. “Linda, I’ve told you you’ve been coddling him too damn much! No more! He’s got to learn that he’s a boy! I won’t raise a damn sissy!”

Earl couldn’t stop the tears as they burst forth.

“God damn it Earl, stop crying like a sissy girl!” James bellowed. “Or I’ll give you something to cry about!”

Earl tried to stop the tears but it was hopeless. He was plainly terrified of his father.

James pushed his chair back and stormed around the table to grab Earl’s wrist ripping him from the chair. Earl screamed in fear as he dangled by the arm as his father, well before the open hand of his dad’s other hand began landing sharp slaps on the boys jostling tush. Things grew worse when Earl’s terror overtook him as his bladder let loose. The pant legs of his kicking legs quickly saturated and the urine splattered everywhere while Earl’s screams ratcheted up into hysteria.

James exploded when the urine hit him. “Jesus f...king Christ!” He bellowed as he held the flailing piss strewing boy away from him.

“James! That’s enough,” Jane, Earl’s Gammy ordered as the droplets continued flying. “Put him down. I’ve taught you better than that!”

James shook with barely stifled anger as he dropped Earl to the floor as far away as he could. Landing with dripping legs splayed, the boy bounced off his butt then fell back towards his dad smacking the back of his head on the hardwood floor with a resounding THUNK! Earl opened his mouth to scream in pain but was so physically and mentally traumatized he simply froze in mid silent scream. After three seconds he turned his head to projectile vomit... all over his dad’s feet!

“Son-of-a-b...” James yelped as he flinched away from the vile slurry only to slip and fall on his butt landing with and even louder THUNK!!

With his stomach emptied, Earl curled up into a soggy pathetically sobbing ball. Jane knelt beside her hysterically crying grandson to comfort him. The kids choked back their shock at the events and choked back their urge to get sick as they fled from the room. The uncles followed the kids ostensibly to keep an eye on them.

“John, talk some sense into your son,” Jane ordered her husband. “Behavior like that went out in the fifties! I told you over and over your redneck discipline would come back to bite us! You can see I was right!”

John stood from his chair and motioned James to follow him to his workshop. Linda got a bucket of water, wash cloths and disinfectant cleaner to begin cleaning the mess. The other women began quietly clearing the table. Jane managed to get Earl to his feet and into the bathroom and tub to strip and wash him. Earl was trembling and breathing/sobbing in a heart rending stuttering manner that only stopped when he cried himself to sleep.

John led James into the shop where James stripped off his shoes, pants and socks. While James cleaned his vomit soaked shoes John took the pants and socks into the laundry letting Jane know before heading back to the shop.

Jane laid Earl on her bed and rinsed his soggy and vomit spattered clothes before running them and James’ clothes through her washer and dryer.

Needless to say the festive Thanksgiving mood had been erased. Instead of the extended family spending the evening together, as soon as the food was put away and the dishes done, the families quietly packed up and left.

The ride home was made in silence. James was still furious that Earl had embarrassed him which forced him to loose control. He couldn’t even look at his forlorn youngest strapped safely into his car seat. Once safe in his bed, Earl cried himself to sleep. It had been a horrible day.

The next day while Linda did some Black Friday shopping, James took the boys into the back yard to teach Earl how to play football. The older boys took it easy on their little brother until they realized their dad wanted them to TEACH Earl how to play. Earl quickly learned that crying did no good. He also learned bloody noses will stop bleeding. Slowly and painfully he was learning how to ‘Suck it up’.

That night Earl pulled the sheets over his head, buried his face into the pillow and cried himself to sleep. Saturday morning as they sat at the breakfast table Zack made the mistake of teasing Earl for crying himself to sleep causing James to shoot a frown in Earl’s direction.

Earl knew he had to take immediate action. “I did not! You’re lying!” Earl screamed as he slid from his chair with his fork in his hand and ran toward Zack raising it menacingly above his head to stab him.

“Earl, stop,” Linda cried out in horror.

James quickly reacted and was able to snatch the fork from Earl’s hand before he could attack. “That’s enough, Earl. I’m sure Zack was just teasing you, weren’t you Zackery?”

Zack had frozen as his whacked little brother charged him with the fork poised to stab. His dad’s stern words snapped him back to reality. “Yeah... Yeah, I was just teasing you, Earl. Sorry,”

Earl malevolently glared at Zack as he backed away, shooting daggers at Jeff just in case.

The rest of the family realized Earl had changed. Gone was the wimpy but happy little sissy. They wondered if they’d created a monster.

Either Earl did a better job muffling his nightly tears or Zack wisely kept his mouth shut.

<*> <*> <*>

Christmas morning found Jeff and Zack eagerly waiting at the Christmas tree. They knew they had to wait for their parents before attacking the many gifts. After what seemed an eternity James and Linda came downstairs.

“Where’s Earl?” Linda asked noting his absence.

“He was still in bed,” Zack answered.

“Go get him,” Linda sighed. “You both better go and be gentle.”

“Awww...” the brothers moaned.

“You know your father and I want our coffee before we let you dig in,” Linda stated. “Now go get Earl.”

The boys scrambled up to the bedroom Zack and Earl shared to find their weird little brother curled beneath his blankets.

“Come on, Earl,” Jeff urged as he shook the pile of blankets and sheets. “Mom wants you downstairs so we can open our presents.”

“Don’t want no presents,” Earl’s muffled voice snapped back as he pulled the sheets tighter about him.

“Earl... you don’t want dad to get upset and come get you,” Jeff urged. “Zack and I gotta stay here so we can all go down together.”

Grumpily Earl emerged. After taking care of necessities the brothers headed down to the tree.

James and Linda had their coffee in hand and James also had the movie camera. Zack and Jeff tore into the presents while Earl just stood to one side. At five, Zack could recognize his name on the present tags while seven year old Jeff could read the names of all three. Jeff gently tossed Earl’s gifts at his feet as he and Zack sorted the presents. Earl made no effort to even look at the gifts piling at his feet.

“Come on Earl,” Linda urged as Zack and Jeff eagerly tore open their gifts. “Aren’t you excited?”

Earl simply shook his head “no”.

Linda glanced at James noting he was growing impatient with Earl. Earl caught her glance and saw the look on his dad’s face. With a sigh of hopelessness he sat and reluctantly began opening his gifts. While his brothers snapped the ribbons and literally shredded the wrapping paper, Earl carefully removed the bow, then slipped the ribbon off before finding and slipping a finger under the Scotch tape to keep the paper whole. By the time he had his first gift opened with the wrapping paper neatly folded and the bow and ribbon placed upon it his brothers had all their gifts opened, whooping in delight over each gift. When Earl looked at what he’d unwrapped he sighed deeply and sat it aside without opening the box. He had no interest in a dump truck. Jeff and Zack were excitedly playing with their presents while Earl sullenly unwrapped his gifts, saving the paper, ribbons, and bows but never opening the boxes holding the toys. However he did neatly stack the unwrapped but unopened boxes from largest to smallest. Then he gathered the wrapping paper, ribbons and bows, carrying them upstairs leaving the toys behind.

“What the hell is wrong with that boy,” James groused to Linda. “Hell, he cares more for the wrapping and ribbons than the actual toys! I thought we were getting over that sissy crap.”

“James, that’s enough,” Linda scolded softly keeping the conversation from the other boys. “Just how blind and stupid are you? While Earl interacts with Jeff, Zack and you he does NOT play with you. Are you even aware that he has not smiled or laughed since Thanksgiving? He’s not just being moody, he’s absolutely unhappy! If he were older I’d be seriously worried about suicide!”

“Suicide? At his age? Get real,” James scoffed. “He’s just being moody. He’ll get over it.”

“I don’t think so,” Linda said. “A three year old doesn’t stay moody for an entire month. You saw how he reacted when Zack teased him about crying himself to sleep. There was murder in his eyes! If you hadn’t snatched that fork he would have stabbed Zack and it wouldn’t have been a love tap! You’ve pushed him too far. We need to back off.”

“Back off?” James sneered. “Do you want him to be a damn sissy?”

“I want him to be alive,” Linda fought back tears. “I don’t want to bury any of our children. And No, I’m not being dramatic! I’d rather have a live sissy than a dead son! Have you seen him playing with any toys? Have you seen him smile? Have you heard him laugh? Open your damn eyes! At the rate he’s going since you “straightened him out” he’ll either kill himself or flip out and kill people! Do you really want to be the father of a mass shooter? That’s what you’re driving him toward!” With that she stormed into the kitchen crying quietly so as not to disturb the boys.

Jeff and Zack were oblivious to what had been going on. James was chagrined. A small part of him understood what Linda was saying but his stubborn machismo refused to accept having a sissy son. After a bit of internal debate and deep thought, he decided he could ease off the pressure he’d been putting on Earl to ‘man up’ without letting the sissy re-emerge.

After a light lunch the family dressed and headed over to the grandparents to join the extended family for an afternoon of opening presents and supper. Earl managed to avoid the limelight by quietly keeping off to one side. Caught up in the Christmas gift exchange frenzy the cousins didn’t even notice Earl’s intentional solitude. Linda quietly and unobtrusively as possible gathered up the gifts meant for Earl and placed them by his side. Knowing he had no choice he quietly and carefully unwrapped each gift saving the paper, ribbons and bows. As before he stacked the unwrapped and unopened gifts from largest to smallest and carefully gathered the wrappings.

The family had a lively discussion at the table about their gifts with the exception of Earl who quietly nibbled his food and steadfastly avoided all attempts at conversation. Jane and the aunts noticed Earl’s reticence and solemn demeanor. As the women cleaned up after the meal, Earl avoided everyone and simply sat near the fireplace staring unmoving into the flickering flames as if mesmerized.

Linda told the women Earl had not smiled or laughed since Thanksgiving. She explained how James was doing all he could to force Earl to ‘man up’ and keep him from becoming a sissy adding that while sissy behavior had stopped, silent anger had emerged. She told of his attempt to stab Zack with a fork and how he refused to cry when injured. All the women attempted to draw Earl out but the best they response they achieved was a cold, dead stare. They all realized the boy was hurting and unable to be the person he was inside.

Jane managed to get her husband, John, and James to one side. She related what she and the other women saw in Earl’s behavior. James realized Earl had avoided becoming involved in the festivities and had indeed not smiled once. John and Linda warned James to ease off on the solemn clearly depressed boy before permanent damage was done to his psyche.

<*> <*> <*>

Earl never played with any of the presents he’d received. They sat stacked in their unopened boxes at the foot of his bed. He never smiled. He didn’t watch TV unless forced by his dad to watch something like the Stupid Bowl. Using the papers Zack brought home from kindergarten he taught himself to read. By Easter he was able to make his way through Jeff’s second grade books. Each weekend James took the boys outside to play. While Jeff and Zack enthusiastically joined in, Earl simply went along with the flow, doing just enough to satisfy his dad.

At Easter the grandkids were all dressed nicely so there was no way they’d be allowed to play normally. Earl had been told to stay with his brothers and cousins. Instead they listened to their favorite music. Gammy Jane was upset that the older kids were listening to oft violent and quite sexist rap music. She gathered her grandkids in the living room to watch videos of music from when she was a teenager. To their surprise, the kids found most of the music was good and often funny. All but Earl laughed at one particular video.

{“I’m a Boy” <*> by the Who <*> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRj-NokS2xI }

One girl was called Jean Marie
Another little girl was called Felicity
Another little girl was Sally Joy
The other was me, and I'm a boy
My name is Bill, and I'm a head case
They practice making up on my face
Yeah, I feel lucky if I get trousers to wear
Spend evenings taking hairpins from my hair
I'm a boy, I'm a boy
But my ma won't admit it
I'm a boy, I'm a boy
But if I say I am, I get it
Put your frock on, Jean Marie
Plait your hair, Felicity
Paint your nails, little Sally Joy
Put this wig on, little boy
I'm a boy, I'm a boy
But my ma won't admit it
I'm a boy, I'm a boy
But if I say I am, I get it
I want to play cricket on the green
Ride my bike across the street
Cut myself and see my blood
I want to come home all covered in mud
I'm a boy, I'm a boy
But my ma won't admit it
I'm a boy, I'm a boy, I'm a boy
I'm a boy, I'm a boy, I'm a boy, I'm a boy
I'm a boy, I'm a boy, I'm a boy

Earl felt his insides twist as he listened to the song. It spoke to his soul. Unlike shown in the video, he realized the ‘boy’ singing the song had been born a girl who felt in HIS soul that he had been born in the wrong body. That was the exact opposite of how he felt! He finally understood that he was a GIRL who had the misfortune to be born with a boy’s body! That was a mighty revelation for an almost four year old. The song indelibly imprinted into his psyche.

The women quizzed Linda about Earl. She reported that while Earl had still not smiled and did not show enthusiasm for anything, he didn’t seem to be getting any worse. James had backed off forcing Earl to join his brothers but he still strongly encouraged it. She reported he’d not touched any of the toys he’d gotten for Christmas but had taught himself to read and do simple math using his brothers’ worksheets and books. When she had time, Linda sat with him helping him to read harder books and how to write. However, for the most part, Earl was content to be by him self which the women noted from his lack of interaction with his cousins.

Monday after Easter was a school holiday so the older boys set to playing video games. The revelation that he was a girl stuck in a boy‘s body consumed Earl’s thoughts. Sharing a bedroom with his brother had never felt right but it was how it had always been. Last night had been horrible. A girl shouldn’t share a bedroom with her brother. Earl headed upstairs to his shared bedroom to think. Their home only had three bedrooms. Jeff, as the oldest, had his own room. Earl thought about where he could make his own bedroom. The only place open was up in the attic. Pulling his blankets and sheets off his bed he dragged it all up to the attic. Off to one side of the steps he made himself a nest. The attic was eight feet high in the center sloping to nothing on both sides with a window at either end. The room was uninsulated, unheated and uncooled. The mid April late morning temperature was about 56° but grew colder at night. Earl figured being cold was better than sharing a bedroom.

Sitting on the mattress pad, he pulled the rest of the sheets and blankets over his head basking in the darkness and trapped warmth. Morosely he let his mind wander, not understanding why no one would believe that he was a girl. The “I’m a Boy” video he’d watched at his grandparents kept rolling through his mind. Mentally he re-wrote the words to fit himself softly singing the song to himself.

{I’m a Girl! <*> Words by Earl, tune by the Who}
One boy was called Jeffery
Another little boy was called Zackery
The youngest little boy was called Earl
That boy was me, but I'm a girl
My name is Devon, I'm a head case
I want to put make up on my face
Yeah I feel yuckey cause I get trousers to wear
I want to put pony tails in my hair
I'm a girl, I'm a girl, but my da won't allow it
I'm a girl, I'm a girl, but if I say I am, I get it

Get your ball glove, Jeffery
Kick the football, Zackery
Go tackle both your brothers, Earl
Can't man up cause I'm a girl
I'm a girl, I'm a girl, but my da won't allow it
I'm a girl, I'm a girl, but if I say I am, I get it

I want to play dolls so happily
Skip about the yard and laugh
Dance and twirl in ruffled skirt
Hiding my girlhood makes my heart hurt
I'm a girl, I'm a girl, but my da won't allow it
I'm a girl, I'm a girl, I'm a girl,
I'm a girl, I'm a girl, I'm a girl, I'm a girl,
I'm a girl, I'm a girl, I'M A GIRL!

At lunch Linda called the boys to the kitchen. Zack and Jeff came in but there was no sign of Earl. She sent the boys to find Earl. Soon they were downstairs reporting he wasn’t upstairs but his bed had been stripped. Linda knew he hadn’t come downstairs so that left the attic. She told the boys to begin eating as she headed up to the attic.

Finding Earl was easy. “Earl, what are you doing?” She gently asked.

“I’m moving my bedroom up here,” Earl firmly declared from beneath his covers.

“We’ll have to talk about that,” Linda answered neutrally. “Right now, lunch is ready so come down to eat.

Earl squirmed out of his makeshift nest and followed his mother to the kitchen.

After Jeff and Zack finished their meal and returned to their video games, Linda began questioning Earl about why he wanted his own bedroom.

“I don’t like sharing with Zack,” Earl declared. “We’re too different. Jeff already has his own room and it wouldn’t be fair to make him share. If I have my own room then so should Zack. Since I’m the one that wants to be alone I’ll rough it in the attic. I know it’s chilly up there but I’ll put up with that to be alone.”

Linda was surprised by Earl’s coherent reasoning. He didn’t want to put out either brother so he’d accept the hardship. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea but after supper we’ll talk to your father,” Linda declared. “Why don’t we sit down and you can read to me. Later you can help with supper.”

Fortunately Earl agreed.

Linda caught James as soon as he came home and explained that Earl had pulled his sheets off the bed and moved his bedroom into the attic and why.

For once James thought before reacting. “Let him stay up there until he changes his mind. He’ll come down on his own.”

Linda agreed since she thought the same thing.

During supper Linda had Earl explain to his father and brothers that he was moving his bedroom to the attic so the brothers each had their own bedroom. Zack was delighted but James cautioned they could try it to see how it works out, leaving open the possibility Earl could move back in with his brother. Rules were established where the older boys could not try to scare Earl. Earl was not allowed to keep the light on at night. An extension cord with a nightlight would be run from an attic outlet to the attic stairway so Earl could see if he needed to come down to use the bathroom. The parents expected the experiment to last a day or two.

After a week Linda and James attempted to talk Earl into returning downstairs but he steadfastly refused. After a month, James and Linda relocated Earl’s bed and dresser into the attic. There were a few electrical outlets in the attic so a clamp on desk light was attached to his headboard so he had a source of light at night. Even the spring thunderstorms didn’t chase the determined Earl downstairs. The loud crashes and brilliant flashes of light seemed to have no effect. Earl found the drumming of the rain on the metal roof soothing. Rather than watch TV, he’d head to his attic eyrie to read.

During that time Earl avoided his family as much as he could. Jeff and Zach willingly obliged their sullen quiet brother. Trying to get the recalcitrant boy involved in their play was simply not worth the effort. While James made Earl join the older boys in playing baseball or soccer or football, it was clear the morose boy had absolutely no enthusiasm for sport of any kind, simply going through the expected motions with no heart. The only good thing was that James realized yelling at Earl only drove the boy further inside himself.

<*> <*> <*>

By Memorial Day at the family picnic, things took a darker turn. Knowing what was expected of him only made the already recalcitrant just turned four year old Earl more frustrated and angry. With grim determination Earl reluctantly joined in the rough housing play of his male cousins and brothers while not even talking to his girl cousins. The girls ignored him like they did the other boys. There was a dump truck load of topsoil about ten feet in diameter and six feet high, perfect for a raucous day of king of the mountain.

The rough and tumble play quickly deteriorated into mayhem with Earl firmly at the center of the chaos. It had taken a few moments for Earl to grasp the game. The boys were wrestling/fighting to be the king standing on the high point of the mound repelling all challengers. Often the king and his primary attacker would tumble down together while a third attacker then took the top. Since he was the smallest and youngest, Earl knew he had no chance of winning an really didn’t want to win. After several rough tumbles down the hill, he settled on the strategy of being a spoiler. Instead of trying to get to the top, he followed behind grabbing feet and yanking those above him. Losing their balance they came tumbling down, often grabbing another in a desperate effort to regain their balance and avoid tumbling down the hill. Several times three or even four of the cousins tumbled down landing atop Earl. Despite being hurt, Earl clenched his teeth and literally fought through the pain, not even noticing the blood gushing from his nose.

The blood acted like glue pasting dirt wherever the blood splattered. Earl's face, chest, pants and arms were quickly coated with blud, dirt mixed with blood. The cousins were also getting banged up. They were all too stubborn to admit it so the chaos continued.

The women noticed that while Earl was in the thick of the action, he wasn't laughing, joking or bragging like the others. His muddy face was one of hostile determination and fury. His cousins quickly learned that although he was the smallest and youngest, he wouldn't stop until he had done as much damage as possible. They learned to fear the tough little kid and avoid him.

"Does Earl ever smile?" Jane asked Linda.

"I haven't seen him smile since that fiasco at Thanksgiving," Linda unhappily answered. "James has driven the sissy out of him and toughened him up. Earl refuses to cry even if the boys give him a bloody nose. When that happens he goes after whoever bloodied him so he can bloody them."

"That isn't good," Jane sighed. "Is James treating him better?"

"He hasn't hit any of the boys since that night," Linda replied. "Jeff and Zack seem to be okay, but Earl... he just seems so utterly sad. He insisted he wanted his own bedroom to get away from Zack so he stripped his bed and moved into the attic. We let him do it but said it was okay to return to sharing with Zack, figuring he'd last a day or two in the unfinished and unheated attic. After a month we moved his bedroom furniture up. I'm trying to talk James into letting me enroll him in a preschool so he gets more age appropriate socialization."

"That sounds like a good idea," Jane sighed as she watched Earl run full tilt into his oldest cousin, Simon, taking him to the ground.

As the big lad climbed to his feet he noticed there were muddy red streaks on his pants. Looking at Earl's angry face he noted the tough little guy was blowing dark red bubbles from his nose. "Shit," Simon whispered to himself. Afraid he might set his maniacal cousin off, he spoke up. "Guys, let's take a break and get something to drink"

All the boys were filthy and thirsty after nearly twelve minutes of non-stop intense rough and tumble action. As they trooped towards the patio for drinks Simon brought up the rear of the group. Raising his hands high he waved them back and forth to get the women's attention. Once they noticed him he placed a finger against his mouth in a shushing manner, then pointed at Earl with one hand while pointing at his nose with the other, switching to a quick finger movement down from his nose to indicate bleeding.

The women looked at the approaching boys noting how they were covered with dirt. They also saw Simon signaling. Instantly they realized Earl was dirtier than the others, muddy even, but it had been days since it rained. Linda realized the dirt was mixed with blood. "Oh God, Earl's bleeding," she gasped as she stood along with Jane.

The other women made the boys dust off and wash their faces and hands before getting drinks. Jane ushered the taciturn Earl into the mud/laundry room with Linda right behind. As Jane began wiping his face, fresh blood began oozing out of his nose. Linda was washing his hands and arms. Both noted the mud was dirt mixed with blood. Jane asked, "Oh Earl, why didn't you stop when you started bleeding?"

"I'm tough," Earl mumbled stoically. "It's just blood."

Jane and Linda exchanged looks of frustrations.

"You don't have to be that tough," Jane sighed.

"Yes I do," Earl insisted. "I can’t be a sissy!"

That comment and deadly serious response made Jane frown as she looked at Linda. "Well this is my place and I want you to not play with the boys anymore today. You can sit and read or even play with the girls like you used to do."

"I can't play with the girls!" Earl declared. "I'm not a sissy! I'll read."

They wound up stripping Earl and laundering his blood/mud encrusted clothes. The lad sat quietly the rest of the day reading. Jane once more chewed James out for what he was doing to Earl. James insisted he had backed off pushing Earl to “man up” but at the same time insisted he wouldn’t allow the boy to be a sissy.

<*> <*> <*>

During the next months the quiet solemn little boy morphed into a reclusive, never smiling, morose and easily angered boy. When expected to play with his brothers and cousins he did, however, his play was more like a brawl. When the play turned rough he became expert in hurting those who hurt him, an often vicious self defense. While others were just playing around, Earl acted with determined hostility as if his life depended on it. The brothers and cousins learned not to antagonize the increasing tough recalcitrant boy. With their larger size they could easily hurt Earl, but he had indeed learned to suck it up and fight back through his pain. In fact, he seemed to thrive on pain. He became short tempered and quick to lash out when pushed. On the other hand he never went looking for trouble. Often he could be heard humming a tune or singing in a soft mumbling voice “I’m a girl”. While the family knew it was always the same tune, they couldn’t catch enough of the words to figure it out and he angrily clammed up if anyone asked. The entire family worried about Earl.

Linda placed ten inch table fan on the nightstand in his attic eyrie. The temperature often soared into the 120° during the day and during hot days hovered around 100° at night. Earl never complained and silently endured the heat.

Earl also began using the family computer to read and listen to music on YouTube. Several times he surreptitiously watched the “I’m a Boy” video wishing he could be Bill welcoming being treated like a girl. Muting the sound he quietly sung the words he’d composed. Linda noted his intensity as he sat quietly while his brothers raucously played video games. Several times she checked to see what he was reading or watching but found nothing out of place or anything X or R rated. That the little guy could clearly read impressed her.

Quietly she suggested to James that they should get a cheap notebook computer for Earl. James replied that if they got him one they’d have to get them for Jeff and Zack as well which scotched the idea. But it did make James aware Earl was on the family computer quite a bit. Like Linda, he checked to see what Earl was watching or reading. Begrudgingly he agreed Earl would be better off having his own.

James was a skilled HVAC service tech working for a large local company. Part of the job required him to be on call for emergency service during which he brought his work van home for quicker responses. Each service tech used a notebook on the job to look up technical info and to check on parts as well as do on-site invoices. A few weeks after the discussion about getting a notebook for Earl, his employer upgraded their computer system with new notebooks going to each service tech. When he learned the old notebooks were to be trashed, James asked if he could buy three for his sons. Since James was a top employee, the owner gave him three old books after having the company computer tech scrub proprietary info from the units.

The boys were delighted with the unexpected gift of notebooks. They were warned about improper use as well as taking care of the units. Earl quickly took his notebook and began tweaking it while Jeff and Zack only used theirs a few days until the novelty wore off. Earl carried his everywhere, reading or listening to music to soothe his battered soul.

Despite the frosty winter chill in the attic and the sweltering heat of summer, Earl didn’t complain and accepted the discomfort as part of having his own space. Yet each night, in the privacy of his attic bed, Earl buried his face in his pillow an cried himself to sleep. In the dark he mumbled to himself, talking to the shadows about his horrible life as well as the nighttime darkness. It was only in his dreams that he found solace in the nicer things his new life denied him. When he awoke that solace was replaced by guilt and self hatred.



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