Halloween: brings out the best and worst.

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Halloween: brings out the best and the worst.
by Jennifer Sue

*****
August 4, 2001

“Damn it, Heath, try to catch the ball, don’t run away from it,” Dan Waters scolded his three year old son. “You’ve never seen DJ run away from the soccer ball! Now get the ball and kick it back to me.”

Heath hated being compared to his big two year older brother. DJ had two favorite things in life, sports and teasing his sissy little brother DJ was the apple of their father’s eye. He was good at sports and not afraid to try anything.

Heath struggled to hold back the tears as he retrieved the ball.

Placing it down, he stepped back a few steps, the ran forward to wallop the black and white ball. The awkward attempt ended with a clean miss and he landed hard on the ball which shot away to the left while he bounced to the right to face-plant in the grass.

“God Damn it, boy,” Dan yelled. “How in the hell could you miss that? Damn it, I swear you’re almost hopeless!”

Three year old Heath pushed himself up but kept his back to his father as silent tears ran down his cheeks. He’d already learned that big boys don’t cry, especially during sports. If they do, their father gives them a REAL reason to cry. Wiping his eyes on his sleeve, he went back to try it again.

*****
August 13, 2001

Heath stood on the periphery of the kids crowded around the coach as he explained how he wanted them play. Heath wore a yellow over-shirt like half the kids, the rest wore a red one. Ths divided them into two teams. The coach tossed the soccer ball to the center of the field and told the kids to start playing. As they headed onto the soccer field, unlike most of the kids who headed in for a mad free for all, he ran towards his own goal to ostentatiously take up a defensive position.

To Heath, the mass of kids bumping into each other as they jostled for the ball did not look like fun. Eventually, the ball popped out of the scrum and headed away from Heath. Losing what little interest he had in the game, he drifted over the white boundary line to look at some ant hills that had caught his roving eyes. Kneeling down he watched the ants scurrying around. They reminded him of his teammates who been jammed together trying to get the ball.

“Heath,” he heard his father yell as he was simultaneous roughly pulled to his feet by his dad’s big right hand engulfing his right arm. “What the hell are you doing? You’re supposed to be on the field playing, not kneeling in the grass wiggling your ass at everyone! Now get the hell in there and remember what I told you. If you don’t get hurt you didn’t play hard enough!”

With ignominy he was harshly propelled back onto the field just as the scrum approached him. When the red shirt dribbling the ball saw a yellow shirt suddenly appear in front of him he was going too fast to stop. The pair collided with a resounding thud that dropped both to the ground. Before he could collect himself, the scrum stampeded around and over him. Once it passed, Heath had more than enough injuries to satisfy his dad’s bloodlust. Finally able to catch his breath he burst into tears. That hurt!

“Shake it off, Heath,” his father ordered from the sidelines” Just get up and shake it off. You’re not even hurt!”

Knowing better than to try to argue with his father, he rolled to his feet and did his best to shake it off.

*****
September 11, 2001

Heath had the worst nightmares he’d ever experienced. Those buildings falling with all those people inside. Last spring they’d visited an air show and Heath was entranced by their ability to fly like birds wishing he could be onboard. Now he vowed never to fly.

*****
October 24, 2001

Heath sat at the Township Sports and Recreation Banquet wearing his red and white soccer uniform. Their parents were beaming as DJ went to accept the trophy and award for the best soccer player in his age group. Heath was surprised when he was called up to receive the same award in his age group.

Of course Heath’s playing had improved greatly since that first scrimmage. Dan and DJ drilled him to exhaustion every evening and weekend. Heath learned to make hits and take hits, the harder the better. Dribbling and passing became second nature. This didn’t mean he liked playing soccer. In fact, he hated it. But being a good player got his father off his back. The pain he inflicted on others served as a surrogate for the pain he really wanted to visit upon his father and brother. The pain he felt in being battered began to feel good because it was punishment for hurting others.

*****
October 27, 2001

Jill panicked when she turned around to discover Heath was not with her. DJ just laughed and pointed towards the Disney Princess costumes where Heath was gently fingering the shimmering skirts. With anger flaring she stormed over to grab the startled boy and draw him back to the military costumes. Dan had insisted that after 9/11 the boys go as soldiers. Heath whined that he didn't want to be a soldier but was scolded into submission.

*****
October 31, 2001

Dan urged Heath and DJ to 'assault' home after home 'looking' for terrorists as they patrolled their neighborhood in the never ending quest for treats.

"Damn it Heath, we're out here so you can get treats," Dan had scolded after the first house. "You should be proud to be a tough soldier chasing down and killing the damn terrorists."

After that Heath hung back dragging the toy M-16 behind him, not wanting to approach the doors. When he was spotted the treat-giver would tell him to come forward for his treat, but he steadfastly refused. When asked Dan muttered that Heath was acting as rear guard.

When they finally arrived home, Dan laid into Heath. Damn it, you really know how to ruin a night! Why the hell are you such a freaking sissy! You certainly haven't been raised that way. DJ is certainly not a sissy. Well sissy, since you decided you didn’t want to join in the fun, we'll just give the treats you did collect to DJ!"

Heath never said a word but silently handed his bag of goodies to DJ. Then he silently went to his room to take off the horrible costume. Tears of jealousy flowed from his eyes as he cried himself to sleep while recalling the cute girls in their princess costumes they'd passed.

*****
November 22, 2001

Thanksgiving at the grandparents. An all day affair. Heath was able to play with his cousins Debbie, age six, and Judy age five. It was so much fun. The girls didn't play rough and he liked pretending to be a mommy like them as they played with dolls.

During the main afternoon meal, as was her custom, Grandma Waters began going around the table from oldest grandchild to youngest asking what they wanted for Christmas. Everything went fine until it was Heath's turn.

"I want a baby doll like Judy has," Heath declared with the greatest sincerity.

Dan spit the mouth full of food he had across the table, then began to choke. No one said a word but all looked at Heath. Instinctively he knew he'd done something wrong, but he had no idea what.

"Heath, boys don't ask for dolls or any other girl toys," Grandma said once she'd regained her composure. "So, what would you like?"

Heath couldn't understand what he'd said wrong or why he couldn't get girl toys, after all, he loved playing dolls with his cousins. With everyone staring at him he blushed as he desperately tried to think. "How about a pretty dress?"

Before Heath knew what was happening, Dan had grabbed his arm and yanked him from his seat. Heath's feet never touched the floor until they got into the front room.

"What the fuck is the matter with you? What the hell are you trying to do? Embarrass they hell out of me? NO son of mine EVER asks for a doll much less a dress!" With that Dan pulled Heath over his lap and began to spank him while saying, "I'll beat those freakin' sissy ideas out of you!"

When Heath returned to the table, tears were still running down his cheeks and he was shuddering with the effort to restrain a full out crying jag. No one said a word for the rest of the meal. The jovial atmosphere had been snuffed. Even worse was he was made to sit alone at the table to clean his plate after everyone left.

When he finally finished the food, thanks to Harry the dog, the girls quietly told him they were not allowed to let him play with them. When he wandered into the sitting room, Grandma told him to go play with the boys. Heading down into the basement, he sat morosely on the steps watching the boys rough-house. He had absolutely no desire to join in their play. When they saw him sitting on the steps they left their play to taunt him.

"We always knew you were a sissy," his four years older cousin JR sneered.

His four year older Cousin Barry jeered. "Asking Grandma for a doll, what a fag!"

Larry, his six year older cousin sneered. "Hey, don't insult the fags... he wants a freakin' dress!"

His three year older cousin snarled. "Yeah, he's a fuckin' pansy!"

The worst insult came from his brother, DJ. "At least you guys can get away from IT, I gotta live with the QUEER!"

Heath retreated to the top of the stairs where he buried his face in his knees and cried. He still didn't understand what he'd done wrong but it sure made everyone angry at him. Somehow after he'd cried himself to sleep he'd managed not to tumble down the steps. When his aunt Karen opened the door to the basement to call the boys up for supper, Heath tumbled out onto the kitchen floor. The wet legs on his pants and swollen red eyes told them he'd been crying.

When they asked him if the boys had been picking on him, he kept silent. He'd already learned the hard way not to be a squealer. Whenever he tattled on DJ, DJ would get a spanking, then he'd get a spanking for being a squealer, then DJ would get him back for squealing.

After pecking at his food Heath was made to sit quietly in the living room with the men watching football. Heath didn't understand what was so interesting about a bunch of men running into each other while chasing a weird looking ball. But he could tell by the crowds shown on TV and the men that shouting, jeering, cursing, and yelling seemed to be a requirement.

*****
December 25, 2001

No one noticed that Heath hadn't smiled since Thanksgiving. They hadn't noticed he was barely eating thing. Since they always ate family style, he'd learned to put tiny portions on his plate and spread it around to make his plate look full. Then he'd pick at his food and move it around watching the others so he'd finish the plate when they did. They hadn't noticed he only spoke when necessary, and then in as few words as possible. They didn't notice he spent most of his time in his bedroom. DJ didn't mind that his little brother was never under-foot.

Christmas morning DJ angrily went to roust Heath from bed. It was already 8:00 am and he couldn't open his gifts until Heath was there to open his gifts.

Heath dressed, brushed his teeth and combed his hair. DJ was hounding him the entire time. Fifteen minutes later DJ bounded down the steps and ran to the Christmas tree followed by Heath at a sedate pace. DJ was getting pissed. Once he reached the bottom of the steps, instead of going into the living room to the tree, Heath turned into the kitchen for his breakfast.

"Heath, get in here," Dan growled already losing patience with the boy. "Mom will make us breakfast after we open our presents."

Reluctantly, Heath turned around and joined them in the living room. DJ had already sorted the gifts. Heath sat by his pile, prompting DJ to tear into his gifts. Heath picked one gift and carefully removed the ribbon, then looked for the taped flap and carefully began to unwrap the gift. By the time he had the inside box revealed, DJ had all his gifts torn open with appropriate shouts of joy for each.

Heath looked at the box without a bit of emotion. It was a cowboy set, hat, vest, sheriff's badge, and a gunbelt with twin holsters and pistols. Not even opening the box he silently set it aside. As DJ began to play with his toys, Heath began opening the next gift.

"Come on, Heath, hurry up," Dan growled. "Mom can't start breakfast until you're done!"

Ignoring his dad Heath continued to gently unwrap the gifts. He liked the pretty paper and ribbons and bows and didn't want to ruin them.

"DJ, help your brother open his presents or we'll be here all day," Dan ordered in an exasperated voice.

DJ groaned as he had to stop playing with his gifts but he reveled in the destruction of wrapping paper and ribbons and set into his assigned task with a vengeance.

"No, you're ruining the paper and ribbons," Heath objected as he grabbed at the remaining gifts to keep them away from DJ

"Jesus Christ," Dan snarled. "I thought we were through with all that sissy crap! Heath, rip the wrapping off those presents or I'm going to whip your ass!"

"But I like the wrapping and ribbons," Heath protested only to find his father step across the room, grab him by an arm, and haul him over his lap. Even as he begged not to be spanked, the heavy hand rained hellfire on his bottom.

Heath stood silently sniffling by the breakfast table nibbling on a piece of toast. Everyone else sat chowing down on pancakes, sausage, and eggs. As it was a self serve style meal, Heath had more than he wanted.

Heath finished his meager meal at the same time as the others. DJ dashed into the living room to play. Heath followed, carefully salvaging as much as he could of the wrapping, ribbons, and bows. Taking the an empty box that held one of DJ's gifts, he gently folded the paper neatly inside, and folded the ribbons inside next, topped by the bows. After closing the box he took it to his bedroom and stuffed in his closet. Then he went back down to gather his unwanted gifts. DJ eagerly accepted the cowboy outfit, the Matchbox cars, and the construction set.

"Take the stuff I gave you up to your room or mom and dad will be mad," Heath said as he took the single gift he'd kept, a book, to his room.

DJ wasn't dumb and knew if he wanted to keep the stuff his sissy brother gave him he'd better take it to his room.

Going into the kitchen where his parents sat drinking coffee, they watched as Heath pulled a garbage bag out of the box and headed back into the living room to gather up the discarded shredded wrappings. His hope was to keep his parents in the dark about the stash he'd secreted in his room by cleaning up the mess.

*****
March 31, 2002

Heath tried everything he could thing of to get out of going to Sunday School since Christmas. He was under strict parental orders to stay with the boys and avoid the girls. The teachers let the boys tease him and call him a sissy. The stories of love and kindness were worse than fairytales. Everyone seemed to believe that Jesus loved them and so they should love their neighbors as themselves. They were certainly poor examples of that. Even worse was he had to sit away from the girls and look at them in their pretty dresses. He was so envious.

Heath still didn’t understand why he couldn't play with dolls or wear pretty dresses. They kept telling him he was a boy and boys didn't do those things. Boys played sports and with toy cars and stuff which he found boring. It wasn't fair that girls could play with boys toys and wear pants and stuff but boys couldn't do girl things. That just wasn't right.

On Palm Sunday the girls had spent all class excitedly talking about the pretty dresses they had gotten for Easter. Heath hadn't gotten anything new. He was going to wear a hand-me down jacket and tie, which he hated.

Easter morning he played sick in an effort to get out of going to Church for the big To-Do. There was no way he wanted to see the girls in their finery. When his mom checked she found no fever and scolded him, telling him to get ready or he'd get nothing from the Easter Bunny.

Reluctantly he got ready, but dawdled. DJ was sent up to get him down for breakfast. "Boy are you in trouble," he gloated as he saw Heath was still in his underwear. "Mom, you better get up here," he added as he scampered back downstairs.

"Mom, I don't want to go to church," Heath practically begged.

"Heath, I swear you're retarded," his mom scolded as she entered the room to see him in his underwear. "I swear if you make us late for Church you'll be sorry! As it is I'm giving all your treats to DJ."

With great brusqueness she slapped the clothes on Heath, almost choking him with the necktie. By the time she dragged him downstairs, it was time to go.

"I don't want to go," Heath declared again.

This time Dan cuffed him on the head sending him to the floor. "I don't want to go either, but I'm going, and so are you! Now get the hell up!"

Heath crawled into the back seat and buckled in. His parents were tired of the hassle of a child safety seat so had stopped using it months ago. DJ sat beside him gloating, telling him he was going to enjoy Heath's Easter treats.

Heath had to be dragged from the car. Holding up by one arm so his toes just touched the ground his dad angrily slapped his butt and told if he did one thing to embarrass them, he'd give him a bare-ass spanking right then and there. Of course, Heath had no idea they'd never actually do that, but it was enough to knock the resistance out of him.

With his eyes focused on the ground, he let his mother lead him by the hand. When the ushers offered him a children's bulletin he didn't look up or make a move to accept the offer. His mom apologized for Heath's poor manners and took the kiddie bulletin. The church was already crowded by the time they arrived but their extended family had saved them seats.

"Being moody again, I see," Grandma said scornfully as she shook her head. Heath never acknowledged her as he took a seat, still keeping his eyes downward. He was afraid to look up and see the girls wearing their pretty dresses. If he did he just knew he'd break down in tears of jealousy. All through the service he sat between his parents with his head bowed and hands folded in his lap. Not once did he look up or mutter a sound.

After the service ended the family went out for lunch. They'd made reservations at a fancy restaurant. Heath remained silent and kept his eyes focused downward. Reluctantly he accompanied his mom through the buffet line. Her anger grew as he rejected nearly every choice. He returned to the table carrying a plate with a single scoop of mashed potatoes with gravy and a spoon of corn. While everyone feasted and went back for more, he played with his food.

"Heath, if you don't eat, you can't have any desert," Grandma prompted.

"I don't want any desert," Heath mumbled drawing reproving glares form all the adults.

"I swear he's retarded," Jill declared aloud to the nods of the adults.

Of course this led to his cousins 'accidently' bumping into his chair to chant "retard". Even the girls joined in.

*****
April 1, 2002

Happy fourth birthday!!!! NOT. The cake came out after supper. The four candles sputtered and sparked. After a great deal of badgering, he made a half hearted attempt to blow out the candles. One flickered out than sprang back to flame. Trick candles...they all laughed. Heath stubbornly refused to try to blow them out again. By the time they gave up coaxing him, the candles were burning into the frosting.

Jill had to get a bowl of water while Dan dug the still burning candles and wax soaked cake with two forks which he dropped into the water. Naturally, they were angry at Heath for ruining his cake. Things got even worse when he refused to eat a piece of the cake.

Heath went to bed early that night, like so many others, with a tender butt for ruining another happy family occasion. Heath didn't care. In fact, he was starting to enjoy being spanked. At least he felt something.

*****
July 4, 2002

The picnic was going full. The boys, girls and men were in the grandparents back yard playing baseball while the women took care of the food and looked on. Heath had been detailed to chase down stray balls, a job he did without enthusiasm.

When the women called them in for lunch, everyone swarmed the fireplace to heap their plates with a clambake. Each cheesecloth encased bake held two dozen clams, a baked potato, an onion, a cob of corn and a few carrots and celery stalks, all boiled and steamed together in a vat with a few cans of beer added for flavor. Small dipping cups were filled from a pot of melted butter.

Heath was given six clams, half a baked potato, some carrots, celery, and a small cob of corn. Instead of going to the picnic tables with everyone else, he sat nearby on the outside steps leading up to the back porch to pick at the food. He didn't like clams, or the flavor they inflicted on the other food they were cooked with. He still remembered the scolding he'd gotten last year for feeding his food to Harry the Dog.

This year Harry the Dog was tied up while they ate because he begged to much and stole things when people weren't looking. Heath was spotted off by himself and ordered to the table to sit between his mother and grandmother. They kept a wary eye on him and constantly badgered him to eat his food. By this time he'd learned protesting was useless so he forced himself to down the horrid fair.

Later, as the ball game resumed, Heath sat in the shade of a tree and stared into the leafy boughs. His stomach was not happy with him.

"Heath, come over here," grandpa called from the pitcher's position. "Judy says I pitch too fast. I know you can't."

Heath shuddered as he climbed to his feet and walked to grandpa.

"Come on, boy, Grandpa scolded, "Shake a leg!"

The first pitch Heath made went far to the right of the batter and didn't even make it to the base line. Everyone jeered. They moved him closer and egged him on. This time the ball reached the base line... on the left of the batter. Again the jeers. Moving closer he managed to dribble a ball over home plate. Jeers and catcalls of 'sissy' and 'pansy' surrounded him.

"Damn it boy, no grandson of mine can be as rotten as you," Grandpa scolded. "Suck it up and give her all you got!"

"I don't feel good," Heath whined.

"I don't feel good" grandpa mimicked back. "Throw the damn ball!"

Heath wound up for the pitch. As he began to swing his arm his stomach rebelled. Instinctively he brought his hands to his mouth to try to suppress the gagging. Before grandpa could react, the vomit erupted onto his hands and the lawn and the baseball.

"Jesus fucking Christ," grandpa yelled as he stepped back from the crying still heaving lad. "What in the HELL is wrong with you? Get off the fucking field. I don't even want to see you anymore!"

Heath staggered off the playing area in tears while grandpa directed others to get buckets of water to clean up the mess and salvage the ball.

Grandma and his mom were upset with him for ruining the ball game. Grandma took him over to the garden hose and hosed the vomit off his arms, face, shirt, shorts, and shoes. Heath almost choked on the water hitting his face only to be ordered to hold still. When she had him cleaned off, he was ordered to sit by the fireplace to stay warm, dry off and stay out of trouble.

Heath didn't budge from that spot the rest of the day. As evening fell, the family gathered for some burgers and hot dogs. Heath was never summoned to the table and didn't bother to get up on his own.

Once it was dark, they broke out the fireworks. Like years past, terrified by the loud explosions, Heath crawled to the rear of the fireplace, curled up against it and covered his ears with his hands until he finally cried himself to sleep.

When the fireworks were over everyone pitched in to clean up. It was only as they packing up for the trip home Dan and Jill noticed Heath was missing. This set off a frantic search by everyone as they scoured the house and yard calling out his name. It was his cousin Larry who found him curled in a fetal position huddled against the back of the fireplace sound asleep.

On the ride home he was once more subjected to swearing and cursing from his parents and brother for ruining another holiday.

*****
August 12, 2002

Soccer again. Heath didn't even try to protest he didn't want to play. Over the summer he'd learned to stop crying, at least until he was alone in bed. By this time his lack of nourishment was evident, if anyone bothered to look... which they didn't. His ribs showed and his growth was already being stunted. Still, on the field the tiny guy became a demon. This year he didn't care who he hurt or how bad. Silent, never smiling, never flinching, he drove himself to exhaustion in every practice and game. The other kids avoided him because he was dour and scary. Still, when it came time to play another team, they wanted Heath on the field.

When the coach offered to take everyone for a treat after a game, Heath tried to refuse. Whichever parent had taken him always insisted he join his teammates. Somehow in the mass of kids milling about to be served, he always managed to slip from the waiting side to the served side without getting anything. When the team sat as a group, Heath was always sat apart from the others and never spoke or interacted.

*****
September 2, 2002

The Labor Day picnic was rowdy as usual. This time nobody bothered to urge Heath to join in the festivities. He spent the day lying on his tummy diligently watching an ant colony. Occasionally he pick up and ant and crush it's abdomen to watch it struggle. Other times he'd pull the legs off one side. Watching them suffer made him feel good. So engrossed was he that he never heard them call him to eat.

DJ was pissed off when he had to fetch Heath so when he got there he simply kicked his little brother and none too gently. "They sent me to get you, dork, it's time to eat." Not waiting to see if Heath followed, he ran back to get his share of the food.

"Hurry up, Heath," grandma called when she saw he was merely ambling over. "I'd like to eat too."

Heath accepted a hot dog but refused the roll. Grandma took her readied plate and headed to a picnic table leaving heath to fend for himself at the table with potato salad and such. Heath merely stood in front of the table for a few moments taking nothing, then walked over to the back porch step to eat his hotdog by himself. Using his fingers to hold the hotdog, he made a game out of seeing how small a bite he could take.

When he noted most of the family was leaving the table, he got up and dumped his plate in the trash, palming half of the uneaten hotdog. Going to the cooler, he filled a dixie cup with about an inch of lemonade which he drank before heading back to the ant hill. There he squeezed some of the hotdog juice on the side of the anthill and laid the remainder by the side. Watching the ants swarm the treat was fascinating. For every ant he picked off and squashed between his fingers, three seemed to take it's place. By the time evening fell, he had a nice pile of dead ants.

No one noticed he never came back for the supper course or that he hadn't spoken a word all day.

As they rode home he had to listen to his parents say that for once he hadn't ruined a holiday for everyone else.

*****
October 23, 2002

Heath again won the MVP award for his soccer team. As he left the table to get the trophy, he kept his eyes downcast. Silently he took the award and went back to the table, never bothering to even look at it.

"Damn it boy, you're making an ass out of us," Dan growled when he'd returned to the table. "You never even said thank you. All the other winners held their trophy high and smiled to show it off. But not you, why the hell can't you be more like DJ?"

"Heath, don't be stupid," Jill scolded. If you put it on the floor someone may kick it and break it. Honestly, what is wrong with you?"

Heath just sat there silently looking at his folded hands on his lap.

*****
October 31, 2002

Heath had absolutely refused get a costume for trick or treating. When told he couldn't go trick or treating if he didn't get a costume, he'd merely shrugged his shoulders indicating he didn't care. While DJ went out with some buddies from school, Heath spent the night alone in his darkened room wistfully looking at the cute girls in their dainty costumes walking up and down the street.

*****
November 28, 2002

Upon their arrival at their grandparents for their Thanksgiving Feast, Heath didn't bother to remove his coat. He simply walked through the house and out the back door. Harry the Dog was locked outside because he couldn't behave in the house full of people. Glad for the company, Harry wanted to play fetch. Harry was having a ball until heath started throwing the sticks at him instead out into the yard. Harry didn't understand the sudden change in his playmates demeanor but knew enough to get out of his way.

Heath chased Harry about the yard, hitting him with the stick whenever he got near. That is until grandma saw what he was doing. Grandpa angrily stormed outside followed by practically everyone else. Harry saw salvation and dodged around Heath headed for the house. When Heath saw grandpa he was about ten feet away holding his belt in his hand. Heath stopped and looked at the looped belt in his hand and the anger evident on the man's face... not in fear, but in anticipation.

"What the fuck do you think you were doing chasing that poor dog around beating him with a stick? Are you that fucked up you think that's fun? Do you think getting beaten is fun? Well, I'll teach you a lesson about getting beaten you'll never forget," Grandpa roared as he grabbed Heath's arm picking him in the air until just his toes touched the ground before beginning to wail the tar out of Heath.

The blows hit Heath's butt, thighs, tummy, back, back of his legs, practically everywhere. The SWOOSH-CRACK echoed about the back yard. Heath never flinched from the blows nor did he cry out. In fact, after the tenth blow Heath started laughing, softly at first, then louder with each succeeding blow. It wasn't ha-ha funny laughter, it was the macabre maniacal laughter of a masochist who thrives on pain. His eyes were ablaze with what in an older person would have been deemed lust.

The laughter only infuriated Grandpa and he began putting everything he had into the blows. Heath's hideous laughter turned into eerie hyena like howls of laughter.

"Stop it, stop it now," Grandma ordered as she Dan, James, and Frank ran into the yard to restrain grandpa. The man was breathing heavily with his chest heaving. Sweat was pouring from his brow. His wailing hand was rubbed raw by the belt and bleeding.

When they finally snapped grandpa out of his rage, he was white and almost sagged to the ground. Heath merely danced away when his hand was released, still laughing mirthlessly. Both hands raised to the sky he twirled about the yard basking in the pain emanating from most of his body.

The men helped grandpa into the house. Grandma was prepared to call 911 out of fear he was having a heart attack. Jill ordered the stunned boys to snare Heath and bring him into the house. The boys were actually scared of Heath. They'd seen the punishment he'd taken and laughed, and was now doing a macabre 'Snoopy' like celebration dance about the lawn. Ten year old Larry, the oldest of the cousins, organized them into a ring about Heath that they slowly closed. Heath, aware yet unaware they were closing in danced in smaller and smaller circles until he was spinning in place. Dizziness and exhaustion finally caught up with Heath as he collapsed in a panting heap with his head lolling about and with a really weird smile on his face.

The boys grabbed his arms and legs and half carried, half dragged Heath into the house, bumping his butt up the porch steps. By the time they got him into the kitchen, the boys were exhausted. Grandpa was still breathing heavily but recovering as Grandma bandaged his hand. Everyone looked at Heath in horror as he sprawled on the floor where the guys left him.

"Dan, you got a BIG problem on your hands with that boy," Grandpa announced. "I never put much faith in psychiatrists, but that boy definitely needs to see a shrink!"

Aunt Karen knelt beside Heath and pulled off his coat and lifted his shirt. Even with the multiple layers of fabric dozens of angry red welts cris-crossed his back.

"Look he's bleeding through his jeans," Judy pointed out with obvious horror.

Everyone saw the slowly spreading red splotching the seat of his jeans.

"Get him upstairs into the tub," Grandma ordered.

Dan and James grabbed the still out of it Heath and carried him up to the bathroom. Jill, Karen, and Grandma undressed him after the men left. Heaths buttocks, thighs, and the back of his legs was so raw blood was literally weeping through the battered flesh.

“Grandpa needs a course of anger management," Grandma mumbled as they rubbed some good old fashioned McNess Company Krestol Salve over Heath's shredded flesh. The red salve seemed to almost instantly draw the soreness out. By the time they were done, Heath was asleep and swaddled in gauze form his knees to his waist. The smell of Eucalyptus from the salve permeated the room

Needless to say it was another somber Thanksgiving. Everyone was thankful Heath slept through the rest of the day. Grandpa even admitted he'd over-reacted but fell short of apologizing. Any discussion of seeking medical treatment was quickly squashed and the kids were sworn to secrecy about the beating Heath had received. No one wanted Grandpa brought up on charges of child abuse.

As they left that evening, Jill had two cans of Krestol Salve and several rolls of gauze to treat Heath.

*****
December 25, 2002

Heath had not made a single sound since Thanksgiving. Not even a peep when Jill changed his bandages. Thanks to the near miraculous McNess Krestol Salve, the soreness and redness was gone within three days. Although skeptical at first, Jill now believed in Grandma's remedy. There had not even been a hint of infection in the wounds.

Heath spent all his time hidden in his bedroom, only emerging when summoned to eat or to use the bathroom. Whenever anyone checked on Heath, they saw him sitting by the window staring outside.

Christmas morning Heath came downstairs when summoned. Even though surrounded by his presents, Heath made no effort to open them, merely looking on as DJ tore into his gifts. Jill finally couldn't take it anymore and knelt by Heath. One by one she placed a package on his lap. All he did was look at it. When she opened it, that’s all he continued to do. Not a sound escaped him. He made no effort to touch anything, and his facial expression never flickered from that of profound depression.

Even Dan knew scolding was useless. When Jill finally gave up on trying to interest Heath in his gifts, he numbly arose and trundled back to his room to stare out the window. While they'd resisted contacting a psychiatrist, the parents now knew they had no choice.

*****
January 13, 2003

Jill sat in the waiting room of the child psychiatrist, Dr. Dee Mento, who had come highly recommended by their pediatrician. Dr. Mento was intrigued by what she learned form the initial interview with Dan and Jill last week. Jill had confessed to the events of Thanksgiving. It was quite unusual to have a child as young as Heath into pain and abusing animals. Adding the fact he’d been silent for over six weeks and had ignored Christmas, she might soon have a book deal on her hands.

Dr. Mento went into the waiting room and greeted Jill, then smiled at the frail boy by her side. Physically the child looked at least a year younger than his actual age, but his face had the haunting, gaunt look of starving boys newly released from the German concentration camps at the end of World War Two.

From the records she gotten from the pediatrician she knew Heath was a good eight inches below normal height for his age and twelve pounds under normal weight. At four and three quarters years old he was still wearing 2T toddler clothes. While he was nothing but skin and bones, he was not malnourished.

When she greeted Heath, telling her to call him Dr. Dee, he stared at her unblinking and unresponsive. When she asked if he’d come back to her office so they could talk, he slipped off the chair and headed for the door she’d used to enter the room. Surprised, she had to scurry after him and direct him from behind into her office.

Once inside she told him to sit wherever he liked. To her surprise, he went over to the window and climbed up to sit on the sill. She’d never had a child do that before. Her attempts to engage him in conversation were frustratingly fruitless. She began to understand why his family would lose patience with him. Finally, she gave up and pulled a chair over to join him in looking out the window, not something she often did. There was a park behind the building with trees and birds. A plane was moving across the clear sky. When she looked to see where his eyes were focused, she saw a dream-like expression etched on his sad face. “Can you tell me what you see?”

“I see flowers in the park,” Heath whispered. “There are three girls by the fountain skipping rope.”

Dr. Dee was surprised. There were flowerbeds in the park, but they were dormant for the winter. The fountain had been drained for the winter. Only one person could be seen walking a dog.

“Tell me about the girls,” Dr. Dee gently urged.

“They’re real pretty,” Heath whispered as a wistful smile flirted with his lips. “They’re laughing. The skirt of the girl jumping is bouncing and showing her pink panties.”

Dr. Dee thought a moment. “Would you like to join them?”

“I can’t,” Heath said as the timid smile slipped away from is face. “I get in trouble if I even look at pretty girls. I get spanked for being a sissy.” Heath snapped out of his revery. “The girls are gone,” he stated coldly.

Dr. Dee was amazed by the rapid return to reality.

“I’ve been bad,” Heath declared as he turned to look into Dr. Dee’s surprised eyes. “I need to be spanked,” Heath added as he slipped of the window sill and dutifully planted himself across a very startled Dr. Dee’s lap to await his punishment.

Looking into his eyes, she saw a look of anticipation in his eyes that shocked her to her core.

A few minutes later Dr. Dee summoned Jill into her office. Jill found Heath sitting on the window sill staring outside while the doctor scribbled notes.

“Heath has serious issues,” Dr. Dee stated. “He knows he has issues and feels guilty. Apparently he’s been punished whenever one of the issues comes up, and it became a vicious cycle where he feels the need to be punished whenever an issue comes up. Instead of hurting him, he felt his punishments were deserved and looked forward to them because he couldn’t stop being bad. At this point I don’t know what those issues are but they’ve warped him. I’ll need to see him once a week for the foreseeable future.”

*****
April 1, 2003

Happy birthday... not... but better than last year. The counseling sessions had been cut back to once a month. The family insurance refused to pay for more than that. Heath was at least responsive and spoke when spoken to. Smiles were still not forthcoming. The birthday cake had five candles on it, real candles this time. Heath dutifully blew them out and accepted a sliver of cake. DJ didn’t mind because he knew that left more for him.

Heath found himself on the local T-ball team. Dan had not asked him if he wanted to play. Heath played because that’s what boys did. Due to his size, Heath became the catcher, showing no fear when attempting to tag a runner out as they charged for home. Many players attempted to run him over in an attempt to knock the waiting ball from his grasp. None succeeded, even when they totally bowled him over and sent him tumbling up to ten feet. Silently Heath would rise to his feet and display the ball in his hand.

Dan was proud of the tough little guy and let Heath know it, something Dr. Dee had said about positive reinforcement. Heath never let on he despised the game and welcomed the bruises he suffered. Just as in soccer, Heath wanted nothing to do with his teammates on or off the field. At least no one scolded him.

*****
April 20, 2003

Heath didn’t want to go to church. It was bad enough he still fit into the jacket and tie from last year. Once again he’d endured the chatter of the girls in his Sunday School Class about their pretty new dresses. He still didn’t understand why girls could wear petty things and boys couldn’t. The whole Jesus fairytale was really getting under his skin. If Jesus was so loving and kind and wanted his followers to do likewise, why were so nasty to anyone that was a little bit different?

This year during the Easter service he pretended to be interested just so he could look around at the pretty dresses the girls were wearing. Jealousy almost broke his heart.

During their meal at the fancy restaurant, Heath carried his own plate through the buffet line, actually going back several times like his cousins. Only he’d dawdle to and fro to check out the dresses of the cute little girls. Wisely, he took tiny portions and ate sparingly while making it look as if he was scarfing down food. While still mostly silent, no one suspected where his real interests lay. They assumed the shrink was helping him get better. Truth be told, Dr. Dee was unwittingly helping him get better... at deceiving others. With her help he’d learned his silence and reticence only made others worry about him. If he talked a bit and acted like a tough boy, they’d leave him alone. No one scolded him.

*****
May 21, 2003

Heath attended the baseball banquet with his family. DJ won two trophies. Heath won one for the best catcher in the T-ball league. This time when he went for his award, he held it aloft as he returned to the table. Still no smile and he immediately gave it to his mother, but he’d played the part. No one scolded him.

*****
July 4, 2003

Heath was learning to play the game of life on his terms. When it came time to take the field for the annual baseball game, he joined them. Grandpa was the pitcher, four were batters and served as catcher. The other seven family members covered the bases and field. Whenever a batter struck out, was tagged out, or popped out, he took the field. The person who made the out went to bat, or if Grandpa struck someone out, he picked who would go in to bat. Now with Heath added to the mix, they had the fourth infielder.

While Heath didn't make any outstanding plays, he held his own, playing with a grim concentration. Grandpa had difficulty pitching to him because he was so small. Heath made it base almost every time he was at bat, either walked or a dribble that allowed him to reach first.

At lunch, Heath, Grandma, remembering last years fiasco on the ball field, made him a hotdog. Heath still sat away from the others. When asked he claimed the mere smell of the clams made him feel ill. No one objected.

After lunch he rejoined the more lethargic game until it started to get dark. Hamburgers and hotdogs were served. This time no one bothered to ask Heath why he didn't join the others at the picnic table.

After dark, when the fireworks began, Heath slipped inside the house and cranked up Grandpa's stereo and jammed out to Steppenwolf, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.

When the fireworks were over, everyone just stared at the vibrating windows of the house as 'Born to be Wild' rocked the place. Inside they found Heath seated between the quadrophonic sound system in a the lotus position totally lost in the pounding beat. Grandpa insisted they wait until the song finished... it was one of his favorites. For once Heath wasn't scolded. They'd learned he didn't like fireworks and besides, the music rocked.

No one noticed Heath hadn't smiled all day or that Harry the Dog stayed as far away as possible.

*****
August 11, 2003

Soccer season began. Heath was more animated on the field but still only spoke when spoken to. No one saw him smile. His play was as fierce and determined as ever. Despite being the size of a three year old, he was able to intimidate every five year old who faced him. The grim determination and the demonic fire in his eyes terrified them. Heath still avoided off the field interactions with his teammates and steadfastly refused after game treats. But by this time, everyone merely shrugged their shoulders and let the sullen boy alone.

At home he spent the summer in the back yard avoiding DJ and his friends when they were around, retreating to his room if need be. Outside he explored nature. Frying ants and worms with a magnifying glass was a favorite pass time. Another was starting small fires in a tin can, then dumping it on a bug nest. Wisely, he kept those actions hidden from everyone.

*****
August 26, 2003

Heath's first day in kindergarten. Without a doubt he was the shortest and thinnest child in the entire school district. The kids that knew him from soccer avoided him. Before the end of the first day, all his classmates steered clear of him. Speaking only when the teacher specifically asked him a question, he simply glared at any classmate who attempted to speak to him. His unsmiling visage was quite intimidating.

The teacher noticed his self-imposed segregation from the rest of the class, he wasn't the only one, many kids were too shy to interact until they grew familiar with their surroundings, but Heath was different. There was no hint of shyness, in fact he seemed to project a weird sense of depressed self-confidence, an oxymoron if there ever was one. By the same token it was a bit scary as he never smiled or made an effort to meet his classmates and brusquely yet silently rebuffed every attempt to befriend him. His actions and demeanor left everyone know he wanted to be left alone. Still, he didn't cause any problems. He responded appropriately and quickly to requests, colored when told to color, sat when told to sit and lined up when told to line up. No one made any effort to object when he staked out the back of the line-up.

The day was really trying for Heath. Many of the girls had worn dresses or cute skirts. How envied their giggles and light heartedness. They were so sweet it made him crawl deeper into his normal funk.

When he arrived home he merely shrugged his shoulders when his mother asked how his first day had gone. Jill was a bit taken back when he replied with a blunt NO to her question if he had made any friends that let her know the subject was closed. Heading to his room he locked himself inside, fell onto his bed, and cried his heart out into the pillow. The world was cruel! Why couldn't he wear pretty dresses.

DJ summoned him for supper. Heath made an appearance, but his head stayed lowered and he ate even less than normal. All he did when probed for what was wrong was to shake his head. Once the meal was over, her went back to his room and cried himself to sleep.

*****
September 1, 2003

The Labor Day picnic at Grandpa's was similar to the Fourth. Heath played spirited ball, but never smiled or spoke. When they ate he shrugged off questions about school. Soon, they left him alone, which is what he wanted. At school and with his family he developed the ability to be aware of what was happening around him while staying aloof. Able to respond when prodded, otherwise content to watch.

Over the summer Heath had developed and interest in NASCAR which Dan followed faithfully. Even though he never saw him smile, Dan was happy Heath finally showed an interest in something manly. Of course, Heath kept his reactions coldly in check. Only his blazing eyes gave away the real reason he watched. The accidents... they were awesome! Cars rolling, cart-wheeling, spinning, slamming into walls and into other, pieces flying all over. The carnage was great, especially the slow motion replays!

*****
October 22, 2003

DJ and Heath both won several trophies at the soccer banquet. Thanks to Heath's energy and aggression, his team went undefeated. No one could stand up to his fearless charges. He had no qualms about running over opponents. In fact, he'd earned the deserved reputation of enjoying the pain. The only time anyone had seen him smile was after he'd had a nasty collision or fall. Instead of crying like the other kids, Heath would smile demonically. The bloodier an injury, the more he smiled.

*****
October 31, 2003

Dan had rented "Resident Evil" one Friday night in mid September. Jill was afraid the boys would have nightmares but Dan insisted they were tough enough to handle it. DJ had nightmares for a week. Heath watched the movie with rapt attention thrilling in the gore. In fact, that night he was so excited he crept from his room and sat in front of the TV. In the morning Jill found him there still wide awake, watching it for the fifth time. Dan joined him to watch it another time. DJ was embarrassed by the nightmares, and infuriated that Heath loved the film. The only saving grace was that Heath never used it to teased DJ.

It came as little surprise when Heath demanded a zombie costume. DJ, still upset at Heath, groaned and complained when he was informed he could only go trick or treating with his seven year old buddies if Heath tagged along. In reality, Heath had no desire to go trick or treating. He just wanted to play at being a zombie. Once they were away from the house, Heath easily slipped away from the older boys who had told him to follow them but stay back out of their way.

It was only as they finished their tour that DJ and friends realized Heath was not behind them. Knowing they'd be in trouble, they began to backtrack looking for him. By 9:00 pm they were so scared they returned to the Waters home to confess they'd lost Heath.

The parents of DJ's friends and several neighbors joined in a fruitless neighborhood search. The police and fire department joined the search at 10:00 pm.

*****
November 1, 2003

At 2:30 in the morning 911 took a call from and upset man who lived next to a cemetery. While he knew kids liked to roam the cemetery after dark, especially on Halloween, the howling had gone on for far too long. When the police cruiser arrived, the two cops drove into the cemetery with their lights flashing hoping to scare the kids away. Instead the howling increased in intensity and moved to the back of the fenced in facility. Finally the howling stopped amongst the mausoleums. While one officer stayed with the cruiser to sweep the area with the spotlight, the other cautiously began searching for the kids. The man almost suffered a heart attack when a blood curdling howl sounded above and behind him. He turned just in time to see a zombie leap upon him from the top of a mausoleum, the impact slamming him to the ground.

The officer at the cruiser swept his light towards the howl in time to see the assault. Illuminated by the spotlight, the zombie stood by the fallen officer and howled before disappearing between the mausoleum. The down officer scrambled to his feet but by then the zombie had vanished. As howls periodically emanated from various areas in the mausoleum section, the officer retreated back to the cruiser.

They kept the zombie trapped in the back of the cemetery as they reported a zombie had assaulted an officer and called for back-up. This was no longer a simple Halloween prank.

When two more cruisers arrived, they spread out the vehicles with their headlights illuminating the entire Mausoleum section. Leaving two to keep watch, the other four began to search in two man crews. The howls and maniacal laughter still echoed through the stone buildings but they couldn't be sure exactly where it was coming from. After fifteen minutes, the radios crackled. "Suspect is atop a mausoleum in the northwest corner, second in from the fence."

The officers scrambled to the area to find the spotlighted zombie snarling, howling, and hideously laughing, faking a lunge at one officer, then scampering across the roof to threaten another. They were shocked to see the zombie stood only three feet tall. Their appeals for the child to give up and come down were ignored. Not wanting to hurt the child, they stayed far enough away to make leaping on them impossible but close enough to nab him if he tried to escape.

When the call for further assistance went out with a description of the zombie. The crews searching for Heath were shocked. The description fit their quarry! The only thing was the cemetery was six miles away from the neighborhood where Heath went missing.

A Cruiser took Dan and Jill to the cemetery accompanied by a fire truck with a six man crew as well as an ambulance and paramedics. The parents recognized their son and called for him to come down.

Heath was too far into his role to obey. He was the last zombie, now surrounded by the police and firemen. There were four cop cars, a fire truck, a paramedic van, and an ambulance confronting him! He'd go down fighting! With a horrendous bellow, he launched himself from the roof top. Miraculously he landed on his feet and rolled, regained his feet, and slammed into a policeman, bowling the surprised man over. It took several officers to pull the raging zombie off the downed man and pin the still snarling kid down. When pleas to calm down were ignored, one of the paramedics gave him an injection that knocked him out. It was 4:00am. Everyone was stunned that a five year old could have caused such a ruckus, but they'd seen it with their own eyes.

Not sure how to proceed, the police allowed the ambulance to take Heath to the hospital to be checked out and restrained until they were sure he had not totally flipped out.

It was late afternoon until Heath woke. Almost instantly he realized he was restrained. Peering about he saw he was in a curtained alcove looking directly out to a nurses station. It only took a few minutes for the nurses to realize the tiny boy was staring at them. While one went to check on him, another notified the Dr. Dee Mento, the police investigator assigned to the hospital, and the County Children’s Welfare Services staff person. All three coordinated their visit.

The nurse smiled and asked if Heath knew his name, his head nod put her off. When she asked him to tell her his name he simply looked at her for a moment.

"It should be at the top of the chart in your hand," was his unemotional reply.

This made her shake her head. "Your name is here," she stated with a hint of impatience. "I need you to tell me your name to make sure you know who you are."

"I know who I am," Heath calmly replied. "You seem to be the one who is confused."

"The hospital requires we ask a person their name when they wake up," she explained while trying to remain calm. "So will you please just tell me your name?"

"I am," Heath solemnly intoned.

"No you're not," the exasperated nurse said. "Now please tell me your name."

"Well, according to the Bible answering 'I am' was a good enough reply for God," Heath declared. "How can I give a better answer than God?"

By now the nurse was totally flustered. "Okay. What do your friends at school call you?"

"I don't have any friends," Heath calmly replied.

"Somehow I don't find that surprising," the nurse sighed. "Okay, is your name George?" "George?" "Frank?" Heath?"

Heath shook his head no for the first three and nodded yes for the fourth. That seemed to satisfy the nurse because she headed back to the station.

Dr. Dee Mento, the police investigator, and the County Child Welfare Services worker watched the surveillance tape with amusement. The boy was obviously intelligent and quick witted which Dr. Dee Mento assured them was the case.

A few moments later they gathered about his bed. When they asked him if he knew what happened the night before he nodded his head. They exchanged looks understanding this was going to be a trying interview.

They finally got the convoluted story straight. He'd seen the movie 'Resident Evil' and fell in love with zombies. This kindled an interest in cemeteries. The school bus he rode drove past the cemetery he'd been in every day and he thought it looked like an ideal place to find zombies. Halloween gave him the chance to become a zombie. Trick or treating held no interest for him so he'd intentionally ducked out on his brother and pals and walked to the cemetery. For the determined five year old, six miles and three hours hadn't presented an issue. (The neighbor who called in the disturbance noticed the howling started at 9:30 pm.) Apparently he'd spent the next five hours running about the cemetery trying to awaken zombies. When he saw the police car arrive, he was exhausted but the thought they were responding to the zombies he'd called rejuvenated him. After that he led the attack on the living in true zombie fashion. After he attacked the first officer, the bright light drove him away from his victim before he had a chance to bite him. After that, he was busy rallying his rapidly diminishing zombie army to fend off the cops. When he was the last one left, he made his last attack. But as small as he was his zombie strength allowed him to take down two cops!

When asked if he was still a zombie he looked down at himself, then replied indignantly. "Do I look like a zombie? The shot they gave me must have killed the zombie virus in me and I turned back into a me. That's why I can remember being a zombie."

Perfect five year old logic. Heath was released uncharged with the understanding he resume weekly visits to Dr. Dee.

*****
November 27, 2003

The family got a charge out of Heath's zombie adventure. When he discovered he wasn't going to get into trouble, he willingly retold his one night tale of zombie adventure. It was the most animated anyone could recall seeing him. His eyes blazed as he told of summoning his dead cohorts and of the epic losing battle with the police in the cemetery. It was clear to everyone that although he 'knew' it had all been make-believe, it had been VERY real to him.

Despite his willingness to discuss zombies, all other conversation was still quite constrained and even then only when prompted. His appetite was still bird-like although he was now quite adept at disguising how little he ate. In school his classmates avoided the 'weird little kid'.

*****
December 25, 2003

Even though they'd been advised by Dr. Mento to keep Heath away from anything zombie, they couldn't do it. Not since he'd gotten in trouble for asking for a doll and dress two years before had he asked for anything. Now he wanted his own copy of 'Resident Evil'. After ignoring the game console DJ commanded, Heath wanted the 'Resident Evil' game, zombie toys and zombie posters for his walls.

Christmas morning he eagerly opened his gifts and was not disappointed. The fact he meticulously removed the wrapping, ribbons, and bows went unnoticed, as did the fact he squirreled them away in his room when no one was looking.

In the back corner of his closet were several boxes. A few contained salvaged wrapping paper, others ribbons, others bows. His best treasure boxes contained carefully salvaged 'Sears Wishbook'. The pages for the girls' clothes were quite dog-eared.

*****
April 1, 2004

A zombie themed birthday. More toys and games. Six candles on top of a cake frosted to look like a zombie. Tablets filled with zombie drawings were neatly stacked on his desk in his always immaculate bedroom. Heath spent hours alone locked in his room. Since he was quiet and created no problems, they didn't see any reason for concern.

DJ didn't like how much of neat freak Heath was because it made his messy room look even worse. Of course, after the one time DJ had messed up Heath's bedroom he'd gotten caught because he was making too much noise and his mom caught him in the act. That had earned DJ a severe spanking form Dan after he'd begrudging cleaned up the mess he'd made. Heath was glad it happened because it gave him an excuse to keep his bedroom locked, even when he wasn't inside.

Of course, no one suspected the reason Heath kept the room so clean was so his parents wouldn't snoop about like they did in DJ's room. Heath also did every chore assigned to him without complaint or reminders, which also upset DJ. The only saving grace was that Heath never lorded it over him, never teased him about anything. Of course, DJ had pretty much given up teasing Heath. It was no fun teasing someone who didn't react. It proved impossible to get a rise out of Heath.

Hidden in Heath's closet were tablets with drawings of girls in dresses or skirts playing, jumping rope, skipping, giggling, playing with dolls. These he worked on when in peace thanks to the unspoken permission he had to keep his door locked. When someone knocked, the girly tablets slipped into a drawer and a zombie tablet took it's place in less than five seconds. No one ever suspected a thing.

*****
April 11, 2004

Heath was a bit bolder this year checking out the girls in their Easter finery at church. Dan and Jill thought it was a sign of budding interest in the fairer sex. In reality it was a growing jealousy of the fairer sex. They'd have had heart failure if they knew he was picturing himself in the pretty outfits the girls wore.

The annual Easter dinner at the fancy restaurant gave Heath more of an opportunity to scope out cute girls and dream of dancing about in their pretty dresses. Heath had learned to conceal his feminine desires.

*****
July 4, 2004

Heath had won the MVP award for his T-ball team and most outstanding player in the league. Once more he took part in the family ball game and acquitted himself well. During lunch he avoided the clam bakes and sat by himself. In the afternoon he played ball again. After the evening meal, he was allowed to go inside and play the stereo during the fireworks.

Heath had perfected being part of the family while staying aloof.

*****
August 9, 2004

Heath didn't have to worry about the soccer tryouts. He made first squad simply by showing up. Still the smallest kid in his age group, he turned out to be the toughest. Opposing players remembered the crazy shrimp and did their best to stay out of his way. The few that didn't learned that Heath thrived on pain, both giving and receiving.

*****
August 24, 2004

Heath was still the smallest kid in the school district and the only kid in the lower grades to be dressed solely in black. When Jill took them shopping for school clothes, Heath refused to even look at anything that wasn’t black, bluntly telling her, without prompting, that if she bought him anything else, he’d strip out of it at the first opportunity and go about naked. She had no reason to doubt his stubbornness.

The first grade teacher quickly learned the kindergarten teacher had not over-exaggerated Heath's issues. Not only did he exceed the warnings, he’d gone Goth! All the first graders avoided him. They never attempted to even speak to him, but then Heath never made any effort to speak to them. When asked a direct question, he always answered as succinctly as possible. While he never volunteered to answer classroom questions, he never failed to answer correctly when called upon, even when he seemed to be not paying attention. Every assignment was complete and correct. Every quiz and test perfect. Intelligence: superb, completeness of work: superb, neatness: superb, ability to get along with others: non existent.

During recess, which unlike kindergarten was not regimented, he simply ran laps around the playground. There was absolutely no interaction with other kids, not even the slightest hint he might be interested in others. Obviously he was content to be left alone and everyone obliged. He showed no emotion in anything he did.

To Heath's frustration, only a few girls wore dresses or skirts to school. Some days none did. There was little fodder for his girly fantasies.

*****
October 20, 2004

The awards banquet was a let down, not that Heath minded, but Dan sure did. Heath was the best player in the league! Just because the opposing players were wimps, Heath had been punished. His unflinching attacks earned him at least one card a game. Four games he was carded off the field. Dan didn't earn any friends and shouted that sentiment to the league officials. Heath was glad to freed from the boring affair as he followed his father outside as he was escorted from the banquet. Dan soothed his ruffled feathers by rationalizing that next year, Heath could play a REAL game. He'd be eligible for Pop Warner football.

*****
October 31, 2004

Heath was forbidden to leave the house for Halloween. But he had been allowed to buy make-up at the Halloween Shop in the mall. A lot more make-up than his parents realized. Dan even agreed to buy him a lighted make-up mirror for his desk. The boy spent days perfecting his gory zombie appearance. At least that’s what his parents assumed because the results were quite impressive.

They never saw the cute preteen girl with pouty lips and highlighted eyes he also perfected ala JonBenet Ramsey. It wasn’t until they looked like twins that he was satisfied.

Of course Heath met all the trick or treaters at the door in zombie mode, delighting in scaring the girls in their cute princess costumes that he wished he was wearing. Jill made sure his zombie theatrics didn’t get out of hand. Dan and Jill had never seen him so animated.

*****
November 25, 2004

Grandpa frowned at the length Heath’s hair had been allowed to grow as well as his black clothes. The solemn boy wore his hair chin length hair swept forward over his eyes, peering out through gaps in the straight black locks. That is until Grandma reminded him he was a graying rocker from the sixties.

Judy and Debbie, his older cousins, thought his budding Goth look was awesome. Heath’s normal demeanor was already apropos with his new mode of dress. Even with the added attention, he didn’t speak unless he was spoken to and managed to slip off by himself. Between meals he managed to corner Harry the Dog in the kitchen. When the terrified dog pissed on the floor, Heath slipped away allowing the dog to take the fall for making the mess.

*****
December 25, 2004

The only thing Heath had asked for was more make-up. Dan wasn’t pleased with the boy’s continued slide into Gothness, but it was cheaper to meet his low-cost requests and keep him satisfied than it was to pay for more sessions with Dr. Dee Mento.

Heath carefully unwrapped his gifts saving the paper, ribbons, and bows. The first box contained a sweeping black cape. Designed to be waist length on an adult, it nearly reached the floor on Heath. Next came a complete stage make-up cosmetic kit. Heath's eyes beamed with excitement although he didn't smile. As he looked through the kit he saw a lot of it could be used to bring out the JonBenet hidden inside him. An unexpected gift was the DVD of 'Underworld'. Dan thought a movie about vampires would divert Heath from zombies. Jill had reservations, but since he was already in Goth mode, an interest in vampires would be more appropriate.

Heath immediately popped the DVD into the player and sat mesmerized. By the fourth time through, he was sitting there wrapped in his cape. Zombies were still neat, but vampires rocked!

After the vampire-fest was closed down by Jill, Heath turned back to the make-up kit. Already reading on a fourth grade level, he was able to read through the instruction manual. A web site for the manufacturer was listed so the kit user could order refills on-line.

During supper, Heath flabbergasted his parents when he asked if they have a discussion when they had finished eating. When they sat together, Heath explained about the website the make-up kit listed. First he wanted permission to visit the site and any links to the site. Dan and Jill thought it was an interesting and harmless request so they gave him their permission. The next request floored them.

"I'd like to get a debit card from my Savings account so I buy what I need without bothering you," Heath stated. "Before you object, you know I deposit most of my allowance and that I can add and subtract, so I won't drain the account. I know the value of money so I won't waste it."

Jill and Dan knew Heath was frugal with his money. Of the ten dollar a week allowance, he banked nine. DJ seldom banked anything, spending most of his allowance on bubblegum to get trading cards. DJ's savings account balance was $322.67. Heath had $1497.52 in his account. What the parents didn't know was that Heath had not spent the weekly dollar he kept out. He had amassed $110.00 hidden in a desk drawer.

"You can monitor my spending when my bank statement comes," Heath continued. "I'll set myself a limit of fifty dollars a month. If I want to spend over that, I'll get your permission first."

As Dan and Jill contemplated Heath's request, DJ jumped in to say he wanted a debit card for his account. That earned a simultaneous NO from Dan and Jill.
DJ angrily asked why they were thinking about getting Heath a debit card and didn't even consider one for him. Their answer was that even though Heath was two years younger, he was a great deal more responsible in everything and was tightfisted in handling his money. As DJ sulked Dan and Jill realized they'd made a decision.

"All right, Heath, we'll give it a try," Dan said. "But if we ask for the card, you will give it back and stop using it. DJ, if you show us you can be more responsible, we'll reconsider getting one for you. This means you'll have to do your chores with no more than one reminder, bank at least half your allowance, and NOT harass Heath. Do you both understand?"

"Yes sir, thank you," Heath replied with a twinkle in his eyes.

"DJ?"

"Yeah," DJ unhappily scowled.

Heath promptly went online and checked out the site. It had a lot of stage accessories in addition to make-up. Linking up e-bay, he went into several stores and discovered a treasure trove on girls cute dresses, skirts, nighties and undies. These would be his clandestine purchases.

*****
March 12, 2005

Even though he was only six, Heath was elevated from T-Ball into the minor league. Dan and the coaches knew they were taking a chance in moving the small boy up the ladder, but his skills were up to the challenge. Playing as catcher, his size didn’t matter. What mattered was that he never flinched from a player sliding home. Several kids who had played with him on the soccer roster thought Heath actually enjoyed the pain. One wonders what they would have thought if they knew they were right? Or if they knew that he always wore pink panties beneath his jockey shorts?

Heath ordered his girly items online carefully staying under his fifty dollar limit. After each order he told his parents he was expecting a package so they wouldn't be curious when one showed up addressed to him. Dan and Jill respected Heath's openness about telling them when something was coming and never blinked an eye when he took the package to his room to open. They never even checked to see where he made the purchases, and only checked his statement to insure he stayed within his self-imposed fifty dollar limit.

Heath reminded DJ of his chores before his parents did. At first this pissed DJ off, until Heath explained he wasn't being an ass, that he was just trying to help his big brother earn enough respect from their parents to get his own debit card. DJ never suspected Heath's ulterior motive was to keep him off his back.

*****
March 27, 2005

Heath went to the Easter Service in the best mood he'd ever been. While his mother had objected to his request for all black clothes, she'd given in when she saw how nice he looked in his Gothic vampire outfit. Some of what he wore came from the girls department. Black zippered ankle boots, crisply pleated black trousers, a small black shirt with rows of half inch pleats down the front similar to what many men wear as part of a tuxedo, a shiny black nylon vest and a black bowtie, all topped off by his black cape. Most of his hair was now past his collar and pulled back into a short, low ponytail. The front still swept forward now reaching his nose which caused him to continually flick his head to clear his eyes or to reach up and girlishly brush the hair to the side.

Everyone noticed his outfit. Quite a few older women commented on how debonair it made him look. Heath didn’t know if they were mocking him but his mom seemed to like the comments so it couldn’t be too bad. This year he boldly looked at the girls, once more imagining himself wearing their pretty outfits. Only this year the angst wasn't as great. Safely hidden beneath his black clad exterior he wore a matching lace trimmed pink nylon panty and cami set with light pink tights. Of course, he wore his black socks over the tights. But it felt so good to at last be wearing something girly soft and pretty. Even if had to be secretly hidden just like the soft pink flannel ankle-length Little Mermaid nightie he wore to bed each night after locking his door.

*****
April 1, 2005

By this time Heath had managed to shift his by then all Goth wardrobe to an androgynous mode. More and more he had his mom in the girl's department picking out tops or slacks that gave him an ambiguous appearance. Heath requested and received only cash for his seventh birthday since everyone knew it was virtually impossible to buy a gift for him. If he didn't want a gift, it simply sat unused until Jill took it and gave it away.

After blowing out the seven black candles, he cut through the black frosting to the black double Dutch chocolate cake. Again he only ate a sliver, but made it look like he'd had a feast. After the short Friday night festivities were done, Heath asked his mom to take him to the mall the next day to do his own shopping. Jill was glad to see he willingly wanted to do something normal for a change and even agreed to shop in adjacent shops while Heath made his selections and paid for them himself.

*****
April 2, 2005

Shopping at the mall! Thanks to his planned androgyny and boldness, Heath was able fool the shop-keepers into thinking he was a girl. Knowing his girls sizes based on the sizing charts in the Sears Wishbook, he was able to select and try on a cute pleated cheerleader-esque pink skirt that reached to two inches above his knees. A soft fuzzy angora like pink short sleeved slip-over sweater blouse was his next selection followed by a pink lace edged half slip. Lace topped pink anklets and Mary-Jane shoes joined his selections. These he buried in the shopping bag under a pair of black jeans. At a kiosk, he was able to get some cute bracelets, necklaces, hair ties, ribbons and scrunchies.

Before they left, he even managed to talk Jill into getting his ears pierced. The gold studs looked out of place in his otherwise Goth presentation, but for the most part, they were hidden by his hair.

*****

June 4, 2005

The school year had just ended. Heath earned above average in every academic category. Getting along with others was still poor, not that he fought his classmates as much as he simply ignored them. On reading comprehension, Heath scored at the seventh grade level. In math, he'd learned everything DJ's textbook had, then went further on his own. He could add, subtract, multiply, divide, and do fractions and decimals. The plucky first grader had been helping his third grade brother with his math and reading for the past two months.

The daily running during recess had continued all year. The exercise had greatly strengthened Heath and built up his already high stamina. Dan eagerly helped his youngest son plot a safe neighborhood route so he could continue his running over the summer.

Heath grew tired of rinsing his soiled girl clothes in the sink in the bathroom he shared with DJ. The room was situated between their rooms and the doors could be locked. DJ didn't understand why Heath was so insistent about not undressing around him. He simply ticked it off as another quirk of his weird little brother.

Jill was pleasantly surprised when Heath asked her to teach him how to do the laundry as he wanted to at least take over doing his own. But then he was beginning to open up a bit and even smiled occasionally. Hoping he was finally outgrowing his self-imposed solitude, she eagerly agreed. Jill never suspected the reason he wanted to learn the task was so he could clandestinely wash his hidden but growing wardrobe of girly clothes.

As had become normal procedure over the last two years, after supper Heath always headed to his bedroom to lock himself inside for the rest of the night. Since his after birthday shopping excursion he'd strip out of his Goth clothes as soon as the door was locked. Then from their hiding places he'd dress in his skirt, sweater, anklets, half slip, and Mary-Janes. Then he carefully applied lipstick and a bit of eye liner. In the mirror he saw his true self, Heather. A very pretty, giggly girl who loved to twirls about the bedroom with her skirt flying. The anger and angst he felt about repressing his innate girlishness began to lessen.

*****
July 4, 2005

Clad in black but without make-up, Heath was determined to make an effort to be friendly. To his dismay, even his grandma frowned when she saw him. During the ball games he performed well and hustled about like the others. Not once did he receive a ‘good catch’ or ‘good hit’ from anyone. He even sat on the end of one of the picnic tables to eat. While still not initiating conversation, he actually attempted to join in occasionally only to have the others scowl.

The only satisfaction Heath derived that day occurred during the evening meal. Jill raved to the other women that Heath had asked her to teach him how to do his own laundry when school let out for the year. She added that Heath had been doing his own laundry for a bit over a month and was doing a wonderful job. The gathered women looked at their offspring, all of whom realized they would be learning how to do their own laundry within a week. All of Heath's cousins were quite upset with their youngest cousin. Their already poor opinion of Heath turned decidedly colder. No one objected, in fact they seemed to be rid of him, when Heath went inside to listen to the stereo during the fireworks.

What no one knew was that Heath was now boldly wearing panties without any covering jockeys. That gave Heath a powerful sense of one upmanship.

*****
August 15, 2005

Heath just made the forty five pound minimum weight to play Mighty Mite Pop Warner Football. Everyone knew his rep for toughness so no one questioned the bulging lead filled pockets of his jeans during the weigh-in. No one seemed to mind his all black attire although a few made nasty comments about his black eye shadow. Because of his small size he wasn’t even considered for a position on the line. Despite his small size, he was determined, quick and agile in addition to being fast and easily made the first team as a wide receiver. During the upcoming season none of the opposing teams could field anyone he couldn't out-maneuver or out-run. Leaping high to make one handed snags became second nature.

*****
August 23, 2005

Heath entered the second grade. No longer was he the smallest child in the school, a girl in kindergarten now held that distinction. Heath was now the second smallest child in the school. While still not having any friends, he at least made some acquaintances. The teacher had heard about the mini-Goth and was prepared to face the challenging boy. By the end of the first week, she'd realized Heath was so far ahead of his classmates, he'd be bored. Rather than deal with a bored child, who in her experience always morphed into a troublemaker and class disturbance, she spoke with the librarian about allowing Heath to go to the library unaccompanied to do independent study. The librarian was familiar with Heath and his voracious reading skills. While being a solemn and quiet loner, he was the only child amongst his classmates that she hadn't had to reprimand for talking or other inappropriate behavior during the past two years.

Heath attended class with his fellow students but was excused to go to the library as soon as the material was covered once. While the rest of the class needed practice and reinforcement to master the lessons, Heath did it the first time through. When a test or quiz was due, the teacher kept Heath with his classmates to take the exam. The protests by his classmates that he was allowed greater freedom than they were effectively stifled by Heath's ability to score one hundred percent each and every time.

*****
October 31, 2005

Heath had taken a chance when it came time to select a costume. Two weeks before the event, Heath joined his parents watching NCIS. Dan was a big fan of the show, especially Abby Sciuto while Jill liked Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

"I like that Abby's so Goth," Heath declared. She's really cute too."

Dan smiled, glad Heath was showing an interest in girls. "Yes, she is cute. Her being Goth adds to her charm."

"I've decided I want to go full Goth for this Halloween," Heath declared. "But I can't settle on how to do it. Abby has being Goth down to a T and she's smart to boot. Do you think I could dress up like her for my costume?

Dan was left speechless for at that moment on the TV screen Abby appeared wearing a saucy pleated skirt with her hair tied up on either side of her head in floppy pony tails. She was so hot!

Jill was more than a bit miffed at Dan as she responded to Heath’s request. "Abby is a girl. Do really want to wear a skirt like her?"

"It's only part of the costume," Heath replied calmly while his heart pounded in his chest.

“I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a daughter,” Jill answered while glaring at Dan for his overt attraction to Abby.

The discussion was over. Neither parent realized he’d set them up to get their permission.

DJ and his best friends, Mike Pearson, Kyle Howard and Gary Franks, liked the NCIS costume idea. It would even work out for them as Gary had been told his sister Cindy would have to go trick or treating with him since their mom had to stay home with their new baby sister. Cindy hadn’t liked the idea of tagging along with her brother, but when the group NCIS costume theme surfaced, she was all for it. DJ played Gibbs, Mike played DiNozzo, Kyle played Ducky, Gary played McGee, Cindy played Ziva, and Heath would played Abby.

Heath was thrilled with the poofy tulle covering the black mini-skirt and fuzzy black sweater he’d gotten when his mom took him shopping. The dark pantyhose felt so awesome! The black leather knee high boots with two inch clunky heels and one inch soles were to die for although they had been difficult to find in his size. His own hair was long enough to gather above his ears into twin bouncy pony tails. He didn't even complain when his mom trimmed his hair into eyebrow length bangs.

Halloween fell on Monday that year and the kids were expected to go to school in costume. Parents gathered the kids at the Water's home so they could make an entrance to the school as a group. When the others saw Heath as Abby they couldn't believe it was Heath and not a real girl. Heath smiled that big happy pleased with herself Abby smile and spun in a circle to show off his girlishness, then giggled sweetly and dropped a perfect dainty curtsey. Not even Jill could figure out where he'd learned that girlish move.

Cindy insisted she ride in the minivan with Heath. The two chattered away as if they'd been girlfriends for years. Dropped of at school together, they made quite an entrance. Cindy and Abby headed to their classroom hand in hand. Their teacher had informed them on Friday that they should come to class and NOT sit down, nor should they talk. She had prepared a paper listing the names of all the students which she gave each student as they entered as well as placing a number on their torso. The kids were to identify as many of their classmates as they could by printing the costume number by the person's name. Fifteen minutes after the bell rang, the teacher had them sign their sheets before allowing them to sit.

Even the teacher was stunned when 'Abby' sat at Heath's desk. She had the kids exchange papers and began to call roll. As she announced a student's name, the student was to answer by calling out their costume number. Heath called out his number then giggled, something no one other than Cindy had ever heard come from Heath. Besides Cindy only two others in the class had twigged Heath. Only one student correctly identified all their classmates... Heath.

Several times that day the teacher had to remind Heath and the girls to be quiet. All the girls couldn't help but rave about what a cute girl Heath made. Heath smiled and spoke back.

Heath won the class and school contest for best costume, and their NCIS group won the award for best group costume. During lunch Heath sat with the girls and dove right into their conversation. No one had ever seen him so open and animated, it was like he was another person.

Once home Heath jabbered at his mother as she made supper and then continued doing so through supper. Jill and Dan were both shocked by the extreme change in Heath's persona. When questioned, DJ shrugged and told them he'd been like that all day in school.

The kids met up at the Waters home again to set out on their treat quest. As they roamed the streets, Cindy and Heath held hands, giggled, skipped and chatted away like two girlfriends nearly driving the guys nuts. None of the guys had EVER seen Heath so open and friendly. At each house after the house-holder dropped their treats in 'Abby's' bag, Heath would take the edge of his skirt and drop a perfect dainty curtsey.

When they finally arrived home, Heath once more surprised everyone by doling his swag out to the others. The only thing he kept were lollipops. After everyone left, Heath skipped up the steps to his bedroom. Totally mystified, Dan and Jill exchanged looks of exasperated confusion.

Heath reluctantly removed his Abby costume and hung it neatly on his closet door where he could easily see it. Then he went into the bathroom to remove his make-up. When done, he slipped into his nightie and snugged down for the best sleep he'd ever enjoyed.

*****
November 1, 2005

Jill and Dan exchanged pained looks when Heath came down for breakfast. The only trace of the happy, buoyant talkative child of yesterday was the neatly trimmed bangs ending at his sad eyes. If anything, Heath looked more morose than ever. His eyes never left the floor. Even DJ noticed the drastic change. When asked a question, at best Heath shrugged. After nibbling a solitary piece of toast, he gathered his backpack and trudged out to wait for the school bus. He hadn't uttered a single sound.

"Try to keep an eye on him," Jill urged DJ who nodded his head.

At school his silence and self isolation were more in evidence than ever. A few of the guys had been prepared to tease him for being a sissy, but they wisely stayed quiet rather than risking awakening the terror they knew from the football field. No one could figure out the extreme personality exchange, it was like he was Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Most assumed his open behavior on Halloween had simply been a put-on as part of his costume. But it had seemed so genuine, almost as if he really was a girl.

*****
November 16, 2005

The awards banquet for the Pop Warner Football League. DJ won for most quarter back sacks on defense in his age group. Heath won for most yardage and most touchdowns in the Mighty Mites. If anything, the little demon had been even tougher and faster in the last two games of the season. Stoically he'd taken hit after hit as the other teams tried everything to stop the little dynamo. Nothing seemed to phase Heath or to slow him down. In fact, it appeared the more they tried to hurt him, the harder and tougher he played.

The truth was that Heath ate up the pain. He wanted to hurt. Dressing as Abby for Halloween had been a mistake. It had felt too good and oh so right! Going back to being dreary Heath was difficult. Even though he still dressed up as Heather every evening after supper and slept in his nightie, it wasn't as fulfilling as it had been before since he knew he’d have to go back to being heath in the morning.

*****
November 24, 2005

Heath came down to eat breakfast, then headed back to his room with the admonishment to be ready to leave for their grandparents by 10:00 am. Heath dressed in a pair of black panties, then slipped on the black pantyhose from his 'Abby' costume. Over that he forced himself into a pair of black shorts that he'd actually outgrown. For a shirt he slipped on black mesh shirt that allowed his flesh to be seen through the eighth inch mesh. In his ears he put a pair of enameled skull and cross-bone earrings he'd gotten at the mall. The eye sockets were red. Then a came a necklace and bracelets with the same skull and crossbones motif. Finally he sat at his desk before the make-up mirror. Using a black Sharpie, he carefully outlined his eyes. Using a black Magic Marker he inked the bristles of a cheap model car paint brush, then darkened his eye lids. Then he filed his nails to a rounded point before using the Sharpie to outline the edges of his nails before filling in the rest with the Magic Marker. As a final touch to his black nails he coated them with clear gloss polish. Finally, he used the Sharpie to outline his lips before using the magic Marker and paint brush to blacken them. Like his nails, he topped off his lips with clear lip gloss. The last item was the clunky heeled boots he'd worn as 'Abby'.

Looking in the mirror, a faint smile came to his face. His appearance was totally androgynous. There was no way to tell if he was male or female. Heath stayed in his room ignoring the requests he come down so they could leave until DJ pounded on the door.

DJ was momentarily shocked into silence before finding his tongue. "Are you gonna be in trouble," DJ shook his head as he looked at the miniature Goth.

"Get down here, NOW," Dan bellowed up the steps. Heath slipped on his black cape and grabbed his black backpack.

"What the hell," Dan exclaimed when he saw Heath. "Grandpa's going to have a fit when he sees you dressed like that! Jill, get the make-up off Heath!"

Jill came in and stopped dead. "Oh Heath. Upstairs so we can get that stuff off."

"Nope, won't do any good," Heath stated defiantly but calmly. "Most of it is not make-up. I used a Sharpie and Magic Marker."

"Good Lord," Jill exclaimed as she verified his declaration. "We may as well go. This isn't coming off for weeks."

The drive was ominously silent as Dan and Jill worried what would happen when they arrived.

Upon their arrival, Grandpa scowled at Heath as he blithely strode into the house. Before he could say anything Dan spoke. “Dad, we had no idea he was doing this. After breakfast he went to his room. He did all this with a Sharpie and Magic marker so it won’t come off for weeks. Don’t worry, he will be punished!”

Naturally Dan’s apology only made everyone come to see Heath. They all gasped in shock, including Grandma.

“Young man, and I use that term very loosely,” Grandpa seethed. “I don’t know what you were thinking but then I really don’t care what you were thinking. You are a disgrace to this family! My God, you look like a freaking faggot dressed like that! I’ve put up a lot from you over the years, but you just keep pushing the envelope. This time you have gone too far! They’ll probably kick you out of school for this stunt! What do you have to say for yourself?”

Everyone waited with baited breath as tiny Heath stood staring down Grandpa ala David and Goliath. To say everyone was shocked at what came out of Heath’s mouth would be an understatement.

In a clear, angelic voice he began to sing while continuing to return Grandpa’s intimidating stare.

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she's ten feet tall

And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you're going to fall
Tell 'em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call
Call Alice
When she was just small

When men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
And you've just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving slow
Go ask Alice
I think she'll know

When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen's "off with her head!"
Remember what the dormouse said;
"Feed your head
Feed your Head!
Feed your head"

White Rabbit, Jefferson Airplane’s iconic 1967 psychedelic rock song stunned everyone into silence. As an answer for his bizarre appearance, the song hit nail on the head. Even Grandpa couldn’t respond to that. Mumbling to himself, Grandpa turned away wishing he had a joint.

The rest of the day was anti-climatic. Heath sat quietly in a corner reading ignoring the weird glances of his family. When they sat down to eat, he did so silently and ate sparingly. No one heard a peep out of him the rest of the day.

*****
November 25, 2005

Black Friday morning was one of scolding. For the most part Heath let the words slide of his shoulders. What did get to him was the confiscation of his make-up and markers after breakfast. Angrily he stayed in his room refusing to emerge for meals or to utter a single sound. After ignoring the call to supper, he felt the need to physically hurt. Now that football season was over, there was no way to hurt himself ala suicide by cop. By then his body was demanding nourishment and he thought about giving in and going downstairs for supper.

But that would make him look weak. Then an idea struck him. Going to his desk he removed the container that held thumbtacks. Taking one out, he slowly pushed it into the flesh of his left forearm. At first his flesh simply indented, but finally the point punctured the skin and sank home. The pain was delicious. By the end of the night he had twenty thumbtacks adorning his forearms. After a bit the pain began to recede, so he decided to leave them in while he slept. The painful tugs and pulls as the tack caps snagged against a fold of his sheets and blanket made him smile.

*****
November 26, 2005

The pounding on his bedroom door woke Heath. It was his mother telling him to come down for breakfast. Heath rolled over and pulled the covers over his head. The pounding continued and was joined by DJ pounding on the door to their shared bath. It wasn't until his father pounded on the door and threatened to break it down that Heath rolled out of bed. After shucking his nightie and donning a pair of shorts and long sleeved hoodie did he open the door.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Dan roared. "You've had your mother worried sick! The least you could have done was answer her."

Heath just stood there silently looking at his parents with an 'I don't give a damn' expression on his face.

"Get your ass downstairs and eat your breakfast," Dan finally ordered a bit unnerved by Heath's unwavering gaze.

Heath trudged out of the room and downstairs to the kitchen with everyone following him. Going to the cabinet he took out a tumbler and filled it with water. Then he sat at the table and took a small sip.

"Heath, at least eat a bowl of cereal," Jill pleaded.

Turning to look at her, he merely sighed before turning back to stare at his glass of water.

Dan had more than he could take of the boy's obstinance. Storming to the table he pulled out the chair by Heath and sat. Reaching over, he grabbed Heath's forearm to pull him over his lap for a spanking. As he pulled Heath out of his chair and towards his lap he stopped and looked puzzled. With an angry frown he pulled up the hoodie's right sleeve. Jill, DJ, and Dan gasped as the saw the thumbtacks stuck in Heath's forearm. Dan quickly pulled up the left sleeve to reveal more thumbtacks.

"What the hell are you doing now?" Dan yelled. "Why would anyone stick thumbtacks in their arms? Why would you even think about doing something like that?"

Heath just stood there mutely.

Get him to the sink," Jill ordered as she headed for the first aid kit.

While Dan securely held Heath, Jill began pulling the thumbtacks from his flesh. Heath never showed any emotion but boredom as she worked. With each tack removed, a small red dome of blood formed above the hole. Some oozed a bit more and soon there were several blood trails dribbling down his arms. Once she had all twenty tacks removed, she poured alcohol on the wounds and washed the area clean with gauze pads. When she had him cleaned up, she placed a dab of antibiotic cream atop each puncture and wrapped his arms in gauze. Heath never flinched during the ordeal. He was enjoying the pain.

She made him a bowl of cereal and Dan sat to make sure he ate it. Jill headed into the other room to place an emergency call to Dr. Dee Mento. Both parents had reached the limit. They had no idea how to react to this latest stunt.

Even though it was Saturday morning, Dr. Mento could hear the anguish and frustration in Jill's voice. The good doctor was upset by the self-mutilation. Even though she was out shopping, she asked if she could make a house call.

Forty minutes later the doorbell rang. Dan let Dr. Mento inside and led her to Heath. One look at the forlorn boy told her he was in deep emotional turmoil. Jill took her to the kitchen where she showed her the bloodied thumbtacks. After a brief discussion with Dan and Jill where she learned of that Heath had used Sharpies and Markers to apply his Goth make-up, Dr. Mento decided it might be helpful if she spoke with Heath in his bedroom since he spent an inordinate amount of time there. As soon as she entered the bedroom she was struck by the austere yet Gothic look. Nothing was out of place, everything was neatly stored. The only thing out of place was the skirt and sweater hanging on his closet door. Knowing that Heath did his own laundry and cleaned his own bedroom she realized he could very well be suffering from OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive disorder) plus self-mutilation.

For fifteen minutes she patiently tried to get Heath to open up, but he stoically remained silent. Finally she had enough. “Heath, if you don’t start talking to me, I’ll have no choice but to have you committed to a mental hospital. Your parents are afraid for you and don’t know how to handle your behavior. I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’s wrong.”

Heath looked at her for a few moments as she waited him out. Sighing he nodded his head. “You can’t tell my parents,” Heath declared in a soft voice. “They’d really flip out.”

“Your parents love you, Heath,” Dr. Dee stated.

“Yeah, right,” Heath replied sadly. “That’s why they yelled at me and spanked me when I told them four years ago.”

Dr. Mento had been seeing Heath for three years. While she had been able to help him she was never able to discover the root cause of his issues. But she’d just learned that whatever it was happened a year before she took him on as a patient. “Heath, can you please tell me what happened four years ago?”

Heath developed a faraway thoughtful expression as he recalled that horrible Thanksgiving. Tears began to trickle from his eyes and he involuntarily shivered. With a deep sigh of hopelessness he glanced at the skirt and sweater hanging on his closet door.

Seeing the emotional hurt and turmoil etched in his face, she knew she was close to coaxing the truth out of him. “Did you wear that for Halloween?” Dr. Dee asked as she followed his forlorn gaze.

“Yes,” Heath whispered almost dreamily. “I dressed as Abby from NCIS with my brother and his buddies Mike, Kyle and Gary as well as Gary’s sister who’s in my grade. DJ played Gibbs, Mike played DiNozzo, Kyle played Ducky, Gary played McGee and Cindy played Ziva.”

“In that outfit I bet you looked as cute as Abby,” Dr. Dee said softy.

“I did,” Heath smiled a dreamy smile as he obviously recalled his appearance.

It was the first time Dr. Dee ever saw Heath smile. It was a genuine smile too, but filled with longing. “Would you like to wear the outfit again?”

Heath merely nodded his head as he was lost in a reverie of that night.

“Please tell me about what happened on Halloween,” Dr. Dee implored.

Heath proceeded to explain how he’d tricked his parents into agreeing he could dress as Abby. Then he explained how DJ and his buddies had jumped on board the idea. Heath was nearly bubbling as he explained how wonderful it felt to dress as a girl. Then he related his experiences at school joining the girls and having a good time in his costume. Relating the fun he’d had while trick or treating obviously made him wistful. The suddenly his mood crashed and tears began flowing as he related how he’d hated going back to being Heath the next day.

Dr. Dee was sure she’d discovered the true source of Heath’s issues. “Heath, I promise not to tell your parents and it will be a secret between us. Do you wish you were a girl?”

Heath snapped out of his memories to stare at Dr. Dee with wild eyed terror. “NO, NO, NEVER,” Heath exclaimed in a near state of panic. “I’m a boy, a tough boy! I’m no damned sissy!”

The protests were all to transparent to Dr. Dee. But she also realized by his violent reaction that he was terrified by the idea of someone thinking he had any desire to do anything remotely girlish. “I understand. I apologize for upsetting you. I’d like to see you Monday after school. Until then I want you to promise me you won’t hurt yourself and that you’ll eat. I’ll talk to your parents and ask them to be patient with you so they don’t scold you. Okay?”

“I won’t make any promises,” Heath seethed. “I can’t trust my parents. All they want to give me is stuff I hate, so I gave the stuff to DJ or just let it sit downstairs. You can see I don’t have much because they’ve made it clear they don’t ever want to ask for what I really want. I only ask for a few things, like my zombie and Goth make-up. But yesterday they took it away from me for using the markers on myself. That’s why I stuck myself. I’m hurting inside, so by sticking the tacks in my arms I hurt on the outside too. The pain makes me feel better.”

“Is that why you play sports so hard?” Dr. Dee asked. “Are you trying to hurt yourself there too?”

“I guess so,” Heath replied. “It feels good when I get hit hard. Plus I prove to my dad that I’m tough and not a sissy.”

“Okay,” Dr. Dee nodded as things started making sense. “If I can talk your parents into giving you back your make-up and markers, can you make those promises?”

“I guess so,” Heath sighed. “But I doubt they’ll do it.”

“We’ll see,” Dr. Dee smiled. “If they do give it back, I’ll need you to talk to me during our session on Monday.”

Heath nodded his head.

Back downstairs, Dr. Mento sat down with Dan and Jill. “Heath is very troubled. I need to see him Monday after school. He agreed to talk to me if I can convince you to give him back his make-up and markers. Tell him it isn’t you taking away the punishment, but me urging we wait to see if I can find out why he does the things he does.”

Jill and Dan nodded.

“Good,” Dr. Mento said. “He’s promised not to hurt himself and to eat if he gets the stuff back. But he also inadvertently gave me a hint of what the core issue is. He said it began four years ago when you yelled at him and spanked him because he asked for something that you apparently thought was quite inappropriate. He wouldn’t tell me what it was but I saw the tears roll down his cheeks as he looked at the skirt and sweater he wore for Halloween.

Dan was totally perplexed as to what the issue might be.

“Oh my God.” Jill exclaimed after a few moments of deep thought. “Dan, Thanksgiving four years ago, When Grandma asked all the kids what they wanted for Christmas!”

“Shit,” Dan exclaimed. “He asked for a freaking doll. When I shot that down he asked for a damn dress! Yeah, I yelled at him and spanked him. No son of mine is going to be a sissy!”

Dr. Mento sighed. “Think back, did Heath change after that day? Did he withdraw from everyone and everything?”

“Yes, now that you've made me think about it," Jill nodded. "That is when he changed from a happy child to a sullen recluse!”

Dan shook his head. “So you’re saying that all the problems we’ve been having these past four years is because I yelled at him and spanked him for being a sissy?”

"I can't say for sure," Dr. Mento said. "But I'm sure it was a major factor in how he's developed. I need to talk with him to be sure. When I questioned him about his Halloween costume, he got a faraway look in his eyes. His entire body position shifted. He almost bubbled while talking about being Abby. When he'd finished telling me about the day, he emotionally crashed. On Halloween when he was in costume, did he seem bright, cheerful, and talkative?"

"Yes," Jill responded while Dan nodded. "We've never seen him so... happy is the right word."

"The next day," Dr. Mento questioned. "Did he seem more morose than he had been before dressing as Abby?"

"Yes," Jill again answered. "He's been quieter and avoiding us more than ever."

"He's hurting emotionally," Dr. Mento explained. "The self-mutilation is a coping measure to deal with his mental anguish. Inside, he hurts so bad he can't escape it. It eats at him. By hurting himself, the physical pain reduces the mental anguish. That's why he was carded so much last year in soccer. He was playing so hard, soaking up the bruises as a way of easing his anxiety. I'm sure he was doing the same thing ths year with football. Did his intensity on the field change after Halloween?"

"It sure did," Dan stated proudly. "He took hit after hit and kept going. He's one tough boy."

"I don't think that's quite true," Dr. Mento sighed realizing Dan just didn't get it. "He was using the physical pain of the hits to ease his mental anguish. Subconsciously he put on the his Goth make-up with the markers so it couldn't be removed in the hope that he'd be spanked or beaten. Instead you punished him by taking away his markers and make-up. That hurt him so bad he resorted to pushing thumbtacks into his arm and leaving them there all night. Has he spoken to anyone since you took the markers and make-up?"

"No, in fact he hasn't eaten since then," Jill added.

"Please, give it back to him," Dr. mento pleaded. "Tell him I ordered you to do it. The make-up and markers help him cope."

Dan begrudgingly nodded his okay while Jill easily agreed.

Dr. Mento bid them farewell until Monday and headed back to her shopping."

While not smiling, Heath was clearly delighted when Jill brought the make-up and markers into his bedroom. After a muttered "Thank you," he carefully unpacked everything and put each piece in it's proper location. At lunch and supper he came down promptly and ate with the family, even responding to their queries. Things seemed to be back to normal.

*****
November 28, 2005

Jill allowed Heath to touch up his make-up but forbid him to use the markers to do so. His appearance at school drew a lot of attention and a lot of teasing and taunts. Heath simply ignored them. They were an hour into the day when the principal arrived at the classroom door to pull Heath from class. Seated in the office, the principal laid into Heath about his Goth make-up.
"I don't know what you're trying to prove, young man, but whatever it is you can't do in school. Your mode of dress and make-up is disrupting the other students. Go wash the make-up off, then come back to me."

Heath just sat there glaring at the principal. As if the scoldings at home weren't enough, now it was starting at school. Anger seethed inside his calm exterior.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" The principal hotly asked.

"I can't wash it off," Heath defiantly answered. "I used a black Sharpie and Magic Marker."

"Your parents let you do this to yourself?" The principal asked in disbelief.

"I didn't tell them," Heath nonchalantly replied. "I did it before we left for Thanksgiving with our family at my grandparent's because I knew they'd try to make me wash it off."

"Go sit in the a chair in front of the office counter," the frustrated man ordered.

Heath used the time to think about what Dr. Dee had told him. The thing that most distressed him was when she asked him if he wanted to be a girl. Her questions had dredged up old memories, especially the one where he asked for a doll and after being shot down a dress. There was no denying he loved playing with Judy and Debbie and their dolls, much more than those stupid cars and trucks he always got. Memories of liking Easter because he could see cute girls all dressed up in pretty outfits, outfits he wished he could wear. Then there was the entire thing with Abby. God he'd loved wearing that outfit. Even at school the girls seemed to accept him and he even talked with them. The next day was a bummer because he had to go back to his yucky boys clothes. Then there was the whole business of secretly buying girls undies and nighties to wear. There was no doubt he liked girlish things much better than boyish stuff. But did that mean he wanted to be a girl? He didn't really think he would mind being a girl, but he felt he was a boy who liked girlish things. In other words, he was a sissy. He disliked virtually every boys toys and hated sports... but not the pain part. That he enjoyed.

Forty five minutes later Jill showed up. One look at her defiant son and she knew the issue was far from being settled. The principal called her into his office for a private discussion.

While Heath waited, his mind continued to mull things over. It just wasn't fair. Girls could dress in pretty outfits and be praised for their appearance. If a boy tried to wear the same clothes, he'd be hounded and teased unmercifully. Yet a girl could wear jeans and a t-shirt and no one got on their case. Then there were the toys. Dolls were so much nicer than sports. Again the unfairness hit him hard. Girls could play with dolls or play sports and rough house like the guys, yet if a boy tried to play with a doll he was called a faggot or worse. Obviously Heath liked everything girlish and detested almost all things boyish. The zombie and Goth make-up was just a ploy to be able to play with the make-up. Even most of his clothes for his Goth outfits came from the girl's departments. So either he was the worlds biggest sissy or he was a girl. This paradox confused him.

At that point he was summoned into the office. The upshot was that he was suspended from school until the marker make-up wore off. The principal escorted Heath and his mom back to the classroom where Heath emptied his desk.

It was quite clear his mom was super pissed as they silently headed out to her car. Wisely, Heath sat in back directly behind his mother. Before she left the parking lot she made two calls. One was to Dr. Mento's receptionist to see if they could get in earlier. The second was to Dan telling him Heath had been expelled because of his make-up.

Dr. Mento called back within five minutes and asked if Jill could bring Heath right in. Minutes later they pulled into the parking lot at her office.

After greetings, Jill explained what happened in school. Then Dr. Dee ushered Heath back to the waiting room.

Once the small talk was out of the way, Dr. Dee looked at Heath. "Have you thought about what we spoke about last night?"

"Yes," Heath replied softly. "I don't think I want to be a girl. But I don't want to be a boy. I just want to be me, it's just that every time I try to something I like, I get slammed. That's what happened in school today. I don't fit into their nice normal model student. I get the best grades in the class. I'm reading on an eighth grade level. I help DJ with his homework. I do my chores without being told. I do my own laundry. I keep my bedroom spotless. But it never seems to be enough. I like things girls like. I used to love playing with dolls with my cousins. That all ended at Thanksgiving four years ago. Grandma always went around the table from the oldest to the youngest asking what they wanted most for Christmas. When it was my turn, I told Grandma I wanted a doll for Christmas, That earned me a scolding that boys don't play with dolls. Then she asked me what else I wanted so I told her a pretty dress. That earned me a spanking and my girl cousins were forbidden to let me play with them. I was called a sissy and a fag as I was spanked. Then I was scolded for ruining everyone's Thanksgiving!"

"I'll admit I like girl's clothes and dolls and dancing, and almost any girlish activity," Heath sniffled. "It's just not fair! Girls get praised and told they're cute when they wear pretty dresses and are praised for doing girlish things. Then they can change into pants and do boyish things and it's okay. But let a boy just show an interest in anything girlish and he catches hell. I get jealous when I see a girl in a cute outfit and I imagine it's me wearing it. But I know that can't be because if I do anything even remotely girlish, mom and dad are all over me. When I was smaller, Dad would tell me suck it up when I was hurt, or told me I had to give two hundred percent to make up for my small size when I played sports. I did what he wanted but hated every moment until I learned to enjoy pain. The more I got hurt the better I felt."

"This all very interesting," Dr. Dee consoled. "But if your dad was so against anything that might be considered sissy like, how did you get permission to dress as Abby?"

"Dad was watching NCIS and I saw he was interested in Abby," Heath answered. "Since I like Goth and she certainly has Gothness in her character, I decided I could combine my Goth into Abby's Goth. So I waited until she a big scene and announced I thought she was cute. Dad agreed a bit too quickly and mom starting getting angry. Dad realized what he'd done and was trying to backpedal. That's when I asked if I could dress as Abby for Halloween. Mom thought it was a good idea although I think she agreed just to rub Dad's nose in it. Dad couldn't risk getting mom angrier so he agreed it'd be okay if I dressed as Abby."

"When you were dressed on Halloween everyone said you were like a totally different person," Dr. Dee stated. "Did you feel different?

"Oh yeah," Heath sighed with a faraway look in his eyes. "I loved dressing in her cute outfit and pretending to be a girl. It felt like I'd been able to crawl out from under the rock that had been holding me down. I didn't have to worry about getting in trouble for being a sissy. I could laugh, giggle, skip, and just plain talk. It felt so wonderful. I can't remember ever being that happy. Then it all came crashing down. The next morning I had to dress in my boy's clothes and go back to pretending I was a boy. By the end of the next day I wished I'd never dressed as Abby. I know I was in funk before Halloween, but after, well, my funk was in a funk."

"That's why during the last two games of the football season I went all out," Heath declared. "I wanted to hurt others and myself. I succeeded too, but the pain wasn't enough. I needed more. Then the season was over and there was no way to release my pain. So I remembered getting spanked and whipped by Dad and Grandpa for doing things like girl. I figured if I showed up for Thanksgiving in full out Goth mode they'd get pissed and whip me. I so wanted to feel the pain! So I stayed in my bedroom until the last possible moment to where we had to leave right then or be late. I'd done my fingernails, lips, and eye shadow using the Sharpies and Magic Marker so mom couldn't wash it off."

"Well, grandpa was pissed all right, but he just turned away mumbling about the way I was dressed," Heath continued. "Instead of the spanking I'd hoped for, I just got scolded. On Friday morning I hoped dad was going to spank me but instead mom and dad took away all my make-up and markers. That bummed me out so I just quit eating. That night I thought about how I enjoyed pain and wondered if I could hurt myself. That's when I got the thumbtacks and slowly and painfully pushed them into my arm one at a time. I left them in all night. Every time I moved or adjusted the covers, I could feel a twinge of pain and it made me feel better. Then when I was ordered down for breakfast, all I got was a glass of water. That set dad off so he was going to spank me but when he grabbed my arm he felt the tacks. Then they called you."

"Wow, I think that's more than you've ever told me," Dr. Dee smiled. "There are some tests I'd like you to take after lunch. Why don't we get your mother and go to the cafeteria to eat together."

Ten minutes later they sat in the lunchroom eating. Dr. Mento explained she wanted Heath to take some psychological tests that would take most of the afternoon. If Jill was able to let heath take the tests immediately, they'd get results that much quicker. Dr. Mento told Jill she didn't have to stay but could back at four.

Heath took the tests with little effort. His reading ability and understanding amazed Dr. Mento. Jill came back to pick up Heath and was told she'd have the results of the tests by tomorrow afternoon. She asked if the whole family could come in tomorrow evening to review the results. She also asked that Heath's suspension not be discussed by the family until after the family session. Jill agreed.

Heath kept his promise to eat and responded when someone spoke to him. Even so, the situation was quite awkward and all conversation stilted. It was clear Dan was angry Heath had been suspended from school but remained quiet. Jill had warned DJ not to talk about it. After eating, Heath retreated to his room. After locking the door, he stripped down and put on the Abby outfit. At once his dark mood lifted. He stayed dressed until he went to bed but even then he wore a nightie.

*****
November 29, 2005

Heath helped his mom around the house. While not starting a conversation, he did respond to his mom when she spoke to him. All in all it was a rather pleasant day for both.

After stopping at Micky D's for a quick supper, the family arrived at Dr. Mento's office. Once they were all settled into the office Dr. Mento began to speak.

"Let me start off by reviewing some basics," Dr. Mento stated. "Gender is male and female. However, each person has two types of gender. One is physical and the other is mental. For most people, the two genders match. In some cases, they are opposite. But even those whose genders match, the mental gender is a blend of male and female although tilted to their physical gender. The test Heath took yesterday is the COGIATI, which stands for Combined Gender Identity and Transsexual Inventory. It pinpoints a person's mental gender on a scale of masculine feminine. It doesn't say a person is mentally male or female, it simply compares a person to what is considered absolute male or absolute female. I can add that no one is absolute male or female, we are all blends."

It was already clear that Dan was upset by where this was leading.

"Heath is a very intelligent," Dr. Mento continued. "As you well know he is also very troubled. The tests confirmed what I'd already deduced from our counseling sessions. Heath's mental gender is decidedly female."

"That's a load of psycho babble bullshit," Dan snapped. "You're as fucking looney as Heath. I'm not paying you to tell me my son is a freaking faggot sissy, I already know that! I want you to cure him! Get that fucked up girly shit out of his head. That's what I'm paying you for!"

"You're paying me to help Heath," Dr. Mento replied calmly. "Heath was assigned to me by the County Children's Welfare Department after his zombie escapade. Their file on Heath and your family is still open. It's been my continued treatment of Heath that has kept your family together. So unless you keep your temper in check, I'll call Children's Services."

"Well it's obvious you're milking this for every penny and not helping Heath," Dan responded angrily.

"I won't even respond to that," Dr. Mento declared. "Heath knows he's mentally messed up but he's not crazy. All he's trying to do is survive. I had suspicions of what the issues were but could never confirm them until now. Heath is hurting so much he finally opened up. To be perfectly blunt, it appears YOU are the main problem. Just as you stated a moment ago, YOU called Heath a faggot and a sissy and YOU want him cured. You are not showing the least bit of concern for Heath, you're only interested in how he makes YOU look. We must help Heath become the person HE is, not the person YOU want him to be. I'll tell you right now, his intentionally hurting himself is only the tip of the iceberg. If we don't get this resolved now, there are only a few options open to him. One is complete insanity, one is suicide and the last is to flip out and start killing people. Tell me, Mr. Waters, do you want to be known as the father of the next Jeffery Dahmer?"

The last question clearly struck home as Dan paled and Jill gasped.

"I can see him killing people," DJ said although he didn't know who Jeffery Dahmer was. "I think that's what he was trying to do during those last two football games."

"DJ, don't say such things about your brother," Jill scolded obviously shocked by his blunt assessment.

"Why not?" Heath asked heatedly as he stood with his fists clenched in rage. "I felt like I wanted to kill them. You and dad are always telling us to tell the truth and not to lie but when we do speak the truth you don't want to hear it and scold us or worse. Four years ago I was speaking the truth when I told Grandma I wanted a doll for Christmas but you guys jumped all over me. I didn't know then why asking for a doll was wrong. Judy had asked for one and nobody said a thing. It wasn't fair that I couldn't ask for one. I spoke the truth about wanting a pretty dress too but that earned me a spanking. I didn't want to lie and still don't. So what I did learn was to keep my mouth shut. I wanted to play with dolls but you gave me trucks and guns. Did you even know I never played with them? I gave them to DJ. On top of that you made play sports but you yelled at me when I said I didn't want to. That's why I started staying away from you and everyone else. I'm tired of hiding and taking your crap. You have no idea how much I want to hurt you. But I know hurting other people is wrong. I hated what I did to the kids during football but I couldn't help myself. I wanted to hurt me, that's why I stuck those thumbtacks into my arms. I want to hurt so I don't hurt anyone else. But instead of helping me you just make it worse. I HATE YOU!"

With that Heath bolted for the door. It was only DJ's quick response that kept him from escaping. The brothers fell to the floor as Heath struggled and raged. Dan came over and had to physically pin Heath to the floor. Even with his strength, it was a struggle to restrain the boy. Finally Heath wore himself out and started to bawl. When Dan cautiously released him he curled into a foetal position sobbing.

"Now do you understand what I'm trying to tell you?" Dr Mento asked as she wiped tears from her eyes. "Heath needs help NOW. I just hope it's not too late."

Wracked with guilt, Jill was crying too. DJ just sat rubbing the bruises he'd gotten. Dan was clearly shaken.

No one said a word as they all waited for Heath to cry himself out. That only happened when he fell asleep from exhaustion. Dr. Mento had Dan place Heath on the sofa while they resumed their talk.

"Mentally Heath is a girl," Dr. Mento explained. "The test proved what I thought. Heath hates being a boy and readily admits to that. While he's confessed to liking girlish things and wants to be girlish, he denies he wants to be a girl. I think that's because you've literally beaten it into him that he's a boy and boys can't like girly things. The zombie to Goth gig helped ease the pressure of being the tough boy you demanded he be. It was a semi acceptable route for a boy to follow that kept him from sinking into what for him was the hell of life as a boy. DJ is okay with being the type of boy you want, but Heath isn't. Everyone is different and doesn't fit into the same mold. Being Abby for Halloween opened Pandora's box for Heath. You saw how he opened up that day and flowered. For that one day out of the last four years he was able to be the person he is inside. When he had to return to being the boy you insisted he be, he crashed. His inner turmoil increased because he saw freedom and then had it ripped away. He used the markers to put on his Goth make-up to force you to punish him. He wanted to hurt."

Dan shook his head obviously upset and angered by all this. "So you're saying we have to let him live as a girl?"

"No, I'm saying you have to let Heath be the person he is inside," Dr. Mento answered. "If that turns out to be a girl, so be it. Right now he's so messed up he's not sure who or what he is. All he really knows is what he hates. He needs time to heal and find out what he likes and wants. You have to stop belittling him. You have to listen to him. He's probably spoken more in the last two days than he has the last four years. If you haven't figured it out he's near his breaking point. You saw and heard him almost step over that line. You need to back off."

"DJ, I mean no disrespect and am not judging you. In fact, you appear quite normal for a boy who's happy being a boy," Dr. Mento went on. "But I want to compare you and Heath for a moment. Heath does things you don't unless you're reminded such as keeping your room clean, doing laundry, and getting good grades in school. Does Heath help you with your homework?"

"Yeah, he's a whiz at math and history," DJ nodded. "He can explain things to me in a way I can understand. Since he's two years behind me in school that's really weird, but it's the truth."

"Heath is very smart," Dr. Mento stated. "Tell me something, when he started helping you, did you ask him?

"No, he saw I was struggling and came over," DJ said. "I was pissed at first, but when he showed me what I was doing wrong, I was embarrassed that my weirdo kid brother was smarter than me. But he never used it against me. He never tried to tell my buddies he was helping me. He never threatened not to help if I didn't do something for him. He just helped and never expected anything in return. If it wouldn't be for his help, I'd be lucky to be earning D's instead of B's."

"That's the good person hidden inside him," Dr. Mento explained. "That's who he wants to be, that's who he needs to be."

"Yeah, okay," Dan growled as he rubbed his temples. "So how GIRLY did he score on this so called TEST?"

"A double scale of one to a hundred for both male and female is used," Dr. Mento explained. "It's a percentage scale with one being none and one hundred being all. The average score for females on the feminine scale is fifty. The average score for males on the masculine scale is fifty. It's not unusual for guys to score high on the female side but they usually score higher on the male side. Heath scored ten on the male scale and ninety one on the female scale. I've never seen a more lopsided score. I have no doubt that his mental gender is female. What that means is that mentally Heath is inherently more feminine than ninety one percent of the females and is only as masculine as ten percent of the males."

Dan shook his head in disbelief that his son was such a sissy. "How freaking accurate is the damn test?"

"The normal deviation is ten percent," Dr. Mento replied as she stuggled to remain calm in the face of Dan’s continued hostility. "Which means Heath is still very feminine."

"Obviously WE didn’t do anything wrong," Dan declared. "We raised him the same as DJ."

"The only thing you did wrong was to try to force Heath to be what he isn't," Dr. Mento explained. "Science hasn't figured out why such discrepancies occur but they have found that male and female brains are wired differently as you probably know from being married. Using brain scans to examine the brains of people that score higher on the test in the gender opposite their physical gender has revealed their brains are wired like the gender they tested. There is no way to change that wiring without frying the brain. In other words it is impossible to 'cure' Heath."

Jill dabbed at the tears running from her eyes. "What do we have to do to help Heath get better?"

"Let him know you love him," Dr. Mento said. "But do it honestly. He's smart enough to know if you're sincere. Just don't hear what he has to say, listen to him when he talks. If you want him to do something he doesn't like, take the time to explain why you want him to do it. Let him explore his interests. If he wants to wear girls clothes, at least let him do it in private. Set up guidelines on when it would be inappropriate to express his girlishness. It's okay to let him know you're not happy with what he's doing, but it's not okay to condemn him. Don't be afraid to apologize. Don't be ashamed to tell him you're not sure of something. You saw how he feels about your expectations he speak the truth and not tell lies. He understands why that's right but you crushed him when he did what you wanted him to do. He feels he can't trust you. I don't know if he hates you. You have to regain his trust. I can't give you specifics on how to proceed, but I can let you know if you're hurting him."

"I'll do all I can to help your family. But to do that I'll need to see you at least once a month and Heath every week for a while, Dr. Mento added. "I'll talk to your insurance company to see if we can work out a fee schedule so it doesn't put a burden on you."

"We'll try our best," Jill stated as Dan disgustedly shook his head.

"Please wake Heath up so I can tell him what we've discussed," Dr. Mento requested.

Jill gently shook Heath to awaken him. It was clear he was mystified and suspicious of the smile on her face.

"Heath, please sit up," Dr. Mento asked. "First of all, you are not in trouble for your outburst. If anything, it helped proved the points I was making with your parents. They're going to try to listen to what you have to say and not scold you. In return, you'll have to be honest and speak to them. We're all sure you are aware of what's right and wrong so there should be little need to discipline you. However, if you do something wrong, you'll need to accept the responsibility. The test revealed that mentally you're not male but are in fact quite feminine. You told me you felt free when you were dressed as Abby and hated going back to being a boy. I've explained your need to dress as a girl. You'll have to talk with them about when you can do so. As your parents, they will set up reasonable guidelines that you'll have to follow. Do you think you can do that?"

"I'm not saying I want to dress as a girl," Heath declared. "But if I did try to dress as a girl, I'd get crucified." Heath glared at his father.

"Heath, we'll try to let you be the person you need to be," Jill explained. "I can't promise we won't get upset, but we will do our best not to scold you. We'll try to talk to you about any issues, but it'll be difficult for us and we might fly off the handle. Just hang in there and we'll try to make things better."

Heath was shocked. "So if I want to dress as a girl, I won't get in trouble."

Dan closed his eyes and clenched his jaw as Jill responded. "If you want to dress as a girl, you can do it in your bedroom. It'll take us a while to wrap our minds around that, so we don't want to see it right away. Later on, maybe we can handle seeing you dressed as a girl. We'll have to see how we handle it."

"If I want to dress as a girl, I'd have to get more girl clothes," Heath said testing the water but still suspicious.

"I'll take you shopping," Jill spoke up. "But we can't go overboard."

Heath nodded. "How do I know you're not going to flip out if I dress like a girl?"

"You don't," Dan answered more that a bit menacingly. "All I can say is I'll make an effort. If I can't handle it, I'll try to tell you first instead of jumping down your throat."

After that Dr. Mento reinforced the need for the entire family to be open and honest. Then everyone headed home to let the revelations settle. The entire Waters family had a restless night.

*****
November 30, 2005

Dan and DJ were gone when Heath came down for breakfast. He purposely waited until they were gone. Jill almost dropped the dish she was taking out of the dishwasher when she looked up. Heath was dressed as Abby, having covered up most of the marker applied black make-up with more appropriate colors. He'd even styled his hair into the bouncy twin ponytails. It was clear that Heath was quite apprehensive.

"Well," Jill said once she'd recovered from the shock. "You certainly do make a pretty girl."

A tentative smile appeared on Heath's face.

Jill's heart almost broke. Putting the dish down she knelt on one knee and opened her arms. Heath hesitated for a moment, then rushed into her embrace. Both began to cry as they melted into the embrace.

Once they recovered, Jill made Heath a bowl of cereal. Then she sat across the table form him with a cup of coffee.

With a smile on her face, Jill spoke. "Should I call you Abby?"

"No," Heath answered softly still unsure of being accepted as a girl. "I'm Heather."

"Heather, that's the name I had picked out for you if you'd have been born a girl," Jill said. "I guess we'll have to go shopping for some undies and nighties."

Heath took a deep breath and looked deeply into his mother's eyes. He had agreed to tell the truth. "I already have them."

"What," Jill said obviously shocked. "How did you get them?"

"I used my debit card and ordered them online," Heath confessed fearing he was going to catch hell.

"Oh, Heather," Jill sniffed. "I never realized you were hurting so much. I'm sorry I left you down."

"Y... you're not mad at me?" Heather stuttered.

"No, I'm mad at myself for not being here for you," Jill confessed. "You obviously did what you had to do. But in the future, let me know if you want something."

"Okay mommy," Heather said.

Jill almost melted to hear herself once more called mommy. "When you're done with breakfast, let's go up to your room and you can show me what you have."

Soon they were upstairs where Heather dug out her undies and nighties. While there wasn't much, what was there was well worn.

"This is why you wanted to learn how to do your own laundry," Jill questioned.

"Yes mommy," Heather admitted waiting to be scolded.

"Well, we're just going to have to throw all this away," Jill stated firmly.

Tears began to flow down Heather's cheeks as she thought she'd been tricked and betrayed.

"No, no honey," Jill exclaimed as she realized how Heather had taken her declaration. "What you have is pretty well worn out. We won't throw them away until we can get you new things, okay?"

Heather was surprised and once she was sure she wasn't being teased, she hurried to her mother for a hug. Both cried tears of joy. Jill no longer had any doubts that Heather was a girl.

"Let's clean up your make-up, then we'll go shopping," Jill said. "We both lost too many years of mother-daughter shopping, but no more."

As she watched, Jill was amazed by how adept Heather was at cleaning off her ruined make-up and applying a fresh coat. "You're very good at that. No wonder you didn't hurt yourself when you used the markers. But you're too young for most make-up. A nice nail polish and a bit of lipstick is the most a girl your age should wear. It'll be okay to play with your make-up, but it must come off before your dad sees it."

"Okay, mommy," Heather replied.

Soon they were heading to Wal-Mart.

As they drove Jill spoke. "Your father is having a hard time accepting that you're a girl so it'll be best if we keep Heather away from him, at least for a while. Do you think DJ will give you any problems?"

"I don't think so," Heather answered. "He's used to me being weird and needs my help with his school work. I don't think he'll tease me anymore than any big brother hassles his little sister."

Jill chuckled at Heather's perceptiveness wondering how she'd grown so intelligent and wise. Soon they were in the girls' department. Heather almost swooned as Jill held nighties up to her. After an hour of shopping and even trying on a few skirts and dresses, they headed for the check-out with one dress, three skirts, four tops, three nighties, and several pairs of panty-camisole sets. Heather was over the moon with joy.

At home, Heather assisted Jill in preparing supper, trying to make Dan's favorites. When DJ arrived home from school he was shocked to see Abby. Jill quickly set him straight that his sister's name was Heather.

"Okay," DJ nodded. "How's it going, little sis?"

"Great, big bro," Heather giggled as she stepped over to him, then hesitated. "Is it all right if I give you a hug?"

DJ was caught off guard and didn't know how to react. He'd already outgrown hugs from mom and only Grandma still bestowed hugs. But one look at Heather's apprehensive face melted him. "Okay, sis, but only this once."

Heather smiled and threw her arms about DJ fiercely hugging him. DJ even returned the hug and couldn't suppress a smile.

"I'm glad to see you getting along," Jill smiled. "But we need to keep dad out of the loop for now. Speaking of which, Heather, you'd better go upstairs and send your brother down for when dad gets home."

Heather sighed understanding what her mom went. Slowly she headed to her bedroom savoring every moment of girlishness.

Dan was antsy when he arrived home. After giving Jill a quick buss on the cheek, he asked how her day had gone.

Jill knew what he was getting at but wasn't sure how much to tell him. "We went shopping and bought a few things.

Dan scowled. "Was he Abby?"

"No," Jill replied curtly. "Our daughter's name is Heather, and she was a perfect angel all day. She even helped me prepare dinner."

"Is she still around?" Dan hotly demanded.

"No, I sent her up to her room and told her to send Heath back down," Jill said.

Dan nodded and reached into the refrigerator for a beer then headed into the living room to watch ESPN.

"Dad, mom said to tell you supper's ready," Heath said in a voice that quivered a bit.

Dan turned to look at Heath. For once he wasn't wearing Goth make-up but there was enough of the marker left to maintain that image. With a grunt he arose and headed for the kitchen.

The meal was delicious but the conversation was strained as Dan kept warily eyeing Heath. Doing his best to maintain his agreement, Heath actually ate decent portions. Jill, DJ and Heath spoke freely. It seemed as if Heath and Dan had traded places. Heath chatted away while Dan merely grunted.

After the meal, Dan grabbed another beer and headed for the living room. Jill, DJ and Heath left him alone to mope in front of the TV.

*****
December 25, 2005

Things didn't improve as the family dynamics shifted. As Heather blossomed, Dan shriveled. DJ found he liked Heather a lot better than Heath and clearly said so. Jill loved her daughter, but by the end of the week after Thanksgiving, the marker make-up had faded enough so that heath could return to school. Everyone at school noted the change in Heath and several classmates began to talk with him. Dan began stopping at a bar instead of coming home after work. When he was home he was sullen and always had a beer in his hand. Almost every night he drank himself to sleep.

Jill grew fed up with his attitude and told him off on Christmas Eve, telling him that Heather was going to have her first Christmas. Dan was invited to join them if he could be civil. If not, then she bluntly told him to stay in their bedroom and watch ESPN all day because Heather was going to be there all day.

Heather was frightened but Jill told her she'd protect her. DJ added that he'd be by Heather's side if their father tried anything stupid.

Heather tiptoed downstairs Christmas morning wearing her ankle length green flannel nightie. When she was sure her dad wasn't around, she headed for the Christmas tree where DJ and Jill waited. Heather squealed with excitement when she opened her first gift to find a baby doll. She hugged the doll tightly and cried tears of happiness. Except for her absent father, from there the day only got better.

Jill took breakfast up to Dan but he barely touched it. By lunch his foul mood was growing worst. DJ shuttled beer after beer up to him until he finally passed out.

*****
January 3, 2006

During the holiday break, Heath was around only when Dan was still conscious. Heather was able to play freely all day with her new doll. Each day DJ headed off to play with his buddies as he didn't want them to come over and discover Heather. Supper became more strained every day as Dan continued to withdraw from his family. For their part, Jill, DJ, and Heath behaved as if he wasn't there.... the same way they had previously ignored Heath. Dan grew angrier every time he saw Heath smiling and jabbering away. The drinking became worse.

The first day back to school after the holiday break was extremely rough for Heath as he missed being Heather. But being Heather most of the holiday had it's effects on Heath even if he didn't realize it. His mannerisms were decidedly feminine. The first day back some of the guys began calling him a sissy. At first Heath felt hurt, but then realized they were merely seeing his true self. After that, whenever they teased him about being a sissy, he smiled and said thank you. By the end of the week the teasing had died out as it wasn't any fun to tease someone who liked it.

The sessions with Dr. Mento continued, except Dan had bluntly refused to go to the family session during the holiday break. Jill, DJ and Heath voiced their concern for him but there was little they could do as he refused to listen to anyone.

*****
February 5, 2006

The Super bowl, Dan hated the Steelers and they had won. Already drunk, he threw an empty beer bottle through the TV, then stormed out. Jumping in his pick-up, he took off.

*****
March 6, 2006

Jill had feared Dan might leave, but never expected him to just disappear. Fortunately, Dan didn’t like paying the bills and gladly let Jill do handle that task. All he was interested in was having enough pocket money. Wisely, Jill had set up new bank accounts and credit cards in her name. She’d gone to his employer to have his direct deposit paycheck put in the new account. When he was summoned to the personnel office, he never questioned why his signature was needed for a direct deposit change. He simply signed the form and left.

When Dan didn’t come home the day after the super bowl, Jill contacted his parents to see if they’d heard from him. They were not happy their son had run out on his family. But at that point they still knew nothing about Heather. The next day when Dan still hadn’t come home, Jill transferred all but one hundred dollars out of their joint accounts and had their joint credit cards shut down. She also contacted her lawyer who placed restraining order against the mortgage holder to keep Dan from accessing the home’s equity as well as to limit his claim against the home by defining the date she took over the payments because he had run off.

Over the years, Jill had kept the credit cards up to date. While they lived frugally, they never wanted for anything and Jill was able to wisely invest ten percent of Dan’s yearly earnings, an average of eight thousand five hundred dollars a year for the eleven years of their marriage. Dan never suspected she could save that much. What he didn’t realize was that Jill’s late father had been an investment broker and had taught Jill well. As a teenager, he had set her up with a major brokerage house and she became an active day-trader in the stock market, one of the few continually successful ones. After their marriage, it became the perfect job for a stay at home wife and mom. With the inheritance and insurance she’d gotten from her parent’s estate, she was virtually set for life. Since then her portfolio had quadrupled. Her investments were worth over fifteen million.

*****
April 1, 2006

Heather turned 8. Heath was only around to attend school. No one had heard from Dan, not even his parents. Grandpa and Grandma had cut off all ties to Jill, DJ, and Heath. They refused to acknowledge Heather even existed. Still, the birthday girl was happy. School was going well, and while Heath was now on good terms with his classmates, he was afraid to get too close out of fear they’d learn his secret.

Dr. Mento had another psychologist verify her diagnosis that Heath was indeed gender dysphoric.
Dr. Mento and Jill were working with the local parochial school to have Heather enrolled for the upcoming school year. The lawyer had already had a hearing in family court to have Heath’s name changed to Heather.

*****
April 16, 2006

Heather proudly walked into their new church in her Easter finery. She simply adored the way her petticoats rustled as she moved. Her lace topped anklets and white patent leather Mary Janes just added to her utter girlishness. DJ chuckled at the way she flounced as she walked. He was glad his sister was finally happy.

*****
June 6, 2006

The last day of the school year. When Heath arrived home with his straight A report card, he rushed to his bedroom to strip out of his hated boy clothes for the last time. Heath officially ceased to exist that day as the court had established that day as the official transition from Heath to Heather. She was absolutely delighted.

*****
July 4, 2006

No one had heard hide nor hair from Dan. Relations with Grandpa and Grandma had thawed a tiny bit. They realized they were cutting off their nose to spite their face. While they still wanted nothing to do with Jill or heath, they didn’t want to lose contact with DJ. Grandma made the phone call to invite DJ to join the family picnic. She made it clear Jill and Heath were not invited.

Despite DJ’s anger at their slight, Heather convinced him to go to at least give them a chance. DJ agreed to attend for the sole purpose of trying to convince them Heather was not a monster.

Two hours after he was dropped off, DJ stood at the street in front of his grandparents waiting for Jill to pick him up. When the family had started to belittle his sister, he told them off in no uncertain terms.

*****
August 29, 2006

Heather loved her school uniform. The snug sleeveless scoop necked pale pink and light green plaid jumper fit snugly about her torso while the gently flaring knee length pleated skirt swung saucily in response to her tiniest movement. The soft pale pink nylon blouse had a wide Peter Pan collar trimmed in delicate lace that lay atop the shoulder straps of the jumper. The flaring two inch cuffs of the blouse's long billowing sleeves were edged by the same fragile lace. Pale pink nylon kneesox emerged from her T-strap black patent leather shoes. Her bouncy ponytail was secured by intertwined ribbons, one of pale pink and the other of light green, formed into a bow to complete the matching outfit and add to her fragile girlishness.

No one who saw the beaming third grader would have ever suspected she was born male. Open and bubbly, she easily made friends amongst her new classmates. She recognized three boys in her class but they never suspected she was the maniacal terror of the football field they’d faced last fall.

The demons that had haunted Heath were mostly vanquished. An occasional nightmare was the only connection with that horrid past.

DJ still attended the public school. Given the choice of staying or transferring, he elected to stay with the understanding he could transfer at a later date. He’d only lost two of his buddies when they came over during the summer and discovered Heather. After they had insulted Heather, he gave them the chance to leave on their own. When they saw his fury, they wisely accepted.

DJ took a little heat, but sloughed it off. Everyone knew Heath was weird and that DJ was all boy, do the hassles quickly died off.

*****
October 31, 2006

Heather and her best friend, Chrissie McGuire, excitedly planned their Halloween costumes. The new hit TV show, 'Hannah Montana', on the Disney Channel was the inspiration for the girl's costumes. Hannah Montana/Miley Stewart, played by Miley Cyrus, and her best pal Lola Luftnagle/Lilly Truscott, played by Emily Osment, were their role models. They decided to go with the show's stage personae because they were better known and more flamboyant. Chrissie took the role of blonde haired Hannah while Heather took the role of the best friend, pink haired Lola. In the morning Jill drove 'Lola' to the McGuire home to pick up 'Hannah' to take both girls to school. Helen, Chrissie's mom, would pick the girls up after school so the pair could go trick-or-treating. Since it was a school night Jill would pick Heather up at 9:30 pm.

At school the girls had a great time and their costumes drew a lot of compliments. After school they excitedly chattered non-stop on the trip to the McGuire home.

DJ and his buddies decided to go trick-or-treating as St. Louis Cardinals baseball players since they had just clinched the World Series.

Jill would hold down the fort at home greeting the trick-or-treaters that came to the house.

It seemed like it would be a fun night for all.

In the quiet suburban neighborhood where the Waters lived most homes had some sort of Halloween decorations ranging from simple to quite elaborate. The sidewalks were full of costumed kids and accompanying parents as they went door to door. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the evening.

Then at 7:oo pm all hell broke loose. Seemingly out of no where a fairly new Titan Series Mack Truck roared up to the quiet street belching heavy smelly smoke from it's twin stacks. The behemoth presented an imposing attitude as it sat in the intersection repeatedly gunning it's engine. The powerful big block diesel easily supplied the torque required for long distance hauling of heavy loads. The long-hood and heavy duty transmission, suspension, axles and chassis meant it could easily take on most jobs. But the designers never expected it to be used as it would be this night.

The driver popped the clutch during a rev and momentarily spun the eight drive tires creating a nasty burning rubber stench that quickly filled the cool night air. The big truck swerved off the street and straddled the sidewalk, sending screaming panicking trick-or treaters scrambling for their lives. The four or five inch diameter trees lining the street were no match for the tons of steel as those that didn't snap off were simply uprooted. The fences and mail boxes the truck encountered basically splintered. Vehicles parked in driveways close to the street were simply knocked out of the way. When the truck reached the end of the block, it made a wide U-turn and rampaged up the sidewalk on the other side of the street. The roaring engine drowned most sounds.

Most trick-or-treaters made it to safety inside the nearest home. Once it had cleared the sidewalks, the big truck roared down the street smashing into the cars parked along the curb. First clearing one side, then the other. It pushed the vehicles forward, crushing them together in a pile blocking the intersection at the either end of the street. Flames erupted as gas tanks were split open and sparks from the rending steel ignited the fumes. In less than five minutes, the peaceful block looked like a bizarre scene from 'Apocalypse Now'

Not content with carnage already created, the big truck began going into the driveways smashing cars, trucks, and SUVs parked further in the driveways into and sometimes through the homes. Then he turned and drove down the block through the yards smashing the front porches like the were match sticks. Again he went down one side and up the other.

By this time the first policeman had arrived. Upon seeing the scope of the carnage and the big truck effortlessly crushing porches, he called for all available back-up and heavy weapons as he realized his nine mm handgun would be of little use against the behemoth. The sirens of the fire company wailed as they rushed to extinguish the fires. Wisely, the cop on scene ordered them to stay back.

The big Mack Titan continued to roar up and down the block destroying everything in sight. Several homes were ablaze, ignited by electrical shorts or candles. Most people fled out their back doors and ran through the yards of their back alley neighbors.

Paramedics and ambulances were on the scene in the adjoining parallel blocks to treat the injured. More police arrived, armed with AR 15 rifles. They dispersed to either end of the block and set up firing positions. When all were in place they began trying to shut the big rig down. The driver, realizing he was being targeted, made a break for it. Not through the street where the snipers were, but through a house. With a roar and with thick black smoke belching from his stacks, he ripped head on into a house.

The two and half story brick home immediately began to collapse atop the truck. Barely hindered by the debris the big truck churned right on through. The weight of the truck and the torque from it's twin axle eight wheel drive tore up the floor. The nose and front wheels had breeched the back wall of the home when with an almighty crash the floor collapsed into the basement. The back of the truck rode the crumbling floor as it crashed down. Already heavily damaged from the myriad crashes, the massive diesel fuel tanks crashed into the top of the concrete basement wall as the nose lifted skyward. The tanks ruptured and the everything went up in flames. A few moments after the final crash, a screaming man fully engulfed in flames climbed from the burning cab and leapt to the ground. Madly he ran in circles about the yard before blindly running back into the inferno he caused. The time was 7:30 pm. It was the longest half hour anyone could remember.

The normally quiet block had been turned into a mini disaster area as fires raged everywhere. The fire fighters did their best and called in five alarms for additional help. But the fires were too intense and in too close proximity. The water pressure to the hydrants tapped out due to over demand. All they could do was try to knock down the smaller blazes and try to keep the larger ones from spreading to neighboring homes.

State Police, sheriffs, constables, fire police, were all called out to assist and control the crowds. The Red Cross set up aid stations to collect people and reunite families. It was midnight before everyone was accounted for.

Jill was devastated. The back end of the Mack truck sat in what had been her basement. The house and everything in it was a total loss. It was 10:00 pm until she located DJ. He and his friends had been on another street when the carnage began. Jill cuddled her child as she used her cell phone to call the McGuires. The tragedy was all over the TV. The news media was already calling it the MACK ATTACK, much to the dismay of McDonalds and Mack Trucks. Helen readily agreed to keep Heather overnight and offered to put up Jill and DJ. Heather was in tears to learn the tragedy had happened on her block but was relieved to know her mom and DJ were okay. Sam McGuire drove to a staging point that had been established for friends and family to pick up the displaced. Jill and DJ were glad to have a place to go.

*****
Epilogue

Jill, Heather, and DJ had settled into a furnished apartment and were re-establishing their lives.

The tally was horrendous. One child and two adults were killed or died of their injuries. Nine children and seven adults were injured bad enough to require hospitalization. Five cars, six minivans, five pick-ups and nine SUVs were destroyed. Six homes were total losses due to the fires. The other eight homes on the block suffered major damage.

The Mack truck had been stolen from a truck stop on an interstate highway eighteen miles from the site of the carnage. By the time they recovered the body of the driver, there was little left to identify the mad man who had caused such havoc.

The truck stop where the Mack Truck had been stolen called a salvage yard to haul away an abandoned beat-up pick-up truck left on the back lot. Needing to get the title for the vehicle, the salvage operator contacted the State Department of Motor Vehicles. The truck had expired plates and was registered to Daniel Waters.



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