or Alex = Lexi
by Jennifer Sue
Alex Dennis liked school, which was quite unusual for an 11 year old junior jock. Most of his classmates were at least slightly jealous, the girls for his intelligence and thick shoulder length red hair, the boys for his athletic prowess. Another unusual aspect was that none of his classmates disliked him since he never strutted about lording over the less physically and mentally adept. In fact, Alex was more than willing to help classmates when they were having difficulty with academics or sports.
Alex played Pop Warner Football, Little League Baseball and wrestled in a youth league. In every endeavor, he excelled. As a running back he set league records for yardage and goals, as a second baseman he held records for home runs, RBIs and stolen bases as well as a .765 batting average, as a wrestler he’d never been beaten.
No one wondered where Alex got his talent. Laura Dennis, his mother, had been the star of the school tennis team, head cheerleader, Home Coming Queen and class valedictorian. Gary Dennis, his father, had been the school’s uber jock being a star baseball player and leading the football team to two consecutive State championships. Naturally they dated all through high school and carried on dating through college since they attended the same university on scholarships, hers academic and his sports. Their expected life derailed during spring break of their senior year. Partying with their friends in Cancun, they all had a bit too much to drink. Gary and Laura were riding tandem on a jet ski with another couple when they both turned to jump the other’s wake, colliding at full throttle. While no one was killed, all 4 were grievously injured. The spectacular pro football career Gary had envisioned was wiped out just weeks before the NFL draft where he would have been a top pick.
Thankful to be alive, Laura and Gary recovered from their injuries and married. Gary and Laura easily landed a teaching and coaching jobs in the school district they had attended. Gary Jr. was born ten months later, Dave and Alex each came on at three year intervals. The family couldn’t help but be sports and outdoor activity oriented. Laura continued her athletic interests by coaching the school’s girls tennis team and the cheerleading squad. In addition to coaching the school’s guy sports, Gary played American Legion Baseball with his team making the regional playoffs each year. The boys were taught to play soccer before they could talk in whole sentences. As soon as each became age eligible, they joined teams. At every opportunity, the family went to every game and supported the athleticism of the member playing.
Junior and Davy were powerfully built like their father while Alex took after his mother, a pretty, petite woman. Having two older brothers, Alex didn’t have much choice to grow up tough. Since he was quite slender compared to his hulking brothers, he had little choice but to become quick and agile, as well as wise. By the time he was 6 Alex was able to evade the normal sibling roughhousing by pitting the older boys against each other while staying out of their way.
Laura and Gary noted the sibling interplay. Gary let it go until someone was hurt while Laura tried to cut it off before that point. Larry guided the boys into playing positions that allowed their abilities to shine. Junior and Davy moved through the bulkier, brawny sports tracks while Alex was shunted to the agility and finesse avenues. The older duo was obnoxiously competitive about nearly everything while Alex did his best to stay out of the spotlight. When forced into head to head competitions with his big brothers, Alex usually goaded them into battling each other while he quietly slipped past them to win. Even then, Alex was able to convince them they’d lost because the other big bro had got in the way.
Gary could not get done bragging about his talented sons. Junior dominated the defensive line of the high school varsity squad while Davy similarly dominated the junior high squad. Alex was poised to be the best running back the school had ever seen. In addition to the sports, hiking, biking, camping, hunting, and fishing were regular family activities. The couple were avid outdoors people so it wasn’t unusual for them to go camping in the middle of winter. Each of the boys mastered basic survival skills by age six. On the surface, Alex seemed to fit in seamlessly with his family
However, reality was a bit different. While Alex was friendly with everyone, his classmates, teachers, and parents never realized he didn’t have a single person he could call a friend. While he was always a team player, outside of practice or games, he didn’t hang with his teammates. Even when the team went for treats after a game, Alex stayed in the back of the line and when no one was looking quietly slipped over to the side of those who were already enjoying their treat so he wouldn’t have to rehash their game. When the family watched another member involved in a sports activity, rather than cheer them on the plucky boy preferred to fade into the background where he could read or sketch without the others being aware of his non-sports oriented activities. Unfortunately Alex had little quality time for his non-sports interests since the family spent most of their time in sports or outdoor activities.
Since he’d been immersed in sports and outdoors activities since birth, Alex had little choice but to pick up appropriate know-how and skills. In whatever activity the family engaged, the small boy proved he was capable, tough and resilient. However, the older Alex became, the more he felt out of sync with his family. While the rest of the family reveled in heavy action and statistics, Alex found them increasingly meaningless. Knowing player stats seemed ridiculous. In fact, the older he became, the more he thought his family’s obsession with macho sports was down right stupid. The main reason he enjoyed school so much was because it got him away from his family’s obsession with sports.
Early on Alex realized he was out of step with his family. While he behaved in accordance with their expectations, his heart was never truly in those actions. It was only when he began kindergarten that he realized there were other ways of living. As in any school, his classmates quickly evolved cliques. Alex was superficially in with the young jocks. There were a few tough guys who disdained authority, and a few who were branded as being sissies. The girls had the tomboys, the girly girls, and the wall flowers. As the years passed, the cliques flexed and grew adding nerds and clowns. Alex nominally stayed with the jocks but since he disdained their arrogance he was on the periphery. Whenever an opportunity occurred to assist a classmate, he did so. Not once did he engage in teasing or bullying, in fact when he saw it, he moved in to disrupt it.
While he was a quiet youth, Alex was not mousey. With his sports and outdoors experience, he was quietly self-confident in most situations. Realizing he did not fit in with his family or classmates, he watched his classmates unconsciously seeking an alternative. Physically he was a jock while intellectually he blended with the nerds, That dichotomy he could handle. What disturbed him was that emotionally he was drawn to the nurturing girly girls and the associated sissies. They seemed to be happy and content most of the time, things he lacked and truly envied. While their attitudes appealed to him, it went against his tough guy upbringing, leaving him confused. Once he learned to read, books became an easy form of escape. Art, in particular drawing and sketching, proved an outlet for his frustration.
By age eight Alex began carrying a backpack with a book or two as well as sketch pads and pencils. He covered these with snacks and fruit box drinks. When the family went to cheer on a member playing a game, Alex slipped back a bit out of sight and read or sketched. Junior and Davy were always so into the activity they never noticed Alex disengage. Gary and Laura never noticed because they were always wrapped up in coaching or encouraging whoever was playing. Even on their outdoors adventures Alex always carried his backpack.
Super Bowl Sunday, day 0
The 16'x24' basement family room was a sports enthusiast’s man cave nirvana. Most of one wall was the TV projection screen, twelve feet wide and five feet tall. The Bose surround sound system was top of the line. A deluxe wet bar was along the opposite wall against the staircase. A powder room, laundry room, and utility room were on the other side of the stairs. It had become a yearly tradition that Laura, Gary, Junior, and Davy had a few of their best friends over for the event. Laura wisely had purchased party platters from the supermarket so she and her friends could watch the game while seeing the food and drinks flowed.
Alex always volunteered to stay upstairs and greet the guests as they arrived, greeting them and directing them to the basement. In that way he avoided the relentless discussions of the strong and weak points of the opposing teams while the pre-game hype spewed from the TV. While he waited, he read, not even going down to the man cave to fill a plate with food. Instead he raided the kitchen. When the last of the guests arrived and the game started he flipped on the upstairs TV to watch a special on the National Geographic channel about Canadian winter wildlife. Pulling out a sketch pad he drew during the commercials. The cheers and groans echoing from the basement made him shake his head.
It was only when the saddened throng emerged from the depths after their team lost that anyone realized Alex had not been watching the game. The first ones up saw Alex had fallen asleep watching the NG special. His sketchbook and pencils were spread on the coffee table and he was sound asleep sitting on the floor with his legs under the table and his back against the sofa. The upset grousing of those leaving woke him, but not in time to keep his family from seeing him. They and their friends realized Alex had not been watching the game... which in their lives was sacrilege. The inebriated adults glared and shook their heads while the teenagers openly laughed as Alex scrambled to hide his sketches. The storm didn’t start until all the guests had left.
“What the hell are you doing?” Gary roared as he turned toward his youngest. “The biggest freaking game of the year and you sit up here watching crap and drawing? Do you have any idea how much you’ve embarrassed us? This family has a reputation to uphold! What the hell is wrong with you?”
Alex bravely weathered the verbal assault as he hastily tried to slip his sketch books and pencils into his backpack.
“He’s drawing again,” Junior snarled seeing what Alex was trying to hide.
“Drawing??? Again??? How long has that been going on?” Gary glared as he realized Alex must have been doing a lot of drawing behind his back for quite some time. “I won’t have one of my sons go sissy on me! They go into the garbage, NOW!”
“NO!” Alex responded as he closed the backpack and hid it behind his back as he stood to face his irate family.
Everyone was stunned by his disrespect. None of the boys had ever dared stand up to Gary.
“Why you defiant ungrateful bastard,” Gary snarled as he stepped around the sofa.
Alex backed away keeping the coffee table between his dad and him.
“Drawing is what I like to do,” Alex spit out. “I’ve played on every team you signed me up for. I always did my best when I played because that’s what you wanted! But did you ever ask me if I wanted to play? NO, not once! It was always ‘I signed you up for soccer’, or football, or wrestling, or baseball, or whatever it was you wanted me to play. I never protested. I never slacked off. Whatever you told me to do, I did. I only draw when you don’t have me wrapped up in some dumb sport I NEVER like! In fact, I hate sports! They’re stupid! I never want to be on a team again!” Alex realized he was saying too much even as the words spilled forth.
“Stupid? Sports is stupid?” Gary exploded, his anger fueled by the alcohol he’d imbibed during the game. “Where the hell did you get that insane idea? Sports are what makes America Great!”
“Great! You think sports make America great!” Alex almost laughed in derision knowing he’d already stepped over the line so he went for broke. “American sports are to keep the poor masses entertained and distracted so the government can do what it wants. American sports, especially the Stupid Bowl, are no different from the Roman coliseum games but with less blood and death! Sports is nothing more than a new version of ‘Bread and Circuses’.”
Gary was fuming. “You scrawny whelp. Sports holds us together as a people! It over-rides concerns of race or religion. The Super Bowl is the prime example of what makes us great!”
“The Stupid Bowl is the dumbest game of all,” Alex snapped back. “And I can prove it! You just spent six hours watching the biggest rip off in the world! The pre-game show, the post-game show, and the so-called game itself! Stop and think for a moment. A game of football lasts an hour, four 15 minute quarters, so why does it take three hours to watch? Because for the most part, even when the clock is running, the ball isn’t even in play! You always make us sit and watch the pro games. Well, this year I used a stop watch to clock the time the ball is actually in play. I timed all ten play-off games from the time the ball was snapped until a ref blew the play dead. The longest the ball was in play in any of the games was 12 minutes and 8 seconds... that was the LONGEST! They spent an average of 18 minutes and 42 seconds showing replays, 150% of the actual play time! There is no surprise the commercials took up an hour. Between 70 to 75 minutes of the total game air time is spent on shots of players huddling, standing at the line of scrimmage, the coaches on the sidelines or just generally milling about between snaps. What’s even worse is that the 12 minutes of actual play time is split in half between the offence and defense lines. That means each line only plays about 6 minutes. The teams that play in the Stupid Bowl are playing their 26th game of the year. At 6 minutes a game for 26 games each line plays 156 minutes, a bit over 2 ½ hours per year. On top of that not every member of a line plays each time. The better players are raking in millions of dollars a year... for what? It’s just plain stupid!”
Laura, Gary, Junior, and Dave were spitting fire. They didn’t want to believe their passion for the super bowl and football in general was the farce Alex laid out. Moreover, for the guys, their very manhood was being challenged by the heresy. They simply could not accept such a slur on their neo-god.
The boys had circled behind Alex so he couldn’t flee as Gary reached out to grab him. Alex stepped back into the unyielding grasps of his brothers. Gary snagged his youngest and yanked him to the sofa. Gary sat down heavily pulling Alex across his lap. While holding Alex by the collar with his left hand he raised his right hand to lay on the bare-handed spanks.
It wasn’t often the boys were spanked but when it occurred, it was fierce and memorable. It had become a show of toughness to see how long the hard swats could be endured without crying out. Junior currently held the record at 11. Alex bit his lip to hold out back his yelps of pain. He wasn’t trying to beat the record, he was determined not to give his father the satisfaction. The first 5 swats were so hard the older boys winced in sympathy. Neither could understand how their little brother held his silence. By the tenth swat, Gary’s hand was on fire but Alex remained silent. The brothers were stunned when the count passed 12... 13... 14.... 15...
“ENOUGH,” Laura shouted. She could see the twin rivers of tears flowing from Alex’s eyes, but it was the blood that started dripping from his mouth that spurred her into action.
Gary stayed his hand and looked to Laura wondering why she’d stopped him. It took a moment to realize she was looking at Alex’s face. Glancing down he too saw the blood.
“Enough!” Laura repeated. “Alex, to the kitchen, now! The rest of you get downstairs and clean up, then we’ll all head to bed.”
“Alex should help us clean,” Junior protested as Alex struggled to his feet while glaring daggers at Gary. The sight of the tears and blood on Alex’s face stopped further protest.
Gary, massaging his tender hand, and the boys silently headed down to clean the mess as Laura led Alex to the kitchen to tend his nearly bitten through lip.
Alex didn’t utter a sound as she cleaned the wound and applied an antibiotic ointment. Laura had no idea what to say. When the treatment was done she pointed upstairs. Alex accepted the silent command and scurried to his bedroom, dreading what he’d face tomorrow. Laura joined the rest of the family down in the basement. Until Laura joined them their conversation was griping about their team’s loss with no mention of Alex. They worked silently once Laura joined them, lost in their thoughts about Alex.
Finally Gary stopped. “You know, something has me thinking. Why didn’t Alex invite anyone over?”
“Alex never invites anyone over,” Junior snorted. “Heck, he never even goes over to the house of his friends.”
“Yeah, that’s because he doesn’t have any friends,” Davy added with a hint of disgust.
“What do you mean he doesn’t have any friends?” Gary asked with a frown as he looked at Laura who was as surprised as he was.
The older boys stopped, looked at their parents and shrugged. “He doesn’t have any friends,” Davy stated as a matter of fact.
“Yeah,” Junior agreed. “Haven’t you noticed that outside of practice or a game, he never hangs with his teammates? Heck, when the teams he’s on goes for treats he always hangs back at the end of the line. Then when half the guys have their treats he slips over to where they’re at to make it look like he already finished his treat. I can’t believe you never noticed!”
“I can’t believe I’ve never noticed,” Laura declared with a bit of shame.
Gary shook his head and mumbled. “Something’s wrong with that boy.”
Junior and Davy simply nodded their agreement. When they finally finished cleaning, they headed up to bed. Alex had already turned in but could not fall asleep. He was listening for his father to join his mom in bed so he could eavesdrop on their conversation.
It had been 3 years since Alex had realized he could plan ahead as his parents always discussed schedules before going to sleep. The other side of the back wall of his closet was the master bedroom wall where his parents had their bed. Being intelligent, he’d made a stethoscope utilizing a set of ear buds hollowed out with a piece of 1/4 inch plastic tubing attached. The other end of the two tubes had two inch pieces of a straw jammed in them, then hot-glued side by side to a cardboard circle. A third straw in the end of a third longer plastic tube was hot-glued to the cardboard directly opposite the other two straws and about a 1/4 inch apart. The space between the tubes was walled off by successive layers of hot-glue. A thick piece of plastic cut from a gallon milk jug to match the cardboard circle was glued on top of the straws to seal the open space between the three straws. Then he’d made a listening cone out another piece of milk jug plastic. The cone was three inches across and three inches deep, with the pointed tip snipped off. Another short piece of a straw in the third piece of plastic tubing was hot-glued to the snipped tip of the cone. Then he took a razor knife and carefully cut a six inch square in the drywall at the back of his closet being careful to angle the cut so it could only fall into the closet. Carefully he cut off one corner of the removed drywall just big enough to allow the plastic tube to slip through. The cone was then hot-glued to the inside of the drywall that was the wall of his parents bedroom. Then he glued the section of drywall he’d removed back in place.
Alex could tell by the squeak of the bed when his dad sat down. Alex scrambled from bed and slipped his stethoscope in place, able to clearly hear his parents speak.
When Gary settled into bed beside Laura they began to discuss Alex having no friends, expressing their mutual concerns about their youngest. They agreed they had to take firm and if needed harsh action to correct him.
Alex was understandably upset by what he heard.
Laura just shook her head. “Now that I think back I should’ve known that he has no close friends. The few times I tried asking him about his friends he always managed to sidetrack me. We know he likes to read. I guess he likes to draw like he was doing tonight. That explains why his teachers have always commented about what a tremendous natural artist he is during the parent-teacher conferences.”
“An artist?” Gary spouted. “Artists starve during their lives. Their work only becomes valuable after they’re dead. Besides, they’re also mostly faggots or at best sissies. I won’t allow my son to be an artist!”
Alex bristled at that comment.
“At least Alex has never said he wants to be an artist,” Laura sighed. “But his teachers have commented that he is a kind, gentle and sensitive boy who willingly helps his classmates. Maybe we should give him space to decide what he wants to do. You do know he was right about us never asking the boys if they wanted to play sports.”
“I know I’m a macho chauvinist,” Gary sighed. “A father should never have to ask his sons if they want to play sports. While I’ve learned to respect artistic abilities I’ve seen plenty of kind, gentle, sensitive guys who are teased and hounded as a faggot and rarely succeed in life. Sports toughen boys.”
“Yes they do,” Laura agreed. “Alex certainly proved he’s tough during the spanking. But maybe we could at least cut back on some of the sports and let him explore his other interests.”
“Yeah, like that would ever happen,” Alex huffed softly to himself.
“I simply can’t ease off on him now,” Gary declared. “I’m really disturbed that Alex stood up to me. Up to this point, none of the boys has dared to openly stand up and confront me. At seventeen we’ve been expecting a blow-up with Junior, but never with Alex. If we let him get away with disrespecting me, it’ll encourage the older boys to stand up to us too. We can’t allow that. I have to make an example of him.”
“I don’t know,” Laura sighed deeply. “I agree we need to shut down his rebellion but think we should cut him some slack. As he said, he’s always done what he’s been told to do.”
“We can’t afford to go easy on him,” Gary huffed. “Alex has greater sports potential than Junior or Davy. Don’t get me wrong, they’re both good and should be able to land athletic scholarships. But let’s face it, neither is leadership material. Alex has what it takes to be a leader. To learn that Alex hates sports boggles my mind.”
“Darling, think about when Alex is playing a sport,” Laura sighed as she went back over her own memories. “We’ve never seen Alex smile while playing, even when cheered by his teammates. The most he ever did was merely to nod an acknowledgment as he soldiered on.”
“Now that you mention it, I can’t recall him ever smiling,” Gary sighed. “God, what’s wrong with that boy?”
“What about how you’ve handled some of the kids that come out for sports,” Laura asked. “You’ve seen enough unhappy kids whose parents pushed them into sports when their hearts weren’t in it. You’ve aided a few by having heart to heart discussions with the parents. Yet we’ve been doing the same to Alex.”
“But those kids were a waste on the field or court,” Gary snapped back. “I did it as much for the team as I did for them. Alex is not a waste on the field. We simply can’t let him throw that away. We need to stand firm. We can not let him stop playing sports. We simply can’t let him off for standing up to me. If we give in even a tiny bit, it’ll give Junior and Davy encouragement to stand up to us. He needs to be severely punished and put back in his place.”
“I guess so,” Laura agreed. “Alex knows he’s in hot water. Let’s spend tomorrow thinking about how to handle this. We can announce his punishment after supper tomorrow night.
The brief surge of hope he’d had after his mom suggested cutting him some slack had been crushed. Alex was angry as he returned to his bed. So angry he couldn’t sleep. All he could think about was his parent’s anger, not to mention the hatred he felt from his brothers for dissing football. Alex knew he shouldn’t have thrown the reality of pro football in their face, but he’d buckled under to their obsession for too long. Being called a faggot or sissy for doing what he liked hurt so bad he’d overcome his fears and let them have it. He had little doubt that he’d be severely taken to task and that his precious sketches would be destroyed.
After tossing and turning for an hour he sighed and did something he hadn’t done in years. Slipping out of bed he knelt and folded his hands. “God, I know I haven’t talked to you for a while. It’s just that when I did pray, you never answered so I stopped. Now, I really need your help. You know what happened tonight. You know I’m in more trouble then I ever dreamed of. I need you to tell me what to do. Please, answer my prayers!”
Alex felt a bit foolish as he crawled back into bed. The family was nominally Lutheran but they only attended church at Christmas and Easter. Why should God answer his prayer when he’d abandoned God for so long? His prayers to get his parents to slack off sports had never been answered and it had led to what went down earlier. What good did prayer do if God never answered?
As he lay there tossing and turning he had a moment of clarity. Maybe God had replied to his previous prayers but he hadn’t been listening. In a moment of revelation he understood he’d never given God the chance to answer his prayers because he never took the time to listen!
Alex scrambled from bed and once more knelt by his bed with hands folded. “I’m sorry, God. I’ll listen now. With that he forced his mind to listen for God’s reply. After 10 minutes, he sighed in defeat and began to climb back in bed forlornly resigning himself to being punished. Once more he tossed and turned as he tried to think of a way out of his dilemma. Suddenly the idea of running away popped into his head. Alex knew that running away wouldn’t help. Where could an 11 year old go? How would he life? It was a dumb idea so he thrust it from his mind clearing his thoughts to listen for God’s reply. The only thing that kept popping into his mind was to run away. Each time he berated himself and cleared his thoughts again. After half an hour he sat up, startled. What if it was God who kept putting the idea of running away in his mind? That seemed to be a ridiculous answer to his prayer, but what if that WAS God’s answer? As he thought of his options he realized that while running away would be difficult, he had the survival skills to do so, but it was still a bad idea. Then he recalled watching Jesus Christ Superstar. When Jesus was praying to God to not be crucified God never answered him with a voice. Jesus stopped asking for a way out when he realized he was asking God to do what he wanted, not what God wanted! Not my will but thy will! God was answering his prayer by popping ‘run away’ into his mind? The only choice real choice was to run away from home. That WAS God’s answer to his prayer!
With quiet determination he got up and emptied his toy safe taking the $387.00 he’d accumulated from Christmas gifts and unspent allowance. Next he picked up the notebook in which he kept his favorite drawings. Then he dressed in his winter camping gear. Sneaking downstairs he went into the kitchen and found a big plastic ziploc bag to cover his notebook. Then heading into the garage he raided the family camping gear. A tarp and rope would serve as a tent. His sleeping bag was waterproof. Each pocket of his pants, vest, and jacket were stuffed with supplies. He had rations for three weeks, water purifying pills, a camp hatchet, folding trench shovel, and most importantly, his prized SwissChamp XVAT. This had eighty tools, nearly all of the tools a person could need in any situation including a digital clock with alarm and countdown, an altimeter in meter/feet, a barometer, a countdown timer and a thermometer °C/ °F. A collapsible fishing tackle kit was strapped to the bike frame. A small heavy duty radio and a hand held GPS as well as a battery camp lantern were packed along with a portable solar panel charger. Then he bundled everything up and secured it to his GT Aggressor mountain bike.
Returning to the house he raided his dad’s safe taking another $300.00. Then he did the unthinkable... hit the gun safe for the 9mm semi-auto Beretta 90 Series Pistol, model 92A1 USA. This was the gun he used when the family went target shooting. Its one-piece captive recoil-spring assembly minimized chances of spring loss and made disassembly and assembly easier when cleaning. An internal recoil buffer reduced receiver stress and kick. It had Black plastic grip panels and a corrosion-resistant finish. The pistol had three seventeen round magazines. All were filled with one in the weapon, as well as 3 fifty round boxes of Speer Lawman 165-grain total-jacket bullets with clean-burning powder blend. Filling two canteens, he pushed his loaded bike outside and peddled off. It was 2:15 in the morning.
The night air was a crisp 20 °F and clear. Knowing he had to stay off the roads but confident that few people would be out this early after the Stupid Bowl he warily made his way down the quiet streets for three miles. His destination was the local Conrail train tracks in West Lawn. Once there he unsnapped the Bentley Railbike kit from the frame and pinned it into place. His dad had ordered the plans and the boys had helped build units for the family bikes. Once the railbike attachment was in place he hesitated. He could go east towards Philadelphia or west towards Harrisburg. Which route would be better? Closing his eyes he bowed his head.
“God, tell me which way to go,” he softly whispered and waited for the answer to come to him. The answer came after only a few seconds... west. With a smile Alex set his bike on the tracks, adjusted the rig for proper fit, and took off heading west down the tracks by 2:45am. The 26 x 2 tires combined with 24 gears made riding the rails quite easy. Since there were no steep inclines, Alex fell into the groove and was comfortably pedaling along covering 15 miles per hour which included a 5 minute break. Only once did a he encounter a train. Since it was night the only illumination came from the heavens so the light of the locomotive was easily visible well before it illuminated the tracks Alex was riding. It took all of 15 seconds to stop and pull the bike with the Bentley rail attachment off the tracks. It took another five seconds to lay the bike flat and lie down beside the bike on the side of the railbed.
As he rode he thought of how God was answering his prayers. His heart soared. God wasn’t speaking to him in a deep, commanding voice, but by simply listening Alex could feel the answer emerge from his mind. As he rode he prayed for God to direct his path. Withing seconds the response came to him: avoid mountains and steep hills by keeping to the flatter near coastal terrain which for now meant heading south.
The tracks Alex was riding paralleled US 422 as it headed west from Reading. About three miles past Hershey, 422 ended at US 322. The tracks paralleled that road to Harrisburg. Alex reached the outskirts of the state capital a bit after 5:00am. There he switched to the tracks that crossed and then headed south paralleling the Susquehanna River.
As the sky began to brighten with the coming dawn he was riding past the New Cumberland Army Depot so he began to look for a place to crash. Choosing a forested area about 75 feet wide between the tracks and the river he stopped. The Army Depot was on the other side of the tracks past about 50 feet of forest. Dismounting the tracks he unhooked the rail kit and wheeled the bike into the underbrush. Using trees and broken limbs he hung the tarp to make a snug shelter big enough for the bike and him. Tired, he crawled inside, thanked God for his replies and slept. He’d rode 63 miles that night.
Monday, day 1
The school district had learned having classes the day after the Super Bowl was a waste with high absenteeism and sleepy kids. The day became a teacher’s in-service workshop and the kids were free to veg out. Laura and Gary rose at their normal time and prepared to head off to school letting the boys sleep in. The boys were old enough to fend for themselves.
Junior and Davy stumbled out of bed just before noon. They joked as they ate wondering what their dad would do to Alex when they came home. Once fed, they bundled up and separately headed off to hang out with friends.
It was 4:30 by the time Laura and Gary arrived home. They weren’t worried when they found the house empty. They correctly figured Junior and Davy were out with friends but incorrectly assumed Alex was out doing his own thing. The parents had discussed Alex at every opportunity that day, trying to decide how to handle the situation. Laura was all for letting Alex choose his own activities. Gary reluctantly agreed not to trash the sketches and to begrudgingly allow his hobby to continue. The matter of never joining another team was the main area of disagreement.
Davy arrived home a bit before 5:00pm and Junior 20 minutes later. Laura had supper on the stove and the table set. By the time the meal was ready there was still no sign of Alex and she began to worry.
“Do you boys have any idea where Alex is?” Laura asked the boys.
“We didn’t even see him today,” Junior replied.
“His bike was gone when we headed out so he’s probably out somewhere drawing the sunset,” Davy dissed the younger boy.
“After last night I guess he’s afraid to come home,” Gary sighed. “Let’s eat, he can have the leftovers. We’ll give him some space.”
Except for the two trains that rumbled by on the tracks, Alex had slept soundly. It was 4:12pm when the last train passed so he decided to stay up. By 5:00pm he finished eating. Slowly he packed his gear and tried to relax as he waited for nightfall. Once more he sought God’s advice about a suitable time to depart. The answer came quickly: by waiting until 8:00pm most people would be indoors minimizing any chance of being seen.
As he waited he thought about what he’d done the previous night. Not only standing up to his family but running away. Part of him wanted to turn around and go home but an even bigger part knew he could never go back to the unhappy life he’d lived. This was the first opportunity in his hectic life, masquerading as the jock his family expected and secretly squeezing in a few precious moments for himself, that he allowed himself to think about his sorry life. Pandora’s box was opened and the horror he’d repressed and denied sprang out, never to be forced back inside. It was quite sobering to realize that if his circumstances came down to a choice, he would prefer to die rather than returning home. While he certainly didn’t want to die, he instinctually understood he had to live his life for himself. God was giving him the answers as he needed them so he decided to simply put his trust in the Lord. The problem of determining what he wanted in life... something he’d always shied away from thinking about, was also in God’s hands. At the same time he understood God wanted him to make the decisions. With God by his side, making the right decisions would become clear. Checking his watch he saw it was 8:00pm. Soon he was once more on the rails heading south to warmer climes.
Back home by 8:00pm the parents were becoming worried. It had been dark for nearly two hours with no sign of Alex. Finally Laura asked, “Do you boys know where Alex hung out?”
No one had the slightest idea. Since they knew he had no friends they didn’t even have anyone they could call. The only place they could think he might be was the Berkshire Mall, about three miles away. All three boys regularly rode their bikes there. Laura stayed home while Gary took the boys to the mall where they spread out and searched.
The Mall had closed with no sign of Alex so Gary and the boys returned home. When there was still no sign of Alex when they got home, everyone became quite concerned.
Frustrated and worried, Laura broke down in tears. “This is our fault! Sports, sports, sports, that’s all we think about! Alex was right... we NEVER ask anyone about joining a team or even deciding to go camping! We tell the boys... no, we make pronouncements as if we’re a king and queen. Then the boys, our mindless minions, simply bow to our commands. Junior and Davy might be fine with that but Alex never agreed. But since they bowed down to our wishes, he followed suit. We never even knew how much he liked drawing. How do you think he’s felt all these years hiding what he likes from us while doing what he hates because we made him do it? Then when we finally discover what he likes we call him a sissy and threaten to destroy what he’s done on his own. What if he’s killed himself? All because of our arrogance!”
Gary paled a bit but quickly recovered. “He hasn’t killed himself,” he nodded suitably chastised. “He’s just hiding out somewhere. Boys, check his room to see if anything is missing. I’ll check to see if he took anything from the garage.
Ten minutes later Laura was on the phone to report Alex had run away. The boys found his safe open and empty. Gary found the camping gear and supplies had been raided. The facts added up that Alex had run away. The police arrived in response to the 911 call. They took recent photos and gathered as much info as possible on Alex but told the family there really wasn’t a lot to be done until 24 hours had passed.
After 11 miles heading south, Alex switched to a line heading off to York 9 miles away. By 9:15pm Alex began to cautiously pedal the 2 miles through York. Fortunately, it was through industrial areas. While he saw a few scattered people, no one seemed to noticed him as he silently rolled onward. Eight miles further he passed through Spring Grove where the tracks split. Stopping for a brief break, he checked the GPS before deciding to take the left track.
Twelve miles on Alex passed into Maryland. By 1:00am, 26 miles later he was in the outskirts of Baltimore. Passing through the 20 miles of suburban Baltimore was scary but again Alex made it without incident. The chilly night air kept most people indoors and the few who were out bundled up. The steady effort of pedaling kept him comfortably warm.
Just as he left the urban area, a light rain began to fall. Fortunately his gear was waterproof but the chill still invaded his bones. At least it wasn’t snow. Six miles further he reached the Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport. When he saw a wide bridge crossing the tracks he understood God wanted him to stop there. Soon he set up camp beneath the bridge well out of the rain. Stoney Run Road crossed the bridge to link with Maryland State Route 170. The area along the tracks was forested so a campfire inside the tarp warmed the chill of the rain from his exhausted body. Seven times he’d jumped off the tracks as trains barreled by. Alex snuggled into his sleeping bag and was out. Even the passing Amtrak trains didn’t wake him. He’d traveled 94 miles that night in eight hours.
Tuesday, day 2
The authorities became a lot more concerned when they checked with the Dennis family in the morning to see if Alex had returned. No one really knew where to search Alex. The fact he was experienced in camping in all sorts of weather and knew survival skills only added to the futility everyone felt in locating him. The Dennis family tried to go about their daily routine while the authorities tried to think of where Alex might be. After all, how far could an 11 year old ride his bike without being seen? They figured he was holed up somewhere nearby. As a result, outside an Amber Alert and an APB they didn’t put a lot of effort into the search.
Upon arising mid afternoon, Alex noted it was still raining. After eating he used a plastic bag to catch some of the rain. After drinking his fill he refilled the canteens. Checking his GPS map he realized he was near Washington, DC. The train traffic had been growing since Baltimore. Soon he’d be encountering local passenger transportation. Biking the rails through DC was not really an option since he knew the route south ran into Union Station and stayed underground for a mile. His best bet was to ride through on the streets. But to do that he’d have to openly ride during the day but certainly not a weekday as a lone kid out of school would surely get him picked up. Looking about, his location under the bridge was remote yet out of the weather and still near the tracks. It would be a good place to hole up until Friday night. Then he’d ride the rails into the city in the early evening hours, hole up until nine or so Saturday morning, then ride the streets through the city. Alex prayed to ask if God approved of his plan and received a thumbs up.
With the rain Alex walked about the area under the bridge. Sitting on the southwest bank under the bridge he was about 1200 feet from the west end of runway 10. From that vantage point he watched the jets landing and taking off . Breaking his sketching supplies from his backpack he sketched the jets until it became too dark. With a sigh he crawled into his hooch.
After sleeping several hours, Alex awoke and began thinking about his situation. So far with God’s assistance he’d been lucky getting as far as he had without being spotted. Now he needed to plan what he’d do once he made it south where it was warmer. Not only that, he had to figure out how he felt and what he wanted. Why did he hate sports so much? There were no doubts in his mind that the rest of the family liked sports. Memories of being scolded and ridiculed by his father when he was smaller and had balked at participating in sports resurfaced.
“Don’t be a wuss, the ball won’t hurt you!” That had been an outright lie but he did learn that playing the ball as instructed did prevent being hurt.
“Damn it, stop crying! If you were playing the ball instead of shying away you wouldn’t have gotten hurt!” That one at least had been true. Quickly he had learned to play the ball because that was the only way he could avoid being hurt.
Crying had never been an option. “Damn it, what the hell are you tearing up for now? If you really want something to cry about, I’ll give it to you!” When that question followed by the threat was asked he’d quickly learned to stifle the burgeoning tears.
“No son of mine will behave like a damn sissy!” That hurt more than the others because he never considered himself to be a sissy. But then what was a sissy?
A sissy was a boy who didn’t like boy activities and did girly activities. According to his dad, sketching was a girly activity. Sure, he excelled at sports but not because he really wanted to do so. Being athletic had simply emerged as the way he’d protected himself by redirecting his Dad’s interest. Being good at sports but not liking it had enabled him to ghost his passion for drawing.
Still angry and confused but trusting in God to strengthen him, Alex dozed off.
Wednesday, day 3
In Pennsylvania, the Dennis family was on edge. Even Junior and Davy were worried when there was no sign of Alex.
When Alex crawled out of his hooch the sun was shining. Checking his GPS maps, he saw there was a McDonald’s a little more than a mile away. Leaving his camp intact, he removed the railbike attachment. Peddling south about 400 feet he reached a treeless area which he easily crossed to reach SR 170, better known as Aviation Boulevard. This he followed for a mile before crossing a short patch of grass to airport access roads to service the lights. From those he rode onto the BWI Trail that crossed US 95. From there he was able to get to the McDonald’s. Once inside the warmth felt good. Tapping his funds for the first time, he had a Big Breakfast. By the time he finished that, the chill was out of his bones. With nothing to do but wait until Friday, he decided to explore the airport, correctly assuming a kid his age could move about in the airport without raising undo alarms.
He spent the entire day watching and sketching people and aircraft, only leaving as dusk began settling in. He reached his camp just after full darkness. Once more he snuggled into his sleeping bag.
Thursday, day 4
Alex awoke an hour before dawn but stayed in his hooch. Once more his thoughts turned to exploring who and what he was. Was he a sissy?
It came as a shock to realize that according to the definition of ‘sissy’, he met the criteria. Okay, so he was a sissy. What was so bad about being a sissy? The ridicule and teasing of course. There were a few boys at school who fit the definition of sissy a lot more than he did! Why last year that one kindergarten kid started to come to school wearing dresses! Boy, had that created a storm! In the end Hailey was allowed to behave and dress like a girl because the shrinks said in his mind and soul he was girl and that his boy bits were simply a birth defect. So Hailey wasn’t really a sissy... he was girl. According to the Dennis family that was just messed up.
Hailey had really set off his dad and brothers. While his mom had not liked the situation, she pointed out that the boy was transitioning with medical approval and help and that his parents agreed it was best for their child to become a girl. If he still felt like a girl when he was eighteen they could do an operation to change his boy bits into girl bits. Besides, under the law, the Dennis family had to accept the boy/girl and if anyone in the family did something stupid, the parents could lose their jobs. Things had settled down after a month and this year the kid seemed to be a happy girly girl.
Happy... Alex couldn’t remember when or even if he’d ever been truly happy. Certainly never when sports were involved. Why couldn’t he be happy? His brothers were certainly happy being jocks... or were they? The only time they were happy was when they were winning or showing off their skills and abilities. If they screwed something up they got angry. If one of their teammates messed up, they’d be hounded and condemned. His dad and coaches always said “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” But reality showed that saying was only lip service. Real life was “winning is all that matters.” Every one of them was a hypocrite. Yet why were his parents and brothers so happy with sports? It just didn’t make sense.
Uneasily it became clear to him that he met the definition of a sissy. But he still didn’t feel like a sissy. By the same token he certainly didn’t feel like a jock. Although he’d spent most of his life as a jock, it had only been superficial to avoid his family’s wrath. He’d never bought into the jock life and only reluctantly comported himself in that image. With a smile Alex felt God agreed with his thoughts as he searched his soul.
So he wasn’t a macho sports guy, and even though he met the criteria for being a sissy, that didn’t fit his self image either. What else was there? No to being a boy, no to being a sissy... what did that leave... girl? But he didn’t feel like a girl. But then how did girls feel? Most girls certainly were not enthralled with sports like guys are. On top of that the very things that pointed to his fitting the definition of a sissy also fit the definition of a girl!
Okay, so what was the difference between a boy and a girl? Boys had their bits on the outside while girls had theirs on the inside. Based on what his mom had explained about Hailey, she was a girl trapped in a boy’s body. Also boy bits could be changed into girl bits. That had really creeped out his dad and brothers but had not really upset him. It was only a difference in plumbing. Suddenly it came to him. Guys, especially macho jock guys, are afraid of doing girly things because it threatens their masculinity! They’re so afraid they feel the need to keep any other guys from doing girly things as if it might be contagious. That was just plain stupid thinking... but he knew that the thinking of guys was often stupid.
It was all so confusing. No one blinks an eye when a girl wants to do guy things, they’re just being a tomboy. But when a guy does girl things, he’s a sissy. Tomboy is okay, sissy is bad. It wasn’t fair, girls could do boy things and even dress like boys. But let a boy do girl things or even worse dress like a girl and it was a sin. But then the Bible did call dressing in the clothes of the opposite sex a sin. So once again, why was it okay for girls to do so but for boy it was still a sin? God answered the question in his mind. Dressing in the clothes of the opposite sex was a sin... if it was done to trick and deceive which was the devil’s doings. Dressing in clothes to simply be yourself was not tricking or deceiving. Those that condemned the loudest were also those who hated. God was love, not hate. Hate was another of the devil’s tools.
Now that his mind was freed of the sin issue, Alex began thinking about how pretty and cute girls could be. People fawned over them. That led to thinking about when some of the girls wore dresses or skirts to school. They were pretty and they knew it. They were happy, unlike him. The guys usually teased the girls in skirts more than girls in pants. Was it because they were jealous? But those boys certainly never seemed like they would like to wear girly clothes. Did they feel threatened by the girlishness? Were they afraid happy girlishness was contagious? That certainly seemed to be the case! Why did guys think that way? Only God knew. Alex sighed and dozed off. Still his mind kept thinking about how guys were so set against anything sissyish.
Friday, day 5
In his dreams Alex pondered the limiting mental rigidity guys clung to. That mentality had been ingrained into his psyche even though he didn’t believe it. Knowing how guys felt and thought was one thing, understanding those feelings and thoughts was something totally different.
Deciding to go to McDonald’s for breakfast and then spend a few hours at the airport, Alex crawled from his hooch. As he started to pedal off he saw a water puddle that he’d rode through on his way back the day before, cracking the thin layer of ice atop it. Stopping he looked at the puddle. The broken ice had not melted. Instead it had been coated with the water under the frozen surface. Then the puddle froze again, only instead of the flat smooth surface of frozen ice, the shattered chunks had frozen in place, some tilted, at weird angles. The puddle was no longer the same because he had driven through it yesterday stirring it up and changing it. Then a simile popped into his mind that explained what was happening to his thought process. Alex’s mind, like that of every macho guy, is like a puddle with a frozen surface. It’s slick and smooth so anything that threatens it simply slips and slides off. A jock’s, and by his forced immersion, his thoughts, emotions, and perceptions were like that layer of ice... rigid, only moving in set paths to fend off even the slightest hint of sissy girlishness. That rigid layer, a mere few percent of a mind’s potential, ruled and limited a guy. Beneath that brittle layer of unyielding ice is the water, like the remainder of a brain's untapped capabilities. Like the water, their latent potential was still unformed and free to move about within the confined space. Alex easily grasped that concept.
Then he rode through the puddle on his bike, shattering the ice and stirring it into the water. The fractured ice submerged and bobbed about, perhaps briefly surfacing only to be swept under the swirling water once more. That was what was going on in his mind with the boy-sissy-girl debate. Once the ice was broken up and stirred, it could never be the same as it was. The jock mind set he’d been forced into living was like the ice: rigid ideas, concepts, emotions, and perceptions were now mixed into the untapped water below. Just as the broken ice had been coated with the liquid water, the never before allowed and often quite foreign ideas, concepts, emotions, and perceptions coated the shattered rigidity of the macho front he’d been forced to erect. Everything the Alex knew was now sloshing about in his mind, similar to someone who is spun in a circle until he loses all senses except utter vertigo. The dizziness had left him unable to reach any type of stability to make judgements. That in turn left him terrified and quite vulnerable, which for most males would be a new and scary experience. A small part of Alex wanted top go back to the safe familiar macho rigidity but he understood like the ice his mind would never refreeze as it had been..
Alex knew God opened his eyes as he realized anything that reeks of ‘sissy’ threatens to break the ice of a jock’s rigid mind! With the ice now broken, Alex’s ability to think coherently or to reason in a macho manner was lost because the familiar pathways are gone. His very being was shattered and swirling about and literally drowning in the unfamiliar. The fearful male mind set will do anything to return stability to the threatened disoriented mind. That’s why guys lash out at sissies and gays! They are afraid their ice... their ideas... might be proven false and broken. Just as Alex had done when he’d shown his family how stupid football is. They didn’t want to accept it and grew angry in an effort to keep their ice from breaking. But the ice of Alex’s brain was broken.
But what happened when the bike stopped stirring the water and ice? As the spiraling motion stopped the chunks of ice floated to the top, jostling for space on the surface, some sticking out of the formerly smooth surface at odd angles. Just like the ice of the puddle, Alex’s shattered jock mind began to settle now that the stirring had stopped. The simple act of ceasing to stir the ice allowed the ice to refreeze. Just as in his mind the shattered former rigidity was now returning to a sense of stability. Like the ice rising to the top, his thoughts started coming together. All the ice rose back to the top, but it was so broken and disoriented from it's original form that the rigidity and paths that had existed were gone, possibly forever. Alex's mind, his thoughts, began to coalesce in ways different from what had existed. Some of the water that had originally been beneath the ice was now on the surface, some of the water was between the chunks of ice, and all the ice was coated with an isolating thin layer of water. With time, the water on the surface, the water between the chunks of ice, and the water coating the ice will freeze, locking the chunks of ice together into a solid surface that while stable is less rigid and smooth allowing new or altered pathways to be established.
The old ideas, concepts, emotions, and perceptions he had would never regroup in the way they had been. The shattered elements of his mind were coated and surrounded by new ideas, concepts, emotions, and perceptions which were, with God’s help, pulled from the unused depths of his brain. Those new things were quickly becoming a part of his revitalized mind, just as the water and the broken ice formed a new layer of ice. What is now the frozen surface is different from that which existed before. In the same manner Alex’s new mind had different insights and emotions. What broke his mind was now providing the stability a mind needs.
Alex suddenly understood his pseudo jock mind had been shattered. While his ice had not been as thick as his dad and brothers, it had still been present and had shattered when he stood up to them. That was why his mind was so confused. With this came the knowledge that with God’s help he could guide the creation of the new thought pathways that will be created. That which had been on the very surface of the ice was now completely covered with newly frozen ice just as the former jock temperament he had been coerced into showing was now covered. With effort, those macho concepts could be covered with soft, kind, caring, gentle ideas.
This revelation allowed him to feel free from the macho limitations that had been forced upon him. No wonder he was never happy... he never had a male temperament! He was like Hailey. In his heart and soul he was a girl! Alex had been a shadow boy. As a girl she’d be Lexi. Wait a minute... where had that thought come from?”
A soft caring giggle inside his head answered that question.
“What...” Alex exclaimed scared he was going insane.
“Relax, I’ve always been inside you,” Lexi answered. “Until you realized we’re a girl, I was locked up in our mind. You’ve finally freed me. Thank you.”
“I didn’t want to free you,” Alex indignantly countered as a bit of his former machismo made itself known. “I was doing just fine on my own! Now go away!”
“Too late for that,” Lexi giggled. “You’ve uncorked the bottle and set the genie free. Besides, look where we are. Do you honestly believe you’re doing all right?”
Alex ignored her. While discovering the inner girl eased his lingering guilt for betraying his boyhood, it confounded his life. There was no way his family would ever accept him as a girl! At least Hailey had the support and love of her family. Alex had lost his family. Except for God he was all alone. For the first time in years he... no, she... having a girl alter-ego did serve some useful purpose, broke down in tears, cleansing his impoverished soul and opening it fully to God.
Even though he again went to the McDonald’s and BWI Airport, Alex/Lexi spent the day wrestling with this dilemma. As he meandered about he discreetly followed girls about his age to see how they dressed and behaved to see if being like them was appealing. In many ways it was but in others it offended him. It was as if he/she had two different people in his/her mind. Enough jock mentality had been ingrained to resist accepting his emergent girlish side. To have his boyhood suddenly torn away and to be plunged head first into girlishness was the worst thing that could happen to a red-blooded all-American boy. To be subjugated without fighting was debasing and dishonorable. The tormented lad had every reason to hate his situation.
Yet God would not let him molder in his angst. What if he enjoyed being a girl? That idea exacerbated his guilt for willingly betraying his inherent boyhood. The boy betraying portion of his anguished mind berated his boyish arrogance. "We both know I'm a girl just like Hailey," Lexi replied gently "But be honest. You’ve looked at cute girls. Their pretty clothes are made from fabric a lot different from what boys wear. I’m sure girl's clothes would feel good."
"So what if they feel good," Alex rejoined angrily. "Do you want to be a sissy?"
"No, I don't want to be a sissy," Lexi stated. "But I don't want to be like an ostrich and bury my head in the sand, either."
"What does that crack mean," Alex retorted angrily.
"What it means is honesty," Lexi replied. "Honesty demands that I admit I’m looking forward to wearing pretty girly clothes. Even you can't deny that you’re curious about how it will feel."
"It's not right for a boy to wear stupid girly clothes," Alex countered since he could not in good conscience refute Lexi's claim. "Unless the guy is a sissy. Sure, a few times I pandered to the guys teasing me about being a sissy but I'm certainly not a sissy! I only did that to mess with their minds."
"Well you certainly did that! But what's so terrible about being a sissy?" Lexi asked. "No one thinks anything of a tomboy who roughhouses and plays with the guys. No one ever condemns a girl for wearing boy's clothes. The whole women's lib agenda demanded equality and equal treatment for men and women. Since women want to be able to do anything a guy can do, it's only fair that a guy be able to do anything a woman can do. That would include a guy wearing girl's clothes and learning to do things the way a girl does them!"
"You're nuts," Alex sputtered in abject horror at the claim of equality.
"What are you going to do," Lexi taunted. "Are you going to beat me up? Is the big tough boy so distrustful of his masculinity that he can't risk experiencing a little bit of girlishness? Is he afraid that he really might be a sissy but is afraid to find out the truth? Well, dummy, you can't beat me up because we're the same person! You can't chase me away either. We're stuck in here right beside one another. If you want to have this come out your way, you'd better come up with some sound, logical reasons and stop spouting sulking slogans like BEING A SISSY!"
Alex was so furious he couldn't even reply.
"This is exactly what I mean," Lexi chided. "So just stop your fuming for a moment and listen! Everything you say and do is based on emotional fear. There is no sound, logical basis for your feelings. You simply cannot refute anything I've said because it's all true and will remain true even though you refuse to open your eyes and see the truth. Well your ostrich stance will not change the truth! Nor will it prevent us from exploring what it’s like to be a girl. We have to try it to learn the truth. We don’t have a choice about this. It’s too late to put the spilled milk back into the carton. If I’m wrong, I’ll accept it, but you need to do the same!
Alex was angry and hurt for he could not discredit or deny any of the charges and problems. "But I can't let you do this to me," Alex cried. "I can't let you turn me into a sissy!"
"What are you going to do to stop me?" Lexi reasoned. "You won’t even face the reality of this argument. You keep harping on SISSY. Heck, I don't want to be a sissy anymore than you do. I want to be a Girl! Think, half the people in the world are girls. If they're so dumb, why do they earn better grades than boys? How do they get the better deals in divorces. If they're dumb, guys morons! Try to be logical about this.”
Alex fell silent. It really irritated him that being a jock was not a matter of logic. But then he realized he’d already known that jocks were beasts. That was why he hated sports... and why he was on the run. Suddenly it became clear that he had already turned his back on boyhood because he didn’t like being a boy. The devil had crept inside his mind urging his boy side to fight and resist! Knowing God was by his side Alex kicked the devil out of his mind. What he had was 2 choices, become a full fledged sissy or become a girl. Since he and Lexi had already decided they didn’t want to be a sissy, that left becoming a girl as his only option. Lexi had won out but she didn’t want Alex to be totally vanquished.
“Alex, we are not 2 people. We are the same person, just different aspects,” Lexi soothed. “The person we have been was unhappy but quite strong. We won’t loose that strength nor our determination or intelligence. We’ve broken free from our cage. By blending together we can grow and be happy. We like camping and being outdoors, that will never change. At this point I’ll be content to be a tomboy. Heck, look at us, a girl can’t get more tomboyish than we are at the moment. So, let’s go back to camp and sleep on it. We can discuss it further when we get up tonight to head into DC.”
Returning to the camp about 3:00pm, Alex/Lexi set her alarm and curled up for a few hours of sleep. Taking an afternoon nap was surprisingly easy. Upon awakening, the internal arguing continued as the camp was packed up. Slowly Alex accepted being Lexi. The gear was repacked to make things more accessible.. To meet a girl’s sense of utility. As they worked they thought about their life as a boy. School was better than being around his dad and brothers, but up until this year even it had not been a bed of roses. The older jocks had been jealous of his sporting abilities, especially since they sensed he disliked sports. It didn’t make sense to them that someone could be so talented and yet not be obnoxiously arrogant. It wasn’t because they liked arrogant guys, it was simply a fact of life that sports acumen and arrogance went hand in hand. The tough guys didn’t trust him because he never buckled under to their threats and posturing. In both cases Alex merely blew the jocks and thugs off when they tried to tease, bully or confront him. In their narrow view, they assumed Alex felt he was far superior to them, not even bothering to look down his nose at them. That only made their unease greater. Alex chuckled as he recalled the last confrontation with the jocks before they passed on to middle school when he’d ignored their macho posturing.
“What the hell, Alex, do you think you’re too good for us?
Alex had ignored them and began walking away.
“Look at me you freaking sissy!”
Alex had continued walking away.
The five angry jocks had hurried to cut him off and surround him ready for a brawl. Alex just stopped and stared at the leader as if he was bored.
“There’s no teacher around to save your ass, you sissy faggot, it’s payback time.” The leader snarled as all 5 balled their fists ready to fight.
Alex smiled at them. Then he placed the toe of his left foot behind his right foot, gripped the sides of his jeans, and dropped a curtsey while saying. “Oh thank you so much for the compliment, boys.”
The five were clearly baffled by his thanks, smile and curtsey and exchanged looks of uncertainty.
“I’m a bit confused though,” Alex declared in a simpering voice. “Okay, if I’m a sissy fag as you said... and I won’t even try to deny it. But since I can out-perform each of you playing any sport, if I’m a sissy fag... can you please tell me what that makes you?”
Lexi smiled as she recalled the faces of the 5 go red with anger then white with shame. As they tried to reconcile his weird logic, Alex had simply walked away.
Lexi was in charge by the time she packed her gear and set out down the tracks at 8:00pm. It took three hours to travel 29 miles. Five times she’d had to dash off the tracks as trains rolled passed. By 11:00pm she’d reached the last significant stand of trees and shrubs before Union Station. She was just north of Florida Avenue NE. The wooded lot bordered Florida Ave for 40 feet before it ducked under the rail tracks to the north west. The trapezoid plot was 100 feet deep and 50 feet wide at the far end. Not bothering to set up the tarp, she merely draped it over herself and the bike.
By Friday the authorities were worried. What they initially assumed to be fit of childish anger that would end after a day or two when the scared boy would emerge from hiding was obviously a lot more serious. But with five days since he disappeared, all trails were cold.
Saturday Morning, day 6
Lexi was awake by 7:00am. After a light meal she bundled her equipment, tied her hair into a high girlish ponytail and rolled the bike from the trees onto the adjacent parking lot. It was 8:30am when she set out southeast on Florida Avenue. Six blocks later she turned due south on 8th street. The only scary part was crossing busy Maryland Avenue, US 1 half way through the 14 block ride to Independence Avenue where she turned west. The 20 block trip led her by the Smithsonian Institution. While she would have liked to stop, she was afraid someone would steal her gear. At the end Washington Monument she turned south onto 15th Street SW for 3 blocks then switched to bike trails that lead across the Potomac River on the George Mason Memorial Bridge. Once across she had biked about 5 miles. Not stopping she pedaled down the bike/pedestrian ramp, cut across the grass to the Mt. Vernon Trail and headed downstream along the Potomac River, crossing beneath the bridge she’d just crossed. Heading south one mile she reached Gravelly Point Park in Arlington, Virginia about 11:30am where she paused to rest.
The park is located just 400 feet north of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. As Lexi rested and ate, she watched the planes swoop in to land, some less than 100 feet overhead. The park had a boat launch and even in the chill of February boaters, cyclists, and airplane-spotters were everywhere. As she thought about her excursion through the streets of DC she smiled. Even though she was wearing the boy clothes Alex had brought with him, with her high ponytail everyone she had encountered smiled. The few she’d spoken with had assumed she was a girl, wondering why a girl had so much gear on her bike. She’d smiled and explained she was taking things to a homeless shelter. No one had questioned her further.
The police reported their lack of progress in locating Alex to the very worried Dennis family. They police asked them to go through Alex’s bedroom and any other area where he kept things to see if anything might stick out as a clue to where he might have disappeared. Laura discovered the home-made stethoscope when she checked his bedroom closet. The boys were puzzled when they were sent to sit on the bed in the master bedroom. With tempers frayed, they did as they were told without protest. Laura and Gary took turns listening to their conversation through the wall via the ingenious device. They clearly heard every word the boys said even when speaking softly. Obviously Alex had listened in during their discussion of how to handle his actions. It also explained how Alex always seemed to know what the parents were planning on previous occasions. The device, when put away, was well camouflaged. However, he had not bothered to hide it this time.
Further searching of the camping gear revealed the Bentley Rail kit was missing. Laura and Gary were stunned. Alex could survive outdoors in the winter, and with the rail bike kit, he could be hundreds of miles away. Then Gary discovered his safe had been opened and $300.00 was missing. Fearing the worst he checked his gun safe to discover the 9mm was gone.
The authorities were not happy to learn Alex was not only armed but knew how to use it. The police were stunned and a bit angered to learn about the missing rail kit. It was a vital piece of information that had remained hidden. After consulting biking enthusiasts, they were shocked to learn a boy Alex’s age and physical conditioning could easily ride 100 or more miles a day on the nearly flat and easy riding rails. Since no one had seen any sign of him, they assumed he was riding at night and holing up during the day. New APBs were sent out throughout the country to be on the lookout for Alex.
It was 12:30pm when Lexi once more took to the Mt. Vernon Trail. The trail followed the George Washington Parkway behind the airport, then looped back upon itself to duck under the roadway and reach the railroad tracks, just over a mile from the park. When she reached the tracks she began pedaling south beside the tracks since in the daylight she couldn’t use her rail kit. Two miles south the rails turned west away from the Potomac River. The uneven gravely ground made for slow going. Instead of the 15mph average riding the rails, riding the rail bed cut her speed down to 5mph. The next 13 miles was tough but Lexi persevered. It was 3:30pm when she stopped beneath Dawson Beach Road in Woodbridge, Va., just 10 miles north of Quantico. She did not want to ride through the Marine base during the day. She set the alarm on the SwissChamp and curled up for a nap. She’d biked the streets, trails, and roadbed for 21 miles.
The alarm woke her at 7:00pm. After a snack, she set the bike up for rail travel. It was 8:00pm when she set off. Forty minutes and ten miles further she entered Quantico. The rails ran north to south just west of the Potomac River, during the 4 mile, 20 minute trek she didn’t see a soul.
Fredericksburg was 14 miles away and she easily ghosted through the sleeping town. By the time she reached King’s Dominion Amusement Park she had covered another 40 miles and was tired. She pushed on another mile to a rail bridge across a stream. It was 4:00am when she curled up in her sleeping bag for a good sleep. The second leg of her travels that day, on the rails, had covered 68 miles.
Sunday, day 7
When she woke it was still daylight so she just snuggled inside the sleeping bag as she thought about her decision to let Lexi take over. It didn’t take her long to realize she liked being Lexi. While nothing had physically changed, she simply felt more at ease than Alex ever had. Now that she finally allowed herself to think about and analyze her former life as Alex she realized she really disliked, and often hated, his very existence, his boyishness and all the crap that went with it. Now that he had discovered and released his alter ego, Lexi, she simply felt right. It almost felt as if all his life he’d been putting his shoes on the wrong foot. It had been years since he’d experienced wearing his shoes on the wrong feet, but he still recalled what it felt like. The discomfort of wearing one’s shoes on the wrong foot was similar to the way Alex’s entire life felt. Letting Lexi free was like discovering you’d been putting your shoes on wrong and upon switching them to the correct foot, suddenly what had been discomfort becomes comfort. (Try a half hour with your shoes on the wrong feet.) It just felt right... even while still wearing her Alex clothes. Lexi smiled knowing putting her life in God’s loving hands had been the right thing to do.
That evening Lexi set off at 8:00pm. After 10 miles she passed through the town of Ashland without being noticed. Ashland was a northern suburb of Richmond and for the next 11 miles there were no issues. The mile of track in Richmond south of US 64 and northwest of US 195 was a major rail yard nearly a mile long. There were 50 sets of tracks merging and un-merging, most filled with rail cars of nearly every design. For that segment, Lexi dismounted and quietly pushed her bike through the maze. It was 8:30 by the time she was through the rail yard having passed under US 195 and the nearly adjacent SR 197. Almost immediately the 2 westernmost rails curved to slot under and then between the north and southbound automotive traffic on US 195. The tracks crossed the James River 3 miles later. The tracks reached the suburbs of Petersburg 23 miles further south. Passing around Petersburg to the west Lexi easily traveled the 7 suburban miles. A mile after leaving the suburbs there was another large rail yard. This one was silent with hundreds of rail cars parked on up to 21 sidings over a distance of a mile. A long stretch of 35 miles led Lexi into the town of Emporia where she stopped at a grade level crossing on Atlantic Street near the center of town.
US 58 and US 301 crossed there. US 95 paralleled US 301, crossing US 58 2000 feet to the west. It was 5:00am and Lexi was fatigued as she removed and stowed the railbike set-up. Then she combed her hair and pulled it into a high ponytail like a girl would wear. Slowly she peddled up Atlantic Street, also known as the US 58 Bypass for a mile reaching the Belfield Market Shopping Center. A Burger King was on her right as she crossed US58 into the shopping center. She dismounted and pushed her bike inside to place an order. Upon receiving her food, she moved her bike to a table in the rear and relaxed as she ate.
When she finished eating it was nearly 6:00am, so she rode her bike to the far end of the shopping center to the Super WalMart. Once there she pushed her bike inside, asking the elderly woman who was the greeter if she could chain the bike inside behind the cart area so no one would mess with her gear. Despite the early hour, it was not uncommon for latchkey children and teens who lived nearby to come in to shop before school. Surprised by the polite but scruffy tired girl, the bemused woman smiled and allowed Lexi to chain locked her bike to the shopping cart rail nearest the door. Smiling, Lexi thanked her and boldly walked into the 24 hour Super WalMart grabbing a cart on the way.
Lexi comported herself as confident and having the right to be in the store. Heading to the girls’ department she selected some practical pink panties and camisoles. Although she was quite tempted to purchase a training bra, she held off. A pair of pink trimmed girls sneakers and a pack of pink footsie socks followed. Knowing she couldn’t get a lot, she moved on to the toiletries where she picked up a hairbrush and some pink scrunchies. On a whim she also selected a small nail kit and a bottle of pink nail polish. In the grocery section, she replenished her food supplies before checking out.
Once the bags were secured to her bike, she once more thanked the woman for allowing her to bring her bike inside. Soon she retraced her route until she reached US 301, which she followed south for 4 miles to the Greensville Memorial Cemetery. Turning into the lanes, she peddled to the back where the railway ran. Once more she turned off a road crossing onto the railbed and rode south 600 feet into a narrow strip of forest. Dismounting she rolled her bike into the trees by a small stream where she set up camp for the day. Lexi had pedaled 97 miles that night.
Monday, day 8
When she awoke, she opened the nail kit. She had seen girls in school and her mom working on their nails so she tried to copy the tiny bit she recalled, pushing back the cuticles and gently rounding the tips. It was with painstaking effort she applied the polish. Holding her hands up with her fingers spread she admired the pink shine. She had no idea she’d checked her nails in typical girl fashion. That evening Lexi set out about 8:00pm. Seven miles south of her campsite she passed into North Carolina. The next 40 miles were an easy going straight run. In the town of Rocky Mount the rail lines split, west, south and east. Checking her GPS she continued south through a 2 mile long rail yard with 34 tracks at it’s widest. Once through she had another straight run of 12 miles into the town of Wilson. The tracks once more split, this time she headed southwest for 23 miles through the twin towns of Selma/Smithville. A mile south of the towns she stopped for the day just east of the Holts Lake dam breast, camping in the trees. She had traveled 93 miles.
Tuesday, day 9
As Lexi slept in her hidden camp, the authorities were growing desperate. Everything pointed to Alex running away from home, but he should have surfaced somewhere. Even if the boy had survivalist skills and the rail bike, someone should have seen him peddling along. The word had gone out to the railroads to have their train and yard crews keep watch for the boy. No one had seen him. They could only suppose someone had nabbed the fugitive boy. Laura and Gary were beside themselves with worry. As teachers who were active in the sports of the school and community they were also embarrassed.
Upon awakening, Lexi set out once more at 8:00pm. The 46 miles to Fayetteville were uneventful. The city was a rail hub but she continued southeast for another 45 miles through Pembroke. Just past the town she made camp for the day where the rail line crossed over a stream. Her heart was light and thanks to her trust in God she had a much welcomed sense of serenity. She’d covered 91 miles that day.
Wednesday, day 10
Lexi set off at 8:00pm to cover the 10 miles to the North Carolina/South Carolina border. The town of Dillon was 5 miles inside SC and the tracks once more split. This time she took the southeast line traveling 14 miles to Mullens where the tracks once more turned southwest. Another 55 miles she passed through the town of Andrews. Stopping for the night 7 miles past the town she once more set up her camp by a bridge where the tracks crossed a stream that formed the northern border of the Francis Marion National Forest camp stream. That night she had road 95 miles.
Thursday, day 11
Setting out at 8:00pm, Lexi traveled the 17 miles across the Francis Marion National Forest then headed southeast towards Charleston, SC. In the northern burbs the track headed west 2 miles then passed through another rail yard a mile long with 24 tracks at it’s widest. Continuing onward, she passed through the village of Ravenel and the towns of Yemassee then Hardeeville. Just 4 miles further she crossed the South Carolina/Georgia border. She stopped for the day just after crossing the Savannah River having traversed 96 miles that night.
Friday, day 12
When she set out at 8:00pm the tracks curved from their generally southwest direction to the south east as she pedaled 14 miles into and through the suburbs of Savannah. Upon exiting the built up area the tracks resumed their southwest direction. After 26 miles she passed through Allenhurst, 18 miles further she glided through Jessup, finally came 38 miles into Waycross. The tracks formed a crossroads, to the southeast was a 2 mile long rail yard with 58 tracks at it’s widest. Instead of heading that way she took the southeast route. A mile past the town she set up camp in a small forested area by a pond having covered 99 miles that night.
Saturday, day 13
Lexi was 64 miles from Jacksonville, Florida. The tracks she was riding paralleled US 1, which at that point was also US 23 and SR 4. As she prepared to leave at 8:00pm, she felt God telling her to wait half an hour. Seeing no reason to question the delay, she relaxed, setting out at 8:30pm. The first 16 miles were easily covered as the railroad skirted the Okefenokee Swamp. At that point just 2 miles north of the town of Folkston US 301 and SR 15 joined the road paralleling the track. Just outside the town the tracks bowed away from the highway for the next 7 miles reaching a mile apart before rejoining. Just 2 miles into the bow the tracks crossed the Georgia/Florida state lines. For the most part the tracks went through forest. About 9:40pm she was a quarter mile past the state border, the trees thinned to scrub brush and Lexi could see the lights of a house and the sound of a barking dog. The building was about 400 feet east of the tracks and about 800 feet away from her when she first noticed it. Always on the lookout for anyone that might see her, Lexi watched the house as she approached. Suddenly she saw a rapid series of flashes followed a few instants later by the brrrrrrrp brrrrrrp sound of automatic gunfire. Lexi stopped pedaling and cautiously watched the house as more flashes and the sounds of a gun battle rang through the night.
As the firing raged, Lexi hesitated. She could tell by the shooting that it was being done by amateurs since the long rapid staccato indicated wild firing in the general direction of the target. Professionals used single shots or short bursts. Her impulse was to get away from the firefight but if she continued forward, she risked being hit by the wild firing. Heading back the way she’d come would mean turning her back on the fight leaving her vulnerable if the fight moved toward her. Deciding to play it safe, she dismounted the tracks and rolled the bike down the west side of railbed. Pulling her 9mm she returned to the rails, lying prone with only her head above the rails so she could keep a watchful eye on the continuing gun fight.
Most of the weapon flashes came from around the house. Only one seemed to be coming from inside the building while she thought at least 5 came from the outside. The initial heavy gunfight lasted only about 2 minutes but it seemed like hours to Lexi. After a few minutes of silence the firing suddenly flared to life this time concentrated on the side of the house away from Lexi. The firing was wild but intense for nearly a minute before lapsing into silence.
As she looked on, flashlights flickered to life, clearly held by those who were outside. She could hear voices shouting but was unable to understand what they were saying. The lights converged to the far side of the house. For a brief moment Lexi was relieved since the violence seemed to over. Suddenly she saw shadows rapidly moving between her and the beams of the flashlights as if several people were running away from the house... heading north parallel to the tracks but all to near to her position. Lexi readied the 9mm for action.
Suddenly more shouts rang out and 5 beams of light began pointing in the direction of the fleeing runners, then rapidly jounced as the bearers began running towards those fleeing. As the beams of their lights swung back and forth she again saw the shadows fleeing. The lights converged on the shadows and rapid flashes followed by brrrrps rang out. In the concentrated light the fleeing silhouetted shadows became recognizable, three were small, obviously children, with one adult sized urging them on. Lexi’s heart climbed into her throat as the pursuers closed in firing wildly.
Suddenly the fleeing adult screamed and fell. The children stopped and looked back. They were close enough that Lexi clearly heard a woman’s pained voice yelling “Run, run!” The calls of the men and their lights were converging on the stricken woman. The smaller shadows turned from the woman and sprinted away. The lights closed in on the fallen woman and stopped briefly. The words “Fuckin’ bitch,” followed by a quick burst of gunfire ripped into the prone figure, savagely executing her. Lexi quivered in fear and revulsion as her sweaty fingers gripped her 9mm. The pursuers began running again as the kids continued to speed away. It was with a great deal of relief as she saw their trajectory would keep them to the east of the railbed.
“Spread out,” a voice ordered. “The boss said to kill everyone. You know what’ll happen if any of the kids get away!”
The lights spread apart as they chased the fleeing kids occasionally firing at the scrambling shadows. Breath stealing sobs came from the fleeing kids as they dodged through the scattered trees even as the pursuers closed in. In that instant Lexi realized why God had told her to wait a half hour this night. He wanted her here at this time. Lexi didn’t even think as she leapt from the safety of her observation position to intercept the gunmen. Even though she was terrified, she understood God was by her side and using the nurturing instinct she’d so long suppressed to help to save the kids.
The kids and the killers were winded while Lexi was not only fresh, the long trek had enhanced her endurance. Lexi used the speed and agility she’d developed playing sports to move effortlessly through the scrub brush. In no time she reached the nearest flashlight. The winded gunman was surprised when he saw Lexi suddenly appear at the edge of his beam of light. Instinctually he swung the light to fully illuminate her. His eyes widened in shock when he saw a young girl in a spread leg stance with a 2 handed grasp on a pistol aimed at him. Lexi could see his confusion as he wondered where the hell she’d come from. The surprise slowed his reaction. In a panic he began firing even as he swung his Mac 10 towards the mystery girl. With God steadying the 9mm in her hands she quickly she tapped out 2 shots before his weapon had a chance to bear in on her. The man was dead as he dropped to the ground. His flashlight flew several feet away. His burst went wide, never even coming close to Lexi.
Even as her target fell Lexi sped off towards the next pursuer who had turned and headed towards the gunfire. The center man of the line of pursuers had stopped and was looking towards the gunfire. He saw the light of the end man was on the ground shining off at an odd angle. Fortunately the sound of Lexi’s shots were lost in the confusion of the chase and the dead man’s burst.
In seconds she was on the second gunman. This time she burst from the shadows into the beam of his light almost running into the startled man. Lexi fired a one handed double tap on the run dropping the man before he was able to respond as she dashed past him into the darkness.
This time the sound of her nearly simultaneous shots were heard by the man who had been the center of the line. He saw twin flashes and heard the double tap being fired from where the second man was located. At the same time he saw the man’s light fly off to lie still in the brush. “Shit! Gabe... Kenny... what the fuck is going on?”
Just then shots echoed from the man on the other end of the line resulting in a scream of pain and screams of terror from the kids. Lexi swung wide of the man looking towards his fallen compatriots silently heading for the man on the far side of the line. Cautiously the man who had shouted headed towards his silent still colleagues.
The two men on the far end of the line, oblivious to anything else, slowly converged on the anguished voices of the kids. By the time Lexi reached them the two men stood about ten feet apart illuminating the crying huddled kids, the oldest obviously wounded. While the men heard Lexi coming up behind them they assumed it was their buddies. “We got ‘em this time,” the one man chuckled mirthlessly as he kept his gun trained on the cowering kids.
Lexi stopped about 15 feet behind the oblivious duo, cooly assumed a firing stance, and tapped out two shots at the closest man before swinging her aim to the second man.
The remaining man was shocked by the rapid shots and seeing his friend collapsing. That hesitation proved fatal as two shots ripped into his torso as he turned to see who was shooting. The terrified kids took in the sight of their enemies being dropped. Their eyes grew wider as Lexi stepped into the dropped flashlight beams. The kids saw a young girl with a fierce look of determination on her face. Lexi glanced at the two unmoving men knowing her double tap shots had been fatal. Sprinting to the kids, she checked the girl’s wounded leg. Running back to the one dead man she stripped off his belt and took his do-rag. Quickly she bandaged the wound and wrapped the belt around the makeshift bandage to control the bleeding. With a brief nod to the kids she slipped into the shadows.
By the time the remaining bad guy reached the nearest dead companion from behind him he heard another set of rapid double taps followed almost instantly with another double tap. Spinning around he saw the flashlights of those men were lying on the ground. “Al... Benny...” he called out in desperation to the duo already knowing they were dead. The bravado he’d felt pursuing the helpless kids vanished. Whoever was taking out his men knew what they were doing. He knew it wasn’t his main target as he’d been gunned down while fleeing the house in what had been an effort to distract the gunman so his wife and kids could flee. He’d personally killed the woman as she lay helpless after she’d been wounded. Getting the kids should have been easy. Now instead of a 5 to 1 advantage in a surprise attack he was now engaged in a 1 to 1 battle of wits with an obviously skilled stealthy fighter. Who it might be and where he’d come from was a great unknown. Since he was really nothing but a bully, now that he was no longer in control of the situation he was scared.
Lexi moved silently away from the kids swinging back towards the house while heading towards the remaining light as it hesitantly moved away from the fallen man he’d been checking when his remaining underlings were dropped. Suddenly but wisely, his flashlight went dark.
Lexi slowed down but continued silently swinging wide. The only sound was the quiet sobbing of the kids slowly fading as she put distance between herself and them. The man decided to get out of town. Slowly he began moving towards the house and the vehicle they’d arrived in. Unfortunately, he was not accustomed to moving silently in the dark rural outdoors.
Lexi could tell by the snap of branches and an occasional explicative as he tripped that he was heading back to the house. Lexi silently shadowed him while staying slightly in front of him. Finally the desperate man emerged from the scrub into the cleared area around the house. Lexi was there ahead of him and assumed a prone firing positioning pointing her 9mm in his direction.
Lexi waited as he emerged into the open area, letting him move 20 feet away from any cover. “FREEZE,” she called out as she had him in her sights.
The man was clearly startled by the abrupt order but at the same time puzzled as he stopped dead and turned to the sound of the voice. The voice was clearly that of a kid! Could the kids they’d been pursuing be armed? If so, why had the mother not fought back? Why did he hear the kids still crying? What the hell was going on?
“You've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” Lexi quoted Dirty Harry. “Drop the weapon, dirtbag.”
The terror the man felt boiled inside as he realized he’d been scared of a kid. “Fuck you,” he snarled as he raised his Mac 10.
“Go ahead. Make my day,” Lexi spit out.
The angry demeanor of the man cracked a bit at the Dirty Harry quotes. He knew in the movies the listener was soon gunned down. Anger flared again as he began firing even before he had the weapon pointed at Lexi.
Lexi fired a triple tap that spun the bad guy around to the ground sending his Mac 10 flying. Unfortunately, his wild firing sprayed across her position. One slug tore through her upper right arm to lodge in her torso. The pain was intense and momentarily blinding. Forcing herself to regain control, she looked back to the guy to see he was crawling towards his weapon. Taking a deep breath. Which hurt like hell, she forced herself to exhale slowly as she took careful aim and sent a slug into the downed man’s head.
Lexi struggled to sit up, then laid her 9mm on her lap just in case she needed it again. Pulling off her jacket, she used her Swiss Army knife to cut the elastic waist off. Awkwardly she wrapped it about her wounded arm to staunch the blood. Cutting off a small piece of cloth she used it to plug the hole in her chest. The pain was intense, nearly unbearable, but she knew if she didn’t plug the wounds she’d quickly bleed out. Her breathing was in ragged gasps and she could hear a bubbly rattling in the right side of her chest. Instead of being scared, the serenity she’d found during her odyssey returned. Everything that had happened had been part of God’s plan. He was using her to save the kids. Unless medical help arrived quickly, the wounded girl would die. God hadn’t brought her all this way nor guided her aim so well to let her fail now. With renewed spirit she grabbed her 9mm, paused to catch her breath, then slowly rose to her feet. With unsteady footsteps she staggered to the man she’d just killed and picked up his flashlight before heading to the house. The light revealed the open front door was riddled with holes and shattered glass was scattered over the floor. Locating the phone she dialed 911.
“911. What is the nature of your emergency?”
“Send police and paramedics to this address ASAP,” Lexi gasped in pain. “There was a gun battle. At least 7 people are dead and another kid beside myself has been wounded. Please, send help as quickly as you can.”
“Young lady, this number is for emergencies, not pranks,” the operator scolded. “I have your phone number and you’ll be facing charges for...”
“This isn’t a frigging prank! I’m bleeding to death!” Lexi snarled which sent her into a fitting of raspy breathy coughing that resulted in spitting up blood. Unable to speak while she gagged, she dropped the phone. Knowing she needed help but being unable to do more than moan, she fired her pistol, emptying the clip before passing out.
Upon hearing the bloody gurgling and the gunshots the operator realized the call was not a prank and set the wheels of rescue in motion. Deputies from the Nassau County Sheriff’s office headed out with lights flashing. The rescue truck and paramedics sped out of their station in Hilliard heading 8 miles north on US 1, turned left onto CO 121 for 1/3 mile, then turned right onto Tracy Road for 3/4 mile before then turning up a dirt road beside the railroad tracks for half a mile to the house. The deputies and rescue personnel arrived simultaneously about 15 minutes after the 911 call.
The first thing they saw was a bullet riddled SUV and a bloody body lying in the yard. Moving cautiously, they entered the house to find Lexi slumped unconscious by the dangling phone. As the paramedics began treating her, she briefly rallied.
“To the north... 3 kids... one is wounded... dead woman... their mom... 5 bad guys... I got them...” she managed to whisper before once more passing out.
The info was relayed to those outside. They had already found the dead bad guy in the yard. Spreading out with flashlights they discovered the dead woman, then one by one the first two guys Lexi took out, then the other two with the kids nearby. The oldest child, a 9 year old girl had been shot in the leg and was unconscious with her younger siblings cowering by her side. The wounded mystery girl was airlifted to the trauma center before the three others were found. The helicopter quickly returned for the other wounded girl.
Sunday, day 14
The investigation revealed the assault had been a drug related hit. They found a meth lab in a shed behind the house. The dead man was the husband of the dead woman, they were renting the place and apparently running the lab. Their 3 kids were merely destined to be collateral damage. The 5 dead bad guys all had criminal records, the man closest to the house was a known confederate of the leading drug dealer in nearby Jacksonville.
The younger brother and sister were clearly terrified but unhurt. They told what they knew as their big sister was in surgery. The doctors reported the makeshift bandage had slowed her blow loss and saved her life. The kids told how the fourth girl had suddenly appeared and gunned down the 2 bad guys who were about ready to kill them. They explained she’d silently bandaged their sister before heading off into the darkness. A bit later they heard the final shootout. But by that time their big sister had fallen asleep. They stayed by her side until rescued.
Forensics showed the 5 bad guys had been killed by the same gun, the empty weapon they found still in the mystery girl’s grasp. How such a young girl had so skillfully taken out the 5 was an undeniable fact. While her wounds were serious, her self-applied bandages slowed down the bleeding enough to allow the paramedics to keep her alive. She had no identification on her and no one had any idea where she’d come from much less how she had managed hunt down and wipe out the heavily armed bad guys.
The doctors working on Lexi quickly discovered her birth sex. They didn’t take the time to question her nail polish, ponytail scrunchie or the panties and camisole as they rushed the preteen into surgery.
During an intense search of the area the next morning, the bicycle with Bentley Rail attachment still attached was found on the far side of the tracks. The clothing and gear packed on the bike showed it most likely belonged to the heroic unknown girl.
It was early afternoon when the investigators put all the evidence together. They learned from the doctors the wounded heroine was really a boy. One of the women on the team recalled the APB for a runaway boy riding the rails from Pennsylvania. Upon retrieving the APB, they discovered it mentioned the rail bike attachment and the fact he had taken a 9mm pistol. The photos on the APB matched the pseudo girl now in intensive care. Fingerprints taken after the surgery were compared to those included with the APB. They knew the identity of the boy/girl.
The information was sent to Pennsylvania. Upon confirmation that Alex had been found the police went to the Dennis home. The family was clearly relieved and elated to learn Alex had been found. Their elation was rapidly cooled when they learned he was a wounded hero lying unconscious in the TraumaOne Center of the University of Florida, Shands Jacksonville Hospital. While the details were sparse, they learned Alex had been wounded while taking out 5 bad guys, saving 3 kids who’s parents had been killed during a drug related hit. The family knew Alex helped those who needed help and that he was tough, but to get involved in a shootout? By 7:10pm they were at the Philadelphia International Airport boarding a flight to Orlando. They landed at 9:15pm, rented a car by 10:00pm, and set out for Jacksonville.
They arrived at the hospital a few minutes after midnight. The staff was understanding and stretched policy to allow the family to spend 5 minutes with the still unconscious Alex. To say they were shocked when they saw him was an understatement. There was a tracheal tube protruding from his mouth. There were glucose IV drips in both arms with smaller pouches feeding their contents into the line. The adults correctly assumed they held antibiotics. His waist and torso were strapped to the bed to keep him from moving. The upper right arm was heavily bandaged and secured to a board. A tube emerged from under the sheets into a suction device drawing clear fluid from the right side of his chest cavity. Various wires connected his chest and head to banks of monitors. An oxygen finger sensor was clamped to the middle finger of his left hand.
“I’m Dr. Wilson,” the physician on duty announced as she entered the room. “I was on duty last night when he was airlifted in. He should make a full recovery. I can tell you he looks 200 percent better now then when I first saw him. He’d lost so much blood we couldn’t get a blood pressure reading. If he hadn’t bandaged himself after being shot he’d have bled out. Apparently he was lying prone on the ground when he was hit. The bullet passed through the muscle of his upper right arm just grazing the bone. Fortunately it was enough to slow the slug as it passed between his 2nd and 3rd ribs into his right lung where it stopped. Based on the trajectory, it only stopped an inch from the aorta. The damage caused the lung to collapse. We’ve repaired all the damage and replaced the lost blood. We’ll be keeping him sedated until about noon to give his body a chance to recuperate from the trauma. We’ll pull the tracheal tube about 9:00am and make sure the lung that was collapsed stays inflated. He’s tough or he wouldn’t be here.”
Gary nodded his agreement. “Do they know what happened?”
“From what the sheriff’s office told us, a couple rented a home out in the boondocks and set up a meth lab,” the doctor explained. “Apparently someone didn’t like the competition and ordered a hit. Five thugs headed out and attacked the house. Apparently a barking dog alerted the couple and a gun battle erupted. The couple had an AK47 and riddled the thug’s SUV but they had Mac 10s and surrounded the house. The couple had 3 children, a 9 year old girl and 7 year old twin boys. The father drew the thugs to the front of the house while the wife and kids ran out the back. They gunned down the husband but they saw the others fleeing in the scrub brush. They formed a line moving through the scrub brush about 75 feet apart using flashlights searching for them. They spotted them and opened firing, hitting the mother. The kids ran off. The leader of the thugs executed the mother before they continued searching for the kids.”
“As far as they’ve been able to figure, Alex was riding the rails on some sort of adapted bike when he must have seen and heard the gunfire. He dismounted the rails on the side away from the shooting. They think he saw the woman gunned down and the kids fleeing with the men searching for them. Apparently he pulled the pistol he had and went after the bad guys. As best as they can reconstruct it, he surprised the closest thug. It was obvious he fired his Mac 10 but Alex, as the sheriff said, double tapped the man. The next man in line heard the gunfire and turned to investigate but he didn’t get very far. Alex double tapped him. By that time the 2 thugs on the far side spotted the kids and opened fire, hitting the oldest, a girl, in the leg. They were just a few feet away when they were gunned down, each with a double tap. Alex bandaged the girl’s wound, saving her life. The remaining thug tried to flee but Alex ambushed him in the yard behind the house. They must have fired simultaneously. Alex hit the thug 3 times dropping him but he was hit too. The man was still alive crawling trying to retrieve his Mac 10. As far as they can tell Alex fired a shot into his head to stop him, then proceeded to bandage his own wounds. Somehow he held it together enough to make it to the house to call 911 before passing out. When the paramedics found him, he somehow rallied to tell them the kids were in the scrub.”
Junior was amazed and could not help asking “How do they know Alex killed the thugs?”
“The slugs recovered from their bodies matched the gun Alex had in his hand when they found him.” the doctor replied.
The 5 minutes were up. Laura begged to be allowed to stay by his side. The request was granted while Gary and the boys headed to the Omni Jacksonville Hotel about 16 blocks away.
Once the guys headed out Laura settled by Alex, taking his hand in hers. That was when she noticed the nail polish. When the duty nurse stopped by to check on Alex, Laura asked about the pink polish. Laura could see the nurse was debating what to say.
“When Alex was rushed into trauma, his clothes were cut off,” the nurse began. “I was there. Until that point everyone had thought he was a girl. He was wearing pink sneakers, pink footsie socks, matching pink panties and camisole with his ponytail high on the back of his head held in place by a pink scrunchie. It was only as they prepped him for surgery we discovered she was a he. Up until then everyone thought he was a girl.”
As the nurse was about to continue her rounds she stopped. “Mrs. Dennis, Please, don’t be offended by what I’m about to say. I’m speaking for the entire staff when I say we’ve seen way too many transsexual children come through this ICU... most from suicide attempts. Others from family fights, or runaways who turned to selling their bodies to survive only to be beaten when their deception was revealed. A lot from drug over dose as they tried to hide their pain with dope. Alex has been unconscious since he’s been here, but from the moment we laid eyes on HER, we had no doubts she was a girl. Even when we discovered HER biological gender, what we saw and see was and is a girl. You’ve got one hell of a child there. Please give her the love and life she needs.” With that the nurse continued her rounds.
Laura was left speechless. Why had Alex masqueraded as a girl? Was he a transsexual as the nurse thought? After a few moments looking closely at his still body she gasped. In her minds eye she saw Alex slowly morph into a pretty girl without really changing! Closing her eyes and shaking her head didn’t change the fact that she saw a girl where her son had been... yet it was the same person. Now that the girl was in place, she could no longer see the familiar boy... the familiar seldom smiling boy! Thinking back she mentally replayed the 90 yard run that won his last football game. The skinny but agile boy seemed to effortlessly avoid the much bigger guys trying to smash him to the ground as he ran through them. That action didn’t change... but as she rewound the event she saw his agility in a different light... it was utterly fluid and graceful... evocative of a ballet... as if he were a girl!
Clearly stunned, she lovingly squeezed his hand as tears flowed freely from her eyes. “Alex... at least that’s the only name I know you by... It’s only now that I can see you’ve never really been my son... You are my child, make no mistake about that, sweetheart, and I love you with all my heart! You were right to condemn your father and I. We were so caught up in our sports oriented lives we couldn’t see your pain. We were wrong to force you to be the person we wanted you to be. We should have given you room to discover yourself. We never gave you any space to grow. Obviously you’ve used the time since we drove you away to discover who you really are. God, I’ve been so blind... I’m so sorry, baby, so very sorry. Despite your pain you were always such a good person, willing to help others whenever you could... like you did for those 3 kids... willing to sacrifice yourself for others... an honest to goodness hero... make that heroine! Now that my eyes have been opened, looking back I can see in your every action you were a girl! But none of us realized it... it took the STUPID BOWL to kick us all in the butt. Alex... or whatever you’ve named yourself... I’ll be there for you. If you father and brothers can’t handle you being a girl, we’ll do it on our own. I have your back!” Laura was surprised when she felt a weak squeeze from the hand she held clasped. Clearly he... no, SHE was still in a coma... but SHE heard her!
Sunday, day 15
Gary and the boys returned a few moments before 9:00am just as the medical team was arriving to pull the tracheal tube. They were all ushered out of the room to a private family waiting room and told it’d be at least 20 minutes until they could return. They all took seats.
“He looked okay,” Gary stated in such a way that the boys and Laura knew he was asking if that was the case. “How are you doing? Did you get any sleep?”
“I managed to get some sleep in the chair,” Laura answered. “How I’m doing will depend on you 3.”
The guys all looked confused.
“I learned quite a bit from the staff last night,” Laura explained. “As a result there will be major changes in our lives.”
“But they said he should make a full recovery,” Gary declared with a frown.
“Bear with me as I explain,” Laura sighed as she wiped a hand over her weary face. “Alex is not lying in that bed.”
They all looked confused. “Mom, of course that’s Alex,” Junior spoke up. “Even with that tube you can see it’s him.”
“That’s not your brother Alex,” Laura firmly declared. “During the time since Alex took off... and we DROVE him away... Alex changed. Once he was away from our unending overbearing macho lives, he changed and can never go back to living the lie his life was with us.”
“Honey, I think maybe you didn’t get enough rest,” Gary tried to sooth.
“I had enough rest,” Laura retorted a bit harshly. “Will you all just shut up and let me explain?”
The boys and Gary exchanged wary looks before nodding their assent.
“It wasn’t Alex who killed those bad guys and saved those kids,” Laura continued. “It was the person Alex has become. The person we’ll have to greet once the sedation wears off. I’ve already accepted the change and will do EVERYTHING I can to help that person grow to their full potential. If you can’t accept the person Alex has become... I’ll move out and support that new person alone. Do you understand exactly how serious I am about this?”
Again the 3 exchanged looks, more than a bit frightened by Laura’s determination while at the same time not having a clue what she was talking about.’
“Gary, lying in that room is our youngest child,” Laura spoke in a softer tone. “Boys, that is your sibling. However, that person is NOT male. SHE is our daughter,” she declared looking a very stunned Gary directly in his eyes, “and SHE is your sister,” as her eyes switched to the boys.
Wisely, the guys mulled her words as they wondered what in the hell was going on.
“During Alex’s excursion he must have done a lot of soul searching,” Laura began to explain. “Obviously without us constantly forcing him to be the person we wanted him to be, he could finally think about who and what he is. While I don’t know what went on during that soul searching, the result is clear. Sometime during the odyssey Alex realized in his heart and soul that he’s really a girl. When he was brought in everyone thought he was a girl. SHE was wearing pink sneakers with pink socks and had her ponytail secured at the crown of her head in a pink scrunchie. When they began removing HER clothes she was wearing pink panties and a matching camisole. She also had her toe and fingernails painted in a shiny pink. Up until they removed the panties, EVERYONE who saw her saw a gravely wounded heroic young GIRL. In HER gear they only found girls’ undies.”
The guys were stunned into silence.
“After I learned all that from the night nurse, she told me something else,” Laura continued in a conciliatory tone. “She said that the staff, even after they knew that Alex was a genetic boy, could still only see a girl. They’ve seen too many transsexuals in the ICU who were suicidal, beaten by family, beaten by guys they were pimping themselves to after running away, or from drug overdoses. Based on their past experience, they could see the hurting girls inside those genetic boys... and that they could see the girl in Alex.”
The guys recalled their hostility towards little Hailey and for the first time were ashamed of their reaction.
“After the nurse left me, I looked at Alex thinking about what she’d said,” Laura sniffed. “For the first time, I honestly looked at my youngest child. I saw Alex, but as I stared, he changed right before my eyes without actually changing. Now whenever I look at HER, I see my daughter, Gary, OUR daughter, boys, YOUR sister.”
“Think back to how Alex moved,” Laura continued. “We all marveled at how agile and quick he was on the football field. But the moves he used were not movements boys made. There was grace and fluidity in his movements, like a girl doing ballet. Alex wasn’t stopping on a dime and spinning away from a tackler, SHE pirouetted away from the beast and scampered off. God, look back on your memories. Alex NEVER moved like other boys. It was his athletic success that masked what was in reality a dainty ballet performance! When Alex let us have it that night, we deserved every bit of her anger and frustration.”
Laura watched as the guys thought back to Alex on the playing fields. Their frowns of concentration turned to guilty gawks of surprise as they saw what Laura meant.
“Once I understood, I was crying,” Laura sniffled. “I sat by HER bed and held her hand. I apologized for hurting her and not realizing the truth. I promised to help her become the best girl she can be even if it meant doing it without you. I told her I loved HER. Do you know what she did? Even sedated, she HEARD me! She squeezed my hand to acknowledge and accept what I said! After the way we unintentionally abused her, she still wants to be with us!”
Laura broke down in tears. Gary was manfully blinking back tears as he took her in his arms. Junior and Davy tried to hide the tears they wiped away.
Shortly after they recovered their emotional stability, they were told it was okay to go back to see Alex. Quietly and somberly they entered the room. Now that the tracheal tube was gone, the sleeping face they saw was angelic.
“My God,” Gary gasped after a few moments. “I see can see her! She looks the same yet so different! God, how could we be so blind?”
“I see her too,” Junior exclaimed in utter amazement as Davy nodded his head in open mouthed astonishment.
The boys stood to one side of the bed as the parents took the other. They looked at the child in adoration. All the emotional pain and hurt Alex had endured... to the point of fleeing the oppression of her family... yet SHE managed to keep her nurturing nature, the need to help those in need. She risked her life and almost lost it to save 3 strangers. They felt shamed by their selfishness and hypocrisy. It was at that moment the dynamics of the Dennis family forever changed. They would still be involved in sports, but they’d ask for participation and encourage and support other interests and pursuits.
A bit after noon Lexi slowly awakened. At first just a soft moan, then a slow roll of her head. When the straw touched her lips she instinctively enveloped the end and drew in a bit of the icy chilled water to wet her parched throat. Slowly the beeping of the monitors crystalized her hearing. Rolling her head a few times she smacked her lips to be rewarded with the straw. After a long slurp, she opened her eyes, blinking in the light as her eyes, closed for 30 hours, refocused.
Lexi gasped as she saw her parents and brothers gathered around her bed. They’d found her! Or had it all been a dream? Slowly her thoughts and memories coalesced. She recalled the gun battle and her wounds. A quick glance at her arm and chest told her the wounds were professionally bound so it hadn’t been a dream. The 3 kids... were they okay?
“The kids... are they okay,” Lexi whispered.
“You saved their lives,” Laura smiled as she reached a loving hand out to caress her daughter’s face. “It’s just like to ask about others before yourself. God, I love you so much, baby!”
Lexi smiled and basked in the love her mother was showing her. But how long would that last when they found out? Then she thought she recalled her mother accepting her as a girl. Obviously she’d been out of it a while since they managed to get to Florida to be by her bedside. Anxiously she looked at their faces.
“Relax, SIS,” Junior smiled. “I won’t pretend to understand WHY you’re my sister, but I can tell you are. We can all tell you’re a girl.”
Lexi’s mouth gaped open. They knew and accepted? How?
“Well young lady, you’ve certainly given us a scare,” Gary declared in his gruff DAD voice before softening. “I’ll make you a deal. We’ll forgive you for running away from home if you can forgive us for being so stupid for the way we treated you. Deal?”
Lexi’s face broke into a wide grin as she started to vigorously nod her head.
“Alright sis,” Davy began. “Is your name still Alex?”
“I’m Lexi,” she replied softly as she scanned their faces for some sign this was a cruel hoax.
“Lexi... I like that,” Laura smiled as she leaned in to hug her daughter with the others quickly following suit.
Tears of joy trickled from her eyes as Lexi knew her prayers had finally been answered. Laura’s eyes were soon shedding tears while the guys did their best to hide their damp eyes.
The doctors checked Lexi later that afternoon and pronounced her recovery was remarkable. They agreed she could be moved from intensive care into a room in the children’s ward. Before the move could be made, a detective arrived to record her testimony about what had occurred in the shootout. Everyone was amazed at how calmly Lexi related the chilling events.
“The night I left home I’d been praying for God’s guidance. I’d given up praying since he never answered but I was desperate so I gave it another shot. I was getting angry at him when I realized I wasn’t waiting for an answer. I tried to clear my thoughts and listen, but the only thing that happened was the thought to run away popped into my mind. I dismissed that as stupid but it kept popping up. I was getting frustrated when it suddenly occurred to me that what I was dismissing as stupid was what God wanted me to do. I remembered Jesus saying to God not my will but thy will. God wanted me to run away. While I didn’t know where I’d go, I obeyed and left,” Lexi explained after completing the recounting after the detective reassured her she was not in any trouble. “On my 2nd night I was worried about when to leave so I asked God. 8:00pm popped into my mind. After that every night I set out at 8:00pm. But that last night I felt God telling me to wait half an hour so I did. If I had left at my usual time I would have been well past the place where it all happened instead of getting there just as it began. I saw the initial gun battle, them=n I saw the woman and kids fleeing. I was horrified when they executed the helpless woman after they’d wounded her. As they split up to search I knew they’d kill the kids. That’s when God let me know I should save them. Thanks to our family camping, I knew how to move quickly and quietly. I had also learned how to handle a pistol. Rifles are still a bit too big for me, but that 9mm fits me nicely. Will we be able to get it back? Everything in my life prepared me to do what I did, God needed me to save those kids.”
Everyone was surprised and a bit spooked by Lexi’s testimonial. The detective nodded his head, adding that God did indeed move in mysterious ways before assuring her that once the investigation was wrapped up, the 9mm would be returned. Laura, Gary, and the boys felt chills run through them as they thought about God using Lexi to save the kids.
Lexi was moved into the double room in the children’s ward a few moments later. They rolled her entire bed into the children’s ward since they didn’t want her getting up for another day. As they rolled her bed into the room, she was surprised. Her roommate was the girl she’d saved! Beside her bed were her brothers. A woman sat in a corner keeping an eye on the three.
“You’re the one who saved us,” the girl exclaimed as the boys eagerly nodded their heads. “You saved our lives! Thank you!”
“You’re welcome,” Lexi smiled. “I’m Lexi Dennis. This is my dad Gary, my mom Laura, and my brothers Junior and Davy.
“Pleased to meet you,” the girl smiled. “I’m Wendy Harris, these are my twin brothers Ross and Russ.”
The Dennis family exchanged greetings with the Harris children, then Laura looked at the quiet woman and raised her eyebrows.
“I’m Lynne Sanders,” the woman smiled sadly and spoke. “I’m a case worker with the Family Support Services of North Florida. We are a non-profit organization created to perform the duties of Lead Agency in the Community Based Care project in Nassau County. FSSNF provides all child protection services previously performed by the Department of Children and Families. After what happened the Harris children are orphaned. They are unaware of any relatives and we have found no evidence there is any surviving family. We’re trying to arrange foster care but the case has scared most of our foster parents and those who are willing are unable to meet Wendy’s current needs. So far the hospital has been cooperative in allowing the boys to stay in this room but I don’t know how having a roommate will effect that.”
Lexi saw the folded cots tucked into a corner of the room. “I won’t mind if they stay. After all, we have already met.”
“So I understand,” Lynne smiled sadly. “But it would be inappropriate for the boys to stay in the same room with an unrelated girl.”
“In that case it’s not a problem,” Lexi grinned. “I’m a transsexual. Genetically I’m male but my heart and soul is all girl.”
Wendy’s eyes opened wide. “You’re not a boy even if your body says you are. The look on your face when you took out those 2 bad guys was the look of an angry lioness protecting her cubs. Then without any hesitation you bandaged me. Your touch was caring and gentle. No boy could ever have done what you did to save us.”
Laura, Gary and the boys smiled to witness another heartfelt testimonial to Lexi’s true gender.
Laura had to know. “What will happen to the children?”
“To be honest we don’t have a clue,” Lynne sighed. “Our budget is tight and so few people are willing to adopt 3 siblings, especially under these circumstances. We’ll do our best to keep them together but nothing is certain.”
The anxious expressions on the faces of the Harris kids revealed they’d already been advised of their unwieldy position.
Lexi looked at her parents as she spoke. “Is it possible they could be adopted by an out of state couple? Say a couple from Pennsylvania who already have 2 boys and a girl?”
Lynne frowned as she thought. “It should be possible but how on earth would an out of state couple even... oh.”
Laura and Gary exchanged looks of surprise that slowly morphed into smiles. They both heard God telling them to do it. “I think it would do Junior and Davy good to have 2 little brothers to share their sports knowledge and skills,” Gary nodded as he looked at his sons. “It’d do Lexi good to have a sister. She knows how to be a good, caring person but up until now she’s been quite the tomboy, however, I’m pretty sure she’s ready to outgrow that phase.”
Lexi was smiling broadly and nodding her head. It took a few moments for Junior and Davy to realize what was being suggested, but once they understood, they smiled and nodded their agreement.
“We’re both teachers and own our home,” Laura explained. “We have four bedrooms so Ross and Russ would share one, Junior and Davy another, and Lexi and Wendy a third. We live and teach in the same district the kids attend so the kids would be well monitored.”
Junior and Davy exchanged momentary frowns as they realized they’d have to give up their individual bedroom but both felt as if God was staring at their selfishness. They shrugged their shoulders and nodded their acceptance.
Lynne was overwhelmed by the offer. “If you can meet adoption regulations of Pennsylvania and the county in which you live, if we can find no relatives for the Harris children, I think perhaps Nassau County and Florida could agree to an out of state adoption. Understand I can’t make any promises, but I’ll get the ball rolling! Would you mind keeping and eye on Russ and Ross while I make a few phone calls?”
The nods from all the Dennis family made Lynne smile. The Harris children were clearly stunned and clearly afraid to get their hopes up.
Junior and Davy quickly corralled the twins, quizzing them on their sports knowledge and experience, eagerly answering the questions of the younger boys. Wendy and Lexi began discussing color combinations for their hope to be shared bedroom. Laura and Gary smiled, easily able to see their family increasing. They understood God wanted them to help Lexi finish her task. She’d saved the lives of the Harris children, now they felt responsible to see to their well being.
As part of their adoption, the Harris children requested their last names be changed to Dennis.
Wendy graduated from college and became a teacher. Lexi was the maid of honor for Wendy’s wedding and godmother of her 3 children.
Russ and Ross blossomed under the sports tutelage of Gary, Junior, and Davy. All 4 boys earned full sports scholarships, attending the same university. All graduated with 3.0+ GPAs before moving into pro football, forming a family dynasty. In the past, the 5 Nesser brothers in the 1920s and 30s played pro football. More recently the 4 Browner brothers played pro football in the 1970s and 80s. But the 4 Dennis brothers were the only ones to individually earn Super Bowl victory rings.
Laura and Gary retired from teaching at 65. At their 50th wedding anniversary they received over 10,000 letters of congratulation from their grateful former students.
Lexi was head of the head of the high school cheerleading squad, home coming queen, prom queen and class valedictorian. She had her birth defect corrected before starting at Harvard, graduating with a 4.0 before moving on to grad school at Harvard Law. She went on to become a champion of the gender variant community, using her own life as role model of outstanding citizenship. With her unwavering faith in God, she stood up to the pious bigotry of mainstream religion. No religious leader could refute her biblical knowledge and acumen in support of the gender variant. She used the Bible, Koran, and Tanakh to prove God accepted and loved all true believers without conditions. She repeatedly showed that only God could judge the morality of men and women, that one man had no God given authority to judge much less condemn his fellow man. In every debate she revealed to the pious bigots how their hatred of the gender variant had taken them from God’s steadfast love for all his children. Not once did she condemn them for their hatred. Instead she pointed out their good intentions had been corrupted by Satan who sought to turn all good people from God before guiding them back to the Lord’s forgiveness and love.
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