Petticoat Acres

Petticoat Acres
by Jennifer Sue

Benji was small and slender for his age. On top of that he was a late bloomer, looking more like a ten year old than his true age. As a result he was a frequent target for bullying in middle school. Now fourteen year old Benji Joe Carson forlornly sat in the seat of the World War Two vintage twin engine DC3 airplane. Three weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, his parents had died in a car crash in Chicago. With no nearby relatives he’d been temporarily placed in an orphanage until they were able to reach his great uncle, Joe Carson. While he’d been bullied in school, the orphanage had been far worse. Fortunately Benji Joe was an ace student, so when he was pulled from his suburban school they gave him passing grades for the year. As a result the orphanage didn’t try to enroll him in their local school.

Now here it was June 1 and he was on the flagship aircraft of Trans Pixley Airlines heading toward their main hub, the Pixley International Airport. Having flown out of Chicago Midway Airport he was leaving the upper middle class Chicago suburbs that had been his lifelong home. He’d never heard of Pixley. It sounded like some place in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe on that new kiddie show, Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, that had debuted in February on the National Educational Television.

As the plane dropped altitude circling to land at the airport, Benji peered out the window seeing a town nestled in the checkerboard of farmland mixed with forested areas. He couldn’t see an international airport, or for that matter any airport. As they made a final turn he saw a single strip of tarmac 3000 feet long by 120 feet wide with a narrower parallel taxiway. As they lined up to land he had difficulty believing this was an ‘international’ airport.

The terminal was indeed the hub of Trans Pixley Airways. It was also the only airline that served the airport! As he gathered his one suitcase, he was met by a smiling older man in blue-striped overalls.

“You must be Benji Jo Carson. I’m Floyd Smoot, the conductor of the Hooterville Cannonball. I’m here to escort you to the train. You’ll like it at the Shady Rest Hotel.”

As they exited the small terminal Benji had difficulty realizing the old fashioned town he was walking through was Pixley. The tallest building was three stories tall and every building had side yards. The two walked three blocks to the Pixley railroad station of the C&FW Railroad. Benji stared in disbelief at the antique steam engine, tender and the combo passenger/baggage car. Smoke was coming from the stack and wisps of steam drifted off the front drive piston. When he was close enough he was able to read the words ‘Hooterville Cannonball’ stenciled beneath the windows of the Cab.

“Is that thing real? Are we riding in that?” Benji asked with excitement.

“Yes we are, young lady,” Floyd smiled to see the child’s excitement.

“Young lady? I’m a boy,” Benji whined.

“Oh, sorry, young man,” Floyd said with genuine chagrin. “You got long hair like those mop topped bug guys from England I saw on Ed Sullivan the other year. I’ll give you a heads up. Guys around here don’t wear their hair that long so be prepared for others to make the same mistake.”

It took Benji a moment until he realized Floyd was talking about the Beatles. Looking around he realized he was far from the city of Chicago and it’s urbane suburbs. After having ridden the Chicago CTA, the famous ‘El’, the idea of riding on a wood fired antique steam engine was exciting, but also depressing since it clearly meant this quaint train was state of the art for this at least somewhat backwoods area.

“Would you like to see the inside of the cab?” Floyd asked as they walked toward the steam engine.
“Sure,” Benji excited replied as Floyd led the way.

“Benji Joe, this is Charley Pratt, the engineer of the Hooterville Cannonball. Charley, this is Benji Joe Carson. Charley, do you think we can show Benji Joe the cab?” Floyd asked.

“Sure,” Charley smiled as he and the bright eyed clearly eager Benji Joe exchanged nods. “If you can keep it a secret I’ll even let you ride up here.”

“That would be cool,” Benji smiled.

Stepping from the station platform to the cab required climbing the three steps of the built in ladder. Benji looked at the controls and gauges with wide eyes. He could feel the heat from the boiler.

“You look just like your cousin Betty Jo,” Charley chuckled. “She was a bit of a tomboy and just loved to ride up here. She begged us to teach her how to run the old Cannonball.”

Did you teach her how to run it? Could you teach me?’ Benji asked hopefully.

“I might teach you,” Charley smiled. “I’ll have to get your Uncle Joe’s okay first so just be patient young lady.”

“Not you too,” Benji Joe sighed. “I’m a boy, not a girl!”

“Oh, sorry,” Charley apologized. “We’re not used to seeing boys with long hair in these parts.”

“That’s what I said when I made the same mistake,” Floyd chuckled.

Benji’s consternation quickly vanished as Charley blew the train whistle as Floyd leaned out to scan the station platform calling out “All aboard!”

Charley began adjusting valves and moving levers letting the steam push into the driver pistons slowly the train began moving chuffing with each stroke of the pistons until they seemed to blend in an ongoing chuff. Soon they were flying down the track with Benji leaning out the window as the wind blew into his face. The smoke was streaming from the stack swirling back over the engine.

The 25 mile trip from Pixley to the water tower by the Shady Rest Hotel took an hour. Charley allowed Benji to give two toots on the whistle as the pulled into the water tower to refill the tender. Benji saw the large wooden water tower and watched as Floyd lowered the spout and swung it to the away from the tower to the water tank on the back of the tender. Charley had moved to the back of the tender to remove the lid to the tank. As Floyd swung the spout to the tender Charley guided the end to the opening of the tank. Once in position Floyd opened the valve at the bottom of the wooden water tank to allow the water to flow.

Benji saw the small roof covered the two sided waiting bench by the tracks with the sign Shady Rest Hotel across the top. There was a well worn dirt path heading up the hill through the trees. Railroad ties served as steps to make assent easier. Floyd retrieved Benji’s lone suitcase which he’d placed in the baggage portion of the combo passenger/baggage car. Benji took his lone suitcase and trudged up the path as Floyd and Charley followed.

“My dad never met his Uncle Joe,” Benji said. “What’s my Uncle Joe like?”

“I guess we should warn you,” Charley said as they climbed the path. “Your Uncle Joe is a good man but has an aversion to work. He also thinks he’s an expert on everything. He also tends to be old fashioned so he’ll most likely get on you to get a haircut. He has a perfect record coaching the Hooterville High School football team.”

“That’s impressive,” Benji replied thinking there might be a bright spot in this far off backwoods place.

“Yeah,” Floyd chuckled. “They’ve lost every game.”

“That’s not good,” Benji sighed.

“He tries,” Charley continued. “He’s also head of Hooterville Fire Department Band and Hooterville Fire Department Fire Chief.”

As they made a turn near the top of the low hill Benji saw the Shady Rest Hotel through the trees. It was a two story building with a mansard roof providing a truncated third floor. There was a full porch across the front with four steps leading up to it from the path. Off to the side of the double door entry sat a rotund old man peacefully sleeping on a rocking chair with his hat pulled forward to cover his eyes. Three gorgeous miniskirted smiling young women, one holding a baby, accompanied by a tail wagging fluffy black-and-tan mix of miniature poodle, cocker spaniel, and schnauzer came out the door. The dog promptly ran up to Benji Joe seeking attention the boy was glad to give.

The women smiled at the interaction. After a few moments one spoke up. “You must be our cousin Benji Jo. I’m Betty Jo Elliot and this is my daughter Kathy Jo. These are my sisters Bobbie Jo and Billie Jo. That’s Dog jumping all over you, we called him Dog until we decided on a name. Before too long we decided to call him Dog by default.”

“Uncle Joe, wake up, Benji Joe has arrived,” Bobbie Jo said as she gently roused the old man.

“Wha... what? Who?” Uncle Joe shudder as he threw off his nap. Shaking of the sleep he looked over he saw a young girl rough housing with Dog. You’re Benji Joe... I thought you were a boy!”

“I am a boy,” Benji impatiently growled as he stood facing Uncle Joe.

Dog sensed the boy’s anger and moved away.

“Then you better get a haircut,” Uncle Joe pronounced. “You look like on of them hippies!”

“I’m NOT getting my haircut,” Benji defiantly insisted. “My parents didn’t mind my long hair so I’m keeping it!”

Benji and Uncle Joe stared at each other with neither blinking.

“Joe Carson, you should be ashamed of yourself,” a scolding voice spoke causing the staring match to end as both looked at the doorway where a middle aged woman stood with arms akimbo.

“Don’t trust women,” Uncle Joe snarked as he began rocking. “They don’t fight fair.”

“Don’t you dare listen to that old fool,” the woman smiled. “He’s still living in the last century. I’m Dr. Janet Craig. I run my practice out of the Shady Rest and I use the Cannonball to make house calls between Hooterville and Pixley.

“Bah, who ever heard of a lady doctor,” Uncle Joe groused.

“I have,” Benji snapped back. “Women can do anything that men do.”

Uncle Joe shook his head while the women smiled, “Don’t know what this younger generation is coming too. I’m just glad I won’t be around to see the mess they make of this country!”

They all headed inside. Benji looked around the large two story lobby dominated by a large chandelier. Several sofas and chairs, a piano, a writing table and chair and a cigar store wooden Indian. Opposite the door was a large wooden check-in desk. There were three steps down into the room. To the right was an ‘L’ shaped staircase leading to an open balcony that ran around three sides of the lobby with several numbered wooden doors. In the elbow of the staircase sat an old open iron work elevator cage but there were no cables and no landing on the second floor.

Benji frowned. “Why is there an elevator?”

Betty Jo giggled. “Uncle Joe says it adds class to the hotel.”

Benji wondered what life was going to be like in this place. Hooterville sounded more like Hicksville!

They showed him the first floor. The diningroom had a single large table that could seat ten so apparently the meals were served family style. Behind that was a large kitchen dominated by a huge cast iron cook stove with eight burners two ovens, and a warming shelf. There was a big cutting board topped work island in the middle of the room. A long two sink soapstone sink with drying rack was along another wall. The second floor had eight bedrooms and a single shared bathroom, the only one in the house. The mansard roofed attic held five bedrooms and a loft like storage area Benji’s bedroom was on the top floor along with those of the girls. Betty Jo shared her room with her husband Steve who was a local crop duster and their baby.

Technically Uncle Joe was running the hotel while his niece Kate, the sisters’ mother, was away assisting ailing relatives. Dr. Craig had a two room suite on the second floor, one was her bedroom, the other was her doctor’s office where she kept he supplies and examined patients.

The next day Benji and Dog explored the countryside. Benji was surprised the only road to the hotel was a one lane poorly maintained fire road through the forest. There was a two hole side by side outhouse behind the hotel in case you were in a hurry and the bathroom was occupied.

The next day Uncle Joe took Benji Joe into Hooterville on the Cannonball. Benji had difficulty believing the small collection of buildings was a village. The school was the biggest building. It was a square brick structure with two floors of four classrooms each. Behind that and connected by a twenty feet long enclosed walkway was an all purpose building used as a gym, auditorium and cafeteria. Grades 1-12 met inside the eight classrooms. The grade levels ran from nine to seventeen students. Most classes were taught with mixed age levels. The Fire company was the next biggest building.

The one that really surprised Benji was Drucker’s store. The store was next door to the Hooterville train station platform. The entry to the store was from a wide porch that ran the length of the building and parallel to the train tracks. Benji followed Uncle Joe inside. A rhythmic mechanical metallic sound was coming from a side room. The curious boy followed Uncle Joe as he headed through the strings of bead curtain into the room. There he saw a thin late middle aged partially bald man wearing an accountant's visor operating an antique printing press. To the side of the press was a type setting table with hundreds of tiny cubby holes in a rack above it.

“Sam, you’ve got a customer,” Uncle Joe shouted over the din of the operating press.

Sam turned about seeing his visitors. “Hold on a minute while I finish this run.” Then he turned back to his press.

“Mr. Drucker is the printer, editor and head reporter for the Hooterville World Guardian,” Uncle Joe explained. “It come’s out every Wednesday.”

Sam Drucker shut off the press and wiped his hand on a towel as he turned. “What can I do for you, Joe?”

“Sam, I want to introduce Benji Joe Carson, my ward,” Joe said. “Benji Joe, this is Mr. Drucker. In addition to the newspaper and running the general store, he’s also postmaster, constable, and Justice of the Peace. Sam, we may send Benji Joe in to pick up supplies. Just put it on the Shady Rest’s tab.”

“Hello young lady,” Mr. Drucker smiled. “If your Uncle Joe gets to obnoxious, just come on by. The old scamp can be irritating.”

Benji sighed. It seems everyone thought he was a girl! Besides cutting his hair into a crew cut, there had to be something he could do to buff himself up! Before he could tell Mr. Drucker he was a boy a voice called for Mr. Drucker from the store.

Benji and Uncle Joe followed Sam into the store.

"Howdy Mr. And Mrs. Douglas. What can I do for you today?" Sam asked.

A distinguished looking white haired man wearing a three piece suit and a well dressed elegant just past middle aged woman wearing pearls entered the store.

Both looked totally out of place, more suited for life in Chicago. “Good morning, Mr. Drucker, Mr. Carson,” the man warmly greeted Sam and Uncle Joe. “Who is this pretty little lady?”

“This is Joe’s ward, Benji Jo,” Sam smiled as Benji Joe blushed in frustration.

“You’re so pretty, it’s a pity you’re a tomboy,” Mrs. Douglas said in a heavy Hungarian accent.

Benji Joe was red faced with barely controlled anger and frustration. He was so upset he was unable to speak.

“Lisa, you’ve embarrassed the poor girl,” Mr. Douglas gently scolded his wife. “If she’s comfortable being a tomboy for the summer, let her. She’s got a few years to outgrow the tomboy phase.”

Benji was about to blow at the condescending comment but was cut off by Uncle Joe.

“Mr. Douglas, do you think you could help Benji Joe out with a legal problem?”

“Perhaps,” Mr. Douglas replied seriously. “What’s the issue?”

“Well, Benji Joe’s parents were killed two weeks ago in a car crash,” Uncle Joe explained. “I’m the closest relative which is why Benji Joe is my ward. “While I got paperwork giving me parental rights, I didn’t get anything about an estate. Benji Joe said they lived in the house left to them by his grandparents. Besides that, isn’t Benji Joe eligible for social security?”

“Benji Jo should be eligible for Social Security until age eighteen,” Mr. Douglas said. “If there was property there should also be an estate, life insurance, and depending who was at fault a lawsuit for the crash. Gather what information you have and I’ll look into it.”

“I’ll do that,” Uncle Joe said. “Thank you for helping Benji Joe.”

While that had been happening Benji checked out the general store and it's owner. Mr. Drucker was a quirky but friendly man. The old fashioned country store sold food and household goods. The store was too small for shopping carts and there were no hand baskets. Benji correctly surmised this was like the general stores in the Western movies where the customers told the clerk what they wanted and he gathered it from the shelves and storage areas, most of which were behind the long central counter. At one end was an antique wooden cash register then a section of open counter top four feet long. Beside that was a regulation U.S. Post Office grill with wooden cubby holes for sorting mail. Having been accustomed to large department stores this was a unique experience. Some items seemed really weird like nail polish that could be used as bathtub sealant and dehydrated chickens.

Seeing the conversation was done, Sam spoke up. “All right, Mr. Douglas, how can I help you?”

"We're expecting a letter from Lisa's Mother," Mr. Douglas answered.

"Let me check." Sam answered as he stepped behind the mail grill, removed his accountant’s visor and put on his official Postmaster’s Hat.

Reaching into the mail cubby holes Sam drew out a letter and handed it to Mrs. Douglas. “Here you go, Mrs. Douglas.”

“Thank you Mr. Drucker,” Lisa purred as she took the envelope.

BY then Benji peaked into a large wooden barrel three feet high with a diameter of twenty inches. Inside in a vinegary brine floated large pickles.

“Benji Joe, leave them alone their plastic,” Uncle Joe said as the boy reached into the barrel.

Benji frowned. “Mr. Drucker, why do you have a barrel of fake pickles?”

“We get a lot of city folk passing through who expect a country store to have a barrel full of pickles,” Sam explained. “To appease them I found it was easier to have that barrel and plastic pickles than to explain reality to them.”

Mr. And Mrs. Douglas finished their business and left in their Mercury Marquis convertible.

Uncle Joe finished his business in Drucker’s Store just as the Cannonball tooted it’s whistle. Benji Joe and Uncle Joe boarded the Cannonball for the ride back to the Shady rest.

Uncle Joe noted Benji Joe was upset and asked in his often abrupt voice. “You’re upset, why?”

“Everybody thinks I’m a girl,” Benji answered sullenly knowing what Uncle Joe was going to say but went on. “I didn’t get a chance to correct them.”

“I told you to get a buzzcut,” Uncle Joe groused. “You do look like a girl! It's your fault for their mistake. What’s even worse is that you get upset at them for YOUR refusal to cut your hair! You snap at them and make them feel guilty for mistaking you for a girl. By making them feel embarrassed they’ll avoid you. If you continue snapping at people like that, you’ll never make any friends!”

Benji quietly brooded. He knew Uncle Joe was correct which really ate at him. He made up his mind to ignore people when they missgendered him.

Benji, with a backpack and canteen, explored the area. The freedom was unexpected but made him feel good that he was trusted. Several times he rode the Cannonball into Hooterville. Nearly everyone he met assumed he was a girl. While it aggravated him he forced himself to ignore the insult. On one of the trips he visited the school to look around. He discovered the school library also doubled as the public library.

Benji Joe began to research what he could do to bulk up and kick start his delayed puberty. There wasn’t much to find until he stumbled on an article in Sport’s Illustrated. "The IOC instituted its first compulsory doping controls at the Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble, France in 1968 and planned to do so at the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City. A list of banned substances issued in 1967 included narcotic analgesics and stimulants, which comprised sympathomimetic amines, psychomotor stimulants and miscellaneous central nervous system stimulants including alcohol. Although it was suspected that androgenic anabolic steroids were being used at this time, testing methods were insufficiently developed to warrant the inclusion of anabolic steroids in the list of banned substances."

That led him to research anabolic steroids. Evidence of professional athletes misusing anabolic steroids surfaced during the 1954 Olympics, when Russian weight lifters were given testosterone. Over the next several days he returned to the library doing further research. Everything he found and read reinforced that steroids were used to bulk guys up making them bigger and stronger.

Steroids seemed to be the answer to his dilemma. The problem was where to find a source of steroids.

One afternoon as he went upstairs to use the bathroom Benji saw the door to Dr. Craig’s office was ajar. As he did his business he remembered she was out doing a house call. Then he wondered if she had any steroids? Knowing he was wrong, his ‘need’ for steroids overcame his conscience he slipped into her office. She had a tall cabinet with glass doors against a wall. Bottles of medicine filled the shelves.

Nervously he began to read the labels hoping to find steroids. His heart was pounding in his ears as he nervously searched the cabinet. Finally he found one! The label read:


There were three bottles lined up front to back. With sweat beading on his forehead and shaking hands he reached in and took the rear bottle. Quickly he closed the cabinet door and slipped out of the room with the precious bottle of steroids clutched in his hand. Moments later he was in his bedroom. Taking his chair he placed it in front of the door then sat in it to insure no one could come in and surprise him.

After taking several calming deep breaths Benji carefully read the label. The information concerned dosages, warning only one taking one tablet at a time and no more than two tablets a day. Opening he bottle he noted the pills were purple oval shaped like a football with PREMARIN 2.5 printed in white letters.

Nervously he took one in his hand and examined it. While he knew he shouldn’t be messing with steroids since the articles he read all said they could have negative side effects if misused, he couldn’t help himself. The little purple pill was the answer to his lack of male development! He HAD to take it! Before he could talk himself out of it he popped the pill in his mouth and dry swallowed it.

While he knew he shouldn’t feel anything this quickly, his stomach seemed to be filled with butterflies. Again he took several calming deep breaths. Once he regained control he had a problem. Where could he hide the bottle of steroids. Looking around his bedroom he decided the chifferobe was the best option. He put the bottle into the pocket of his suit jacket he’d worn to his parents’ funeral.

For the next week Benji dutifully took a Premarin pill each morning and another each night. The first few days he felt ill in the morning as if he had to throw up. Fortunately that passed.

Oliver Wendell Douglas was doing his best to be a gentleman farmer after leaving his successful Law Practice in Mew York City. When Uncle Joe asked him to check into things for Benji Joe his conscience would not let him ignore the needs of the child. Using his professional contacts he hired an investigator. It didn’t take long to get the report. Benji’s parents were well to do with an investment portfolio in addition to their upper middle class home and more than adequate life insurance. The lawyer Benji’s father had used had filed a wrongful death lawsuit that had been settled for $250,000 since the accident was undeniably due to the negligence of the corporate defendant. The lawyer established a trust for Benji setting himself up as executor taking heavy fees, posting false expenses and never notifying the Children’s Services or Benji.

When the evidence was presented to the courts, the lawyer was arrested. The trust was turned over to Mr. Douglas to administer on behalf of Benji Jo. The lawyer was ordered to pay back all the funds he’d taken. The investigation revealed the lawyer had been doing similar intentional mishandling of other estates and trusts. Once all the funds were returned, Benji’s trust amounted to 1.1 million dollars. Mr. Douglas arranged for monthly support payments to be made to the Shady Rest to pay for room and board as well as clothing and a weekly allowance. While Mr. Douglas liked Uncle Joe, he was well aware of his numerous get rich quick schemes so his access to the trust was severely limited.

By mid-August, Benji was feeling frustrated. Each day he’d religiously taken a pill upon arising and another before going to bed. So far he could see no sign that his delayed puberty had begun. Uncle Joe made sure that Benji Joe’s main chore was chopping firewood for the wood stove. While Benji didn’t like the task, he knew swinging the ax and carrying the wood to the house would help him build muscles.

Since the large wood stove in the kitchen was the source for hot water as well as baking and cooking food. The fire was never allowed to go out although it was banked overnight and between use. In addition to filling the woodshed with split wood, several rows were stacked on the back porch for easy access to the kitchen, especially on rainy days. Benji also kept the five feet long by three feet high single row in-kitchen firewood rack filled. In addition, he had to scrape out the ashes and carry them outside. They would be mixed with the kitchen scraps in the compost bin and spread in the garden to keep garden pests in check.

At least once a week neighborhood farmers brought a wagon load of wood up the fire lane to the woodshed behind the Shady Rest. The farmers and others would dump the cut to length logs in a pile. Benji Joe had to stack the logs by the splitting stump and cover it with a canvas tarp. Then he had to split the logs before carrying the split logs to the storage spots.

While his strength and stamina increased, despite his effort, his muscles didn’t bulk up as he hoped. If anything, his tush was getting bigger and flabbier. Even worse, from all the carrying wood and swinging the axe, his pectorals weren’t firming up. While they were growing, they were anything but firm, bouncing around so much his nipples were constantly sore. It was so bad that when clad in a t-shirt, it looked as if he was growing breasts! He had to wear a loose button shirt over the t-shirts to hide his embarrassment.

Two weeks before school started he was out exploring and got caught by a sudden downpour. In seconds he was soaked. After slipping in the mud and falling, he decided running wasn’t worth the risk so since he was already saturated, he trudged through the downpour. Just as he reached the water tower by the tracks the Cannonball pulled into the stop. Looking like a drowned rat, Benji Joe waved to Charley in the cab. At the rear of the train Floyd was putting down the step stool to assist Dr. Craig down the steps of the baggage/passenger car, carrying a large umbrella.

“Benji, you’re soaked,” Floyd exclaimed as water dripped off the lad’s nose and chin.

“I’ll say,” Dr. Craig chuckled.

Benji smiled, tucked his hands into his armpits and flapped his arms. “QUACK! QUACK!” He said making fun of his soggy state.

Together, Dr. Craig and Benji headed up the path to the Shady Rest. As usual, Uncle Joe was sound asleep on the rocker with his hat covering his face as the rain drummed on the porch roof. Benji stepped off to one side and tried to shake the excess water off. Dr. Craig closed her umbrella and placed in an umbrella stand.

“Benji Joe, stay here. I’ll grab a couple of towels to dry you off,” Dr. Craig chuckled at the lad’s dog like antics.

Benji leaned forward letting his long hair fall around his face so he could wring the excess water out.

Bobbie Jo came onto the porch with a few towels. “Dr. Craig said you were soaked, but wow!” She laughed as he assisted drying his hair.

Dr. Craig returned with a blanket. “I think it be easier for you to undress out here and wrap in the blanket. Then go right up and take a hot shower.”

“Okay,” Benji agreed as he knelt to remove his shoes. When he stood up he saw both women had their mouth’s open in ‘O’s of shock. Following their gaze he looked at his chest. His soggy shirt clung to his torso like a second skin revealing a pair of pert breasts with erect nipples. He froze in shock.

“Benji, undress and come inside,” Dr. Craig ordered in a caring voice. “Bobbie Jo, keep this a secret until I can check him out.”

“Okay,” Bobbie Jo agreed as she began gathering up Benji’s discarded clothes.

Uncle Joe slumber undisturbed.

Benji burst into tears but quickly undressed. In moments the sniffling boy was wrapped in the blanket plodding barefoot up the steps. Dr. Craig followed him into the bathroom.

Benji understood Dr. Craig was going to check him. Despite his bright red face he didn’t try to stop or hinder her examination.

“Take a quick shower then come over to my office,” Dr. Craig gently ordered once she saw his nude body. “I need to give you a thorough exam. Don’t bother dressing, just wrap up in the blanket again.”

Benji dejectedly nodded and stepped into the claw footed antique tub pulling the shower curtain around him. Knowing there was no way to avoid the exam he meekly acquiesced. In a way, it was a relief as he didn’t have to hide anymore.

Dr. Craig shut and locked the door to her office. First she weighed and measured his height. Then she began to measure his hips, waist chest and across his bust. Then she had him lie on the exam table, placing his feet in the stirrups. Stoically he endured the exam as she gently she checked his breasts asking when they started developing and whether they itched. Then she examined his undersized manhood discovering his testicles had not descended into his scrotum. It took quite a lot of prodding until she discovered the two tiny dried bean like objects. When she squeezed them Benji did not flinch.

Dr. Craig already knew he was self conscious about his delayed puberty so his current state had to aggravate that issue. Letting him sit up she gave him the blanket. Thus the inquisition began. Benji blushed and fidgeted as she gently but firmly questioned him. Although too embarrassed to speak, he did nod or shake his head when she asked about erections and masturbation. When she questioned him if he was taking anything to start his puberty he began to sob.

Slowly and agonizingly the story emerged. Utterly defeated and chagrined Benji confessed to his research and what he’d learned about steroids. Finally he confessed to taking the steroids from her medicine cabinet. Dr. Craig managed to control her anger to hug the sobbing boy assuring him he was loved and that they’d work things out.

Together they went up to his bedroom where he retrieved the nearly empty bottle of pills. Dr. Craig’s heart dropped. “Benji, I’ll be honest with you, this is not good,” she said as she rattled the remaining pills in the bottle. Get dressed and come down to my office so we can get this straightened out.”

Dr. Janet Craig sat in her office deep in thought. Although Joe Carson was Benji Joe’s guardian, he would not be able to make any informed decisions to rectify the boy’s situation. It would be easier to reach a resolution and present it to Joe. The problem was how to reach a resolution. A timid knock sounded on her door. “Come in Benji.”

The door opened and a crushed boy slumped in taking the seat Dr. Craig indicated.

“There’s no way to sugar coat this,” Janet began. “So I’ll be blunt. You messed up big time. Steroids are hormones. There are two types of steroids. Male steroids are forms of testosterone. They are the ones that bulk up athletes. The other type is female steroids which are forms of estrogens. The pills you took were Premarin 2.5mg, a female steroid.”

Benji Joe’s face contorted in horror. Female steroids? Damn!

“Since your puberty was delayed your body most likely had low hormone levels which is normal for kids,” Janet added. “Puberty is the time when a young body begins producing hormones, testosterone for males and estrogens for females. Your body was waiting for testosterone. Due to your impatience you fed it estrogens. Your plan to kick start your puberty worked, only you kick started a female puberty.”

Tears were flowing down Benji’s cheeks. He realized he’d messed up big time.

“Unfortunately the estrogens you were taking killed your masculinity,” Janet continued. “Your testicles, colloquially known as balls, are dead. Had you ever been hit in your balls?”

“Yeah,” Benji sniffed. “It really hurt.”

“It should,” Janet agreed. “Testicles are soft spongy organs that produce testosterone. When I examined you I found your testicles. Instead of spongy like olives they were hard like a dried bean. When I squeezed them you didn’t react. You should have been curled up squealing like a pig. Benji, because you took the premarin for so long your testicles are dead. They’ll never produce testosterone. You’ll never enter male puberty. You’ll never grow into a man.”

Benji Joe just sat there dumbfounded. “What can I do?” he forlornly whispered.

“Because of the pills you have entered puberty as a girl,” Janet answered. “It has made you more feminine than you were when you arrived and it will not go away. You have two options. One is to stop taking the Premarin and live as a feminine male. The other is to continue taking the Premarin on a medically regulated dose. Doing that will continue the female puberty you’ve already started. You’ll develop into a pretty woman. Once you’re an adult, what’s left of your masculinity can be surgically rearranged to their feminine equivalent. What you need to do is decide which way you want to go, to live your life as a feminine man who is always fighting to prove he’s a man when he really isn’t or to embrace what you’ve already begun and become a woman. Furthermore, you need to decide now. So far only Bobbie Joe knows about your breasts and she’s agreed to keep your secret until I get back to her. Even though our Uncle Joe is a good man and your guardian, he’ll only make a mess of this if we give him a chance. Together, you and I can convince him that whatever you decide now is the best course. He’ll go along with it because he’s too indolent to try to work out another solution.”

“I don’t want to be a girl,” Benji sniffled. “But I sure don’t want to continue being a girly guy either.”

“I understand, sweetheart,” Janet soothed. “But you have to decide now. Otherwise I’ll have no choice but to involve your uncle.”

Benji sniffed. “What do you think I should do?”

“I can’t make the decision for you,” Janet soothed. “Think on this. Being a feminine boy has been difficult for you. You need to answer to one question. Do you want to do that for the rest of your life?”

Benji dropped his chin to his chest and sobbed his heart out. Janet slid her chair to his and wrapped her arms around him. The distraught lad leaned into her embrace. The answer was terrifying. There was no way he could continue defending his non-existent masculinity for the rest of his life. His only choice was to embrace the femininity he’d accidentally started.

Dr. Craig and Benji agreed the truth of his feminine puberty would remain between them alone. She briefly outlined a plan in which she’d explain he was a hermaphrodite entering female puberty naturally. Not really having any other choice, Benji reluctantly agreed.

A bit later they headed down to supper. Bobbie Jo raised an eyebrow but Dr. Craig shook her head. Betty Jo and Billie Jo both noticed Benji Joe’s malaise and red eyes. Bobbie Jo signaled her sisters to hold off questioning. Betty Jo’s husband Steve and Uncle Joe dug into the meal with their normal gusto, neither noticed Benji Joe was dejected.

After they finished the meal Dr. Craig spoke up. “We have a dilemma we need to address concerning Benji Joe. I know he’s your ward, Uncle Joe, but since this is a medical issue that will effect all of us, I’ve already discussed the issue with Benji. While he isn’t happy, he understands there is only one way to go.”

“Is he sick? Is it contagious?” Uncle Joe apprehensively asked.

“What he has is not contagious,” Dr. Craig stated firmly. “But he does have an urgent condition. As you all know nearly everyone thinks he’s a tomboy.”

“That wouldn’t be a problem if he got a buzzcut,” Uncle Joe snarked.

“Joe Carson, that is the WORST thing he could do,” Dr Craig scolded. “Bobbie Jo and I noticed a situation Benji has hidden from us. He was soaked in the rain this afternoon and his clothes were clinging to his body. I sent him to shower then gave him a complete physical. We all thought Benji Joe was a late bloomer as far as puberty was concerned. Benji Joe entered puberty shortly after he arrived here. However, it was not male puberty, it’s female puberty. Benji Jo needs a brassiere.”

The three sisters immediately understood what Dr. Craig was saying. Steve and Uncle Joe were clueless.

“Benji Joe is a hermaphrodite,” Dr. Craig explained. “A hermaphrodite is a person who is both male and female. While Benji appeared male at birth, what the doctors thought was a penis was actually a useless growth and he has no testicles. That’s why he never entered male puberty. Inside he is a girl and has entered puberty like any other girl. Uncle Joe, Benji Jo is really your great niece.”

“You mean he’s a girl?” Uncle Joe gasped.

“Yes, that’s exactly what I mean,” Dr. Craig replied.

“How can that be??? No... wait... don’t tell me... I don’t want to know. I don’t know anything about raising a boy, I know even less about raising a girl! Just... Just take care of it,” a rattled Joe rambled his train of thought. “Benji Joe... I...”

“It’s okay, Uncle Joe,” Billie Jo soothed the agitated old man. There are four of us women here, we’ll take care of Benji Jo.”

“Good, I knew I could depend on you girls,” Joe blustered as he got up from the table and moved away from the crisis.

Steve chuckled at once more witnessing Uncle Joe avoiding responsibility. “You better contact Mr. Douglass tomorrow to let him know that Benji is a girl so he can make sure she starts school as a girl.”

Steve left to take care of little Kathy Jo while the sisters and Dr. Craig dealt with the sniffling red-faced Benji. Dr. Craig explained that since Benji Jo had always assumed she was a guy, discovering that she was a girl was emotionally shattering. Furthermore, with the start of school just two weeks away, they had a lot to do to teach Benji Jo how to be a girl. That included teaching HER to never stand to relieve her bladder, how to braid her long hair and fashion pony and pig tails. Most importantly, how to handle herself in a dress or skirt. Benji simply shivered with dread upon hearing the upcoming crash course in GIRL 101. Dr. Craig warned the sisters they had to be patient with Benji when she balked at doing a girlish activity. Simply back off giving her a chance to pull herself together before continuing with the lessons. Benji knew she was setting things up to allow him to mentally adjust to his ever encroaching girlhood.

The sisters were relentless. They raided the attic storage to retrieve clothes they’d worn, outgrown, passed down and stored. That first night his male clothes disappeared, replaced with panties, bras, slips, petticoats, skirts, bouses, dresses, ankle and knee socks and strap shoes. Benji Jo wore a nightgown to bed that first night.

Dr. Craig provided the sisters with anti-anxiety pills for Benji if she became too worked up. They were given strict instructions allowing one pill every eight hours. Benji knew his enforced girlhood was his own fault for stealing the Premarin. It was, she reasoned, a just punishment. While the enforced femininity was unrelenting, it was done with tenderness, explanations for why each action was taken, and a lot of hugs. Dr. Craig explained to Benji the frequent bouts of tears was simply part of being a girl.

Dr. Craig took a skirted Benji Jo to see Mr. Douglas at his farm, the old Haney place. Mrs. Douglas gushed about what a pretty girl the blushing Benji Jo was now that she’d abandoned her tomboy phase. Benji Jo giggled when Mr. Douglas drove his antique Hoyt-Clagwell tractor into the farmyard. Suddenly the engine coughed, a huge cloud of smoke billowed from the engine and one of the rear tires fell off.

Mr. Douglas was about to make an aggravated exclamation when he noted the females. It was clearly evident he had to choke his words back down his throat. Quickly regaining his composure he approached the females.

Dr. Craig explained Benji Jo’s medical condition and the need to alter her gender hopefully correcting her birth certificate. Mr. Douglas wasn’t sure if it would be possible to correct the birth certificate but if she medically documented Benji Jo’s condition, he could correct her current records to see she began school as a girl.

Dr. Craig already had the documentation prepared. She, Benji Jo and Mr Douglas headed into Hooterville to Drucker’s Store. Sam Drucker was briefed on the situation, smiling at the once more blushing girl. As the local Justice of the Peace, Mr. Drucker notarized the documents legally changing her middle name from JOE to JO while designating Benji Jo a female. Since Sam was also Superintendent of Hooterville Schools, changing Benji Jo’s enrollment paperwork was easy.

By the first day of school Benji Jo had grown confident in her appearance as a pretty girl. While still shy, no one questioned her femininity. She easily made friends amongst her unsuspecting classmates.

It took several years for Benji Jo to fully accept her unwanted change of gender. Benji Jo had learned one very important lesson, she would NEVER ever steal anything again.

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