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Andersonville 4by: Kelly Davidson
I couldn't believe I was sitting here. Twelve years ago I was at the top of my game. 'Mack the knife' the fans use to call me. They gave me that name because I would slice through the defense of any team in the NFL. My team, the Cincinnati Bengals, was 14 and 2 going into the playoffs. We crushed the first team we played and kicked Buffalo's butt in the AFC championship. The only thing that stood in our way between our World Championship and Superbowl rings were Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49er's. Despite our record we were a three-point underdog going into Superbowl XXIII. But our coach, who insisted I call him Sam, had a few tricks up his sleeve. With my help we were going to beat the 49er's and I was going to claim my fame in history.
Only my claim to fame didn't happen the way I had intended it to.
The night before the big game I was feeling cocky. I had been struggling with drugs ever since I joined the NFL five years ago. A lot of guys did drugs, but some couldn't handle it as well as others. Unfortunately, I was one of those guys. I had already been suspended once for drugs use a year and a half ago. After my drug rehab I stayed clean for almost a year but then started using again. Now I found myself needing a hit. As if it were an answer to my prayers, a good friend of mine showed up with a brief case in his hand. Inside was some of the finest white snow that money could buy. We spent the rest of that night partying and snorting away.
By the time I arrived at the team's meeting place less than three hours before the game, I was stoned out of my mind. I will never forget the look on my coach's face when he saw me. It was a painful look - not because I had let the team down but because I had succumbed to the demon again.
My teammates were devastated by the news, I couldn't have hurt them in worse way. I was their leader on the field and they looked to me for guidance and strength. Football games are 60% talent and 40% emotional. What I did tore the heart out of the team. We lost the game by a score of 42 to 10. No one played well, and everyone knew why. Maybe we would've lost anyway but that wasn't the point. I had let my teammates down - I had let my fans down - I had let myself down.
Not long afterwards I left my Cincinnati residence in the middle of the night. My football career was over. No team wanted me, not even the bad ones; not as long as I had this monkey on my back. I was washed up at 27 with no skills to my name. I started using the money I had saved toward retirement to buy drugs. I needed the white powder to forget all the pain and hurt I had caused everyone else.
It was a bad year, most of the time I couldn't even remember what day of the week it was. It was one endless high that ended when I finally ran out of money. Then reality hit - I was flat broke with a major drug problem. But instead of trying to get help I started looking for an easy way to make some quick cash. I tried breaking into houses but found that I wasn't very good at it. On my first attempted I got nabbed by the police while still inside the house. One of the few friends I had left posted bail for me. I was out for less then three hours when I was caught trying to break into another house.
At my trial the public defender assigned to me was a joke. A six-year-old could have done a better job than he did. I was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in jail, but with good behavior I was out in four.
When I was released I determined to make some kind of life for myself. With the help of my parole officer, I was able to get a janitor's job. Everything worked out well for about six months; then I got back into drugs.
Since my current job couldn't pay for the rent and drugs I got a day job breaking into houses again. This time, with some pointers I had received from other inmates during my stint in prison, I was a little bit more successful. But in the end was caught only this time I was sent back to prison for a very long time. Which brings me to my current situation.
Across from me sat a tall, charming man wearing an expensive suit. It was the third time in the past month he had come to talk to me - mostly about my past life. At first I thought he was a sports reporter doing a story on how the mighty had fallen but as it turned out he wasn't interested in my football career at all, he was interested in me.
"Hello Mack," he said pleasantly.
"Hi Mike," I answered back. His name was Mike Stoner and although he rarely talked about himself, I knew he had to be a religious man. He was always pleasant and polite and never cursed or talked in any way that you could consider being dirty. More importantly, he didn't seem to have a judging attitude that other outsiders I met seemed to carry. There was almost a 'Mr. Clean' atmosphere about him.
"How have you been since the last time we talked?" he asked me. Our conversations always started out this way, the small talk about how I was doing. I guess most guys would have told him to piss off but he was the only person who ever visited me. To be honest, I was happy to see him. At least it got me out of my cell for an hour.
"I've had better days," I replied with a slight grin. But if I was expecting this visit to be like the others I was sadly mistaken.
"I don't have a lot of time to talk to you today Mack." Mike noted the look of disappointment on my face but continued. "I need to ask you something. If I could get your transferred to a new facility would you be interested? I mean a place that doesn't have any bars on the doors or windows. A place where you could come and go as you please. Would that interest you?" A spark of interest flew in my eye - what prisoner wouldn't jump at such a place?
"Does it exist?" I asked. "Because if it does, I'll leave with you right now."
"Even if it means breaking ties with everyone you know, including your family?" Mike asked.
Now that was a tough question. While I wasn't close to my mother, father, or two sisters - they were still my family. And I had a couple of aunts who kept in touch with me by letters although that wasn't on a regular basis. Being told to break ties with them was a big step. But then when you came right down to it - they weren't really what you would consider family in the traditional sense. And I knew they didn't want me around anymore. I had become an embarrassment to them.
"Yes, I would be willing to break ties with them if necessary," I told Mike. "The only time I hear from them anymore is on my birthday or at Christmas time when they send me a card. But they really aren't a part of my life anymore."
The clean-cut man nodded as if my answer came as no surprise to him. It was almost as if Mike knew what my answer would be.
"I'll see if such a place exist for you, Mack." With those few words he got up and left without saying goodbye. As I was led back to my cell I kept wondering if Mike was serious about what he had told me. I hoped he was.
Voice of Dennis Butz - Thousands of years ago there was a war in the heavens, between the gods of old and the new arrivals. During the process the earth was almost destroyed by fire and floods as our war ran unchecked. Finally, after centuries of conflict, an uneasy peace was achieved between our two people. Both sides recognized they needed the other, but neither side was willing to trust the other. However, as man grew in power and knowledge he challenged the gods themselves. To maintain the balance and keep the peace, a buffer zone was needed.
It's a small town - just like thousands of others spread across the land. Quiet streets, family-run businesses, and Saturday afternoon picnics. But this town is different. It's a place for lost souls, for misguided individuals, and for those who are in need of a second chance. It's also the last, best chance I have of freeing my people from their captors. The name of the project is restoration; the name of the town is Andersonville!
Andersonville 4 - Fallen Star
by Kelly Davidson
This story is dedicated to the volunteers and workers of AA
(Alcoholics Anonymous) and other related, drug rehab programs.
The intercom buzzed softly on the desk. Dennis Butz reached over and hit the answer button. "Yes Susan?"
"Your 2:30 appointment is here sir."
Dennis grinned slightly. "Send him in." Dennis stood and greeted the younger man who was clearly 3 inches taller then he was.
"Hello Mike, how was your flight?"
"Fine," the young man answered. "But the attendants kept pushing drinks at me the entire way here. I guess they never met a man who didn't drink before."
"They do that in First-class," Dennis said with a laugh. "Can I get you some juice?" The director knew Mike Stoner was a devoted Mormon who didn't drink alcohol or caffeine drinks.
"Ice water please." Mike took a seat and Dennis joined him a moment later with two glasses of water in his hands - one for his guest and the other for himself out of respect for his employee.
"So what have you got for me Mike?" Dennis started off.
"Three possible and one maybe. Two of them are 1-A's. Another I have classified as a 1-D. Then there is this one." He handed his boss the file. "Prisoner 618342 - Mack Davis. I have him listed as a 3-B."
"A 3-B," Dennis said with a slight frown. "You know we're only taking 1-B's or lower Mike. I might consider the 1-D candidate but not a 3-B."
"Can I tell you his story Dennis?" Mike beseeched. The director motioned for him to go ahead - he didn't have anything to lose by listening.
"About six months ago three men jumped my client in the shower to have their way with him. He fought back and one of the men ended up in the infirmary. The other two men testified that Mack started the fight so he got blamed for it."
"And how do you know he didn't start the fight?" Dennis asked point-blank."
"Well, I don't really," Mike admitted. "It's more of a gut feeling that Mack's telling the truth. And seeing that Mack's never been in trouble before and these other three have plus they are known for this type of activity - it sort of adds up to who is telling the truth."
"I see," was all the director said. He liked Mike Stoner. Mike was one of the brightest recruiters Dennis had - as well as being totally honest. Mike could have marked this prisoner down as a 1-B and no one would have been the wiser about the fight, but Mike didn't do things like that; he gave it to you straight.
"You really want him in this program, don't you?" Dennis asked while glancing over the report on Mack Davis in his hands. Most of it didn't reflect too favorably on the prisoner. "Still, he's a three - and we can't take someone in who has a tendency to pick fights."
"Dennis, if you or I were put in that same situation we would have done the same thing Mack did. The only difference is, we wouldn't have been able to fight our way out of the situation like he did. What the hell was the poor guy supposed to do, smile and let these creatures stick their dicks inside him?"
The director raised his eyebrows. When his recruiter started using profanity and talking dirty it was time to listen to what he had to say.
"Why do you want him in the program so badly?" Dennis inquired.
The man sighed heavily as he tried to regain his composure. "Because I took the time to find out who he is. Look at my report on him, Dennis. He grew up in a neighborhood where drugs and violence were practically on his doorstep. By the time he graduated High School he was reading at a six-grade level and he wasn't much better in his other subjects except for Math. No one took the time to help him grow into what he could be.
"The only thing that kept him in school was the fact he was a great football player and no one wanted to fail him. It didn't matter to the colleges that he couldn't read or write well enough to pass their entry test, they just wanted him for his talent. Then the NFL picked him up and he went from being a big man on campus to a football star loved by millions of fans. But he couldn't handle the fame or maybe he never had a chance because of his childhood. In any case, he needs our help now."
"And where does Mr. Davis' responsibility for all his life mistakes start and ours end Mike?" the director asked scornfully. "Lets not kid ourselves here, he may have not had the cleanest start but he had more chances than most kids in his situation get. He blew it all - big time. So what guarantee can you give me that he won't be a trouble-maker picking fights when he gets to Andersonville?"
"Guarantee?" Mike asked. "I can't give you any, Dennis, any more than I can for a 1-A candidate. I can only give you my professional opinion on this one sir. If he hadn't defended himself from these creatures that attacked him, Mack would be classified a 1-B. He's better suited for this program then most of the 1-A people I've recommended to you in the past."
Dennis stood up and looked out at the Delaware River that ran not far from were he was standing. General George Washington had made the river famous by crossing it on a frosty, cold Christmas night to capture the town of Trenton from the British army the next day. It had been one of the key battles in the Revolutionary War. The director had been a part of that crossing and the battle that followed; in fact he had a medal hanging on the wall of his other office to prove it. Of course he was known as someone else back then and sadly had died in battle before the war was over. But he never forgot all the hardships of that war. The cold winter winds that ripped through his rags they called a uniform. Standing guard duty during the winter months in his hat because he didn't have any shoes to wear. The gun he'd been issued that misfired half the time. And the near-starvation conditions that made their lives miserable. No matter how many times he read about the horrible conditions that the Revolutionary soldiers faced, it never did them justice.
It had been a time of growth for Dennis, and he had learned many important lessons from his leader, George Washington. One of them was to pick good people to do the job and then trust their judgement when they came back to you with advice. It was a lesson that Dennis had taken to heart these past 200 years and it had always served him well.
"Okay Mike," he said turning back to the recruiter. "Offer him a spot in Andersonville. But no special treatment with this guy, understand? Judge Herns has the final say on who he becomes and if he remembers his past; and he can't know that ahead of time. Am I clear about this?"
"Yes - and thank you Dennis," the man answered appreciatively.
The director smiled back. "I trust your judgement my friend. Now let's look at this 1-D client you interviewed."
I couldn't believe the offer Mike had made me. A chance to live in a real town without any bars on the window. I would have to work each day but I could own my car, clothes, apartment or house - all the things free people took for granted. The cost, as he explained it to me, was my identity. I would no longer be known as Mack Davis and I would have to stand in front of a judge who would decide my new identity. But considering what I was currently facing, it was a small price to pay for freedom.
Mike also mentioned there would be some kind of body modification when I got there. I should have paid more attention to what he was saying but I didn't. I was so happy to be getting out of prison that I didn't care who I would become. Of course, I had signed a contract stating that I wouldn't try escape from my new home but I had no intentions of honoring that agreement. I planned to stick around for a while and when the time was right, blow the town for bigger and better things.
There were two other men in the van with me as we drove into a town located in the middle of nowhere. We passed by a sign that said, "Welcome to Andersonville."
'So this was to be my new home,' I thought as we stopped in front of a huge courthouse. One by one we were taken out of the van and seated in the main reception area just outside the doors leading to the courtroom. I looked nervously at the other two men who were doing the same thing. None of us had any idea what to expect.
There were a couple of officers standing on each side of us; the officer closest to me was named Philips. I tried striking up a conversation with him but he firmly told me to keep quiet until I got inside.
After sitting around for about ten minutes another officer with a bushy mustache came out of the courtroom and called out a name. One of the men in our group stood up and the officer escorted him inside the courtroom without saying another word. Fifteen minutes passed and then the same officer came back out and escorted the next man in. I got a little concern because I didn't see the first one leave. Ten minutes later he re-appeared.
"Come with me," was all he said in a neutral tone. The other officers followed me in as if they were needed - which I couldn't understand since I had agreed to come here in the first place. The cop with the bushy mustache stood me in front of the Judge who was busy reading some papers in front of her. I took a guess that it had to do with me. She was an older lady, maybe in her late 40's or early 50's. She wasn't unattractive - in fact I was drawn to the motherly look about her. But I could also sense a disciplinary side of her. She wasn't the type of person you wanted to get on the bad side of. She looked up and nodded to the officer who had brought me in.
"All rise," one of the officers bellowed out. "The Municipal Court of the City of Andersonville, Montana, is now in session. The Honorable Judge Herns is presiding."
"Mr. Davis," the Judge started out with some displeasure in her voice. "You've led a charmed life - going from a football star to a lowly thief, and not a very good thief at that from what I've read. On top of that, drugs and a poor choice of friends. Do you have anything to say before I pass judgement on you?"
I swallowed hard. "Well your honor" It was a good start but I couldn't think of anything else to say. What did I have to say for myself? I was a screw-up and I knew it. I had let everyone down.
"I'm waiting Mr. Davis," the Judge said impatiently.
"I'm sorry for what I did," I answered honestly. "I know I let a lot of people down in my life. I wish I could make it up to them but if nothing else, I wish I could make them forget about what I did to them."
I hung my head down low - it was something I had wanted to say for sometime now and it had come from the heart. I could never make it up to anyone - so I wished they would just forget.
"Mr. Davis, I usually don't grant wishes but in your case I'm going to make an exception. When I'm finished with you no one will remember your life or what you did."
I wanted to ask her how she was going to accomplish this but she closed her eyes and held out her hands in front of her. She seemed to be whispering something but I wasn't close enough to hear what she had to say. To my amazement, the palms of her hands started to glow and from it rose a ball that looked to me to be pure energy. She opened up her eyes and stared right at me. Before I could move the ball of energy took off like a bullet and hit me squarely in the chest. I found myself backing up slightly although I didn't actually feel any kind of impact when it hit me.
After it entered into my body I felt a tingling in my chest that seemed to move to other parts of my body. Suddenly I felt myself shrinking, actually getting shorter by several inches. I wanted to scream but something prevented me from doing so. I watched as my big, muscular arms got smaller until they looked like toothpicks. My legs - I could see them now that my gut was gone - started to do the same thing. I felt a large amount of activity concentrated around my groin but I was too concern about my size to care at the moment. I had shank at least a good two feet and seemed to be getting smaller with each passing moment. Then the activity stopped and I found myself able to talk again. I looked down at my body in shock.
"What - what did you do to me?" I tried to scream. Instead my voice sounded like that of a frighten kid.
"Dr Green will explain everything to you Tanra." An attractive blonde woman stepped forward and stood next to me. Then I realized a couple of things. First, Judge Herns had called me by a girl's name. Second, there was a strange feeling in my shorts as if I was missing something. Quickly I reached my hand down the front of my pants and found the area where my better half should have been, now void of anything. An invisible force seemed to yank my hand out of my pants.
"Miss Stewart, I will not tolerate such behavior in my courtroom," the Judge called out sternly. I nodded, too afraid to even protest about what had happened to me. Judge Herns gave me an unpleasant stare.
"Now, you will go with Dr. Green like a good little girl, is that understood?" she continued in an almost hash voice. "If I find out that you misbehaved in any way I won't be very happy and then neither will you."
I wasn't happy now but somehow I believed what she was trying to tell me. This lady who must have been Dr. Green grabbed my hand and gently led me out the door. One of the police officers followed us to her office upstairs and took a seat in the hallway. The lady doctor guided me to a chair in her office and gave me a pleasant smile.
"Relax Tanra," she said in a warm, reassuring voice. "I'm here to help."
"What's going on," I stuttered out. "What is this place?
"You're in the town of Andersonville," she explained. "As for what's going on, the Judge has assigned you to your new life."
'My new life? What about my old life?' I wanted to know. When I agreed to come here no one told me I would end up as a girl and a little one at that. I wanted out of this mad house.
"This can't be happening," I insisted. "She has to change me back! You have to convince her I can't live like this." I noticed there was a touch of panic in my voice. Dr. Green just smiled back at me as if I wasn't making any sense.
"Why don't we start with who you are first. Your name is Tanra Stewart and you're 9 years old. You have an older brother named Thomas and an older sister whose name is Jossie. Your father is a miner at the Hades-Ferry colliery and your mother works as a cashier at Albertson's. You are currently in the 4th grade and are a 'C' average student, although your mother has been working with you this year to help you improve your marks. Other than the normal things girls your age like to do, you haven't developed any special interests yet."
"Sounds wonderful doctor," I barked although it didn't sound the way I had intended it to. "Look, I'm not interested in what you have to say unless it's a way out of all this."
"There is no way out Tanra," she said in a way that indicated my condition was permanent.
"Damn it, my name's Mack, not this little girl's name. I'm not going through with this - do you understand me."
"Perhaps this will help," Dr. Green replied back sweetly while handing me a doll. I took the doll out of her hand and threw it against the wall as hard as I could.
"That's it doctor," I said losing my temper. "If you're not going to listen to me I'll find someone who will. Either way I'm getting out of here."
"Please don't try to leave Tanra," she whispered softly. "This is for your own good."
"Try and stop me," I dared her. I jumped out of my seat and headed toward the door to find the Judge. I heard the doctor say something under her breath and then right in front of my eyes a tall, muscular black man materialized in front of the door. He looked like a lineman for NY Giants and had an irate look on his stone-cold face. His entire body blocked the door and I knew there was no way I would be able to make him move.
"Sit down Tanra," the doctor said, this time in a more demanding tone. "We can do it the easy way or the hard way - it's up to you."
I lost my temper and made a lunge at her. But she said something else and another large, menacing man appeared out of nowhere and grabbed me from behind. With almost no effort on his part he picked me up and plopped me down in my chair. I tried to shake him off but it was a useless gesture on my part. Dr. Green turned and faced me again, the doll that I had thrown across the room now back in her hands.
"Here's the deal Tanra. I'll release you if you promise to sit there like a good little girl that you now are and hold on to this dolly. If you try to leave or attack me again I'll use more forceful means to see that it gets done. Do you understand?"
"Yea," I answered reluctantly. The giant man released the grip he had on me and disappeared. The doctor walked over and stuffed the doll into my chest, forcing me to grab it with one of my free hands.
"Good," she said, her pleasant attitude now replaced with a more serious overtone. "Let's start over."
Our conversation lasted a little more than an hour. Actually it wasn't much a conversation since she did all the talking and I just sat there listening. Dr. Green went over a list of do's and don'ts - mostly don'ts. Some of the don'ts were I wasn't allowed access to the Internet or make long distance phone calls to people I once knew. I couldn't leave town or skip, to my horror, school. I couldn't back talk adults, curse, drink or drive a car, and I especially wasn't allowed to tell others that I had once been a man; not that anyone would believe me anyway but it wasn't allowed to tell anyone just the same. When we were through talking the doctor ushered me out the door to the waiting police officer.
"I'll see you in a couple of days Tanra," she told me. "Have a good day at school tomorrow." Before I could reply the police officer took my hand and led me away.
"I used to love seeing you play," the cop told me as he pulled me down the steps. I stared up at him.
"You're a Cincinnati fan?" I asked. I was somewhat surprise by how friendly he was treating me. The cop snorted.
"Are you kidding - I'm a Green Bay fan. I saw you play us one year, you really had some moves. Then I saw you rip through Buffalo in the playoffs for 225 yards and three touchdowns. Man, you were hot that day."
"It was one of my better games," I admitted. "I don't suppose you would like my autograph," I offered. It wouldn't hurt to have this guy on my side. I may need him to bust out of this place. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name."
"It's Officer Philips to you," the cop said rather smugly. "And your autograph's no good anyway. The Judge made sure no one ever heard of you before. What you did in that Buffalo game and all those others never happened."
"What are you talking about?" I argued. "I'm in the NFL record books. Millions of people know my name. You can't erase things like that on a whim." The officer just smiled down at me.
"You'll find out who's right and who's wrong. There's your sister so be good." He gave me a slight push toward a teenage girl I'd never seen before.
"Thank you officer. I'm sorry for any trouble she may have caused."
"It's my job ma'am. Oh, Dr. Green wanted you to know that she'll be picking up your sister after school on Friday. You'll need to make arrangements to have someone meet her up here around 4:30."
"Thank you officer, I'll let my parents know." The stranger grabbed my hand and pulled me out the door. "Come on Tanra. We have to get home and make supper before mom and dad get there."
She dragged me outside to an old, beat-up car that I couldn't even make the model off of anymore. We got in and she started driving North on Main Street. That's when I noticed there was something strange about her eyes, as if they were twinkling back at me.
"Where did you get the doll?" she asked in a way that indicated she was trying to make conversation and wasn't really interested in my answer.
"Dr. Green gave it to me," I replied, wondering if this stranger knew who I really was. She grunted and continued driving. The doctor had warned me not to try but I wasn't about to quit without a fight.
"I'm a man - you know that, don't you?" The teenage girl turned and gave me a funny look.
"You're crazy, sister - and I should know since I changed your diapers when you were a baby. No wonder the school wanted you to see this Dr. Green. First it was monsters under your bed, now you think you're a little boy. What's next?"
"But I'm not a little girl - or a little boy for that matter," I insisted. "I'm a full-grown man trapped in this child's body. My name is Mack Davis and I used to play football in the NFL. Check the Internet, you'll find my name out there."
"Look," she said sternly back to me. "I'm in no mood for these little games of yours Tanra. I have a history paper due tomorrow that I haven't even started yet. If you think I'm going to let you off the hook by not helping me fix dinner you're wrong. If you keep this up, I'll tell dad and he'll really fix your wagon - got that?"
I sat there in silence wondering what to do next. This person was acting like she had known me all my life yet we had just met. Even stranger was the twinkling in her eyes. The more she interacted with me the more they flashed. I found it a little creepy.
We pulled up in front of a small, two-story house surrounded by other houses of similar size. I had to admit there was a certain charm about my new home. The neighborhood was certainly different than the one I had grown up in.
"Set the table 'brat'," she ordered when we got inside.
"Where are the dishes?" I asked. She rolled her eyes angrily at me.
"I told you I wasn't in the mood for your games," she hollowed. "Now get the table set while I start dinner."
She pushed me in the direction of a long cabinet along the wall. Inside I found what I was looking for. Based on what the doctor had told me about my family, I set the table for five people. When I walked into the kitchen to tell my sister I was done I was rewarded with an apron thrown at me.
"Peel some potatoes," she ordered. There was an authoritarian tone in her voice that caused me to think twice about refusing. Fortunately I had learned to peel potatoes when I was a little boy and went to my task with earnestness. It had been years since I had peeled any potatoes and I found myself enjoying the task. It gave me a chance to sit down and plan my next move. I thought about sneaking out of town in the middle of the night but nixed that plan. There was no way I was leaving Andersonville until I was changed back into good old me.
Next I thought about hiding in the Judge's office and when she came in I would overpower her and force her to make me 'me' again. But I dismissed that plan as well. If she was able to turn me into a little girl it was unlikely I would be able to scare her into doing my bidding - let alone overpower her. No, I needed a better plan. A teenage boy walking into the kitchen interrupted my thoughts. From the way he went over and grabbed some food off the counter this teenager could have only been my brother.
"Where have you been?" my sister yelled at him. "You should have been home half an hour ago."
"I had football practice this afternoon and then my friends and I went over to Larry's to check out the women," he said with a boyish smile. "You know how much they adore me! Chill Sister."
"I'll 'CHILL' you," she threatened with a spoon. "You're supposed to help with dinner tonight - remember."
He hit his forehead with the palm of his hand. "Darn, I forgot again."
"Well I didn't," the voice of an older woman said. She was slightly tall, skinny, and had a very tired look on her face. In her hands were two bags of grocery. "I told you specifically young man to get home right after football practice and help out around the house. Here, take these bags from me."
My brother did as he was told without an argument and set them on the counter. My mother was someone who demanded and got respect in this house.
"But mom, you can't expect me to do woman's work," he protested.
"Woman's work? Since when is having a clean house and a warm meal on the table just a woman's responsibility?" my mother asked.
"Aww mom, you know what I mean. Girls are always playing house and stuff like that. It's like you train for this all your life."
"Who's been filling your head with this garbage?" my mother demanded to know. "Your good for nothing football pals I bet. Well, in this house the men and women are equal - which means we don't segregate our jobs young man. Now help your sister with dinner."
"Why not just put me in a dress and apron?" I heard him protest under his breath. My mother heard it too and gave him a silent stare.
"Wait right here," she said in a calm but even tone. A moment later she returned and threw something at him. "Put it on!"
It was a dress, a worn out red dress with white flowers all over it and clearly one of my mother's. My brother stood there holding it in his hands with his mouth hung slightly open in fright while my sister stood there laughing her head off. Even I started to giggle at his predicament.
"Go ahead and put it on Thomas," my sister teased. "I bet you'll look lovely in it."
"Shut up Jossie," my brother snapped back at her. "Mom, you can't be serious about this."
"Do you want me to get you one of my 'bras' to show you how serious I am?" This caused my sister and me to laugh even harder.
"Mom listen. This is no disrespect to you but women are better at certain things than men are."
"Like cooking, cleaning, and changing poopy diapers on screaming babies - is that what you're saying?" By now my mother wasn't just a little annoyed with my brother; she was steaming. And every word my brother said only dug the hole a little deeper
"Well yea. I mean, it's what your mind is tuned into. To stay home and take care of the family - it's a nurturing thing. And men, they're better at providing for their families."
"So let me get this straight," another voice rang out, this one definitely male. "Since your mother has to work to help support us - then I'm not really a man? Is that what you're saying son?" It was my father returning from work. He looked tired after putting in a full day down in the mine.
"Um, no dad," my brother replied, trying to weasel out of the mess he had talked himself in to. "I wasn't saying that at all."
Both of my parents gave him an unpleasant glare. "Perhaps you shouldn't say anything else and do what your mother says before you do find yourself in that dress," my father said, "as well as in one of her bras and panties sets! Thomas placed the dress on a chair and turned to help his sister without saying another word. My father gave my mother a kiss and asked how her day had been.
"Hectic," she started out. "We really need to get some more cashiers down at the store. How about you honey?"
"Same old, same old. We started opening up a new vein today. Toby seems to think it's going to be a big strike. The test looked good anyway." He turned and smiled at me. "And how's my cute little girl today."
'Cute little girl?' The thought made me ill. Still, my father looked like a kind man who was devoted to his family. I thought of something to say but my sister beat me to the punch.
"She thinks she's some kind of football star daddy."
"Oh," my father said humorously. "For what team?"
"Cincinnati," I told him. "I'm Mack Davis - or as my fans used to call me, Mack the knife because I used to slice through the defense of any team." My father laughed as if I was joking.
"You have some imagination pumpkin!" He rubbed my head in a playful manner. "But I would prefer you played with your dolls instead. One football star is enough in this family. Of course, maybe you can give your bother some pointers."
"Dad!" my brother protested. "What could she know about football?"
"I know more than you do," I snapped back at him. "Go ahead, ask me anything."
"That's enough you two," my father said. "Now finish dinner while your mother and I try to relax a little." I saw them both smile at each other then disappear into the bedroom to change clothes.
"Watch what you're doing Thomas," my sister yelled at my brother.
"Stop being so bossy Jossie. Just because you're the oldest doesn't mean you're in charge." Their argument continued until my mother came out a few minutes later to put an end to it. Somehow my brother and sister managed to get dinner ready without fighting anymore.
When we sat down to eat my father made us join hands as he said the blessing. Then he engaged each one of his children in conversation. My father seemed to be generally interested in what each of us had done that day.
I thought about what I wanted to say. 'Well Dad, I just got out of prison today because, unknowingly, I agreed to become your daughter. The reason why I was in jail is because I started breaking into houses to support my drug habit. Now don't get me wrong dad, you seem like a nice guy and all, but I really don't want to be your sweet little girl anymore.'
However, when he did ask me what I did today I made up something to please him. He was just like everyone else in my family one of those people with the twinkling eyes. I knew trying to tell him the truth was a waste of time.
"So, whose turn is it to do dishes tonight?" my mother asked after dinner was over.
"It's Thomas's turn," my father answered.
"Dad, I did the dishes last night," he protested loudly.
"And you'll do them again tonight and for the rest of the week after what you said to your mother," he told him sternly. "And I'll help so we can have one of those private father-son talks you enjoy so much."
"Aww dad," he grumbled while picking up the dishes from the table. My father followed him into the kitchen with an armful of dirty dishes in his hand.
"Let's do your homework Tanra," my mother said in a tired voice. "Go get your book bag."
Now the last time I had done any homework was when I was studying a playbook. In school I had never been a very studious student. I knew football, not my brains, was going to be my meal ticket in life. However, I didn't know back then that I would end up inhaling it all through my nose. It wasn't that I was stupid -- I was just lazy. And as long as I kept scoring those touchdowns and winning games my parents didn't care that I was a 'D' average student. By the time I had got to 8th grade other kids were doing my homework for me. They were glad to do it just so they could hang out with one of the most popular guys in school. Back then I was a chick magnet and what I didn't want they were more than happy to pick up. Now, I thought sadly, I was the chick.
I started pulling out my books and found a crumbled up piece of paper that turned out to be my math assignment. It seems my captors had thought of everything.
"Your teacher told me you need to work on your fractions more. Try doing what you can and I'll help you work out the rest." My mother watched closely as I worked out the first problem. Even though I had never been very good at math I didn't have any problems with the first three problems. The fourth one was a little tougher but I managed to get it done. When I got to the fifth problem I didn't know what to do.
"Okay Tanra," she said in a nurturing voice. "Make a box like you did with the first one. Now put the numbers in their places. Good, now which is bigger, five or two?" She continued this way, supplying me with simple but useful hints while letting me work out the problem. Over the next twenty minutes I began to get the hang of it.
"It looks like that's all the homework you were assigned tonight," my mother said once I had finished the last problem. "Go get into the bathtub and afterwards you can watch a little TV before bedtime."
I made my way upstairs with uncertainty. I wasn't sure what to expect to find in my room. It turned out I shared the room with my sister, a situation I was sure she wasn't happy about being the oldest. I stood there in the center of the room not knowing what to do next. Where were my clothes? Which dresser was mine? I didn't want to start rummaging through everything to find what I needed.
Then I remembered what Dr. Green had told me. I closed my eyes and asked the question 'Where is everything in my room?' Suddenly, like magic, the answers started popping into my head and I knew where everything was. It was kind of a little funny to ask a question and have the answer pop into your head like that. I gathered up some pajamas and headed to the bathtub.
It was odd seeing my naked body for the first time. The lack of my penis screamed out I was a little girl and I found myself wanting to cry over its loss. I was no longer a man, something I had become accustomed to all these years. I didn't see how I could fit in and continue living in this new role, and I didn't want to spend the next few years playing with dolls and learning how to be a good mother or *gasp* wife. I found myself dreaming of ways to get out of this town.
The pounding on the door brought me back to reality. My sister was yelling at me that it was past my bedtime. I discovered I had been in the tub for well over an hour daydreaming. I dried myself off and got dressed in the pajamas I had brought in. My mother was already waiting in my bedroom to tuck me in. I looked at the clock - it was only 9:35pm. I sometimes didn't get out of bed until this time to party all night.
"Sweet dreams Tanra," she told me with a loving smile while handing me a teddy bear. She gave me a kiss on the cheek and turned off the light. I found myself very tired from the day's events and closed my eyes. In a few minutes I was sound asleep.
The hallways were packed with swarms of excited students as I entered my new school. I felt a sensation of panic standing there with other 8 and 9-year-old kids - who really were 8 or 9 years old. I was a full grown, adult man - at least on the inside. But here I would be seen and treated as just a young child.
Not knowing where to go, I stood in the corner and closed my eyes to concentrate. I asked the question on where to go but to my frustration, the answer didn't come to me.
"Having trouble finding your room Tanra?" I opened up my eyes and saw a middle-age woman standing there with a cordial smile on her face. She had brown, curly hair that was stylishly cut so it hung just below her shoulders. The hem of the peach dress she wore ended at least 3 inches above her knees and only enhanced her beautiful figure. But not only was she gorgeous, her face held a look of vast wisdom.
"It's room 103 - down the hall, turn right. It's the 2nd room on the left," she told me even before I had asked the question.
"How did you - "
"Read your mind," she finished for me with a satisfactory smile. "Because I'm the superintendent of the school district and it's my job to know everything about my students."
It took me a moment to realize she hadn't really answered my question. "That's not what I asked - or was going to ask YOU." I was starting to get a little frustrated. "Who are you?"
"My name is Mrs. Miller," she said looking at me curiously with her big, blue eyes. "Now you better get to class Tanra before the bell rings." She gave me a slight push in the direction of my room and headed off in another direction. Even though she looked normal enough, for some reason I felt like I had been in the presence of someone who wasn't quite human.
I managed to get to class just before the bell rang. Looking at the other kids in my class, I noticed most of them had that twinkling effect in their eyes - all except for one boy. He gave me a quick smile but didn't seem to notice I was different from the others. There was a young woman writing something on the chalkboard that I assumed was my new teacher. When she turned to face us I realized she was also a real person. She must have noticed the same thing in me because she gave me a strange look and smiled slightly. I later learned her name was Miss Johnston.
"Okay class," Miss Johnston told us. "We're going to do your math test first. Clear your desk of all books and papers and keep your eyes on your own test." Everyone did as they were told and she started passing out the test to us.
I looked at the first question; it was a fraction problem. I'd never had much luck with tests but then being a football star I'd never felt a need to worry about them in the first place. I decided to give it my best shot. I worked on the first two problems without much trouble and breezed through the next five. Problem number eight gave me some trouble but then I remembered what my mother had taught me and I worked out the answer. By the time the teacher asked for the test back I had answered all the questions.
I couldn't' believe it. Suddenly a surge of pride rose up inside me. I couldn't remember the last time I had completed a test. Nor could I ever remember feeling like I had 'aced' one before. I had passed a test - me - Mack Davis. I felt like I was on top of the world.
Feeling cocky from the test I dove into our history assignment, raising my hand and begging to yell out the answers. Sure, it was little kids history but for the first time in my life I knew the answers. I couldn't remember the last time I felt so good about myself. In high school I had been a dumb jock but now I was as smart as any other kid in class - maybe smarter. By the time recess rolled around I was beginning to like school. As I went by Miss Johnston to go outside she stopped me.
"I'd like to speak with you for a moment Tanra." There was a note of concern in her voice.
"Did I do something wrong?" I asked fearfully when we were alone.
"No," she said smiling. "It's just that - you usually don't participate in class so much. Has anything changed recently to make you act so different?" I could see it in her eyes she wanted to know if I remembered.
"My mother helped me with my school work yesterday." I could almost see the hope fading from her eyes. "And, I wasn't always like this."
A look of recognition appeared in her eyes. "So you know who you used to be?" I nodded that I did.
"So do I," she told me. "I've been here for almost a month and you're only the fifth normal person I've met."
"What about Tony?" I asked curiously. He was the regular boy in class who I had seen earlier.
"He doesn't remember a thing," Miss Johnston replied. "Look, we can't talk long or they'll get suspicious. This Dr. Green seems to know about every move I make. It's like this whole damn town is wired or something. So don't let on that we talked. If you stay after school some day we can discuss everything. But just so you know, I'm trying to find a way out of here."
"Why not just refuse to play their game? Tell them you're not going to be this Miss Johnston person anymore." A frighten look appeared on the woman's face.
"I tried that once," she whispered softly to me. "I told the Judge to go to hell, that I wasn't going to do this anymore. She turned me into a little baby and I spent the next three days in the hospital nursery. It was terrible. All the nurses thought I was a little baby and treated me like one. They talked to me in baby talk, changed my diaper," she grimaced a little, "and fed me with a bottle. When the Judge asked me what I wanted to do I begged her to return me back to this life. She did so with a warning that I would find myself back into baby for good if I didn't behave. I never want to go back there again."
My hopes were shattered. I thought by refusing to play my new role it would get me changed back to who I once was. Instead it was a one way ticket to a life in diapers. A cold chill went up my spine.
"I have a plan though," Miss Johnston told me with hope. "Judge Herns can't change us all into babies. I figured if a group of us got together and refused to carry on this way, she couldn't ignore that. We could negotiate a life that we want.
"How many have you got so far?" I asked. A discouraging frown appeared on her face.
"Unfortunately, no one yet," she answered. "But I believe Judge Herns left us with our memories for a reason. If a group of us got together and refused to play along in this game it will ruin their plans. Alone they can control us, but together we have strength. What do you say - are you in?"
'Am I?' I found myself wondering. While I wasn't happy being a 9-year-old girl I realized it was better than the life I had once been living. For one, my craving for cocaine was gone. I no longer had those earlier morning shakes, the hallucinations, or that helpless feel of being out of control until I got my next score. In my past life I would have paid anything to be rid of that demon.
Then there was my family - a real family. My other parents weren't bad but they had never been there for me either. If I skipped school, so what? As long as I kept scoring touchdowns for the team they weren't concern. I never had to show them my homework, never had to study in front of them, never had to explain my bad grades to them. They were too wrapped up in their own lives to be concerned about mine. But my new parents were different. They were involved and challenged me. They wanted to make sure I succeed in life by using my brain and not just my muscles. They wanted me to grow up to be a well-balanced person who could read and write like everyone else. The Judge had made me young enough to achieve that dream.
"I'll have to think about it Miss Johnston." There was a deep look of disappointment on her face since she had expected me to jump at her offer without a second thought. She told me we would talk later and shooed me out the door.
I ran to join my other classmates on the swing set and suddenly felt alive again. My drug problem and then my stay in jail had robbed me of that feeling. Now I was free to run and jump and do anything I wanted. I had forgotten how wonderful that felt.
"Hi," I heard someone say to me. It was Tony standing there in front of me with a shy grin on his face.
"Hi back," I replied. Suddenly I felt a little embarrassed standing there talking to him. The last thing I needed was to have the teachers talking among themselves about how cute of a couple we made or be teased by the other kids in my class. I tried walking away but he followed me like a puppy dog.
"I'm playing football this year," he boasted.
"Really!" I answered still walking. His remark caught my attention and instantly I knew what he was doing. Tony was trying to think of something to say to impress me and make me like him. Then again, I had done the same thing when I was his age.
"So what position do you play?" I asked while looking around to see who else was watching us.
"I'm a fullback, and I'm going to score lots and lots of touchdowns," he announced proudly. I looked carefully at his body and calculated he would be lucky to get across the line of scrimmage.
"Want to see me play this Saturday?" he asked with big, hopeful eyes.
"I don't know, I may have to wash my hair that day." I said it with a tone of sarcasm in the hopes he would get the message and leave me alone. He did.
"Oh," he whispered sadly. "I understand."
He turned and walked away, his body language indicating I had hurt him more than I had intended to. Suddenly I felt incredible guilty for what I had said. He didn't seem like a bad kid after all. All he wanted was someone in his class - okay, a girl in his class to watch him play. Maybe he would go far in football if he had some positive encouragement. And I had just ripped his heart out like I had done with my past teammates.
"Wait Tony," I said before knowing what I was doing. He turned and looked at me - the slight glisten of a tear forming in his eyes. "'I'm sorry about what I said. What time is the game?"
My mother was helping me with spelling words. She looked tired but her interest in me never wavered - or her encouragement.
"That was very good Tanra, I'm proud of you. You got all of these words right the first time." She gave me a warm, encouraging hug and I was elated by her words of praise. It only made me want to do better and please her more. But in the back of my mind something was bothering me.
"Mom, can I ask you something?"
"Sure honey," my mother replied.
"Would you still love me as much if I wasn't that smart?"
She pulled me in close to her. "I would love you no matter what Tanra. I've been in love with you ever since the delivery nurse laid you into my arms. All your father and I want is for you to be happy and try your best. Does that answer your question honey?"
I didn't answer her; I was too busy giving her a bigger hug back.
It was close to 11:30 and I was hungry. I couldn't wait for the bell to ring so I could eat my lunch and go outside to play. Most of the stuff Miss Johnston went over in class kept me interested because I knew enough about what she was saying to understand. Every now and then she would add on more details to the subject that I hadn't known before. I was learning and enjoying it.
"Well class, I was very pleased with your test scores from yesterday," she informed us while passing out our math test. "Some of you improved greatly over your last test."
When she handed me back my test I was shocked. At the top of the page in red ink was a score of 100. I couldn't believe it; I had aced the test. I couldn't remember acing a test before. Miss Johnston smiled brightly down at me.
"Congratulations Tanra. You got the top score in the class." The other kids looked at me with surprise and envious eyes. Apparently Tanra hadn't been a very good student before I took her place. At that moment the bell rang.
"Alright class," Miss Johnston said to all of us. "It's time for lunch. Let's line up at the door." Everyone did as they were told which struck me as being kind of funny. At my old school the students didn't respect their teacher. They would laugh or joke and not follow instructions the teachers had given them. But here it was almost a given that if your teacher told you to do something you followed it to the letter.
We proceeded down the hallway in silence - also a given since talking in the hallway wasn't allowed. My mother had packed my lunch today so I brought my milk and took a seat by myself. To my surprise, a couple of other girls sat down next to me. Both of them were those unreal people.
"You must have studied hard for that test," said one of the girls in my class. Her name was Nancy and she wasn't an unpleasant person to be around although she did tend to rattle on in class. The other girl I had never seen before.
"Kind of," I agreed while trying to think of a quick way not to have to talk to them without hurting their feelings. It seems these unreal people had feelings too. The other girl sat there politely in silence eating an apple. She was at least two years older than me and kind of cute sitting there in her white pants and pink sweater. Her dark hair was in a ponytail that was held together by a single, pink ribbon.
"Do I know you?" I asked the new girl.
"I'm Jennifer," she responded sweetly.
"Jennifer Anderson," Nancy added. "My best friend."
I looked squarely into Jennifer's flashing eyes. "Is Linda Anderson your sister? The one who works at the courthouse that is?"
Jennifer nodded her head. "My sister started working there a couple of months ago. I hope to be just like her one day."
"You mean real?" I stated sarcastically.
The young girl gave me a surprise look back. "I'm real?"
"No you're not," I argued in an attempt to find out what happened when they were confronted with the truth. "And neither are you," I pointed to other girl. "You're both fake, or something along those lines. You don't have a soul or anything like that."
If I had expected to get an argument out of them I was about to be disappointed. Both girls started giggling as if I was telling them a joke.
"What are you girls laughing about?" I turned just in time to see Tony sliding smoothly into the seat right next to me, a sly smile on his face. This was just great. Not only did I have fake friends to deal with but also a boyfriend as well. Could my social life get any worse?
"Tanra thinks we're ghosts or something," Nancy laughed.
"Is that so," Tony grinned at me. "Still coming to my game on Saturday?" He asked the question loudly enough so his friends at the next table would hear him. Tony wanted to make sure everyone knew about our little 'date'. I played with the idea of embarrassing him in front of them by pretending I didn't know what he was talking about; then I remembered the sad expression on his face when I blew him off yesterday.
"I'll be there." The boys at the next table started snickering with glee as Tony started going into a long, boring recap of his life as a star football player. I almost laughed knowing I was seeing a mirror image of myself almost 30 years ago. When I was a young boy the only thing I ever talked about to girls was how great I was at playing football. Of course, unlike Tony here, I had been a great football player.
As we made our way outside to play Miss Johnston was standing by the door waiting for me. She pulled me aside from the other kids so we wouldn't be heard.
"Have you thought about what I asked you yesterday?" I saw the pleading hope in her eyes.
"Yes," I replied swallowing hard. "I'll help find other people to join us."
She smiled triumphantly. "I'm so glad to hear that. You better go before someone catches on. We'll talk about this later when we're alone."
As I made my way outside I began to feel guilty. Was I really unhappy with my new life? Compared to my old life this was heaven. Okay, I was now a little girl and one day I would grow up to be a big girl but so what? I was given a second chance at life. Then I got scared. What happened if the people in charge found out I was a part of this? Would they take this new life away? Suddenly I realized how comfortable I was being Tanra Stewart and how much I now had to lose.
After school I spotted Dr. Green in her car waiting for me out front. She gave me a slight wave and motioned me to get in. I noticed she had a friendly smile on her face, a common trait of hers.
"How was school Tanra," she asked as if she was really interested.
"Okay I guess." I didn't want to let on how much I had been enjoying it.
"Good," she said still smiling. We talked some more about school but I sensed she was waiting until we got back to her office to hit me with the big stuff. Once we were there she started.
"I see you didn't take my advice after you left the other day," she stated with some disappointment.
"What do you mean?" I asked knowing exactly what she meant.
"One of my don'ts - don't tell anyone you're a man. It's not allowed."
"I couldn't help myself," I tried to explain. "Do you know how much of an adjustment this is to me? I had to tell someone."
"That's what I'm here for Tanra," Carol Green stated firmly. "To talk to about these things so I can help you work them out."
"But you're one of them!" I said in a raised voice.
"No - I'm not," she answered in a comforting tone, too comforting for my taste - like she was comforting a real 9-year-old child who was scared and confused.
"As for disobeying my instructions," Dr. Green continued, "which by the way, are there for your own good, I'm afraid I'm going to have to punish you."
"Yea, what else can you do to me?" I stated defiantly. "I mean, how can my punishment get any worse."
A small smile crept over the doctor's face. "By taking away some of your privileges. Since this wasn't a major offense, I'm going to be lenient. I'm changing your bedtime from 9:30pm to 9:00 on school nights and 9:30pm on weekends. Don't worry, your mother will go along with this." My jaw dropped down slightly.
"That's not fair," I yelled back.
"Life isn't fair," Dr. Green replied. "If you don't believe me ask the little girl you stole money from to buy drugs with. She had been saving her allowance for months to buy an easy bake oven." I kept silent knowing she had a valid point.
"How long is my punishment for?"
The doctor thought about it for a moment and said, "one month. If you behave, I'll lift my punishment and give you more freedom. It all depends on you Tanra."
"Can I ask a question?"
"Of course you can Tanra," the doctor answered cheerfully. "I'm here to answer any questions you have if I can."
"What do you expect of me? I mean, I'm not really a 9 years old girl and you certainly can't expect me to act like one. So what am I supposed to do until I grow up again?"
She nodded carefully at my question. "You need to embrace your childhood Tanra and forget who you once were. Learn to have fun again. Think of this as a second start at life."
"As a girl?" I asked smugly.
"It's not as bad as you think," Dr. Green explained. "Forget that you're a girl now. What's important is that you relive your life without making the same mistakes as before. All your regrets are in the past now. Remember them and then live life to overcome them."
I wanted to believe the doctor but it wasn't easy. Despite how much I had screwed up my old life, I still wanted it back at least part of it. Why couldn't they send me back to the point where I had first started using drugs? But I realized that that wasn't where I had made my wrong turn in life. It had started long ago when I was still a kid. By the time I got to the NFL my drug use had been unavoidable.
"I'll try Dr. Green."
The football field they were playing on was located behind the elementary school. It wasn't much to look at, a big plain field that someone had put white strips across to show the yard markers and boundaries. But to the kids playing on the football team it was a field of dreams. I arrived about 15 minutes before the game started so I could wish Tony good luck, I knew he would need it. I saw him standing there among the other boys who were much taller and better built. He got a huge smile on his face when he saw me and strutted over.
"Hi Tanra. I'm glad you came to see me play." His confidence seemed to grow seeing me stand there.
"So am I," I said with a sweet smile to help boast his ego. "I hope you do well today."
Before he had a chance to reply Coach Falk called all the players to gather around him. With nothing else better to do, I walked over to where the Coach had laid down his papers and other stuff. I was starting to feel a little blue being there - I loved the game of football in all forms. If there was one thing I was going to miss being Tanra it would be not being able to participate in the game anymore. I guess I could try out for the team since girls were allowed to play football in today's world. But with my small body I didn't have much of a chance making the team. When you came right down to it, bulk did matter in football.
I saw the statistic sheet lying on the ground and decided to take a look and see how Tony did in his last game. It didn't take me long to see that Coach Falk had used the wrong formula to figure out everyone's stats. I had learned how to calculate my own statistics back in high school. My career and salary was based on those numbers. - I lived and died by them. Having nothing else better to do I picked up the sheet and started figuring them out the right way.
"What do you think you're doing young lady," the coach said to me sternly when he saw me fooling around with his stuff.
"Well, um, sir," I started off, trying to act like a nervous 9 year old. "I noticed you figured up the statistics for your players incorrectly and was fixing them for you." He took the chart out of my hand and looked carefully at the ones I had corrected.
"The High School coach wants me to keep stats on all my players. The darn thing is," he said with a frustrated expression, "I don't know what the heck I'm doing."
"I do coach," I told him. He gave me a skeptical stare. After all, the only thing he saw standing there was a little girl.
"You do, uh?"
"Well, yes. You see - it's sort of a hobby of mine, I like working with numbers. If you want, I'll do the stats for you." I flashed him a hopeful smile.
"I don't know," he said reluctantly.
"Look Coach Falk, give me a chance. If I screw up what have you lost? You're still going to have to do them over again anyway. I may be able to save you the time."
He gave me a careful look over. "Okay. I'll try you out. But if you mess up --"
"I won't," I replied back confidently. "Thanks for giving me a chance Coach. By the way, do you have any game sheets?"
The coach looked surprised. "You know how to do the game stats too?"
"Oh yes - it's easier if you do them during the game." Coach Falk flashed me a smile for the first time that day.
"I never had the time to do them during the game," he said while handing me the booklet. "Here, um, what's your name?"
"Tanra," I told him. "And don't worry about the stats Coach, just concentrate on the game."
He nodded and took his position on the sidelines while I started writing down the information. It wasn't as much fun as being out there but at least I was still part of the game.
Tony did pretty much as I predicted; not getting very far past the line of scrimmage before the defense tackled him. One time three lineman converged on the little kid at the same time and buried him for a one-yard loss. In the NFL you would have felt a hit like that until the next game but Tony got up smiling. At half time our team was ahead 14 to 12. I worked out the numbers and showed the Coach my results. I could tell he was impressed.
"We get a least 3 extra yards every time we run to the right," I pointed out.
"So I see," he said with an appreciated grin. "Tanra, I must admit I was skeptical at first but you've proven me wrong. You're doing a great job!"
Praise! It felt good to do a job and be appreciated for it. Of course, there wasn't anyone around to praise you for a job well done after you'd successfully robbed a house.
"How would you like to be my stats person for the rest of the season?" he asked me. I found myself bubbling over with delight and told him I would be happy to. I could tell from the way he looked at me that he was just as pleased with the arrangement.
The rest of the game was played out a little differently. With my numbers, Coach Falk ran plays that should have and did get good results. Even Tony got into the act, running for 20 yards on one play around the weak right. Afterwards he came up to me, a proud look on his face.
"Did you see my run?" he asked excitedly. "I almost scored a touchdown."
He hadn't come close to scoring but I wasn't about to break the young boy's ego. In fact, I found myself wanting to boost it. Tony reminded me a lot of my old self - only without the talent I once had. Still, with hard work, Tony could make the High school team and maybe even a spot on one of the lesser-known college teams. He could be a superstar in his own right if things went his way.
"You did great," I whispered as I reached over and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. His eyes went big as his friends started making all kinds of hooting and kissing sounds as young boys do when they tease each other. Tony just stood there looking dumbfounded and at a lost for words.
"Come on Tony, hit the shower," the Coach told him while dragging him away. He gave me an appreciative glance. "See you at the next game Tanra."
"Thanks Coach Falk, I wouldn't miss it for the world." He smiled and headed back to the locker room with his team. I stood there feeling great about myself. I was useful again. I wasn't some low-life thief strung out on drugs. There were people depending on me and who respected me for who I was. Then a horrible thought cross my mind - Miss Johnston. What if they found out about her plan and my decision to help her out?
As I made my way nervously down the courtroom hallway I was hoping she would still be there. I was relieved to see the doorway to the Judge's chambers still open and equally surprised to see Linda Anderson there on a Saturday. She was dressed in a pair of blue jeans and old T-shirt, not the professional attire I had seen her in before. She looked up from her work and smiled at me.
"Can I help you Tanra?"
"Please - I need to talk to the Judge."
She gave me a look of caution. "The Judge and I were just getting ready to leave. Are you sure you want to talk to her?"
"Yes I do, and it's not what you think. I need to see her."
"Let her in Linda." The Judge was sitting at her desk with a pleasant look on her face as I took a seat across from her. "Now, what can I do for you my child?"
"I need - I need to confess something to you Judge Herns." There was tension in my voice that wouldn't go away.
"Well Tanra, confession is good for the soul," she said somewhat sternly. "What is it?"
"Well, you see," I stuttered. "I don't want to get anyone else in trouble but I kind of - well, I kind of agreed to join some people in an attempt to get turned back into my old self. I know I'm in trouble Judge Herns. But I wanted you to know that I'm sorry for doing this, very, very sorry."
"I see," she responded while giving me a look that wasn't as stern as it was a moment ago. "You know you shouldn't have done that."
"Yes," I sniffed slightly and lowered my head in shame. "It's just that, well, I wasn't sure what to do at the time. This life takes a little getting used to."
"And now Tanra?" she asked with interest.
"Well, I still have issues to deal with but - I feel I have a better handle on all this."
"I see," the Judge replied again. "So what do you think I should do with you?"
"I suppose I need to be punished for this. That's the way it works around here, isn't it? You break a rule and you get punished for it."
Judge Herns softened slightly. "Not always Tanra. There's a fine line between doing something wrong and making a mistake. You also have to balance punishment with mercy and forgiveness. I believe this is one of these times."
"So - you're not going to punish me?" I was a little surprised by her answer.
"No. I expect such attempts from our newcomers. I don't like seeing them and we have to nip it in the bud, but it's not a surprise to me when it happens. Since you made it a point to come to my office and express your regret, I don't see how punishing you serves any purpose. So we'll forget this ever happened."
"Really?" I said as my mood started picking up. "Thank you Judge Herns."
She gave me a motherly smile and said, "Why don't you go outside and play now."
I flashed her a grin and galloped off to enjoy the rest of the day.
I watched Tanra leave and sighed slightly. It meant more paperwork for the file I had just completed. Well, the update could wait until Monday at least. I locked her file in my desk and went in to say goodbye to the Judge.
"I'm getting ready to go June, unless you need me for something else."
"No. Thanks for coming in today Linda - I appreciate it. By the way, do you have any big plans for the weekend?"
"Not really. I may catch a movie later on tonight if I feel like it."
"No date?" she asked
"I'm not ready yet June."
The Judge looked at me with loving eyes. "Yes you are Linda. You just need to let go of your past and accept who you are now."
"You sound like Dr. Green," I retorted.
"Do I?" she said with a small smile. "See you on Monday."
I turned to leave and then stopped. "Judge, may I ask you a question on the Tanra Stewart case?"
"You may ask," she replied back in a humorously fashion. "What is it my child?"
"Well, on the classification for Tanra, you have her listed as 'forgotten'. I've never seen that listing before, what does it mean?"
"It means that most of the people Mack Davis once knew don't remember him anymore. In a sense, he never existed."
"But wouldn't that change their history if he hadn't existed in their life?"
"Yes, if I had let it," Judge Herns explained. "Mack's departure would have left a huge vacuum and since nature abhors a vacuum - it would have re-written history. If I hadn't stepped in and done something about it things would be very different today."
"But one man?" I asked somewhat astounded. "How much change could Mack have made on the world."
"You'd be surprised my child," Judge Herns replied. "But I won't go into all the details."
"So you made sure that history didn't change?"
"No, that would have been impossible," she admitted. "The outcomes remained the same but in a different fashion. For example, the San Francisco 49er's still won the Super Bowl but by a different score. Mack also had a son that he didn't know about. I had to make sure his mother thought someone else was the father. Two of Mack's friends met people through him that they would later marry and another eight couples were married indirectly because of those couples. I had to make sure they all got together through other means. And then there were those people Mack stole from. Sadly they had to remember being robbed because even a bad experience in life can have positive, life-changing affect for the future.
"One troubled boy learned first hand how bad it felt to be a victim of a crime. He went from being a slacker to an 'A' student in High school and is now studying to become a lawyer. Another family purchased a security system after Mack broke into their house. Six months later it saved the daughter from being raped and killed, although no one will ever know that. So you see, we affect the lives of others around us and they in turn affect others that then affect even more people. It's like dropping a pebble in a pond and watching the ripples fan out. That's the way human interaction is, it doesn't end with just a small circle of friends."
I nodded that I understood. The amount of fine detail that needed to be fixed was mind-boggling. How Judge Herns was able to do it was beyond my scope of understanding.
"So if Mack Davis never existed, who took his place on the football team?"
"Someone by the name of Wilson," Judge Herns told me. "His first name escapes me right now."
"How did he do?" I asked
"About the same as Mack," she said with disappointment. It was odd that history kept repeating itself all the time. She hadn't even meant for that to happen - it had done so on it's own.
"Have a good weekend Linda," she told me.
"The same to you June."
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