A jailbird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

“There is no way,” I said to Amanda, my wife’s awful friend.

“Oh, please,” she begged. “Just pretend.  I mean, really, you can pull it off.”

“And I’m not ‘pulling him off’, either!” I protested.

“Look,” she insisted, “all I’m asking is that you hang out with us. I promised!”

“You set him up on a date with some… some… some floozy, and she’s now dropped out. And you’re asking me to step in. And let’s face it, your brother isn’t exactly a catch. This is going to be the first time he’s visited you since he was in jail. That’s not what I think of as a good catch. Besides, I’m married,” I stammered. “You’re a friend of my wife’s. How can you even suggest this!”

I have been shocked by Amanda before. She’s done things that suggest to me she’s not exactly good with boundaries. Perhaps it’s that she was my wife’s lover in university. Or maybe it’s that now she’s in a squalid relationship with my neighbour here in Huckleberry Close, Marjorie. And that’s totally ignoring the puzzling fact that two Christmas’s ago she was making out with Sylvester, my mechanic, on the upstairs landing at my Christmas party. All of this is behaviour that’s quite unbecoming of the editor of Pig and Pig Farmer Weekly.

Sometimes I wish my wife would come back from her extensive travels and take Amanda off my hands. As it is, I’ve promised to try and be nice to her in my wife’s absence. And here she was suggesting I, a transexual, pretend to be interested in her former jailbird brother.

“Look,” she carried on, “that’s not exactly true.”

“Really? Which bit did I get wrong? The part about you setting him up with someone, or that you’re a friend of my wife’s,” I asked.

“You know I am a friend of your wife,” said Amanda, “and I would never do anything to jeopardize your relationship. All I’m asking is that you pretend for a little. After all, that’s not exactly being unfaithful, and it will make my brother feel better. But really, it’s not true what you said about prison.”

“He was sent down for years!” I replied.

“What I mean is, it’s not true about him getting out of jail. He’s on a short release pass.”

“Wait. You’re asking me to pretend to be on a date with someone who’s not even out of jail? What’s next? Would you like me to go on a conjugal visit? And besides, what if he makes a move?”

“Oh, really Fiona,” said Amanda, “I really think you’re over reacting. After all, all I want you to do is have dinner with Marjory and I and pretend to be interested in him. He’s not going to ‘do’ anything. Is that really so much to ask?”

“Well, actually, yes it is. I feel like I’d be lying. Besides, he probably doesn’t even know that I am not ‘as other women are’. He might just be a little surprised at third base,” I said, adjusting the pencil skirt I was wearing. “Besides, I never try to fool people about my gender. Well,” I said after a thoughtful pause, “hardly ever.”

“Look, you don’t have to go that far, Fiona.  Just join us for dinner,” continued Amanda. “I told him I’d be bringing a date for him and he was so happy. My friend dropped out at the last minute, otherwise I’d not ask you.”

I thought about it for a moment. Everything was wrong about this. Her brother, a man in the custody of Her Majesty, who had been surrounded by men for the last several years, would probably want more than just a peck on the cheek from a trannie at the end of the evening. Worse, he didn’t know I am not a woman.

“But Amanda,” I protested, “I have this rule, you see. I don’t date people who are in prison, whether they’re out on a day release pass or not. Besides, why did your friend pull out?”

“Oh, it was nothing,” replied Amanda evasively.

I paused before replying.

“It doesn’t sound like nothing,” I said noticing how awkward Amanda had suddenly become. “So why did she pull out?”

“Something came up,” she mumbled.

“What sort of something?”

“Well, she checked out his history. She didn’t think the whole ‘robbery with violence’ thing was a very good fit for her.”

“I can see how that might put her off.” I said.

“I just want him to have a good visit,” pleaded Amanda.

“And so do I, Amanda!” I said with all the sympathy I could muster. “You can tell me all about it after I get home from the spa weekend I’m going to book for myself the moment you leave.”

Needless to say that’s not how things went down. In fact, and I’m not very proud of this, Amanda’s brother was considerably more socially acceptable than Amanda. And if you wonder how things went down, well, I’m not one to kiss and tell. Needless to say, as I wiped my chin and returned to the dinner table from a short walk in the garden between courses, I think her brother felt like his short term release was one of the most enjoyable releases he’d had in some considerable time.

Which all goes to show, one shouldn’t really judge people too harshly. Better to meet them and take them at face value.

And I did take it all over my face.



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