The first story —
Auntie Magdalene and Jack.
My word, how Jack has grown. He is now the vice president of a prominent life insurance company in Vermont, and well liked and respected in the community. I was so surprised to see him with his third child last week, returning home from church on Sunday where he had once more been elected to the church council. He’s come so far.
However, he was not always so. Like so many of us, he grew from somewhat less auspicious roots. In fact, in conversations with my dearest friend Magdalene, I learned rather more about this extraordinary young man. Of course, I remembered him well as a little boy, as you will see. It seems only fair to tell the story as Magdalene told it to me, and as I witnessed it from time to time, though never as a participant. I would merely see this awkward little boy in her garden or banging about upstairs. I had no knowledge at the time of the events, or what strange goings on were afoot.
Magdalene and I have had a number of little adventures. We were childhood friends and attended a secretarial school together in Fresno when I turned twenty. I’m so happy that she came to live back home as I really can’t think what I’d have done without her. However, after she settled down and got married she was a little too well acquainted with the bottle, if you know what I mean.
So, let’s talk about Jack. At the age of eight he was sent away for the summer to his aunt Magdalene, who like myself enjoyed a California beach lifestyle. Now, to give the proper context, this was during the Second War. Jack’s aunt’s husband was away in the Pacific, a career naval officer.
The summer holidays gave young Jack the opportunity to visit his aunt, and his parents a chance to enjoy the summer free of the child. It was an arrangement that all concerned found worked very well.
Aunt Magdalene was a little eccentric. She lived on a small inheritance, and enjoyed what would today be described as a hippie lifestyle, though at the time there was no particular word for it. She had many artistic friends, some of whom made a small living with the motion picture industry and others who were essentially housewives, and often bored.
Every Monday afternoon Aunt Magdalene would have a series of women friends over. Most, like Magdalene, had husbands who were away. Little Jack was really the only man in the house most of the time, however little he may have been.
One day, when the ladies were gathered in the living room, Jack was playing in the garden, running to and fro after a ball and chasing Magdalene’s Labrador. As the ladies sat there, sipping their martini’s, one remarked to Magdalene how Jack ran ‘just like a girl’. With that all the ladies laughed and said how funny it was that the young fellow was the only ‘man’ in the neighbourhood.
‘But isn’t it so nice to have just one little man!’ remarked Magdalene.
“Personally, I like it when they’re away doing whatever it is they’re doing in Europe,” said Elsie, one of the older ladies. “It’s a relief not to have to put up with them.” She took another drink, and then said, “And you’re quite right. He does run like a girl.”
The women laughed, and drank, and Magdalene found the entire situation quite amusing. As the afternoon wore on she plied her guests with drinks, and the sun began to sink. It wasn’t until her friends had left and she was sitting on the back porch alone that she an unusual thought struck her.
How very amusing it would be if the next time the ladies came round, just one weeks time, she was able to entertain them with ‘Jaqueline’ rather than Jack. How funny it would be, and maybe Jack would play along.
“Who knows,” she thought to herself. “Perhaps it could be the start of an acting career.”
The following day she drove to the nearby town. After buying the usual groceries, she walked into the local haberdashers. There she selected a variety of clothes perfectly suited to an eight year old girl.
She chose a summer dress, some open toed sandals and some frilly panties. They were a little over the top, but in such an unusual experiment these things were quite acceptable.
She also found some nylons that would work nicely, and a tiny training bra. It was almost not a bra at all, but it added to the ensemble. As she drove home, Jack oblivious in the rear seat, she laughed to herself thinking how her friends would be amused.
The idea that Jack could pass as a girl had not really crossed her mind, but as she glanced at him in the rear view mirror she wondered. Was it really possible?
Not having children of her own, this little game seemed harmless enough. It never crossed her mind that there might be consequences to such a harmless diversion, and so she went merrily on her way not realising what seeds she might be planting in this young mind.
The following afternoon Magdalene called Jack up to her room, which was quite unusual, and asked him to sit before the large dressing table mirror.
“I’m doing the makeup for some of the boys and girls in the school play in the fall, so I’d like to practice one you, if you don’t mind, Jack.”
“Of course, Auntie,” he replied.
His aunt then promptly began applying a base, and then some color to his cheeks. As he watched he was interested in how contoured his face began to look. Eager to help, he sat quietly as Magdalene worked away at the make up. As she applied lipstick he found it waxy and strange, but she told him to sit quietly, and removed the excess with a little tissue.
Tracing his eyes easily Jack watched as he began to change shape in the mirror. ‘How wonderful that makeup could create such a change,’ he thought.
At length Magdalene finished the work, then took a long slow look at him.
“Remarkable,” she said. “You do look truly beautiful.”
Jack felt wonderful.