Chapter Description: A Flashback to Clark's first day on campus. A teasing reminder of what he's lost.
“There must be some kind of mistake,” The Principal peered at me over the top of her desk. “Enrollment is open, but classes don’t begin for another week.”
The receptionist, a Miss Raine Forrest, held my hand and looked to the administrator. “That’s what I tried to tell him, Mr. Mann. But he insists he’s a new hire. A teacher.” I stood there, silently, hoping my deodorant would hold up under the pressure. Tucking my notebook under my free arm, praying that it would somehow make a difference. The only thing I wanted to be sweaty was my palm, a good way to safely and politely wriggle out of the receptionists grip. The giant couldn’t possibly think I needed a diaper because of moist hands, could she?
Then again, she was an Amazon. Amazons would use any reason they could get, no matter how implausible.
Cassie told me I shouldn’t have come here. Even on my shiny new scooter, fancy notebook, perfectly combed hair, trimmed goatee, and pressed suit, I wouldn’t look “grown-up” enough for this crowd. I should have stuck with the plan and relegated myself to an online setting, where I could teach Littles around the world; or at least work with Amazons where they couldn’t lay their mitts on me.
The Principal walked around from his desk. An old man with jowls that made him look like a bulldog and a patch of white hair rounding his otherwise bald dome. Guy could have played Scrooge in the Oakshire Christmas Pageant. I never liked that story, though; too much emphasis on Scrooge reforming all because of Little Liam. Another example of an Amazon being their best only when they had an opportunity to “take care” of someone smaller than them.
“What did his Mommy or Daddy say?” He didn’t look at me, just to the receptionist.
“That was the weird thing,” Forrest said. “He didn’t have anyone.” She looked down at me and smiled. “Though I wouldn’t mind…” She let the thought just float into the air, leaving it unsaid.
“That’s very kind of you,” I lied. “But I’m not here to enroll, I’m here to report for work.” I was tempted to say that I was very mature, but I knew that would be a trap.
Cassie and I had run through several mock interrogations last night. “Never bring up things like maturity or how good you are at taking care of yourself.” She told me. “Don’t let it even come into their heads. That’s like chumming shark infested waters.”
Principal Mann took a knee and looked me in the eye. He waved the woman off and she let go of my hand, though she didn’t move. I was released but still trapped. “What did you say your name was, Little Boy?”
I shifted the notebook into my left hand and held it over my now free right one like it was a shield. “Clark Gibson, sir,” I nodded politely and put on my most placid smile. Never seem afraid. Amazons who saw a fearful Little would think he had something to be afraid of. This was true enough, but your typical Amazon never stopped to think that they might be the cause of such stress. I wouldn’t give him a sweaty handshake, either. Bad etiquette. “You interviewed me over the phone. Preschool teacher.”
I did my best to not put any hint of a question in that sentence. Never give them a reason to doubt. The Principal narrowed his eyes. “Gibson? Yes. I did, didn’t?” I remained quiet. Patient. Serene. I wasn’t in any danger. This was just a tiny mixup. “I didn’t know you were a Little.”
“You never asked,” I said as calmly as I could. I hoped my smile added to the facade. In truth he didn’t ask because he wasn’t allowed to ask. Legally speaking, no one was allowed to be denied employment based on their age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or size. Amazons liked to try though.
His lips twisted. I’d say he’d just sucked on a major sour ball, but Amazons hated candy by and large. “You seemed very articulate over the phone. Very mature.”
“Thank you, sir.” I said. Fuck you too, old man. I saw him sniff the air, lightly. I looked up and saw the other Amazon do the same. They were sniffing the air. Sniffing for me. Seeing if they could detect a whiff of baby powder, or the faint scent of ammonia or methane. If I so much as farted now, the sharks would frenzy.
What would I do if one of them tried to check my pants? To grope me to see if I was wearing a diaper or pull open the back of my pants to see if I’d pooped them? I honestly didn’t know how I’d react to that. Would I freak out and lose my temper? Would I freeze and lose my ability to speak? Would I...would I wet myself?
No. No. No. Just breathe, Clark. Just breathe. In and out. In and out. Don’t let them see you sweat; literally or figuratively.
This was okay. This was okay. This was going to be okay. Any minute now the Amazons would see their mistake and escort me into my classroom; my classroom; that I was in charge of. This was the dream. The dream that I was teetering on the edge of achieving but if I teetered the wrong way I’d end up in my worst nightmare.
Why had I gone for an elementary school position?! I had gotten certifications all the way through highschool, but this was the first brick and mortar school where I’d applied. Why?! If I had gone for that ninth grade remedial calculus position like Cassie had suggested, there would at least be some distance the Amazons would have to carry me before I got to a nursery; more time to escape. This place had one on campus!
“You wanted to see me, Mr. Mann?” A new giantess stepped into the Principal’s Office, closing the door behind her. She was at least twenty years my senior, early to mid forties. Her curly auburn hair had some dark greys at the roots in need of dyeing, but her glasses weren’t too terribly thick; reading glasses worn out of habit most likely.
Her jeans and faded t-shirt stood apart from my extremely professional attire, but school was not yet in session. Everyone, I would learn, tended to dress more casually when students weren’t around; especially when they had heavy classroom furniture to move around. Being an Amazon, she had that luxury. Her normal attire would still lean closer to business casual most days; as the “Littles’ Teacher” she was required to dress more practically; something she could get dirty or get on the floor to soothe a “tantruming” prisoner, or chase after an “antsy” inmate that had somehow made it out of their crib during naptime.
The receptionist took this as her cue to leave. She slipped and slithered away, giving me more than a passing glance before she finally closed the door.
The Principal stood up. “Mrs. Beouf, good to see you. How was your summer?” He offered out his hand.
She took it. “Good,” the new woman said. “Got to spend lots of time with my daughter.” Fuck! She already had a Little girl! Please don’t want twins, please don’t want twins, please don’t want twins!
“How old is she now? Is she in highschool, yet?”
Mrs. Beouf shook her head. “Not yet. One more year before we have to go through all of that.”
The two shared a chuckle. “Enjoy it while you can. They grow up so fast.”
“They really do.”
Okay...a mother, not a so-called Mommy. I wasn’t out of the woods. I’d heard about more than one Amazon deciding that their bio-kids really were growing up too fast so they snatched up a new child that would never grow up. The fact that this one was literally old enough to be my mother made it more likely in my mind.
I was so tempted to see if I could find a way to sneak out. No such luck. The giant woman stared down at me. “Oh,” she said. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt you two.”
She was looking at me, but the Principal felt she was addressing him, and why shouldn’t he? “Oh, it’s no trouble at all. This is someone I actually wanted you to meet. Mrs. Beouf, meet Clark Gibson.”
Her hand reached down. “Pleasure to meet you, Clark. Melony Beouf.”
“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Beouf.” I had no choice. I reached up and shook her hand. Amazingly, she let it go after only a second or so.
“Please,” she said. “Call me Melony.”
My entire brain buzzed with a hornet’s nest of anxiety. “Thank you for the privilege, Mrs. Beouf, but I’m just old fashioned.” When you’re twenty-two, everyone over thirty seems like a Mister or a Miss. When you’re a Little everyone who has more than a foot on you gets the same treatment, lest you get an unwanted and unending lesson in manners.
The giantess seemed to consider this for a moment. “Fair enough, Mr….Gibson..?” I nodded. Yes. She’d gotten it right. She’d gotten it right and called me by my last name- for all intents and purposes my adult name- and I didn’t even need to ask her to.
The fuck was happening?
“I thought you liked your students to call you Mrs. B,” the old Principal said.
“I do,” Beouf said, “but my co-workers can call me whatever makes them the most comfortable.”
“Yes, about that…” Mann started. “There seems to have been a mista-”
“Hold that thought, sir.” Without crouching down, the Amazon looked at me. “Mr. Gibson, are you a union member?”
I dry swallowed. “Um...this is my first job. So-”
“Would you like to be?”
“Yes!” I almost yelped.
“Good,” Mrs. Beouf smiled. “Do you have a dollar?” The bit of my pocket change that I’d brought for a vending machine lunch couldn’t go into her palm fast enough. I’d go hungry for a day if it meant I could go home with my original underwear on. “I’ll have some forms for you to sign later, but the rest of your dues will come out of your paycheck. I’ll write you a receipt, too.” She slipped the dollar into her pocket and looked at the Principal. “You were saying, sir?”
“Yes, I think there’s been a mistake,” the Principal continued. “This Little Boy thinks he’s going to be our new Pre-Kindergarten teacher. I really think he’d be a better fit in your room, if you understand what I’m saying.”
I understood what he was saying. I understood very well. But what would this new stranger think?
“Are you asking me as a Union Representative, or as the Maturosis and Developmental Plateau teacher?” I cocked an eyebrow. Maturosis? Developmental Plateau? The hell was that?
“As a teacher, of course.” Mr. Mann said. “You do such a great job with the Littles under your care, I thought one more wouldn’t be any trouble at all.”
Beouf adjusted her glasses. “What does his I.E.P. say?”
“He doesn’t have one.” The principal replied, curtly.
“Does he have a Maturosis diagnosis?”
Mann frowned. “A what?” At least I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what the lady was talking about.
“What data do you have to support that he needs care beyond what his same aged peers require?”
The old bulldog looked like he’d just been asked to justify chasing cats and biting mailmen. “He’s a Little...and we have a classroom...specifically for Littles.”
“Only Littles who need it.” She looked to me and nodded. “Now let me speak as his Union Representative. Have you hired him, yet?”
I shot my hand up and spoke up as loud as I could. “Yes, sir.” I said. “I signed and faxed the papers back to you two weeks ago.” I opened up the notebook and flashed my copy of the employment contract plus all of the hoops the personnel department had made me jump through. I’d crossed every t and dotted every i. I wasn’t going to be denied this job on a technicality.
Mrs. Beouf reached down and took a look at my paperwork. “Everything seems to be in order. Same contract that all the new hires sign.”
“Mrs. Beouf…” There was a line of warning in his voice.
“Yes, Mr. Mann?” She held my copy of the contract. The shield was in her hands. Now she was shielding me. Her tone was placid, but had its own quiet edge to it. I had representation, apparently. If I didn’t get this job, I might actually get to sue.
The man went behind his desk and sat down, rubbing his temples. “Whatever,” he grumbled. “I’m retiring at the end of this year anyway. Show him to the Preschool room.”
“Of course, sir.” She looked down at me. “Right this way, Mr. Gibson.”
On a kind of half-instinct, I reached my hand up, expecting to be led. Mrs. Beouf ignored it and walked right off without me. I had to break out into a jog just to keep up.
When we were out on the campus, I’d caught up and had slowed my breathing and pace to more of a power walk compared to the other teacher’s relatively leisurely stroll. Long legs and all that. (Other teacher...damn that felt good to even think. This was it. I really was becoming a teacher.)
“Don’t worry, Mr. Gibson,” Mrs. Beouf said once she’d seen that I’d caught up. “Mann is on his way out. He’s all talk, too.” I nodded, saying nothing. Still not a good idea to badmouth an Amazon to another Amazon. “Now the Assistant Principal, Brollish, you better watch out for her. She’s a real witch.”
We came to a classroom. She opened the door to me. “We’re gonna have to figure out some kind of pulley system or something,” she said. “Make it so you can reach your own door.” She made a gesture. “After you.”
I felt the slightest bit of trepidation. But if I was going to be snatched up, I told myself, it wouldn’t be here. “Thank you.” The place was barren, just a few kidney tables and an overly heavy looking oak desk in the corner. Nothing that might indicate it to be a preschool classroom; or a classroom at all. It looked closer to a storage closet.
“Last teacher took all her junk and ran,” Beouf said, shaking her head. “I don’t even think some of it was hers.”
I nodded, noncommittally. “No big deal.” No use in whining and crying over milk you never had.
“If you’d like,” Beouf said, “I can loan you some of my excess stuff. Help you spruce up the place a little bit. Old stuffies for a play center. Some toys. Extra chairs. That kind of thing.”
“That’d be nice,” I said. I was starting to feel more relaxed around this woman. She’d gone to bat for me, faced off an asshole Principal that would have literally seen me adopted before employed, and was now offering to help me arrange and decorate your classroom. Even more impressive she wasn’t assuming that I had children’s toys of my own. “Thank you.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Beouf said. “Everybody starts out as the new guy. Follow me. We’re neighbors.”
I did. I gasped upon entering her room. It was literally what I’d imagined my own room to eventually look like. Bright colors. Activity centers. Neatly organized toy bins. A visual schedule so that children who couldn’t tell time could still develop a sense of predictable routine.
It was bigger than my room too; even had another room attached to it. I peeked in and saw the cribs. That’s when it hit me. “Oh yeah.” I’d almost forgotten. “You’re the uh...Littles’ teacher.” I’d been so overjoyed at surviving my own brush with infancy that I’d forgotten I was being lead around by the Grand Dame of Diapering, herself.
“A lot of my toys aren’t developmentally appropriate for your students,” she said, completely ignoring the reluctance in my voice. “But there’s a couple things that I think will help get you started. Until you build your own stockpile,” she added.
“Uh-huh…” This...all of this was used to baby Littles. Just thinking about it made me feel kind of gross. I was winning though. I was winning. I’d be going home to Cassie tonight. And what was that saying? Know Thy Enemy? That’s what I told myself anyhow.
“I can also show you how to order your own stuff from the county.” Beouf went on. She went to a steaming pot of coffee, high on a counter so that no child (or Little) could reach it by themselves. “You can get your room cubbies, desks, a changing table,” she took a sip.
I took the moment to interrupt up. “No changing tables,” I said.
Beouf put her mug down. “Not every preschooler comes to class potty-trained you know.”
I nodded. “Yeah, but I don’t have a problem with potty training.” That had a double meaning and I meant it. “Part of the job description is getting them ready for Kindergarten. That includes toileting.”
Beouf took another sip. “Good point. Force of habit, I guess. Though trust me, you’re going to want wipes for your classroom. Kids that size tend to get..sticky.” She laughed at her own joke. I chuckled politely. She looked at me, and then to her mug. “Oh, forgive my manners. Coffee?”
Coffee? Coffee?! Why was I accepting coffee? “It’s probably poisoned!” I heard Cassie’s voice belting in my brain. “She’s probably just built up some kind of immunity to it. It’s a trick! It’s a trick!”
Nevertheless, I accepted the giant steaming mug handed to me. I took a gulp of the stuff...and nearly bit my tongue off trying not to grimace. “Thank...you…”
The bluff didn’t take. “Heh-heh-heh. I make it a little strong, don’t I?”
“I’ll have to bring in some cream and sugar next time.”
Next time?! “No, no, no,” I said. “I’ll bring my own. From home.” That...was kind of a lie. I didn’t actually have coffee at home. Cassie would be ordering an express delivery from the grocery store tonight. “I’ll bring my own pot too!”
“Okay,” Beouf said. “We’ll take turns.”
I blinked up at her. “Take turns?”
“Sure. I’ll make coffee for you today. Tomorrow you can brew a pot.” My poker face failed me again. “Or I can show you a few tricks first. You can just bring your stuff in whenever you’re ready.”
“I’d like that.” That part wasn’t a lie.
And so was the start of a beautiful friendship. One that lasted for nearly ten years.
I’d be lying to you if I told you that this is exactly what I dreamt about, stuck in Janet’s crib that Sunday night. With rare exceptions I don’t tend to remember my dreams; the good ones least of all. But I’d like to think I did. I was certainly thinking about it that morning as Janet changed me, dressed me and put me in that car seat before the sun had even come up.
There would have been something nice, poetic even, about having such a dream. Something fair.