Chapter Description: Meet Clark's co-workers. A Tweener named Tracy who is his assistant, and his friend and mentor, an Amazon named Mrs. Beouf. Strange bedfellows indeed.
Chapter 2: Breakfast with Beouf
Before I move onto the second ritual in my everyday routine from BEFORE, I’d like to make a possibly controversial statement:
Amazons are all crazy. All of them. Every single one of them. I have never met an Amazon past puberty that isn’t. “Crazy” does not mean “stupid” or “demented.” As a whole, they’re ridiculously intelligent from a science and technology standpoint.
Many can do Math in base 16 by the time they hit high school, and they’ve got an almost instinctual understanding of practical applications of physics. I’ve seen Amazonian preschoolers who can’t read and who don’t know their shapes or color names make absolutely intricate tinker toy contraptions.
In the most literal sense, they see the world like the rest of us. They know which way is up. They can differentiate between fact and fiction. Statistically speaking, an Amazon is no more likely to hear a dog telling them to go assassinate a celebrity or head of state than anyone else.
Add to that that they’re bigger, stronger, and faster than any non-Amazon and it’s no wonder they’re at the top of almost every pyramid they come across. Lots of brains and the lions’ share of the brawn.
That’s not what I mean by “crazy.” Amazons, by and large, also have a near overwhelming parental instinct. As a whole, Amazons have a drive where they want to mother, smother, guide and control every aspect of the world around them. They want to “correct” and “nurture” and “love” so much that they’ll take almost any excuse to infantilize someone under their power. When you’re an Amazon, there’s always someone under your power.
Sometimes it’s other Amazons: Facelog stories of unruly Amazon teens caught shoplifting and put back into diapers for public humiliation make the rounds all the time. There are always tons of comments about how it’ll “teach them not to be so immature” or that it would be “better to start over.”
It happens to Tweeners, too: the In-Betweeners, or Tweeners for short, have their own balancing act. Bigger than Littles, but smaller than Amazons, they’re literally in-between and caught in the middle of the two extremes. On my way to work, I saw a “Now accepting Applications! Tweeners Welcome!” billboard for a local Littles Daycare. It might have been for employees, it might have been for attendees. The ad wasn’t clear. Maybe that was on purpose. Maybe it was for both.
The school that I had once attended and the school that I worked at both had a Diapered Detention Program; a DDP. Offenders were made to wear diapers and write lines on the chalkboard. (For some reason, it was always a chalkboard, even though every other classroom had infinitely less antiquated technology.) They were then required to wear diapers and get changed by the school nurse for a number of days afterward. Cut down on suspensions.
In my experience, Tweeners were much more likely to be standing at the chalkboard doing lines than either Amazons or Littles. Amazons got in trouble less often. That’s not to say that they were any less likely to get mouthy, mischievous or rebellious than their same-aged smaller-sized peers- just that they were far less likely to see any sort of consequence for it.
Littles? Too often, Littles got taken out of school altogether.
The difference between Amazons and Tweeners compared to Littles was a matter of societal expectations. Amazons, and to a lesser extent, Tweeners, were expected to mature and grow up and bear the burden of responsibility. They were supposed to outgrow and put aside childish things. For them, diapers were a corrective action; a form of social shaming to ensure future good behavior.
Littles? Being a “baby” is considered our default by most people. We’re given enough rope, expectation wise, just to confirm already deeply held beliefs. Any slip up, any faux pas, any mistake, any sign of weakness based on any given Amazon’s perceived expectation on what “adult” is, is automatic justification to snatch us up, “adopt” us (read kidnap), and put us back in diapers and nurseries for the rest of our lives.
The more paranoid part of me thinks they let us reach adulthood just long enough to breed so they never run out of playthings.
It’s always diapers, too. Bulky, infantile, absorbent padding is the default correction as far as Amazons are concerned. Missed a car payment? Diapers. Jaywalking? Diapers. Forgot to wear deoderant on a hot day? Diapers. Looked just too cute and defenseless and someone might just abduct you and put you in diapers? For your own safety, diapers.
When it came to diapers, Amazons were very two-dimensional. You were in them, or out of them. You were an adult or a child.
But it’s so much worse for a Little. For most Amazons, it’s JUST diapers. Most Tweeners, too. It’s a punishment. “You’re supposed to be a grown-up; act like it or else.” Time is served. You are humbled. Then you’re allowed to be normal again, most of the time.
For us, it’s threats of diapers, and losing our jobs, and being taken away from our homes, and bottles, and breastfeeding, and spanking, and enemas, and suppositories, and pacifier gags, and cribs and highchairs with restraints built in and never ever ever being allowed to try again. For us it’s “you never really were a grown-up and you just proved it.”
And so many think they’re doing us a kindness. So many feel justified in what they’re doing and don’t realize how much it scares the shit out of us. So many of these Amazons are hurting us.
And I’m all but completely convinced that it’s some kind of instinct. Some kind of built in primal desire or survival instinct that’s just gone overboard, and their own natural physical advantages make it hard to stop and far too easy to facilitate. Why else would Amazons devote so much damn time to infantilizing every single person in their wake?
I could stop right now and just copy and paste all the technological advancements that Amazons have dedicated solely to the infantilization of other people from Wikitome and it would be longer than anything I’ve written thus far. It’s their trigger. Their passion. It’s damn near their artform, martial or otherwise. There are rumors and jokes that they’re investigating faster-than-light-speed space travel for the sole purpose of the discovery of sentient alien lifeforms...so that they can baby them.
Or maybe it was interdimensional travel...I can’t remember. You can find almost anything on the internet.
In some Little communities there’s the pervasive theory that it’s all a form of control. Stack the rules of the game in their favor. Create a form of soft discrimination; soft slavery so that they’re always in control of the conversation and at the top of the social heirarchy. Punish each other just enough to seem like equal opportunists, but focus most of their energies on keeping everyone else in check.
So that’s it. Either Amazons as a group are a bunch of baby-crazed mad scientists, or they’re brilliant social engineering tyrants. I sleep better thinking it’s the former.
I still wanted to sleep when I rode my scooter into work that day. I loved my scooter. Cassie got it for me online when I first got my job. “If you’re doing this, you better do it in style,” Cassie told me. That’s Cassie talk for “A bicycle will just get you picked off around Amazons.” It was a souped-up light orange number that could hit 50 mph if it had to. I’d be roadkill on the highway, but for the eight miles between home and work, it did its job well.
In the pre-dawn light with almost no morning traffic, I was able to motor all the way to Oakshire Elementary School, dismount, take my helmet off, walk my bike out of the parking lot, and arrive at my classroom door. Mrs. Beouf was already there, waiting for me. As soon as she saw me, she opened the door so that I could store my scooter in the class closet.
“Morning, Mr. Gibson.”
“Good morning, Mrs. Beouf. How are you?”
“I’m well, yourself?”
“Ugh. I think I slept funny. There’s a crick in my neck this morning that just won’t quite work itself out.”
“I hear ya there, Clark. I think it’s about time for a new mattress. EIther that or I’m getting old.”
“No. You’re not old at all.”
We both laughed.
Small talk. This is another thing that might not have happened precisely this way, or it might have happened exactly this way close to a thousand times and neither of us noticed. Before my life turned upside down, I kept my daily anxieties at bay through a series of rituals. They were pointless, mostly. But the predictability of it was comforting in a way. And what’s more pointless, predictable, and comforting than morning small talk at work?
I closed my closet door, hopped up on one of my step stools (there were lots of step stools in my classroom), and locked it shut.
Mrs. Beouf started walking back to her classroom. We were neighbors, our classrooms back to back and connected by two doors and the narrowest of walkways. “Coffee’s on in my room,” she said. “Left a step for you to get it. Already poured you a cup just the way you like it!”
Melony Beouf was forty-eight years old and had the kind of blonde hair that anyone past twelve could only have by going to a hairdresser. We’d been classroom neighbors for almost ten years. She was a friend, a mentor, and easily my greatest ally at work. She also towered over me and could potentially force me back into perpetual toddlerhood on the slightest whim. Like most of the faculty and staff, she was an Amazon. I was the only Little that was employed instead of enrolled.
Life is complicated...
I walked over to her room, taking nine or ten steps to stride across a divide that was very likely only three or four for her. I grabbed the cup of coffee that was waiting for me on the counter and joined her at one of her kidney tables. She sat in the teacher’s spot. I grabbed a student seat. It fit me anyway.
We sat there in silence for a moment. I drank my coffee slowly and fully; draining it with both hands before putting the mug down. To call something so loaded up with cream, sugar, and mocha flavoring “coffee” was likely a misnomer. Mrs. Beouf took hers black and took it in little sips.
Both of us, still tired. Both of us, desperately needing the coffee to get through the day.
I never considered myself a Helper- what we in the Little community call those self-loathing, self-serving souls that do everything they can to please Amazons on the off chance that they won’t end up back in diapers because they’ve been Good Little Helpers. In hindsight, because of rituals like this and other contexts that I’ll soon reveal, I can see why I might be accused of such, so I can’t begrudge my accusers.
I looked around Beouf’s room, and if not for a few small details of decoration or building geography, I might think I was in my own. Our classrooms were nearly identical in form but completely different in function: we each had toy chests, kidney tables, art supplies, low level academic posters for decorations, televisions and DVD libraries stacked with cartoons year-round and cabinets filled with healthy snacks. We shared equipment for various pretend and play centers that we rotated in and out of our respective rooms throughout the school year. Both of us had in class bathrooms with toilets too tiny for an Amazon adult to sit on comfortably. Nearly identical.
But to the side of her classroom was an extra room filled with old but sturdy cribs. Her bathroom also had a heavy oak changing table in addition to the toilet. The table saw infinitely more use than the toilet.
I was Oakshire Elementary’s pre-kindergarten teacher. She taught Oakshire Elementary’s “Maturosis and Developmental Plateau Unit,” a phrase which here means “a classroom that regresses Littles so that they have shit in their brains as well as their pants.”
I had a class of mostly Amazon three- and four-year-olds. My job was to get them potty trained and have them ready for kindergarten by the time they hit age five.
Mrs. Beouf’s class was comprised exclusively of “adopted” Littles, and her job was to do the exact opposite: to make them not only dependent on diapers and the Amazonian “Mommies and Daddies” who changed them, but to ensure that they accepted their new status. Make them like it.
And we were friends.
Life is very complicated...
Amazons like Mrs. Beouf are what make me want to believe that Amazons are over-maternalized crazies. For close to ten years she had been one of the nicest, most pleasant, most respectful, most decent people I’ve ever met. It’s really hard to think of her as a monster.
For example, the coffee: every morning, I’d come in, and Mrs. Beouf and I would share some before work. Sometimes it would be in my room and I’d take my teaching spot at the table, with her huddled up to her knees in one of my student’s chairs. Sometimes we’d do it in hers. But she’d always prepare it and I’d drink it, fully and without hesitation.
If you’re an Amazon, you’d be surprised how many stories and close calls every Little or a friend has had with regards to the coffee. It’s already a natural laxative, and bitter or sugared to the max, it was good for hiding extra little somethings in them.
One accident. That’s all it’d take in this town to get sent into her class, and that’s if I was lucky. Some Littles went to New Beginnings. We both knew that. A typical Amazon would hasten that, try to control circumstances so that I’d end up right where their crazy instincts wanted me.
Beouf wasn’t a typical Amazon.
“Ready for the day?” I asked, sitting my cup down with both hands.
Mrs. Beouf took a sip from hers. “No sir,” she said. “But gotta do it anyways.”
It was a sign of trust. I trusted her not to poison me. She trusted me to trust her. That was the basis of our friendship. Back then we were trying to prove something to the world and to ourselves. Not all Amazons were monsters. Not all Littles were babies.
“Faculty meeting, today,” she reminded me.
I got up and stretched. “I know, I know. Want me to save you a seat?”
“Think you’ll beat me to it?”
“I suspect so. My students’ bus tends to take off before your students’.”
“That’s just because you don’t have to buckle all of your students into those special car seats.”
I shuddered. I brought that image on myself. “Point taken. Still, want me to save you a spot?”
“Sure,” she said, taking our cups over to a nearby sink and rinsing them. “We’ve gotta stick together.”
I let out one last yawn before the coffee kicked in. “You know it.” I suspect we both did. She was looking for camaraderie. I was looking for safety. Ten years knowing the same Amazon and no betrayals. That was a good track record.
Go on. Call me a Helper if you want. Maybe I was. I’ll own it, now. It wasn’t the most dignified thing, but there’s no dignity in diapers. Truth be told, I picked my profession for a reason.
The few Littles I knew of who went into teaching picked middle or high school. Hormones. Puberty. Double digit years of bad habits learned from their parents. Students able to pick up their teachers without straining. Total recipe for disaster.
I was at least the same size as most of my students. I got my own assistant, and if I could make an impression on them as kids, plant the seed early enough that Littles were adults, then maybe future generations of Amazons wouldn’t be such crazy assholes.
Speaking of assistants, Tracy poked her head in from my side of the divide. “Hey, Mrs. Beouf. Hey, Boss.”
“Hey, Tracy,” we said in unison.
Tracy was a Tweener. Taller than me and most of the fifth graders, still dwarfed by Beouf. She was my teacher’s assistant. I doubt I could have taught if not for her. Four-year-old Amazons were still four-year-olds, meaning that they could be taught good habits. They were also still four-year-olds, meaning that very physical tantrums also still happened. “Thought I’d find you in here when the room was empty but the light was on.”
“Sounds like me,” I said. “The lights are on, but nobody’s home.”
We all had a good laugh at that. Beouf was chuckling and shaking her head, like she felt guilty for laughing. Tracy was howling, the little poof ball bangs of her hair bobbing up and down as she pounded the kidney table. I laughed too, proud of myself.
The laughter died down and Tracy started talking again. “Got your printouts from the copy room.”
“Thank you, Tracy,” I said in a kind of lackadaisical sing song.
She answered back in the same cadence with “Welcome, sir.”
I’ll admit it: I secretly loved it when taller people called me sir. “I’ll put them where I need them right after the kids’ breakfast.”
“Yes, sir,” Tracy said. “Ready to go clock in?”
It was Mrs. Beouf who made a show of stomping her feet and whining. “But I don’t wanna!” Another joke, though it was how we all felt at this time of morning.
“You sound like the kids!” I joked.
“Whose?” Tracy asked. “Hers or ours?”
Then Mrs. Beouf said “Both!” She and Tracy laughed again. I didn’t. It didn’t feel good being reminded how Littles were viewed. If they noticed my discomfort, they were either nice enough to stop without apologizing, saving me the embarrassment, or it was just a coincidence how abruptly their bark of laughter ended.
“Oh, before I forget,” Tracy told me. “Watch out for Raine today.”
I cocked an eyebrow. “Who?”
“Raine,” Tracy said. “Y’know, the school receptionist?”
I threw my head back. “Oh, Miss Forrest,” I said. I’d long ago developed a habit of thinking of most Amazons by their last name. Even Mrs. Beouf wasn’t always “Melony” in my mind. “What is it this time?”
“I was up front and saw her packing some kind of chocolate.” she said. “No wrapper. I think she wants to give it to you.” I slapped my forehead in exasperation. “I know, right?”
Beouf shook her head in disapproval. “That woman….” was all she said. Forrest
All Amazons are crazy. I’m still convinced of this. But not all Amazons are equally nutter butters. Beouf was crazy in that any given Little, regardless of age, could be either a baby or an adult. I was an adult to her. Her students weren’t. Crazy, right?
Miss Forrest was crazy because not only were we ALL babies to her, but she wanted a “baby” of her own oh so badly. Her own daughter had grown up and moved to college and the gossip mill was churning that she was looking to “adopt” to fill that empty nest in her life.
Our school receptionist was a junkie, and I was heroin on two legs. Mrs. Beouf couldn’t believe that the woman would violate some unspoken code of Amazon ethics that so very few of them, in reality, actually shared.
I couldn’t believe anyone would name their kid Raine Forrest.
A knock at the door (out of politeness) and then the turn of a key, and Mrs. Zoge entered. I shoved my hands in my pockets and did my best to look casual as I backed away. Wire-rimmed glasses, wrinkles just starting to set in, and dark black hair despite it all, Mrs. Zoge was Mrs. Beouf’s teaching assistant. The “Maturosis and Developmental Plateau” unit got one too.
Toddling and waddling in close behind her was her daughter, Ivy. “Good morning everyone,” Mrs. Zoge said, eerily cheery as usual. “How are you?” She looked at me. “How are you, Mr. Gibson?” She always made a point to single me out. It always sounded so forced when she said it, too.
Maybe it was her accent.
It probably wasn’t her accent.
Some rituals weren’t always as pleasant as coffee and small talk...
I gave my usual non-committal reply. “I’m well, thank you.”
Mrs. Zoge turned to her daughter. “Say hello, Ivy.” she chirped.
“Hiiiii,” Ivy waved. She did a curtsey, lifting up her short skirt and letting her nappy peak out as she did. “It’s good to see you all today.”
A tired chorus of “Thank you, Ivy,” and the girl was satisfied, giggling and clapping her hands as if she’d done a performance. In a way she had, most likely. I hoped. We’d been doing this routine with Mrs. Zoge and her daughter for the last ten years at least.
If you’re doing the math and if you have any empathy in you, you also know why being around Mrs. Zoge and her daughter made me distinctly uncomfortable. A fringe benefit for Mrs. Zoge was that her Little girl got to attend instead of going to a private daycare.
“Alright,” I said, opening the door to my room. “Let’s go sign in. We can cut through my room.”
Tracy and Mrs. Beouf were right behind me. “Ivy, I swear I just changed you, you silly thing!” I heard Mrs. Zoge scoff, lifting the front of a twenty something year old Little’s dress to check for wetness. “Don’t wait up! We’ll meet you at the bus loop!”
I never waited up.