Chapter Description: Clark has to give a bizarre kind of pep talk to a Little in Mrs. Beouf's class.
Chapter 7: “Typical”
“This fucking sucks!”
I got up from my kidney table and walked over to Chazz. “Will you please be quiet?” I hissed. “I have children. Actual children, and I don’t want them hearing that kind of language.”
The diapered Little stared at me from his spot in my time out corner. “THIS! FUCKING! SUUUUUUCKS!”
I looked back over my shoulder at my students. “You guys have some leisure time,” I called back. “Go play”. The kids didn’t need to be told a second time.
“FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!” I ignored Chazz’s swearing as I went over to Mickey’s cubbie and took out his naptime blanket. Mickey was absent today. He wouldn’t miss it.
I walked back over to the time out corner and tossed it to the diapered Little; still not allowed to wear anything but a T-shirt and his crinkling shame. “Here.”
The blanket was back in my face in less than a second. “Fuck you! I’m not taking a fucking nap!”
I caught the blanket and bit my tongue. Dude was going through a lot right now. Breaking his nose wouldn’t help either of us. I sat down cross legged on the floor across from him. “It’s so you can cover yourself if you want.” I told him. I was tempted, really tempted to add in “unless you want me to see your diaper…”, but that would have been an Amazon move. I held the blanket back out and he snatched it from me, spreading it out over his lap so that his diaper was concealed.
Now we were something close to equals, superficially, if not societally. I thumbed back at my class. “Those kids, they’re three and four. I’m thirty-one. How about you?”
“Old enough…” Chazz crossed his arms and pouted his lip out.
I shook my head. “I’m not doing what you think I’m doing, dude,” I said. “I literally want to know how old you are.” I rubbed my chin and my forearms for emphasis. “When they catch us and zap our hair off, it gets kind of hard to tell.”
“Us?” Chazz returned his his and glared at me. Were he a gun there’d have been a little red dot pointed right between my eyes. “There is no ‘us’, Helper!” I didn’t even blink. I’d been expecting that little slur to come whizzing out of the guy’s mouth the second that Beouf brought him into my room.
“Do you know why you’re here?” I asked. “Do you know why you’re in my room right now?” I interrupted him before he could sass me some more. “Because it hasn’t even been a week and you’re starting to get on Beouf’s nerves. That’s why you’re here.”
Chazz crossed his arms. “Like I care.”
“You should,” I said. “Beouf is an Amazon. She’s a monster. But she’s the nicest monster you’re likely to meet here. You’re in Hell, but she’s the demon that runs the first circle. Do you want to go deeper?”
The dude’s chest puffed out, like he had something to prove; like he wasn’t wearing his toilet around his waist. “They’re not gonna break me!”
I paused. I had to phrase this right and get through all that anger. “Yes,” I told him. “Yes they will. They’ll break you. They always do. Unless you smarten up.”
A flicker of hope. I had his attention. He was hoping that I’d give him tips. Maybe smuggle him out. He really was new. “Yeah?”
“Beouf thinks that you’re in here with me reading you the riot act,” I told him. “She thinks that I’m dressing you down and making you feel super childish or whatever. That maybe someone your own height talking to you like you’re a two year old is going to make you accept their worldview.”
I could practically feel my own nostrils flaring. Dumbfuck. “I know it’s not and you know it’s not. Beouf? I’ve known her for a decade and I promise you she thinks you’re a child, so she’s punishing you like one. Banishment and time-out in another teacher’s room. And that’s the worst that will happen. She doesn’t spank. I don’t think she does enemas or suppositories. She doesn’t purposefully leave you stewing in your own mess.This-!” I pointed to the floor for emphasis. “This is the worst thing that’s going to happen to you here, but only if you stay at this school!”
I could see Chazz get red all over. Not from embarrassment but pure adolescent rage. How old was this kid? Did he really not know how bad it could get? Beyond diapers? Beyond cribs? “It’s bad enough.” From under the blanket I saw him stomp his bare food a little bit.
Deep breath. “You’re not from around here, are you, Chazz?” That didn’t get a response, so I took it as a “no”. Figures. A Little sets out in the world and comes to the podunk piece of suburbia that is Oakshire; and they get sloppy. Littles can’t get sloppy. If we get sloppy, we tend to stay that way. Even white-bread podunk is risky when you’re knee high to an Amazon. “Anybody ever tell you about New Beginnings?” I asked.
Chazz shook his head. He was quiet. He was listening. Good.
“This isn’t exactly a big town” I said. “Not everybody knows everybody, but the locals know the lay of the land. There are a couple of private daycares for Littles, but those can get expensive.” I waited for Chazz to interrupt or say something. “There are two state funded programs in town, too. Beouf’s is one of them. Your…” I had to choose my words carefully just in case someone walked in at the wrong moment. “Amazons...Your Amazons, I’m guessing are more the thrifty sort.”
“I’m not getting the premium diapers if that’s what you’re asking.”
“I wasn’t. You done?”
He stared at me. Then finally let out a “Yeah…”
“The two units are here and New Beginnings. Here, with Beouf, you stand a chance.”
“A chance of what?”
“A chance of still being Chazz.” I said. “New Beginnings is where they send the so-called Bad Littles.”
“Yeah? What happens?”
I chose not to directly answer the question right away. New Beginnings had a bad reputation among local Littles, but if he was going to survive it had to be on more than fear. “Melony Beouf cares about you. It might be you as if you were a baby, but she genuinely cares. I’ve seen her cry when her students couldn’t get with the program and ended up getting expelled. Those Littles end up in New Beginnings.”
The color was draining out of Chazz’s face. It took a lot to imagine an Amazon crying. “Why? What happens to them?”
“Beouf’s toured the place years ago. Turned a job down there on principle.”
“Littles like us go into New Beginnings. But we don’t come out the same.” Silence. “Stay here and Beouf will do everything she can to get you to act how they think you’re supposed to act. If you do it right, that’s all it’ll be. An act. You’ll still have your marbles. You’ll have a better chance…”
“You’ll help me escape?” The look of hope and fear welled up in his eyes, spilling out into a hopeful trickle down his cheeks.
No making promises I can’t keep. I kept going. “If you get expelled and sent to New Beginnings. They’ll scramble your brains so hard that you’ll stop being a person. You’ll just be a system of hypnotic and conditioned triggers that reacts to specific stimulus wrapped up in a Little shell.”
“Like a doll…” he said.
“Like a doll.”
Chazz looked over my shoulder, past the kidney table and to the door leading out of my classroom. “Has anybody ever escaped here?
I chewed on my lip. “Here, here? Naw.” I closed my eyes and shook my head. “But go along with the program. Make them think you’re happy here, and they’ll let their guard down at home most likely.”
“How often does that happen?”
“Not sure,” I told him. Only once had I seriously been asked or accused of helping one of Beouf’s students “run away”. Brollish was interrogating and Beouf, as my Union Rep, had spoken in my defense. In ten years it was the only time I was certain that a captured Little had gotten away. “A couple times…?” I lied.
In truth, Beouf was frighteningly good at her job. Most Littles either learned to accept their fate or they went full native like Ivy. “The point is you’re in prison right now,” I told Chazz. “Life sentence. No parole. But do you want to live in a minimum security or a SuperMAX with solitary confinement? Which gives you the better odds?”
I saw Chazz slump down. Defeated. I hated giving this speech. I felt like such a Helper when I did. There was too much risk in helping other Littles break out directly. I was first on the list of suspects if anybody got away. Having this talk gave me a clearer conscience, too. The lesser of two evils might still be evil, but it was also lesser.
Chazz’s lip started quivering. “I made boom-boom,” he said. He started crying in earnest, losing any semblance. “Mommy! Daddy! HELP!”
Yikes! “Tracy?” I called out. “Do you mind starting Circle Time a bit early?”
“You got it, Boss!” Good ol’ Tracy. I’d have to update her later, but she knew the urgency in my voice.
Scooting over closer to him, close enough to smell the mess he’d made in his pants, I whispered. “Why are you talking like that?”
In muffled sobs and gasps he told me. “I made...boom-boom…” he said. “Poopy in my pants...whenever...I need...changies...I start talking...wike...wike a baby…”
DAMN! I was afraid of that. “Breathe deep.“ I leveled my own voice. “Dig your fingernails into your leg or something. Focus and choose every word you’re going to say...carefully.” Chazz started hyperventilating. “No no no! You’re not in trouble, friend. You’re not in trouble. Not at all. Just talk...slowly.”
A few more panicked gasps and Chazz was able to talk. “They’ve...been making me...watch...these...cartoons…” He almost dropped the r in cartoons but caught himself mid phoneme.
The hair on the back of my arms was starting to go straight up. “Who? ! Beouf? Zoge?”
“No...My...my…” He stopped himself. He didn’t want to say ‘Mommy and Daddy’, but it was the only word that his brain might let him get out.
The programming was too intense for him. “The Amazons who took you?” I said. Then I added, “Adopted you?” A snot bubble inflated under his left nostril and popped. He nodded his head. “I’ll tell Mrs. Beouf about that,” I promised. “Maybe she can get them to stop.”
He moaned a little bit. I heard a burbling and popping noise. He was still filling up his diaper.
“What’s wrong with your stomach?” If he’d only been caught a week he shouldn’t be diaper dependent yet.
Still crying he stuttered out the answer as best as he could. “Ch-ch-ch-choc-”
“Training chocolate?” I had my own mini-flashback of a few days ago.
If Chazz pulled on his scalp any harder, hair would be coming out in clumps. “Mommy and Daddy keep making me eat it….as a treeeeeat!” Sometimes there’s nothing you can do except let a person cry it out. So I did.
“I’M EIGHTEEN!“ he screamed. “I’M JUST EIGHTEEN!” More incoherent bawling. The next part came out barely above a whisper, though “i moved out...and i didn’t even make a year…” I felt nauseous and it had nothing to do with the smell coming out from behind the kid. Now I wanted to cry. I gave him a hug. Not as an adult hugging a child, or a Helper trying to make an Adopted Little feel childish. There was no calculation, or hidden agenda on my part. No paranoia. I just wanted to be a decent person to him.
He was bawling into my shoulder. I was close enough that I could hear the hiss as his bladder gave out and released a deluge into the padding between his legs. “FUCKIN’ AMAZONS!” he screamed.
Right then I wanted nothing more than to help him. I wanted to give him the keys to my scooter, tell Tracy to open the door for him, and give him as much of a head start as I could. Instead, I leaned in and grabbed the back of his head, pressing our foreheads together in a kind of aggressive nuzzle. I helped the poor kid the only way I knew how, instead.
I whispered to him. “Say ‘typical’.”
Chazz stopped bawling long enough to take a breath. He sniffled. “Huh?” he whispered back.
“If you need to say the F-word, say ‘typical’ instead. You can get your anger out, and they won’t have any reason to know what you’re really thinking. ‘Typical Amazons’. You’re going to make it through this.” I was giving empty promises. The same promises I told myself. “But to do that, you’ve gotta be smart. Rebel, but do it in small ways. Subtle ways. Ways that won’t make them take it out on you. Ways they won’t think of. Don’t say the f-word. Say ‘typical’, instead.”
He was quiet. Good. Quiet meant thinking. “Okay…” he finally said. His breathing was slowing. Getting it back under his control. “‘Typical Amazons’. Yeah...I like it.”
We were too close to make proper eye contact, but I’d like to think he felt my smile. “So do I,” I told him. “So do I. Use it everyday, myself.” I stood up and offered him my hand. He took it and I helped him to his feet. Hopefully his so-called parents wouldn’t turn him into a crawler.
The blanket fell away, leaving a drooping mass of diaper out in the open. I heard one of my students let out an “Oooooooooo!” I whirled around and gave them a glare. They whithered back and paid attention to Tracy. A fringe benefit of still having facial hair: I was still scary to toddlers, even the ones that were bigger than me.
“Come on,” I said. “Let’s go talk to Mrs. Beouf.”
Quietly, we walked out of the time out corner, through the back door, and crossed the distance between my classroom and the Maturosis and Developmental Plateau classroom. Only the very muted crinkling of Chazz’s very full diaper and my the purposefully heavy footsteps of my loafers made any sound.
That, and the heavy thud of the door behind after we entered Beouf’s classroom. I actually needed Chazz’s help yanking the lever down; an anti-escape measure I supposed...or just a rusty lever. It’s a weird thing, cognitively speaking, asking a prisoner to help you open up the door to his cell.
“Why, hello there!” Mrs. Beouf said once we were all the way inside. Her voice went up an octave, meaning she was addressing someone much younger than her. She came up and leaned over and put her hands on her knees. “Chazz, have you taken time out to think about how you ought to behave?”
Chazz looked to me. I nodded. Get it over with. “Yes, Ma’am.”
“Okay! Mrs. Beouf forgives you,” she said. “And even when you make her mad, she still loves you! Now, go play. We’ll have circle time in just a few minutes.”
Beouf stood up to her full height, and lowered her voice back to it’s normal ‘adult’ tone. “Thank you, Mr. Gibson.” She stepped by me and held the door open. “I appreciate the help.”
“No trouble at all, Mrs. Beouf,” I said. I motioned for her to lean in. Turned my back on the rest of the room. “But I think you might want to have a talk with his parents.” I said, making sure to have an air of confidentiality and concern.
Beouf’s expression mirrored my concern. “Why? What’s going on?”
“I listened to him a little bit,” I chose my next words carefully. Had to play to her particular brand of crazy. “I think his parents might be…” I hesitated, what was the term? “...trying to speed up his developmental plateau. Something about um...special cartoons?”
The Amazon frowned. “Oh crud…” she said. “That kind of stuff’s dangerous. Way more harm than good.”
“I know, right?”
“I’ll try to talk to his parents about it,” she promised. It was a promise I knew she’d keep.
I thought about how all week Chazz had been coming in with just a t-shirt and a diaper on. Having his new status rubbed in his face couldn’t be helping his situation. Most Amazons didn’t let their real children out of the house looking like that, but it was a form of humiliation and control for their “adopted” Littles. “While you’re at it,” I leaned in, “do you know if his parents have anything else to dress-?”
I stopped mid-sentence as I felt two very large fingers hook themselves into the waistband of my pants. I had a sudden urge to be very still. To freeze. To blush and slam my eyes closed in shock. I ignored that instinct and slapped the hand away as hard as I could, making an audible THWACK!
“EXCUSE ME!” I shouted. I whirled around and stared at Mrs. Zoge “DO YOU MIND?!”
The Amazon assistant took a step back. Her eyes wide with shock and yes, embarrassment. “Mr. Gibson! I’m so sorry!” I kept staring at her. “I didn’t realize it was…” She stopped. “I just thought I smelled a…” She stopped again. “I was checking di…” Again. “I mean...I didn’t know you’d come in and…” Yet again. “I’m sorry...my mistake.”
I turned away from her. Not even addressing her. I looked back up to Mrs. Beouf. “I’m going to go back to my classroom, now. My students need me.” I tried to keep my tone even, but I was so incredibly angry! I was visibly shaking with rage when I went out of the open door, wanting to scream my lungs out, but not being able to. Because even though I was outraged there was still that nagging fear in the base of my brain stem that told me not to, lest I be mistaken for “throwing a tantrum.”