Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
October 10, 1998
Emily was still flabbergasted. It had been just about the last thing she could have imagined!
A couple of weeks after sheíd sent the letter off to the address for Jennlynn that Dayna and Sandy had dug out of their journal, she was surprised to get a call from her late on a Saturday afternoon. Jennlynn had said sheíd like to make the reunion, but had some commitments on Sunday. She could fly into the airport at Hawthorne if Emily or someone could pick her up. It was going to be a busy afternoon, but Jennlynn was special Ė sheíd been the class valedictorian, after all, and Emily had gotten the impression that things were going well for her. The only reason she was willing to come at all, Jennlynn said, was that the reunion was going to be held in Hawthorne, not in Bradford, where she refused to set foot.
Curious, and realizing she might find out a little about one of the more mysterious people of the class, she and Vicky had gone to the airport to meet Jennlynn Ė who taxied up in the gleaming white Learjet sheíd flown in from Phoenix. Just to add to the shock factor, sheíd casually mentioned that the plane was one of two she owned, that it was worth over half a million dollars, and sheíd paid cash for it. It really wasnít a surprise that Jennlynn had done well, but that well? And she said her company, Skyhook Aviation, was really only a sideline to her main job!
But Jennlynn had been pretty casual about it, and even volunteered to help with the registration table while Emily schmoozed with the members of the class, trying to catch up with everyone. So, it was actually Jennlynn who greeted Shae when she ducked her head and walked into the room, two other people with her.
There were names that Jennlynn had forgotten, but Shaeís wasnít one of them. Shae would be hard to forget in any circumstances, but she looked really good Ė still tall and blonde, of course, but wearing a sexy cocktail dress that really showed off her long, long legs. Still a showoff, Jennlynn thought. "These are my special guests," Shae explained about the shorter couple. "Doctors John and Eve McClellan."
Jennlynn didnít recognize the names, or either of the people, for that matter Ė but there were a lot of names that had changed, and people changed, too. And, this might be something special. "MDs?" she asked. "I have a doctorate myself, but itís in electrical engineering, so I donít often use the title."
"John doesnít often, either," Eve said in a melodious voice. She was a good-looking blonde, on the short side. "His is in structural engineering. Mine is in clinical psychology, so I do use the title."
"Well, welcome to the reunion of the í88s," Jennlynn smiled, letting the question slide from her mind. Neither of them rang a bell, but there were kids whoíd only been in the class for a short time, so it meant nothing. She grinned inside Ė after all, she had a laser-guided cluster bomb to drop when the time was right, and she would not have missed the chance to drop it for the world. When her parents heard about this reunion, they would just freaking turn green, curl up, and die.
* * *
There was a lot of standing around and talking going on in the time until dinner. The Brass Lantern was supposed to be the best restaurant in Hawthorne, but many people seemed to think that the food was pretty mediocre. But, it didnít matter; food was a side issue as there were a lot of old times to be caught up on. Jennlynn noticed that the McClellans stayed pretty close to Shae and didnít say much. But she paid little attention, since a lot of people asked her about the Learjet Ė Emily had spread that little story around at something faster than the speed of light.
Jennlynn spent most of an hour schmoozing around the room, talking with people. By any comparison with the people at this reunion, sheíd done well. A few people were doing all right financially, but many were struggling Ė some who rather surprised her. In general, she had to say that the men looked better than they had in high school, but in many cases the women hadnít aged well. There was more excess weight than sheíd expected, and several girls who had been slender in high school had put on a lot Ė one she estimated at over two hundred pounds. Got that ring on her finger and quit trying, she thought. Only a few people besides her had never been married, but there had been numerous divorces. One guy had gone through three different wives and was looking at a fourth in the near future.
Dayna was doing a lot of schmoozing around, too. She had a couple of cases of CDs, and she was selling them steadily, which was normal for her Ė selling their CDs face to face was how she and Sandy made much of their living. Jennlynn knew that Dayna was usually the one considered the black sheep of the class. Though she and Sandy had never confirmed they were lesbians, they lived and traveled together, and there were lots of suspicions. And they did weird things, recorded lots of music Ė some of which was more than a bit sensual and raunchy, so at best they were considered on the loose side.
After the dinner Emily stood up, gave a short welcoming speech, then said, "Letís go around the tables, and Iíd like everyone to tell us a little about what youíve been doing since high school. Iíll start it off and give an example by saying that Iím Emily Jones Holst; I married Kevin Holst not long after we graduated. We still live in Bradford. Kevin works at Macy Controls, and I still work at the Spee-D-Mart. We have two kids, Kayla and J.J.; theyíre nine and eight. Our hobbies, well, I knit, and I like to ride around on the back of Kevinís Harley. With that, Iíll go to Vicky."
"Hi, Iím Vicky Varney, it was Pabst for a while, but I lost that two hundred pounds of ugly fat by divorcing him . . . "
One by one, the little speeches went around. Shae had one of the shorter ones. "Hi, Iím Shae Kirkendahl, never married, no kids. I graduated from Ball State in í92 in broadcast journalism, and played basketball there. Iíve worked at a couple of local TV stations in their sports departments, and now cover basketball and other stuff for World Sports Network, and do a little acting here and there. I live in New York."
Dayna was next, and her response was just about as bland as the others. "Iím Dayna Berkshire, Iíve never been married. I dropped out of Central Michigan as a sophomore. Sandy Beach and I have been traveling together, performing as a two-girl group. Weíve cut some CDs, and play small spots, small colleges, renfaires, and yes, we still get out in a mall once in a while, open our gig bags, and let people give us money. Sandy and I stay at our house in Bradford when weíre not on the road."
"We know you must have some interesting stories to tell, Dayna," Emily grinned as Dayna sat down. "Iíve heard a lot of them. Anyway, I donít think anyone here has done better than Jennlynn Swift. I know Vicki and I were real surprised when she flew in with her own Learjet this afternoon. Jennlynn?"
She stood up, and gave everyone a big smile. "Iím Jennlynn Swift," she said. "Iíve never been married. I graduated from Caltech with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering in 1992. Working at it part time, I got my doctorate in the same field two years ago. Iím currently a senior engineer and project manager for Lambdatron Corporation in Phoenix, where I live. Along with that, Iím a pilot with several advanced ratings, including an Airline Transport Rating in the Learjet 24. A few years ago I started my own air charter service as a sideline, Skyhook Aviation. My chief pilot is a retired Air Force general, and we operate a Cessna and the Learjet. My parents physically threw me out of the house on my ass in 1990, so to get through college, and part-time since, Iíve also worked in the state of Nevada as a licensed prostitute."
The silence, as they say, could be cut with a knife. "Jennlynn," Emily finally managed to speak, "did you say what I think you said?"
"I said prostitute," she repeated. "Itís legal in some counties in Nevada, and Iíve only worked there. I was going through my tax returns the other day, and was more than a little surprised to discover that Iíve grossed nearly half a million dollars at it, but thatís only a small fraction of my income in that time. I turned out at the Mustang Ranch near Reno. The last several years, Iíve spent thirty to forty days a year working at the Redlite Ranch Bordello in Antelope Valley, Nevada."
"Jennlynn, youíre kidding," Emily said, wide-eyed. "Arenít you?"
"No, Iím not," she smiled. "If anyone should happen to drop by to visit, Iím also known as Learjet Jenn, the fastest woman in the state of Nevada." Jennlynn gave a knowing smile, and glanced at Dayna. "There," she said, "youíre not the black sheep of the class anymore."
The room was babbling with gossip and whispers, now, and Emilyís flabbergastation level had hit new and uncharted heights, but she realized she had to get things back under control. "Thatís pretty unique," she said in a loud voice, trying to bring some order out of disorder, "did I get everyone down at that end of the table?"
To her surprise, Eve McClellan stood up. Emily hadnít been able to place either of the McClellans at all, and had pretty well concluded that they were just Shaeís guests. "I wasnít going to say anything, but after Jennlynnís revelation, I canít help myself," the good-looking little blonde said. "Jennlynn, I think you and Dayna and I are going to have to have a little discussion about dark-fleeced ovines. Iím Dr. Eve McClellan. I graduated from Ball State in 1992, and got my doctorate in clinical psychology from Brown University two years ago. Iím in practice in that field. Iím married to John, who is a structural engineer. We live north of Philadelphia. We have no children, but weíre planning to adopt in the future."
"Iím sorry, Dr. McClellan," Emily broke in, "But Iím afraid I donít remember you."
"Itís not surprising," the woman said, "Although I remember most of you very well. I suppose Iíve changed more than anyone else here. Iíve been post-op since the summer of í89, and Iím a lot happier now than I could have ever been when I was Denis Riley."
Coming on top of Jennlynnís bomb, this was swinging around and strafing the survivors. It was almost too much for Emily to take as she struggled for words. "Denis Ri . . . " she managed finally through her astonishment. "You had a sex-change operation?"
"The technical term is sexual reassignment surgery, often abbreviated just ĎSRS,í" she replied. "Although, I think of my case more as simply correcting a birth defect. In many ways, some mental, some physical, I was a girl trapped in a dysfunctional boyís body. You all know part of the price I paid in many ways for that. In a way, I have to thank those people who made life a living hell for me in school, or Iíd never have been pushed into the re-examination of my life that was required to make me do what I needed to do. Most of all, I want to thank Shae Kirkendahl for standing by my side through some difficult years while I made the transition, which was about a third of the way completed when we graduated. You have heard people talk about being born again. I quite literally was. I could never have managed it without Shaeís help. Now, Iíll be glad to talk about it afterwards, but I think weíd better see if anyone can come up with a revelation bigger than what either Jennlynn or I have managed."
Emily took a deep breath and got herself under control before she replied, "Jennlynn and you make quite a one-two punch. Letís find out now: are there any other contenders for the Class of í88 black-sheep award?"
* * *
Jennlynn said she had a charter to fly out of Phoenix in the Learjet the next day, so she had to leave early. After the party broke up, a good chunk of the survivors rode in a caravan out to the airport, to watch Jennlynn fire up the plane in a tornado of sound. The Learjet was an old one and didnít have the noise suppressor engines, sheíd explained Ė and it shook the earth as she blasted off into the night sky in twin furies of burning kerosene. As the thunder dwindled off into the night, someone suggested that they go back to the Brass Lantern and have a drink.
"Iíd like that," Emily said. "Thereís a lot more Iíd like to hear from Dr. McClellan, but Iíve been just too busy."
"Emily, you can call me Eve, you know," the little blonde smiled.
"I know," Emily sighed. "I can call you Dr. McClellan pretty easily, but I keep wanting to call you Denis."
"Denis has been gone for a long time," Eve said quietly. "I havenít used that name since the day we graduated. Even I usually think of him in the third person anymore. Thank you for trying. Weíll meet you back at the Brass Lantern."
Dayna, Vicky, and Shelly were in Emilyís minivan as they rode the couple of miles back to the restaurant. "I swear," Emily said, "Iím not much of a drinker, but tonight I think I need a drink worse than I ever have in my life. Who in hell would have dreamed all this would happen?"
"Itís not what we expected," Vicky shook her head. "Hell, I need a drink, too, and I donít drink." Sheíd been close to becoming an alcoholic before swearing off it; that was no secret.
"Dayna," Emily said, just a little crossly, "back when I got Jennlynnís address from you last summer, I got the impression that you knew more about her than you let on."
"I did. It wasnít my place to tell you. Iíd promised I wouldnít out her, and I didnít."
"But . . . Dayna, how did you know about it?" Emily asked, the astonishment in her voice evident.
"You remember that Redlite Ranch place she mentioned?" Dayna replied sheepishly. "Back when Sandy was getting her divorce, we played a gig there."
"In a . . . Dayna, I donít believe it!"
"Itís quite a place. Kind of like a luxury resort hotel with hookers. Sandy and I were playing a club gig in a little place in Vegas, a one-night stand," she lied, but it was a lie that she thought Emily would believe. "Sandy and I have been collecting songs about prostitution since we were back in college. Most of them are old-time blues done by women back in the twenties and thirties, blues singers who were also hookers. Some of the songs are so hot that theyíll remove paint at fifteen paces. Well, Sandy and I got a little drunk and did some Lucille Bogan stuff, which is pretty dirty. After the show, this guy comes up to us and asked if weíd like to do some of those songs in a place where they would be appreciated. At that point Sandy and I would take any paid gig we could get, so the next night, there we were. And there was Jennlynn. It got a little embarrassing. Sandy and I wound up doing the roughest, bawdiest sets weíve ever done. It was a scream!"
"Christ almighty," Shelly shook her head. "Talk about a night for secrets to come out. God, I donít know whatís a bigger shock, Jennlynn or Denis."
"Make sure you call her ĎEve,í and use female pronouns," Dayna warned. "Iíve met male-to-female trans people before; they think of themselves as female, and theyíre sensitive about it. Eve doesnít seem any less sensitive than any others Iíve met."
"Donít tell me you knew about her, too," Emily shook her head.
"No, it was as big a surprise to me as anyone," Dayna admitted. "But you donít play music around some of the places that Sandy and I have without meeting outed transsexuals and cross-dressers once in a while. But in Eveís case, yeah, it makes sense to me. Denis did seem pretty girly to me back then, now that I think about it."
"Yeah, me too," Vicky sighed. "But you know, it strikes me that she makes a better woman than he did a guy."
"True," Emily nodded. "But you donít expect it from someone you know. No wonder Shae was acting awkward when we talked to her on the phone last summer."
"Yeah, whatever happened, she must have been up to her ears in it," Dayna laughed. "And as tall as she is, thatís pretty deep. Sounds like a hell of a story. Maybe weíll get to hear some of it."
A few minutes later about fifteen of them were gathered around a big table at the back of the restaurant. Emily inhaled a Bloody Mary like it was oxygen, and immediately ordered another. "I hope Iím not speaking out of turn," Scott Tyler spoke up, "But Eve, Iím having real trouble with equating the creepy, wussy guy I knew in high school with the beautiful, accomplished woman I see now. I mean, Iím having trouble just making the mental jump."
"Itís not surprising," Eve said. "Denis was a creepy, wussy guy, at least if you looked at him as a male. He was troubled because he didnít like being, didnít want to be male. It took a long time for me to make the mental jump, even with Shaeís help. But long after the transition was complete, I learned something that would have made it easier had I known it at the time, and it may help you. Very simply, I have a better claim on being a female than I had on being a male. I donít mean physically or culturally or psychologically, I mean genetically."
"Genetically?" Shelly said. She was another "doctor" in the class, in her case a dentist, and sheíd had plenty of biology classes along the way.
"Genetically," Eve nodded. "I can get real technical on this real quickly, but Iíll try to keep it as simple as possible. To start off, probably most everybody remembers Mr. Robertson in ninth grade biology class telling us that almost anywhere in nature that the sexes are differentiated by chromosomes. Females have two X chromosomes, males have an X and a Y. Does everybody remember that?"
"Yeah, sure," Shelly nodded.
"Very simply, itís not always true," Eve said. "The cause is unknown, but once in a while, the sex differentiation gets messed up, and a baby is born intersexed, with characteristics of both sexes, a partial hermaphrodite if you will, which is what happened to me. When I was born it appeared that I was more male than female, so surgery was done to correct the problem, and from what I understand my folks werenít even aware of the facts at the time. Very simply, the doctors guessed wrong, and Iíve been most of my life correcting that error."
"Well, I guess that makes sense," Shelly frowned. "I mean, there really arenít a lot of sex-change operations performed, are there?"
"More than most people think," Eve said. "The numbers are a little slippery, but there are a couple thousand a year performed in this country or Canada. As an educated guess, there are at least thirty to forty thousand male-to-female transsexuals between the ages of eighteen to forty-five in this country, based on the number of surgeries we know have been performed. Itís especially slippery in that many want to stay in the closet enough that they have their operations performed overseas, so any number estimation has to be a guess. But, conservatively, of a random population of females in that age group, at least one in 2500 will be an M-to-F transsexual, and there could be more."
"I find it hard to believe there are that many," Shelly shrugged. "Itís not something you run into very often."
"Most of us keep it pretty secret," Eve replied. "Iím fairly open in my work about the fact that Iím transsexual, because part of my job involves counseling people considering the surgery. However, our neighbors and friends, except for Shae and a few others, donít know, because itís none of their business. Iíll admit, I dropped the bomb here tonight for the fun of the shock value, especially after Jennlynn dropped hers. Had I not told you, you would not have known that I was once Denis Riley, nor that Iím transsexual. And, as far as that goes, Iím not transsexual except in a psychological or surgical sense. In a practical sense, Iím intersexual, although itís not a term I can usually use without a little lecture to explain it. In any case, concerning what happened to me, it was knowledge after the fact. I had completed my transition and was a couple of years post-op when I discovered my genetic background. But maybe it will help convince you that youíre talking to Eve, rather than to Denis."
"Itís still hard," Scott sighed. "But that does give some logic to it. Again, maybe Iím out of place, but John, what do you think about this?"
"It doesnít matter at all," Eveís husband said. "I knew about it well before we got married. The bottom line is that Iím married to an incredibly loving, intelligent, sensitive, and caring woman. From what Eve and Shae have told me about what Denis was like, I strongly doubt that he would have been a success as a man, if heíd survived at all."
"There was a good chance Denis wouldnít have survived," Eve nodded. "Again, the numbers are a little slippery, but it appears that the death rate for untreated severe gender dysphoric people like Denis is around fifty percent by age thirty. Suicide is the most common cause. Denisí chances were even less. He was probably within minutes of suicide when Shae stopped him."
"And murder," Shae said softly.
"And murder," Eve nodded. "Scott, it pains me to say it, but you were one of the people Denis would have happily shot before Shae stopped him. He planned on saving the last bullet for himself, and he had the loaded gun in his hand. The only reason I am alive, and perhaps you are alive, is that Denis couldnít bring himself to shoot one of the few people who had been unfailingly kind to him."
"I never knew that," Scott said. "Look, I realize I was an awful asshole to you in those days, but, well, a lot of people were. That wasnít a reason for me to be too, but I was young and foolish and immature, and there it is. For what itís worth, Iíd like to offer my apologies. That includes apologies to Denis as well as to Eve."
"Apology accepted," Eve smiled. "Like I said earlier, Iíve come to realize that it was a blessing in disguise." She let out a sigh. "And, as far as that goes, Iíve come to realize that if the genetic shoes had been on the other feet, Iíd have been just as much of an asshole to you. Life was really hell there for a few years, which is why Iím actually a little schizophrenic about my Denis memories. But it was another person, another life, and it is in the past, which is a good place for it. Emily, thank you for organizing this tonight and inviting me, secondhand though it had to be. Itís allowed me to see that the past is behind me."
"Youíre welcome," Emily said. "Eve, was it hard to decide to become a woman?"
"Not really," Eve replied. "In fact, once I realized the path was open to me, the decision was easy. Becoming a woman, though . . . " she let out a long sigh " . . . well, getting my doctorate was easier. As I said earlier, I could not have done it without Shaeís help. It was a long and crooked road, especially since much had to be done in secret, at least as far as Bradford was concerned. Until tonight, my parents, Shae, and I were the only ones here who knew what was happening. It wasnít all serious and heavy. There was a lot of fun along the way. Not even Shae realizes fully how big an adventure it was for me. It literally was the adventure of a lifetime."
"Shae, it seems like you put yourself through an awful lot for several years," Emily said. "Wasnít it hard for you too?"
"Of course it was hard, and it shaped my life some, too," Shae agreed. "But a lot of it was fun, I learned a lot, and it was a unique adventure for me. But the big reason I did it was that I could not turn my back on a friend in need. If you get right down to it, Eve had no choice but to go through the process. That meant I had no choice but to help. I think it was worth it. Possibly the one big downer about the whole deal is the fact that we developed some great stories to tell, but except for John and a few others, weíve rarely had much chance to tell them."
"Well, take the chance now," Vicky grinned. "I mean, now that youíve got us all interested."
"We wouldnít want to bore anyone," Eve grinned.
"I donít think you can bore anyone with those stories, not now," Scott laughed. "Come on, we want to hear."
"Well, all right," Eve grinned. "One caveat. There are some places weíre going to have to talk pretty frankly about a few awkward issues most people would consider pretty personal and possibly offensive. Shae and John and I have long since become immune to the awkwardness, but the rest of you are just going to have to grin and bear it when we get to those places." She let out a sigh and shook her head. "I just donít know where to begin."
"Only one place to begin," Shae said. "March of í87, when we were juniors."
"March sixteenth, to be precise," Eve nodded soberly. "Otherwise known as the day Denis didnít die. I still get upset at some of the memories of what happened to him that day. Shae, I think Iíll have a good stiff drink and let you tell that story."