Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
October 10, 1998
Shae didn’t need to detail the two funerals to the reunion attendees – everyone around the table except for spouses had been to one or the other of them, and had been witness to some of the events that took place in the aftermath. Those like Shae and Eve, who’d been long out of Bradford, might not know that the aftermath was still going on. But, people with more contact, especially Bradfordite Emily, were acutely aware of it and were equally aware that there were still people who had chosen up sides – to the point where earlier in the evening, she’d asked for a moment of silence for "Our departed friends who didn’t get to graduate with us," which took in Steve, Brock, Brett, and Diane Caldwell, who’d died of leukemia in the ninth grade. That avoided naming names and possibly pissing someone off.
But even Eve and Shae knew that it was still a touchy subject, and Shae pointedly avoided mentioning the funeral at all, but most everyone knew what had happened.
Brock and Brett had been pretty popular kids, and there were more kids from the school at their funeral than at Steve’s, which Denis and Shae attended, of course. But Phil Sharp was an important and well-liked businessman in the community, and Bert Mansfield’s manner and arrogance had made him less than the most popular person around, so more adults and families went to Steve’s. On top of that, a lot of people resented the smell from the 2,000 cows on Bert’s farm that wafted over the town when the wind was wrong. Of the kids from the class who attended Steve’s funeral, at least some had been leaned on by their folks. But the funeral registers gave both Sharp and Mansfield a written list of who their friends were – and indicated who their enemies must be.
What finally took the prize were the funeral processions. Steve’s grave was out at the north edge of town, at Maple Shade Cemetery, while the Mansfield kids were to be buried at the township cemetery out beyond the I-67 overpass, and that meant that the routes of the two processions would have to cross. As it happened, the Sharp procession reached the corner of Main and Maple about a hundred yards ahead of the Mansfield’s. Bert, already nearly blind with anguish and anger that Sharp wouldn’t change the time of his son’s service so as to not interfere with the obviously more important service of his own kids, was forced to sit at the intersection and watch as car after car after car slowly crawled past, getting progressively more steamed at the people who had skipped showing their respects for his sons to attend the services for that weasel Sharp who had taken his sons from him. By the time the procession passed, Mansfield was out of the car, swearing and screaming at the passing vehicles and their passengers.
Plainly, Mansfield lost it – but Sharp had already lost it, too, and more purposefully. Like his son, he’d taken abuse from Mansfield all his life, and he wasn’t going to take it anymore. As he’d told Mansfield at the scene of the collision, he intended to piss on his grave – and he intended to send him there by pure harassment. And this time, finally, he had the upper hand and intended to use it.
It would be pointless to detail all that followed, but just as a quick summary, before the Class of ’88 graduated fourteen months later, Mansfield’s farm had been raided by the Immigration and Naturalization Service three times, and a total of forty-seven milkers and laborers had been deported as the result of the raids. The first time it happened, Mansfield quickly figured out who had called the INS, and stormed screaming and swearing into the Chicago Inn out by the overpass where Phil was having breakfast. Sharp let him rant for a minute, then when he could get a word in edgewise just smiled, "What’s the matter, Bert? Can’t take a joke?" It took four men to pull Mansfield off of him, and the cops had to haul him off to jail. There were to be more raids in the years to follow, yielding no more arrests, but Mansfield was forced to pay higher wages to bring in green-carded help.
Some inexperienced hand turned the wrong valve one day, and it was more than a day later that someone noticed that roughly half a million gallons of liquid cow manure was running into a drainage ditch, which fed into the Raccoon River, which eventually ran across the state line into Indiana. That made it an interstate incident and therefore a federal case. Sharp was wise enough – or evil enough, depending on who you talked to – to not contact the Michigan DNR and the Environmental Protection Agency directly, but to call the Defenders of Gaea in Washington. The loudmouthed environmental group had been having a hissy fit for years over the crowded conditions and manure problems in confined animal feeding operations like Mansfield’s; now they had a clear-cut case of abuse, which they were very happy to haul into the headlines. It eventually cost Mansfield over a hundred thousand dollars in legal fees alone.
While that was going on, the annual school board elections rolled around. Mansfield filed for re-election to the seat as a matter of course – he’d held it for a long time – and Rev. Archibald Swift, Jennlynn’s father, also filed for the seat. No one ever said Swift wasn’t intelligent, but he was a righteous, sanctimonious hard nose who rubbed a lot of people the wrong way – eventually including his daughter, the class valedictorian and eventual Learjet-owning millionaire engineer/prostitute. Normally the elections were a pro forma sort of thing, but not this time. Most people believed it when Swift denied having anything to do with the whispering campaign, which turned into an advertising campaign, charging Mansfield, correctly, with "not having any kids in the school system" – which Swift wouldn’t have either by the time he took office after winning by a small margin.
And so on. For years.
By the time of the Class of ’88 tenth reunion, Sharp’s ongoing vendetta had cost Mansfield his wife and his farm – he now managed another, smaller one owned by out-of-state interests that weren’t totally aware of what was going on – but despite bankruptcy and three heart attacks, it hadn’t cost him his life. Yet. Sharp hadn’t backed off in the slightest, though, and was not known to have any urinary tract problems.
Given all that – and the fact that Mansfield had defenders who thought that Sharp had gone way too far – Shae also didn’t dare mention a small but significant incident that took place the night of the funerals, something that, to this day, only she and Eve knew about.
Steve’s death hit both Denis and Shae hard, Denis the hardest. He knew damn well that if it hadn’t been for Shae, he could have been the one in that casket being carried out to Maple Shade. Steve had been a friend of sorts, but more importantly, a comrade, one who had taken as much abuse if not more from the Mansfield kids. After a happy evening dressed up as a girl – an evening in which several milestones had been passed – he had to spend the next day as a guy, in a suit and tie that now seemed even more inappropriate. He was quiet and obviously not happy all day long.
Shae was at home, after dark, when the phone rang. "Hey, can you come over?" he asked. "I need to do something."
"Yeah, sure," Shae agreed. It was boring around the house, and there was nothing much on TV. She drove across town to the Riley’s to find Denis standing out on the curb. She pulled to a stop; he opened the door and got in. "What’s up?" she asked.
"I just needed to get out of there for a while," he sighed. "The folks are being pretty heavy tonight, and I’m not sure I blame them. Can we go out to Maple Shade? I feel like there’s something I need to say to Steve."
"Sure," she said understandingly.
It was lonely and quiet in the moonlit cemetery. She parked the car close to Steve’s grave, and they walked among the gravestones to the flower-draped grave. "You want to be by yourself?" she whispered, feeling the heaviness and silence of the place surround her.
"No, I don’t care," he said, but she stood back anyway while he walked up to the edge of the flowers. There was no headstone yet; that would come in time.
"Steve," she heard him say, so softly that she could barely hear him a few feet away, "I’m sorry. You got two of them, Steve. Maybe it should have been me, rather than you. If anybody but Mom and Dad and Shae knew what’s going on in my head, they’d think I’m totally fucked up. Maybe I am, I don’t know. You had a chance to fix your body, maybe, but those bastards took it from you. I’ve still got a chance to fix mine, and I swear to God, Steve, if it proves to be what’s needed, I won’t waste it. I’ll do the best I can."
He stood there for a long time, looking down at the grave in the moonlight, while Shae stood back and watched, with thoughts of her own. She’d known both Steve and Denis since the third grade, had watched a lot of the shit they’d both taken from kids like the Mansfields, especially from about middle school on, and realized that she hadn’t done all she might have to at least tone it down. Now, it had ended here for Steve. Maybe it was her fault, a little. She’d had some doubts about Denis’ ambition – mostly, she’d humored him because it was lifting him out of his depression. But now, in the wake of dinner last night and the evening that followed, she was beginning to believe that he was right after all. Maybe it was the answer that would take him out of all the misery she’d watched him suffer – if he could manage to bring it off. Silently, she made her own promise to Steve – if that was what it took, she’d help keep the wolves off of Denis while he did what he had to do, and help him where she could. She’d try to not let him die death-mad trying to take some of his tormenters with him, and she was infinitely sorry that she couldn’t have helped Steve as well.
She was so lost in thought that she didn’t notice Denis walk over to her until he brushed up against her. "Let’s go," he whispered. "I can’t get over the feeling that there’s one thing that Steve wants me to do for him, and I’m not going to turn him down."
They got back in the Monza, and drove quietly out of the cemetery. "Where are we going?" Shae asked as she reached the road.
"The township cemetery," he said.
"Brock and Brett? You sure?"
"Never more sure in my life."
Shae said nothing, but a quiet sigh escaped as she turned back toward downtown, then turned at the light to head out to the overpass. Nothing was said on the short drive, but the thinking was loud enough to hear. It only took a few minutes to drive the short distance.
The township cemetery was smaller, and it was no trouble to find the twin graves, lying covered in sod and flowers. Shae hung back a little as Denis walked up to them. "You bastards," she heard him say. "You gutless cowards. It took a better man than either of you to put you down there, but at least I’m up here to pass on a message from him." She heard him unzip his pants, could hear him urinate onto one of the graves. It went on for a while before it stopped.
"Damn," she heard him say conversationally, speaking to her and not to the shades of Brock and Brett that presumably hovered nearby. "I don’t have enough to do both, but you know, Shae?"
"That’s the first thing I’ve done in a long time that it took being in a man’s body to do."
"Like hell," she snorted as she stepped forward to the other grave. "They were bastards to me, too. Not as bad, but still." With that, she turned around at the edge of the grave, dropping her pants as she squatted down, and let a strong stream of urine of her own spray over the flowers.
In a few seconds, she was done; she stood back up, pulling her pants back up on the way. "See?" she said. "I don’t have to be a man to piss on their graves."
"So I see," he said. She could hear the grin in his voice.
She let out a sigh. "You really want to have to squat to piss like a girl, huh?"
"Yeah, I want to have to piss like a girl."
"All right," she sighed. "I’m with you."
* * *
It was a major turning point, in some indefinable way. At least, Shae felt that way; she and Denis, or Eve, had never mentioned that incident again. But from that point on, it wasn’t just playing around anymore. It was serious.
Eve could tell what she was thinking about as they sat around the big table after the reunion, and she could feel the discomfort. Now, she smiled and doubled back a little, to the first night that she’d dressed as a girl and served dinner to her folks and Shae.
"One thing I’ve always been sorry about," she smiled, speaking for the first time in a long time, "Was that we never got a photo of me that evening. In fact, there are very few photos of me anytime in the next two years, and it would be nice to be able to go back and see how far I’ve come and how I got here. I remember thinking I looked pretty good, but as I look back on how much I’ve changed, I must have looked pretty fake by comparison. But then, I don’t know. Most transgendered people are concerned about their appearance allowing them to pass, and I’m really not any different than anyone else."
"And I’ve always thought you were pretty paranoid about it, especially in those days," Shae snorted. "I remember you looking pretty good that night. Oh, yeah, if we’d been around anyone we knew that evening you’d have been clocked for sure, but you’d have passed among strangers all right."
"Might be," she conceded. "But we’ll never know now. I guess I have come a long way. I have to say that I’m pretty pleased that I wasn’t clocked tonight until I announced who I was."
"Clocked?" Emily asked.
"Being found out, being read like a clock," Eve replied. "It could be embarrassing. In some cases, it could well be worse. There are a lot of people out there who fear transgendered people, or gay people. Some of them think it’s the same thing, and it’s not, you should know that by now. But the shock reaction I got tonight ought to tell you something."
"Well," Emily temporized, "It’s not something any of us expected, and not something that we’re used to. I mean, it takes getting your mind around."
"Which is why I’m careful about it," Eve nodded. "Tonight more than doubled the number of people who know I’m transsexual, but they’re people I’m mostly not likely to see again."
"The simple fact of the matter," Shae smiled, "Is that as far as I know you were never clocked in the five years we spent a lot of time together, and that includes some occasions when people knew there was a mouse, but not which mouse. Or, if you were, we never knew about it. There are three people in this room who saw you back in those days, and you were never recognized. People just looked right at you and couldn’t put the girl they were seeing into the context of you, the guy they knew. And that was before you had your face worked over."
"Three people?" Shelly asked.
"You were one, up at the mall in Kalamazoo, the following fall," Eve nodded. "We were in a shop, looking at clothes. Shae was in there too, but not right next to me at the time. You looked right at me, didn’t recognize me, and then saw Shae, who got your attention while I got out of there. It scared the hell out of us, too. We left the mall as soon as your back was turned."
"Honestly, I have no memory of it at all," Shelly said. "I must not have thought anything about it."
"We sure did," Shae admitted. "But we were very relieved to get to school on Monday and not hear a thing about it. Of course, Eve’s appearance was more advanced by that time, so it may have had something to do with it."
"We’d both picked up a few tricks by then," Eve nodded. "And that’s a story in itself. To tell it, we have to get back to the night when I dressed for my parents the first time. I still knew I had a lot to learn by the time that evening was over with. It was clear that we were going to have to get more serious at finding out more about the whole transgender process. Now, that’s not to say that anyone, including me, had come to a final decision, but we really needed to find out more. Now remember, this was over ten years ago, before we had the Internet. I could sit down at a computer today and in ten minutes come up with more information, and better information, than we ever managed in two years of looking back then. But, as luck had it, we got the right information, and it wasn’t easy to come up with around here in those days."
"I can imagine," Andy Baker smiled. "That’s probably not something that’s very common."
"It was tough," Eve smiled. "We might never have managed it, if Shae hadn’t stuck her big feet into it."
"Shae’s big feet?" Sonja smiled quizzically.
"Darn right," Eve laughed. "I might not be a woman if it weren’t for Shae’s size fourteens."