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Spearfish Lake Tales
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Joe/Joan book cover

by Wes Boyd
©2015, ©2016

Chapter 2

I’m writing this many years after that day – or what seems like many years – and I still can’t quite believe that this isn’t the world championship hallucination. After considerable reading, study, and thought, it still is one of the leading candidates for what actually happened to me.

Over time I’ve come up with half a dozen different theories about what happened – and all of them have faults or holes that can’t be explained. When you get right down to it, I’m no closer to the truth than I was while I was laying on my back in that hospital bed back there in Hamford in 1965 (if I actually was, of course).

A hallucination, or its first cousin, acute ongoing schizophrenia, seems to hold the most water although the bucket has several leaks in it. The most likely version seems to be that I still really am Joe, lying in a hospital bed in Oklahoma City or somewhere. Somewhat less likely is that I really am Joanie, and that over fifty years of Joe’s life zipped past me in super fast-forward while I was out of it in the hospital in Hamford. Or, alternatively, that either or both of us are the figment of the imagination of someone else, and realistically I can make a good case for that one although I can’t prove it either.

One of the big arguments I can make against hallucination is that my life – and Joe’s – seems real. It takes time, lots of time, and I can’t believe that a hallucination would include all the mundane details of life over a period combined of well over a hundred years.

There are other theories, some perhaps less likely, but however you look at it Occam’s Razor must be pretty dull. I’ll get into them as needed when the time comes, but the question of what really happened has hung over me ever since that day.

But as I lay on my back staring into my own face – or what had once been my own face – I came to a basic decision that would be Rule One in my life: whether this is real or not, treat it like it’s real.

Even with that thought in mind, it was still hard to comprehend what had happened to me. This was just too weird! Nobody would ever believe it – and I wasn’t sure I believed it myself. I must have been rolling everything over in my mind, because sometime later Mom asked, “Are you still with us, honey?”

“Uh, yeah,” I replied. It even seemed superficial to me, but it brought me back to the world. “I . . . I hurt. Bad?”

“You’re asking how bad you were hurt? Pretty bad,” Mom said. “You have both legs broken, one arm, and some ribs. You have all sorts of cuts and scrapes and bruises, and some of them must have come when they cut you out of the car. You’ve been out for days, and the doctors think you have to have had a pretty bad concussion, too.”

“Yeah,” Joey added. “It’s no wonder you hurt.”

Just about then I realized that someone else had come into the room – an older man, going gray, with hair parted down the middle and wire-rim glasses. “Good morning, Joan,” he said cheerfully – it was the voice I remembered from what must have been the night before. “I’m Dr. Sloan. The nurses tell me you’re getting better.”

“I guess,” I replied.

“Oh, there’s no doubt about it, and there’s every chance you’ll have a full recovery.”

Doctor Sloan went over me carefully doing the routine sorts of things – listening to my heart, taking my temperature and pulse, checking my reflexes, peering into my eyes with some kind of light that hurt in the low light of the room. I already hurt pretty bad, but some of the places he poked me, especially around my ribs, were just about enough to make me scream if I’d had the energy.

But there was a good side. Among the poking and prodding, it quickly became clear that I really was a girl, and a rather slender one at that. It just confirmed what I had already started to believe. I would have liked to check myself out a little more thoroughly, to see if what I sort of felt really was what I was feeling, but I couldn’t – it was clear that my right arm was in a cast, and I didn’t have the energy to move it. I couldn’t move my left arm, either; it was tangled in hoses or tubes or something, and I didn’t feel like trying very hard. I may have been back in the world a little, but I was still weak and confused.

“It looks like you’re coming along reasonably well,” Dr. Sloan said after he was done checking me out. “Now that you’ve turned the corner I’d expect to see considerable improvement over the next few days, but it’s going to take some time for your broken bones to knit before you’re all the way well.”


“Now, Joan,” he went on. “Do you remember anything about the accident?”

I thought for a moment, and came up with an absolute blank. I remembered absolutely nothing about the accident or being in the car with Lanny. All I could remember was the flash of lightning when I was in the truck with Tom. Or was that the accident that landed me here? Or were they the same thing, somehow jumping across over fifty years? I wasn’t sure. “Uh-uh,” I finally had to reply, since the whole issue was too complicated to try to explain.

“Understandable,” he said. “Joan, who is your English teacher?”

I had to think about it for a moment before it came to me that my English teacher in my senior year was Mrs. Rogers, a sour old bat I hadn’t liked very well. I’d half forgotten about her, except that I remembered a couple stories that had been told about her at my class reunion a couple of years before. “Rogers,” I said slowly. It was an effort to say that much.

“How about your home economics teacher?”

That was a stumper. I never had home ec., being a guy, of course. I vaguely remembered seeing her around the school over fifty years before, although I couldn’t have put a name with her if my life had depended on it, not now, and maybe not then. “Uh . . .” was all I could reply.

Mom came to my rescue. “Doctor, she hasn’t taken home economics. I wanted her to, but she seemed to think there were more important things to learn in school.”

“I guess that’s how it is these days,” he shrugged. “Ma’am, how about another teacher?”

“Your German teacher, honey,” Mom suggested.

That was an easy one. I never had learned much German from her but the little that stuck with me had come in useful when I was driving a truck in Germany. “Halber . . .” I was having trouble getting my mouth to say it before I was able to spit out the last part, “. . . stadt.”

“How about your phys. ed. teacher a couple of years ago?”

Another stumper. Again, I could vaguely put a face to the woman. I remembered the talk around the school among the guys was that she was a lesbian, and maybe some of the girls felt that way, too. But a name? I must have known it, but it was lost in the mists of time. “Uh-uh,” I replied, trying to shake my head a little.

“Well, I guess it’s not surprising,” Dr. Sloan said. “You took a pretty severe bump on the head, Joan. In cases like that it’s not unusual for there to be some temporary amnesia. It’s obvious you have some holes in your memory, but don’t worry about it very much. Most people with that problem usually recover most if not all of their memory given time, so I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you.”

“Uh . . . OK.”

“The best thing you can do right now is to rest and take it easy. I know you’re in some pain, but I don’t think it would be a good idea to give you serious painkillers. I’m going to prescribe some mild ones, but if you start hurting too much we’ll have to see. Is that all right with you?”


Dr. Sloan turned to my parents and Joey. “I know you’re all glad to see her coming around,” he told them. “I’m just as happy. But right now she needs rest and plenty of it, so I think it would be best if you let her have it, and not try to stimulate her. I know you’ve all been here pretty much permanently for days, but I think it would be a good idea for you all to go home, get something good to eat, and get some rest. You can come back in a few hours, but don’t plan on staying too long.”

“At least one of us ought to stay with her,” Mom protested.

“I know you care for her, and I think that’s wonderful. But right now, someone staying isn’t going to help her very much. In another day or two things will probably be different, and you will have to give her a lot of support then, so you ought to take advantage of this while you can. She’s a lucky young lady to have made it this far, but there’s no reason she can’t fully recover now, so give her a chance to do it.”

“Well, all right,” Mom conceded. “Would it be all right if we came back for a while this evening?”

“Just don’t make it for too long. She may be asleep when you get here, and it would be best if you didn’t try to wake her. You know what hospitals are like, it can be hard to sleep.”

“All right, Doctor,” Dad told him. “I know my wife would like to be here every minute, but she does need a break, so I’ll get her and Joey out of here. Thank you again for everything you’ve done.”

It took a few minutes to get everyone out of there, but finally I was alone. Now I had a chance to really contemplate all of this, not that I had a great deal of energy to do it with. I was pretty tired even after that short burst of activity, mostly due to all the surprises that had been sprung on me in the last few minutes. Looking back on it now, I think I can say I was thinking more clearly than I could express myself, but things came to me slowly. I suspect I was fading in and out of consciousness, but over the next few hours several things slowly became clear.

I think it was not long after everyone left that I realized I had cheated on the doctor, at least a little, when he was trying to judge how much amnesia I had. The answers to the questions he had given me had come out of my memory – Joe’s memory, that is – from when I had been in school over fifty years before. None of them came from Joanie’s memory.

(Before I go any further, I think I’d better explain something. From now on, when I refer to Joe, I will usually mean the Joe before the accident. After the accident, I’m Joan. Joey is my post-accident brother; most people in his adult life call him Joe, although in the family and to people who knew us in school we’re always Joanie and Joey. Just to confuse things even more, I’ve often been known in the years since as Jo. Confusing? Not to me, since I know whom I’m talking about. Live with it – I’ve had to. I’ll try to keep it from being too bad.)

But I digress. For some reason I couldn’t put my finger on, it didn’t seem right that I had no memories of being Joanie. It was as if she hadn’t existed before I came to, at least as far as I was concerned. Maybe she didn’t, since this could still be a hallucination, but as I had already decided, this had to be real until I could prove it otherwise. I’ve since come to believe or assume or something that she was actually killed in the accident with Lanny, or at least brain-dead or brain-wiped. Somehow Joe’s spirit or soul or karma or being or memories were somehow replaced in her (my) head. No, it doesn’t have to make sense, and it doesn’t to me, either, but as far as I can tell that’s what happened. I didn’t come to all of that conclusion for a long time afterwards, and I’m still not totally certain about it.

I do know that as I lay in that hospital bed, drifting in and out of consciousness, that while I’d made up my mind to treat this whole thing as real, it might well not be real. Again, there wasn’t and isn’t any solid proof one way or another. But no one would believe me if I told them about this, not that I believed it myself. As far as that went, if I did tell someone about it they would believe I was well and truly off my rocker. That, I realized, could easily be a lifelong ticket to a padded room and all the nasty things that could be done to a person who resided there.

So, Rule Two: Don’t tell anyone. Ever. I would have to be Joanie, and couldn’t ever let anyone know about the lifetime of Joe memories I was carrying in my head.

Being Joanie wouldn’t be all bad, not in the slightest. I would be eighteen, not nearly seventy, and that would be a big plus right there. I was, as far as I could tell, in good health at least once my injuries healed, rather than being an overweight, under-exercised truck driver whose health was clearly on the downhill slope, with a good possibility of Alzheimer’s in the future if I made it that far.

So I was going to be a girl? So what? Just about the last thing I told Tom back in the cab of the semi was that there is stuff a girl has to go through that a guy doesn’t – but it’s true the other way around, too. As I had also told him, if this was 1965 then Vietnam was one of those things I wouldn’t have to deal with again.

On top of that, this would give me the opportunity to do other things, have other experiences I hadn’t had while my ass was plopped in the seat of a truck for over forty years. Once again, I’d have options, much like I’d had at eighteen and mostly wasted. True, the options might be a little different, but at least they were there.

And, face it, being Joanie was going to be a whole lot different than being Joe. That would be a new experience in itself! It had to be better than being an old and sick man, bored to tears and not able to do much of anything – which really had been what I’d had to look forward to as Joe.

The only problem that I could see was that I was going to have to learn to be a girl. In fact, I had to learn to be Joanie, the Joanie that everyone already knew. I didn’t think it was going to be easy, but at least I had the advantage of being in the hospital, and facing what seemed likely to be a long recovery. I already had Dr. Sloan’s opinion that I had some amnesia, so that would give me the excuse to have to “relearn” some things when I didn’t have a clue about what I was supposed to know.

It seemed possible. At least I would have to give it a try.

I guess I drifted in and out of consciousness the rest of the day and night. I presume my folks and Joey came back that evening, but I had no memory of it. But I do remember thinking during the dark of the night about some of those things I just explained. It was all very confusing, not logically presented like I have here, but the ideas all drifted in the same direction no matter how mixed up they were, and by the next morning I’d pretty well worked them out.

I do know I felt better the next day, more aware of my surroundings. I still hurt a lot, but I had a little more energy and was a little more coherent; things were in better order in my mind. I was awake enough to be able to talk to a nurse when she came into the room. It wasn’t a lot of words, but at least more than monosyllables and grunts.

The nurse – I don’t remember her name and may not have ever known it – was an older woman, in her fifties at a guess. She wore one of those old-fashioned nurses’ white dresses with a cap, right out of 1965. I had fortunately never spent much time in the hospital as Joe, but I’d had a bout with a urinary tract infection a while back in his life. By then the nurses were all wearing multi-colored scrubs and I never saw a cap. In any case, she was cheerful and businesslike, and evidently had been doing the job for a long time.

“So how are you feeling today?” she asked. I think I was relieved that she didn’t ask how “we” were feeling.

“Better, I think,” I mumbled.

“Good. Dr. Sloan will be around a little later, and he’ll be glad to hear it. Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Thirsty,” I said. “Mouth . . . dry.”

“No doubt you are. I can let you have a little sip of water. Nothing much, but at least a little to moisten your mouth.”


She took a plastic cup with a straw in it, and stuck the straw in my mouth. It was a little awkward, since I was still flat on my back. The water tasted good, especially since I suddenly realized that my mouth felt like someone had been raising goats in there. She only let me have a little bit of it before she took the straw away, but I swished the water around in my mouth. That improved things a lot. I swallowed and said, “Thank you.”

“Are you hungry?”

“Yes, a little,” I said. It was easier to talk now.

“I can’t let you have anything yet, but we’ll ask Dr. Sloan when he comes in. Now, I need to take your temperature and a few other things.”


She busied herself with that for a while, talking cheerfully all the while. Once she was done, she said, “Would you be interested in a bed bath? I know you still hurt in a lot of places, but I can be careful. It won’t be a real good one, but maybe it will help you feel a little better.”

“Sounds good,” I told her. “I’ll try not to scream too loud.” Actually, it sounded like an excellent idea, but for a reason I couldn’t tell her: I was still very curious about my body. I mean, I knew I had one if for no more reason than it hurt in so many places, but other than my left hand and the bumps in the sheet on top of me, I didn’t really know what I had. This would be a good chance to find out.

“I can’t do it right now, but I’ll come back in an hour or so and freshen you up a bit. A clean gown would be a good idea, too.”

She came back as promised, and I could hardly wait to see how this was going to turn out. Soon enough, the sheet was off of me, and she’d taken off the gown – the typical backless hospital gown, so I got a chance to look at my new body.

In some ways it didn’t look like much. There were bruises and bandages all over the place; I could see the casts on my legs and the one on my right arm. I had an IV in, and a tube running over my leg told me that I also had a catheter. I remembered what that was like from Joe’s UTI days, but there weren’t the various electronic sensors I remembered from that episode.

But looking past that, there was no question: I was a girl. And, from what I could tell, a not bad looking one, at least in the body. I had breasts, not the man-boobs of a three-hundred-pound guy. In fact, these were bigger, firm, and well proportioned, not exceptionally large although flattened from lying on my back and not wearing a bra. The memory of Joe’s normal male lechery judged them to be about a B cup, maybe a little less. Not bad, I thought.

And beyond that, my body: slender and feminine, maybe one-ten at a guess, maybe not that. Still a teenager’s body, I judged from what little I could tell; there was probably some filling out to do, although I decided at once I didn’t want to let things get away from me. From my memory of the class reunion I could think of high school classmate girls of about that size who had let themselves go; some of them were even fatter than Joe had been! There was no way of telling about my butt, but my hips seemed, well, adequate if not oversized.

What’s more, if there was any doubt about my being a girl, a glance down toward my crotch proved it: my man-bits just weren’t there anymore. That was going to take some getting used to, but as far as I could tell I had the appropriate replacements.

I didn’t actually get a lot of time to study things, but I knew I would have more opportunity in the future. This was just confirmation of what I was already pretty sure of. As it was, the nurse and a younger helper were rather gingerly going over my body with a wet washcloth, and yes, there were places they touched where I hurt badly. I did feel better when they were through, and not just because they were through.

They got another gown on me, and then slid me over on the bed so they could change the sheets. It hurt to move, but not quite as bad as I expected, and the clean sheets felt good. I asked if I could have the head of the bed raised a little, and the older nurse said she didn’t think Dr. Sloan would mind.

After a while the nurses gathered up their things and went on to their next chore, leaving me there, feeling the best I had felt since I woke up in the hospital.

Not long after that my mother came in by herself. “Your father decided he’d better get back to work for at least a little while,” she reported. “And Joey is helping the Pendletons with cleaning up the mess the storm left of their place. I take it you’re feeling better today.”

“I am,” I told her. “I even had a bed bath, and maybe the doctor is going to let me have something to eat.”

“I hate to say it, but your hair is a mess. Would you like me to comb it out for you?”

“I’d love it.”

Mom pulled a comb from her purse and started in on my hair. I hadn’t really noticed it until then, but it was long, maybe down to my shoulders when I was standing up, and also the very light brown, almost blonde color of hers. “It’s not a very good job,” she said finally. “It really needs to be brushed but I don’t think it would be a good idea right now. Would you like to see?”

“Sure thing,” I said. I hadn’t seen a mirror, of course, and I wondered what I looked like.

She dug a mirror out of her purse and held it up so I could look in it – and was surprised to see that I looked an awful lot like her. Not just like her, but I was definitely her daughter!

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To be continued . . .

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