Unfair- A Diaper Dimension Novel

PART 1: The Old Routine

Chapter 1: The Facts of Life.
The world isn’t fair.

This was typically the first morbid thought that crept into my head every morning as the alarm buzzed me awake from whatever dreams I’d been having only moments before. The past six to eight hours had been rendered completely moot in a blur of unconsciousness, not counting a trip to the toilet around three A.M. or so. Today was no different.

“Snooze,” my wife, Cassie, said, her groggy tone somewhat a hybrid of a plea and a demand. Almost reflexively, I rolled over and slapped the snooze button, silencing the alarm. “Thankooo,” Cassie slurred before rolling over and resuming a light session of snoring. Damn, I loved the sound of her snoring.

The next nine minutes lasted a short eternity, with me likely drifting off just before the alarm sang out again. I’ve always wondered how an entire night can go by with a snap of my fingers and the shutting of my eyelids, but nine minutes feels like forever. The only conclusion I could ever come to was that the world wasn’t fair.

Eyes open, but vision still blurry (it looked like there were two overlapping sets of alarm clocks), I groped around and actually turned the darn thing off, not just hitting snooze. It was part of our morning ritual, me and Cassie. Our routine. I always hit the snooze button once, and only once; just enough to feel like we were getting away with something. In its own weird little way, it felt like winning. Little victories.

But today was work. So no sleeping in. Time to get up and get out of bed. If my head hit the pillow again, sleep would win. Sleep never won.

Not that I could go back to sleep, anyways. I had to pee like a racehorse. I’d already woken up once, about an hour ago, but my lethargy outweighed my discomfort, so I’d just rolled over and drifted off again. Now it was time to get up. Time to go to work and face the dangers of the world outside my house.

Time to exist.

Stretching out the first of my morning aches, I walked to the bathroom, whispering “The world isn’t fair,” as I crossed the threshold. It’s my own personal “memento mori,” but it served a different purpose than the generals of the ancient and mythical land of “Roam.” Conquering heroes needed to be reminded of their own mortality, lest they become arrogant.

My own personal motto reminded me of exactly how lopsided the world was so that I’d stay alert. Couldn’t get too cocky. Couldn’t get too comfortable. When the game’s not fair, you can’t afford to rest easy, and the game started every time I stepped out my front door.

That might have been the reason why I never had the master bathroom refurbished. Cassie would grab her phone and shamble to the other side of the house and use the guest bathroom. It made sense, honestly. The seat there fit her, and neither of us were foolhardy enough to go out and buy a potty adapter. Even Cassie, internet whiz that she’d become, wouldn’t buy something like that online. That’s how they getcha.

Me? There was a certain thrill about climbing up the stepladder every morning and pissing into a toilet sized for an Amazon. Another guilty pleasure. Getting away with something, again. Another Little victory.

Oh, yeah. I guess I should mention in case you haven’t figured it out: I’m a Little. Capital “L.” Noun. Not an adjective.

We lived in an Amazon-sized house. Got it relatively cheap with a good mortgage. The old Amazon couple that we’d gotten it from actually seemed pleasantly surprised on the day I showed up to sign the papers.

They’d lost their adopted Little girl to old age and cancer- some things even Amazon tech can’t cure a hundred percent- but had modified the spare bathroom to accommodate someone our size. They were the rare breed that believed in “potty training” Littles. And yes, please note the quotation marks to indicate eye rolling irony. You’ll most likely be seeing a lot of them.

Amazons were crazy; they were almost determined to see Littles as babies that never grew up, at best, and their own personal dolls, at worst. But if you didn’t trigger their eccentricities, they were otherwise very reasonable. I had made sure to remind Cassie of that when I came back from the in-person signing.

In turn, Cassie reminded me if she hadn’t done some careful obfuscation about our stature, (never outright lying, that would have come back to bite us), we wouldn’t have gotten our dream house with such a low mortgage payment.

Only “grown-ups” could handle such stressful responsibilities like a job and a mortgage. Littles who fell behind on their payments weren’t allowed to be grown-ups and pay them late.

We both knew Littles who’d tried to live the dream and had been pressured into signing more than half of their monthly paycheck away. Some of them were still struggling, working overtime and multiple jobs just to make payments and keep food on their table.

Others weren’t…

I’m getting off track, though. This isn’t the story of how my wife and I got our beautiful home. This is another story entirely.

Still gloriously naked and a little stiff in the legs, a low moan escaped my lips and mingled with the sound of liquid hitting liquid echoing through the master bathroom. Everything in my house was a high-loft, comparatively speaking. There was something luxurious about it.

Once my tank was on empty, I looked down at myself- pale flesh and tiny little red hairs all over- and smiled. I liked my body hair. It made me look and feel more manly (though Cassie preferred calling me “fuzzy”). My body hair wasn’t super bushy or massive, but no one was mistaking me for a toddler, either. Good. Good enough, anyway.

Leaning over so as not to fall in, I placed one hand on the tank for balance and then flushed. After climbing down from the toilet’s step stool, I did my other morning ritual of looking down and clapping my hands on my belly.

Damn. I was getting kind of chubby. Too much candy and late night snacking. That was no good. If a Little ever got too fat, one of those giants (sorry Amazon readers, that’s what you look like to us) might see a beer gut and think “baby fat,” and then their maternal instincts would get triggered.

That’s the curse of getting old. Your metabolism starts to slow down on its own, but your eating habits don’t. At thirty-one, I was ancient in Little terms. No, we live just as long as the Amazons and Tweeners, on average. But in Amazon country, most Littles were lucky to remain free and uncribbed past the age of twenty-eight.

Amazons were just as likely to “adopt” an eighty year old as an eighteen year old, but if you made it to thirty-five, chances are you’d gotten your shit together enough so that you could make it to eighty. So yeah, I was gettin’ up there. Better old than never being allowed to grow up.

Climbing yet another stepping stool so that I could reach the sink, I grabbed my razor and shaving cream and started to lather up. I promised myself that I’d pop in that yoga DVD again as soon as I got home from work.

I hated yoga, but having a pre-recorded Amazonian fitness instructor tell me to assume the child’s pose on the yoga mat was better than a real giant telling me to lay down on a changing mat. Jogging as exercise was out, lest some passerby think I was running from something and decide to “protect” me.

Weights were a no go, too. A Little with a developed physique was unfortunate, as far as Amazons were concerned. A Little with rippling musculature was a challenge, a dare, or so I reckoned.

Yoga was really my best option.

Shaving was another kind of balancing act for me. My bright red goatee definitely made me look more “distinguished” and less like a toddler, but with it came more responsibilities. Serious, serious responsibilities. If my chin hair ever got too long or scraggly, someone might think that I didn’t know how to take care of myself, and it’d be all downhill from there. Same principle if I got a five o’clock shadow anywhere before 5pm. It’s why I shaved twice a day, just in case. A big ol’ fuck-off grandpa beard was never going to be an option for me, sadly.

The top of my head was its own balancing act. My own hair had a tendency to grow curly- “adorably” curly, which made me a potential target. However, my paranoia never let me feel comfortable going full buzz cut, either. Bald could be just as dangerous. Barbers that cut Little hair (and didn’t offer a lollipop after) in this part of the country were rare.

I was lucky in some respects, though: a curly top was bad, but long, flowing hair was worse.

You know how I said that Amazons were equally likely to adopt an eighteen year old or an eighty year old? Admittedly, there’s truth to that. What I failed to mention, however, is they also tend to prefer our women over men. There are studies that suggest that as far as “adoptions” go, women outnumber men two to one, closer to three in some locales. And it’s no big secret that when an Amazon can’t find a Little girl to take…they have a tendency to just “make” their own. As a precaution, I learned to cut my own hair and make up for talent or style with a ton of hair gel.

I leaned forward and mugged a bit in the mirror. Flecks of gray were dotting my hair. Salt and ketchup. I smiled a little. A typical Amazon might adopt an eighty year old or an eighteen year old Little, but their special brand of crazy was more likely to be triggered by a cuter, younger, more babyish looking Little. Those flecks of gray and white were practically battle scars.

“I might just make it to being a silver fox, yet,” I’d think to myself.

Body hair. Goatee. Short and neat hair. A penis. Those were all things that played to my advantage out there in the Big Big Amazonian world. Even my name was supposed to be a shield.

Oh yikes. I almost forgot. Forgive my manners.

Hi.

I’m Clark. My last name? It’s complicated.

My parents gave me the name “Clark” as its own kind of protection. “Clark” is one of those names that’s just awful for a kid. Like “Dane” or “Glenn” or “Harlan.” Hard to imagine a baby with that kind of name. If you’ve read this far, I think you see my point.

I grew up hearing the story about my poor uncle Thomas on my mother’s side, lost to us before I was born. He didn’t die. An Amazon just thought that he looked cute and that “Tommy” was more fitting for him. As far as anyone in the family knows, he’s still being forced to breastfeed and shit his pants.

A name wasn’t going to stop any of the giants from taking me, but just like everything else about me at that point, it was another layer to prevent any unhealthy interests in me ever taking root. Just like the carefully ironed dress shirt that I put on everyday, each little piece of my appearance was another button holding everything together.

It wasn’t fair. I knew this as I pulled up a neatly pressed pair of slacks and went for my belt. It wasn’t fair that every day I went to work, I was in my own weird way putting myself in a surreal kind of danger. It wasn’t fair that my custom loafers had lifts in them, in the hopes that I might be able to pass as a short Tweener instead of an average-to-tall Little. It wasn’t fair that I had to basically prove myself as an adult every single day while other, bigger, taller people got the benefit of the doubt and then some.

It wasn’t fair, but it was fact.

I finished tying my tie- a risky maneuver if it ever went askew, but it always paid off.

“Breakfast time,” Cassie said, bringing me my breakfast shake. It was high in protein and had a tendency to constipate me, but that was a bonus as far as I was concerned. Didn’t hurt that it tasted like chocolate, either.

An artist, Cassie worked from home, never letting anyone know her actual size. Most people wouldn’t believe a Little could do anything artistic beyond scribbling with crayons, but that’s just propaganda there. She had an eye for detail and the manual dexterity to make absolutely beautiful and intricate works of art. She could cook, but neither of us wanted to get up early enough to make or eat breakfast, so we’d developed this little ritual instead.

I took my shake, peeled off the seal on the bottle and chugged it down. “Thanks, hon,” I said. “You’re the best.”

“I know, hon,” she yawned. We never called each other “babe,” always opting for older-sounding terms of endearment. “Love ya.” A quick peck on the cheek, and then I was out the door and on my way to work.

So here’s the thing: looking back on it, I couldn’t tell you the exact date this happened. I’ve long forgotten it. Not because anything made me forget, but that’s because much of my life BEFORE was largely forgettable; blessedly, blessedly forgettable. If anything, the above sequence of events might not ever have happened exactly the way I described them above, but they all happened at some point. This was my morning, most Mondays through Fridays, barring summer vacation or the occasional three-day weekend.

Some, I know might criticize or try to discredit me as I write this- call me an unreliable narrator, only with smaller, more patronizing word choices. Typical Amazons. What I am is flawed, just like anyone without a computer for a brain.

The mind, especially mine, has a habit of blocking out or blurring the routine together in a jumbled haze, because why would we know every single detail of every single thing that has ever happened to us in our sentient existence? We’re not robots. It’s the rough stuff, the emotional stuff, that we remember. The stuff that even thinking about makes us happy cry, ugly cry, curl our fingers in rage, curl our toes in fright, makes us nauseous or aroused: that’s what sticks out in our mind with crystal clarity.

This? This morning could have been any morning. For all intents and purposes, it was my morning, every morning. In fact, do me a favor: Get a bookmark or a highlighter and between every chapter, remind yourself that for the longest time, this was my morning. If, up until a certain point, I talk about “the next day” or talk about any transition in time, a scene very much like what you just read probably unfolded first: a little bit of existential dread and anxiety, a lot of careful preparation, a terrible meal, and then out the door before dawn.

It wasn’t fair. But it was normal. Blessedly, blessedly normal. It was routine. It was the facts of life.

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Gewd storee mor plz eye lyked it :+1:

ducks and hides

Ok seriously. Good stuff but it’s coming from you so that’s a given. For any reader new to this story- y’all already know how talented Pers is but this is some of his most masterful work yet and I can not recommend this story enough.

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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.”

“Good answer!”

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.

Typical Amazon.

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.

Did you just add random tags? What the hell does the #links tag have to do with this? And as the author you should know if the story is complete, incomplete, or abandoned, and obviously the last one doesn’t apply.

Edit: oh, just saw the Patreon link. The links tag isn’t for tagging every topic with links. It’s for the Classifieds section specifically. :slight_smile:

I added tags based on my understanding. If that understanding was incorrect, I’m sorry.

This story is “incomplete” in that it is not finished, but I thought incomplete had a negative connotation, and I did not see an “in progress” tag.

It’s very much a work in progress that I have been writing for over a year and updating regularly in other places and is currently at over 100k Words. I planned to upload this story a chapter a day so that it wouldn’t be just a giant wall of text up until the point that it was caught up with other platforms where I post it.

At which point, every time I released a chapter to the public, this would be another place added to my updates.

Upon reading your message and edit: I apologize for my misuse of your tag system. It was not intentional. I’ll see what I can do about fixing that.

If you feel you have been disrespected, I’ll stay out of your space.

Edit: I see you made the changes for me. It is appreciated.

Sorry, some of the recent stress I’ve been under is coming through in my posts. I was legitimately wondering if you chose the tags at random. We’re actually in the middle of a massive reorganization project. In fact you technically posted this in the wrong location initially, but the right location didn’t exist yet when you posted. :slight_smile:

If you want I can actually add an in-progress tag to the status tags and update the topic’s tags. In hindsight having the same tag for both “story is being actively updated” and “story is incomplete and may or may not be updated in the near future” is pretty dumb.

Also, if you ever need a tag that doesn’t exist, flag the first post as something else and let us know what tag(s) you need added and we can add them. Due to past abuse of the tagging system, creating new tags is restricted to members of the @staff group.

That would be very kind regarding the in-progress tag, thank you. I appreciate your understanding and your patience in this matter.

Chapter 3: Less Pleasant Rituals

The three of us- Tracy, Mrs. Beouf, and I- walked up to the school’s front office. Amazon, and even Tweener steps are longer and therefore faster than Little footsteps, but we’d all long since gotten into a kind of groove. Mrs. Beouf took a medium to slow pace; leisurely walking to work but not dilly dallying. Tracy walked briskly. I was power walking. Any faster and I’d have to at least jog.

I’d long ago mastered the art of conversing while at a near run. I wasn’t winded and I wouldn’t be, not in anyway that would show. “Warm weather’s back,” I said. More small talk.

“Feels good, doesn’t it?” Tracy grinned. “You know what that means, right?”

“SPRING BREAK!’ we all said in unison.

“What are you going to do, Mr. Gibson?” Tracy asked me.

I smiled. “Maybe read a book,” I replied. “Other than that, hopefully nothing and love it.” That may or may not have been true. I did love just lazing around the house, but it was just as possible Cassie would take the opportunity for us to get out of the neighborhood and visit one of our friends. “You?”

“New laser tag place opening up. I’m probably going to get lost there,” Tracy said. “Mrs. Beouf?”

“Drinking,” Mrs. Beouf said. “A lot.” That’s another reason I liked Beouf. Amazons tended to not talk about things like drinking or going to a lewd rock concert in front of me. It was much the same way an adult might not curse in front of children. As far as the giants wanted Littles to be concerned, all Amazons were the picture of adult responsibility. Beouf talked to me and Tracy the same way I’d eavesdropped on other Amazons talking to each other: like people. “I just found out that my daughter is pregnant. I’m going to be a grandmother”

“Congratulations.”

“Thank you,” she said. “But her and her husband are moving back in before the baby is born. So I’m going to enjoy my house while it’s still my house.”

Going up with the two of them was a matter of safety. Keeping up with Beouf was practically my morning exercise, and Amazons had some kind of unwritten rule, maybe instinctual, about snatching up each other’s captives. By being so closely associated with Beouf, most of my coworkers at least subconsciously registered me as “her Little”.

Walking beside one of the giants had additional benefits. If I walked by myself I might be “mistaken” for “getting “lost” or “dawdling” if I was too slow. On the other hand, I might be “hiding something” or “about to have an accident”, if I was going too fast. Don’t get me started on how many justifications I’ve heard involving an Amazon quite literally wanting to give me a lift.
Typical Amazons.

Never once had either of my two companions ever even offered to carry me. Mrs. Zoge had brought it up once, and only once. Mrs. Beouf had said she’d talk with her assistant about it in private and I considered the matter settled. I never got an apology, but that was years ago and the offer had never been made again. Fair enough.

Other teachers, all Amazons, thought I was being a Helper; cozying up to my future “Mommy” so she’d take it easy on me. Some even thought I was purposefully hoping to get “adopted” and that’s why I’d taken the job teaching Pre-K in the first place.

How did I know all this? Amazons, though incredibly intelligent, didn’t give the shorter peoples enough credit. They were smart enough to clam up around me but never caught onto who might be wandering around and listening to the office gossip first thing in the morning, or during lunch in the teacher’s lounge. With a friend like Tracy, I knew who my enemies were.

I can’t objectively say if any of my precautions actually worked or if it was just my own paranoia justifying itself; but nothing an Amazon did to a Little was objectively justified. Fair was fair. So was unfair.

Mrs. Beouf grabbed the door and ushered us inside the front office. Oakshire Elementary was an open campus, with each grade level sectioned off in separate buildings on either side of a row of communal buildings: the Library, the Cafeteria, and of course, the Front Office. It was there that we went each morning to sign in, just as the sun was starting to crest over the hills, and then wait for the buses up front.

“Mr. Gibson. Tracy,” a coworker, a Tweener, acknowledged us as she passed. “Mrs. Beouf.”

“Good morning,” I said, trying to sound cheery.

Another familiar ritual.

“Mrs. Beouf. Tracy. Mr. Gibson.”

“Mrs. Springfield. Mr. Renner. Ms. Grange.”

Basic stuff. Thoughtless stuff. If not for Mrs. Beouf’s coffee I could still do this in my sleep.

I got the rare pleasure of thoughtless un-anticipation as I punched my employee number into the sign-in terminal just behind the receptionists’ desk. The terminal didn’t have a stool to reach, but after so long, I could do it all by feel. “CLAAAAAARK!” An all too familiar voice called out to me. Great. Time for another ritual.

I wasn’t comfortable around Mrs. Zoge, or most Amazons, but at least Zoge was more or less professional in her own odd way. Miss Forrest, the school’s receptionist was a hungry cat looking for a mouse of its very own to play with. Second perhaps to only one other Amazon on campus, Miss Forrest was the person who most palpably wanted to see me out of a job and into a playpen. She was also proof that not all Amazons were brilliant.

So as not to seem panicked, I turned around and smiled. Tracy shot me a look. It said: “Do you need help? I can make an excuse for us to walk away right now.” I smiled up at her. For real this time. She was able to read my confidence and started walking out front, leaving me to this game of cat and mouse.

Not all rituals were pleasant, but they had to be done. Grudging respect was better than no respect. Failing that, frustration might at least cause hesitation.

“Why hello, Miss Forrest,” I said. “How are you this fine morning?”

The receptionist wasted no time, (or subtlety). “My my, Clark, you look so stressed this morning. Are you okay?”

Of course I wasn’t okay. Amazons loved word traps and games of societal niceties. “Oh, you know,” I shrugged. “Just getting old. Nothing that I can’t handle. Though if you wanna talk stress, don’t get me started on those union negotiations, amiright?” A couple passerbys muttered agreement. “Like whose side are they on and where’s my money really going to?” More muttering. Office bitching. Another universal constant.

“I’m not Union,” Forrest said. Yeah. I knew that. But Beouf was Oakshire’s Teachers’ Union representative. Just saying the U word around her caused her ears perk up. She craned her neck just before walking out to the bus loop. Yeah, I said I didn’t need Tracy’s help. Probably wouldn’t need Beoufs help, either. Better safe than sorry and alert them to what was going on. I gave Beouf a wink. She winked back. “Would you like some chocolate?” Forrest said, reaching into her purse. “I got it just for you.”

We Littles must have some kind of superpower when it comes to not rolling our eyes. Just for me? Really? Could it be any more obvious? “I really should be on a diet,” I said. “But the thought is appreciated.”

“I’m just offering you a gift,” Forrest said. “I thought it was something special that we could share.” I could practically see the venom dripping from her teeth. If I said one thing wrong, she’d try to twist my words around as me being “cranky” or “fussy” or “snippy”, and go from there.

“Well if we’re sharing,” I said. I held out my hand. Even Amazons weren’t baby crazy enough to go kamikaze and poison themselves. She placed the “gift” in my hand: A round box of chocolates, tamper evident plastic wrapping removed. I opened the lid.

The box was already missing a chocolate. A glance at the inside of the lid indicated that it was a “chili flake bonbon”. Amazons like spicy food. It might not be a fact based in biology, but it’s definitely present in their sociology.

I felt a knot form in my stomach. This was training chocolate. I just knew it. Every Little with an internet connection and an ounce of self preservation instinct knew about training chocolate. Like a certain little blue pill it was designed with one clientele in mind but found success in a completely different market.

It was originally marketed as a “gentle” and “subtle” laxative that tasted like candy to a toddler. The original commercials had said it would help in potty training because kids would need to use the toilet more often. Instead the stuff both irritated and numbed the bowels simultaneously.

No Amazon parent bought this sort of thing for their potty training child, anymore. But there was a reason that they were still on the market and repackaged in fancy boxes made to look like gifts. I’d seen Halloween and Valentine variations too. Any holiday involving candy saw a spike in Little “accidents” and subsequent “adoptions”. If I ate this now, I’d be shitting my pants by lunch.

Typical Amazon stuff.

I looked into the empty slot in the middle of the box. It’s very possible that the chili flake was put in there as a red herring. A safe choice in a box full of poison. Either that, or she just chucked it in the garbage. “Have as many as you like,” the receptionist said. “No need to be shy.”

I put the lid back on the box and moved to go. “Thank you,” I said. “I’ll enjoy them later.” I was half tempted to say that my students might enjoy them as well, there being so many, but that would be laying it on a bit too thick.

Her hand shot out, blocking my chest as I made a move to walk around her desk. “Oh no, take one,” Miss Forrest said. “I insist.”

My nostrils flared. “You insist?”

“Yes sir,” she said. “I got them for you as a present. And it would be oh so rude of you to not let me see you enjoy at least one. Don’t you agree?” Oooooh, that was a good one. Calling me “sir” as if she really thought of us as equals. Forrest brought her “A” game today.

Think Clark. Think. I hadn’t planned on this. The chili flake had to have been safe. That’s why she ate it: To get rid of my safe option and I couldn’t refuse without falling into a circular logic trap that would surely trigger every crazy Amazon brain to rallying behind her.

LIGHT BULB!

I smiled, sweetly. “Why Mo-…I mean Miss Forrest,” I said. The look on the giant’s face suddenly looked a bit hot and bothered. It was almost like I’d just talked dirty to her. “You’re absolutely right.”

“I am?”

“Please forgive me my lapse in etiquette, Ma’am. I was only following your example.”

She was still dazed; not connecting dots. The “slip up” had thrown her off her game a bit. Good. “You were?”

“You said you wanted to share these with me, but you ate the first one without me.” I presented the box again. “Please. Share one with me. Let’s both eat one. Together.”

What I was suggesting was finally registering to her. “I couldn’t,” she said, inching away in her rolly chair. “Any more will go straight to my hips.” I was suddenly holding a poisonous snake.

“I’m going on a diet too. But this is special,” I said. “A gift. To share. Between friends. Right?”

I opened the lid again. “Right…” she said.

“I’ll have one, if you show me how,” I pressed. “I’ve never had them. Do I just pop one in my mouth or bite in half?“ Forrest’s hands had retreated to her chest, like little claws. She reminded me of a T-Rex; a T-Rex that was suddenly deathly afraid of chocolates.

These things were so strong that they’d work on an Amazon just as easily as me. Forrest would likely end up in diapers too if she had an accident. She probably wouldn’t be “adopted” out, but she might be forced to work wearing diapers “just in case”. And she definitely wouldn’t be allowed to take any Little as her own. Crazy cut both ways sometimes.

I’m not going to lie: As scared as I was, sometimes moments like these made it all worth it. Some Littles took up skydiving. Others climbed mountains with no safety harnesses. Me? I became a teacher.

Incidences like this one are another reason why I think Amazons are crazy. If one managed to figure out their particular quirks, you could play to them and they’d have no choice but to play along, no way to adapt.

Miss Forrest hemmed and hawed. Stalling. Looking for a way out of the rules she’d set down and not finding any. “Um…uh….um.” I had her stumped. If I was going to eat one, she would have to too in order to keep up the farce she’d weaved.

The gentle tones of the morning bell rang out over the intercom. Both of us breathed a sigh of relief. Her visibly. “Better get going. The buses will be unloading. Wouldn’t want you to be late for class.”

I ignored the way she phrased that last sentence as a slight against me. I’d won. She wouldn’t admit it, but I think she knew it. “Quite right, Miss Forrest.”

“Mr. Gibson,” a voice came up behind me. “I hope you’re not dawdling to avoid the responsibilities of your job, young man.”

The hairs on the back of my neck stuck out. It hadn’t been thirty seconds, and already Mrs. Brollish, Oakshire Elementary’s Principal for the last five years was standing behind me. Raine Forrest was the second most likely Amazon to see me fired and padded up. If you’re reading this, you now know the first.

I bit my tongue so hard it almost bled. Another lightbulb! Two in one morning. Not bad, Clark. Not bad. I replaced the lid and gave the box a slight rattle as I turned around. “Not at all, Mrs. Brollish,” I said, looking up. “Miss Forrest had just gifted me these wonderful chocolates.”

I re-opened the lid. Perfect! The laxative bonbons were a little jolted around, but they still looked very presentable. Better yet, one of them had shifted positions and was now occupying the chili flake middle space. “Would you like one?”

Damnit. I just couldn’t help myself! I held out the box, the lid open so that Brollish could see. Just as I’d hoped, a large, wrinkled, bony hand was making a beeline for the bonbon in the dead center.

“NOOOOOO!” Miss Forrest was falling all over herself, tumbling to the floor to slap the box out of my grasp. The chocolates went scattering to the floor.

“Oh no!” I yelled. “My present!” It was bullshit of course, but certain parts had to be played out.

Forrest was on her hands and knees. Finally! I was just a little bit taller than her, if only by an inch or so. “Ooops,” she said, looking right past me and up to our boss. “Butterfingers…?”

Mrs. Brollish was a wretched old beldam of an Amazon, but she was significantly quicker on the uptake than Miss Forrest. “Miss Forrest,” she said. “We’re going to have to talk…privately…” I felt her gaze shift to me. “Mr. Gibson,” she said curtly. “The buses?”

“Right away Ma’am.”

And I walked off, doing my best to hide my own smug expression and shit eating grin.

Chapter 4: Just like the Big Grown-Ups

The sun hadn’t been up long when the first of the buses arrived. Most teachers hated bus duty. Within their classrooms, every teacher is a benevolent dictator; a king or queen. A demi-god. Outside, even on campus, our power is greatly diminished. We’re not in our space. We’re not in our environment. Not in our zone of control. We’re not acting, and we can only react and hope for the best from our students.

That’s the nicest way to put it. Teacher lounge talk went a little more like: “Darn kids keep dragging their feet.”, “It’s not hard! Just get to breakfast!”, “Why is bus 1017 always late?”, and “How am I supposed to get any planning done when I’m on monitor duty?”

Me? I loved it. My students were too young to walk across campus unaccompanied, and the Pre-K bus as well as the (sigh) Maturosis and Developmental Plateau bus were scheduled to be the last to arrive. Ergo, I was always on bus duty, at least until my students came in. All of my current students, anyways.

“Good Morning Eleanor. Hello Michael. Glad you’re back Mindy, hope you’re feeling better.”

“Good Morning Mr. Gibson.”

“Hey, Mr. G.”

“I am. Thank you, Mr. Gibson.”

And so it went.

Going into my tenth year of teaching meant that I knew a good chunk of every kid in every grade. I’d taught a lot of these children their alphabet and first sight words. Heck, I’d potty trained a lot of them. For all their blather about maturity and adultness, Amazons in my experience tend to suck at potty training their children.

I’m showing my bias, but I suspect that deep down neither their children nor they are ready when it happens. That and the giants tend to spoil their children and make up in the “discipline” department with the Littles that they choose to “adopt”.

Typical Amazons.

Knowing the kids had its perks. Regardless of size, there was an almost mystical power that happened when you called someone out by their full name. And I knew a lot of names. “Phyllis Mary-Ann Finster! You know better than that!” The third grader’s jog slowed into more of a power walk. “That’s better, Phylls! Thank you!” I wasn’t going to begrudge a power walk.

No one gets into teaching for the money. They get into it because they want to make a difference in a stranger’s life. They want to pass on what they know and what they’ve learned to the next generation; the next several generations if they’re lucky.

I was no different. My first class of pre-schoolers were all late middle school and early high school age now. I was able to watch them grow up- watch all of my students grow up- and got to be a constant presence and example for them. I was proof that any preconception of Littles they might have had was wrong. I was just as much a teacher, just as much an authority figure, just as much an expert, and just as much an adult as any Amazon on campus. And I reminded them every day as they got older just by saying hello and reminding them not to run over each other as soon as they got off the bus.

Heh…kids.

After the initial bus and breakfast rush- the infamous bus 1017 included- Mrs. Beouf’s and my buses pulled in. Tracy looked to me. “You want I should get our guys off?”

I stroked my chin in thought. “Not quite,” I said. “Sosa says that most of our guys are making gains in their O.T. metrics, right?” Tracy nodded. “Go on in,” I said. “Tell them to unbuckle their seatbelts. We’ve got a couple minutes to practice getting off the bus like big boys and girls.”

“Elmer?”

Dang. How did I forget about Elmer? “Help Elmer,” I told her, “but let him be first off. He can be our good example.” Amazon strength buckles were hard enough for Amazon strength kids that age. Elmer was my youngest this year AND a Tweener. He was also the only kid in my class that was completely potty trained. Yes, even for nap time.

“You got it, chief.” Tracy said before climbing up the stairs to get things underway.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Beouf was busy unloading her “children”. Mentally, I kicked myself. In taking the time to teach my own students real life independence, I was forcing myself to be exposed to some very unpleasant reminders. Life just wasn’t fair.

Mrs. Zoge trotted up, Ivy riding shotgun on her hip. “Excuse me, Mr. Gibson,” she said. “Would you mind watching Ivy for a minute while I go help Mrs. Beouf unload?” She didn’t wait before sliding Ivy off her hip and placing her down next to me. She stayed at Ivy’s (at our)eye level long enough to say, “You be good.”

“Yes Mommy.” And then Zoge was off, climbing onto the bus so she could unbuckle restraints made to look like car seats. Ivy looked at me and then waved as if we hadn’t already seen each other not ten minutes ago. “Hi.”

I gave her a polite nod of recognition and then turned to face my bus. I tried to give Ivy-to give all the Littles at Oakshire Elementary-a modicum of quiet dignity and respect. They were infantilized enough. A simple understanding nod would go a lot farther than a big toothy smile or a cooing voice. That’s what I told myself.

In hindsight, it went deeper than that. I should have taken it as a compliment from Mrs. Zoge, really. Babies didn’t watch other babies, and she was super possessive of her “daughter”. I’d just scored a victory over Forrest and had been a hair’s breadth away from humiliating Brollish. But the truth was captured Littles made me uncomfortable. Why wouldn’t they? No one liked looking at a worst case reflection of themselves. Ivy and other Littles like her were reminders that victories didn’t matter so much when I only needed one loss for it to be game over for good.

If Ivy and I had ever been alone behind closed doors, I might want to talk to her. To ask her if she was okay. Ask her when had adulthood been stolen from her. Offer to try and sneak a message to her family, her real family. Let her use the toilet. Let her sit on it for a few minutes, even if she didn’t have to go; just for the novelty. Show her a funny internet meme with cursing in it. Maybe even, in my wildest fantasies, tell her to run.

But we were in public. And Little legs never got far without cover of darkness, a crowd, and a several hour head start. I probably wouldn’t have asked or offered Ivy any of those things if we had the privacy to talk, anyways.

Ivy would have likely refused. Likely tattled. Helping “adopted” Littles escape was against the law. Tantamount to kidnapping. A crime, ironically, punishable by “adoption”. Ivy would have turned me in, I knew. There were Helpers, and then there were Littles who were just so far gone that they completely bought into all of the Amazon’s hype.

Perfect Little Baby Dolls.

That was Ivy all over. She wasn’t worth the risk. A nasty thought burned in the back of my skull. Was I watching her, or was she watching me? I stood up a little straighter as Elmer hopped down the steps and onto the sidewalk with me.

“Come on, Elmer. Good job!” I looked at him. He was still a bit shorter than me. “Do you want a high five, a handshake, or a hug?” Elmer, held out his hand, grinning. I slapped his hand and he gave me a giggle.

Meanwhile, Beouf and Zoge were trotting out of the bus, carrying Littles out in ones and twos. Oakshire Elementary didn’t have school uniforms, and there wasn’t really a dress code for the MDP unit, but I’d noticed certain trends held true over the years.

Boy Littles tended to be dressed in shirts and shorts that did nothing to conceal their diapers, usually with the top still poking out over the waistband. Girls tended to be forced to wear dresses that were so short they barely covered the tops. Onesies and shortalls were fair game for both sexes, especially in the hotter months.

Anything that covered the knee was avoided unless it was cold enough to see your breath. And even then, the Littles were so bundled up with cutesy crap that there would have been almost no chance for them to run away through all the extra layers.

All ten of Mrs. Beouf’s charges wore shoes, meaning they were expected to be able to walk at least some of the time. Walk was a generous term. Their legs were forced to bow out to keep their balance thanks to all the plastic and padding stuffed between their thighs. Waddle was a more apt descriptor.

As my class was slowly but surely making their way down the bus steps and getting their high fives, handshakes, and hugs from me, Mrs. Beouf or her assistant would set a Little down, guide them hand-over-hand to each other, and force them to clasp onto one another. Then, they’d get a pat on the head and their Amazon caretaker would go back to the bus to get more. It was a kind of nursery school chain gang. Ivy, of course, was their good example and Line Leader.

None of them looked directly at me, or I at them. No cries for help. If nothing else, everyone had accepted our limitations and expected roles. We all knew what this was.

“LET ME THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!“

Except, apparently, for the new fish. The side of the school bus opened and a ramp was lowered down. Beouf came down the ramp wheeling a blue umbrella stroller. A kid, he might have been twenty, was strapped in, wearing nothing but a t-shirt and a very wet diaper. Sopping wet. Discolored. Close to leaking.

His lack of clothing probably meant that he was a new capture. His “Mommy” or “Daddy” had “adopted” him on impulse and hadn’t taken the time to buy a more expansive and babyish wardrobe.

“LET! ME! THE! FUCK! GO!” He definitely talked like he was new to this. Poor bastard.

“New student,” Beouf called over the stroller.

“Yeah…I figured.”

Mrs. Beouf put on the stroller’s breaks and walked around. She took a knee and looked him in the eye. “Chazz, right?” The kid nodded. “I’m Mrs. Beouf. I’m gonna be your teacher for the rest of the year. Okay?” Chazz said nothing. There was a pacifier clipped on to his shirt likely the kind where the little rubber bulb inflated so that a Little couldn’t remove it on their own.

Chazz recoiled when she took the pacifier. He looked confused when she unhooked it and put it in her back pocket. “You can have this at nap time if you want it. But until then, it stays with me, okay?” The guy spit in her face. Beouf didn’t even blink as the saliva dripped off her glasses.

Fun fact: Beouf had just screwed Chazz over and he might not even have known it. A gag, spanking, or additional restraints would have allowed Chazz to scream his head off and feel (and to other Littles at least, look) justified. Now his options were to either keep fighting and screaming and be written off as a “fussy baby”, or to keep his temper and seem complacent in his treatment.

“Chazz is already soaking wet,” I heard Beouf tell Zoge. “You take the others to the cafeteria. I’m going to stop by our room and change him.”

Mrs. Zoge nodded and had Ivy start leading the way; an entire pack of Littles all waddling like good baby boys and girls to get spoon fed their breakfast. If they were lucky they might get to play with finger foods. Chazz’s screams went noted by the other Amazons, who just clucked their tongue and made loud remarks to everyone in earshot, including their students, how someone got up on the wrong side of the crib and was super cranky.

Damnit. Not that I blamed the guy, but we were at decidedly cross purposes just then.

“That’s everyone,” Tracy told me when all of my students got off the bus. Thank god. My students got in line, no hand holding required. I’d weaned them off of that. I gave the Amazon pre-schooler in the back of the line a hug and then noticed the wet spot on her jeans.

I waved Tracy over and cupped my hand to her ear as she bent over. “Natasha’s had an accident…again.”

My assistant let out a sigh. “Again?” She stood back up and moved Natasha to the middle of the line. Physical camouflage. Spare the girl some grief.

“Do you think she has any spare clothes in her backpack?”

“Checking…” Tracy said. Followed by a, “No sir.”

I frowned. “Clinic probably doesn’t have any spare undies, either.”

Tracy shook her head. “Nope.” How was I going to keep this kid out of diapers? “Don’t worry,” she said. “I went and bought some spares as soon as we got her parents to take away the Pull-Ups.”

I was genuinely touched. “Tracy,” I said. “you know you didn’t have to do that.”

She beamed at me. It was a smug, know-it-all expression. “I know.”

I exhaled. Darn it. I just couldn’t get mad at her. “Alright then, class,” I said. “Elmer, lead us to our room.” And off we went. Me walking right beside Elmer, with Tracy taking up the rear lest any of our students fall behind.

We didn’t eat breakfast in the cafeteria. We ate in our classroom. A cart of single serving cereals, milk cartons and fruit was always left just outside our door by the cooking staff. I’d managed to convince Brollish (with Mrs. Beouf’s help) that it’d be better for my students to start their day eating breakfast in my room so that they could be closer to a toilet. Fewer accidents and less embarrassment if they had one.

In reality, it was mostly because I couldn’t stand the cafeteria.

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Chapter 5: My One Hundred Thirty-Seventh I.E.P. Meeting.

“Is everyone here?”

“I think so.”

“Then let’s begin with proper introductions.”

“Hello I’m Tamara Bankhead, and I’m the Resource Compliance Specialist.”

“Hi, I’m Chandra Skinner: Speech and Language Pathologist.”

“Hello, I’m Maxine Winters: Physical Therapist.”

“Hello, I’m Jasmine Sosa: Occupational Therapist.”

“And I’m Clark Gibson: Pre-Kindergarten Teacher.”

There was a friendly smile, followed by a nervous chuckle. “I’m Winnie Roberts. I’m the Mom.”

Yet another ritual. Another routine in what was my regular existence: The I.E.P. meeting. I.E.P. was shorthand for Individualized Education Plan. Contrary to popular belief, schooling isn’t always the same knowledge conveyor belt, pumping kids full of information and then passing them on to the next grade level.

To prevent them from falling through the cracks and to get them needed services and therapies, some students had I.E.P’s. All of mine did. In order to even get into Pre-K at Oakshire Elementary, a student had to have an I.E.P. This wasn’t terribly hard to do in Oakshire, if I’m being honest. The school got more tax dollars per student with an I.E.P. so they were incentivised to load up my classroom as much as possible.

People like Brollish were doubly incentivised. A crack under the pressure, a misfiled paper or something improperly filled out would have been all the excuse a clericly minded Amazon might need to dismiss me and “arrange a transfer”. All of Beouf’s caseload had I.E.P’s., too.

The first time I was in an I.E.P. I was a wreck. Buzzwords like “federal documentation” and “data based conclusions” got thrown around all willy nilly. My peers gathered around the conference table would be all but sweating bullets sometimes, making sure to have all of their notes perfectly in order, their lines perfectly rehearsed.

Teaching is a weird job. You’re expected to be educated and infinitely more informed on educational practices than a layperson, but also do service with a smile while keeping in mind that the parent is always right. The technical expertise of a doctor with the social constraints of a nurse.

“We are gathered here today,” Bankhead all but read from a pre-approved script, “to discuss Jaden’s progress in meeting his yearly goals.” Bankhead was a Resource Compliance Specialist: Essentially, a glorified secretary whose sole job was to keep minutes for and run these types of meetings, as well as make sure everyone else had their paperwork properly filled out. It was a thankless job, but she made more money than me, so she didn’t need thanks. “For this Annual Review-”.

I tuned out for a second and suppressed a smirk. Annual Review was such a bullshit term. Far too often, bureaucracy demanded multiple ‘Annual Reviews’ for the same kid. An annual review would happen for a kid in the early Fall, to ‘get it out of the way’. Then the same kid would get ANOTHER annual review close to Summer so meetings didn’t ‘pile up with all the new kids come Fall’. Did people not know what “Annual” meant?

It was an equal inconvenience to everyone, so I can’t even say ‘Typical Amazons’ here.

Mrs. Bankhead looked to the Speech Therapist. “Miss Skinner,” she said. “How about you go first and review Jaden’s progress towards annunciation and vocabulary acquisition?” Translation: How good was a four year old at pronouncing words and how was he when it came to learning new ones.

“You see, Mom,” Miss Skinner started, “based on the results of Jaden’s latest Language Development Survey, or L.D.S. for short-”. I tuned out again. My first I.E.P. meeting I was a nervous wreck. This was my one hundred thirty-seventh such meeting.

It probably wasn’t, in actuality. I didn’t keep track of how many of these boring meetings I’d attended in my life, and that kind of normality, that lack of importance, was a good thing. I could do these in my sleep now. Yes, an I.E.P. was a Federally accountable document, but it really was just a kind of promise: A promise to pay attention to a kid, to keep track of where they’re at, to not give up on them, and to change up strategies if the current one wasn’t working. It’s literally what any teacher that hadn’t completely given up on their career would do anyways.

The rundown of Jaden’s speech ended and the narrative was passed to the Occupational Therapist. “Jaden is now using a tripod grasp to when delineating…” Standing on the chair so that I could lean on the conference table, clenched my jaw and bit my tongue.

Trace! Don’t say delineate! Just say ‘trace’! For all the fancy buzzwords that my colleagues were throwing around, they might as well be saying “Bounce the graviton particle beam off the main deflector dish”. All of these people were so nervous around an average working mother. They were all so eager to prove how much they knew and what experts they were in their field. But if Mrs. Roberts didn’t like something, they’d be pressured to the point of obligation to go along with her opinion.

From her own seat across from me, I could see Mrs. Roberts’s eyes start to glaze over as she smiled and nodded. She had almost no idea about what these experts were talking about, but didn’t want to admit what she didn’t know. All of these people were talking, but none of them were really communicating with each other.

Everyone was so afraid to slip up and look stupid in front of each other for fear of personal embarrassment or how it might come back to bite them. One of the things I liked about having a goatee was that it let me smile, ever so slightly, without giving myself away. Socially and psychologically speaking, meetings like these might be the closest thing that any of these Amazon women experienced to being a Little.

Bankhead broke me out of my revery. “Mr. Gibson? You’re up.”

I could have rattled off a string of fancy technical terms. Done the whole alphabet soup of educational buzzwords. “Your child is making A.Y.P on his I.E.P. in accordance with I.D.E.A., N.C.L.B., and R.T.T.T. Now if you look at this data chart based on the latest developmental diagnostic survey…”“

I didn’t.

I smiled and stood up in the chair a bit taller. “Okie dokie,” I said. “So about Jaden, Mrs. Roberts-”

“You can call me ‘Mom’,” she interrupted. “Everyone else has. It’s alright.” I never, ever called an Amazon “Mom”. Didn’t want them getting any ideas.

I slid a folder across the table. “Jaden’s doing fine,” I said. “Here’s some samples of his school work. He knows his letters, colors, basic shapes, numbers, and animal sounds. He’s even learned some sight words and we’re working on basic arithmetic using hands on manipulatives.” I suppose

In truth, Jaden probably didn’t need an I.E.P. In ten years, maybe five percent of my students had. Technically, my students were all “Developmentally Delayed”, a catchall term meaning that three and four year olds weren’t acting “developed” enough for their parents, but it was still too early to label them with any particular learning disability. Chances are they’d grow out of it, but it was my job to nip it in the bud, so to speak.

That’s what it meant for my class, at least. They somehow weren’t living up to Amazonian standards, as ridiculous as they were. Most of my students just needed time, a tiny bit of attention, stimulation, and adults willing to push back on certain undesirable behaviors. I’d had more than one parent all but admit that they pulled strings because public pre-school was less expensive than daycare. “I think he’s got a good head start for Kindergarten, next year,” I said. “I think he’ll outgrow his D.D. label very soon.”

“He’s even starting to use the potty at home!” Mrs. Roberts chimed in. Her eyes unclouded now that she finally felt like she was able to contribute to the conversation regarding her child.

“Oh yeah,” I agreed. “Not counting nap time, he’s very consistent.” I felt, more than heard my colleague’s hold their breath. I was a Little telling an Amazon that her son wasn’t quite potty trained yet. “He’s four,” I said. “He’ll grow out of it. That and there’s no nap time in Kindergarten.”

Mrs. Roberts was all smiles. “I know, right? What is up with that, anyways? No naps in Kindergarten?” I gave my best what-can-you-do shrug and smirk and felt the tension leave the air. “Thank you so much for that, Mr. Gibson!”

“You’re quite welcome.” Mrs. Roberts was what I called a second-year-parent. The majority of my students came to me when they were three and left when they were just about to turn five. Two years.

Most of their parents had never seen a Little in a position of authority. If I had a dollar for everytime I’d heard a crack about “babies teaching babies”, I’d make more money than the Superintendent.

I’ve had parents who’ve openly talked about putting me in a playpen, or taking me over their knee, or offered to let me sit in their lap, or asked where the “real” Pre-K teacher was. I ‘d be halfway to retirement if I got a bonus for that. That was my first year with any given parent. For some reason they just couldn’t wrap their head around the idea that their child’s very first teacher was a Little.

By Fall of their child’s first year, I was an incompetent who was going irrevocably damage their precious boy or girl. By mid to late Spring of their second year, I was a miracle worker who’d whipped their kid into shape. First they couldn’t stand me, then they didn’t want to leave me.

“I’m gonna miss Jaden being in your room, Mr. Gibson.” Mrs. Roberts gushed. “I know I shouldn’t be, but I’m nervous about Kindergarten.”

I smiled. All reassurance. “Don’t be. Jaden’s grown up a lot, and he’ll do a lot more. Just wait and see.”

“I still can’t get over it,” she went on. “When he didn’t potty train at two, I thought he was…was…like a…like…a…” She stopped. Clearly, she didn’t like where this train of thought was going and who it might offend. At least she was cognizant enough to watch what she was saying in front of me. Progress.

“Not every kid potty trains at two. They’re called late bloomers because they do still, in fact, bloom.”
Mrs. Roberts leaned over the table a bit. Much more at ease. “Still, I gotta know, for future reference…how’d you do it? What’s your secret?”

My secret? I made the kid change himself. Peeing and pooping yourself isn’t nearly as fun when you’re the one who has to clean it up. Especially if you’re made to do so and you’re missing play time. “If I told you that, I might put myself out of a job.”

That got a laugh from just about everyone assembled. “Mr. Gibson is really good at motivating his students,” Miss Winters, the physical therapist said. She was only at this meeting to officially dismiss Jaden from P.T. Kid didn’t need any help with his gross motor skills at all. “He really makes a connection with them.” Everyone nodded in agreement.

“Mr. Gibson is very good at getting into the mindset of his children,” Mrs. Bankhead said, not even looking up from her laptop as she typed away at the meeting’s minutes.

Miss Sosa nodded. “He is very empathetic. We’re lucky to have him.”

From there, the meeting went back to auto-pilot. Academic goals were presented and read.

“By the review date, Jaden will recognize and read thirty Dolch Sight words.”

“Jaden will add and subtract using manipulatives with sums and minuends up to twenty”

“Jaden will write his first and last name correctly with legible handwriting.”

And so on and so forth. Fairly advanced stuff for a kid who hadn’t gotten into Kindergarten just yet, but a kid’s need for an I.E.P. would only be re-evaluated every three years, so I made the goals to.

“To be clear,” I said, “these aren’t the ONLY things that we’ll be working on. These are just the goals that I’ll be collecting data for.”

“Of course, Mr. Gibson.” Mrs. Roberts reached out and shook my hand. Another satisfied customer.

After that, minutes were read, papers were signed and I was able to walk out of the meeting room and make a bee-line for my personal sanctuary.


Tracy was laughing when she opened the classroom door for me. Not polite laughing, fake laughing, either. Full on belly laugh cackling. “Hey, Boss!” she said. “How was the meeting?”

Most of the kids were busy doing coloring worksheets. Social Studies. People in our community. Basic fun stuff. No sense in having Tracy run herself ragged in my absence, but somebody had to watch the kids. “Second year, parent,” I said. “So it went well.”

“What does ‘second year parent’ mean?” I heard. I looked past Tracy. Sitting at my kidney table, playing a match game with a couple of my students was a dark haired Amazon woman. Not a stranger. Not exactly what I’d call an acquaintance, either.

Tracy gestured to the intruder, not a hint of weariness in her tone. “Administration sent Ms. Grange over to help while you were at your meeting.” Janet Grange. Third Grade Teacher.

Time to go into action, and graciously get this stranger out of my room. I went over to my kidney table. “Thank you so much, Ms. Grange for taking the time to assist my students.”

“Mrs. Grange, actually,” the Amazon said. She didn’t sound particularly snooty about it. Most Amazons insisted that the shorter folks get their titles precisely correct. “And don’t worry about it, Mr. Gibson. My kids are out at P.E. so I had some extra time. This was fun. Tracy and I were just telling jokes about our husbands.”

Tracy? Joking about her husband? She never talked about her home life. Sometimes I legitimately forgot she was married until she started talking about Aaron…or was it Eric? I could never remember. “Oh really…”

“Tell him what you told me!” Tracy said, giggling just at the thought. This was weird. Tracy only ever let her guard down this much around Beouf. And we’d known Beouf for years.

Mrs. Grange smiled. It was thin. Polite. Maybe slightly embarrassed? “Nah,” she said. “The moment’s passed. Not really a joke. You kind of had to be here for it.”

I did my best to give a comically exasperated sigh and shake my head smiling. “Thank you again.” I said, wishing she’d take the hint.

“Before I go,” Grange said, holding up a piece of paper scribbled with my handwriting. “Can I ask you about this?”

Internally I froze. I’d been bored and working on math problems the other day at my desk. Nothing major. Just sometimes counting to a hundred and stopping there got boring. “Oh that?” I said. “Was just trying to think of a different way to teach greatest common factors.” If I couldn’t have been a Pre-K teacher, I would have wanted to be a Math teacher. Other way around, if I’m being honest.

“But why use a factor tree?” Grange asked.

“Because if I reach prime factorization of two numbers, I can re-multiply all the prime factors that they have in common to make the greatest common factor. That way I don’t accidentally miss something and I don’t have to go through listing each and every variation.”

Grange pouted her lip out. “Huh…” she said. “I wouldn’t have thought about it like that. I would have just listed all the factors, individually.”

Again, she wasn’t being critical, but typical me was nervous that this was some kind of trap. “Yes, but if your third graders don’t have their fact families completely memorized, they could overlook something and identify a common factor instead of the greatest common factor.”

“I know,” she said. “I’ve got stragglers in my class who think that the GCF for every even number is two. This is safer. Makes them think it through instead of just plain memorization. I like it.”

I smiled; I had to show appropriate gratitude. “You can steal it if you’d like.” Please please please! Just get out of my room so that I can let my guard down! Thank goodness she couldn’t read my thoughts.

“I don’t know…” she clicked her tongue. She put down the paper and stood up, really towering over me. I swallowed, feeling my throat go dry. “I don’t think I could explain it the right way. Think you could drop by my room in a day or two and teach it to my kids?”

This was a trap. It had to be a trap. There was no other explanation. “I’m not sure I have the time. My students don’t have the same schedule as the older kids.”

“You could go during nap time,” Tracy offered. “That should be fine.” I shot her a look. Why was she not reading me?! TAKE THE HINT!

Grange looked past me and to my Tweener assistant. “When’s their nap time?”

“Just after Noon.” Murder. I was going to murder Tracy. That’s what I’d have to do…

The intruder nodded. “Okay. So I’ll rearrange my Math block for just after Noon this Friday. How’s that sound, Mr. Gibson?”

I smiled. Big, toothy and fake. “Great,” I said. “Just great.”

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Chapter 6: Down Rabbit Holes

That evening, Cassie and I were indulging in one of our favorite couple’s past times. Scouring the internet in our room and talking shit. Both of us were in our bedroom: Me at the desktop, Cassie on her laptop. Only the soft glow of our screens illuminated us.

She sat propped up on pillows on the bed; a glass of wine sitting next to her nightstand. Likewise, I click-clacked away with a sugary energy drink sitting on top of our printer. I really should have poured it in a glass. The can was too big for me to finish in one sitting if I wanted to get to bed at a decent hour. I’d probably just drink the room temperature leftovers the next morning when I checked my email. Oh the pitfalls and advantages to living in a world that is too Big for you. Both of us were naked for no other reason than it was our house and we had the privacy and freedom to not wear clothes.

Naked in a house that was darn near a mansion to us with food and drink in portions that was just this side of gluttonous.

Life was good.

But not too good.

“Oh here’s one,” Cassie said. “Billionaire’s success depends on adopted Little. Some kind of programming genius.”

“What does her being a programming genius have to do with who she adopted?’

“The Little’s the genius.”

“Fake news,” I said without even looking back.

“You don’t think a Little can be a programming genius?”

“Not what I mean,” I said. “I mean that if a Little computer genius got caught, there’s no way an Amazon would let them take credit for it.”

I heard Cassie set her wineglass down after a sip. “This one is supposedly hacking and leaking stuff from inside their crib.”

“Link?”

“Sending.”

I looked at the thread. Hmm….maybe. Unlikely. But maybe. “Why would an Amazon give a Little that good at computers their own computer?”

The bedsprings creaked a bit as Cassie shifted around. “Maybe they think the Little is mind fucked enough where the Little is trusted.” Cassie and I didn’t use words like “regressed” or “infantilized” around each other. We definitely didn’t use terms like “maturosis” or “developmental plateau” or any of the other bullshit words used to justify or cushion what the Amazons did to their Baby Dolls.

Mind fucked was mind fucked. End of discussion.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Could be a weird reverse psychology ploy.”

“How so?”

I prepped my best mocking tone. “Oh look,” I said. “There’s a brave Little who gets captured and mindfucked, but look how much she’s appreciated and needed and ALMOST an equal in this mega corporation. It’s putting a positive spin on mind fuckery.”

“Hmmm…”

“Hmmm…”

And we let it drop. Next link.

“How about this?” I said. “It claims an Amazon etiquette school is an equal opportunity mind fuck factory. Even having Amazonian teens and college students regressed to the delight of their parents.”

“That’s bullshit,” Cassie said. “More equal opportunity bullshit.” Now it was Cassie’s turn to do the mocking voice. “Oh look. See? We diaper and mindfuck EVERYBODY. That makes it okay and all the Littles who we take and imprison clearly deserve it.”

“Fair point.”

We were on MistuhGwiffin.web. A not quite-dark-web-site run by and frequented by Littles. There, Littles anonymously posted and leaked bits of news, trends, and rumors as warnings to others.

The name was an in-joke from an old black and white horror movie: The Invisible Littles. Three Littles got into their mad-scientist “Daddy’s” stuff and turned invisible, wreaking havoc and causing worry to the entire town.

The iconic image from the movie involved the three pretending to be an Amazon “adult”, standing on each other’s shoulders and hiding in a trenchcoat with bandages and sunglasses on the top Little’s face. Their alias? “Mistuh Gwiffin,” because of course a Little in a work of Amazonian fiction is going to have a babyish speech impediment.

Typical.

MistuhGwiffin was how Littles in the know stayed ahead of the game. Amazons kept innovating ways to take us and mindfuck us, so we had to innovate ways to warn each other. Cassie and I visited at least once a week just to see the gossip and follow links down the rabbit hole.

The rumors were usually poorly sourced and suspect, often only linking back to a “legitimate” piece of Amazonian news propaganda, and the threads and suppositions therein rambled to the point of going around in circles, but just thinking about it kept us sharp. It made us paranoid, but that paranoia kept us free. If not for MistuhGwiffin, something like the training chocolates might have gotten me.

As for this particular night: It was helping me keep my mind off of the coming Friday.

And as a final note, it was fun to laugh at the more ridiculous ones. “Shrink ray?” Both me and Cassie had a good laugh at that one. If size changing technology was really a thing, then there would be no difference or justification between Littles, Tweeners, and Amazons. If size were an option, everyone would be on equal footing from the get go…at least nearer.

There was no chance that Amazons would even pursue that route. Lunatics or Dictators, it would undermine so much about their place in society. And if they did stumble into that, they’d bury it deep and dark; deeper and darker than even MistuhGwiffin could dive.

“Oh look look look! Rumors of de-aging tech!” Cassie almost shrieked with laughter. “Yeah, Amazons discover immortality and they use it on each other to make permanent Baby Dolls instead of…y’know…LIVING FOREVER!”

Not all Amazons were brilliant scientists or master manipulators. Likewise, some Littles were either very very paranoid or very very dumb. Most claims of that magnitude- shrink rays and youth serums and body swappers- were done by Littles seeking attention or Tweeners and Amazons not clever enough to come up with a credible lie. MistuhGwiffin was a well guarded secret, but it would have been naive to think that it was impenetrable.

On a more sinister note, sometimes Cassie and I entertained the idea that a lack of credibility was the point. Flood the net with enough ridiculous stuff, and the real threats seemed less believable. Sew discord amongst the ranks so that Littles didn’t trust each other.

Right then, though, we were just perusing and looking for a way to pass the time before bed.

Cassie called over from the bed. “Nanny-Bots?”

“What about them?”

“They’re popping up everywhere. Link, link, link. Thread thread thread. I thought they’d be a fad along with all those mechanized nurseries, but they’re still catching on.”

I ground my teeth. Robo nurseries had been a thing a few years ago. Studies showed that they were harmful to a Little’s Developmental Plateau. Really, I think the Amazons’ baby crazy just outweighed their tech crazy. Nevermind the hit to their economy.

Robo nannies? Very real, sadly. Still a thing. There was nothing I could add to the conversation. “Yeah.” I said, “Sucks, doesn’t it?”

“Not something we have to deal with, right? Not in Oakshire?” I could hear the anxiety rising in Cassie’s voice.

I turned around in my chair. “Actually…” Oakshire was a little podunk town, relatively speaking. Still. Couldn’t keep “progress” from marching on.

“There’s not one at your work, is there?!” Cassie legitimately sounded panicked.

I rattled my head. “No-no-no-no…it’s still just Beouf and Zoge. I’ve just heard them talking about a used one being donated to New Beginnings.”

I watched Cassie shiver and down the last of her wine. “Fuck that.”

I got up and hopped in bed next to her, letting her lean into me. “It’s okay.”

“It’s not okay.”

“I mean, it’s not okay, it sucks. But we’re surviving.”

We nuzzled, rubbing our heads into each other like two cats. “Yeah,” she said. “Yeah. You’re right.” We held each other for a few minutes, laying naked in the darkness until my computer monitor went to sleep.

Cassie sat back up and I scooted over, each of us sharing half of her laptop.

We kept digging farther down various rabbit holes. “Little convicted of murdering her Mommy sentenced to experimental new treatment?” I read.

“Might be real,” Cassie said.

“The new treatment?” I scrolled down. Yikes. Shit about plastic surgery to mindfuck the Little into thinking they were really an Amazon child.

Not typical.

“Not that,” Cassie said. “Violence against an Amazon. Could be a real thing.”

I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t had certain power fantasies involving at least giving a throat punch to Mrs. Brollish or biting Miss Forrest’s finger. Part of me wishes I could have slammed Bankhead’s hands inside her laptop after her quip about “childish mindsets”. “Probably an exaggeration or an accident,” I said.

“Or a cover up made to look like an accident.”

“Amazons wouldn’t ever admit to us being able to hurt them,” I said. “That’d mess with their worldview too much. To try someone for murder would make them think that we’re adults.”

Cassie gave me a side eye. “They already think that.” One of the few fundamental disagreements my wife and I had was at the nature of Amazonian culture. I subscribed to the idea that they were crazy. She subscribed to the idea that they were purposeful, if gentle, tyrants.

“But why broadcast that with a trial?” I asked. “Even if they’re not baby bonkers-”

“They’re bonkers,” Cassie interrupted, “just not as bonkers as you think and not in the same way.”

I sighed in irritation. “Not my point. If they do the baby thing to stay in control-”

“Which they do-”

“-why would they broadcast that someone rebelled so openly? You don’t prevent rebellion by showing how harshly you punish it. That just makes for smarter or nastier rebels in the future. You prevent it by not admitting to rebellion. Rebellion isn’t an option if people don’t know it exists.”

Cassie pouted out her lip. These conspiracy rabbit holes were typically the closest we got to having an actual argument. “Fair point,” she finally said.

We kept scrolling.

“Hypnotizing DVD’s?” Cassie asked.

“Yup.”

“Illegal as fuck.”

I rolled my eyes. “Like that stops them.”

“Good point. Does Beouf use them?”

I hemmed and hawed for a second. “I don’t think so. Those are almost always cartoons, aren’t they?”

“As far as I know.”

I shook my head, feeling a little more than just relief at the thought that Beouf wasn’t a complete monster. “Then no. I’ve never heard her talk about cartoons. At least not the same exact ones that I have in my own class.”

Her hand reached up to my chin and maneuvered me so that I was staring into her eyes. Dark eyes. Sad eyes. Scared eyes. “If you ever hear them talk about cartoons, I want you to quit.”

This wasn’t a question. “They wouldn’t do that.”

“Promise me you’ll quit.”

I paused, wrestling with my own cognitive dissonance. “I promise, hon.” She gave me a peck on the lips.

“Good.”

We sat there again, in relative silence, arms draped over each other and laptop on our laps, scrolling through the rumors, the rants and the pleas for help.

Help! My plane did an unexpected layover, and Customs wants me to go to the airport nursery. Damn. Brace yourself, I guess. No replies. If you can’t say anything helpful…

Alone in Big city and seeking companionship. Looking to meet other Littles in public. Also no reply. Everybody smelled a trap there.

Do NOT go to the Cherub Arms Hotel! Wife and daughter missing for weeks! Noted. Thanks. Sorry for your loss.

Stole A’s phone! No longer continent! Safe place to hide? No clue. Not in the area.

I’m being naughty and took Mommy’s phone and ran away. Where can we play? Really? Screw you, Amazon. The screen name was even “Ima Widdle”. Ugh.

Product Warning: King Fisher Rattle generates pleasure stimulating frequency that only Littles can hear. Used for conditioning and mind fucking. A bit far fetched, but not completely out of the realm of possibility, knowing Amazons.

We kept scrolling and other than the occasional “ugh” or “oh boy” or “oh no” it was quiet. We checked and sent out a few PM’s to far away friends to make sure they were still safe and not “adopted”. So far everyone was safe. Good.

It was about fifteen minutes till I’d need to go to sleep and the energy drink was fading fast when conversation catastrophe struck. “Littles from other dimensions,” Cassie read. “We are not alone.”

We read the entire rambling vine of links, messages, and conspiracy theories. There was some particularly twisted stuff. “As if.” I yawned.

“Makes sense, though.” Cassie stretched and set the laptop aside. “If you think about it.”

“You think that Amazons have interdimensional portal technology and are using it to abduct Littles from other dimensions?”

“Not literally,” Cassie said. “Just metaphorically, y’know?”

I climbed under the covers. “What metaphor?”

She joined me. “Amazons are invaders. It’s in their nature.”

“I thought I was the one that argued about Amazon nature,” I said, glibly.

Cassie gave me a light punch on the shoulder. “You know what I mean.”

“Ow!” It didn’t really hurt. The sense of being admonished had shocked me more than the physical contact, and even then not so much. “No I don’t.” In the darkness I sensed Cassie tense up. “I’m not trying to be obtuse,” I said. “Explain what you mean.”

She breathed in. “You know how there’s Littles and Tweeners and Amazons?”

“Yeah?”

“Why aren’t Amazons called ‘Bigs’, instead?”

I opened my mouth and shut it almost immediately. Shit. I hadn’t thought of that. “I…don’t know.” I finally answered.

“Because the Amazons are invaders. They’re not from here.”

I propped myself up on an elbow. Now I wasn’t going to sleep. “Maybe not here-here, but archeological evidence suggests that Littles and Amazons lived in different parts of the world, and now we’ve just mixed to the point where every place has Littles and Amazons. Hell, that’s where we get Tweeners from.”

My wife was still staring up at the ceiling far above us. Amazonian scaling. Some days our bedroom felt like part of a mansion. Other times, it was a deep dark cave. “There are still a few countries where Amazons aren’t allowed. Places they haven’t gotten to yet.”

“Yeah,” I said. “But there are Amazon only countries, t-”

“No there aren’t.” Cassie cut me off before I could finish the thought. “There’s just places where Littles have no rights at all and they don’t need an excuse to snatch us up and mindfuck us. We can exist without them,” she said. “Not the other way around.”

I had nothing in reply, but Cassie wasn’t done… “Why are we measured in pounds?”

“As opposed to kilograms?”

Cassie was sitting upright again. “No I mean, why is our weight measured in pounds instead of glorbitz?”

“Glorbitz?”

“Made up word,” she clarified. “Why am I a hundred and twenty pounds instead of…I dunno…twenty-something glorbitz? Why are most Amazons damn near ten feet instead of…I dunno…five to six remulons or whatever?”

I sat up, too. So much for sleep. “You’re losing me, hon.”

“It makes sense for us to measure things in inches and feet. The scale is relevant to us. Made for us.” There was a weird, almost manic excitement in her tone. She was having a brainstorm and wouldn’t be able to sleep until it had run its course. I’d seen it before, usually when she had an idea for drawing or painting something. “Not counting really small or super gigantic quantities, our everyday units of measurement tend to be sized for us; for Littles. Right?”

I had no idea where she was going. “Sure…I think.”

“Like would roaches have the same scaling units of measurements for their furniture?”

“Did you just just compare us to roaches?”

“Stick with me, Clark.”

My head was beginning to hurt. “Okay okay. I get it. But there ARE other units of measurement that people use.” I said. “Metric doesn’t exactly scale with us, either. I sound much taller and much heavier in metric.”

“Exactly! Metric!”

“Why do I feel like you just agreed and disagreed with me at the same time?”

“Why isn’t there an Amazonian unit of measurement?”

The wheels were finally starting to turn. “Because then they wouldn’t seem as…big?”

“Exactly!” Cassie sounded like she’d just solved a murder. I was half expecting her to magically break out a pin board and bits of yarn.

“But if Bigness or whatever is so important to Amazons,” I countered, “why don’t they call themselves ‘Bigs’?”

“Because then we wouldn’t seem as little to them. We’d all be on more equal footing.”

“Losing me again.”

“They call themselves Amazons. What are we?”

“Littles…”

“Little what?” She paused for me to answer. I couldn’t. I didn’t know. “Little Amazons. They’re the default, everyone else is just the spin-offs.” The edge in her voice was getting more pronounced by the syllable. She was getting angry and telling her to calm down would have had the opposite effect. It didn’t help that I agreed with her on that one. Amazons thought of Littles as babies that wouldn’t grow up. Baby what? Baby Amazons of course.

My eyes were adjusting to the dark. I could see every little jerk, every agitated movement, every little flick of her wrist while she talked with her hands, working herself into a frenzy. “They came here,” she said as much to herself as to me. “They invaded. And they labeled us Littles, and when they…they…when we had kids with them, they got called In-Betweeners, but it was always about them.”

“So you think Amazons came from Grease? You think they opened a portal and invaded us?” I was playing dumb. Dick move, I know, but I’d gotten used to playing dumb as a diffusing mechanism. Force of habit. “You do realize that Grease is a mythical land; like Narnyah, or Auz, or Ohiyo, right?”

I couldn’t see Cassie’s eyes, but I could feel her glaring at me. “I don’t literally think Amazons came from some fairy tale land.” She slugged my shoulder again. “Jackass.” At least the “jackass” sounded a little less angry.

“We probably named them Amazons,” I thought aloud. The story of Heracleese and the Amazons was one of the few stories I could think of where the Little was the hero instead of the victim needing to be saved. There was a painting of Heracleese tying up the Amazonian Wunder Woman just above our bed. Cassie had painted it back in college and brought it with us when we’d moved into our house together.

I miss that painting.

“We named them Amazons, and they named us Littles,” Cassie said. Her temper was boiling over and she was starting to sulk. “How is that fair?”

I leaned over and gave her a hug. “It’s not. Not at all.”

She was still holding onto me. “You know, in Leutekan,” she said, “they’ve got an entirely different set of fairy tales.”

I knew this. We’d had this conversation before. I had some distant relatives in the Little countries, myself. But like a dance, the steps still had to be played out for the song to end. “Yeah? Like what?”

“Like Little Red Riding Hood isn’t rescued and adopted by the Amazon Woodsman.” she whispered. Then added, “I think I just threw up in my mouth a little saying ‘adopted’.”

“Yeah,” I said, rubbing her back. “My mother used to tell me a story where it was Three Little Pigs, instead of Two Little Pigs and their Mommy. Story was supposed to be about not taking shortcuts and being prepared. Not that Littles don’t know how to build stuff.”

Cassie squeezed me. “I’d never heard that one before you told me about it. Nobody in my high school knew that one either. Not even the other Littles.” We sat there. The pause growing pregnant; the fight draining out of both of us. “I heard that in the original Little Mermaid, she dies and becomes a wind spirit instead of going back to the ocean and wrapped up in seaweed diapers by King Daddy.”

“That one’s kind of depressing. She died.”

“Yeah,” Cassie agreed. “But at least she got to go out on her own terms.”

The dance was almost over. We’d both be drifting off soon before the alarm clock woke us up and I got ready to go back to work. Then, my brain betrayed me and I went off script. “Hey,” I asked, “what do they call the people of Leutekan? Since there’s no Amazons or Tweeners and everybody is the same size?”

Cassie got quiet. Finally, she said, “Littles, I think.”

“Not Leuts? Or Kans? Just Littles? Just like everywhere else?”

Cassie sighed. I felt all the fight go out of her. “Damn. They got us there, too.”

“Or maybe we just don’t know everything…” I said. The competitive part of me wanted to feel like I won our debate…but I didn’t want to hurt her.

“Maybe.”

We laid there, waiting for each other to start snoring so that the other one could drift off.

It wasn’t happening.

Finally, she rolled back over to me.

“Hey.”

I smiled. It was the way she’d said it. “Hey.”

“I can’t sleep.”

“Worked yourself up too much?”

“Kinda…” she said. “But I’m not angry. Just…worked up. Heart racing. Feel hot.”

I reached out and caressed her cheek. We could see each other perfectly in the darkness, now. “Want me to hold you a little longer?”

My wife shook her head and peeled back our bedsheets. She kissed me, slowly, deeply on the lips. “No.”

I shuddered in anticipation as her mouth worked it’s way down my neck, pecking at my chest and continuing it’s journey past my belly button. I let out a low moan while I reached up and grabbed at her hair, twisting the strands of it around in my fingers. She loved it when I yanked hard enough to hurt her scalp.

No more talking.

We wouldn’t be snoring right away, either.

Tomorrow was gonna be a rough morning. We’d both be up late.

Worth it.

Completely fair.

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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.”
“It’s not…”
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.”

“What happens?”

“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.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

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.”

TYPICAL AMAZONS!

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Chapter 8: Guest Lecturer

“Okay folks,” I said. “Check out this neat trick.” A bunch of Amazon third graders looked at me expectantly as I got ready to show them the math trick I’d worked out when I was bored. “We’re talking about the Greatest Common Factor, today.”

I got a chorus of exasperated groans in reply. “Yeah, yeah,” I said. “I know I know. This is soooo easy that you’re tired of it. Right? Right.”

More groans and shaking of heads. A hand went up. “Mrs. Grange, this stuff is haaaard!” A bunch of kids grumbled in agreement.

“Just give Mr. Gibson your attention,” Grange said, staying at her desk. “This will help and he only has half an hour.” My stomach grumbled. I was skipping lunch for this. Somehow, Brollish got wind of my plans to guest lecture in Mrs. Grange class.

I could leave my kiddos with Tracy in the lunchroom and skip my own lunch when I wasn’t required to be teaching, but I had to be “supervising” my preschoolers during their scheduled nap time. Beouf tried to have my back, but technically the giant bitch was within her rights as Principal.

“How can the baby teacher teach us math?” A kid I didn’t know asked; his cheek smashed lazily into the palm of his hand.

Mrs. Grange didn’t bother to get up from her desk. “Just because he teaches the babies doesn’t mean he doesn’t know much more than them, Kayden.” The kid sat up straight under her glare. “Or do you think you’ll be smarter than me once you’ve reached fourth grade?”

“No ma’am.”

Another student behind Kayden tapped him on the shoulder. “Mr. Gibson taught me to read!” she said. Holy crud, Hyacinth had gotten big! I almost didn’t recognize her.

“Please proceed, Mr. Gibson.”

I smiled. “Thank you Mrs. Grange.” I walked over to the board. “I assume you all have something to take notes on. Whiteboards or notebook paper?”

“They should all have their tablets out and ready, Mr. Gibson.” The few unprepared third graders took the hint and dug around in their desks.

I walked up to the board. “So let’s take a second to consider the words. Greatest Common Fac-…” And I stopped cold. I couldn’t reach the board. Out of habit, I looked around for a step stool. I found none. “Um…I can’t reach.”

Giggling from the students. My classroom wasn’t Little equipped either, but I’d been teaching in it so long that I’d adapted it for my purposes. Here? Not so much. “A chair please?” I said as calmly as I could. I glanced at the clock.

Tick. Tock. My stomach growled again. If I was even a minute late, Brollish would put it in my file. If I didn’t do a good enough job for Grange, I’d be “unreliable” or some bullshit, I was sure.

“Hurry!” Mrs. Grange. clapped. “Time is money, kids!”

A student pushed an empty chair up to the front and gave me a friendly nod. “Thank you Mason.” I nodded back. Mason was a good kid. I tried climbing up the chair and pulled myself up and I scrambled up. These chairs were NOT meant for someone my size.

I stood up and grabbed a stylus for the digital board. “Let’s talk about Greatest. Common. Factor. What does it mean? Let’s look at those words and use the commutative property of…”

“This is stupid!” A voice called from the back. “Why do we need to know this? When are we ever gonna use this stuff?”

“Jeremy Merriwether!” Mrs. Grange barked.

I held out my palm in the universal sign for “stop”. “I think I got this, Mrs. Grange.” Jeremy Merriwether was a former student of mine. “Question Mr. Merriwether?”

“Why do we gotta learn this?” He demanded to know. “When are we ever going to know this?”

“Besides the end of the year assessment?” I asked. He grunted in reply. “Maybe never,” I said. “But learning Math isn’t just about memorization. It’s about problem solving. It’s about learning the rules and relationships between things and seeing how they’re connected. It’s about-”

Jeremy stood up at his desk. “Why can’t we just memorize the facts? Why do we need tricks?” Jeremy always did have a penchant for interrupting. I’d hoped he’d grow out of it. Not yet, it seemed. I was disappointed. Disappointed, but not surprised.

I stood up tall in my chair, hands behind my back. “There are over a hundred trillion atoms in a single cell, Mr. Merriwhether. Would you rather memorize each individual atom, or figure out the patterns so you can worry about the bigger picture?”

The rest of the class looked at me as if I was some sort of guru. Wisdom from the mouths of Littles. Jeremy was not. “Gibson’s not even potty trained! He’s just a Little!”

“JEREMY-!” Grange was getting out of her seat. I didn’t know if Amazons had paddles in their desks or if that was just a rumor, and I didn’t need to find out.

I hopped down from the chair. “What’s two plus two, Mr. Merriwhether?”

“Four. Duh!”

“Could you teach me that?”

“Course I could. I know it.”

Damn, I loved it when Amazons got smug. “Then how could I not be potty trained? I potty trained you.” I said.

A beat of silence. Then the class erupted into laughter, and from their eyes and pointing fingers, it was obvious that they weren’t laughing at me, but with me. “Class…heheh” Mrs. Grange started hiding her mouth behind her hand. She was smiling. “Settle down…heh…heh.” The laughter didn’t stop. “It’s not that…it’s not that…”

I climbed back up on the chair in front of the board. It was easier the second time. I got a running start. I waved my hands to get their attention. “TO BE FAIR! TO BE FAIR!” I yelled over the laughter (and Jeremy’s angry scowl), “THAT WAS WHEN JEREMY WAS VERY YOUNG!” They started to settle down. Oddly enough, public humiliation seemed to be something of an Amazon ice -breaker. And standing up and waving my arms to get kids’ attention was nothing new. “THAT WHEN HE WAS VERY YOUNG! He’s much older now. You all are.”

Then Mrs. Grange threw in. “And do want to act like the older and mature third graders that I know you are? Or do you want to whine about how hard things are and act like one of Mr. Gibson’s current students instead of his graduated students?”

That brought everyone back to attention. A few of my former students actually grinned proudly at that. I grinned back at them, but inwardly I sighed. It always came back to maturity, with these people didn’t it? Typical Amazons. At least Mrs. Grange didn’t stoop to comparing her students to babies… or Littles. I looked up at the clock. Time to cram a thirty minute lesson into twenty. “As I was saying…”


That afternoon, after school, there was a knocking at my classroom door. I jogged over and pulled the cord on the handle, yanking it down and opening the door from the inside. The towering form on the other side pulled on the door. “Knock knock,” she said, still coming in. It was Mrs. Grange. She took a step in and froze. “Oops! Sorry about that, Mr. Gibson! I didn’t see you there.”

I was already backpedaling, more than used to Amazons about to knock me over. It was almost like that without some indicator that I was a baby, I was invisible at times and they wouldn’t think to look down, (even when they were entering my room).

“Well hello, Mrs. Grange!” My voice became all fake smiles. “What can I do for you?”

“I just wanted to thank you again. About half of my kids, my lower half, too, really took to that trick you showed them during your lunch. If you ever have any others, talk to me and we’ll try to have you drop on by. Maybe get Mrs. Brollish to let you get your lunch,too.”

More fake smiles from me. “Oh sure,” I said. “I’ll let you know if I think of anything.” It wasn’t exactly a lie. I just had zero intention of agonizing over Oakshire’s Third Grade Math Curriculum and wasn’t going to lose any sleep agonizing over clever little workarounds. I’d done the other one because I was bored and Grange had stumbled onto it.

What Mrs. Grange’s students learned was another method to solve some niche math problems. What I’d learned was to hide my notes and scribblings better if I didn’t want to be put into sudden jeopardy.

“Were you able to get your lunch time back?”

I motioned to the empty cafeteria tray still laying on my desk; scraped clean. “Tracy snuck me something from the cafeteria during nap time. She’s good like that.”

“Ah,” Mrs. Grange said. “Well I loved having you in my classroom today.” She looked back over to the tray. “You’re lucky to have Tracy. I’m jealous.”

I bit down on my most caustic reply- something-something-kick-around-something, and instead said. “Assistants are nice. Definitely helps with my caseload. They can be a handful.”

“Yeah,” Grange agreed. “I bet they are. Mine are too, but they’re old enough to understand threats and I’m allowed to kick them out of my room for a couple of minutes.” She laughed at her own joke. “Must be nice to have another adult to talk to though. Gets lonely going six to seven hours with nothing but kids. Being in here with Tracy, with another adult, was a nice change of pace.”

Quietly, I sucked in my breath a bit, genuinely taken aback. Did this Amazon just casually label both me, a Little; and Tracy, a Tweener as ‘Adults’. “It’s one of the few perks,” I allowed. I was still weary of a trap of some kind, but I couldn’t see any sign of a bait or tripwire. Better to verbally high step it. “Doesn’t mean this job is easy though.” I instantly regretted that and backpedaled. “Nothing I can’t handle, of course.”

“Of course,” Mrs. Grange said. “I couldn’t handle your students all the time. They’re still babies, but you’re expected to turn them into tiny adults!” I felt myself nodding in earnest. Amazons did have some weird double standards regarding their parenting. They both spoiled their kids and expected them to grow up awfully quick. One tended to hinder the other. “Some days I feel like I can barely keep my guys in line, and they’re supposed to know better.” She put her hand on my shoulder and I almost flinched. Almost. “I’m really sorry about their behavior today. That was uncalled for and disrespectful.”

I tried not to look at her hand. It could slide off my shoulder and down to my wrist at any moment. “They’re a good bunch,” I said. Then I dared to add, “After they get the giggles out of their systems.”

She released my shoulder and stood up to her full height. “The way you talked to Jeremy Merriwether was hilarious.”

“Yeah,” I blushed a bit. “I’m sorry about that, Mrs. Grange.”

“Pffft,” she waved my apology off. “Jeremy’s an asshole who needed to be taken down a peg. I’m sure I’ll get an angry phone call from his mother. I’ve dealt with her before.”

I groaned. Mrs. Merriwether was no picnic either. “Me too.”

Grange turned to let herself out. “Thank you again.”

“No problem,” I said out of habit. “Have a good evening Mrs. Grange.”

She smiled, her hand frozen on the handle. “There aren’t any kids around. Call me ‘Janet’.”

Wow. Okay. Hadn’t seen that one coming. “I’m just old fashioned,” I said. “I was taught to call teachers by their proper titles.”

“Me too. And I was taught to refer to co-workers by their first names after hours.” Wow. I didn’t even call Beouf by her first name most of the time.

“Alright…Janet.” The name tasted funny on my tongue. Funny. But not bad. “I’m Clark.”

Mrs. Grange…Janet… opened the door, and stuck a foot out. “Thanks again…Clark.”

Chapter 9: Night Out

The Tweener waitress came over to our table, balancing on lifts that were practically stilts. “Hi there, I’m Gwendolyn, and I’ll be taking care of you, tonight.” Cassie and I shot each other looks across the hi top. “Can I get you two anything to drink? Coffee? Soft drinks? Milk maybe?” Everything about her demeanor was super positive, and friendly. Still, words like “taking care” and offering us milk got my hackles up. At least she didn’t ask us where our Mommy or Daddy was.

We were in public. In public, a Little’s outrage often gets labeled “tantrum”. Having a tantrum wouldn’t do. Still, better to nip this in the bud. I reached into my wallet, “Just water to drink, please.” I slapped down a twenty dollar bill.

The Tweener looked down, confused. “Oh no, sweetie,” she said. “You don’t have to pay till after the meal.” The barbecue joint was busy that night, and pretty loud. Good thing or else she might have heard how loudly my teeth were grinding behind my big, professional, super polite, and very fake smile.

“It’s gratuity, Miss,” I said. “A tip.”

Tweener still wasn’t connecting the dots. “Tip comes later, too, darling.” She smiled, but I could see the condescending expression behind it. Some Tweeners were like that. They might have had an Amazon parent, bought into the propaganda, or just adopted Amazon attitudes as their own method of survival. Better to be seen as a short Amazon than as a tall Little. Bitch thought she was gonna have to explain non-fast food restaurants to a couple of poor dumb babydoll Littles.

“I know,” I told her. “It’s just that my wife and I are celebrating our anniversary.”
The Tweener nodded and looked to Cassie for confirmation. Cassie just smiled and flashed me a pair of her lovey doveys. She could be completely unreadable when she wanted to be.

“Congratulations!” she said. Now it was her turn for a big fake smile.

“Anyways,” I pressed, “it’s our anniversary but the portions here are SO big.” I made a show of holding out my arms as if one of us didn’t understand spoken language. “So we were planning on ordering just one single meal and splitting it between ourselves. We figured that’d be slightly unorthodox under normal circumstances, so we decided to pass the money we were saving onto you. As gratuity.” I paused. “To show our gratitude.”

Like one of my students’ recognizing their own name in print, I saw the lightbulb of recognition. Gwendolyn pocketed the money. “Oh thank you very much, sir! That’s very generous of both of you!” I was sir, now, so she could be Gwendolyn and not just the Tweener waitress. “Do you already know what you’d want or would you like a moment to decide? I can also tell you about our specials if you want.”

I relaxed and smiled a little more genuinely this time. “No specials,” I said. “We were thinking about the rotisserie chicken, a half order.”

Gwendolyn whipped out her notepad. “One half of chicken, split two ways.” she said.

I held up my hands for her to stop. “Don’t worry about splitting it,” I told her. “We don’t want anything special. No need for special treatment at all. Okay?”

The waitress was picking up what I was laying down, now. “Don’t worry, sir,” she said. “Our food is good, but none of it is special. Usually if anyone wants to eat anything special here, they’ve gotta bring it from home.”

I made a show of laughing, knowingly. We were two old pals, we were. Me and Cassie were practically regulars thanks to an extra twenty. “No home cooked meals tonight,“ Cassie said. “Just some good old fashioned barbecue.” It was paranoid of us, admittedly, but it was a lot harder to slip fast acting laxatives or any other drugs into half a chicken and not have it be noticed.

“Yes ma’am,” the waitress said. “Sides?”

“Double order of fries,” I said. We’d divvy up those between us. If I had the willpower, I’d give a good chunk of mine over to Cassie. Still had to lose some weight.

The waitress jotted it down. “Do you want the chicken basted in any sauce?”

“Plain’s fine,” Cassie said, thumbing over to the row of sauce bottles against the wall. “That way when we split the half chicken ourselves, we can each get our own flavors.”

Truth be told, we’d probably both go for the sweet sauce. Real reason? Our waitress had taken the bribe and the hint. Didn’t mean our cooks would. Finally, Amazon, Tweener, or Little: A barbecue that didn’t have bottles of sauce at every table wasn’t worth spit it took to swallow.

“Okay,” the waitress said. “I’ll make sure to tell them no sauce. I’ll be right back with your waters.”

Cassie and I just looked at each other, our chins just past the high top, until Gwendolynn came back with our waters. We’d probably have to stand for most of this meal, balancing precariously on the leather upholstered stools all the while, but it’d be nice for neither one of us to have to cook. “Anniversary?” Cassie said to me as soon as our waitress had left. “Really?”

I shrugged and grinned a little bit. “What?” I said. “We are married. We’re not expecting anything free, and this,” I flashed the little gold ring on my left hand, “is the only proof we need, at best.”

Cassie rolled her eyes, but she was smiling. “Then why bring it up?” She was humoring me.

“Because babies don’t get married,” I said.

“I think you just like lying to the talls. Gives you a thrill.”

“No comment.”

We both laughed at that.

The hightop where we sat had four stools gathered around it. Cassie and I hated booths. Too easy to get pinned in, trapped. Same reason we sat across from each other. This was our lives. This was normal. Fair? No. But normal. So normal we were oddly comfortable with it.

“What do you think?” I jerked my head backwards, indicating Gwendolyn. “A or L?” It was our private code. As a couple. Not Littles. When two people have known each other for close to half their lives, shorthands and in-jokes came easily.

A or L: A for Amazon or L for little. If push came to shove, who would this waitress help? Us or Them? Something Cassie and I talked about. People watching. People judging.

Sometimes, it came up if I ever thought an Amazon could really, truly be trusted. “I really think Mrs. Beouf could come around to the L’s.” I might say.

“She’s a regressor, Clark.”

“She’s helped Littles before.”

“She’s helped you, there’s a difference.”

Rarely, Cassie might use it to describe Littles she didn’t like. “That asshole on the news is such a Helper. Might as well just tattoo a big ol’ A on his forehead.”

Mostly, though, it was in reference to Tweeners. Our own little biased observation of the People Caught Between Two Worlds. In hindsight, this is one of the things I might feel the worst about, but it’s who we were.

I’m getting off track again. Sorry.

“A or L?” I repeated.

Cassie scoffed as if I’d just asked the dumbest of questions. “She’s for the A’s, obviously. You heard how she was talking. I’m surprised our waters aren’t in sippy cups.”

I agreed with Cassie, but I loved to debate with her. “Yeah, but she changed her tone.”

“After you bribed her.”

“All tips are bribes,” I said, smugly. “And she could have taken the money and kept talking down to us.”

Cassie huffed a bit. Not angry, but definitely a little bitter. “Sometimes it feels like everyone just wants us to crinkle.”

“Then isn’t it fortunate that money crinkles, too,” I said.

Gwendolyn and another Tweener came back with a couple of phone books in their arms. “Didn’t think ya’ll would want the booster seats,” she said. “So we brought these.” They placed the heaping piles of paper on the stools beside us. “It’s what we use when we’re on break.”

The stools were close enough that Cassie and I could hop from a flat stool to the phonebook boosted one. Cassie and I exchanged looks. We moved. Not the classiest looking thing, sitting on those phone books but the edge of the table was now comfortably below our chests.
It was a surprisingly decent thing to do “Thank you,” Cassie said. She sounded genuinely surprised.

“You’re very welcome, Ma’am.” Gwendolyn said. “Figured ya’ll would want to be able to see a little more of each other, it being your anniversary and all.” Cassie was good at hiding her emotions, but when she let you see them, it made her all the more beautiful. It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with her.

I couldn’t help myself. After the two Tweeners had left. I leaned over the table and half-whispered, “So? Think she’s splitting the tip with the other waitress?”

Cassie’s smile lost a bit of its luster. “Doubt it. That was nice of her, though.”

.”Maybe she’s with the L’s after all.” I said.

Cassie twisted and took a look around. People’s ears burned when you talked about them. “Took a twenty dollar bill to bring the niceness out,” she said. “Maybe she’s not an A, but I don’t think she’s an L, either?”

“Then what?”

“I think she’s an M.”

I hadn’t considered there might be a third side. “Middle?” I asked, referring to the Tweeners’ less common nickname.

Cassie grinned. “No, dummy. Money.”

Not quite an hour later we had torn apart our chicken, and had plenty of leftovers for the next day. I don’t know how Amazons ever managed to breed or raise a bird that big but it’s a goddamn miracle. Delicious. Roasted to savory perfection, with just a dab of sweet sauce for a perfect flavor combination. The grease from the fries really hit the spot, too. More Yoga was definitely in my future, but that was a “tomorrow” problem.

“NO DADDY! PLEASE NO! NOT IN PUBLIC! NOT IN PUBLIC! NOOOOOOOOOO!”

I whipped my head around. The Amazons and not quite a dozen Tweeners eating looked up from their meals towards the entering family, and then went right about their business, tuning the pleading and screaming out. Everyone did that, save for me and Cassie. We kept looking…

An Amazon family, a fussy kid hanging over the man’s shoulder, entered the restaurant. Nothing surprising there. This was a mostly Amazon town. The kid was not happy. To Amazon eyes, it made sense. Slung over her Daddy’s shoulder, anyone could see the pretty yellow dress and the soaking wet diaper poofing out from underneath it. Her diaper almost matched the dress in color. Poor thing was probably about to leak.

A warning pat to her wet bottom was all that was needed to get her to quiet down. Then came the usual: Table for three. Yes they’d need a highchair. And then “Where’s the men’s room?”

That set the kid off. “PLEEEEEASE! LET MOMMY CHANGE ME AT LEAST! GIRL’S ROOM! GIRL’S ROOM! PLEEEEEASE!” Her last few cries came out in a bouncing sob. Like “PLE-E-E-E-E-E-E-EEEEASE!” and “NO-O-O-O-O-O-O-OOOOO! ”

That’s because this kid wasn’t a kid at all. She wasn’t a baby girl, just a Little one. It was hard to tell how old she was. She could have been anywhere between twenty and fifty for all I could tell. It was always hard to tell. Hair got dyed and pulled back into pigtails or cut into bowls. Freckles and blush got added with next gen cosmetics skin dyes- tattoos softer cuddlier cousins. Wrinkles were reduced with special creams.

Plenty of non-Littles think we age slower than the Amazons. Our morbidity is so compressed that it’s not until the very end that we start to look “old”. All you really needed to spot the lie was a daring eavesdrop in an Amazon beauty salon that “caters” to us, (or, y’know, just hang out with Littles that weren’t baby dolled up). We really were just dolls to them.

Cassie and I froze in place; Cassie remembering to wipe a dab of sauce off her mouth, just in case. It was almost nine on a school night. We thought we had come late enough to avoid seeing this. Captured Littles have early bedtimes.

She didn’t kick. She didn’t struggle. She’d been broken enough already. But something about tonight caused her scream like a branding iron was being pressed against her thigh. She hadn’t been “adopted” long. Just long enough… “THE CAR!” She screamed as the Amazon man took the diaper bag from his wife. “THE CAR! CHANGE ME IN THE CAR AT LEAST!”

He wasn’t listening. No one was. “PLEASE! I’M NOT READY TO BE CHANGED IN PUBLIC! I’M NOT READY! DON’T LET EVERYONE SEEEEEE-EEE-EEEE-EEEE!”

Tears were in her eyes when we averted ours. “I DON’T DESERVE THIS! I DON’T NEED THIS! I’M A REALTOR! I’M MARRIED! I’M A MOTHER! I’M NOT A BABY! I’M THIRTY-FI!” Her pleas were cut off by the closing of the men’s room door.

I called for the check, slapped another twenty into Gwendolyns palm and Cassie and I got out of there. When Amazons saw diapered Littles, things tended to domino out of control. I had to pee, but I was going to hold it all the way home. Had to. There was a changing table in the men’s room.

Chapter 10: En Garde

The bus pulled up with a screech, and thunder threatened rain from the night air up above. Great. And us with no umbrellas. Great. Just great. Typical. The driver, a middle aged Amazon man with a pot belly, looked down at us. He was scanning up and around for any Amazons; our ‘Mommies or Daddies’. “Coming up, or do you need help?”

“Just a moment,” Cassie said. We climbed up onto the bus. Not an easy feat, but one we were practiced at. It was something we’d worked out in college. I’d cup my hands and boost Cassie up a step. Then she’d bend over and help yank me up. Rinse and repeat for three easy steps. It was how we worked public transportation in Oakshire, the only difference being that Cassie had to make sure to hold onto our box of leftovers from dinner. That was Cassie’s lunch tomorrow.

The driver looked down at us and checked our bus passes. “Nice!” he said, sounding genuinely impressed. “Very ingenuitive.”

“Thanks,” Cassie said and then threw me a look. Ingenuitive. There was a backhanded compliment. Littles didn’t make it to our age in this part of the world without learning a few tricks to adapt. At least he didn’t say ‘Mature’, or ‘Grown-Up’.

The bus was relatively empty, only a few Amazons and a couple of Tweeners sitting in the middle back. Still, Cassie and I stayed standing near the front, grabbing onto a vertical pole for balance. Sitting Littles were sitting ducks.

I had to pee, badly, and was starting to fidget. That’s what it was called when Amazons did it anyways. It was the “the potty dance” when Littles were discomforted by a full bladder. I hoped the moving and shaking of the bus over bumpy roads would obfuscate it.

We started moving. The hum of the moving vehicle was interrupted only by the occasional squealing brakes at a stoplight, or the low warning of thunder. Cassie leaned over and gave me a peck on the cheek. Nothing major. Nervous habit. “What do you think she did?” she asked me in a quiet voice.

“Who?” I asked.

“That lady in the restaurant,” Cassie said. “How do you think she got taken?”

I wanted to say ‘who?’. I wanted to play dumb. But I knew who my wife was talking about. It hadn’t even been ten minutes. “She was a realtor,” I said. “Probably got snatched showing the wrong couple a house.”

“Yeah,” Cassie whispered. “Was probably trying to look cute or something to sell the house. Ended up getting sold herself.”

I blanched and drew back. Threw Cassie a look. “Yikes!” I hissed. “Victim blame, much?”

Cassie got this sour look on her face. “Morally? No. Tactically? Yes.”

“So you think she wore something just a little too cute and that it’s her fault that that happened to her?” I didn’t even know why I was asking. I kind of agreed.

My wife reached over and tugged on my goatee a bit. “Isn’t that why you have this?” Dang it.

“I thought it was because I looked good with it.”

“You do look good with it,” she said. “But that’s not the only reason.”

I gave up. “You know me too well, my love.” We kissed each other again. Just a little peck. Just enough to remind ourselves (and any giants watching) that we were two Littles who were madly in love, and not constantly in danger of being ‘adopted’.

We stood in silence for another minute, vainly staring out the windows for a view, but the windows were so high and we were at a bad angle. It was all street lights.

KA-THUMP.

Both of us went white knuckled for a moment as the bus jumped a bit. “Sorry folks!” The driver called back. Then more softly, he said to us. “Sorry you two.” Apparently, we weren’t grouped in with ‘folks’. Typical.

We quieted down for a bus stop. Just long enough so that the hum of the engine would cover up our conversation.

“She’s a wife, too.” I said, looking over to Cassie. “What do you think happened to her husband?”

My wife kept looking straight ahead. “If he’s smart, he’s probably taking their kids and running out of town.” She must have seen the hurt in my eyes. “Would you want to see me all dolled up and diapered like that? Sucking on a paci and calling somebody ‘Daddy’?”

“I’d want to rescue you,” I said. “Run away with you. There’d be an off chance you’d go into Beouf’s room. I’d spring you from there and we’d fade away into the sunset.”

Cassie’s face took on a shade of condescension. “More likely we’d end up as ‘twins’. They’d just say we were from ‘similar backgrounds’, or something.” Then she added, “The only time we’d see each other naked is changes or bathtime.”

“So you wouldn’t want me to try and rescue you?” I asked. Feeling just the slightest bit hurt.

Cassie just shook her head. “No. I’d want you to take our kid and run.”

“Kid?”

“She said she was a mother, remember?”

I clamped my jaw for a second. “Yeah. Yeah I remember.” I paused. “But wouldn’t you want me to rescue you even more, then? So the kid could have a mother?”

“That lady was far too gone,” Cassie replied. “Kid can get a new mother.”

I scoffed at that. I’d never known my Uncle Thomas, but an uncle and a parent were leagues away from each other. “She couldn’t have been that far gone,” I said. “She was still embarrassed to get changed in a bathroom.”

“She was calling her kidnapper ‘Daddy’.”

“I’ve seen a lot worse.”

One hand on the pole, Cassie tucked her other one and the box of leftovers into her armpit. It was the closest she could manage to crossing her arms. I bet you’ve seen a lot worse. She didn’t say it outloud. She didn’t have to. I felt like such a tool just then. Such a good Little Helper.

I looked away. We got quiet again. Too quiet.

The humming of the bus filled in the void of our conversation. I pretended that there was something on the floor that looked absolutely enthralling. Eye contact was painful just then.

And so it went for two stops.

A gentle poke at my shoulder. “Hey.” Cassie’s voice was soft and sympathetic.

I looked up. “Hey.”

She mouthed the words, “I’m sorry.”

I mouthed back. “I’m sorry, too.”

Her forehead nuzzled against mine. I could still smell the barbecue sauce on her breath. Felt the light glistening of sweat on her skin. “We’re all just doing what we can to get by.”

I nodded, feeling her kind of nod with me in the same way that two gears make each other turn. We completed each other. “Yeah,” I agreed. “It’s all we can do.”

“And I think you’re doing a good thing.”

“Yeah. My students are good kids. I hope they grow into good adults.”

“I meant with Beouf,” Cassie whispered. “You’ve told me the stories about Littles in your time out corner. You’re kinda like one of those counselors for people with terminal cancer.”

That left a sour taste in my mouth. Sad part was, I know Cassie was trying to be supportive. “I help how I can,” I whispered. Better for a Little to keep their sense of self than to end up a mindless Doll.

“Just keep doing what you’re doing. If it makes you happy, and keeps us free, I support you.”

“Thanks hon.”

“Welcome.”

Each of us still holding onto the same pole, we wrapped our free arms around each other and held on tight just in time for another speed bump. “I love you,” we both said.

A shadow fell over us. A figure was blocking the passing street lights. A very tall figure. “Excuse me,” the Amazon said politely enough, “but do you happen to work at Oakshire Elementary?” I immediately lost any remaining discomfort in my bladder. I still had to pee like a racehorse, but adrenaline can do strange things to one’s pain tolerance.

A full bladder was nothing compared to being in the shadow of an Amazon…especially one that thinks they know you.

I looked up. Cassie broke off our hug, but she slid her hand over mine and gave it a squeeze. Riding on the giant woman’s hip, I saw a Little. “Yes ma’am,” I said, giving my best bit of congeniality. “What can I do for you?” The Little was probably one of Mrs. Beouf’s students, though I couldn’t place her right away.

A massive hand came down and stopped just in front of my chest. “Helena Madra,” she said. “Pleased to meet you, sir.” She was offering to shake my hand. This? This was different…I took her hand gingerly, grasping the tips of four fingers in my palm and shook it up and down.

“Clark Gibson,” I said.

She released her grip and stood back up. “You probably don’t remember me, but my Amy used to go to Mrs. Beouf’s class a few years ago.” She bounced the Little on her hip a bit more upon mentioning the girl’s name.

I nodded and smiled. Time to lie. “Amy? Amy, oh yes! Sure!” Fun fact friends: Teachers; whether Little, Tweener, or Amazon; don’t always remember your kids years after the fact. Especially if they weren’t your kids’ teachers. Doubly so if just looking at them made them fear for their very freedom and made them feel like complete and total hypocrites.

“Mommeeee!” the Little girl squealed. “I want down!”

The Amazon looked at her captive riding on her hip. “You’re only going to want uppies again in a few minutes, sweet girl.” I stole a look at Cassie. She wasn’t making eye contact, with me or anyone. She was eyeing the bus driver, looking for a way out, just in case.

We were on a moving bus with automatic doors. We weren’t getting out that way. Had to play it cool. Had to talk our way out. Don’t trigger the crazy. Don’t give Helen Marda or whatever her name was a reason to think her ‘baby’ could use a ‘sibling’ or two.

Oblivious to our panic, the conversation above Cassie and my heads continued. “Mommee! Pleeeeease?!”

“I never could say no to you,” the Amazon lady said. What a crock that was. I’m pretty sure she had said no to a lot of things. No toileting. No big kid clothes. No independence. No freedom. Anyways, she put her Little kid/captive down, and the girl plopped down on her padded behind almost as soon as her feet touched the floor, the way that one-year olds who weren’t quite comfortable with walking sometimes did. That tracked.

Now that the girl…lady…I really should refer to her as a lady…now that the Little lady was down near my eye level, I could get a better look at her. Maybe get a few gears in my memory to start spinning. I didn’t want not remembering this diapered lady to be blown out of proportion as some kind of mental defect on my part. You never know with Amazons.

Typical.

The lady, Amy, was about my height, though was closer to Cassie’s build. Skinny. Maybe even petite. Today, it seemed, she’d been forced into a lavender colored dress with a built in onesie that didn’t quite cover the leakguards of her bulky, and very likely soaked diaper. A matching headband with a ridiculously sized bow on top kept her long brown hair out of her face. Speaking of face, her cheeks were dotted with freckles and I had no way of knowing if those came naturally or were dotted in at a Little’s Salon after she was captured.

What had to have been done after her capture was the removal of her front teeth. It was a common enough practice to Littles who were forced to breastfeed.

Doubly typical.

Total doll.

Still didn’t recognize her. Her ‘Mommy’ didn’t seem to notice. “I remember when Amy first came into my life. I was at the zoo and I rescued her from a giant ostrich-”

“It was an emu, Mommy,” Amy chirped. “I was feedin’ it. Rawr!”

“Of course you were,” the giantess cooed down and patted the Little on the head. “Rawr? Is that the sound that big birdies make?” I felt Cassie dig her nails into my free hand.

Amy giggled. “Nope! But they should!”

Emu? Feeding? That rang a bell! It had been four or five years since I’d seen her, but things were coming into place. There had been a student named Amy in Beouf’s class back then. Only her hair had started out bright red, the kind that you only got out of a bottle. I’d heard her story. She’d been a veterinarian in a zoo. She’d been crying in my time out corner and then I’d given her one of my talks, just like I’d given to Chaz a few days ago.

“I adopted her right away, poor thing,” the Amazon continued, “but she was so unhappy about it. Her Maturosis had clearly gone into full effect, but she hadn’t reached her developmental plateau; not that I knew those terms at the time.”

I felt numb all over. “Uh-huh.” My skin felt dead, but my insides were boiling and burbling. Amy was busy sucking her on her fingers, staring at her knuckles as though they contained the secrets of the universe. My head felt like it might explode.

“The regular daycares wouldn’t take her, she was so fussy. So I had her enrolled in Mrs. Beouf’s class at Oakshire elementary.”

“Uh-huh.” Cassie’s nails were digging in tighter as I nodded.

“And everything started to fall into place after that. Didn’t it, Amy?”

Amy popped her fingers out of her mouth. “Uh-huh!”

I made a mental note then and there to never say ‘Uh-huh’ to an Amazon ever again. I looked at Amy, looked her right in the eye, and asked in my best adult voice. “And where do you go to school now, Amy? New Beginnings?”

Amy shook her head and giggled. “Nope nope nope. I go to Daycare!”

“Which one?”

She paused. “I dunno.”

“I’d never take my Amy to New Beginnings.” Amy’s Mommy said. “Not after everything I’ve learned since. Mrs. Beouf’s class is so much better. No hypnosis. No drugs. No pain punishments. Just lots of love, therapy, and positive reinforcement.” She ticked those off on her fingers, like she was reciting a mantra. “And that goes both ways, for Littles and their parents. I only withdrew her because I wanted to open up a spot for some other Little baby in need. Amy was so lucky to meet you and Mrs. Beouf.”

“I don’t work with Mrs. Beouf,” I said. “Not directly. We’re just classroom neighbors.”

Amy’s Mommy nodded. “I know,” she said. “But I think you being there helped her adjustment.” My throat went dry. “Just seeing a grown-up Little, like you, helped her realize that she wasn’t one. She told me a bit about your time outs. It was a really big help.”

I rocked back, catching myself. It wasn’t a speed bump that made me lose my balance. “Help?”

Pulling up on the Amazon’s leg, Amy hoisted herself to her feet. Her legs splayed out and her hands went wild for balance. I’d seen enough diapered Littles to know that it wasn’t the bulk between her legs throwing off her balance. Maybe it was something in her shoes. Maybe her legs had been messed with like her teeth. Maybe she just wasn’t used to walking by herself anymore. “Oh! Someone wants a hug!”

Amy grasped the Amazon’s hand for balance and toddled, literally toddled across the bus aisle to me. She leaned into me and wrapped her arms around my chest, laying her head into my shoulder. “Fankyoo,” she whispered to me. Then she wobbled back and sat on the floor.

I helped? Thankyou? I felt wobbly. I felt sick. Don’t faint. Don’t throw up. Don’t cry. For the love of God don’t cry. Cassie must have seen me losing it because she spoke up for the first time. “So, Miss Madra,” Cassie said. “What brings you and your Little girl out this late. My husband and I were just on a dinner date.”

Smart, Cassie. Smart. Reinforcing the notion that we were adults without sounding too resentful. Guiding the conversation away from mind-fuckery. Thanks Cass. I shot her a look of thanks. Subtly she nodded. She’d take over a bit.

Amazons don’t give us Littles enough credit for our ability at subterfuge. They see only what they want to see. Miss Madra took the bait. “Oh, we were just heading home from the Little Voices meeting. Amy doesn’t really pay attention, but she loves to play. Some of the other parents bring their babies, but not this time, right Amy?”

“Nuh-uh.” Amy wasn’t even looking up now. Something else had caught her attention.

“But she was perfectly happy to just crawl around on the floor while the grown-ups talked.”

“Little Voices,” Cassie said. “I’m afraid I’m unfamiliar with that organization. It is an organization, correct?”

I wasn’t looking, but I heard the tone shift in Amy’s Mommy’s voice. Cassie had just asked the street preacher to peddle their religion by the sound of it. “Oh yes, it’s a wonderful thing! It’s an advocacy group for-”

I tuned the Amazon out and followed the diapered Littles gaze to the floor. There, underneath the nearest front facing seat, was a wad of pre-chewed gum. Pink. Asymmetrical. Hard. Bits of hair, poking up out of it. Or maybe that was lint.

As Cassie chatted up the Amazon, I could only stare in horror as Amy took to all fours, the hem of her onesie dress just barely skirting the floor, and crawled over to the gum. I watched as she picked at it and peeled at the base.

Oh no.

She got it off the floor and held a huge hard chunk in between her thumb and forefinger.

Oh no no…

In it went. Straight into the mouth. A.B.C. gum. And from the look on the diapered Little’s eyes, it was pure delight.

“Um…ma’am!” I did my best to speak up without sounding panicked. “Um…Amy has something in her mouth, I think…”

A note of panic went into the Amazon’s voice “What?!” She bent over and picked her prisoner up. It took less than a second for her to take the seat that the gum had been under and start probing the Little’s mouth. “Don’t swallow. Don’t swallow. Oh…oh…got it!” She took out the bit of gum. I didn’t have the heart or the nerve to mention that it looked smaller than it had been when Amy had popped it in.

“It’s strawberry flavored!” Amy proclaimed. I looked back at Cassie. She looked as horrified as I felt, just then. Her lips weren’t moving but her eyes were screaming.

Amy’s Mommy started bouncing her on her lap. “Amy? Again?!”

“What?!” Amy said, sounding actually indignant for the first time. I recognized that tone of voice. Hauntingly familiar, now. “Somebody left it there for me to get. I was jus’ smart enough to notice it and take!”

The Amazon let out a tired laugh. “I’m just glad that you didn’t choke on it this time.” THIS TIME?! Not a doll. No one would mind fuck program a Little to risk killing themselves. “Oh, baby girl. What am I ever going to do with you?”

“Ice cream?”

“No ice cream. Not tonight.”

“Cuddles?”

“Okay. Cuddles.” And the two leaned into each other, eyes closed. If they had been cats, they would have been purring.

Meanwhile, Cassie and I stared at each other in disbelief. It was like we were the only two dinosaurs that saw the falling meteor and knew what it meant…

“I’m sorry about that, ma’am,” I offered. “I would have acted myself but it wasn’t an emergency and I didn’t want to put my hands on your baby.” I felt nauseous just saying that. Had to cover myself though.

Amy lifted her head off of her Mommy’s giant breast. “I am a baby!” This time five years ago, I could have sworn I heard that same voice scream that she wasn’t…

“Think nothing of it, sir,” the Amazon said. “Amy does this sort of thing all the time. Don’t you sweetie?”

The Little nodded. “Uh-huh! I’m mischievous!”

“Oh do you even know what that means?”

The diapered Little just grinned softly, her mouth closed, and shrugged. “I use ta hadda a…a…hamster named Mischief. An’ he liked to run on a tiny wheel. He went rawr!” She giggled at her own non-joke. This…this woman wasn’t a doll. No way was she a doll. Eating used gum is not something that would be put into a brainwashing algorithm. Neither would back talk or whining or wandering. And there was still that same mischievous spark behind her eyes. The spark of someone who knew exactly what they were doing and loved doing it, even if she literally didn’t know the meaning of the word.

But that could only mean…

I didn’t want to think about what that could mean.

“This is our stop!” Helena Madra called out, pressing the signal. The bus came to another whining, screeching halt as faulty breaks kicked in.

This was their stop. Ours too. It was the stop right by our neighborhood. This woman…these women…could very well be our neighbors. Amy went right back on Helena’s hip and they walked to the front of the bus. Cassie and I stayed put. We’d wait. We’d wait until the bus circled back, no matter how badly I needed to pee just then. I’d hold it.

There was no way we were going to let the giant or her pet Little that had gone full native know where we lived. “Wonderful to run into you,” she said before stepping off. We waved. All big fake toothy grins.

A clap of thunder and the doors slamming shut signaled their exit. The rain started coming down in earnest a minute later just as our neighborhood disappeared. It looked like we’d have to do a mad dash home if it didn’t let up.

One way or another, we were getting wet.

Cassie started grumbling to herself as she climbed up into one of the seats. Might as well. We had a long ride ahead of us. I stayed standing to keep the pressure off my bladder.

It wasn’t fair. But it’s how our world was.

Chapter 11: Nightmares and Revelations

I couldn’t sleep for several nights after the “bus incident”. I fell unconscious, I’m sure, but I never felt like I was sleeping. I’d just lay in bed, hear Cassie quietly snoring, and be completely unable to drift off myself.

I’d close my eyes, and talk to myself, make lists and do mental prepwork for the next morning, but I never slept. I’d never dream. I’d roll over. Flip the pillow. Roll over again.

And again.

And again.

But I wouldn’t sleep.

At one point I tried masturbating; rubbing one out to help me relax. Grabbed an old sock, snuck into the bathroom and beat off into oblivion. All that got me was more tired and a brain thinking about sex in the middle of the night in addition to lesson plans, jouska’s with Cassie in my head, and the restless anxiety that I was guilty of some unspeakable crime.

Sleep would not come.

Guilty consciences can do that, I guess.

I just kept replaying what happened on the bus the other night. Reliving the shock. I can’t claim that I’d known Amy all that well, but I had known her. She hadn’t been like that in the few times we’d interacted early on back at Oakshire Elementary.

She’d been miserable. She’d been despondent. At best, I’d thought of her as resigned the last time I got a chance to talk to her one-on-one. Inevitably, she got with the program. All the diapered Littles did with Mrs. Beouf, eventually. They learned to keep things to themselves and to find small ways, Little ways, at rebelling and making life work for them. Hadn’t they? Or did they all end up like Amy?

No hypnosis. No drugs. No pain punishments. And still the Little woman had seemed every bit the child. Not a doll. A child. Just like Ivy. Full Native.

Ivy, I could wrap my mind around. As near as I could tell, Ivy was close to me and Cassie’s age, and had gotten a free ride into Beouf’s class for as long as I’d been working there. Zoge must’ve gotten to her young. By this point in her life Ivy had probably been in diapers longer than not, poor thing.

Amy? Five years in captivity is long, but it’s not that long. It’s not “full native long”. Especially without the crazy nonsense and mental conditioning that Amazons are so fond of. The woman that Amy used to be had had a degree in veterinary medicine for goodness sake! On the bus she had the vocabulary of maybe a four year old, the impulse control of maybe a two year old, and insisted that all animals said “rawr!”. The girl couldn’t walk and had no front teeth!

AND SHE WAS HAPPY ABOUT IT!

What? The? Typical? Fuck?!

And for all I knew, she was living next door to me. Cassie and I had run home in the rain over half an hour later when the bus looped back around, our hearts pounding and both of us more than a bit worried that some do-good giant would see two drenched Littles and decide not packing an umbrella was an adoptable offense. It would have been nice, comforting even in a messed up way to know exactly how close a baby crazy Amazon lived to us. (They were all baby crazy though, and that was part of the problem)

Even after pissing victory into the Amazon sized toilet in the master bathroom, even after the shared shower, even after the adrenaline fueled we-just-dodged-a-bullet-sex with my wife, I couldn’t stop thinking about what I’d heard; what I’d seen with my own two eyes.

Where was the line between a woman a bit older than me crying out for help as her Daddy took her to get changed and another woman a bit younger than me gleefully eating a wad of gum off a bus floor? Had Amy’s Mommy been telling the truth? She seemed to think she was. In many ways, Helena Madra reminded me of Melony Beouf. Just like Mrs. Beouf, Amy’s Mommy made an odd distinction between diapered and free Littles, talking to me and Cassie as equals even as she bounced her adopted daughter on her hip. I should have been relieved about that.

But without protections, without titles like “teacher”, and “student” and “coworker”, I just felt naked on that bus. The fact that Mrs. Beouf had quietly cultivated her own group of parental disciples to compliment the parents that I’d quietly converted over the years should have given me some satisfaction.

It didn’t.

At all.

I just kept thinking about that “Fankyoo,” I’d received. Had I done that to her? Had I accidentally doomed a fellow Little? Was I responsible; an accomplice to a more subtle form of reconditioning, regression, and absolute mind-fuckery? While I was slowly teaching Amazon parents and children that Littles could be every bit as “mature” and “grown-up” as they saw themselves, was I at the same time accidentally teaching less fortunate Littles that they belonged in their playpen prisons?

Was I a Little Helper?

More than that, there was something else that I found deeply troubling. Were Beouf and Zoge right with all that pseudoscience bullshit about Maturosis and Developmental Plateaus? Was there something besides Amazon crazy to what they were doing? Even a tiny bit? Even if they’d drawn completely erroneous conclusions from the data they’d received? Did Littles like Ivy and Amy not succumb to their treatment as much as they wanted and enjoyed it?

I couldn’t accept that.

After Amy and her adopted mother, however, I couldn’t completely wave it away, either.

It consumed me. Even when I wasn’t thinking about it, I was thinking about it.

That’s why I couldn’t sleep. Eyes would close. Body would eventually give in and rest. But mind would never stop.

I sat there with all of these thoughts spinning circles in my head one morning after. I’d been so slow out the door, so sluggish in general, that I’d just finished the breakfast shake that Cassie had given me as I rode into the school parking lot. My stomach was too full and queasy for coffee and the last thing I wanted to do was look Beouf in the eye.

Routines and rituals don’t stop easily, no matter how I might have wished. I was rubbing the sleep out of my eyes and staring down at the hard flat surface of my kidney table. The stack of blank worksheets for my students to do that day was looking an awful lot like a pillow to me in the early morning hours.

“Mr. Gibson?” Mrs. Beouf’s shadow fell over me. “Clark? Everything okay?” I looked up at her, feeling all the worse for her presence. “Yikes!” She hunkered down in one of my student seats and slid an Amazon sized mug of coffee, hers, towards me. “You look like hell. Are you okay, hon?”

Hon…she called me hon. A pet name? A childish nickname? She said I looked like hell. Adults didn’t use that kind of language in front of children, did they? Fuck it. I reached for the coffee with both hands and lifted it to my lips. “Oh god!” I nearly gagged. “What’s in this stuff?”

“Nothing.” Beouf took her mug back and took a long, hearty gulp. “It’s just coffee. Black.”

“How do you drink this stuff?!” Even as I said it, I felt the caffeine starting to kick in. Better. Not good. But better. Needed sugar. Lots. Cream too. Maybe caramel. It helped, though.

Beouf offered me another sip. “Your eyes look almost as red as Mrs. Zoge’s.” Hearing Zoge’s name invoked woke me up more than even the caffeine. I still wasn’t over her snaking her fingers into my waistband like I was a toddler in need of checking.

She offered me another sip of coffee and I steadfastly refused. “What’s wrong with Zoge?” I asked. “She sick? Baby keeping her up at night?“ It was shady, but the subtle dig at Ivy made me feel better.

Somewhat predictably, the joke went over my colleague’s head. “No. Nothing like that.” She waited and stared at me expectantly. I’m not stupid. I knew she wanted me to ask why Mrs. Zoge’s eyes were so red that they looked like an insomniac’s. Problem was I was already in a foul mood, and Zoge’s problems were not anywhere on my list of things to care about. “She’s been crying.”

I arched an eyebrow. “Crying?”

“Crying because of you.”

If the straight black Amazon Prime Coffee hadn’t woken me up, that last part finished the job. “I made Zoge cry?” This had to be some kind of joke. Beouf wasn’t laughing. “How did I make Zoge cry?”

“She’s afraid of you. You scare her.”

I scared her? I scared her? I scared her? Nope. No matter how many different ways I thought of it, the idea didn’t make sense.

My incredulity must have shown plainly. “She’s never had a Little slap her hand away and talk to her like that.”

“Good!” I said. “She had no right to get in my space like that!” I could feel the heat rushing to my face. The idea that I was hurting other Littles by my very existence was draining. The notion that even one of the giants was afraid of me? That was damn empowering! It made me angry remembering the other day with Chaz and Zoge. Anger was an emotion I could get behind, just then.

Beouf held her arms out to me in a gesture of calm and peace. “Clark,” she told me. “You don’t understand.”

“I understand that she sees me as a baby,” I practically spat the b-word out like it was a curse. Not a curse word; a literal curse.

“You’re absolutely right.” I was ready to stand up right there and raise my fist to the ceiling. FINALLY! An Amazon admits it! “And she’s desperately trying not to.”

I stopped myself. “Excuse me?”

“Zoge is Yamatoan,” Beouf said. “So’s Ivy.” Yamatoan? Why did that sound familiar? I didn’t have the words, just a vague sense of unjustified familiarity. I just scraped my hand over my head. Whoosh.

My mentor and colleague leaned in close and lowered her voice, like she was giving me her assistant’s deep dark secret. “As a country, Yamatoa doesn’t believe in things like Maturosis,” she said. “OR Adult Littles,” she added hastily. “All Littles are babies over there. By law.”

That’s where I knew that name. Yamatoa had popped up on MistuhGwiffin.web several times in the past. I wanted to say that’s where that airplane had made the emergency stop the last time Cassie and I had gone conspiracy spotting. Before now, it had been one of those words that I didn’t read as much as recognize in print.

Yamatoa. End of the line. One of those places where Littles got diapered and never got away. And Zoge was from there. “That adds up,” I said, feeling smug.

“Clark, think about it.” Mrs. Beouf placed a hand over mine. “Mrs. Zoge grew up there. She spent most of her life over there. The idea that Littles are…are…” she paused. (Please don’t say mature). “Capable of maturity-” (Typical) “-has been a literally alien concept to her for the majority of her life.”

I said nothing, letting my silence speak for itself.

“She’s good at her job. She’s a natural with my kids. She’s got none of the bitterness or pettiness that a lot of locals have towards Plateaued Littles. And you know what I’m talking about there.” I did. Raine Forrest and Brollish came to mind. “She treats them how they need to be treated; loves them how they are.”

Still nothing from me. I didn’t care that Zoge was good at her job. After the bus ride, those were points against her.

“Clark,” one of my few Amazonian friends, maybe my only one, said. “You’ve got to believe me. She feels awful. She’s been beating herself up about it for days.”

“Maybe she should…”

Beouf was getting exasperated, I could tell. “Clark, it’s been close to ten years,” she said. “One slip up in ten years is pretty good.”

I stood up. I walked to my door. “In my world, Mrs. Beouf.” I said, pulling on the chord and pushing out. “I’m not allowed one slip up. Why should she be any different?”

That day I walked to the front office alone.

Chapter 12: Little Victories

“What’s wrong, boss?”

“I’m sorry…?”

“What’s bothering you? Something’s bothering you.”

“Nothing is bothering me.”

It was just after lunch. The kids were laying down on their mats and the lights were out. Tracy hadn’t taken her own break quite yet and was instead grilling me. “Clark…” she said. “What happened between you and Beouf today?”

I suppressed a growl. Tracy had a habit of addressing me by my first name only when she was worried. Of course she knew something happened. How couldn’t she? “Nothing is wrong with me and Beouf.” At least she’d been civil enough to wait till nap time to bring it up.

“Yeah. Beouf said the same thing,” Tracy whispered. “That’s how I know it’s bul…-” she stopped. “That’s how I know it’s a lie. Both you guys seem really off today, and you didn’t walk up to the front with us.”

Beouf was bothered too? Some part of me was happy about that. It felt…good…knowing I could upset a big strong Amazon. “How’s Beouf off?” I asked. I hadn’t spoken to her since I’d walked out this morning. Yeah, I’d seen her up front out at the bus loop, but there was a distinct tension: The difference between ‘can’t talk’ and ‘won’t talk’.

“Same way as you,” Tracy told me. “You get this look when you’re deep in your own head.” Inwardly I laughed. Shows how much Tracy knew. I was always in my own head.

“What look?”

“Like your mouth and your eyes don’t match. Like you just bit into a nasty piece of fruit. Or like you’re constipated.” If anybody but Tracy would have said that last part…

“Constipated?” I said, trying my best to sound offended without waking the students.

“Last couple of days.”

“I’ve been constipated for the last couple of days…?” Don’t laugh…don’t laugh…don’t laugh…

“And now Beouf’s got it, too. She’s got it, too, Boss!”

I snickered. “I made Beouf all backed up?”

We both giggled and shushed each other when Elmer groaned and rolled over. Mickey yawned, too; not quite asleep “So what’s going on?” Tracy lowered her voice back down to a whisper. “Really?

“Mr. Gibson…” a new voice hissed itself into the fray. Tracy and I whipped our heads up and over to the back door. A most unwelcome sight was poking her head into my room. “May I please talk to you?” Mrs. Zoge asked. “In private?”

I threw a glance at Tracy. It was a glance that screamed ‘Please bail me out. Make an excuse. Go to lunch. Something!’

My assistant looked to me and then back over to Mrs. Zoge. She jerked her head toward the back door. “Go ahead,” she said. “I’ll watch the kids and go to lunch when you get back.” Well…fuck… A mind reader Tracy was not.

Standing up from my desk, I zig zagged past the bodies of sleeping children towards Beouf’s assistant. She opened the door and ushered me into the space between our two classrooms. Even there, I felt like she was eyeing me. I masked my discomfort by folding my hands behind my back, resting them on my waistband as if to catch or slap away prying fingers from my pants.

I pivoted around and looked up to the older, much much larger, woman. Inhaling through my nose, I steaded myself internally; making my voice as flat and businesslike as I could manage. “Yes, Mrs. Zoge? What can I do for-?”

“I’m sorry.” There. She just blurted it out. It wasn’t the automatic, scared apology I’d received the other day. This? This seemed on the verge of sincerity.

My eyes shifted over to the door leading to Mrs. Beouf’s room. “For what?” I asked, feigning ignorance. I’m not sure why. I should have just said I’d forgiven her and walked away, but some sado-masochistic part in me wanted to watch her squirm; wanted to give the woman a chance to fuck up again. Or maybe I just wanted a reason to stay mad.

After the past few days it felt good to be mad, even a little bit.

If there’s an opposite of a smirk, Zoge was doing it. “For…for…checking…accidentally…for checking…for…your…” Behind my back my hands were balling up into fists. I don’t know what I was thinking. If there was a way to hate and enjoy something simultaneously, I’d found it.

“Excuse me?” I said. “What are you trying to tell me?” Mentally I was urging her. Taunting her.

Say it. Say it. I know you want to. Do it. Do it. Admit what you were doing. Admit what you wanted to do. The honesty would be oh so refreshing!

Zoge stopped. She took a deep breath. Closed her eyes. Then she did something completely unexpected. She bowed. Completely bowed. She got down on her knees so that she was only a little taller than me and then folded down on herself, palms and forehead flat on the floor.

My yoga videos called this ‘The Child’s Pose.’

“I was wrong,” she said, her forehead still to the floor. “I violated your personal space and discounted your autonomy.” The words came out and I still couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She kept talking. “I don’t think it was a mistake, either,” Zoge sniffed. I could hear her voice starting to crack. “If you were one of our students, I could have easily skipped you. Mrs. Beouf would have checked your dia-…not that you…I mean. I don’t know that it was conscious…but…but…”

My mouth was dry. My pulse was racing. The room felt incredibly warm. Holy shit! She was saying it. She was actually saying it! I stumbled over to the wall for balance. “Mrs. Zoge…what are you…-?”

“I think maybe I’d hoped to catch you.” Her voice was quiet but I could tell she was crying. If this was a performance it was a damn good one.

And why would someone like Zoge admit this? Behind Forrest and Brollish, Zoge was easily a solid bronze in the all ‘All Littles Need Diapers’ olympics; and she was only that low because she wasn’t blatantly trying to loop me into that belief on a weekly basis. Now she was copping to it!

More importantly, why did I feel so bad about it? Is this what the mouse felt when he saw the crying lion with a thorn in its paw? How was this possible? How was I feeling sorry for her? “Mrs. Zoge,” I started, I-”

“I have disgraced myself.” she said. “If you were an Amazon you’d have every right to ask me to be disciplined.” My throat was actually starting to feel tight. “But I know that’s unlikely for you. Tell me what I must do to make things right.”

“Mrs. Zoge,” I said, finding my voice. “Did Mrs. Beouf ask you to do this?”

Mrs. Zoge looked up. Tears were gently, gracefully sliding down her face. I’d never seen an Amazon cry before that moment. Not an adult one. It was unsettling. “No, sir,” she said. “I just need to make this right.”

“Why?” Why was I asking why?! The hell was wrong with me?

She blinked back her tears. “Because not all Littles are children,” she said. “And I’m setting a bad example for my daughter and the others who are.”

“Why do you care about setting examples if your Littles will never grow up?” I asked. Immediately I hated myself. I sounded like a typical Amazon just then.

“Because children still learn about their world, Mr. Gibson.” Mrs. Zoge said. She wiped her face on her sleeve. She stood up. A soft, demure smile came to her. “And I want my children to learn that the world is fair.”

I was standing straighter, too. “It’s not, though.”

“No,” she agreed. “It’s not. But it’s my responsibility as an adult to try.” She looked at me. “How do I make this right, Mr. Gibson? Shall I wear diapers for a day? A week? Till Spring Break? Summer Vacation?” There was resignation in her voice. Weary but determined. It felt like she was asking me to flog her in the public square.

Wild. Just wild. I couldn’t believe it. This was a trap. It had to be a trap. From the back of my head, my survival instinct was screaming behind a carefully constructed cage of etiquette. It was a trap. But it wasn’t. I knew it wasn’t. Amazons were crazy, and if you managed to trigger their crazy in the right way, they still had to play by their own asinine rules. That’s why Zoge had been crying.

In her eyes, she’d trespassed on an actual adult, and the penalty for most Amazon trespasses was, of course, diapers. Her own crazy brain couldn’t accept less.

This was the opportunity of a lifetime.


“Hey,” I said as I walked into Mrs. Beouf’s class. It was later that same afternoon. The buses had just left and every teacher at Oakshire Elementary had done the weak and weary shuffle back to their classrooms to either grade papers or blow off steam; sometimes a little bit of both.

Mrs. Grange was in Beouf’s room, too. “Oh hey, Clark.” she said. She gave me a friendly little wave. Ever since she’d pitched in for that I.E.P. meeting, she was spending more and more time with our tiny clique. At this rate she’d be dashing across campus just to join us for our morning walk up to the front office.

“Hey Janet,” I said back. “Mrs. Beouf, can I speak to you for a second?”

Beouf adjusted her glasses and swiveled around in her seat to look at me. “Of course, Mr. Gibson.” She didn’t seem angry, but it wasn’t the same relaxed routine that we’d developed over the years, either.

Janet caught a look from both of us and politely excused herself. “I’ve got papers to grade. See you both later!” Maybe Janet could teach Tracy how to better read a room, I mused.

All the doors were closed: Both the door leading to my room and outside Beouf’s were shut. Even the side room with all the cribs, the Nap Room, was shut. We were alone. “Mrs. Zoge apologized to me today.”

“I know,” Beouf said. “I didn’t tell her to.” No anger. Just matter-of-fact.

“Did she tell you she offered to punish herself for me?”

From behind Beouf’s glasses I saw eyes open wide in surprise. “That I did not know.” she said. “She didn’t mention it.”

“Probably didn’t get the chance,” I offered. In truth, Zoge might have been too embarrassed to bring it up.

Beouf exhaled. “Am I going to have to be checking my assistant’s diapers starting tomorrow?”

I shook my head. “Nope. She made the offer, but I let her off the hook. I just made her promise to never do it again.”

“Really?” Beouf sounded pleasantly surprised. “I wouldn’t have guessed. No offense.”

“None taken,” I said. “It was tempting.”

She stood up and walked around her desk. “I’ll bet. It’s not exact a secret that you’re uncomfortable around her.”

“It isn’t?”

“You’re not really a hard read, Clark.” Beouf rolled her eyes. She was smiling at least. “I see that look you get when Forrest gets up to her schtick.” She let out a disgusted sigh.

“Oh,” I piped up. “I’d have her pantsless and padded up in a second. No questions asked. She’d deserve it.”

Beouf was relaxing by the minute. “Do tell, Mr. Gibson.”

“There’s karma and there’s revenge,” I said. I thumbed to myself. “Me? I’m a karma guy.”

“That’s very mat…” Beouf stopped herself, catching her typical Amazon crazy before it spilled out. “That’s why I think we’re such good friends, Clark.”

I smiled, but it didn’t reach my eyes. Now for the hard part. “Yeah. About that.” I said. Deep breath. “I’m sorry about this morning. I’m in the middle of…processing things, and I got angry.”

She shrugged. “I understand. I was in your room. Your space. You got angry. You walked away. It was the best thing you could do in the moment.”

“So you’re not mad?”

Beouf scoffed. “You bet I was mad!” her voice went up almost an octave. She laughed. “But I can be upset and still be your friend. And I’m over it if you are.”

“Still friends?” I asked.

“Always. Can I give you a hug?” She got down on one knee and opened her arms wide.

I huffed. Fine. “Sure.” I walked up and allowed her to hug me, only slightly afraid that when she stood up she’d snatch me up with her.

When she released me she said. “Thanks. I really needed that.”

Surprising myself, I said, “Yeah. Me too.”

In retrospect, I sometimes remind myself of moments like this one. I don’t think I’ve ever seriously expected to change the entire world. I’ve really just wanted small things. Meaningful things. Little things:

Like a hug from a trusted friend and confidant.

Or a sincere apology.

Or even an Amazon’s tears.

Chapter 13: Another After School Special

I read from the barely legible handwriting in front of me:

“I like to eat chicken and ham chicken and ham is good to eat I like to eat chicken and ham and ham and chicken and chicken and chicken and ham I like to eat chicken and ham….”

I looked up from the paper. “And it just goes on and on. Janet,” I said, “is there an Eldritch code in this somewhere or did this child get kicked in the head before writing?” Tracy and Beouf cackled in their chairs. “Do these children not know what a period is?” More laughter.

Janet reached across the cluster of desks. “Let me see.” She squinted at the paper, analyzing the handwriting. “This is Ethan.” She said. “Yeeeah, Ethan has a learning disability. Great at talking, bad at getting his words on paper. He just starts to go on a loop and can’t stop. This is still a big improvement from the beginning of the year.”

Tracy, Beouf, and I stopped giggling. Great. Now I felt guilty. “Unfortunately he gets no credit for this,” Janet sighed and made a ‘0’ with her big red pen. “Didn’t even write to the prompt.”

“What was the prompt, again?” Tracy asked.

“They were supposed to write about who their role models were,” Beouf said.

Silence.

“Chicken and ham.” A whisper by me.

“Ham and chicken.” A little louder from Tracy.

“Chicken and ham and ham and chicken.” Beouf. Even louder.

“Ham and chicken and chicken and ham!” Janet shouting!

We all burst out laughing. All of us. Even Janet. Sometimes you just had to laugh at this stuff. It was better than crying, anyhow. Janet flopped her head down on the desk. “Kill me. Just kill me. Dead please. Thank you.” More laughter.

We were all gathered in Janet’s room. A few days ago, her students had had to participate in a school wide writing exercise in which every third through fifth grader had to write to a prompt for close to an hour straight.

Sit still. No talking. Eyes on paper. Just write. Not what you want to write. Write about the most generic thing possible: Shit like ‘Favorite season’, or ‘Favorite food’ or ‘Role models’.

It was bad for the kids and worse for the adults who had to enforce it. Keep an atmospher of perfect quiet and focus with a bunch of eight and nine year olds? Might as well have asked them to find the Lost City of Ohiyo while they were at it.

Also, it goes without saying, but written essays had to be graded eventually. That’s where we came in. Janet had asked Beouf and I to help her grade the work, and naturally (having nothing better to do) we obliged. Tracy was technically off the clock, but elected to stick around and help. We pushed some student desks together, (I was left to supervise of course) divied up the stack, broke out some pens, and indulged in the ages old habit- that tradition passed down from teacher generation to teacher generation: Grading papers, talking trash, making jokes, and quietly worrying about how good we really were at our jobs.

“At least his spelling was fine,” Beouf said, “Do you want us to count spelling?”

Not breaking her gaze from her own pile, Janet tapped a printout she’d placed in the middle of the cluster. “It’s on a rubric. If the spelling doesn’t really stop you from understanding what they’re trying to say, let it pass once or twice. But if it’s starting to interfere with comprehension or happening a lot, start marking off for it.”

“Got it.” A quick glance let me see red ink go flying across Beouf’s selected page. “Geesh, my babies can spell better than this.“ No joke…

I swallowed my pride and kept marking at my papers. To prevent bias, all student names were covered up with tape, but I was secretly hoping that the ones who were doing particularly well were some of my former students.

Tracy and I must have been on the same wavelength that afternoon. “I think I got Mason’s,” she said to me. Sitting at the Amazon student’s desk, Tracy might have been mistaken for a student instead of staff; it fit her perfectly. “Remember how he used to write his lowercase a’s?”

I leaned over, having to stand on the gigantic chair to be able to write on the desk. “Oh yeah. That’s Mason, alright.”

“Let me guess,” Janet said, “the little flourish he does after the tail?” Tracy and I nodded and laughed. “Sounds like Mason Hargrove to me.” She looked up. “Do I have you two to thank for that?”

“I guess…” I chuckled. “It’s kind of something he’s always done.”

“I’m kinda glad he kept it,” Tracy said. “It’s a part of him.”

I bit of nostalgia came over me. “Seeing how they grow from year to year is one of the neat things about this job.”

“Yeah…” Beouf said, moving onto her next essay to grade. Tracy and I shot each other a look. Beouf was probably just agreeing for the sake of agreement. Most of her students stayed in her room for years at a time or their Amazons withdrew them to a private daycare. Beouf’s kids never grew up. They’d all already done that by the time they got to her.

Life isn’t fair. It’s complicated.

We got back to grading. The laughter could only last so long before drudgery kicked in. A few more minutes of reading this third grader’s account of them looking up to their softball coach or that third grader’s rambling about the latest pop star, and Tracy broke the silence. “Oh, how about that joke, Mrs. Grange?”

Janet looked up from her stack of essays. “What joke?”

“The joke about your husband!” Tracy said. “The one you told me when we first started talking! I”ve been trying to tell Clark, but I just can’t quite get the details right.” Is that what Tracy had been doing the last couple of weeks? Something about somebody painting a house, and a cat, and gasoline…I’m still not sure, even as I write about this.

Janet looked like she’d just tasted sour milk, or like she was constipated. So that’s what that looked like from the outside. “I’d rather not.” Sore subject, apparently.

“Oh come on!” Tracy was already starting to laugh. “It was a really good joke.”

I looked towards our newest friend. Unlike Tracy, I could read a room. “It’s cool,” I said. “Don’t worry about it. Had to be there, right?

Janet chewed on her lip. “Right.”

Beouf put down her pen. “Something wrong, hon?”

The young Amazon looked weary, and not just teacher weary. A cup of coffee might not help this. “Things aren’t going so hot right now,” she said. “We’re trying for a baby.” Neither of my coworkers cooed or smiled or awed at that. “It’s not going so well…” She looked at the floor and let the comment hang.

“You could always try adoption,” Beouf offered. Tracy and I shared another look. This time it wasn’t wistfully knowing or nostalgic or anything resembling happy. When Amazons talked about adoption, real babies- much less Amazon ones- didn’t often figure into it. As the two shortest people in the room, we were both suddenly very uncomfortable. Yes, even though it was just Beouf. Yes, even though Janet had proved to be fairly sane for an Amazon.

Janet smiled politely with her mouth, but frowned with her eyes. “Maaaaaaaaybe…” she said. “I hadn’t thought about that.” Based on her tone and her careful hemming and hawing, Janet was being polite. It was the type of reply that people gave when they wanted to say no, but didn’t want to offend. Beouf’s entire career hinged around Little adoption. Janet was being polite.

To her credit, Beouf dropped the matter with a shrug. “It’s not for everybody.“ Darn right it wasn’t.

Janet tried to lighten the mood. “I probably wouldn’t tell it right, anyways. You really had to be there.” She half heartedly did jazz fingers. “Cat walks under a ladder. It ran out of gas. Yuk-yuk-yuk-yuk!”

My ears wiggled. “Yuk-yuk-yuk-yuk?” I said. I almost got whiplash from how quickly I snapped my head up. “Fuzzy? Fuzzy Bird? Did you just quote Fuzzy Bird? Muffets?!”

A more genuine smile, and a glint of mischief from Janet. “I did!”

“You like the Muffets?!” I lost a bit of composure. I’d grown up watching reruns of the show and the various movies. It wasn’t a cartoon so it was deemed safe to watch.

Janet’s face opened up even more. She was becoming all eyes and teeth. “Uhhh, YEAH! Who doesn’t?”

Now it was Tracy and Beouf’s turn to exchange looks, theirs a bit confused. “I have a couple of Muffet stuffies in my classroom for the kids to play with during free time!”

“Stuffets! I know! I saw them the first time I walked in!” Janet was bouncing in her seat. “I’ve got some, too!”

“You do?” I felt myself shaking with something other than rage. “Where?”

Janet looked shocked. Insulted in the way only a true geek can be insulted. I’d just challenged her credentials. “Uh…there!” She motioned to the wall directly behind her; just to the right of the board. There, sitting on a shelf that was bolted to the wall, were Muffets.

Kremit the Turtle, Miss Puggy, Fuzzy Bird. Ralph the Piano Playing Rat. Gongzo the Strange! She even had the mad scientist and his assistant; Nutz and Bolt. Muffets. So many Muffets. “How did I not notice these before?”

“Because you were so busy looking at the clock,” she teased. “Did I tell you guys how nervous he was?”

“Oooooh no! Do not change the subject!” I said. “We’re talking about Muffets! Muffets. Now.” Cassie hated the Muffets. It wasn’t a deal breaker in our relationship, obviously, but I just got razzed everytime I brought it up. I hadn’t had anyone to talk about this show with in years.

“My son used to watch the Muffets all the time when he was growing up,” Beouf said.

Tracy agreed. “Yeah. It’s a pretty funny kids’ show.”

Like a T.V. lawyer, Janet was standing up to her full height. “It is NOT a kids’ show!” she declared. “It’s a classic international intellectual property that is family friendly and written for all ages. ALL! AGES!” She was going way over the top and overly theatrical. It gave the mini-rant an air of light heartedness.

And yet…I would not want to have contradicted Janet Grange in that moment. Her passion was a joke until it wasn’t. Rather like the Muffets themselves, come to think of it. “It’s seen a surge in sales over the last few decades since home media’s become more readily available,” I said. I was trying to hide my own giddiness while showing off my fan credentials. “But during its initial six season run, The Muffet Show was on primetime television, well past children’s bedtimes.”

“What Gibson said! All ages.” She reached out for a high-five. “Up top, Clark!” I slapped her palm. I couldn’t help it; I was excited. So sue me.

Janet and I then proceeded to embarrass ourselves for the next short eternity with conversation bits that went a little like:

“Remember when Gongzo tried to sing opera while on fire!”

“Or how about the time Fuzzy actually finished a bit-”

“But the theatre was empty?!”

“YAS!”

It wasn’t until Tracy was packing up to leave that we looked at the clock and realized we had less than five minutes left in the work day. “Oh…sorry,” I said, finally realizing enough to blush a bit.

“Oh it’s no problem,” Janet said.

“It was kind of cute,” Beouf chuckled, leaning back in the student desk. For once, I didn’t mind being called ‘cute’. Maybe because it was the act and not me. Maybe because an Amazon was included in that statement, shielding me. I don’t know.

I glanced at the clock. “I can grade at least one more essay,” I said. I picked a paper from my stack and started to read it.

I shouldn’t have. I really wish I hadn’t.

My red pen went clattering to the floor, and my good natured blush became hot. Fear and righteous anger started to bubble up inside of me.

It was Mrs. Beouf that spoke up. “Mr. Gibson? Clark? Are you okay? What’s wrong.”

“My role model used to be Mr. Gibson,” I choked out, reading from the essay. “He taught me that it was a good thing to grow up and not be a Little baby.”

Tracy saw the look on my face. “Boss? What’s wrong with that? Why are you shaking?”

“Little is capitalized,” I said. I was keeping my voice low and quiet. It was either that or scream until my throat burst. “He’s not using the word as an adjective.” I couldn’t see the name on the paper, but I knew who’d written this.

“My students barely know commas,” Grange told me. “It’s nothing.”

I just kept reading on. “He helped me grow up and learn to use the potty by showing me how silly it looked to be a baby all your life. I remember all the times Miss Tracy would take him into the bathroom to change his diaper for him, and how silly and immature he must have felt doing that. When he came into our classroom a while ago he was still wearing a diaper. I could see it poking out of the back of his pants.”

I’d like to tell you that I kept a steady pitch and tone throughout. That I kept my cool and every single syllable came out as something bored or neutral. That would be a lie. My words were unsteady and shaky. They sped up and slowed down as I fought my body for control and lost. The word ‘pants’ in particular came out high and squeaky, and every time I said ‘diaper’ the word was a breathy whisper as the air rushed out of my lungs whenever I tried to pronounce it.

“Jeremy Merriwether,”Janet growled. “That shithead.” The ripped off the masking tape to confirm it.

I’d fallen down in the oversized chair and was sitting down for the first time that afternoon. I had to. I brought my knees up to my chest and rested my arms on them. My life was over. Totally over. Cassie was going to kill me if I ever got to see her again. I was breaking down. I was openly crying. I was frozen. Fear and anger were mixing inside of me, and right now the ratio was leaning towards fear.

Both Beouf and Tracy were standing over me. Patting me on the back. Shushing me. “This isn’t an essay,” I cried. “It’s a written accusation!”

“It’s gonna be alright Mr. Gibson,” Mrs. Beouf told me. “You’re fine. You’ve done nothing wrong.”

A hint of the other day’s old righteous indignation came over me. I looked up at my old ally with snot starting to bubble out from my nose. “Melony!” I squeaked. “There are Littles in your classroom who were adopted for less.”

“Well yeah,” Beouf replied. “But it was true in their case. Yours isn’t.” Right then I wished I could have believed her.

“Typical.”

“I don’t change diapers,” Tracy said as if that solved everything. “I barely help with the kids’ Pull-Ups after the first report card. We make them do it themselves.”

“That’s not the point,” I said. “If they find anything that they could use to justify my firing, they’ll do it. And…and…” I couldn’t finish the sentence. It’d be all downhill from there. Fired meant can’t hold down a job, meant needed caring for, meant adoption and permanent revoking of my rights. All because I was Little. I buried my eyes in my hands again. “Typical.”

The world became a radio as I stared into the palms of my own hands.

“Fire you for what?” Janet asked.

“Immaturity.” Tracy and Beouf said. “A tiny clause in all of our contracts. If they can reasonably prove that we’re unfit for our position, most often due to Maturosis, they can terminate our contract without additional proceedings or cause.”

Janet sounded confused. Offended even. “Why is that in his contract?”

“Typical.” The word was becoming a moan of pain instead of a curse. They weren’t really listening to me by this point. Not that they needed to.

“It’s in all of ours,” Tracy told Janet. “Yours too. Mixed up in there with all the other gobbledy gook that you sign.”

“It’s a provision left over from a couple of decades ago,” Mrs. Beouf said. She was still gently patting my back. “It was the only way to get the Union to allow Littles and Tweeners in. They didn’t want to be seen as supporting incompetents. It’s never been phased out. Politics.”

“Will they find anything?” Janet asked. “Anything that could get him…y’know…?” I was too overwhelmed to be insulted just then.

It was Tracy who scoffed, but Beouf who answered. “Nothing that Brollish or one of her suck ups don’t plant themselves.”

“Typical.”

“Why don’t we just lose the paper?” Tracy suggested.

Beouf gave my shoulder a squeeze. “Can’t do that. We’re all mandated reporters and this is a serious accusation. If we don’t report it, we’re all liable.”

“Typical.” It was the only word I had just then.

“Then what do we do?” Janet asked.

“Hypothetically?” Beouf said. “Because of the way it was submitted, we have some plausible deniability as far as time table. Clark didn’t find this, today. Mrs. Grange might find it tonight finishing up the grading, and report it first thing in the morning.”

Janet took the hint. “And while I’m discovering it, what’ll you two be doing?”

It was Tracy who said it first, and best. “Scouring his classroom. Making sure there’s no wiggle room for Brollish. Covering Clark’s butt so that someone doesn’t diaper it instead.” No one laughed.

I made a mental note to text Cassie. I was going to be late tonight. Then I’d have to get ready for the fight when I got home. “It’s not fair,” I said. “It’s just not fair.” I would have said it more, screamed it if I could.

“It’s not,” Janet said. “Clark, I’m so sorry. When I invited you to teach my class, I didn’t mean for this to happen!”

“We know,” Beouf said. “We know.” I could only nod my agreement. Words were hard just then.

The three circled around me. Hugging me. Hugging each other. Down the back of my neck, I swore I felt a teardrop. I’d just gotten everything I thought I’d wanted from a few days prior:

A hug from several trusted friends and confidants.

A sincere apology.

Maybe even an Amazon’s tears.

I’d gotten everything I’d said to myself I’d needed, and felt more scared and miserable than ever.

The hug broke off. “Come on, Boss,” Tracy said. “Let’s hop to it. This might be a long night.”

Chapter 14: The Old Waiting Game

I sat there in Oakshire Elementary’s clinic near the front desk, completely exhausted. Tracy, Mrs. Beouf and I had spent the entire previous night cleaning my room to beyond perfection. My room was already in very good condition. ‘Very good’ wasn’t going to cut it. Nothing short of perfection would be acceptable.

As soon as Janet reported the essay that little pissant wrote about me, there would be blood in the water we knew and Principal Brollish would look for any excuse that she could warp or exaggerate to her advantage. We weren’t going to give her anything to work with.

Mrs. Brollish disinfected and scrubbed every surface until it was shining. I organized my closet space, graded logged and sorted papers for return; even the ones that by contract didn’t need to be graded, yet. The play space for the kids went from ‘well used but tidy’ to ‘display model’. We found a stray Pull-Up hidden behind the cubbies. Bullet dodged; especially since it was a boy Pull-Up. Amazons would read into anything.

Tracy beat us both. She called in some favors and got a couple of Tweener custodians to come in and work over the entire floor with a carpet cleaner. I had to excuse myself to go cry. The tears were a mixture of complete fear and panic coupled up with absolute disbelief and gratitude.

The rest of the night was coaching on what to say and what not to say. “The games you play with Forrest and the others aren’t going to cut it here.” Mrs. Beouf told me. “Don’t give Brollish an opening. If you go for the cheese you’re going to get your hand snapped.” If I hadn’t been so terrified, I might have been surprised that Beouf knew what I’d been up to all these years.

I got home late that night. Cassie had been up and we had a fight. Even now, I can’t remember the exact wording, but it all came down to us being worried. Cassie wasn’t stupid. She knew what that hurried text about me staying late had really meant. She wanted to bug out and run that night. I wanted to stay and fight it. Not just because I was right but because I wanted to- needed to- prove the shitheads wrong. It was stupid and I shouldn’t have wanted to do it…

We compromised. I let her ride on the back of the scooter to work the next morning and she drove back home with it. If I didn’t contact her by dinner; she’d be gone.

There hadn’t been sleep the night before. With the cleaning, coaching, fighting and me staring down the bars of a cot, sleep wasn’t going to come. I’d ironed and pressed my best outfit. The slightest wrinkle might be cause for Brollish to invoke the bullshit maturity clause in my contract.

The first hour at work had been easy. Sleepwalking. Check in. Get the kids. Get breakfast. By hour two I was beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, I was worried over nothing. Maybe Janet would turn in the essay and Brollish would see that it was a stupid story fabricated by a stupid kid.

It was not quite 9:30 when Brollish walked in with a strange Amazon and asked to speak with me in private. “Not to worry, we have a substitute,” she told me. Brollish was all quiet smiles. I don’t know that I’d ever seen her smile.

So it began…

“Is this going to be a while?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

Brollish held open the door and gestured for me to follow. “I think it’s best if we spoke in private.”

On my way out I spotted something poking out of the stranger’s purse, something white and rectangular. “Tracy!” I called out, hoping I didn’t sound as suspicious as I felt. I raised my hands into the air and clapped my pointer and middle fingers to my thumb twice, like I was playing invisible castanets. My assistant saw the signal and followed my gaze to the Amazon’s purse. “Got it, boss!”

I started walking alongside Mrs. Brollish, walking quietly in the open campus back towards her office. “What was that?” she asked. She’d tried to make it sound like she was making small talk. In reality, the interrogation was already under way.

“Crab clapping,” I said, and repeated the motion I’d made. “We’re working on manners and offering it up as an alternative to giving a presenter loud applause. My students don’t really have the dexterity yet for snapping their fingers.” This of course, was a complete fabrication. The motion I’d made was really a bastardization of the sign language motion for ‘diaper’.

The proper sign involved doing that motion over my beltline, like the tapes on a diaper, but Beouf and Tracy agreed that might be too obvious a warning. The coaching was paying off. And yes, Tracy was going to do a lesson teaching all of my small fries about crab clapping as a polite way to applaud a performer when it was time to still be quiet.

Brollish didn’t speak further until we’d gotten to her office. She went to her desk and sat down behind it. I went and climbed into the chair across from it. “Some serious accusations have come to my attention, this morning, Mr. Gibson.”

“If this is a matter of contract,” I said. “I’d like Union Representation, please.”

“Don’t you want to know what the accusations are, or who is making them?”

I didn’t smile. I didn’t frown. I took a breath. Every instinct I’d developed was both screaming at me that this was a trap and telling me that I had to find a way to wriggle out of the trap right now. That’s not how this was going to go down.

“I understand that you’re doing your job, ma’m,” I said. “However if these accusations are serious, I think it would be best if I had appropriate representation.”

“That would be Mrs. Beouf.”

“Correct.”

“I can’t call her out of her classroom during school hours for this.” Yet Brollish could yank me out of mine. Typical Amazon. So typical, we figured it was exactly what would happen. By my own estimation Brollish, was more than twice as clever as Forrest, and not quite half as clever as me. That’s the thing about authority; you don’t have to be clever or even particularly good at your job to win.

I decided not to argue. “I understand, ma’am,” I said. “I’m willing to wait…” It took me everything not to say ‘…if you are.’ Don’t give the monster an opening.

Brollish leaned forward. “That might take a while. Are you willing to be outside your classroom for that long?” She was talking slowly. Choosing her words carefully. She was baiting me. “I know how important it is for children to keep to their routines.” Would that I were six feet taller so that I could reach across and slap her in the face just then.

“I think it would be best for all involved,” I said slowly, “in the long term, if I had Union Representation.”

“Are you sure?”

“I would like Union Representation.”

“You’ll have to wait all day.”

“I would like Union Representation.”

“We could end this very quickly…”

“I would like Union Representation.”

“You won’t be able to wait here. You’ll have to wait in the clinic with an ad-…with another staff member.”

“I would like Union Representation.”

Brollish’s mask slipped for a moment. Her face soured. Her nose wrinkled in contempt. In her eyes I was the bratty kid whose Mommy and Daddy were super important sponsors in the Parent-Teacher Organization. And there was nothing she could do about it.

She hadn’t been counting on me stonewalling her. She counted on me being clever or trying to twist her words against her, and give her an opportunity to do the same. The usual song and dance. The best dancers knew more than one routine. The best fighters knew when to dodge and risk tiring themselves out and when to block and let their opponents wear out.

Waiting meant more time for a case to be fabricated against me. It also meant more chances to catch a fabrication. Better odds in my favor.

Still sucked though. Royally

It sucked waiting in the school’s clinic. It sucked being babysat, watched like a hawk by the school’s nurse. It sucked being so damn tired and powerless. It sucked having to hope that somehow, some way, my friends would save me; or at least run out the clock. It sucked not feeling like the main character in my own life.

“You look tired, Mr. Gibson,” the nurse said. “Why don’t you lay down?” she gestured to a vinyl covered sick bed. Over the years I’d seen plenty of kids who’d thrown up or run a fever lay down on them in misery while parents were contacted to pick them up. Never an adult, though.

“No thank you,” I said.

“Are you sure?” I eyed the single diaper on the corner of her desk. I was sure it hadn’t been there when I’d passed by the clinic this morning, and it wasn’t big enough to fit on even an Amazonian Kindergartener.

“I’m sure.”

“Would you like something to drink? I’ve got some milk in the fridge.”

Pants shitting poison. “No thank you,” I said. “I’m just waiting for the moment.”

“Do you need to go to the potty?” So much wrong there. The only non-Amazon sized toilets were in the kindergarten classrooms, mine, and Beouf.

“I”m fine. Thank you.” No way was I asking for a boost up.

Just had to stick to the plan. No matter how hard it was.

Throughout the morning kids trickled in and out of the clinic. Nothing major, just getting usual stuff. Diabetes checks. ADHD meds. Routine upkeep stuff that the bureaucracy of school mandated be kept locked up and overseen in the clinic.

These were a relief because for a few precious minutes at a time I wasn’t the center of an Amazon’s attention. I still had to be on my toes, however.”

“Hey, Mr. Gibson.”

“Hey Tyler.”

“What are you doing here?”

I caught the eye of the nurse. It might be considered ‘bad-form’ or ‘immature’ to tell a fifth grader that I was under investigation for something.

“Just waiting,” I said.

“Are you sick?”

I made a show of feeling my own face and forehead, like I was checking for a fever. Nothing too animated, just token effort. “I don’t think so.”

“Why are you in the clinic?”

“Mrs. Brollish needs to talk to me later and the nurse agreed to keep me company while I waited.” All technically correct and nothing implying guilt on my part.

“Okay. Have a good day.”

“You too, Tyler.”

Lather, rinse, and repeat for about half a dozen kids.

A few hours in my stomach started growling loud enough to hear. “Would you like something to eat, Mr. Gibson?”

“No thank you.”

“I don’t mind getting something from the cafeteria for you,” the nurse insisted. “I’ve got a tiny box of chocolates if you’d like a snack.”

“No thank you. I appreciate the thought, however.” That was a lie. Fuck the thought.

Next through the door, carrying a lunch tray was Tracy. “Hey boss. Gossip is you were waiting for a meeting, so I brought you some lunch.” I sat up a little straighter and felt my heart practically jump up and tickle my uvula. I looked at the time. It was already past lunch and Tracy was on her break. That meant it was nap time for the kids…but if Tracy wasn’t watching the room, then…

She must have read my thoughts. “Don’t worry,” she told me. “Beouf is watching the kids. All of them. We’re still working on stuff and following the lesson plan…with a few modifications.”

I was confused. There weren’t supposed to be modifications. The fuck was happening? “What about the substitute?” I asked.

“Got called away for some kind of emergency,” Tracy said. “Beouf volunteered to bring her class into our room and merge for the day.” My Tweener friend leaned in close and added in a whisper, “Good thing, too. She was up to something. Kept looking around the room like she was trying to find something.”

I remembered the diaper poking out of the stranger’s purse. “Or looking to hide something so it can be found later.” Tracy nodded, and crab clapped her fingers together. If it weren’t for the Amazon in the room I might have been able to give her further instructions.

Speaking of which, the nurse cleared her throat. “Shouldn’t you be on break?”

Tracy stood back up and left the tray on a chair beside me. “Yes ma’am. I was just dropping off lunch for Mr. Gibson.”

“I already offered him lunch and he refused. Can he not make up his mind?” Typical. By most any other metric, both Tracy and I should have at least as much if not more clout than this pill dispensing pencil pusher. She wasn’t even a real nurse as far as I knew. Her only real responsibilities were keeping track of meds and calling parents when their kids puked. Legally she couldn’t even give an aspirin. But she was an Amazon…

I raised my hand. “Actually,” I said, “I was waiting for my assistant to bring me lunch.”

Suspicious eyes stared back at us. She was connecting dots and we couldn’t look like we knew about this accusation ahead of time. “Yeah,” Tracy bluffed. “That’s our go-to. Like whenever Mr. Gibson has an I.E.P. meeting that overlaps with his lunch.” It was the best kind of lie: One that was based in confirmed truth. “Byyyyyye!”

Without waiting for Tracy to be completely out the door. I tore into the pre-wrapped peanut butter and jelly sandwich and gulped down the pre-packaged milk. They were straight from the cafeteria line, meant for Amazon students. They were safe.
I saw the nurse staring at me from across her desk. The sandwich was pre cut. I offered up half to her. “Would you like some?”

“No. Thank you.” Honestly, the food sucked. It was cafeteria food meant for kids, but it was in Amazon proportions so it was filling. It quieted my stomach and made me feel a bit more alert, at least.

Just as I finished downing the sandwich and was beginning to feel bloated from the milk, a new element entered into the equation to make me feel sick to my stomach. “Right in here!” an all too familiar voice said.

Raine Forrest entered the room. Behind her, an Amazon man with a gut that hung out well over his belt was wheeling something in on a dolly. It was something like a big glass tube that was almost as big as a Tweener and framed with steel. Near the top end was a latch and a panel with different knobs. The inside of the glass had wired bulbs, like heat lamps at a fast food joint all up and down it. All told, it looked like something of a cross between a bug zapper, a tanning bed, and a cheap air conditioner.

“Right here,” Raine Forrest said. “Right by the socket.”

The guy with the dolly slid the monstrosity off and grabbed a clipboard from off the top. “Sign here, please.”

“Gladly.” I watched as the school receptionist signed for it, and handed the clipboard back. The big man tipped his hat, and turned around, leaving with his dolly.

The nurse asked my question for me. “What in the world is that?”

“It’s an instant body hair remover,” she said. “For people who need a Little help keeping clean.” I felt my lunch threaten to come back up. Even when she wasn’t looking directly at me, I felt Raine’s mental gaze. She was sizing me up. Window shopping. Ready to get herself a new doll.

The nurse got up from her desk and walked up to it. “I’ve never seen one like that, before.” Neither had I.

“It’s old,” Forrest explained. “This one came from the high school. Used for Littles who proved they were too immature to graduate. Haven’t had any in a while, so they weren’t using this.”

“Lots of mature Littles?” the nurse asked.

Forrest laughed at that. “Goodness, no. They’re just not enrolling over there. You know how it is.” We all did. “Mrs. Brollish requisitioned it this morning. Just in case.” My entire body felt a sting of shock at that last comment. The room was filling up with elephants fast and no one was talking about them. I felt like the weight of those elephants might crush my skull then and there.

“How does it work?” the so-called medical expert asked.

Raine looked back to me sitting quietly. “It’s easy,” she said. “I can talk you through it.” Of course Raine Forrest knew how it worked. She likely researched it and recommended it to Brollish.

On the side of the contraption was a panel that Raine opened up. It was hollow on the inside except for a pair of black goggles, a silvery bathing cap and a plastic jar filled with white salve “You just strip down the Little darling,” she said, “and put the cap and goggles on to protect them.”

“Which first?”

Raine smiled; a witch explaining her spell. “Cap first. Then Goggles. This latch on the back makes it so they can’t take it off.” She flipped open the top of the tube. “Then you just plug it in, feed them through the top, close the lid and press this button.” She pointed to a big red circle. “Voila. All adult hair…everything not under the cap or protected by the goggles goes bye bye.”

The nurse grabbed the jar and started looking for a label. “What’s this? Petroleum Jelly? I know how to take a Little’s temperature.” They weren’t barely pretending this wasn’t meant for me. Typical.

“That’s for after,” Raine said. “This is an old model, so the process stings a little bit. This stuff soothes the skin. Helps them get to sleep, too.”

“Sleep?”

“Yeah. The process takes a lot out of them, poor Little things.” Another glance at me. “Don’t worry. The tube is sound proof.” Raine walked over to me and bent over to make eye contact. “Hello, Clark. It’s very nice to see you. I’m super glad you came to school today.”

I said nothing.

She stood back up and picked the lone diaper up off the desk. She held it out from her, like she was farsighted and couldn’t quite make out the multi colored monkeys on the landing zone. I knew what she really was doing. She was sizing me up, putting angling it so that from her view it was between my legs. A tiger sizing up its wounded goat. Damn it all, I prayed she was wrong.

“See you later, Clark.”

She walked out, leaving me alone with the lesser of two Amazons. I sat there in the chair, silently trying to figure out where I went wrong with my life. The nurse finally let me be and pretended to do work on her computer; likely looking up extra instructions on how to use the giant bug zapper torture device I was to be put in.

Typical.

The final bell rang. The students loaded up on the buses and the buses pulled out for the weekend. I didn’t move. The clicking of heels signaled Mrs. Brollish’s approach. I looked up as she entered and stared into the wrinkled hag’s face.

“Mr. Gibson,” she said. “If you’ll follow me, please.” I hopped off the chair and followed along behind her back to her office. No words were spoken. Brollish looked quietly pissed. That was a plus. But if Beouf or some other Union representative wasn’t present - no…just Beouf…only Beouf…

If Beouf wasn’t present, the only words out of my mouth would be ‘Union Representation’.

There were three chairs, pulled up in front of the Principal’s desk. The center one was obviously for me. There was a step stool and everything this time. Sitting in the chair to my right was Mrs. Beouf. To the left, face red and snot dripping from his nose with Janet looming over him was Jeremy; former student and current accuser. No one looked happy.

So this was the trial…

“Mr. Gibson,” Brollish started. “Thank you for being so patient. Are you aware of why I asked you out of your classroom today?”

I said nothing. I just looked over to Beouf and she nodded. “I don’t think you told me, ma’am.”

“One of your former students,” she gestured to sullen looking Jeremy, “wrote an essay accusing you of…” she paused. In a sane world; in a fair world, they could have just said I was accused of wearing diapers and laughed it out of the room. I reminded myself that the world wasn’t fair every morning I woke up for a reason.

“Symptoms of an acute and chronic maturosis flare up,” Beouf said, filling in the silence with more clinical sounding pseudoscience bullshit.

“Yes, that,” Mrs. Brollish agreed. “May I read it to you?” Beouf nodded to me. I nodded back to Brollish. She read the whole damn thing word for word and I did my best to keep a blank face, I had to act as though I didn’t know what she was going to say and was seriously considering the accusations leveled against me. But I couldn’t act as though it had any other effect on me or I might seem guilty. “Is any of this true?” she said when she’d finished reading.

I chewed on the sides of my tongue. Had to choose my next words like each one was a footstep in a minefield. The trap hadn’t snapped yet but I hadn’t gotten the cheese, either. “I’ve never worn diapers during my time here at Oakshire Elementary.” Such a stupid way to phrase it, but anything more absolute would be nitpicked and used to try and justify shoving me in a bug zapper.

“Why would he write that?”

Beouf held her hand out to shut me up before I responded. “That’s not important,” she said.

Janet spoke up. “We did a special lesson today, Mr. Gibson,” she said. “It was about the difference between fiction and lying” She was talking to me, but looking directly at Mrs. Brollish. “About how fiction doesn’t hurt people because it admits that the story isn’t true up front.”

“Yes ma’am…” Jeremy muttered, even though he wasn’t being addressed. He looked at me and his face hardened. Who knew such hate could come off an eight year old.

“I had my class do a special writing prompt to see if they absorbed the lesson. The prompt was to talk about a time when you or someone else you knew lied and what happened because of it.” Janet looked towards me. “May I read some of them to you, Mr. Gibson?”

I dared to hope. “Yes…?”

Janet reached over Jeremy’s head and took a handful of papers from Mrs. Brollish. Brollish looked absolutely disgusted with herself as she released the evidence.

“Lies are when you say things that aren’t true to either hurt people or to help only yourself,” Janet read. “My friend Jeremy was telling me at lunch last week about how he made up a story that Mr. Gibson wore diapers and acted like a Little baby at school. That is a lie though and it could hurt Mr. Gibson and if another adult heard it and believed it Mr. Gibson could get in trouble and end up in the baby Little class with the Little babies and that is not where Mr. Gibson should be. Mr. Gibson is a good teacher and should be teaching the pre-k kids.”

Janet finished and looked at me. “Needs some help on sentence length, but I think it communicates the idea. That one was by Hyacinth. Another former student of yours.”

She shuffled the papers and read another one. “This one is by Mason,” she said. “Fiction is a fun story that teaches a good lesson, like The Wizard of Auz. It teaches you to make friends and go on adventures but that there is no place like home. A lie is like a story, but it teaches a bad lesson and pretends to be real. Like when Jeremy Merriwhether wrote in an essay that Mr. Gibson wore diapers. He was telling us about it on the playground yesterday. If people believe the lie, they’ll think Mr. Gibson is just a baby. Jeremy will believe he can say anything he wants about people he doesn’t like and it doesn’t have to be true. Neither of those are good lessons.”

Janet riffled through a few more papers “And this one-”

“I think we get the point,” Mrs. Brollish said. She adjusted her glasses and looked straight at me. “It was Mrs. Grange-”

“It’s Ms. Grange, actually,” Janet interrupted.

Brollish looked even more annoyed. “It was Ms. Grange who brought the original essay to my attention first thing this morning.” I still don’t know how Brollish did it, but she emitted a silent growl; something I could sense instead of hear. I could almost see the little flaps on her neck vibrating. “It was also Ms. Grange that conveniently discovered this pattern among many of her students’ essays today.”

Janet jumped in. “Due to the serious nature of the allegations, Jeremy, Mrs. Brollish, and I have been talking and we discovered a lot of inconsistencies with his story.” Jeremy sank a little lower in his chair. “A lot of things that just weren’t adding up. Like why neither he, nor his parents, nor any other student or their parents have ever reported such brazen babyish behavior from you and why he waited so long to tell anyone.”

Thank you! Thank you Janet! Someone was finally talking sense in this room! I wanted to hug her right then.

The Principal stood up and walked over the eight year old Amazon. “Jeremy. Your parents are waiting for you up front.” The kid stood up. “But first,” she said. “I think you owe Ms. Grange an apology for lying and putting her in an awkward position.” Yeah, that tracked. Even acquitting me, Brollish was gonna throw shade.

Head bowed, Jeremy muttered out the barest of apology. “I’m sorry, ma’am.”

“Look at me,” Grange commanded. She was using her teacher voice, that tone that only the truest asskickers; rarely recorded and impossible to put into words. Jeremy lifted his head. “You owe Mr. Gibson an apology, too.”

“Do I have to?”

“Yes.” It was Beouf who spoke up. “Because of your story, Mr. Gibson had to wait in the clinic all day and Mrs. Brollish had to pay for a sub.” I caught the twinkle in Mrs. Beouf’s eye.

The kid pivoted and gave more of the same half-assed apology. “I’m sorry Mr. Gibson. I’m sorry Mrs. Brollish.”

Mrs. Brollish reached out and took his hand. “Come along, Jeremy. Your parents are waiting for you out front.”

“Do I have to hold your hand?” the little asshole whined.

“After what you did, be glad that’s all you have to do.” Mrs. Brollish said, sternly. “Your parents may decide that you have to visit the clinic for a few days.” The look of dread in Jeremy’s eyes was palpable and sweet. I hoped his parents wouldn’t give him that most ironic and Amazonian of punishments…but I wasn’t going to shed any tears if they did

The Principal turned around and addressed us. “Ladies and sir,” she said. “I’ll be right back. Please wait for me and we’ll finish this right up.”

Beouf, Janet, myself. The three of us all smiled and flashed thumbs up at each other. I was. Almost done. Almost free. We were grinning like idiots up until the moment the office door reopened and Mrs. Brollish took her seat.

“Just a few more things and we can put this behind us.” It was back to business. “Mrs. Beouf, thank you for stepping up like you did.”

“Happy to do my part,” Mrs. Beouf said. She looked at me and explained. “The substitute that was hired to watch your room switched to watching Ms. Grange’s class after she read the essays and brought Jeremy here. Mrs. Zoge and I merged our class with yours and gave Tracy a hand.”

I wanted to laugh. I wanted to cackle with drunken glee. Not only had Janet rounded up witnesses to my defense, she’d gotten the mole out of my classroom in one masterstroke.

“Yes. About that,” Brollish narrowed her eyes towards Beouf. “Why was that? Why did you empty your class into his room instead of the other way around? Mr. Gibson doesn’t have any developmentally appropriate supplies for your students. No baby toys. No diapers. No bottles.”

Another trap. An attempt to get my friend to implicate me where Brollish had failed. “I felt it would be best if Mr. Gibson’s students remained in a familiar educational environment to minimize disruption in their routine. No reason to uproot them further.” (Translation: “There was no way we were leaving Clark’s room unguarded so you could plant something.) “It was easy enough for them to bring their bottles and a few toys.” (Translation: “Suck hosewater you old bat.”)

“Did you clean up after your students?”

“Of course,” Beouf confirmed. “Mrs. Zoge and her daughter got the last of it packed up before it was time to take the kids to the buses.”

“So there are no baby toys left in Mr. Gibson’s?” Uh oh. I didn’t like where this was going.

“Correct.”

Brollish leaned back in her seat. “What about hygiene? Changes? None of your students are potty trained. Did you bring their diapers over to Mr. Gibson’s room?” Oh crap….

Beouf shook her head nonchalantly. “No ma’am. My classroom isn’t far from Mr. Gibson’s. Mrs. Zoge or myself just took turns walking our Little darlings back to our room if they needed a change.” The hell was Beouf doing? Plausible deniability much? !

“So what you’re telling me,” Brollish said, “as Mr. Gibson’s local Union Representative, is that there are no developmentally inappropriate toys, bottles, or diapers from your room in his?”

No.

“Yes.”

“And that if I went in and inspected his classroom, if I found something, it couldn’t possibly be from your classroom.”

No. No.

“Correct.”

“And therefore, logically, anything remotely immature would have to belong to Mr. Gibson…”

Please Beouf. Please Melony Beouf. Please develop telepathy right now! This is a trap! If you’re my friend, if you’re REALLY my friend, don’t walk me into it! No! No! No!

“I would have to agree.”

Brollish didn’t smile. She didn’t laugh. But something changed in her posture. Something quiet, but dangerous. If the woman had mastered a soundless growl like I thought she had, she’d made an artform out of a subsonic laughter. She didn’t laugh. She didn’t smile. But she did stand up.

“Then out of due diligence,” Mrs. Brollish said. “To completely clear Mr. Gibson of these obviously false allegations, allow me to inspect his classroom.”

Beouf stood up, too. “Yes ma’am,” I said. I had no choice.

On the way out walking to my classroom, Janet shot me a look. ‘What the hell?’ it said. All I could do is shrug. Beouf was walking side by side with Brollish. A dark part of me wondered if this was part of some elaborate triple cross. I immediately even felt guilty about that, but feeling guilty was better than feeling afraid.

Brollish took out her set of master keys and opened the door to my classroom for me. I went inside first. “Well…” I said. My throat felt extremely scratchy and my one word came out as barely a whisper.

“This shouldn’t take long, Mr. Gibson.” Brollish said. “I’ll only be a moment and then we can put this whole thing behind us.” Like everything she did, her tone was calm. Cold. Calculated. There was more going on here.

I felt Janet’s hand squeeze mine back and only then did it register that I was holding her hand to begin with. I looked up just as Beouf kneeled down so she could put her hand on my shoulder.

The Principal went over to the supply cabinets, cabinets that were so high up I couldn’t possibly reach them without assistance. It’s where I had Tracy store arts and crafts supplies, and even she needed a chair to reach them. Even if what Amazons believed about Littles were true, it wouldn’t have made sense for me to hide any baby stuff in something so hard for me to reach. An Amazon, however; a tall stranger with a purse looking for things to plant…

I tried to step back. Time to bolt. Beouf shifted her hand down my back and blocked my path. She pressed a finger to her lips and quietly shushed me.

“Everything seems to be in order here,” Brollish said, shutting the cabinets. “Tracy does a very good job organizing the cabinets for you.”

I stayed silent. Nothing to confirm or deny. No falling into last minute word traps. Next, Brollish went over to my student’s cubbies, looking carefully into each one, moving aside blankets as if she expected to find something.

Because she did expect to find something…

Someone had planted something for her to find and told her where to look.

She’d gone straight from the tall cabinets to my kids’ cubbies and they weren’t anywhere near each other.

Lastly, she went over to my desk. My teacher’s desk. My big thick desk that was too big for me and could have doubled as a small tree-house. She slid open the top drawer and looked inside. All I kept in there were staples and paperclips.

That’s all she found, too.

Quietly, Mrs. Brollish walked back up to us. “Everything seems to be in order. Mrs. Beouf. Ms. Grange. Mr. Gibson. Have a good weekend.”

And she was gone.

I let go of Janet’s hand and looked at my old colleague resentfully. “Mrs. Beouf?! What just happened?”

“Seriously,” Janet echoed my tone. “What the hell?”

Beouf stood up and walked towards the back of my classroom; back towards hers. “Come on. Let me show ya.” Her grin was the very definition of ‘shit-eating’.

As the three of us crossed the short divide between my room and Beoufs, I heard voices singing. “Chō, chō ha ni tomaru.” Was that Mrs. Zoge? “Happa ni akitara sakura to asobu.” And who was singing with her? “Sakura no hana no ue de.” Ivy? “Teishi shite saisei shite saisei shite teishi”

Amazon mother and adopted daughter waited for us; the two of them giggling happily as Ivy bounced on her mommy’s knee; playing some kind of hand game. It would have been sweet if it was an actual mother and child. Mrs. Zoge saw us come in and gently slid Ivy off of her.

“Mommy…” Ivy whined a bit.

Zoge looked down at her Little doll. “Grown-ups are talking, my love.” She handed her a rattle. “Play with this.” Ivy looked at me and waved a bit before going to shake the rattle. “I assume things went well and that we missed nothing,” Zoge said.

“Looks like we got ‘em all,” Beouf said.

“Beouf, I’m not following you,” Janet said.

I pointed to Grange. “Same.”

It was Zoge who replied. “The substitute,” she said. “I’ve never seen her here before.” She spoke slowly and quietly. When others chose their words carefully it sounded forced or sneaky. Now that Zoge was doing it, there was an almost musical quality to her voice. Maybe it was the Yamatoan accent.

“Me neither,” I agreed. “Subs come and go, but she wasn’t what I’d call one of the regulars.”

“New substitutes,” Zoge said, “they get lost. They find things and put them back in the wrong places because they do not know any better.” Her face was straight and plain, a mask of tranquility. Beouf was already starting to crack up and covering her mouth with the palm of her hand.

Ah. So that’s what happened. “And what did this new substitute misplace?” I didn’t put any extra emphasis for sarcasm. There was no need here. Not now. I’d won. We’d won. Me and my friends. Old and new.

The foreign Amazon bent over and picked up an empty bottle. “She put a bottle of my daughter’s apple juice in the tall cabinet.”

Ivy looked up from her rattle. “It was yummy!”

“Also, she misplaced my daughter’s new rattle and put it in one of your students’ cubbies. All the way in the back behind their blankets. Very odd.” Ivy gave it another shake and giggled. I wasn’t entirely certain that she was giggling at the rattle, now.

Now Janet got it and started laughing. Beouf was having to hold herself up by leaning against her desk. I remembered what was sticking out of the intruder’s purse. “And her diaper?” I asked.

“Most peculiar,” Zoge said. “She put it inside your desk. Such an unusual place to put a diaper.”

Ivy lifted up the hem of her dress and gave the front of her diaper a pat. “It’s a big one, Mommy!” It’s true. It fit but it was big on her. The tapes on either side of the diaper almost touched in the middle. Ivy and I were both Littles but I was thicker in the middle than her. If Ivy had been any slimmer the two tapes might have overlapped one another.

Zoge bent over and picked Ivy up. “A mistake on my part. I accidentally bought her a size too large. My Ivy is not yet big enough for these, but it would be a waste and I did not wish for them to go to waste.” She patted Ivy’s padded backside. “A little wet,” she said. “But I think we’ll wait till we get home to change. Just in case.”

(End of Part 1)

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Wait, that was just Part 1? That’s a lot of story and drama already.

This may also be the longest a protagonist has survived in a DD set story without being diapered. There’s constant jeopardy but it’s kept impressively controlled, and although there are hints (the retrospective thoughts) that the protagonist may find himself in trouble it’s not yet certain.

Looking forward to part 2 :slight_smile:

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