“We’d love to have a little girl,” Timmy’s Mommy said to the nice couple from across the street who’d come to dinner. The visitors sat with Timmy’s parents around the dining room table eating the delicious-smelling food that Nan, the housekeeper, and Mommy and Daddy had prepared.
Nan had set out the best dishes. Porcelain, she called them. They looked so fragile that Timmy and his little brother Tommy were not even allowed to touch them. She had also set out Timmy’s favorite wine glasses. These were made of real glass that made lovely tinkling noises when tapped with a spoon or on the edge of a plate. Usually Mommy and Daddy drank wine out of plastic glasses that made no pleasant noises and didn’t break.
“A good wine is a special treat for us,” Daddy said. “We cracked this cabernet just to share it with you guys.” Everyone around the table laughed.
“Actually wine at all should be a special treat for us,” Mommy said. “We’re both pre-diabetic.”
The plastic wine glasses were just like Timmy’s sippy cup and Tommy’s baby bottle. He and his brother drank juice and milk and formula out of those because they didn’t break either. The two of them sat at the kitchen table while Nan fed them simplified or, in Tommy’s case, mashed up versions of the grownup’s food.
“I’ve switched to stainless steel sippy cups and chinaware dishes for the kids,” the neighbor lady said. She had fiery red hair that Mommy said came out of a bottle. “I’ve read that the plastic leaches BPA into their food and drink?”
“Oh, we’ve bought the ones that are guaranteed BPA free,” Mommy said. “We rely on the EPA to protect us with good information.”
“Shouldn’t have to,” the neighbor man grumbled. Daddy said he had a prostate big enough to drag ashore with a harpoon. “The chemical companies shouldn’t be doing anything to harm us. That’s illegal.” He looked around the table and everyone nodded.
Timmy watched Nan give Tommy his bottle, completely unaware of the cancer growing in his little brother’s blood. He drank out of his sippy cup and dreamed of becoming the little girl his Mommy wanted.
Alexa lay there in the hospital bed, her meager frame dwarfed by it. “I’d made my decision long ago, Mom. I was just waiting to turn eighteen so my word would be final.”
“But why? You could have been one of the New Women, the active ones, the creative ones. And you’ve given up the chance to have children.”
“Gestation and birth, only those aspects, Mom. Gestation and birth. I’ve given up helplessness with them, Mom. That’s what I’ve given up.”
“But you’re not even opting for the genital change.”
“Not yet. Probably later.”
“I don’t understand. What’s it all mean without the cock and the balls.” Her mother was desperate; the graphic words told Alexa that. “You’re just a spayed woman, titless.”
“I’m the illusion of a man. That’s all that counts. That’s all a lot of men have anyway and it’s enough. It’s all that’s needed to give them power.”
Her mother flipped her silver-blond hair back off her shoulder in a girlish fashion, a risible gesture in a fifty-year old matron, but habitual. “You don’t think I’ve got power,” she said. “I’ve still got it.”
“Your beautiful breasts are dragging, Mom. What will you have when they hit bottom?”
Her mother’s shoulders sagged protectively around her chest.
The sight saddened Alexa. “I’m sorry, Mom. I know how much you wanted a girl after two boys – how much you enjoyed dressing me up in pink and teaching me to wear makeup.”
Her mother looked horrified. “You’ll date girls, won’t you? You’ll be like one of those dikes, all tough and short hair and no makeup.
“I’ll still be dating boys. That won’t change. I’ll just be doing it as an equal – someone they can’t knock to the ground and rape.”
“I just don’t get it.” Her mother said sadly.
“I want to own the ground I walk on,” Alexa said. “Only men have that. If my gender defines me, then I want to be yang. Maybe I won’t like guns or sleeping with women but I will be the decision-maker. I will be the actor in my life and not the acted-upon.”
Her mother passed sadly out of the room.
Alexa looked at her new image in the mirror.
“Arise, Alex,” he said, “or be forever fallen.”
I feel,” said Troll to the Dragon King, “that your blood will blossom within me at any moment. And then I will be strong.”
“That may be so,” he replied dismissively, “But such thought is nothing more than an epiphenomenon.”
“What’s that?” Troll asked. “Don’t try to put me off with big words. It’s not the number of syllables that count but the meaning.”
“Quite so, young lady. It means a by-product – can’t be verified, no causal relation to material reality.”
“So what. If I perceive it as real and choose to act as though it is, it will be,” Troll said with a bravura she did not feel until the words escaped her lips.
Dragon raised one of his fiery eyebrows and stared at Troll. An eldritch light gleamed in his eyes. “You may be my daughter after all,” he said in a rich nurturing tone. A dozen teats developed along his flanks. “But you see, I myself am a logical positivist and a complete reductionist when it comes to behavior. Consciousness, to my mind, does not occur in either animal or human. It is unscientific to even posit its existence.”
“What is it saying?”
“Never refer to me as an ‘it’.” Voice deepening in pitch, the Dragon roared, “I am as much as he or a she as you are, whichever I choose to be at any given moment.”
The teats along her flanks disappeared. The mound of Venus under the tail bulged and a huge penis developed. Fire roared from his lips, “I can destroy you all in an instant.”
Troll wailed. “Father, don’t you recognize me?” She wondered how this huge male could have mated with her mother.
“Don’t call me Father!” the Dragon Lord boomed. “I could never be the progenitor of such a worm as you.”
“How could you be the.. the progenitor of anybody?”
“Actually, I couldn’t,” the Dragon Lord said in a much quieter voice.
Troll thought she saw a deepening of color in his snout.
“In truth, I am as sterile as any tautology.”
“I am,” said a voice from behind a curtain.
“A pervert who is not allowed before my throne.”
“Pervert. I like the sound of that. What’s its perversion?”
“I’m not an ‘it’”.
“What are you then?” roared the Dragon Lord, sounding like Troll’s mother despite the penis and balls. “You refuse to choose sides.”
But you’re hermaphrodites.”
“Exactly. But we choose a sex and then we stick with it. This .. this pervert ‘goes with the flow’ and takes whatever sex best fits with its partner.”
“But you just changed sex right in front of us.”
“Different. Vastly different. My choice entirely. And I’ll stick with it for as long as I choose.”
“There’s some hair-splittin’ goin’ on here.”
“And it never goes completely in either direction. Always leaves a little of the other.”
“Sound’s a little like the YIN/YANG symbol.”
“Close,” said the voice.
“Yin, yang, spin, spang. You have to choose sides.”
“That’s the way it’s done.”
“I do,” roared the Dragon Lord.
“When you’re the Lord, you make all the rules. When you’re the Lady, you find all sorts of ways to weasel around them.”
The color was definitely deepening in the Dragon’s snout.
“He sounds so different,” Troll said. “When he changes. It’s not just the pitch of his voice. It’s the tone.”
“In the male form,” said the voice, “He tends to speak in the jussive or hortatory, in the female form, in the optative.”
“In English, please.”
“He orders. She wishes.”
“Decisions had been made to send changelings into the Outside Lands,” said the Dragon Lord. “They were sent.”
“What form was that speaking?”
“The formless form. That was the government speaking. It has neither sex nor tone. It is totally passive and has complete deniability of everything.”
Troll chuckled. “So politicians sound the same in Fairyland as in the Outside Lands.”