Make Me A Real Boy, Make Me A Real Girl
Prose by Martin Law
We see an ordinary room, an ordinary chair, an ordinary woman sitting in the chair. Jane Average. A small boy walks towards the woman, and the woman examines his hands, and the woman just slaps the hell out of him.
She stands and leaves the ordinary room, the small boy scattered behind. She is now in a dressing room: table and mirror, make up kit on the table, garment bags around the walls, wicker baskets filled with clothes. A petite man also in the room, her assistant. She takes off her smart skirt and jacket and the assistant hands her a pair of battered jeans and a large shapeless jumper. She puts on a cheap blonde wig, dark roots showing, and looks in the mirror. Vaguely, but unmistakably, defeated.
She queues at a food bank with her daughter. A number of volunteers wearing food bank t-shirts and standing and walking in that pent-up energy way. Her daughter is nine years old and already has eyes fixed to outer space. At the food bank control station they ask for poverty credentials and she produces the correct papers and then queues at a table for a bag of food.
In the dressing room stripping from the jumper and jeans, the assistant hovering. She pulls on stockings, the assistant holds up a black and shining corset. She looks in the mirror standing straight, head proud and up. The assistant ties the corset, and she ties her hair back and applies dramatic make up, thick black lines driving from the corners of her eyes, bright red lipstick. Cliché from TV and films but it’s the stuff that works, give the people what they want. The assistant helps her step into a harness housing an unfeasibly large black strap-on, and hands her a whip. She flicks the whip and gives the strap-on a neutral glance.
We see a dim room, smell of stale need. A man is strapped to a wooden work bench, naked except for a latex head mask. The woman whips him hard on the cock and the mask winces. Her face is an attempt at blank, a good attempt, but hint of a laugh breaking, because of how frankly ridiculous this is and the places she gets to. The man is enjoying it we assume, but lacks the energy you would expect in an engineered situation like this, the trouble he’s gone to. She slaps him on the face with the strap-on and then forces the strap-on into his mouth.
In the dressing room she wears a smart trouser suit, slightly dishevelled but clearly a class act, dressing for the job she wants not the job she has. The assistant fucks about with her hair, teasing that ‘do to hell.
She is in a car, two kids in the back seat, driving round a roundabout.
Her hair looks great.
The kids are very well behaved in the back seat.
And good for her! She deserves it, bit of pampering.
“Hey that’s some great hair baby!”
She hurries out of the trouser suit, and is now naked except for a functional flesh-coloured bra. The assistant makes a face of, ‘you sure love?’, and rummages through a wicker basket and picks a more alluring bra. They calm her hair down and leave it around her shoulders. She stops at the door, a long pause, face going slack, eyes drooping.
We see an ordinary bedroom, she and an ordinary man fucking, the man behind her. We see him pull her hair rough, and we hear her pliant moan. The change of bra has really done the trick.
The assistant helps her back into the trouser suit, and then teases the hair again. She is annoyed as it’s only sense to have done the next piece before the previous one and they wouldn’t have needed the change. She makes it tricky for the assistant, how she holds her body. The assistant isn’t happy either, would have been delighted if the order was different and didn’t have to work the hair twice like this but the assistant doesn’t choose the order, she knows that full well.
Ordinary room, an ordinary couple fucking. Our woman sits in a chair flicking through a magazine, the couple writhing oblivious.
She and the assistant have made up, how they stand with each other and how much they are both helping with the change. This time it’s an elegant gentleman’s suit - she will be a he. The suit and hair and make up give her the actions of someone who means what they say, and say what they mean, face remote from everything but her own desire. She practices grand gestures in the mirror, and a face to have with the grand gestures, then a face to have during dramatic pauses. She enjoys this, something to really stretch into. The assistant bows and she smiles - they don’t like it when they fight.
EXT. – HE IS ON A BALCONY. HE LOOKS FANTASTIC, IF YOU LIKE THAT KIND OF THING. BALCONY FULL OF POLICEMEN, BODY ARMOUR, SIDE-ARMS, FACES OF GARDEN FURNITURE AND SUPERMARKET CHECK-OUT QUEUE. LARGE CROWD ON A CONCOURSE BELOW, FLAGS AND BANNERS.
Our guy raises his hands and the crowd get a quiet, and he speaks.
… /… /… \ … \ …
It is a fantastic speech, just so good. Hard to top it. What am I saying? He’ll be fine, he’ll rise to whatever the occasion. Anyway, speech is truly great oration, and the crowd get what they wanted.
Quick change back to ordinary woman clothes, back to a she. Allows the clothes to do the work, chooses to ignore a vague feeling of annoyance, decides it’s the come-down from the balcony piece. Her shoulders slump and her back curves. She steps to the door and stops, takes a moment, eyes closed.
She is at a polling station. She gives the person her card and goes into the booth and votes for party ‘A’ and puts the bit of paper in the box.
Small adjustments, jeans instead of trousers, jacket off, hooded sweatshirt, cheap pair of glasses, hair tied up, no lipstick.
She is at a polling station. She gives the person her card and goes into the booth and votes for party ‘B’ and puts the bit of paper in the box.
She changes into a surgeon outfit, white gown, rubber shoes, gloves, mask. Finest best surgeon. The assistant helps her pull on the gloves and fixes the mask onto her face. Looking at notes on the dressing table she sees that this one is, again, a man. The outfit obscures so much, what difference would it make to stay a she? In the mirror she does work with her eyes, the stuff to put there, practising the art.
He is in a laboratory, bright lights, gleaming instruments, a nurse, an operating table. Every laboratory set you have ever seen, why should I knock myself out describing it? A monkey is strapped to the operating table. Surgeon holds up a comically long syringe and does that thing where some of the stuff is squirted out and he flicks at the needle with his fingers. He pushes the needle into the monkey, monkey huge teeth and eyes, monkey trembles and tenses. Monkey shakes violently and then stops shaking, stops everything. He looks at the monkey then looks at a screen showing some kind of information useful to him at this point. “Gone. Note the time nurse.” Then he hums a lilting tune to himself and waits for another monkey.
And was that bit about the monkey ok? Good enough? Good enough is not good enough?
She sees another version, gritty and flickering black and white, as if seeing a playback. She has never watched a performance, never considered it all in any depth, performance, relayed to destinations and ports unknown. Or perhaps now she sees not a performance, not a memory, but some other thing of her mind. She has been working so very hard lately. Regardless, here is the version she sees, because a monkey is just a fuckin monkey. Brutality cut through numb bodies.
Finest Best Surgeon Take 2:
A Real Memory / An Imagined Memory; A Real Broadcast / An Imagined Broadcast
INT. - LABORATORY, BRIGHT LIGHTS, GLEAMING INSTRUMENTS, A NURSE, AN OPERARATING TABLE. EVERY LABORATORY SET YOU HAVE EVER SEEN, WHY KNOCK OURSELVES OUT? A WOMAN IS STRAPPED TO THE OPERATING TABLE. THE WOMAN IS ALIVE, BUT DOES NOT YET SQUIRM AGAINST THE RESTRAINTS.
Finest Best Surgeon holds up pristine and comically long blade and does that thing of checking how sharp it is by plucking a hair from the nurse’s head and slicing it with the blade. Boy is it sharp! Finest Best Surgeon leans over woman on table, woman sees comically long blade, woman tenses hard against restraints. Finest Best Surgeon has look of mother giving medicine to child. Finest Best Surgeon holds comically long blade with pinkie finger extended - like fine, fine china - and slices a 10cm by 5cm rectangle of skin from the woman’s leg. Blood gets everywhere, and is positively a bear to clean. Woman strains and woman screams. And there’s this: the screams sound nothing like screams from women in films, sound more like animals in the J-U-N-G-L-E. Finest Best Surgeon looks at the blood on the comically long, and now not so pristine blade, and feels time passing. Finest Best Surgeon looks at woman.
Finest Best Surgeon
Please, it’s grind enough working in these circumstances without you carrying on. Nurse, some gauze!
Nurse takes a white handkerchief from her chest pocket and hands it to Finest Best Surgeon. It is tied to another handkerchief, red, then another, polka-dot, then another, striped. Finest Best Surgeon pulls the string of handkerchiefs and more colours and patterns appear: greens, blues, yellows, checks, paisley. The nurse is a rock during this, stoicism. Finest Best Surgeon tries to gather up the handkerchiefs but the comically long blade is in the way, and Finest Best Surgeon gets annoyed and plunges it into the table high up between the woman’s legs. The woman screams it up throughout, near the limits of human vocal apparatus. Finest Best Surgeon takes the start of the handkerchief line and stuffs it into the woman’s mouth, the patterns and colours draping woman, table, floor, and then running up to the nurse’s chest. If the nurse was a different type of character altogether she would perhaps see the handkerchiefs on her chest as decorations from a murky, draining, vital war. But she is not that type at all. The nurse is a complex character, and her reaction to the handkerchiefs on her chest is way more interesting than that war thing. The woman on the operating table rattles along, every muscle and vein tight and almost overcome, blood and some kind of gook flowing from the wound on her leg. The screaming is muffled by the handkerchiefs, but in no way has the screaming ended. Finest Best Surgeon throws a glance at the woman.
Finest Best Surgeon
Heavens to Betsy!
Finest Best Surgeon nods a signal to the nurse, and the nurse hands over a comically long syringe. Finest Best Surgeon pushes the needle into the woman, woman shakes violently, colourful handkerchiefs rippling, and then woman stops shaking, stops everything. Finest Best Surgeon looks at the woman then looks at a screen showing some kind of information useful at this point.
Finest Best Surgeon
Gone. Note the time nurse.
Finest Best Surgeon hums ‘My Funny Valentine’, and waits for another monkey.
Out of the surgeon get-up and into a man’s version of the smart suit she wore in scenes earlier, driving around the roundabout for instance. The assistant ties the tie for her. Behind the come-down from respected surgeon to this clearly Joe Average management type, she knows, before it even begins, this next piece could just as easily be performed as she, as could the surgeon bit, and the business on the balcony. She is angry, an anger once righteous, made dull through repetition. Brief eye contact with the assistant, but they don’t speak about it, been together too long. She pauses at the door, thinks of a still irritating petty grievance from childhood.
INT. – JOE AVERAGE MANAGEMENT TYPE IS AT A DESK IN A SMALL OFFICE, A WOMAN SITTING BESIDE HIM TAKING NOTES, ANOTHER MAN SITS ACROSS THE DESK.
Joe Average glances towards the note-taking woman.
Formal warning issued, note date and time please.
He looks at the man across the desk.
This is a good thing you have here, try and adjust your attitude. I hope you do, I truly do. You have potential, could make the management trainee program.
Out of the suit, back to a she, casual clothes. She looks nice. She works on her face in the mirror, still irked by the man/woman thing. The assistant smiles at her, “life is high school until you die doll-face.” She smiles back. She knows it will be alright just… She stops at the door and closes her eyes.
Walking to a café to meet a friend, a drunk man careering around the pavement some distance ahead. She slows down in order to prevent an interaction but he’s moving so inefficiently she catches up. He stumbles and falls, hits the pavement hard. She steps around him and is in the café with the friend and they are drinking coffee and laughing, old times probably. She makes an oblique reference to the friend having helped her through some crisis and lightly touches the friend’s arm when she makes the oblique reference. She wants to take her time.
Out of the ordinary clothes and into young clothes. Sometimes thinks she looks ridiculous like this but the assistant doesn’t think so, and we don’t either.
Shopping in a well-known high street chain, the unfulfilled eroticism of the big sale.
Reasonably happy as the change isn’t huge, decent sequencing at last. She keeps the hair and makeup but the clothes are changed for a school uniform. Looking in the mirror she remembers the ordinary room from earlier, and slapping the small boy. She remembers the animal thrill of striking someone you know cannot hurt you. She rarely thinks about the things done. Perhaps, now, she is ashamed. Or perhaps, now, she thinks it was necessary.
We see a classroom. She is a school girl in the classroom.
The assistant puts out a cigarette as she comes in and buzzes the smoke away with an electric hand fan. He helps her out of the school uniform and into a sedate trouser and shirt combo. They have a go at a jaunty neck scarf but who are we kidding? And both their self-esteems take a plummet.
She is a school teacher, a different classroom, perhaps a different school. It doesn’t matter particularly. She tells a boy to sit up in his chair. She suspects many of these kids are on the spectrum.
Jeans. T shirt. Trainers. No makeup. Hair doing what it wants. Small bits of work in the mirror. The assistant sits cross-legged and examines his nails.
Lots of people are lying down in the street and she is one of the people. Police surround them, less refined than the police from the balcony piece, their desire apparent through the body armour and shields and helmets and early morning shaves. The people shout slogans and do choreographed dance moves with their legs and arms, and stay lying down.
And then it is one o’clock and time for lunch, and she has lunch with the assistant, and they make small talk.
About the Writer
Martin Law: I have been writing fiction for 10 years and my work has been broadcast on Radio Scotland and published in various journals including Red Fez, Drey, Elimae and Adirondack Review. I am a teacher by profession, working with teenagrs with various barriers to learning. And very enjoyable it is too! I also play records at a number of club nights in Glasgow.
Issue 3 / 12
- Aug 17, 2017 A Nasty Woman's Survival Guide Aug 17, 2017
- Aug 5, 2017 Summer Art Exhibition: Adele Juraža Aug 5, 2017
- Aug 4, 2017 Make Me A Real Boy, Make Me A Real Girl Aug 4, 2017
- Aug 3, 2017 Without Poets: Marilyn Schotland Aug 3, 2017
- Aug 2, 2017 May Cause Drowsiness Aug 2, 2017
- Aug 1, 2017 Aura Aug 1, 2017
- Jul 31, 2017 The Curtains Twitch Jul 31, 2017
- Jul 29, 2017 Without Poets: Mel Reeve Jul 29, 2017
- Jul 28, 2017 Nature Colours Earth, Virtual Mystery Tour Jul 28, 2017
- Jul 27, 2017 The After Jul 27, 2017
- Jul 26, 2017 Equal Lights Jul 26, 2017
- Jul 25, 2017 Without Poets: Megan Wallace Jul 25, 2017
- Jul 24, 2017 The Naked vs. The Nude Jul 24, 2017