Whatever it takes – a short story

raymondMy friend Professor Stuart Campbell asked me to comment on this short story he has written. I regret to say that I think the story is in dubious taste, but as I often say, chacun à sa saucisse. Raymond Saucisson*, editor, Charcuterie Monthly

Whatever it takes by Stuart Campbell

When he angled one shoulder forward and narrowed his eyes, the figure in the mirror looked almost feminine. Dr Kim Pope experimented with several poses until he had the optimum configuration: Head turned slightly to the right and tilted a little downward; knees together and turned to the left; one arm resting on his lap, the other supporting the chin with the index finger placed against the side of the face. He repeated Peter’s mantra: I am relaxed but resolute. He fine tuned the facial expression: Less macho, Peter had said, widen the eyelids a fraction, sweeten the smile.

“The big moment’s almost here, Kim. Are you ready?” It was Peter. He hung a DO NOT DISTURB sign on the outside of the dressing room door and then pulled it shut.

“What about Millie?” Kim asked. He’d suggested – no, insisted – that she be with him today to take him through some of the tricky questions.

“She’ll give us a special knock on the door,” Peter said. “Let’s start with the unmentionables. Just pop behind the screen.”

“No need Pete. We’ve known each other long enough,” Kim said. He kicked off his shoes and socks, unknotted the tie, peeled off the business shirt and dropped his suit pants. He stepped out of his jocks.

“They’re on the dressing table Kim. Help yourself.”

Kim had kept his body depilated for the last few week, and the sheer material of the panties glided over his calves and thighs. The garment barely contained his wedding tackle, but the full skirt that Peter had chosen would mask the bulge. He hooked the padded bra at the front, then twisted it around his trunk so that the two little mounds perked up from his chest. He was lightly built, fair complexioned, a youthful fifty year old.

“Give us a twirl Kim.”

“Don’t take the piss Pete. We’re professionals. Let me get the pantihose on.”

Peter Donaldson, Oscar nominee for Best Makeup, waited while his friend smoothed the stockings, then handed him a silk wrap. They’d been pals at school, and later Kim had married Peter’s sister Chrissie. Kim sat in the salon chair and Peter started to apply foundation. Chrissie had tried making him up but despite his sandy hair she hadn’t worked out how to hide his shave. But she’d figured out the trick with the hair: They’d let it grow out gradually and swept it into a thicker version of his normal masculine quiff, reducing the bulk with wax. Chrissie had shaped and sculpted it so that once the wax was washed out, the hair could be whipped into a gamine bob with a feathery fringe dipping over the forehead.

But she’d taken some convincing when he’d put the whole idea to her six months before. “You want to become a woman?” she asked. “I’ve heard some mad ideas from you over the years, but a sex change? Can we be serious now?”

“I have to become a woman. I’ve always thought that I was a woman inside.” They sat up till the early hours while he told his story. At last she nodded and said, “Yes, yes. I’m with you Kim.” She was always with him. They’d told their teenaged children the next evening. Zachary listened and muttered, “Whatever,” while Pixie stared at them, from one to the other, and said, “I can’t say I’m surprised.” Well, Pixie was right; the family had had to cope with a good many U-turns during Kim’s career.

There was a coded knock and Peter let in Millie Ransom, biographer to billionaire grocers, divas, and celebrity criminals. They’d had six or seven meetings, Millie gently probing Kim’s memories, taking notes, nodding impassively. It was during the third meeting that he’d broached the issue of his transgender ‘journey’. He liked that word ‘journey’; it chimed with the dynamism and advancement that defined his career. Millie hadn’t blinked – just made notes. She never lost her cool demeanour, even that time when he’d contrived to squeeze her bottom as he ushered her out through the office door.

“How long till the press conference, Dr Pope?”

“We’ve got five minutes Millie. You’re going to witness history today.”

“I’ve got your questions,” Millie said as Kim rose from the chair, face meticulously made up. Peter unwound the wrap from his brother in law’s shoulders and unclipped a blouse and skirt from a clothes rack.

“Dr Pope, of all the factors that have brought you to this point, what stands out in your mind – at this very moment – as the one driving motivation for your decision to become a woman?” Millie looked down at her notebook as Kim stepped into the black skirt.

“Well Millie, my father taught me a vital lesson in life. He told me, ‘Be yourself, be authentic. If you’re a phoney, people will catch you out.’ And that lesson has served me well. I am being myself. I am projecting myself as the woman I’ve always known I am”.

“Cynics might say that your journey, as you call it, has more to do with expediency, even survival.”

“Millie, I’ve heard this opinion in the media. I think it’s a tragic indictment on the values of this country when a person – especially a person in public life – is exposed to ridicule or insult because of his or her sexuality.”

“Dr Pope, is your wife Chrissie apprehensive about the journey ahead?”

“Well, this is a very personal matter, but let me just say that my wife will face the challenges ahead with the courage she has shown throughout my career.”

“And is surgery on the near horizon?”

“That’s a hypothetical at this stage Millie, but it’s a matter that I will consider in full consultation with my wife.”

“Dr Pope, since the redrawing of your electoral boundary you are sitting on the slimmest of margins, and your constituents now include the highest proportion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender voters of any electorate in the country. Some people might ask to what extent your change of gender will increase your chances of retaining your seat?”

There was a knock on the door. A voice said, “One minute Prime Minister.” Kim put on the blouse and Peter buttoned it up. He squeezed his feet into the size 11 high heeled shoes that Chrissie had found at a special online store and strode out to meet the press.

©Stuart Campbell 2015

* Raymond Saucisson was kind enough to write the introduction to my anthology of essays On Becoming a Butcher in Paris.

Buy Stuart Campbell’s novels in paperback and ebook on Amazon by clicking on these title links: An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity The Play’s the Thing

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