Nanowrimo is a compelling challenge to write 50,000 words during November: that’s an average of 1667 words per day. My plan is to write a set of 30 short stories each 1667 words long instead. Each story come from a prompt, a lot from fellow bloggers.
The Miss-tery Pizzle
Living in Cheam had few compensations for Millicent Dongle. Her life was a trial and a tragedy. Her younger sister had a glamorous job with the secret services comparing unfavourably with deputy librarian (admin). She lived above a dentist whose patients seemed inclined to scream a lot. She had no real friends: London was too far and a deputy librarian’s pay curtailed any social life – there being none to mention in Cheam. And the tragedy? Millicent had, at last, admitted to herself an unpalatable truth: she wanted to be a man.
There were problems with this. Being a man called Millicent was a significant drawback. And she lacked the usual male accoutrements, as she thought of masculine genitalia having what she saw as a void. That was the tragedy; that and two otherwise well-formed breasts and a feminine countenance.
This being the 1970s, Millicent knew she wasn’t alone and that there were ‘things’ that could be done. Only they couldn’t really be done in the stultifying atmosphere of contemporary Cheam. If a town had a personality, Cheam’s was that of a maiden aunt, jilted at seventeen and never over it. A victim, sour and determined to ensure everyone else shared her pain.
Millicent knew this caricature a touch unfair because overall the good citizens were nice enough. They returned their books on time, paid any fines without rancour if not with good grace and rarely masturbated between the pages.
While Millicent was resigned to living her tragedy, she had also decided to try something. She had a plan. If Danny La Rue could cross dress then so could she. Taking her cue from her new colleague – a recent graduate called Stella who had intimidating eyebrows that regularly formed an angry ‘v’ and a penchant for cheroots – she was going shopping in Surbiton, in the hope of not bumping into anyone she knew.
The Dickinson Store was on its last legs, catering for a customer that was going the way of the Dodo and the girdle. Millicent pushed open the doors and breathed in 1947. A harridan with furious hornrims and a perm set at stun marched across. ‘Yes, miss?’
Millicent had practised on the bus but still the words jammed.
‘Women’s wear, first floor.’
‘No, er, men’s?’
She’d said it. Now all that was needed was the floor to open and for her to sink into primordial ooze and then her day would be complete.
Instead the woman morphed into a simpering teenager, albeit one dressed in a style best described as Aggressive Tweed. ‘Boyfriend? Husband? A little gifty?’
It was the ‘gifty’ that did it. Something snapped, some realisation that Millicent was not Mouse but Magnificent. ‘For me.’
She’d said it and the expected thunderbolt failed to arrive.
‘You?’ The ferocious countenance had returned and with it Millicent’s confidence suppurated away in a miasma of sweat and shame.
‘It’s for fancy dress. I need to be a man.’
Maybe something in the pathetic collapse that had occurred in front of her released some sliver of a maternal instinct in the dragoness. ‘But miss will never pass for a man.’
We will never know what the shop assistant thought. Clearly on any objective analysis of the situation this was intended as a compliment. But if she had wanted to aim a kick at Millicent’s much longed for balls, her target was hit with a chilling accuracy. Millicent burst into tears and ran out of the shop.
And into Stella. ‘Millie? You didn’t say you were coming shopping. What are you doing in there? Yuk. Grim. Hey, what’s with the tears?’ Stella looked through the glass doors and saw the gargoyle staring back. ‘Have they been snooty? Ha! Come on. We’ll show them.’
‘Noooo.’ Millicent tried to say she wanted to get away but a combination of snot and saliva prevented meaningful coherence. She was pulled back to confront her latest horror.
‘You seem to have upset my friend. I don’t know what you aid but I think you owe her an apology.’
‘I’m… I… Sorry.’
‘Good. I think you should apply the staff discount to whatever my friend buys, don’t you? I work for the Surbiton Bugle. I’d hate to have to write a review of the appalling standards of service that Dickinson’s staff show these days.’
The woman glared. Stella glared and the university education won. How the world was changing. ‘Yes, miss. I will make sure.’
‘Good. Ok Millie where were you headed? Fashion? Perfume? Make up? Shoes?’
‘Er,’ the now downtrodden assistant coughed. ‘Men’s wear.’
Stella pulled a face and turned to look at Millicent. Behind her the assistant was saying something about ‘fancy dress’ and ‘miss being so feminine’ but Stella was sharing some indefinable moment with Millicent. In a soft voice she said, ‘Millie? You sure?’
Somehow, despite years of denial, of heavy weights hanging from her shoulders Millicent managed a small nod, a nod that stopped the world spinning and started it turning in the opposite direction.
Stella nodded. ‘Great. Men’s wear, here we come.’
Stella took charge. She insisted to the staff member assigned to their needs they were both to be dressed as men. For Stella, androgynous and athletic this was easy. But Millicent’s curves and soft femininity meant the challenge was greater. Still, after an hour of agonising, they both had matching jeans and checked shirts. The sales person sighed. ‘Shall I pack them together or separately?’
Stella kept her eyes on the assistant. ‘No we’ll wear them now. Just give us a bag for our other clothes.’
Millicent boggled. She couldn’t. This was for her small living room, not the very public pavements of Surbiton. But Stella was clearly determined and some of her devil-may-care-ness began to rub off. They climbed into their new gear and, giggling like the young women they were, they collected their bags, paid, with discount and headed for the streets.
Outside Stella slipped her hand through Millicent’s arm. ‘Pub. Let’s road test this stuff.’
The word ‘pub’ which she associated with intimidating leers and her father’s anger caused her stomach to liquefy and the urgent need to pee nearly overwhelmed her. She confessed as much to Stella. ‘
‘Even more reason to go to the pub.’
The Coach and Compass was an old fashioned town public house with smoky windows, a sepia tint to the décor caused by 100 years of Woodbines and an almost exclusively male clientele which, on this Saturday afternoon was escaping from ‘women folk’ out shopping.
Stella ushered her to the toilets. ‘Go on, use the gents’ and turned to buy them a drink. The idea that she would pass some man at a urinal was so far outside Millicent’s purview that she didn’t hesitate but pushed open the door to the ladies. A barmaid stood at the mirror applying lipstick. She eyed Millicent in the reflection. ‘Bloody hell, girl. You’ll kill the old sods out there in that get up.’ She left, laughing.
Millicent wasn’t entirely sure that she understood what the women meant though a gnawing fear passed through her as she washed her hands and tightened the bun which she pushed under her cap.
As she entered the bar all male eyes trained on her. She focused on Stella with her back to the bar and walked as confidently as she could. The silence was broken by a low and rather poorly executed wolf whistle. It was at that moment Millicent realised that rather than transform herself into a man she had created a male fantasy and made herself even more attractive – as a woman. Stella’s expression gave nothing away. On the bar sat two halves of bitter, a drink Millicent detested but which she knew, if she was ever to become a man, she would have to learn to drink with some semblance of enjoyment. She picked it up and sipped it. Stella faced her and did likewise. The barman, who had been standing to one side moved so he stood between the two facing women. He leant forward. ‘Don’t often get lesbians here. You on the pull?’
Stella held Millicent’s gaze and without blinking threw the remains of her drink in the barman’s face. Half a beat later Millicent did the same. They quickly picked up their things and headed for the doors. The barman’s curses followed as well as ‘You’re banned.’ Millicent felt mortified. She’d never done anything so outrageous. Then she realised the other noises she could hear were – cheers. She looked up. The man by the door held it open and said to Stella as she passed. ‘Good on you kid. He deserved that. Prick.’ As Millicent drew alongside, he smiled at her. ‘You want a date, doll?’
Outside Stella burst into laughter and Millicent joined in albeit a bit wearily. ‘Come on. We need to talk.’
As they headed for a coffee bar Millicent said, ‘Are you? You know. One of those?’
‘Lezzo? Yep, that’s me. Not exactly popular but, hey, it’s the way your made, isn’t it? You?’
‘Me? No. No, not at all. At least, I don’t think so.’
‘Just like dressing up as a boy, huh? We had a couple of girls at uni like that. They’d scare the pants off most blokes.’
Millicent studied the narrow shoulders and short hair of her newly found friend. The sophistication and education of this women were beyond Millicent’s understanding but here, in this moment, she recognised she had an opportunity to be true to herself. She pulled Stella back. ‘I want to be a man.’
Was there a pause, a look of doubt in Stella’s eyes? Before Millicent could wonder, Stella hugged her. She said, ‘Big step that. I’m guessing you’ve thought about this?’
Millicent laughed. ‘For 22 years.’
‘You’ve not talked to anyone? Psychologist? Doctor?’
‘God no. You’re the first.’
Another hug. ‘I’m honoured to be trusted. I’m glad we met, Millie. I have a feeling we’re going to be good for each other.’