PETRA

Name: Karen Ewen

Name Of Main Character You Want And Gender: Transgender Pete. He's a boy of 5 years

Genre: Pete desperately wants to play Mary in the school nativity play. He's heard of transgenderfication and thinks it will mean he gets to be Jesus's mum. It doesn't.

Character Description: Pete has webbed toes. He can't understand why this doesn't make him a better swimmer.

Special Info: Pete has a white belt in Karate. He is being taught by his uncle Mr Miyagi, from the original Karate kid. Mr Miyagi has become bitter in his old age, no longer caring for the predicament of children. it may have been Mr Miyagi's idea that Pete should have gender reassignment surgery.

 

Here's your story Karen. If you don't like it you only have yourself to blame for adding these ridiculous requirements...

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Pete queued in the packed assembly hall with the other five year olds. It was a sea of green blazers and ties. A banner with ‘The Rosary School Nativity Play 2015’ written on it hung above the door. Teachers sat at desks marked for particular parts, while boys queued to be shepherds, wise men, and Joseph. Pete wasn’t in any of those queues. He was at the back of a queue full of girls. He wanted to be Mary.

Pete took a comb from his inside pocket and tidied his side parting. This was his moment. Angry Jenny Finton registered to audition, took her script, and moved on.

Pete stepped forward, a beaming smile stretched across his freckled face. “I’m confused. I’m not married. How can I have a baby?” he said. He stood straight, imagining the teachers would call off the process and instantly choose him as their Mary.

“You’re in the wrong queue,” Mr. Fizman said, unmoved. “The parts for boys are over there.” He pointed to the other side of the hall.

“But I want to play Mary,” Pete said.

Some of the girls practicing their lines chuckled.

Mr. Fizman stood and looked down at Pete. Pete noticed that Mr. Fizman always liked to stand when he made a point, to be even taller than the tiny five year olds. Mr. Fizman had mostly brown hair, but grey ones hid among them. He was a cruel tyrant of a head teacher. One winter, when the children were being loud, he locked all their coats in the cupboard, opened all the windows, and then sat in front of the classroom door and watched them all get cold. 

The children could always tell when he was coming because he didn’t walk, he stomped. It was like he wanted his footsteps to announce his arrival so the children would be quiet before he got there. 

His beard moved with his frown. “Stop being weird. Mary is a girl’s part.”

Pete’s heart sank. He’d dreamed of playing Mary all year. He’d act in his room after school, using his teddy bears and dolls as the other cast members.

Mr. Fizman addressed the room. “Auditions are this Sunday, so make sure you learn your parts. If you make a mistake, you’ll be playing a prop.”

Pete pulled on Mr. Fizman’s trousers. “But I know all of Mary’s lines.”

Mr. Fizman huffed. Pete smiled, hoping he’d reconsider.

“Everyone listen!”

The room fell silent.

“We have a little boy here who doesn’t seem to know what being a little boy means.” He smirked at Pete.

Teachers looked on, concerned. Ms. Coyle stepped forward but Mr. Lambut put his arm across her chest to stop her. He knew it wouldn’t end well. 

“Little Pete Ralph wants to play Mary, a girl!” He laughed, as did other children. Pete's bottom lip quivered while the laughter continued. 

Mr. Fizman leant in. “You see that reaction? You think I want a room full of people watching the play to react the same way? My production, my rules. Now get out of my sight!”

“Ok everyone, see you on Sunday,” Ms. Coyle said, hoping the noise of people leaving would diffuse the tension. 

Mr. Fizman sat down and finished his admin, refusing to look at Pete’s sad face. 

Pete stared at him. He wanted to call Mr. Fizman a bum head, but his mum said five year olds don’t call people bum heads after Pete had called the neighbour’s son a bum head and made him cry.  

“You can sulk all you like. Won’t change a thing.” Mr. Fizman took a sip of his coffee from his personal cup. It had a picture of the outside of the school on it.  ‘The Pride Of Truro And Cornwall’ was written on it.

Mum never said anything about five year olds breaking things.

Pete snatched the cup and smashed it off the floor…

 

“What were you thinking, Petey?” his dad said. He heaved more chips and battered sausages into his flabby, lazy face. This is all Pete ever saw him do - eat or watch football. Sometimes he did the two together but the effort made his breathing really slow. Pete would watch his belly rise and fall, finding it more interesting than the matches. 

Pete’s mum leaned over the sink, wiping a tomato stain off her nurse’s uniform. “Five year olds don’t smash other people’s cups, ok?”

“Five year olds don’t smash other people’s cups,” Pete repeated apologetic.

Pete stared into his pea and tomato soup, imagining it was lava in a volcano, and that Mr. Fizman was the pea being carried by a large pigeon that was the fork. He dropped pea Fizman into it the soup where he imagined he was eaten by a hippo made of fire.

“Don’t ignore me, Petey,” dad said.

Pete wasn’t ignoring him. He just didn’t know what to say.

“Right, you’re punished. No dessert for a week.”

Pete let out a disapproving, pathetic, squeaky noise.

“James!” Pete’s mum snapped. “That’s not going to solve anything.”

“It’ll stop him playing up, Bec.”

“You mean it’ll stop him doing things he likes that you think are weird.”

“No… It’s just…” James sighed.

“You’re already forcing him to do karate. Let him be himself.”

James looked at Pete. He’d always wanted a son to do father son things with, but Pete didn’t like any of his hobbies. James hadn’t been that interested in making Pete do things when he was always working, but since he got made redundant he was around more. Now his work seemed to be making Pete the son he wanted him to be.

“Tell you what. You two need to spend some time together outside of here.” She dried the stain on her top and looked at James. “Instead of me, you’ll be taking Pete swimming tomorrow.”

Pete wished he was in the bowl of lava soup.

 

Pete planted his feet on the freshly mowed grass and angrily punched the air for the fifteenth time.

“Push off back leg. Drop leg in. Push fist through,” Mr. Miyagi said as he watched Pete’s poor form. “Again.”

Pete tightened his white belt and struggled through the technique once more.

“If you not do properly, what point?” Mr. Miyagi said. Pete found it odd that Mr. Miyagi was so old yet the same size as him. He was basically a shrivelled five year old. 

“I was watching Pointless. You think I want to waste time with small man?”

“Sorry sensei,” Pete said.

Mr. Miyagi let out a disapproving grunt.

“Sorry. Uncle Miyagi.” Mr. Miyagi wasn’t really his uncle, but he was such a close family friend he’d been honoured with the title. It turned out he was sick of people pestering him about his glory days in The Karate Kid, so he faked his death and moved to Truro. He’d dyed his facial hair ginger and wore a fat suit so nobody would recognise him. However, Pete’s mum did when he was brought to the hospital having passed out from being too hot under the suit. James made a deal that he wouldn’t reveal Mr. Miyagi’s identity if he taught Pete karate. 

“You need to calm.”

“Make me a black belt so I can chop Mr. Fizman's face off.”

Mr. Miyagi huffed. “You not ready. Go home.”

Pete stared at Mr. Miyagi. “But…”

“I no time for child problems. Go talk to daddy.” He shooed him away with the back of his hand. He watched Pete drag his feet to the garden gate.

Pete stopped and looked back.

“Don’t give me guilt eye,” Mr. Miyagi said.

“Dad doesn’t understand me. Please.”

Mr. Miyagi sighed. He realised it would play on his mind if he didn’t help. He didn’t want to be preoccupied while watching TV later, so he gestured for Pete to sit on the swinging sofa.

Pete sat and they swung.

“Let the motion calm you, and tell uncle Miyagi problem.”

“I want to play Mary in the school nativity but the teacher said it’s for girls, and dad thinks I'm weird.”

“You not weird, Pete san. Weird is not being self. The more you block real self, the more you far away from you. To be happy, embrace real Pete.”

“I don't understand,” Pete replied, saddened by his lack of understanding.

“I give examples. You know Kanye West?”

“No...”

“He asshole, but he want to be asshole, so he commit. Now is biggest asshole in world, but happy. Bruce Jenner?”

Pete shook his head.

“He want to be woman, so he commit, and become Caitlyn Jenner, now she happy.”

Pete smiled. He didn’t even know men could become women. He understood Mr. Miyagi’s lesson.

“And you uncle Miyagi, did you always want to be a karate teacher?”

“No. I wanted to be in heavy metal band, not teach stupid children karate.”

“I love you uncle Miyagi,” Pete said.

Mr. Miyagi nodded. He shifted on the swinging sofa, uncomfortable.

 

Pete's hands cut through the water while his legs kicked as he front crawled towards James' outstretched arms. He’d never seen an adult man wear a t-shirt in the pool. Pete reached out and touched James' hand.

“Three minutes,” James said.

Pete smacked the water with his hand. “My friend Clare said webbed toes are supposed to make me faster.”

“It’s those weedy little arms, champ,” James said. “We’ll get you down the gym when you’re old enough.”

Pete didn't want that. 

“You know, Petey. Why don’t you just audition for Joseph or one of the wise men?”

Pete looked at his feet through the rippling water.

“I only say it because it would be a shame to not be part of the nativity at all. You'd regret missing out, mate.”

Pete looked at James and nodded. “Ok daddy. I’ll be a wise man.”

“Good boy. Show them your acting chops then get famous… like that Daniel Craig.”

Pete blew bubbles in the water. 

James looked around the pool. “What do you think of her?” He pointed to a five-year-old girl fighting with another boy to get on a float. “Actually no, she looks like she’s going out with that fella.”

James pointed Pete towards another girl, just floating. “What about her? She’s really pretty.”

Pete thought he might as well play along. “She has very nice hair.”

“It must get your little blood boiling to see all these cuties.” James pointed to another little girl. “She is well fit, yeah?”

A parent swam past and gave James a concerned look.

James, embarrassed, whispered, “What about her?”

Pete wished he could go underwater and disappear into the sea. He looked at the girl, similar size to him, big, brown eyes. “She’s…” He noticed her brown hair flowing in the water, and that they had similar facial features. He remembered Mr. Miyagi mentioning Caitlyn Jenner. “She’s amazing.”

James nearly jumped out of the water with excitement. “I’ll go chat to her dad and hook you up.”

Pete watched James struggle to walk through the swimming pool. 

 

James ate his breakfast while Bec prepared a lunch box for Pete. She left it in front of James.

“The auditions are from eleven, but make sure he doesn’t eat this until after, otherwise he’ll get tired before his big moment.”

“You should’ve seen him when I picked him up from that little girl's house. He looked so happy.”

“Good for him.”

“My little boy, a proper stud,” James squeezed more ketchup than was necessary onto his bacon and heaved it into his mouth. “I told you Bec. I told you he just needed the man to be drawn out of him.”

“He’s five. Just let him find his own way to wherever it is he wants to go.”

“She even gave him a bag of romantic kiddy stuff. I asked to see what was in it but he wouldn’t show me. Got all shy and protective.” James laughed to himself.

They heard Pete’s footsteps.

“You ready for your big audition you little…” James’ eyes widened. “What the hell are you doing?”

Pete stood in front of him in a dress, wearing make-up.

Bec smiled at him. “You look lovely, son.”

“Mr. Miyagi told me to be the real Pete. I want to play Mary.”

Bec gave Pete a croissant. “Good for you.”

He ate it, trying to not get any on his dress.

“Mr. bloody Miyagi...” James muttered. “You’re not going anywhere dressed like that.”

Pete looked at Bec for help. She held him close. “Don’t worry Pete, your dad’s just jealous you look better than him.”

“You crafty little sod! That's why you were so keen to meet that girl weren't you? To nick her clothes!”

“She said I could borrow this.”

“Well I’m not taking you anywhere until you dress your gender,” James said.

“James!” Bec said.

“No way am I being ring master to this circus. Take that off and put on some real clothes.”

“Fine,” Bec grabbed the keys. “I’ll take you Pete, but I have to go to work, so you promise me you’ll wait at school until I come back at six thirty?”

“I promise.”

“Ok. Go get your coat.”

Pete went upstairs.

“You’re too soft on him,” James said. “No wonder he’s having an identity crisis.”

Bec snatched the fork out of James’ hand and slammed it down. “You need to remember how to be a father, because right now, you’re the one whose identity is confused.”

 

Pete queued at the side of the stage with the other Mary wannabes. The hall was packed with people but he’d never felt so alone. Phillipa, the dumbest girl in school was mid audition. She fumbled through her lines.

“Move on,” Mr. Fizman commanded.

“But she’s got more lines to read,” Phillipa’s mum protested.

“No she doesn’t.” Mr. Fizman barked. “Get off my stage!”

Claire from another class tapped Pete’s shoulder.

“You look very nice, Pete.” She smiled.

“Thanks.” Pete nearly cried. He’d felt so low for so long that it hit him hard to hear some nice words.

“You look like my friend Petra. She's beautiful.”

Pete smiled to himself. “Petra…” he muttered.

 

James held the buzzer in as the rain lashed down.

The door opened. Mr. Miyagi stood, unimpressed, guitar in hand. He wore a Metallica t-shirt. “You only need press once. I may be old, but can hear like bat.”

James pointed to the guitar. “What the hell is this? Shouldn’t you be trimming bonsais or tending to insects? That's not very Zen.”

Mr. Miyagi rolled his eyes, ignored the comment, and invited him in. “What you need, James?”

Mr. Miyagi pointed to a chair for James to sit.

James folded his arms and leaned against the wall.

“I need you to stop filling my son’s head with this dumb proverby nonsense.”

Mr. Miyagi put the guitar down. His calm expression turned stern. He stepped towards James.

James pushed back against the wall but had nowhere to go. “You touch me and I’ll tell everyone you’re alive.”

Mr. Miyagi took James’ hand. “Come to swinging sofa.”

 

They swung. The rain hitting the plastic cover of the swinging sofa made a light drumming sound to accompany the romantic panpipe music coming out of Mr. Miyagi's portable iPhone dock.

James sat, hands clasped on his lap.

“When you little, James san, what you want to be?” Mr. Miyagi asked.

“I wanted to be a football commentator.”

“What happen?”

“The old man told me it was stupid and made me study business.”

“And then you get fired, why?”

“Made redundant!” he corrected.

“Ok. Why?”

“Because the company was in trouble and had to let one of us go.”

“But really? Why, James san? Why you only person made redundant?”

For the first time James really thought about it.

“Because I hated the job and it was obvious I should go…”

“Because your father made you do what you hate, it show. Do not be leech on Pete san’s life, like your father leech on yours.”

 

Pete walked onto the stage. Mr. Fizman looked at him through angry eyes. “You have got to be kidding me.”

“My name is Petra. I’m ready to audition for Mary, sir.”

“You’re making a show of yourself. Go and dress as a proper boy and wait for the boys auditions later.”

“That’s not fair!” Petra shouted.

“Right. Enough. Teachers! One of you remove this little pest.”

None of the teachers wanted to do anything, but Mr. Lambut approached Petra, an apologetic look on his face. He grabbed Petra by the arm. “Sorry buddy…”

“Get off me!” Petra struggled with no success.

Everyone watched on, shocked. Petra burst into tears and sat on the stage floor. Mr. Lambut didn’t know what to do.

Mr. Fizman pushed Mr. Lambut away. “Useless.” He grabbed Petra’s arm and dragged her across the floor.

“Don’t you dare touch my son!” a voice boomed from the entrance. James rushed to the stage and stood between Petra and Mr. Fizman.

“This is my son…” James looked at Petra. “Or daughter?” Petra smiled. “And this wonderful little person will be auditioning for Mary, or I will report this school for sexism... or whichever of the bad isms this falls under.”

Mr. Fizman stepped towards James, all eyes on him. Everyone thought Mr. Fizman was going to eat James’ head. “Very well…” he said through gritted teeth.

 

James watched on, proud, as Petra auditioned for Mary. Girls and boys from the school looked on and they were proud of their classmate. Confused, but still proud. Everyone applauded.

 

James and Petra waited for the result.

“And Joseph will be played by… Karl Egan!” Mr. Lambut announced. Everyone clapped. Karl looked totally confused by everything as he often did.

Mr. Fizman barged onto the stage. “I’ll do this one.” He swiped the microphone out of Mr. Lambut’s hand. “Mary…” He looked directly at Petra and James. James put an arm around Petra.

“The person playing Mary will be…” He smiled towards James and Petra. Maybe there was a soul in that aggressive frame. “Jenny Finton,” he said directly at Petra. His beard curled with the huge smile beneath it.

Jenny jumped up and down with her family.

James looked at Petra’s sad face. “I’m still proud of you.”

Petra felt a bit better.

“Rehearsals begin next week, so go and learn those lines everyone,” Mr. Fizman barked. “I will have no slackness on my production.”

Mr. Fizman approached Petra and James as they tried to leave. “You can’t report me for that I guess. Jenny won fair and square. If you do report me it’ll look like you’re just bitter about losing.” Mr. Fizman smiled.

James realised this has been his plan. Make it even more embarrassing for Petra and dent her confidence even further. James looked at the other teachers for some backing. None of them would make eye contact with him.

“Well done you,” James said. He turned to leave.

“I’m going to recommend Pete, Petra… this… be moved into a special needs class for the remainder of term. I feel your child needs to be closely monitored while you could perhaps seek psychological help for… it.”

James' fist thumped against Mr. Fizman's face. His huge frame thudded against the floor. Mr. Fizman tried to shout through his groggy state but was out of it.

Petra's was open-mouthed. The hall was totally silent.

James looked at the other teachers. “Grow some backbone.”

James and Petra walked out of the hall.

“Mummy said it’s bad to hit people.”

“It’s bad for you to hit people. Leave the hitting to me until you’re at least thirty.”

“I love you daddy.”

They saw Bec waiting by the car. She waved at them and smiled.

“I love you too…”

 

END