Ninety Nine Weeks

Max_Cora.jpg
Ninety
Nine
Weeks

By Ricky

Long Enough to Find Life

Ninety Nine weeks. That's a number those of you that live in the US will be very familiar with. It's all over the news, the bastards that tanked the economy popping off about how us lazy slobs need to get kicked off unemployment and get a job. Unemployment makes us sit at home and drink beer and take money from their precious government. Cut off the weak sisters and everything will be fine.

Let me tell you about my 99 weeks. Week one was passed in a haze. For nearly forty years I had gone into work every morning and turned little parts into bigger parts. You'd know the name if the company, it's one of the biggest automotive suppliers in the world, but I'm not mad at them so I won't name them. Just remember that when people stopped buying cars the people who made the parts for those cars suddenly found themselves with no work to do.

That's me. Unemployed for the first time in my life at fifty nine years old.

The wife still had a job, so we pulled in our belts and I put together a resume. You've heard the term 'black hole'? Well, that's where all those resumes went.

By week six I was getting bored. I got sick of TV and couldn't hack the soap operas. In desperation I even started doing housework. What the hell, I was home and the wife was at work, keeping food on the table. I suppose it wasn't fair to make her do the housework, too.

Dishes weren't so bad, we have a dishwasher. Vacuuming is no worse than the mindless work you do on an assembly line. Hell, you don't even have to do any training before taking on the job. Now laundry, you need training. I caught hell when I turned the wife's white blouse pink and learned the hard way about doing laundry in white and colored batches. Oh yeah, NEVER put her bras in the dryer!

Week sixteen, that's when the wife got laid off. In sixteen lousy weeks our income (counting overtime) went from about two grand a week to $502. That's right, one quarter of what we planned our finances on. The mortgage payment was $1200 a month, utilities and the house alone cost 3/4 of our new income to run. That doesn't count car payments, insurance, food, all that other stuff.

The cobra payments for health care came in at $612 per month. I'm diabetic, my meds cost more than that each month; doctor visits are $180 a pop. The same bastards that sent my job off to China want to make sure I keep paying through the nose for health insurance to stay alive. In other words, we were well and truly screwed.

By week thirty things were coming unglued. We sold one of the cars and some junk we didn't really need, gave up the land line and the cable service. It didn't help, we missed the mortgage payment. The house was for sale, but we were under water and no one was going to buy it. Talk to the bank? Right - talk to the recorded voice until you start swearing at it and slam the phone down.

We had been ignoring the problems in our marriage for quite some time. Spending all day together worrying made them come to the fore. By week thirty five we were sniping at each other constantly. Neither one of us was happy about it but somehow we couldn't seem to do anything to make it better.

Week thirty seven brought one of those insufferably upbeat letters from the unemployment people with great (and absolutely inane) tips on finding a job. I guess they have to do something to justify their own continued employment. I was encouraged to find a job in the next big city to the west and commute. People, how do you commute with no car?

By week forty I had applied at Burger King, McDonalds, Wendys, Lowe's, Home Depot, two grocery chains and even stores at the mall. You know how much chance a sixty year old man who has spent his life on an assembly line has of even getting a job in retail?

Week fifty one I turned sixty. Some party, a candle on a cupcake. The cupboard was pretty bare and that's all we could spare. Presents? Are you kidding me?

Week sixty two the wife split. She moved in with a girlfriend and left me the house. Not that either one of us wanted it, the bank was going to get it soon, anyway. She kept the car and I started taking the bus. It's not like I had too many places to go, anyway. We filed do-it-yourself divorce papers we got on line just before we dropped the internet service and sold the computer. I cashed in my insurance policy to pay the lawyer - who needs insurance when you don't have anyone to inherit?

At least I had plenty of practice at housekeeping by that time. I was rather proud that the place was looking good when the occasional buyer came to look. Not that anyone bought the place, all they did is look at my clean house. Just call me Suzy Homemaker.

Week seventy one I dropped the cell phone coverage. The contract was up and I couldn't afford it. If I had to make a call about a job (Hah!) I went next door and borrowed the neighbor's phone.

Week eighty two the bank took the house. The yard sale netted us about a couple thousand bucks for everything we owned. That paid the health insurance one more month and made one of the credit card companies mildly happy.

I moved in with my son and his wife. Not an ideal arrangement, but what options did I have? Good thing he has a pickup so we could move the bed and dresser. That's about all I kept besides my clothes. By this time I hadn't seen a TV program in forever so I didn't miss the TV I sold months ago.

Week ninety one I got a letter from the wonderful folks at the unemployment office. They had a new job training program - in only six weeks I could qualify as a Home Health Aide. What the hell, there was nobody going to hire me to flip burgers, let alone work on an assembly line. Home Health Aides make crap compared to what I used to pull in, but in eight weeks I was going to be without any income and I sure as hell didn't want to have my boy support me until I hit 62 and could collect Social Security. The boy and his wife were trying to be upbeat about me being there, but he's too much like me. We get along when we don't have to be living in each other's pockets.

So for six blessed weeks I rode two busses each way to get trained. I became intimate with bedpans, the proper way to lift, personal relations, filling out arcane forms and all kinds of stuff that nobody in their right mind wants to do. You have to be pretty desperate be a Home Health Aid.

I was desperate, OK?

Week ninety eight the divorce was final. If I wasn't so broke I would have seen a psychiatrist for the depression. At least I didn't have to split the check for the family health plan with the wife any more. Of course, being on a single plan they hit me for more than half of what the family plan cost. Somebody want to tell me where this wonderful health care system the conservatives say we have can be found?

Week ninety nine came and went, along with my last check. My new resumes went into the same black hole as the old resumes did. My son started covering my health insurance payments. Could somebody tell me why parents can keep their kids on their plan but a kid can't keep his parents when things go to hell?

Week one hundred and seven a miracle happened. The health care agency called and had a placement for me! So I borrowed bus fare from my son and went out to the place and met Cora and Max. Cora was eighty seven, Max ninety four. The term 'little old lady' is much overused, but it applied to Cora's 5'1" stature and Max wasn't more than an inch or so bigger. I hesitate to say it, but they were a very cute couple. Cora still had all her marbles, but Max was off in some misty land with his few remaining memories.

I liked Cora right from the start, but even if she had been the devil incarnate I would have taken the job. Fortunately the only thing devilish about Cora was her smile. I had started to think of myself as a washed up old geezer at sixty, but meeting Cora made me revise my definition of geezerhood.

"Well, Jamie, I must say you've caught me off guard. With a name like Jamie I thought the agency was sending me a woman."

"Yeah, my parents didn’t have any idea how much trouble that name would give me. I'm used to it by now. Is that going to be a problem?"

"I don't think so, although I was hoping for a girlfriend of sorts."

"If Max doesn't mind I could be your boyfriend."

Can an eighty seven year old woman giggle? Cora giggled, so I guess they can.

"Max doesn't mind much these days, Jamie. I don't think he could tell the difference between a girlfriend or a boyfriend. I love him to pieces, but it's hard to watch him fail. I still get around pretty well even if the arthritis does give me a twinge of two these days. It's Max that needs the help. He just sits around and stares off into space most of the time these days and he forgets a lot. Like using the bathroom. No sense hiding it, Maxie has to wear a diaper and it's getting hard for me to change it if I can't convince him to get to the pot on time."

"I've been living in this place for longer than you've been alive, I suspect, and I'm not going to move to some highfalutin assisted living place when I have a perfectly good home already. Now Maxie can be a handful if he starts wandering at night, so I need a live in aide. I can offer room and board, if you can stand my cooking, and I'll cover your health insurance. I wouldn't want to have you end up in some charity ward, Jamie."

"You can imagine we spend a fair amount of time going to the doctors these days, so I keep the old Buick insured to use if I can get people to drive us there You can use it for yourself if you need it, it's still out there in the garage even if I can't drive it any more. ."

"The last aide had a problem about helping with anything that wasn't health related. I need someone who can take me shopping, maybe take us to visit a friend or two, those that are still alive anyway, and visit a couple of graves . The pay isn't great if you're thinking in dollars an hour for 24 hours a day, but I won't let you go broke. You have a life of your own so we can work out time away as needed."

"Can you cook, Jamie?"

"I had to learn, Cora. If you like wieners and beans I'm an expert. I can open a can with the best of 'em."

"Then I'll have to teach you. Think an old dog can learn a few new tricks?"

Who in their right mind would take a job with such lousy working conditions? Remember, I didn't have the money for a shrink. I didn't have the money for anything.

"Cora, I've become an expert at begging. I'll learn to sit up, roll over and shake paws if I have to."

"Then let's shake on it and you can leave the rest of the tricks for later. When can you start?"

"As soon as I can take the bus back to my son's place and get some clothes."

"Jamie, didn't I just say you could use the Buick?"

"Oh, yeah. I guess it'll take so me getting used to."

"When do you think you'll be getting back?"

"Frankly, I don't have much to move. I would think about five if that's OK?"

"Perfect. The keys are on the hook by the back door. The house key is on the ring, so just come in, I don't want to have to answer the doorbell now that you live here. I'll call Luigi's and you can pick up a pizza on the way back. Cooking lessons can start tomorrow."

---

Was the old woman crazy to be so trusting? Sure, I came from a reputable agency and all, but to just let a stranger take her car? Maybe she was crazy, but I vowed to be worthy of her trust and give her my best. I had the feeling that this was going to be more than just a job.

I left my clothes in the car and brought the pizza in while it was still warm. Cora had set three places at the table and all I had to do was bring Max in to the kitchen. It was rather sad, Max moved like one of those automatons in the old movies, take his hand and he just followed. Sit him at the table and put food in front of him and he eventually ate it. Cora had me put an apron on him first, he simply didn't care if all the food made it into his mouth. There were half a dozen aprons hanging on the hooks in the kitchen, I guess they went through quite a few as Max ate.

"Jamie darling, maybe you should use one of those aprons, too."

I picked an errant blob of pepperoni and cheese from my shirt and agreed. They were a bit small, but they would cover my shirt. "Purple flowers or red curlicues? Cora, how come the men in this household are slobs and have to wear aprons while you manage to eat pizza without batting an eyelash?"

"Too many years of being a proper lady, my dear. You're getting your lovely long hair in the pizza, Jamie."

Crap! I brushed it back with one hand. "Ninety nine weeks without a haircut will do that to you. First paycheck and I intend to get it cut."

"Don't you dare! I wish I had hair like yours. You've gone grey very gracefully, my dear."

"I don't know about graceful, but I sure am grey. I guess I'm used to it by now, but I never really liked long hair on men. My son loves to give me grief about it, but then I gave him enough grief about long hair when he was a teenager."

"Then you wouldn't want to disappoint either one of us. When Sylvia comes next week to do our hair she can fix you up with a new style."

"You've got to be kidding!"

"Nonsense. You should care for such beautiful hair."

"I'll just find a barber."

"Barbarian, rather. Sylvia is a genius, let her make you beautiful."

"Fat chance!"

"You're not fat at all, my dear. Oh dear, I'm afraid you need to take Maxie to the facilities. When he starts making that sound you haven't got much time."

"Come on, Max old buddy." I took his hand and guided him. "Let's go commune with nature."

I maneuvered him to the bathroom, got him undressed and dropped the diaper. He still had enough left upstairs to sit down by himself and in a few seconds got that satisfied look I had seen on my two year old son when we were toilet training him. If you're squeamish better jump to the next paragraph now, but just like the two year old I had to wipe his butt. I made a note to myself to be sure to get Max to the pot regularly. I remembered very vividly changing dirty diapers - I wanted to avoid that as much as possible!

At least Max was tractable in his senility. My own father had turned mean. He was a pain to deal with, always complaining and never cooperating. The nursing home attendants were stoic, but he was not their favorite patient. Back then I never would have thought I would be doing this for a living.

"Good job, Maxie. Let's get you dressed and we can go see Cora."

"Cora?"

It was the first time I had heard him speak.

"Yes, Cora's waiting for us. Let me do up you belt and we can see her."

"Good. I like Cora."

Maybe there was something left upstairs. It must be hard for Cora to watch the man she loved turn into a child with no hope of ever growing up. How did she cope with it?

"Cora? Do you think that Max might like to go for a little walk?"

"I don't know. Maxie doesn't do much any more."

"Well, it's a nice night, we can give it a try. What do you say, Max? Want to go for a walk with me?"

Max just looked confused. Taking his arm I said "Come on, Max, let's go smell the roses."

He followed my lead. Compliant, taking the easiest path maybe, but he went out the door and down the stairs with me. It was a slow walk, Max's coordination wasn't the best, but he walked. I made a point of stopping in front of houses with a nice garden and talking about the beautiful flowers. I just talked about anything I could think of to give something to listen to. Could he understand? Damned if I knew but if he did maybe it gave him some pleasure.

We must have been quite a sight, two old geezers out shuffling around the neighborhood. Not that anybody saw us, the streets were empty even on a fine summer's evening. I didn't take him very far, after all he was used to sitting around all day. He seemed to like it, but maybe I was just projecting my own hopes on him.

We returned to find Cora anxiously waiting.

"Is he OK?"

"I'm doing fine, love." Max replied. "Nice flowers."

"Oh Maxie!" she cried as she enveloped him in a hug. "Maxie!"

Cora was crying and I just stood there not knowing what to do.

"He hasn't talked in ages. Jamie, you're a genius! Come on, Maxie. Let's show Jamie how to get you ready for bed."

I was glad the house was a split level, only a few steps to get up to the bedrooms. We got Max undressed and into a fresh diaper."

"Jamie, don't get upset, but it's just too hard to get pajama pants on Maxie so he sleeps in a nightgown. I tried to find things that weren't too feminine, but they do make them for women. Maxie doesn't seem to care anymore, but it is embarrassing with strangers."

"Cora, I'm not here to judge, I'm here to help. Hell, I was wearing a purple flowered apron tonight, what's a little lace among friends?

"Oh Jamie, thank you for being so understanding. Maxie, Jamie is going to brush your teeth now. Open up."

He opened and I brushed. It's a lot harder to brush teeth when they aren't your own. Max seemed to know the routine and was soon in his bed. Cora sadly explained that they no longer shared a bed but had to resort to twins when Max had started deteriorating.

"You'll just have to get used to seeing me in a nightgown, too."

"All part of the job. Shall we call it a pajama party? I don't have a nightgown but I'll make do."

"You make me feel young again, Jamie. I think we are going to get along just fine. If you feel out of place you can use one of Heather's nightgowns — they're in the dresser in your room.

"Heather's?"

"Our daughter, that's her picture you saw in the living room. You'd never believe someone her size came from two half pints like us, she's a regular Brunhilda. . She lives in California. With all the hassle about flying and the luggage fees she just keeps a few clothes here so she doesn't have to bring anything but a carry on when she visits. We can move her things tomorrow, I'm getting too tired to do any more today. Go read or watch TV or whatever you want. Maxie usually wakes up around eight, so I'll see you then."

"Goodnight, Cora. See you in the morning."

I washed the dishes and tidied up before bed, then brought in my suitcases. I moved Heather's things over in the closet and hung up my few good clothes. Feeling a bit like I was intruding, I moved her lingerie out of the top drawers of the dresser and put in my own underwear and socks. Yes indeed, there were two nightgowns in those drawers, but I didn't take Cora up on her offer.

So ended my first day of gainful employment. The boys at the shop would have never believed this, but at least I wasn't sponging off my son. OK, I'll admit it, I liked Cora and Max and was glad to be here.

It took a while to learn the routine, Max may not have been all there but he did have his likes and dislikes. He seemed content to watch TV, it didn't matter what was on. He liked music, especially polkas. Oh - one exception to the TV preferences - he hated Lawrence Welk. The PBS station still had him on twice a week and I learned to change the channel before it came on. As far as I was concerned that showed Max still retained some good taste.

My main job was to be sure to get Max to the bathroom every two hours or less. Believe me, that was very important. If I missed the cleanup was downright disgusting. It was one of the few times Max got upset. Even with the hand nozzle in the shower it was no fun to clean the shit off him.

Walks with Max became a regular habit. Sometimes Cora joined us, but the arthritis in her knees made it difficult for her most of the time. Max may have lost his higher thinking functions, but he seemed to enjoy walking.

There were days when Cora's arthritis gave her a lot of grief. While I wasn't a trained masseuse, my ex and I were both pretty good at finding the right spot to rub. Sadly, one of the things I missed the most about her was a good back rub when I was hurting. I soon learned where I could do the most good for Cora, although the camphorated arthritis cream reminded me of my great grandmother. Her bedroom always smelled of camphor when I was a little kid.

After a month we were a nice little household, with me as the mother figure. Go figure. Since I still had very few clothes, I regularly wore Cora's ruffled aprons to keep my clothes clean. I did the housework and shopping, took care of the kid (sorry Max), cooked more and more of the meals as Cora taught me how to get around the kitchen.

My hair was getting longer, I didn't have the heart to cut it and disappoint Cora, who loved it. It was also in better condition than it had ever been. Cora made me join her and Max when her beautician came, so I had my hair cut and styled along with them. Lord knows, but I even started using fancy shampoo and conditioner (that Cora bought!) along with some face cream that was supposed to fight wrinkles. The beautician was very convincing and what the heck, it did seem to make my face feel better.

I even joined Cora for regular manicures and pedicures. Being comfortably well off, she was willing to pay to have people come to her home for such services, especially considering how much trouble it was to take Max with her.

Then there was the laundry. I was an expert by now at laundry, but with the condition of Cora's bras I could have put them in the dryer without any further damage. There was absolutely nothing I could do would make them worse. There was more than her eighty seven years that made her tits sag. Trouble is, how does a guy tell an old woman she needs new bras? Her panties weren't much better, but I wasn't going there!

I found I had to set a schedule of housework to keep up with it. My mother used to laugh at the commercials, but she pretty much kept to the schedule they set. Friday was fish day, Saturday was market day, Sunday was church day, Monday was wash day, Tuesday was ironing day and Wednesday was Prince Spaghetti day. These days nobody does ironing and since neither Cora or I were Catholic, Friday was laundry day, but you get the idea.

Most of the time - the previous week had been a bit hectic. We spent three of those days at various doctor's offices, one day at the Social Security office trying not to kill officious bureaucrats, and were just plain too pooped to think about washing clothes. Thus it came to pass that the day Max had an doctor's appointment he had not one but two accidents. The old boy wasn't trying to make my life miserable but, without going into noxious details, around midnight I found myself with nothing but my skivvies left to sleep in. This wasn't a great choice since I wasn't crazy about going into Cora's bedroom in my underwear if Max had another problem that night.

Which was how I found myself in one of Heather's nightgowns. I reluctantly dug around in the bottom drawer where her clothes had been stashed. Cora must have been right about her being a big woman, the nightgown fit me rather well. I had avoided buying any new clothes because I was trying to pay down my credit card debts, but it looked like I was going to have to start doing laundry twice a week or get something new soon. Maybe I could find a way to tactfully tell Cora she should come with me and get some new bras.

The next morning I knocked on their bedroom at the usual time, feeling a bit foolish in a nightgown. After the long day yesterday both Max and Cora were still in bed.

"Good morning Cora, Max. Ready to greet the day or should we just have a pajama party?"

"Jamie honey, if I were forty years younger I might take you up on that, but I'm feeling too old this morning. My arthritis is being a real pain."

"I'm sorry to hear that, Cora. Would you like to have me give you a rub?

"Thank you, Jamie. Now I really wish I was forty years younger!"

"Which would make it look like I was robbing the cradle."

"That's what they said about me and Max. Hell, he didn't have to point a gun at me, I went willingly!"

"Then let me get Max to the bathroom before I have to borrow another of Heather's nightgowns and I'll try to rub out some of those aches."

"Oh goodie! We could have a fashion show! Looks like I found me a girlfriend after all."

"What would your boyfriend say, Cora?"

"That you look very cute in that nightgown."

When I returned she was lying face down on the bed with her nightgown off. I was rather surprised, but Cora wasn't very body conscious and the pain must have won over modesty. Too bad she wasn't forty years younger, but that's an unprofessional thought for a home health aide. Besides, her husband was sitting right there looking on. I got out the tube of arthritis rub and gave her a good slathering before rubbing it in. In a couple of minutes she was moaning with relief.

"Jamie, you're an angel, I don't know what we did before you. I may be able to get out of bed in a minute or two."

"Glad I could help. Anything else I can do?"

"I hate to ask you this, but I don't think I could hook my bra this morning. If seeing an old lady naked doesn't bother you could you help me put it on?"

When they trained me they told me there would be embarrassing moments. I guess they were right.

"Of course, Cora. Seeing you without clothes is no problem."

"Too bad. It's hell to get this old. My bras are in the top left drawer."

"Remember who does the wash? I know."

"So you do."

"Cora, could I say something without offending you?"

"You're standing there in my daughter's nightgown and I haven't a stitch on, how could you possibly say something that would offend me?"

"It is a strange situation, isn't it? Cora, don't you think it's time to get some new bras? Those old things are dead and gone."

"Honey, when all a bra does is support your breast forms you don't get too excited about what they look like. I lost my breasts to cancer years ago."

"I never would have guessed. I'd say something like 'you look so natural' but at your age it might be impolitic."

Cora laughed out loud at that.

"Only if I'm lying on my back with my hands crossed. Speaking of impolitic, but if you had a pair of breasts you'd make a nice looking woman in that nightgown. A nightgown looks much more natural on you than it does on Max. "

"Natural is not the word I would use to describe me having breasts."

"These days mine aren't natural either, but so what. They look natural with my clothes on. With the right clothes you'd look natural too."

"Cora, I can't afford any new clothes just yet, let alone a whole new wardrobe."

"Call it a uniform allowance, then. I like the thought of having a girlfriend around the place."

"Good grief. Next thing you know you'll want me to be a French maid. Oui, Madame, would you like your tea and crumpets in bed, Madame?"

"Crumpets are British, you silly girl. Not that Maxie wouldn't have minded if you were a French maid when he was still compos mentis."

"I suppose it's a good thing your bras won't fit me, so we'll never have to find out if Max would like me as a French maid."

"Mine wouldn't but Heather's would probably work. Try one on and I'll loan you a set of forms if you want to find out."

"Cora, you are insane."

"I still think you'd make a cute girl."

"Cora, I'm sixty years old. I wouldn't make any kind of girl at my age."

"Woman, then. You know what I mean."

"Hold out your arms. Let's worry about getting your bra on right now. There, let me get the snap."

"Thank you, Jamie. The forms are in that blue box on top of the dresser."

"I wondered what that was, but there are things you don't ask. Hummm… these things feel like…I don't know."

"Breasts, Jamie. The word you want is breasts. The best money can buy if you can't have reconstruction surgery. My skin is so delicate they didn't think I could handle the reconstruction."

"That's a shame, Cora. I can't imagine what that would be like to lose your breasts."

"I doubt most men could. They don't know what it's like to have breasts."

"It's something I've certainly never thought about. What would you like to wear this morning?"

"There's a red blouse in the closet and a checked skirt that goes with it. The blouse doesn't have any buttons so it will be easier to put on with my arthritis acting up. If you're going to take me bra shopping I ought to look presentable."

"Cora, I've never seen you look anything less than lovely."

"Flatter! Get Max ready and I'll see if I can dress myself the rest of the way."

So I got Max dressed, fixed some breakfast and fired up the old Buick. When we were all in the massive Road Yacht I asked Cora "So where are we going? I've never bought bras before and my wife wouldn't let me help. She said all I wanted was the sexy ones, but after feeling how heavy those forms were I realize that support must mean more than sexy to a woman most of the time."

"You really ought to try on one of Heather's bras and find out for yourself. Of course we could always have them fit you for one of your own this morning."

"Cora, why do I feel like I'm in the middle of a sketch on Saturday Night Live?"

"Just be glad it's not Saturday Night Dead. You wonder about that when you get to be my age. Don't tell me you've never wondered what it would be like to be a girl. With your pretty face I think you would be stunning."

"And I'd be plain stunned. I have to say I got into more than one scrape because I wasn't a manly man in high school, but I'm happy to be a man."

"Jamie, don't take this wrong, but you haven't been happy in a long time, have you?"

"Life's been hard, Cora, at least until I came to live with you and Max. I still get down in the dumps sometimes even if I like being with you."

"Not that 'man must be the provider' crap, I hope"

"Well, some, maybe. When I got laid off I didn't really have a problem with my wife making more money than me, but then I thought I would be back at work quickly."

"Jamie, why did your wife leave you?"

"Lots of reasons. We grew apart. I wasn't anyone she wanted to be around when I was depressed. Money. Boredom."

"Yet once you started living with us you've been mostly happy being the lady of the house. You cook, clean, shop, do the laundry and child care (sorry Maxie). You like getting your hair done with me, don't deny it! This morning I couldn't help seeing you as a woman who hasn't found herself."

"Cora, I hope you aren't joining Max in senility. I'm an aide, I do the things you need done for a living."

"But you enjoy it. You enjoy being all the things most people think woman should be. I'd enjoy having a girlfriend and I think you might enjoy starting a new life free of baggage."

Cora, you can't run from your problems. They stay with you."

"Only if you let them. Think about it, Jamie. You can be a whole new person and you get to decide who that person is."

"Cora, you're crazy, but I'll think about it."

"That's all I ask, honey."

The rest of the drive was quiet, she was true to her word to let me have time to think. Was the idea really so crazy? Sure, if your life is stable and happy why would you want to make a radical change, but my life hadn't been stable for far too long. Cora was right, I was enjoying being the lady of the house, including wearing those flowery, frilly aprons. Silly, but they went with the part.

Then this morning I had let myself fall into the role of girlfriend or maybe sister when Cora needed help in a situation that was downright embarrassing for a man. Did I feel all manly while putting a bra on an old lady and helping her get dressed? No, I consciously and deliberately put myself into a feminine role while I was doing the job.

Wearing a nightgown and thinking like a woman I was at home in the situation. Afterward, while I was getting dressed, I thought of Heather's underwear in the bottom drawer of my dresser for the first time since I had moved it there. It didn't really call to me, but I was acutely aware of its presence after Cora's suggestion. Would it really be so awful if I dressed like the woman of the house while I was being the woman of the house?

Cora directed me to the Fashion Bug store in a strip mall. We went in, found a place for Max to sit and Cora went off with one of the saleswomen to be measured. Max was an angel, sitting quietly and watching the other customers while we waited. They sure had a wide range of very pretty bras on display. Women must enjoy having something pretty around them all day if there was such a variety available. What would it be like to wear a bra and have breasts? Cora and her infernal ideas were running around in my brain and driving me crazy.

Cora finally finished up her business and I realized it was time for Max to find a bathroom. Picking up his diaper bag I came over to the counter."

"Could you tell me where the rest rooms are?" I asked.

"Certainly, Ma'am. Over to the right in the back."

'Ma'am'? Was I becoming a woman without realizing it? I know Max's diaper bag looked like a purse, but really! We found the restroom and Max did the necessary, as did I. As we left the restroom I suddenly remembered a Nurse Jamie from some play that my wife had dragged me to years ago. She looked pretty cute in her uniform and my wife had given me a little bit of grief about the coincidence of names, telling me I would be cute in her uniform. Did this feminine stuff really go that far back? Apparently it did.

I guided Max back to the counter, where Cora was waiting with an impish smile and a question on her eyes.

"Cora? Maybe I'll take you up on that uniform allowance."



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