Two Fathers

Timothy went with his fathers for a day of shopping at the mall to decorate his new room. He was getting tired halfway through but perked up when they suggested he create his own teddy bear at the mall’s Build-A-Bear store.

“You can create any bear you want,” said Randy.

Timothy was at first overwhelmed with the options but decided on a hard robot shell for his bear, making it seem more like a killer teddy cyborg. He had in mind to create an indestructible bear that was strong and mean, able to defend against bad people like his biological father, who would place him over his lap and whip his 9-year-old behind with a belt for reasons so random that he could never figure out how to avoid them. He was away from that now, and his two new fathers were going to give him the love that his abusive father and absentee mother never gave him.

As Timothy constructed his cyborg bear, Randy pointed out a rainbow-colored bear to his husband, Michael. “Isn’t that cute?” Randy said. “Hey Timothy, what do you think of this rainbow bear?”

“I don’t like rainbows.”

“Why not?” Michael coolly replied.

“It has too many girl colors. I like my robot bear.” Michael’s eyes opened wide but Randy interrupted him, telling Timothy he could build any bear he wanted.

Timothy had been disappointed so many times in his life that he didn’t know what to expect from Randy and Michael. This wasn’t helped by the confusing arrangement of having two dads. He leaned towards using “Dad” on Randy, the more masculine of the two since Michael was on estrogen therapy to eventually become a Michelle, but in the end he stuck to using their first names. As long as he could avoid the beatings and the yelling that took place in his former home, or the dirtiness that was his temporary stay in foster care, he would be happy to call them whatever they wanted.

Luckily for Timothy, Randy and Michael were stable, successful, intelligent adults. Besides the fact that there were both men, Timothy couldn’t have been more blessed in finding a couple who were so willing to take care of an unlucky child.

But that love couldn’t immediately undo a lifetime of abuse. Very early on, Timothy displayed anti-social behavior in school. He had trouble paying attention to his teacher’s instructions. At recess he simply wanted to play alone. When time came for parent-student conferences, Randy and Michael were told it was worth trying an ADHD drug to help him with his attention problems. His parents respected the power of pharmaceuticals; Michael was on the hormone therapy while Randy had gone on stints of Xanax during some especially difficult times in his life. It was worth a shot just to see if it would have a positive effect on Timothy, and if not they would pull him off it. His well-being was their utmost concern.

The medication worked. Within two weeks, Timothy would provide an unblinking stare at his teacher while she barreled through the curriculum. He did well enough to get B’s and C’s, an exceptional feat for a kid of his unfortunate background.

Timothy’s favorite part of the school day was, of course, recess. He would get away from his classmates and go to the far end of the park and place bugs on the back of his hand and watch them crawl away. There wasn’t much else to do except kick a couple balls around, because several years before they removed the jungle gym. Too many kids were falling off, leading to parent complaints. Parents also complained about dodgeball because in a game of thirty kids, only one was the winner. All the losing kids would suffer an unnecessary blow to their self-esteem, making it more difficult for them to compete in a cutthroat world where 100 SAT points made or break getting into a prestigious college.

A little girl named Magda walked up to Timothy one day while he was playing with bugs. “What are you doing?” she asked.

“Nothing.”

“What is that crawling on your hand?”

“It’s a caterpillar.”

“Will it bite you?” Magda asked. She stood several feet away from Timothy as if scared the caterpillar would jump on her.

“No. It tickles when it walks on you. Do you want to touch it?”

“No, it’s gross!”

“It’s not gross. And it won’t hurt you.”

“Okay but if it bites me I’m going to scream.” Magda sat beside Timothy and he let the caterpillar crawl over his hand and onto hers. She giggled upon feeling the little legs gripping her skin.

“Cool!” Magda said.

“I like the caterpillars. There are beetles here, too. They have red shells with black dots on them. Sometimes they are stuck together and you can pull them apart and they keep going.”

The caterpillar fell off of Magda’s hand. “What is your name?” she asked.

“Timothy.”

“I’m Magda.”

“Okay. Do you want to see some ants?”

“Ew!” But Magda relented and poked a stick in the ant mound like Timothy showed her. It made sense that Magda and Timothy got along since they were both new in school. She tried hard to make friends with the other girls but didn’t quite fit in. As the daughter of Polish immigrants who barely spoke English, her accent was slightly different from everyone else’s. She was seen as an outsider, something her twice weekly ESL class reminded her of.

Timothy didn’t think of her as a friend as much as someone he could show bugs to. He was so used to being alone and wrapped up in his own world that he never felt the need to meet other kids. In fact, Magda was his first friend.

The bullying started after the school’s 6th Annual Multicultural Happiness Day. In the back of class sat most of the parents, including Randy and Michael. They beamed with pride as their son performed in a Thanksgiving Day skit where Native Americans and Pilgrims feasted together in peace, patiently teaching each other about their respective cultures. The day was a success, like it was every year.

The next day at recess, a group of five kids came to where Magda and Timothy were playing.

“Hey gay boy,” a girl named Allison said. Timothy looked, not because he knew what gay meant, but because she couldn’t have been talking to Magda.

“Hey gay boy, I’m talking to you. You’re gay!”

“What’s gay?” Timothy asked.

“Your parents are gay. So you will be gay.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You have two fathers. That’s not normal!” Timothy just shrugged. It was better having two fathers than one who beats him. Besides, Randy and Michael were good to him. He didn’t especially care for the ritalin he was talking, because it always made him thirsty, but he was learning a lot in school and his math was good. He even got his first A on a quiz.

Allison’s friends added more insults. They called him all sorts of cruel names, as kids are apt to do.

“Leave him alone,” Magda said.

“You are his gay… girlfriend!” Then Allison pushed Magda, causing her to topple over. Timothy looked at Magda and saw that she was upset. Timothy shook the bugs off his hands and stood up besides Allison. He made a fist with his right hand, closed his eyes, and swung wildly. He heard the scream more than he felt the impact he made with her left ear, which instantly turned scarlet. Allison cupped her ear and ran away crying. Five minutes later, a teacher came and asked Timothy if he hit Allison. “Yes,” he said.

A note went home with him that afternoon. Randy and Michael were disturbed that Timothy was acting out on violent tendencies. “Is he emulating his father?” Michael wondered.

“We can’t let him think that hitting people will solve problems in life,” Randy declared.

“Timothy, come here, dear,” Michael said. Timothy came from his room with his head down.

“Is it true you hit a girl today?”

“Yes, but she was mean.”

“Timothy, you can never hit a girl. You are a big strong boy, much stronger than any girl, and you could really hurt them because boys are stronger than girls. Do you understand?”

“But she started it!”

Randy decided to be more stern. “Timothy, you must never lay your hand on a girl again. This is not acceptable, do you understand?” He pointed his finger in Timothy’s face. “If you do it again we will have to punish you.” Would they take away his cyborg bear? He sleeps with it every night, because it makes him feel safe and strong. His lower lip started to quiver and Randy was pleased that his message was getting through.

“Repeat after me,” Randy said, “I will never hit a girl again.”

“I will never hit a girl again,” Timothy parroted.

“Now say it again.”

“I promise never to hit a girl again.”

“Good, very good. You can go to your room now and think about the wrong you did today.”

Timothy was confused at why he was punished, since Allison attacked first, but if all he had to do to get the approval of his caring parents was not hit a girl, he believed he could do it. He just hoped that Allison wouldn’t bother him anymore so he could play with his bugs.

Randy and Michael threw a vegan dinner party one Saturday evening for six of their friends. Each guest brought a prepared dish and bottle of wine. Much drink and merriment was had by all while Randy and Michael joyfully paraded their new son. He was doted on and given small presents and lavished with praise about how handsome he was. Timothy thought the guests talked strangely, but they were nice people who smiled a lot and did him no harm.

After a couple hours, once the wine experienced the height of its effect, one of the guests looked at Timothy and yelled, “Makeover!” He escorted Timothy into the bedroom and picked out an outfit that Michael owned, a purple blouse and conservative black dress. A basic makeup kit was also found. Ten minutes later Timothy walked out of the room to shrieks of delight. “He looks like a little woman!” one guest said.

“He’s so adorable!” another added.

“I don’t know if I approve of this,” Randy said, smiling broadly as he took another sip of wine, remembering the last time that Michael wore that outfit during an exciting sexual role play.

Michael was most proud of his son’s appearance, piling on compliments about how great he looked. Timothy felt so valued to be approved by so many adults that once the clothing was removed and the makeup washed from his face, he didn’t even need to hug his cyborg teddy in order to fall asleep.

One day after school, Magda tried to grab Timothy’s hand. He snatched it away and ran to his school bus, hiding in the back. This reaction is to be expected from a boy who never received physical affection, not even from his new parents, who were not yet comfortable touching him in a way that would suggest he was their own. Thankfully, the hand-holding incident was forgotten in a day, and Magda and Timothy were playing once again during recess in their little corner of the park.

A couple weeks later, on the bus ride to school, someone told Timothy, “Allison is going to get you today.” Timothy didn’t think much of the threat, but halfway through recess Allison and a squad of four of her friends surrounded him. “I don’t like you,” Allison yelled, and pushed Timothy with all her might. His instinct was to push back, but he remembered what Randy and Michael made him promise, so he did nothing. This further encouraged Allison and she levied a punch to his stomach. He crouched over in pain. She picked up a long stick from the ground.

“Stop it!” Magda yelled. “Stop hurting him!”

“Hold him!” Allison screamed, as if possessed by a demon. Her goons held Timothy down and Allison started lashing the stick upon Timothy’s head and face, quickly breaking blood on his forehead and lower lip. Timothy’s body went limp. He felt the pain on his body but floated out of it like he has done so many times before. He could only hear Magda’s voice, begging for them to stop, and when he looked at her he saw tears streaming down her face. This is when he began to cry, not from his pain, but from Magda’s, because she was his only friend and wanted to hold his hand when no one else would.

“We should sue the fucking school!” Randy told Michael. They patched up the cuts on Timothy’s body and gave him a big bowl of chocolate ice cream to help cheer his spirit and soothe the wound on his lip.

“They suspended Allison for two weeks,” Michael said. “This punishment is unheard of in elementary school. I think they are doing all they can.”

“He has just been through so much. If he’s not getting hurt at the hands of his father, it’s now at the hands of some bully.”

“But at least he didn’t initiate the violence. The note from the school says it absolutely was not his fault.”

Timothy walked up to them and said, “I didn’t hit her. She was hitting me with the stick but I didn’t hit her back, because she’s a girl.”

Michael said, “That’s great, Timothy, because she got in trouble and can’t go to school for two weeks, but you can go tomorrow and continue learning and playing. When someone uses violence they are punished. Those who are nice and kind are rewarded when they do what’s right, like you will be.”

Randy meekly interjected, “But if the girl grabs a stick, maybe Timothy should defend himself.”

“And so you want him to have a sword fight with a little girl? If he has that mentality once he gets older, he could end up killing someone. It’s best to just let the authorities deal with it. His wounds will heal in a couple days while Allison will have this on her permanent school record. If she does it again, she will be expelled.” Michael looked at Timothy and said, “You did the right thing today. I’m so sorry that she hurt you, but everything will be okay.”

Allison stopped bullying him, but other bullies took her place. There was no more physical violence, but the verbal taunts were endless, and Timothy never fought back, only ensuring they would continue. His schoolwork suffered and his grades slipped, in spite of an increase in dosage to his medication. Randy and Michael were getting frustrated at his declining performance and thought a tougher stance would be in order. How will he get into Stanford if he’s already behind on his multiplication tables?

When Timothy brought home a report card with three D’s, his fathers had a stern talk with him about the importance of education and how unacceptable his grades were. There were mentions about enrolling him in a special school, hiring tutors, or limiting his play time in favor of more study. The phrase “you’re falling behind” was often used and now Timothy began to get worried that their anger at him would only get worse. Randy and Michael always told Timothy that they loved him, but how about if they stopped loving him because of his bad grades? What would happen to him?

While his fathers talked about what to do, Timothy slipped into their room. A few minutes later, he emerged wearing the exact same outfit of Michael’s that the dinner party guest had dressed him in. He tried to put on makeup but was not especially skilled. His attempt at eye shadow went as far back as his temple and he managed to get blush in his hair. When Michael first saw Timothy, he hugged him for being so adorable. He instructed Timothy not to move and then went to grab his camera to take pictures. Randy let out a couple laughs and for at least that day, they completely forgot about his bad grades. There was no more talk about reducing his play time. For the first time in his life, Timothy felt like he finally knew how to get love from adults. While Magda’s friendship was real and her accent sweet, it was parental love that he needed most.

At the next dinner party, Michael went on to tell his friends how Timothy was just like them, something that Randy didn’t argue with. Soon the gifts arriving from guests weren’t toys, but clothes in pretty pastel and pink colors.

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