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Avendon (1984)

Avendon (1984)

©1984, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1984). Avendon. Unpublished short story.

In this story I used the conceit of referring to a protagonist who had changed sex from male to female with masculine pronouns. I’m not sure why; it just seemed to work better. Of course, in real life, I would never do such a thing.




By Dallas Denny


Michael Avendon made his debut as a woman in the spring of 1988. Having done away with the more obvious manifestations of his masculinity and having created manifestations of femininity where none had before existed, he discarded his male identity like a butterfly discards a chrysalis, reveling in the trappings of his metamorphosis: jewelry, expensive cosmetics, exotic perfumes, high-heeled shoes, foundation garments, and swirling, silken dresses.

Avendon had been a handsome man. He made a stunning woman. Even he, who had dreamed for years about the magic he had finally worked on himself, had some trouble believing in his new persona. Most of his doubts occurred in that first fleeting moment after awakening; when he emerged from sleep, he was for an instant his old self. Only when he remembered his womanhood did he begin to feel it. Once he had reacquainted himself with his new identity, he had little problem maintaining that awareness for the remainder of the day. But every night he would crawl into bed a woman, and awaken a man.

Avendon had not been unmasculine. He was of average height, about five-eight, inclined to chubbiness. His face was round. His eyes, nose, and mouth were small and delicate, but his thinning hair provided a counterbalancing statement. His whiskers covered his lower face; for most of his adult life he had worn a beard. His chest was flat, with a small patch of hair between his nipples. He had always prided himself on his manly bearing and interests, but his dress and demeanor were invariably casual, and he took little pride in his personal appearance. While he kept himself reasonably clean, his grooming tended to sloppiness. He wore no jewelry, and at any particular time he was likely to be in need of either a shave or a haircut, or both. Women of a certain type did not find him unattractive. He had been married once, for five years, and had found matrimony a comfortable situation. The marriage had ended only because his wife, who felt she had married too young, despaired of the humdrum of wedded bliss and left. A second romance, brief but passionate, ended when the woman left in horror after Avendon told her what he was considering doing to himself.

Avendon considered himself a heterosexual. His eye was invariably attracted to the female form, sometimes with desire, and sometimes with something akin to jealously. Men were acquaintances, companions, co-workers, and sometimes friends. They were never lovers. On the several occasions in which he had been sexually approached by men, he had recoiled in shock.

Yet to his body, Avendon had introduced a calculated program of feminization. Having obtained the name of a physician who might be willing to prescribe hormones, he visited the man and entreated him to begin a course of estrogens. When the physician refused to cooperate, Avendon, who had stolen a prescription pad from the doctor’s desk, wrote his own order and had it filled. Every morning he would swallow four red hormone pills.

Avendon also began a course of electrolysis. On Saturday mornings he visited an elderly woman who worked on his face, and, later on, on his chest, underarms, and legs. She would move swiftly for ninety minutes, placing the needle under the skin at the root of the hair, applying the current, and then flicking the loose hair onto a tissue. Avendon would leave, his face swollen and his wallet ninety dollars lighter, and resume his normal activities.

For a time the pills and electrolysis had no impact on Avendon’s life. The first indication of change was a remark his mother made about his hair. He looked in the mirror and saw it was true. His hair was thicker than it had been in years. In the following months it continued to thicken and became less oily. For the first time since he had reached adolescence, he didn’t have to wash it every single day.

Later, Avendon noticed his body hair was diminishing. One day, while walking with a friend, he secretly compared the hair on her arm with his and found hers was thicker and darker. He was even more proud of his budding breasts. With amazement and pride he watched them grow until he knew he would not need to augment them with surgery. They continued to grow until they were an embarrassment. He forced himself to gain twenty extra pounds in order to hide them.

Avendon’s seminal fluid disappeared. He could still bring himself to orgasm, but his erections were not what they had once been. He still masturbated daily to fantasies of his impending womanhood. Although he had begun to avoid romantic contact with women because of the changes that were happening to his body, he still desired them, and occasionally his fantasies were of others instead of himself.

If there were additional changes, they were too subtle to measure. Were the contours of his body different? Did his face seem more feminine than it had the month before? The year before? Was his voice a little less deep? Was his personality changing? Sometimes it seemed so.

By the spring of 2006 Avendon’s “program” had been ongoing for more than two year. His face was now relatively hairless and smooth. As the last of the beard vanished strangers began to express confusion about his gender. At first most people assumed he was a man, but as the months passed and the last traces of facial hair vanished, the majority began to assume he was a woman. After a day in which he was called ma’am on three separate occasions, Avendon realized the hormones and electrolysis had made all the difference they were likely to make.

Avendon had been busy in other arenas. For years he had been placing a considerable portion of his salary in an early retirement program, and for the past twelve months he had been avidly putting every loose cent into the fund. He had saved money enough to support him until he could find employment as a woman.

It was time for phase two of Avendon’s plan. He began terminating the obligations and relationships that he, as a man, had incurred. He allowed his hair to grow. He avoided his friends and limited visits to his family to holidays. He packed the bulk of his belongings and placed them in storage. He gave his landlord notice. He quit his job. He cancelled some of his credit cards and let others expire.

Avendon checked into a clinic and had plastic surgery. The surgeon assured him his cheekbones would be higher, his nose smaller, his chin less strong, his brow less pronounced, his lips fuller. When the bandages came off he could see no great change in his swollen face, but as the mass of bruises subsided he began to see the features the surgeon had promised. While recuperating, Avendon went on a strict diet. He lost weight quickly. When his face had healed, he began visiting a spa for aerobics and tanning sessions. He made a trip to the public library and scanned back editions of the newspaper until he found the name of a female infant who had died shortly after birth. He wrote the Department of Records, using her name and information he found in the city directory, and obtained a birth certificate, which he had sent to a post office box he had rented under that name. He found a notary public and “sold” his automobile to this new self.

At a wig shop Avendon told the proprietor he wanted a hairpiece. She fitted him with one, blending it expertly with his hair, but even with the hairpiece, he was unhappy with his appearance. Although his hairline hadn’t receded, and even though his hair was now quite long, there was just not enough bulk to obtain the look he wanted. He left without making a purchase and visited a hair replacement center. There he was told that he could be fitted with hair of any color, texture, and length whatsoever. It would be blended with his hair so skillfully he could even wear the replacement to bed and while swimming. It would be undetectable, even to probing fingers. He would care for it as if it were his own hair. The only drawbacks were the price, the twice ­monthly visits necessary to tighten it, and the six week waiting period while the replacement was manufactured.

Avendon returned the next day with a stack of pictures he had scissored out of magazines. A young woman with a name tag containing the embossed words “Hair Replacement Specialist” listened to his embarrassed explanation and then helped him select a style and color. She cut a lock of his hair and dyed it to the auburn color they had settled on. After measuring his head and taking a considerable amount of money, she produced an appointment book. At Avendon’s insistence, she gave him an evening appointment.

With no job and nothing to occupy his time, Avendon became bored. He haunted shopping centers, but resisted the temptation to buy clothing and accessories for his new life; he saw no need to purchase things he couldn’t try on and which might not fit. He made long, wistful telephone calls. He looked up acquaintances he hadn’t thought of in years. He went on a two-week hiking trip in the mountains to take off his last few excess pounds.

Avendon spent the last week before his rebirth moping around his empty apartment, watching old movies and eating cups of yogurt with plastic spoons. He called the Salvation Army, and when they arrived on his doorstep, he gave them all but two changes of his clothing. He even gave them his empty wallet, placing his driver’s license and other papers in an envelope in his back pocket.

On a gray day in early April Avendon arose early; dressed in a sweatshirt, short pants, and old sneakers, he made his way into the darkened interior of a beauty shop which adjoined a four-lane highway. While the cars zoomed by fifty feet away, a thoroughly amused young woman named Betty directed him to lie down on a padded table and proceeded to perpetrate upon him almost every beauty service known to man. She began by smearing his legs, torso, and underarms with hot wax, pressing strips of cloth onto the wax, and jerking them away. What little hair there was left in these areas came away with the cloth, leaving patches of slightly reddened skin. Betty next used tweezers to work over his eyebrows, shaping them into delicate arches. Then she had him sit upright as she gave him a pedicure and applied bright polish to his toenails. She made Avendon walk, cotton balls between his toes, to a chair where she began building long acrylic fingernails. Two hours later, his fingers, topped with pointed red nails, looked slim and graceful. Avendon was amazed at the way they seemed to force his hands into making sweeping, graceful, feminine movements.

Betty directed Avendon to yet another chair, where she glued individual eyelashes to his own, thickening and lengthening them. She pierced his ears with a tool which reminded him of a staple gun, then applied gold hoops to the studs. Next, she directed Avendon to a recliner, where she proceeded to give him a facial massage. Afterwards, she studied him for a moment and then began swiftly applying makeup: first a moisturizer and conditioner, then foundation, blush, powder, eyeliner, shadow, lip liner, and lipstick. When she was finished, she turned Avendon’s chair so he could admire himself in the mirror. He was amazed at what he saw: a woman, and a beautiful woman that that! He wrote a check for a not inconsiderable sum and scurried to his car.

It was necessary to walk though a shopping mall in order to reach the hair replacement center. Avendon was prepared to be stared at, but most people seemed to pay him little mind. He realized that despite his jeans and sweatshirt, most of them assumed he was a woman.

A girl of about seventeen shampooed Avendon’s hair, after which a middle-aged woman named Jean cut it to an overall length. Jean handed him over to a young man who applied strips of hair to Avendon’s head. Then he as given back to Jean, who shampooed, styled, and dried his hair. When she was finished, Avendon’s hair was dark red, to his shoulders in length, full and bouncy. It looked exactly like the hair in the photo he had selected. With the makeup he still wore, he looked absolutely, gloriously, like a woman.

Avendon spent the rest of the evening in a buying whirlwind at the mall, purchasing perfumes, cosmetics, jewelry, and clothing. He first bought a dress, which he wore out of the store. When he had also acquired underwear, hose, a pair of pumps, and a handbag, his conversion was complete. He watched himself in the mirrored store fronts as he passed them; he also monitored those he came into contact with, searching their faces for signs they recognized he was not a woman. He saw no evidence they suspected. Although he received occasional stares of appraisal from men, most people seemed to look at him with no more than mild interest. He was especially pleased with the reaction of the salesman in the shoe store where he had bought his pumps; the man had made no secret of admiring Avendon’s legs.

The next morning, Avendon went apartment hunting. Having found a suitable flat, he made arrangements for delivery of his belongings from his rented storage shed. He visited the water and electric companies, and then the telephone company, obtaining service in his new name. He stopped at a bank to open a checking account. The officer with whom he spoke had long brown nails, and she flashed them as she and Avendon spoke. Avendon, in turn, flourished his red nails; he was enjoying himself greatly until it transpired he couldn’t open an account without a social security number. He telephoned the Social Security office and was told he must have a birth certificate and at least one other ID in order to apply for a card. Avendon had only a birth certificate. He stopped at the library and was told he couldn’t obtain a card until he could show proof of address. In disgust, for his pumps were wearing blisters on his heels, he returned home. But the next day, wearing a pair of flats, he obtained identity enough to get the library card and to apply for a social security card. There was no alternative but to wait for the three weeks or so it required for the card to come in the mails; he returned to shopping. Easter was soon to come, so he bought a spring outfit consisting of a pastel yellow jumper and matching accessories. He had his ears pierced again and began wearing double hoops.

Throughout all his activities, people responded to Avendon as if he were the attractive young woman he appeared to be. Men smiled at him, and some even opened doors for him. A few whistled and tried to persuade him to climb into their cars. The same old ladies who had formerly looked at him warily now called him Honey and asked directions of him. A girl of about five, temporarily away from the jurisdiction of her mother, told him he was pretty.

Avendon, who had always resisted the temptation to crossdress, was surprised at how comfortable he felt in womens’ clothing. Despite his lack of practice, acting and speaking like a woman wasn’t difficult for him. He was glad he had waited. Before, he would have been conscious of his flat chest, the wig on his head, the facial hair concealed by heavy makeup, the hair on his body. Now, everything seemed natural. He looked like a woman. He felt like a woman, or at least he felt the way he imagined a woman would feel.

If Avendon was at ease with himself, he was not so with others. He had grown comfortable with appearing at public, but had acquired no friends or acquaintances. People whom he met casually seemed to take him for a woman, but what of people with whom he would deal with face-to-face? Would they figure out his secret? Looking at himself in a mirror, he thought not, but he needed to be sure. He stopped avoiding those people, male and female, who showed an interest in getting to know him better. He made a point of speaking to his new neighbors, and he began to respond to the frequent passes and pleasantries of men by smiling at them instead of sticking his nose up in the air and ignoring them.

On the day his new social security card arrived, Avendon screwed up his courage and asked the middle-aged man who lived across the street to take him to the driver’s license examining station. Driving back home with his new license, he studied the man to tell what he was thinking. It was impossible to tell. At that moment, Avendon decided to tell him everything. That evening, he did so, and asked the man whether he had suspected. The neighbor, his face pale, told Avendon he had had no idea, excused himself, and almost ran out the door.

The next morning Avendon strode into a beauty salon and made a full confession to an astonished attendant. Ten customers, some of them wearing mud packs, and others with their hair in curlers, gaped and pawed at him. To a man— to a woman— they assured him they had been fooled— and of course they had.

Avendon was now intellectually sure he was passing as a woman. His subconscious was another matter. It remained unconvinced. Perhaps it would never be convinced.

Avendon was especially fearful of males. Or, rather, he was fearful about starting any kind of a dating relationship with a male. He had never felt erotic attraction towards other men. He didn’t now, particularly. However, now that he was a woman, it seemed natural for him to be with a man, at least as regarded the social aspects of a romance. He couldn’t picture himself, as he was now, being in bed with a woman—with another woman, as he put it to himself. That is, he could picture the actual sex act, but the social aspects of lesbianism appalled him as much as did the sexual aspects of a male-Avendon relationship.

Although he was terrified of acquiring one, Avendon soon grew infatuated with the idea of having a boyfriend. But what if he found one? How would he handle him? Exactly what would he do with another man? What if he fell in love? Was it possible? What if the man fell in love with him?

Avendon was a nice girl. That is, he didn’t allow himself to be picked up. Since he, in his new guise, had no friends, there seemed to be little opportunity for romance. Eventually he arrived at what he considered a suitable way to meet strangers: he would take a vacation.

That’s how Avendon found himself flying to Charleston, South Carolina the day before Good Friday. He rode in a taxi to the historic district and checked into a pretentious new hotel near the Old Slave Market.

After Avendon had refreshed himself, he rode the elevator down to the lobby. He noticed that a row of collapsible tables had been set up along one wall. Strolling over, he saw that were for registration for a conference for hospital administrators. On a whim, he registered.

According to the schedule he was given, there was an open bar at eight P.M. Avendon found himself there, a Bloody Mary in his hand. He milled about for an hour or so, meeting and chatting with both men and women, trying to avoid telling them which hospital he was affiliated with.

He spent the next morning shopping in the stores on King Street. He slept away the better part of the afternoon, arising in time to have his nails done in the hotel’s salon before dressing for the evening’s banquet.

Avendon found himself at a table with two men and two women. The men and one of the women knew each other, but kindly included Avendon and the other woman in their conversation.

“It’s rubber chicken again,” sighed one of the men. He was about Avendon’s age. His nose was a little too long for even his lean face, and his sandy hair tended to fall down into his eyes, causing him to frequently sweep it back with a careless gesture. His name was Roger. The other man was called Art. He was a distinguished-looking man in his early forties. The hair around his temples had gone salt-and-pepper, and he had a pronounced widow’s peak. While Roger was friendly, Art was flirtatious. He kidded continually with Avendon and the other two women. As he ate his rubber chicken, he suggested the four of them go sightseeing the next morning. Since two of the women, Daisy and Melissa, agreed to go, Avendon yielded to Art’s cajoling and agreed also.

The next morning at ten, Avendon found only Roger in the lobby. “Art can’t go,” he explained. “Neither can Melissa. But Daisy should be here.”

Just then Daisy appeared, begging off. Avendon started to make his own apologies, but Roger said, “No, don’t you bow out too! I live in Charleston. I can show you the best places. The hell with the rest of them! We can have a wonderful time. Please say you’ll come!”

Avendon reluctantly agreed. And he did have a wonderful time. Roger indeed knew Charleston. As they prowled the streets, he pointed out landmarks not on the tourist maps. He took Avendon to the Battery, where they stood in the wind with the other couples, laughing and throwing potato chips to the gulls and pigeons. Afterward, Roger took Avendon down an obscure alleyway to a small restaurant near the waterfront, where they dined on she-crab soup and flounder.

After lunch they drove to Patriot’s Point in Roger’s car. During the forty-five minutes it took to cross the choppy waters of Charleston Harbor in a tour boat, they talked about their respective lives. That is, Roger talked about his life. Avendon avoided talking about his past life, and his new life hadn’t had much time in which to develop enough to provide good conversation. He contented himself with listening.

Their first physical contact came as Avendon stepped out of the boat onto the gangplank at Fort Sumter. Roger, who was standing behind him, placed a hand around his waist to help steady him. Only after Roger had removed his hand did the full impact of the touch hit Avendon. His knees felt weak.

As they sauntered around the fort, they held hands. Fast friends, they sat close together on the ride back to the mainland. Roger took Avendon to a lounge off Queen Street, where they had cocktails. The mood was growing positively romantic, and Avendon, who was not sure how he would handle a pass, was anxious to terminate. Roger wouldn’t hear of it. He chartered a horse and carriage and, as the twilight began, they clip­-clopped slowly around the historic district, Roger’s hand resting on Avendon’s bare leg. Avendon, who by that point had decided to stop worrying about enjoying himself, rested his head on Roger’s shoulder. Roger’s arm went around Avendon’s waist, and they remained that way for the rest of the ride.

By prearrangement, the buggy stopped at 82 Queen. Roger jumped nimbly to the ground, turned, and, putting his arms on each side of Avendon’s waist, helped him down. For a moment they stood close, their faces nearly touching. But the coachman threw the heavy door open wide for them, and they were obliged to enter the restaurant. After a lavish meal which ended with Dom Perignon, they walked, somewhat tipsy, up the street to the hotel.

Roger escorted Avendon back to his (Avendon’s) room. Standing outside the door, arms around each other, Avendon told Roger what a wonderful time he had had. Roger, smiling, bent and kissed Avendon lightly on the lips. He drew back, looking hungrily in Avendon’s eyes, and then kissed him again.

Avendon ducked inside his room and closed the door, leaning dreamily against it like any high school beauty back from a date. Turning, he kicked his shoes into the middle of the room and cast himself on the bed to sort out his feelings.

One thing was certain; Avendon was much too worked up to call it a night. After spending a restless hour on the bed, he arose and showered, changed cothes, and reapplied his makeup. Then he rode the elevator down to the lobby.

The convention was wrapping up with a dance. The room in which the banquet had been held was festooned with balloons and crepe paper. Avendon walked into the dimness and discovered a pressure on his arm. Turning, he found Art’s hand around his wrist. “Dance with me, Darlin’,” Art breathed beerily.

Avendon allowed himself to be led onto the dance floor. After a moment’s thought (in which he tried to remember which arm to put on Art’s shoulder), he raised his hands. Art, with a palm in the small of Avendon’s back, guided him smoothly across the floor. Avendon was surprised to see he seemed to be fairly good at following Art’s lead.

After a slow dance and several fast ones, Art led Avendon to a table. As they talked, he sat with an arm thrown casually across the top of Avendon’s chair; when he had regained his breath, he dragged Avendon back onto the floor.

Avendon, who was sure he had walked down every street in Charleston in the past two days, finally begged off, saying he needed to get some rest. Art insisted on escorting Avendon to his room.

Avendon was certain Art was going to make a pass, but the attack came sooner and with more force than he had expected. As soon as the elevator doors had closed, Art pressed him against the metal railing. His meaty lips were tight against Avendon’s; his hands were on Avendon’s breasts. Avendon, caught off guard, pressed hard against Art’s chest with the heels of his palms. He turned his head to avoid Art’s stubby beard, the breath which smelled of lager and cigarettes. But Art was stronger, and pressed his advantage.

To Avendon’s surprise, he discovered his struggles were subsiding. When Art finally broke away, Avendon just stood there He made no move to resist when Art leaned forward for a second kiss, and when the third came, Avendon reciprocated. But he refused to allow a fourth.

The elevator doors opened. Avendon saw the indicator showed his floor. I must, he thought dully, have pressed the button before Art grabbed me. He stepped quickly out into the hallway. Art moved to follow, stopping when he noticed a woman poised in a doorway down the hall. He grabbed Avendon’s wrist and murmured imprecations which seemed to Avendon more like threats. Avendon jerked his arm free and almost ran to his room.

A light on the phone in Avendon’s room was flashing. He called the hotel operator.

“You have a message, Miss Marquette,” said the operator, a breathless young man. “A Mr. Roger Love would like you to call him at his residence. He said to phone even if you got in late.” He recited a number which Avendon wrote down on the back of one of the hotel’s postcards.

Avendon, lying on the bed in his slip, telephoned. “Anna,” Roger said. “Thank you for calling. I’ve been thinking of you all evening.”

Avendon mumbled something into the receiver.

“Anna—I think you could be something very important in my life. I’m asking you if you could spare me some time tomorrow—would spare me some time.”

In the end, Avendon promised Roger most of the next day. The next morning, he wore the yellow outfit he had purchased—how long ago was it? Roger was waiting in the lobby. “You look beautiful,” he said, taking Avendon by the arm.

Avendon attended church with Roger. He sang in his woman’s voice; to his relief, he sounded not half bad. Afterward, Roger sprang a surprise. He stopped at a single-house just off the Battery and escorted him through the courtyard and inside. There, to Avendon’s horror, waited Roger’s parents, his older brother and his wife, and his younger sister. Roger had taken Avendon home to meet his family.

Avendon, who had wanted involvement, now had a surfeit. Hoping to make a good impression, he helped with the final stages of preparation of the meal and with setting the table.

Later, even though he would have rather been sitting in the living room with his feet up with the men, he and Marte, the younger sister, washed and dried the dishes. Marte confided in him that she had been experimenting with makeup, and asked his advice.

Avendon was well received by the family. As he stood in the foyer preparatory to leaving, he heard Roger’s mother tell him, “She certainly seems a wonderful girl.” Avendon blushed at the thought of being a “wonderful girl.”

Roger drove him to Magnolia Gardens. As they walked arm-in-arm through the beautiful informal gardens of the plantation, Avendon was madly attempting to sort out his feelings. Although Roger seemed nice enough, Avendon certainly didn’t love him. How could he, on such short acquaintance? To be sure, Roger’s caresses, which were bestowed freely upon Avendon as they sat on a bench alongside the Ashley River, were pleasant. But for sheer sensation they didn’t match being forced against the rail of the hotel’s elevator. Avendon found himself thinking more and more about Art. Although he was infuriated at the way he had been treated by the man, he was nevertheless intrigued.

After the warm afternoon had begun to fade into a cool evening, Roger took Avendon back to his hotel. He insisted Avendon give him his phone number. Avendon, after some hesitation, complied.

Avendon might have forgotten Art, but as he was leaving the hotel that evening, he happened to glance into the lounge. Art was perched on a stool at the bar, acting friendly with a blonde with pale skin. Avendon asked the bellhop to wait for a minute, and went into the lounge. He leaned across Art’s shoulder and kissed him full on the mouth. Ignoring the daggers the blonde was looking at him, he purred, “You were very good last night. I wish we could do it again. But my husband is waiting in the Mercedes.” He turned on his heel, leaving Art to the flabbergasted blonde.

Avendon was in his cab before he noticed a tingling sensation in his breasts. Looking down, he saw that his blouse was unbuttoned and one of his nipples was showing. Damn the man!

Roger called Avendon at home the next weekend to propose. Avendon, aware of the effect of former refusals on his own ego, let him down as gently as he could. Roger seemed to accept Avendon’s decision, but phoned on occasion to say the offer still stood.

There was still one procedure which Avendon had not arranged— the surgery which would result in the removal of his testicles and penis and the creation of an artificial vagina. Certainly, he couldn’t have intimate sexual relations with a man—as a woman, that is—without the surgery. He had planned on eventually having the procedure, but he had wanted to live for at least two years as a woman before he did, for the surgery was irreversible. He had somewhat naively thought that if he changed his mind about being a woman at any time before the surgery, he could go back to being a man. But looking at himself in the mirror one day about a month after his return from Charleston, he realized there was no going back. He had dismantled his life as a man, and in his new life as a woman he had already acquired obligations which it would be difficult to forego. Besides, who would think this beautiful woman had once been a man? He sighed. Tomorrow, he would start making arrangements for the surgery.

Avendon had the operation two months later. Two months after that he was pronounced fit and able to perform sexually as a woman. On the day he flew back from his final checkup in Colorado he sat nervously beside the phone, his address book open to Roger’s name. Finally, he got up the nerve to call.

“Roger, dear,” he breathed. “This is Anna. Do you remember the man who sat with us at the banquet at the conference in Charleston? His first name was Art. Yes, that’s the one. You don’t happen to know his last name, do you?”