Child: Caitlyn

A storm is brewing, a storm of uncertainty, the uncertainty as to the gender and identity of the in utero sibling of three-year-old child Caitlyn. The appearance, in three months, of the sibling of child Caitlyn will alter the demographic status of child Caitlyn. Caitlyn will become the middle child. Alleged difficulties of middle children are widely hypothesized, of course, but Caitlyn herself will not dignify the subject by addressing it directly. There are more important subjects to address, for example, cartoon characters of varying levels of notoriety. For example: Teamo Supremo. For example: Dora the Explorer. For example: Pooh and assorted Aristocats. On the day of the interview, Caitlyn is located underneath the dining room table, having upended the briefcase of her grandfather, including antacids, ibuprofen tablets, and herbal tea bags, having emptied this briefcase onto the floor, subsequent to which she tears open many of the teabags, and revels in a general pulled-apartness of these items, especially in the pulled-apartness of important papers belonging to her grandfather. When invited by her mother, Colleen, she of the wonderfully dry wit, to offer apology, the interview subject addresses her grandfather thus: “I’m sorry. I was just being Caitlyn.”

Her nightmares: oceans, specifically marine creatures, specifically lobsters and crabs, specifically the anatomical part of lobsters known to the younger set as “pinchers.” As in:“I saw them with their pinchers.” Also worrisome are sharks. Most hated thing: bugs. Does she like spiders? “No.” Does she like bees? “No.” Does she like ants? “No.” Does she like butterflies? “Yes.” Favorite kind of butterfly? “Purple.” Most frequent other personality, when not responding as Caitlyn: the personality of a dog. Oddly, her fiercest antagonist, notwithstanding her alternate personality as dog, is her grandfather’s spaniel, name of Clem. Her most frequent incarnation, excluding incarnation as dog: monster. “I’m a monster now, okay? I’m not a dog.”When responding as monster, Caitlyn is happy to feed on the bodies of loved ones, but when feeding as a human child, she must have the exact wedge-shaped slice of pizza favored by her brother (two years her elder). Bite-sized segments of pizza, intended to be cool, will be disdained entirely, starvation being preferable. Meats are not worthy of her interest in most circumstances, but carrots are fine, and above all other things is the heavenly wheelshaped pasta. Pasta must always be referred to as “pasta.” In any misadventure where Caitlyn has behaved badly (assuming there are such situations), she has crafted a reply to those who might accuse: “I have to leave now because you guys are bothering me.” Soon, however, Caitlyn is coming back into the room and she is repeating the observation, except that the tense has changed. “I had to leave because you guys were bothering me.” But now she is back.

A bruise recently observed on the chin of Caitlyn elicits the following narrative, “Come here. I’ll show you. Come this way. Come through here. Now come through here. Now we’re going over here. Now you have to go under here [slide], and around here [between two children]. I had things in both my hands and I climbed up here [first step on curvilinear playground stepladder], and then up here [further step], and then I fell through here [indicating space between stepladder and wooden side of play structure to which it is affixed]. And I hit my chin here and I hit the back of my head here.” Did it hurt? Caitlyn nods.After which, she begins leading the profiler back to a picnic table and a brownie that she is eating to the exclusion of a hot dog and some corn. On the way: “I’m sorry that I hurt myself.”

In three months, there will be another baby, making its infernal baby noises. And yet for the moment, in the hot part of the spotlight, there’s Caitlyn, and Caitlyn is deadly serious, and likes to dance, and god help you if you are bothering her.


Megan Milks is the author of Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body (Feminist Press, 2021), a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in transgender fiction, as well as Slug and Other Stories and Remember the Internet: Tori Amos Bootleg Webring.

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