Minnie was Mike's Fem-name. He was almost sixteen and going through a phase. At least that's what his mother hoped. Regardless, she didn't want her son running around in a dress. She was right. In that neighborhood, as a boy, running around in a dress was probably not a smart thing to do. But, being smart is one thing nobody in that family had ever been accused of.
His mom was sixteen when she got knocked up. Her soon to be spouse was the same age. Nothing lays the foundation for a successful family like two high school dropouts embarking on the road of life together. Add to that the encumbrance of children and two dysfunctional extended families and survival rather than high achievement becomes the goal.
For her it was an escape from a miserable home life. She had been cursed with overbearing parents. How is it possible to have two overbearing parents? Wouldn't they drive each other nuts? Wouldn't one drive the other one out in the quest for dominance? Yes, they did drive each other nuts and being crazy, neither had the good sense to leave, so they devoted their combined efforts to making their children and extended families miserable.
Seeing pregnancy as a path to marriage and marriage as a way out of her parent's home, she said she was on “the pill”, but that was a lie. Is that “toxic femininity”? Regardless, she got her guy and what a prize he was. He dropped out of school to get a job but when he finally figured out what she had done (everybody else knew) he resented it, and reminded her of it often.
Unfortunately, having learned life skills from her parents, the whole process she had grown up with started over again with shouting taking precedence over logic and one-upmanship replacing affection. Family life isn't supposed to be a soap opera, and when he couldn't stand it, or her, any longer he ran, thrusting her into the unenviable position of single parent and leaving her with Mike, his sister Tonya three years his junior, and Bill two years his senior.
Some families have little traditions like discussing at the dinner table which books their children are reading, or playing gin rummy every Thursday night just so the family can talk. But other families play less frivolous games - hurting each other. It's a power thing.
Mike's brother teased him mercilessly. That led to nervous ticks which led to even more teasing at school. With an absentee and vilified father and his brother at his throat, Mike had to defend every action and every utterance from constant attacks. It was exhausting and the kid was a nervous wreck. He did badly in school. That was partially because of nerves and partly from neglect when nobody cared enough to tell him even the simplest things about how school works or even cared to check if he did his homework. Also, because everyone told him he was stupid he began to believe it. He was miserable and he eventually stumbled upon cross-dressing as an escape into a fantasy existence as far as he could possibly get from the miserable unworthy creature he believed himself to be.
By the middle of his sophomore year as his sixteenth birthday approached, he had decided to drop out of school and run away from home. Running away from problems was, after all, a family tradition. He was a chip off the old block, but to do this, he would need a job.
He saw an ad for a “male maid” in the personals of the local alternative newspaper. Any smart person would recognize that as a likely ploy for male prostitution or some other illicit activity and ignore it, but he naively applied for the job. It is no small irony that the best decision of his life was made purely out of ignorance. The employment office that ran the ad was reputable and appeared to be looking for a particular kind of person. After an initial interview, he was introduced to Mr. Butler, for an interview that lasted hours and included several tests.
His story seemed to touch a nerve with the interviewer. Perhaps it reminded him of his own childhood in a dysfunctional family. Mike's honesty about his cross dressing went a long way toward earning trust. The man described the job and questioned him extensively about his family and school experiences. He said his boss values education highly, so Mike would have to transfer to a new school and improve his grades. Mr. Butler even offered to help him with school work if that's what it took, but he must continue in school as a condition of employment. He emphasized that this job, while not highly paid, included room and board and many other benefits and warned him that he would be so busy with work, school and study, that he wouldn't have time to spend his money anyhow. He said that it's not the low level low status position one might assume it to be. While it is simple domestic service, he would be working in proximity with important people and it could lead to better things if he were willing to put in the effort needed.
He looked Mike in the eye and promised him that he would not be asked to do anything that was beyond his abilities. And, in what seemed like an archaic ritual, Mr. Butler then asked Mike for his “word of honor” that if he took the job, he would put forth all his effort to succeed. It was the first time anyone had ever asked him for “his word” and the implication that he was viewed as a “man of honor” shook Mike to his very core. Mr. Butler was treating him, not only as a man, but as an equal. He realized the gravity of this and gave his word with a hand shake. They had now assumed obligations to each other. He was offered the job with the condition that it would require transfer of parental authority and confidentiality contracts signed by him and his parent.
Having to ask your mother so you can run away from home is not how things are supposed to work. Mike's plan was in shambles. When they went to get his mother's approval Mike had to confess his plan to drop out of school and run away. In that light, she had little choice but to agree to let him take the job. At least with this mysterious job as a domestic (they didn't say maid) he would be safe and she would know how to contact him. They were told the job was intended to last about three years and then he would be expected to move on to better things.
Mike was delighted with his pretty new uniform. Although the identity of his employer was never revealed to his mother, Mike eventually met Dr, Lee, an eccentric engineer who develops cutting edge robotics for the automotive industry and for the military.
Dr. Lee used to hire girls as maids, but what would come to be called the “Me Too” movement convinced him to hire fewer women in his company so sissy maids were part of his solution. He liked the look of modest but cute French maid outfits and wanted a unique ambiance that they created. He does have women on his staff, but they are highly skilled women he knows and has worked with for years. He also didn't want the distraction of sex in the workplace. While some guys in his workshop might be tempted by a cute girl in a French maid outfit, the mere knowledge that it was a boy under that pretty wrapping was enough to remove any distraction.
Dr. Lee's home was his workplace. He's a strange, but brilliant man who is always working. He had found an old estate to renovate and converted it into his home, company headquarters, research lab and workshops. The mansion had been built in the early twentieth century by an automotive executive as one of the last vestiges of the gilded age. It was a work of art and a bit ostentatious at the same time, but such houses have always been one of the things used to establish the pecking order in society. Establishing a pecking order seems to be a basic human trait. In a cave man times, a club might have served the same purpose with a bashed in head being an equally effective indication of who was lower in the tribal pecking order. In medieval society, fields of slaughtered knights and peasants drove that point home, so in that light; having the most ornate house wasn't so vulgar after all.
While trappings of the gilded age might be outmoded, the quest to buy status still goes on with the super rich buying jets, mega yachts and mega mansions that dwarf this one. Generating and showing off wealth does create jobs and goods and services for others so it isn't for naught.
Many large mansions of this type were torn down when they deteriorated after people could not afford the upkeep or as wealth shifted away from Detroit with the demise and dispersal of the US auto industry. Some were cut up into apartments or used by institutions as fraternity houses, law offices or even funeral homes and some were made into museums. Fortunately for this one, Dr. Lee had the financial where with all to keep it staffed, maintained and running.
Mike was trained in his housekeeping duties and was one of four sissy maids under the supervision of Mrs. Trueheart, the housekeeper. She asked for a feminine name he wished to be called by and he chose “Minnie”. She made sure that he had properly fitting uniforms, a proper hair style that he could maintain, and that he could apply makeup and met other grooming standards before he was presented to the rest of the staff. She left no doubt, she was his boss
She started him off in the kitchen assisting the cook. He would have to earn a lot of trust before he could step foot in the lab, even to empty trash cans, clean up or serve coffee. After a few weeks, he begin cleaning the downstairs living quarters and serving in the dining room. A while longer and his responsibilities were expanded to the rest of the house and after several months he was allowed to enter the offices, workshops and labs where Mr. Butler worked.
At first he thought these people were rather odd. They talked funny. He eventually figured out that they were not only using big words but very precise words that he had never heard. They had many more levels of communication than the people he had grown up around. They could impart subtle differences and bits of context in a sentence that people he knew either could not convey, or would have to express with much more verbiage and lots of arm waving. He was being exposed to a different class of people; people who had the privilege of better educations and in all probability had the good fortune to have better family lives growing up.
Mrs. Trueheart sent the school aged maids to a nearby private girl's school. Minnie was at a triple disadvantage in the new school. First, the school's curriculum was far more advanced than that of his old public school. Second, he wasn't a good student to start with. And third, unlike the other students, he was working a full time job after school and on weekends. This did not seem reasonable for a student on the verge of dropping out, but over the course of just one semester, Mrs. Trueheart's homework requirements in conjunction with Mr. Butler's tutoring had a major effect on Minnie's academic performance and his grades jumped.
With the feminine haircuts and makeup requirements for their sissy maid duties it was just simpler to have them wear girl's uniforms at school and present them as girls, even though all the other students knew they were not. Dr. Lee was a valued friend and benefactor of the school and they kindly made accommodations for his maid's. They had a separate WC, were exempted from phys-ed class etc. and the administration did their best to prevent teasing.
Now that he was doing well Minnie began to like school. The calmer friendly surroundings no doubt helped his grades as well as his self esteem. For the first time in his life, he was not a failure and he was surrounded by people who complimented him. He was now a good student and a good maid and everybody liked him for that too. He was not stupid and in all likelihood neither were her parents. Like so many others, they had been trapped by their own actions and attitudes in a self sustaining pernicious environment that persisted generation after generation. You can't herd people out of a mindset. They must escape it one at a time – as individuals.
He also liked being around the girls at school. Mrs. Trueheart had anticipated that, and addressed his budding interest in the opposite sex in the bluntest possible terms. She called him into her office and talked about his family history of teen pregnancy and negative consequences for all involved. She basically said to learn what he could from his unique experience at that school, look (discretely) but don't touch, but he had better treat the girls with the utmost respect, because it was their school and he was just a guest there. She told him that if even one of the girls reported that he was giving them trouble, that he would regret it.
As she spoke she slapped something down hard on her desk. It was a thick clear plastic case shaped like a boy's private parts with a padlock lock on it, and although he had never seen or heard of such a thing, he intuitively knew what it was. He instinctively didn't like it and knew his mother had given them authority to punish him. She told him it was a device to keep boys in line. It looked small but she assured him that she could “make it fit”, but that he would regret it. He thought about the prospect of having an itch that could not be scratched in addition to all the other problems it would pose. “Mess with the girls at school and you will be wearing this!” Point taken! He left her office determined never to see that thing again. He would become a paragon of good manners and never give any girl a reason to complain.
Ironically, his determination to be so polite made him very popular with the girls and some of them were more than willing to take him to first base and beyond. Knowledge of potential bad consequences only provided limited forbearance, so when his will power failed; prudent birth control and discretion sufficed. Lucky for all involved, both worked and their secrets were kept.
He was no longer that pathetic creature his sadistic brother had created in his mind. People liked him. He no longer viewed himself as a failure who could never measure up to the requirements of manhood, and he no longer needed to escape through cross dressing. He did, however, still need to fit in at school and work so he would remain in feminine uniforms.
Reflecting on his concerns about measuring up to the requirements of manhood, he realized that he had no idea what those were. Before working for Dr. Lee, he didn't know any successful men. He saw men on TV, but half of them were despicable fictional characters. He never had a role model other than his mother. And, as he got to know the girls at school better, he began to realize that despite his hair, makeup and clothing, he actually knew nothing about being a girl.
He knew nothing of their problems, the way they think, their hopes, fears and dreams. He knew nothing of the social pressures they were under, or their insecurities. He couldn't relate to having cramps and a period or to fears of pregnancy or rape or aspirations of motherhood or the way their bodies moved or felt or the special relation that exists between a mother and her children in healthy families. He had never seen a healthy family or a good parent of either sex.
He suddenly realized that he had bitten off much more than he could chew. Trying to figure out how to be a man was hard enough, but trying to figure out how to be a woman too - that was beyond his ability. He had just taken the first step toward wisdom, the realization of how little he actually knew or understood about the world around him. With that, vast horizons suddenly appeared with unexplored frontiers in all directions. For the first time in his life he envisioned going out in a direction of his choice to explore this new world that was opening up before him.
When he described his revelation to Mr. Butler, the gentleman simply smiled knowingly. The program had another success and Mr. Butler knew they would be losing a sissy maid soon. Mr. Butler explained that he was never expected to be a woman, just to maintain the appearance of a maid and perform those duties to the best of his abilities. He explained to Minnie, that if they only wanted someone to clean the house, they would not have gone to the expense of sending him to a good school and run him through the wringer forcing him to catch up and excel academically. He said he knew from his initial interview and tests that he was intelligent but headed in the wrong direction. He said that he knew how hard it had been for him to catch up with the other students in a college prep school and that he admired his accomplishment. “This was always about improving your life, but the program isn't over yet, so stick with it.”
He had a job to do. Now the pretty uniform was just that, a uniform, no different than the lab coats worn by some of the scientists, the uniforms worn by the security guards or Dr. Lee's well tailored business suits. Those too were uniforms, to show where they were in the pecking order.
One of the scientists was more social that the rest. The old Mike would have viewed her with suspicion, but he was now more trusting. Also, the idea that she just wanted to talk to was not something he had experienced. Nobody ever thought he was worth talking to before. She was a PhD computer scientist specializing in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and when he called her Dr. Evans she said to just call her Mary.
Mary Evans was trying to point out that many opportunities can spring from being a maid. She said that her grandmother had been a maid when she first arrived in the US from Ireland in the 1920's. Back then, getting a job as a domestic servant was a way to observe and learn about aspects of middle and upper class society that many poor rural people had never been exposed to. It could be a stepping stone, the first rung on the ladder to success, back when people were more humble and embraced the idea of “working your way up”.
Early twentieth century magazines could give a glimpse of the lifestyles of the rich and middle class. Then movies and eventually TV shows gave a fanciful vision of other people's lifestyles, but domestic service gave more than a glimpse. It gave new immigrants the best chance to observe the real home lives and values of people who were successful in their new country. These were usually well educated people from whom they could learn the “social graces” back when people valued such things. Dr. Evans looked Minnie square in the eye and said, “Minnie, the people who matter today still do value such things”.
She went on about her grandmother. “Straight off the farm and arriving in the US from Ireland with the ability to read and write and with the ethics of a good Catholic girl, she found a position in the household of an upper class family and she learned from them. Her humble origins would not hold her back as she became part of the great American melting pot pursuing her American dream. She had a good life and a century later, her great grand children are all well educated and successful.” She said that minimum wage laws had cut off that pathway for many and priced domestic servants out of reach of the middle class, but had also spurred development of labor saving devices largely eliminating the need for full time maids for most people.
Perhaps sensing that Minnie wasn't following her comments, she said “A smart boy in this particular household could learn a lot, and the people here want to help all the maids have brighter futures.” Minnie now had another friend to talk to.
Except during summer and other school breaks, Minnie was at school most weekdays when lunch was served at the estate. Lunch each weekday was big events at the company. Dr. Lee hated meetings, regarding them as a complete waste of time for most of the participants so, this was a way to replace them with something useful and provide gourmet meals to his staff as an added employee benefit at the same time. Dinner was a smaller, more select gathering.
Meals were served in a large formal dining room that in earlier times had accommodated titans of the auto industry. It could seat about two dozen people. Information usually covered in a business meeting would be discussed over a fine meal, even with occasional power point presentations on the newest developments and products. Servos, motor ratings, miniaturized hydraulic cylinders and the latest in high pressure tubing were the usual topic of conversation and over time Minnie began to understand this foreign language.
He and the other maids would serve the meals, clean the house and those with clearance would clean the workshop and labs. They worked closely with the security guards and they all knew each other by name. The estate had very high security with an old stone wall surrounding the entire estate and an inner high tech secure zone by the lab and workshops.
During the initial orientation tour Minnie was told about the high security enclosure. The security gates at both the inner and outer fences are closed at nine o'clock and you NEVER go into that security zone at night! NEVER! He guessed that the boss was afraid of the dark and now Minnie had a good reason to be afraid too – KILLER ROBOTS!
There they were lined up in their charging nests in preparation for the next night's patrol. There were six of each type and there were two types. The most terrifying looked like mechanical pit bull dogs that were all muscle and teeth and the others looked like a heavy flat piece of steel on four wheels with a blade on the front, like a small snow plow. Both types would run free all night and return to their charging station at the appointed time.
The dogs looked menacing, even when deactivated in the same way that a speedboat or jet fighter plane looks fast even when stationary. They were terrifying to look at and upon his first sight of them he knew he had just been given a glimpse of how humanity would end.
The flat platforms were “utility bots” that could be used in warehouses and stores to carry loads from one place to another without a human pushing or guiding it. It was guided by sensors, a programmed layout of the facility and an AI program. That was the company's main product and various modules could be fitted onto it to automate package retrieval, handling and delivery within the warehouse or factory floor.
With installation of a different AI program and addition of the plow blade it was a security robot for smooth terrain within the fenced and gated security zone. The “utility bots” could literally run down an intruder pinning him underneath. The mechanical dogs would be far less kind to an intruder and could handle much rougher terrains. A deep ravine on the estate offered a good test for their surefootedness.
Minnie got to see the robot's handiwork first hand when a deer happened to jump the outer fence and the bots gave chase. Deer can run fast, but not fast enough. The mortally wounded doe ended up on the flat top of one of the utility bots after its blade broke her hind legs. As if that weren't bad enough, the robotic dogs got into the act as the hapless deer just lay there. It was a quick, but horrible death. Minnie saw the gruesome video of it in the security office after the fact. Needless to say, it wouldn't be shown at lunch or dinner. He helped to clean up the mess as well. That was not one of the high points of his sissy maid career.
This was viewed as a major product failure and Dr. Lee was furious. What if it had been a human being? Minnie knew all the engineers by now and their different areas of responsibility. Mary was the AI expert so she caught hell, but the mechanical engineer responsible for the blade and the security people were in trouble too. There is a big yellow “Bot Emergency Shut Down” button on their console that should have been pushed ones the bots were in “pursuit mode” and the nature of the threat had been determined to be a deer. Obviously nobody was at the security station looking at the CCTV's when all this happened.
Venison was served in the dining room that week. Needless to say, the fiasco was the main topic of conversation at lunch and dinner, including suggestions for new more rigorous tests for the AI programs. As ideas were being bandied around, Minnie having worked there for over two years and now about to start the last semester of high school, was serving desert, wine and other drinks to the scientists and engineers at the table. She was also listening to the conversation when she suddenly had an idea. She worked her way over to Mary and whispered it in her ear.
Mary's face lit up. It was such a unique approach that she inquired further. So, they ended up talking quietly for about two minutes. Eventually Dr. Lee noting the loss of his AI expert asked if there was something wrong with the wine at which point Mary said, “No Sir. Minnie just had an idea for testing the AI program and was explaining it to me. I'd like to pursue it.” Nobody smirked or laughed because a good idea is a good idea no matter where it comes from.
Dr. Lee's reply was, “If it's her idea, then let her work on it with you. Mrs. Trueheart will have to be down one maid in the interim. Inform her that Minnie will be transferred to the AI department until further notice.” And, with that, they moved onto the next topic.
Minnie's idea worked and the tests revealed several weaknesses in their programs that were subsequently fixed. He was transferred back to Mrs. Trueheart's staff after two weeks in AI, but was assigned to Mary for one afternoon a week for the rest of the time he worked there. He had managed to get noticed by Dr. Lee who met with Mrs. Trueheart and Mr. Butler to find out more about this sissy maid whom he had barely noticed for the last two years. He authorized Mr. Butler to offer him a full college scholarship to a university of his choice providing it was in pursuit of an engineering or computer science degree. The offer was accepted.
They tried something different for his replacement, a girl - Tanya. Yes it was Mike's sister. She was long gone by the time Mike came back. He is now an engineer and it is hoped that he will work for Dr. Lee. Then it would be Mike's turn to conduct the interview at the employment agency and give a hand up to a total stranger who will be given the chance to earn a better life and pay it forward someday as Dr. Lee, Mr. Butler, Mary and many others have done.