Jinni’s round rosy cheeks glowed with surprise. “You don’t know? School’s where kids go to play games, meet other kids, and paint pictures.” She poured sand from a pink plastic cup into a yellow dump truck half her size. “And sometimes we get to win prizes and eat birthday cake. My mommy says big girls go to school.” She brushed sand off her daisy-embroidered pullover and bright green suspender-pants.
“My mommy says I don’t have to go to school,” MRKI said from the corner of the sandbox. “I can stay home with her and get upgrades.”
“But what about games, you won’t get to play any games?” Jinni sounded distressed. “And if you don’t go I’ll have to go alone.”
“If you want you can still come over to visit me,” MRKI said and tilted her head. “But I’ll be a boy.”
“A boy? Ooo, yucky.” Jinni sounded confused. “Boys are terrible. My mommy says so. And you’re a girl. That’s better.” She pushed back her curls and got sand in her blond hair.
“I can be whatever I want,” MRKI said, smugly. “But next time I get an upgrade maybe I’ll be a girl again.” MRKI nodded smiling until Jinni nodded and smiled back.
“It might be okay to be a boy then,” Jinni said, “but just for a little while. And if I don’t talk to you while you’re a boy, you can tell me about it when you’re a girl again.”
“Okay,” MRKI said, and they both laughed.
“And I’ll be smarter too,” MRKI said. “Not because I’m a boy, but because my mommy is getting me the 5 Upgrade. So I’ll know fractions and logger … logarithms and French and … ahh, ahh, Heidegger. Anyway I’ll be really smart, so you still might not want to talk to me.”
“High digger?” Jinni frowned. MRKI nodded. Jinni returned to spooning sand into her pink cup. “I still get to play games.”
“I don’t have to play games,” MRKI said. “My upgrade remembers me playing games so I don’t have to. And I don’t have to go to the playground … and see mean kids … and get dirty … and I get to wear pretty dresses all the time cause I’m not getting dirty.”
“Dresses? If you’re a boy, you can’t wear dresses. Boy’s don’t wear dresses.” Jinni smirked.
“Yes they do, my mommy says boys can wear dresses, too.”
Jinni stuck out her tongue and walked home.
The next morning Jinni’s mother set a blue bowl on a yellow flower-patterned mat for Jinni’s breakfast, arranged a napkin and teaspoon beside it, and poured orange juice into a ceramic cup with a field mouse face on the side and handles like mouse ears.
“Jinni, come down,” she called. “Hurry up, we have to leave for school soon.”
“I don’t want to go to school,” Jinni said, walking in sullen. She climbed onto her seat and took the teaspoon in her round fist.
“What’s wrong, honey. I thought you wanted to go to school and play games with the other kids.”
“No – I – don’t. I want to wear pretty dresses and remember stuff, like, like French and loggers and high diggers.” She frowned up at her mother. “And I want to be a boy.”
Her mother sat back confused. “If you want mommy to get you a computer implant, I can do that. There’s a long wait for gender reassignment, but I can put you on the list. Is that what you want?”
“NO,” Jinni said, pouting. “I want to get upgrades and be just like my best friend, just like MRKI.”
“But Jinni, MRKI’s not alive. MRKI’s a robot.”