After years of struggling, Jimmy just got a job as a manager at a business firm! If only he knew what he was doing!
Chapter Description: Part 1
“Hello, Jimmy,” his new secretary said, taking Jimmy’s hand in both of yours. “I’m Kirsten and I’ll be taking care of you.” She let out a little laugh. “Oh listen to me, I sound like a waitress.”
Jimmy bit his tongue and smiled, though he was sure it didn’t quite reach his eyes. He certainly didn’t mean it. “It’s James, actually,” he said. “Or ‘Mr. Wolff’, if you prefer.”
His secretary chuckled, good naturedly, oblivious to the tension boiling just beneath his calm and professional exterior. “Oh, I like you.” Kirsten said. “We’re going to get along famously, you and I.” Then she was kind enough to add, “James.”
Jimmy chafed at being called “Jimmy”. Only his close friends and his parents called him by his nickname and such familiarity so early on in any relationship irked him. Forty, or even thirty years ago, Jimmy would have been considered a true Yuppie: A Young Urban Professional. He’d have been looked at as young, fit, hungry, and ambitious. Not just an up-and-comer, but the next-big-thing! Women old enough to be his mother- women like Kirsten-would have admired him for his accomplishments in getting this management position just after turning thirty.
He wasn’t lucky enough to be a Boomer though. Nor a Gen-Xer. He was a Millenial, and as such his whole life he was seen as a perpetual child to anyone who had a week of seniority on this Earth over him. People of Kirsten’s generation saw Jimmy and somehow still thought he was an entitled teenager with no real experience. Correction: They still thought of people his age as overgrown toddlers.
It was an experience he promised never to foist on Gen Y. If anything it was refreshing that at least some people thought of him as “old” and “uncool”. Better to be seen as the old man yelling at kids to get off his lawn than the dopey kid who couldn’t wipe his own ass.
The fact that Jimmy had a serious case of “baby face”, didn’t help his inability to command authority, either. It took him close to two days to get something close to proper stubble; something inherited from his father. His anxiety and frustration almost made him wish he’d inherited Dad’s male pattern baldness...almost.
So yeah. Now that he’d made his way out of so-called entry level jobs that didn’t pay well yet also didn’t qualify him as ‘experienced’ AND putting himself through college, ‘Jimmy’ was off limits to everyone save those closest to him. ‘Jimmy’ waited tables and took orders. ‘Jimmy’ earned minimum wage. ‘Jimmy’ had a degree but no experience, (and that was what really mattered these days.) ‘Jimmy’ needed help. ‘Jimmy’ was a kid who needed his hand held.
‘James’, however, was management material. ‘James’ was what got him this job. It was a wonder what a name change on a job application could do. Hence, from now on, he was ‘James’. Jimmy got a middle aged boss. James got a middle aged secretary.
Kirsten- said middle aged secretary- gave his hand one last squeeze before releasing him. “Well, James,” she said. “I’ll let you get settled into your office, check your emails, that sort of important business stuff.” She didn’t wink, but she might as well have. Her tone was far too playful; a babysitter allowing a preschooler to wander off and play house.
“Thank you, Kirsten,” Jimmy said, curtly.
“Welcome, James.” Kirsten walked away, her ankle length brown skirt swishing as she walked.
The hairs on the back of Jimmy’s neck stood on end. He felt himself shaking his head and muttering to himself all the way back to his office. “It’s just a bad first impression,” he told himself. “She’s probably not used to working with someone younger than her. She probably has a kid close to my age. Maybe grandkids.” He logged into his computer, and waited for it to load his settings. “Nah,” he decided. “She probably doesn’t have grandkids yet.” Assuming she had a kid his age, being a grandma might result in her looking at someone his age as an adult. Also, what Millenial could really afford kids? Babies were expensive. Diapers alone would constantly cut into loan payments.
The computer failed to load up. Password rejected. He tried again. Nothing. “What the…?” He tried a third time. This time carefully putting in his company password in case his fingers were flying too fast for the keyboard or he was accidentally hitting the sequence out of order. He even made sure to check Capslock.
Password rejected. An image flashed across Jimmy’s brain of him bare fisted smashing the keyboard, pushing the monitor over the edge of the desk and throwing the tower out the fucking window. The feeling passed, and Jimmy was left giving a low and throaty growl; a nearly silent threat to a machine that could only think in binary.
“Coffee, James?” His secretary came through his open door. “Cream sugar, and vanilla.”
Jimmy tried again to log on. He’d set it up properly at employee orientation. “Yeah, sure.” Maybe he wasn’t put fully into the system, yet?
Kirsten set down the coffee on a coaster and walked around to Jimmy’s side of the big oak desk. “Password, problems?” Kirsten asked.
The new manager huffed. “Yeah. I don’t think I’m in the sys-”
“Let me help.” She interrupted. She laced her fingers together and cracked her knuckles, and then leaned into Jimmy’s personal space without warning. Her fingers were a blur on the keyboard, and then the damn thing actually loaded. It was filled with folders and documents and PDFs. It reminded Jimmy of his Mom’s desktop at home; she was always afraid she was going to lose something by storing it on the C drive, so her desktop was a cluttered mess of digital detritus that she’d only needed once and never used again.
A cluttered dinosaur of a desktop.
“I memorized Mr. Sheffield’s old password.” She grabbed the mouse before Jimmy had a chance. “ If they’ve got you in the system you should be able to load your info and password to this computer by clicking here, here, aaaand here.”
Jimmy blinked and the desktop looked exactly like how he’d set it up the other day. Organized. Efficient. His.
“Thank you, Kirsten,” Jimmy said.
His secretary ran her hands over her off-yellow blouse. Cockily she straightened her lacy long tasseled bow tie. “Welcome, James.” At least she closed the door on her way out…
James sat back in his fancy office chair, took a second to actually savor his ascension up the rat race, and then got to work.
At least he tried to. Seconds in, he felt his brain to fuzz over and his forehead begin to heat up. The emails and memos addressed to him were absolutely befuddling. There was so much corporate speak and company insider lingo that Jimmy wasn’t sure what to do with it all. barely understood what they were asking him to do.
It was like jumping into a mystery movie halfway in. Not quite, come to think of it. Mysteries constantly recounted and recontextualized the clues. It was closer to old fashioned cockney slang: Without the appropriate context and prior background knowledge, one couldn’t make heads or tales of what was actually being written about.
These emails might as well be telling him that if he wanted to make a bunch of bees he should be careful not to make a lot of box as he went up the apples or else he’d be in a load of Barney and the bottles would be after him for sure. That is to say he didn’t know what hell was being said. By the time he reached the end of a sentence, he’d forgotten the beginning and had to reread.
None of this was covered in orientation! None of this was covered in any of his business classes! Holy shit...maybe he wasn’t qualified for this job! He wanted to pick up his phone and call someone to help him translate, but he couldn’t even find who to call or what their number might be. And some stupid sense of pride kept him from calling the one person who had helped him today.
Lunch came too quickly and not nearly quickly enough for Jimmy. He’d gotten nothing done, but desperately needed the break from the tedium of not accomplishing anything. The one thing that slid across his computer screen that made any sense at all to him was a general all call for lunch out among the managers.
He could at least enjoy this, he promised himself. Time to call a cab and experience one of those classic three martini lunches like they showed on T.V.
“Kirsten,” he said on his way to the elevator “Hold my calls.”
Kirsten looked up from her computer screen. Whatever she was doing seemed very time consuming and complicated. “No calls yet, but yes sir.” Her smile was gentle and patronizing. “Enjoy your lunch.”
Jimmy did not, in fact, enjoy his lunch. Every other manager was at least twenty years his senior and he had absolutely nothing in common with them. They talked over him and around him like he wasn’t there. They didn’t even remember his name; neither ‘James’, “Wulff’, or ‘Jimmy’.
Kept referring to him as ‘junior’ the two or three times they acknowledged him at all. It vaguely reminded Jimmy of those first few Christmas gatherings when he was able to sit at the ‘adult’ table instead of the ‘kid’ table. He’d been thrilled and then quickly bored to tears...missing the company of his younger cousins. At least they talked about things he used to care about; things he could understand and follow.
So Jimmy just kept pounding back martini’s. Each of his seat neighbors- left, right, across and both diagonals bought him a drink “as a welcome present” after he’d already finished off his own. It was staggered, too. Each old man briefly regarded him, shook his hand and offered to refresh his drink for him. They probably didn’t realize how sloshed he was, as no two of them talked to him or even noticed him at the same time. They all likely thought they were buying him only his first or second of the meal.
Fudge it. It’s not like he was going to be any more productive today…
Things went far too fast from there. He stumbled out of the cab and back into the work building building. He had just enough alcohol tolerance to make it into the elevator, by the time the doors opened to his floor, the room was spinning and “Mish Kirshten,” he said. “I’ll be in my offish.”
Kirsten looked up from her computer. If she’d taken a lunch break, she showed no signs. “I beg your pardon, James?”
Jimmy slowly blinked and repeated himself, more slowly this time. “I said...I’ll be in my...office.” Good. No slurring. He felt his stomach lurch.
Don’t throw up, don’t throw up, don’t throw up.
The young executive did not throw up. He made it all the way to his office and sat down before that was even a remote possibility. But when he stopped moving; when he had only the single point of his computer screen to focus on, it stopped becoming a possibility and mutated into an inevitability.
“Coffee,” Jimmy said. “I need coffee.” Had Jimmy been at all sober, he would’ve realized what a fool’s errand that was. The single cup of joe that Kirsten had brought in that morning still laid there on the coaster.
The room temperature mug didn’t even make it to Jimmy’s lips. His guts clenched, his throat burned and contracted, and he started vomiting. Watery, alcohol laced violet, with bits of pulped steak and salad erupted out of Jimmy.
Only the potential humiliation of ruining his desk further kept him from freezing after the first vomiting. He grabbed a wastebasket and started vomiting into it like his body thought it’d win something. His tongue was coated in bile and his breathing was reduced to panicked gasps in between volleys of puke.
Jimmy heard approaching footsteps just outside his door. “James?” Kirsten said coming into his office. “Mr. Wulff…?” Jimmy heard her gasps in time with his own. “JIMMY!”
He felt her hand gently rubbing his back, and her telling him to just get it all out. One uncomfortable minute later, his stomach was done rebelling against him, his skin felt like it was being poked with a million tiny needles, God had turned the bass in his head up to eleven, and he swore to himself that he’d never eat solid food or booze again.
“There there,” Kirsten shushed him. “There there.” Jimmy’s tongue hung limply from his mouth, as though that would get the awful taste out quicker. “Let me guess,” she said. “Two Martini Lunch went a little overboard?”’
Weakly, Jimmy nodded. “Uh-huh.”
“Thought so,” Kirsten said, knowingly. “It’s okay. It happens to a lot of managers your age.” She patted him on the back some more, and then hooked her arm under his. “Come on, sir. Let’s get you standing up.”
“Coffee,” Jimmy meekly pointed to the cup. He’d spilt most of it, but it was still a little under half-full. Anything, even cold coffee would taste better in his mouth than this.
Kirsten just shook her head. “That’s not a good idea, sweetie. Coffee will only dehydrate you more.” Inwardly, Jimmy had cringed. In the space of a few heaves he’d gone from ‘James’ to ‘Jimmy’ to ‘sweetie’. He’d be lying if he wasn’t at least a little grateful for the sympathy. “I think you should take the rest of the day off, you want my advice.”
Flashbacks of his school days assaulted Jimmy’s brain. When he was a child he hated missing school. Not because he loved school but always felt a certain sense of obligation to it. Going to school WAS his job, and missing it meant he was less responsible...just like all the adults thought he was. Now that he was actually working, the idea of playing hookey all but terrified him.
‘Noooo..” Jimmy whimpered. It didn’t sound nearly as strong as he’d intended, but like the same sick little boy he became whenever he had had the slightest fever.
“Jimmy,” Kirsten chuckled. “It’s your first day. No one will mind if you’re overwhelmed and take the rest of the afternoon for yourself.”
Kirsten wasn’t hearing any of it. “This isn’t school where you’ll get detention. It’s a place of business. As long as they keep making money, no one will mind if you take care of yourself.” Dang. It was like she was reading his mind.
“Yeah, but it’s-”
“It’s only your first day. No one thinks you’ll set the world on fire with your first day.”
“I just…” Jimmy panted, still tasting the bile in his cheeks. “I just wanted to do a good job.”
“I know, hun,” his secretary told him. “And as your secretary it’s my job to take care of you.” She started leading him out of his office. The room hadn’t stopped spinning yet. Jimmy wasn’t in much of
For a moment, Jimmy dug his heels in so he could at least mount token resistance. “What about…?” he pointed to the mess his body had made; not all of it had made it into a waste basket.
“Custodial services will deal with it,” Kirsten replied. “That’s their job.” Jimmy literally couldn’t argue with that, so he let himself be led away. “Let’s get you home and into some clean clothes.”
The young executive kept his head down, looking at his loafers instead of anyone in the eye. That was a mistake as far as his pride was concerned. He noticed that there had been some splashback and bits of martini soaked spinach on his shirt tie. Gross. That’s what the older woman had meant by needing clean clothes. Would dry-cleaning even be able to handle something like that?
Jimmy didn’t take the time to talk to anyone. He just wanted to get to his car. “Jimmy’s not feeling well,” she said. “I’m taking him home for the day.”
This little dance repeated itself two or three times between Jimmy’s floor and the elevator. “Jimmy’s not feeling well, I’m taking him home for the day.”
“Okay, Mama!” One of the other old maids in the office called out after them. “You take real good care of the new boss, y’hear?”
Once in the elevator, Jimmy found his voice. “Mama?”
“No,” Jimmy said. “Why did that lady call you ‘Mama’?”
Kirsten gave Jimmy a pat on the back. “It’s just my little nickname around here. I’m kind of the office Mom. I take care of people.”
“Why do you called me…” Jimmy swallowed...damn...still drunk. “Why do you keep calling me Jimmy? My name’s James. Or Mr. Wulff.”
Kirsten cocked an eyebrow. “Do you really feel like a Mr. Wulff right now, Jimmy?”
The elevator opened in the parking sub-level. “Sorry,” she apologized. “My son’s name is Jimmy, too. He’s just a year or two older than you. You remind me of him.”
If not for his current state, Jimmy might have raised an objection. At present though, beggars couldn’t be choosers. And Kirsten was trying to help him. Might as well give her this one spoonful of sweetness for how much grace she was showing right now.
“This isn’t my car.” The red minivan was definitely not how Jimmy came to work today.
Kirsten fished through her purse and took out a keyfob clicked the side door open. “I know. It’s mine.”
“But…” the world was still fuzzy to him, even as embarrassment fueled adrenaline was quickly sobering him up. “But my car…? I need to get to my car.”
“Jimmy…” There was just a twinge of parental warning in Kirsten’s voice. “Do you really think it’s a good idea for you to be driving in your state.”
“No,” Jimmy conceded, “But towing?”
“No one is going to tow your car, Jimmy. You registered your vehicle with the company remember? No one will think it doesn’t belong here and you can pick it up tomorrow morning.”
The man’s brow furrowed. He did seem to remember something about that in orientation. Who could keep track of what forms and registrations he filled out with that mountain of paperwork.
“Okay.” He got into the van.
Surprisingly Kirsten got in with him. “Let me help you get settled,” she said. Jimmy was nudged and prodded into the middle of the back seat. That’s when he realized that the middle was...different.
“What’s this?” Jimmy asked, even as he was sitting down in it.
Kirsten reached past her boss and guided his arms through a pair of shoulder straps. “It’s a safety harness seat,” she told him. “It’s great for little boys and drunks.” The shoulder straps had a piece that connected right across Jimmy’s chest. “Much safer.”
‘Little boys and drunks’, Jimmy thought. ‘Which one does she think I am?’
Jimmy’s cheeks flared a few degrees hotter. Kirsten wasn’t done, yet. Each shoulder strap also had a steel tabs like a seatbelt. Only instead of his hip, the buckle was straight between his legs. Kirsten didn’t give him time to comment or object before she clicked in before him.
Only one word made it out of Jimmy’s lips. “Why?”
“It used to be Jimmy’s seat,” Kirsten said. “I figured it’d help you, since you’re a little wobbly.” Her boss’s pure incredulity must have shown on his face, plain as day. “Just think of it as something you might wear on a very fast amusement park ride.”
It felt like a half step away from a backward facing baby seat. Something a two to five year old (if he was being generous) might need. “How old is Jimmy? Your son I mean.” Jimmy hiccuped. “I know how old I am.”
“He’s about your age. A little older.” Kirsten repeated. “You get to be a parent and you install specialty equipment for your kids, and never get around to uninstalling them when they grow out of it. Good thing, huh?” She handed him a paper bag. “Just in case you get carsick.”
Funny, and not in a ha-ha sort of way. If her adult son was a few years older than him, he would have long ago outgrown this seat (in function if not in size) The van looked a heck of a lot newer than some relic from the nineties, too. Maybe Kirsten just took care of her car. “So…” Jimmy hiccupped. “Why am I sitting here?”
She patted him on the head. “I already told you.” She climbed into the front seat and turned the car on. “Let’s go home.”
Soon, Jimmy was actually kind of relieved that he was buckled in as he was. Turn, twist, turn, brakes, floor it, slam the brakes, honk, floor it, turn. Kirsten drove like a woman possessed. “Um...this isn’t the way to my place.” Jimmy said over the blaring car horns and the roaring engine.
“I know, hun,” Kirsten said, not looking back. “We’re not going to your place. We’re going to mine.”
“I already said,” Kirsten insisted. “I’m going to take care of you, Jimmy. But I can do that best in my house where I know where everything is. I don’t have time to go rummaging through whatever mess you’ve got there.” She shook her head as if what she was suggesting was perfectly rational. “Heh. As if.”
Jimmy slunk back in his seat. His apartment wasn’t that bad. Was it? Though to be fair, he’d been a little slack on cleaning. His own parents probably wouldn’t have approved of the stack of dishes still in the sink, but it was because he’d been prepping for his new job...that he’d just screwed up by vomiting all over himself…
Maybe it would be for the best to just crash at his secretary’s place for a bit. Just inside half an hour later, they were in the suburbs. A light pink house with a steep driveway greeted the red van. “We’re hooooome,” Kirsten sang out. She got out and walked around to the side of the van.
Meanwhile, Jimmy unsuccessfully tried to unbuckle his child seat. “It won’t…” The release button had no give at all. It was just straight
The older woman opened the door and pressed the button for him. “It’s tricky, hun. Let me help.” It only took Kirsten one push to get the buckle to release. She undid the chest harness, too.
“You’re welcome, sir,” She reached out and pinched him lightly on the cheek as if it was a joke. “Come on. Let’s get you cleaned up.”
Jimmy climbed out. He was feeling steadier already. The worst of the half dozen drinks he’d chugged was over. He was still young and tough enough to bounce back. Part of him wanted to go back to work. See if he could tackle those memos and figure out what the heck they actually meant.
Still… “Cleaned up?”
“You’ve got spit-up on your shirt and tie, and spilled old coffee all over your nice slacks.”
Jimmy moved his tie. Crud. She was right. Same for the coffee. How had he not noticed that before. “Oh…” He really did look quite the sight. The coffee splash was right on his crotch. He must have not noticed because the coffee had been sitting for hours and he’d been more preoccupied with getting his lunch into the nearest receptacle. All on his front, and straining down his thighs. If not for the dark brown, almost black stain, and the lingering smell of coffee, it almost looked like he’d peed himself.
“Come on. Let’s get you in some comfy clothes. My washing machine will take care of yours.”
Jimmy followed her up the short stoop and into the little pink house. “Here’s the kitchen,” Kirsten said. “Here’s the living room. My bedroom is over there. The guest bathroom is over here if you need to tinkle, aaaand,” she stopped at a closed door. “Here’s the guest room. It used to be Jimmy’s.” She obviously meant her son.
“Guest room?” Jimmy asked. “I’m not staying the night, am I?”
The woman who was old enough to be his mother made a light “Awww” sound, like she thought his question was naive or cute. “I was thinking that you could take a nap. Sleep off the rest of the martinis. I’ll run your laundry for you. When you wake up, we’ll get you dressed and go from there.”
Jimmy wasn’t quite sure how he felt about some of the language his subordinate was using. “We’ll get me dress-?”
Kirsten opened the door and guided Jimmy in. “This is your son’s old room?”
The four walls looked like they belonged to somebody’s kid alright. Keyword: Kid. Adults didn’t have Spider-Man bedsheets or posters of Lightning McQueen on their walls. Adults didn’t have Paw Patrol action figures and Thomas the Tank Engine Easy-Read books. This wasn’t a man’s room. Not unless the bar for adulthood had been lowered to three; five tops.
Jimmy felt absolutely gobsmacked. “This is your son’s room?”
“He’s a few years older than you, but yes.”
Jimmy felt his throat go dry. This? This was not normal. Then a disturbing thought crept up along Jimmy’s brainstem. “Jimmy...your Jimmy...your son…” he stuttered. “He’s alive, right?” Jimmy had heard of parents who lost children turning empty rooms into bizarre shrines in their grief. Maybe it was that her Jimmy would have been a few years older than him were he still on this earth.
His secretary reached out with handsjust starting to show a few wrinkles and undid Jimmy’s tie for him. “Of course he is,” she clucked her tongue “He just moved out, is all.”
“Clip on. Cute.”
“Clip on?” Jimmy stuttered. He’d practiced a windsor not for hours in the mirror last night. Granted, he’d then loosened his tie and slipped his head out so that he could slip it back on this morning but it was no clip-on. “It’s not a clip-on!”
The vomit stained tie in Kirsten’s grasp testified otherwise. “Sure it’s not, hun.” Her hands went for the buttons on his shirt. “This needs to be washed, too.”
Like a frog spotting an alligator Jimmy leaped back. Unlock said agile amphibian, he did not land on his feet. The back of his heels caught on the bottom of a box spring, and momentum carried him over a guard railing and spilled him ass over tea kettle onto Spider-Man bedsheets.
It was a toddler bed, he was laying in. Low to the ground so that anyone could climb in, and with a railing to stop the occupant from falling out. It was a giant toddler bed, one that was big enough for Jimmy to fit in, but it was a toddler bed none the less.
“That’s one way to get your shoes off,” Kirsten commented. Jimmy shot her a glare, and she covered her mouth to conceal a shit eating grin.
“I’m not that drunk anymore.” Jimmy said.
“I didn’t say you were, dear.” She started to reach down and lean over him. “Pants first?”
“NO!” Jimmy lightly swatted her hands away and Kirsten drew back as if she’d been slugged.
“Young man, you don’t have anything I haven’t seen before.” She said, her hands on her hips. “I’m a mother., remember.”
“You’re not my mother,” Jimmy countered.
Hands traveled from hips to crossing over the middle aged woman’s chest. Rather than refute or agree with Jimmy, Kirsten just sat there and stared.
“You want to get undressed all by yourself?”
Jimmy scoffed. “Of course.” Then his brain course corrected and he added, “In private.”
Kirsten visibly rolled her eyes. “Fine, you silly thing.” She said. “I’ll turn around, and you can undress yourself.”
“I’m not that drunk,” Jimmy said. “I’m not even drunk at all anymore.” Though right now, Jimmy wouldn’t say he wasn’t hung over.
“I know, sir.”
More and more, sir, was becoming more of a nickname, an indulgence, than an actual sign of respect.
Something else clicked in Jimmy’s brain. “Do you have anything I can change into?”
Miss Kirsten tapped her forehead.“Oh! You’re right. Silly me.” She walked to a dresser and opened a middle drawer and tossed him a t-shirt. The Arthur shirt was faded, but Jimmy recognized the cartoon aardvark anywhere.
Strangely enough, it looked like it would fit. Or not so strange. Cartoon shirts were not just for kids. Behind the Simpsons, this eternal animal child was the second longest running cartoon show in the world; so this might be one of those nostalgia things that was so popular these days. “Thanks,” Jimmy said. He didn’t add in ‘I guess’, but he sure thought it.
Beside the dresser, was a blue cardboard box. Miss Kirsten bent over and rooted around inside. “Before I forget.” The not quite rectangular object was placed into Jimmy’s hand instead of set sailing through the air.
It looked like a pair of underwear. Briefs. Tighty Whities, but much thicker, and not white. Bulgey Blueys was a more apt description. And it had an almost paper rigidity, like a giant pair of scissors had cut it out.
“A Pull-Up?” Jimmy almost yelped. He turned the extra large training pants over in his hands. “Is Jimmy...you’re Jimmy...potty trained?” Something about even asking that question seemed silly. A thirty something year old man still in Pull-Ups had some kind of medical problem or something. ‘Incontinent’ should’ve been the word he used, not potty trained.
His hostess didn’t seem insulted or offended by his choice of words. She nodded. “He is.” She shuffled back over to the dresser and pulled out a pair of underwear as if in proof. Jimmy grimaced. It was big enough, but he was fairly sure that men’s briefs didn’t have pictures of Transformers on them. “He’s a few years older than you, though, so I wouldn’t feel embarrassed.”
Jimmy didn’t feel embarrassed. Extremely puzzled was more like it. He hadn’t even known that they’d make Pull-Ups this big (and to put it lightly, childish) “Interesting…?”
Miss Kirsten was in his bubble before he knew it. “Yes, and here’s the neat thing about them.” She pointed to a picture on the front. It was, Pinocchio. It wasn’t the version of Pinocchio that Jimmy had watched on VHS as a child a thousand times, nothing that could get an adult diaper company suided. But there were only so many wooden looking puppet boys in lederhosen that Jimmy could think of.
The rest of the puppet’s body was colored in, but his famous nose was merely a light blue stencil on a white padded background. “See his nose?” Miss Kirsten asked. Jimmy nodded. She then traced her finger along a pale off-white line that Jimmy hadn’t noticed. It overlapped and went further out than the drawing of the nose, while still being roughlyt the same shape.. Pinocchio was off to the side. His nose was in the center panel. “When you wet it, the blue line fades and this clearish line turns green, so it looks like his nose is growing. That’s how you know if you’ve gone pee-pee. Isn’t that neat?”
Jimmy felt shaken. “When I wet it?” She hadn’t said, ‘when it gets wet’, or ‘that’s how the child knows they’ve gone pee-pee’. Jimmy stepped sideways. “I’m not wearing this!” He still gripped onto the infantile undergarment, for fear that his secretary might try to put it on him.
“This is my house,” Miss Kirsten said firmly. (When did Jimmy start thinking of her as ‘Miss’?) “I already walked into you getting sick all over yourself, today and have invited you into my home. I’m giving you a place to rest. You’re going to put that on and take your nap so you can be rested, and you’re going to wear it just in case anything happens.”
“I’m not a baby!” Jimmy said.
“Then you should have no trouble putting it on and keeping it dry. Unless you don’t think you’re...management material.” There was something both playful and threatening in how she said it. Leave the statement as it was, and she was blackmailing him to dress up like a toddler for getting drunk and skipping work. But change ‘management material’ to ‘big boy’ and she was a mother or caregiver goading a fussy toddler to behave using basic child psychology.
Jimmy’s blood ran cold, regardless of how she meant it. “You wouldn’t!”
“I’ve been at the company for thirty years, kiddo. You just showed up today. Who do you think they’ll believe if I tell?” Miss Kirsten was cocky and confident. Why wouldn’t she be? She had leverage and home field advantage on him...and a point. He very well might get sick and wet the bed.
The thirty year old had to fight the urge to pout his lip out. “Fine,” he said. “I’ll do it. But turn around. A deal’s a deal.”
Miss Kirsten pivoted on the ball of her foot, and turned one hundred and eighty degrees. “You’re right. You’re right.” She sighed. “But go on and get changed so I can start washing your clothes for you.”
Jimmy did. He peeled off his puke stained t-shirt off and balled it up. Then he pulled his shorts and tighty-whiteys off and stepped out of them. It was easy because both had elastic waist bands. Hadn’t he worn a belt to school...err...work, though? Something was officially off
Shaking the cobwebs out of his head, Jimmy popped open the disposable training pants and pulled them up over his hips. Strange. It felt so familiar and so foreign at the same time, like a long forgotten memory. The accompanying arthur shirt, thankfully, was big enough to cover up.
“Here you go,” he said to miss Kirsten, holding out the ball of soiled clothing to her.
Miss Kirsten looked over her shoulder and took the ball of discarded clothing. Her face positively lit up when she saw how Jimmy was now dressed. “Don’t you look comfy!” Jimmy winced. He would have died, just died, if she had said ‘cute’.
“I’ll run these right to the washing machine,” she said. And for the first time since just before he’d thrown up, Jimmy was alone.
He sat down on the edge of the oversized toddler bed. His skin tingled unpleasantly all the way from his neck to his ankles. It was like the slight muted crinkle from his Pull-Ups, (no, not his, the other Jimmy’s) was sending a razor thing scratch down down his skin.
“What have I gotten myself into,” he whispered, his head in his hands. The stray thought that this might be some kind of hazing occurred to him, but what company- screw that, what group of people in their right mind- would take hazing this far?
Everything about this was out and out crazy. Nothing right. And yet...here he was. What did that say about him?
“Okay,” Miss Kirsten said, popping in again. “That’s taken care of. I saw the light was still on, so I knew you hadn’t nodded off yet. How about some milk?”
Jimmy eyed the opaque cup in the older woman’s hand. It was decorated with pictures of fairy tale creatures, wizards and dwarves and the like. Unlike the Pull-Up and the toddler bed, it seemed sized for an actual child to drink, likely containing no more than a cup; maybe a cup and a half. The red plastic topper with the nozzle, made it obvious what age- what kind of person- it was meant for, and oddly enough the appropriate size made it look all the more infantile. Had it been a pint or something, it would have more closely resembled a sports bottle instead of a child’s cup.
Wearily, Jimmy eyed the cup. She didn’t really expect him to drink from that, did she? What was he thinking? Of course she did.
His hostess must have been reading his thoughts. “I know, I know, you’re a big thirty-year-old and you can drink from a grown-up cup,” she said condescendingly.
No duh. “Pretty much.”
“But from everything I’ve seen, your hands are still a little shaky, so I put the lid on, just in case.” Then she added, “lots of managers your age still use them.”
It was the kind of comment so absurd that Jimmy didn’t know how to debunk it rationally. It was like an online political post that had so much wrong with it that it would have taken more energy to refute than to just ignore. Besides, he hadn’t met any managers his age, so he had no proof beyond common sense, (something that was becoming less and less useful).
Jimmy reached out and took the offered sippy-cup. His secretary stood there, watching expectantly until he took a swig. It was good, admittedly. The base of the fatty whole milk felt good on his tongue and down his throat compared to the still lingering acidity of the alcohol and stomach bile. Whether real or imagined, Jimmy “Thank you,” he said. Truth be told, it wasn’t quite sincere. It was the kind of ‘thank you’ with an implied ‘now please go away’ attached to it.
She took the hint. He took another swig, and she turned off the lights and closed the door. Jimmy finished the milk in a few quick gulps. Even though the sun was still out, Jimmy laid down, pulled the Spider-Man bed sheets over himself, closed his eyes, and within minutes was fast asleep.