Chapter Description: Clark has a difficult time distinguishing past from present while his body fights off sickness.
Teachers don’t get sick that often. It’s not something we do. Part of it is just building up natural stamina and resistance. As a general rule, kids are germ factories, walking petri dishes of viruses and bacteria all spreading it around with one another. Not counting hospitals, schools are probably the biggest hotbed for any number of diseases. So teachers, as a side effect, often develop very robust immune systems.
If only that were the only reason why teachers were hardly ever sick. That’s barely a third of the reason why. The rest of it is more of a cultural thing. ‘Sick’ for a teacher, and ‘sick’ for someone else in almost any other profession are two different metrics. Somebody else might get a case of the sniffles or a mild fever or toss their cookies first thing in the morning, and decide to call out of work. It sucks, of course, and their boss will totally give them grief about it if it happens too often, but it’s not like the entire accounting division is going to be thrown into chaos for the day because Steve woke up with an ear infection.
As a teacher, though? No such luck. Me being sick meant that I had to call into school as well as put in the appropriate digital paperwork advertising that I needed a substitute teacher for the day. Then I’d have to have plans that amounted to a script so thorough and detailed that a complete novice who didn’t know my classroom norms and procedures and likely didn’t have a teaching degree could run my daily routines as if I wasn’t really gone. This includes being able to tell them in perfect detail where everything is from worksheets to learning toys to art supplies and pencils.
Yes, I could have ‘Emergency Sub Plans’ filled with busy work but busy work in of itself is a misnomer. Even with three and four year olds, what was appropriate and challenging at the beginning of the year was nothing by the middle, and six hours worth of material come August might not last half an hour come April.
Every time a teacher feels under the weather, they’re faced with a choice: Stay home, rest, and heal, or pop a pill, suck it up, run on fumes and drone through the day like a zombie. When it takes at least a day worth of preparation to be absent for an entire day, most teachers will take their chances and hope that their students are either empathetic enough or oblivious enough not to take advantage of the situation. For me it was doubly so. All it would take was one slip up and…
Well, you know…
Another fun fact, when teachers do get sick, it’s more likely to be on vacation. Three day weekends and other prolonged scheduled breaks are the most likely time for a teacher to finally stay in bed so that they can barf up a lung or something. I’m not sure how accurate that is statistically, but that’s how it always felt to me.
Perhaps it was more psychological than physiological, but if I was going to get sick it tended to be on the days when I knew I’d have the time to recover. Like my body would ignore symptoms or my brain would block out pain and exhaustion just long enough until my mind knew that I could afford to be sick and then suddenly everything would hit me all at once.
That was another thing about me in particular. I’m a total wimp when I get sick. All confidence and self-reliance goes out of me and I become a whimpering quivering mess who by turns wants to either be left alone in a dark room or to be held and cuddled and told that it was all going to be alright.
There I was that morning, laying out in the middle of the living room on my ‘sick bed’. I was wrapped up in a thick wool blanket with a smooth comforter on top and I was still making the couch cushions vibrate with how much I was shivering. I never stayed in our giant king bed in our bedroom when I was sick: Cassie needed the computer to do her work still, and the guest bathroom with the Little sized toilet was closer to the couch.
My joints ached too harshly and my bladder ached too frequently to want to climb the old Amazon sized toilet in the master bathroom. My eyes focused on the T.V. The DVD that had been playing had gone on so long it had looped back to the menu screen.
Damn. I’d missed it too.
“Cassie!” I whimpered, not realizing just how quiet I was being. “Cas?!” I called out, feeling like I was shouting at the top of my lungs, but it was probably just a more pitiful moan.
Quiet, almost gliding footsteps came. “Hey hon,” Cassie said. Even at a whisper her voice sounded booming to me. “What’s up?” She stopped and felt my forehead, her palm feeling icy cold on my face. She looked down at the small wooden table she’d set up. “Do you want more juice?”
The plastic sports bottle, something that only got broken out when I was sick, suddenly existed again in my mind. My lips were chapped and my throat was dry, but it wasn’t why I had called out for her. Meekly I shook my head. “Uh-uh.”
“I’m gonna get you some anyways.”
My wife picked it up and quickly walked over to the fridge. “Apple or orange?”
“Apple, I guess.”
I spoke louder. “Orange!”
“Okay. Sit up so you can drink it.”
Reluctantly, I did and regretted it. Sitting up brought me that much closer to the waking world and I realized that I had to pee. When I’m sick the combination of dulled senses combined with constant hydration makes it so that my bladder either feels completely empty or is to the point of bursting with no warning or in between. Most of my coworkers would likely snicker something asking how that was different from when a Little was healthy.
Feeling like the dead rising from his grave, I struggled out of my cocoon and shambled to the guest bathroom, my clothing nothing more than a baggy t-shirt and a pair of equally baggy shorts. Peeing felt like it took forever and any stamina I’d saved up felt nearly spent by the time I’d flushed and gone back to the couch.
Waiting for me on the table she’d arranged by the couch was a thermometer, a filled up bottle with watered down orange juice and a couple of pills. “Come on,” my wonderful wife said. “Let’s get you back and wrapped up.”
“C-c-c-cold.” I felt like my lips were turning blue. I collapsed back into the couch. Something about Cassie’s touch made me shiver even more while she started tucking my legs under the blankets.
She started rubbing my legs up and down, trying to build friction heat. “Does that help.”
I shivered again. “Not really. But thanks for trying.”
She stopped rubbing my legs and put the thermometer in my mouth. The metallic taste and the slight weight from it dangling from my lps made me want to spit it out like it was poison. My eyes looked down at the tiny electronic readout. Ninety-nine point nine. One hundred. One-hundred point five.
Cassie’s slender hand twisted the thermometer so that the screen was pointed down. “Don’t look,” she said. “It only makes you more stressed out.” I grumbled but knew she was right. After what felt like much too long the thermometer beeped and she read it. “Hundred and one point nine,” she said. “Take your medicine.” She slid the pills over to me and I reluctantly picked them up and took a swig from my bottle.
The orange juice tasted like battery acid to me but it covered up the taste of the pills. I put the bottle down and wiped my mouth. “Why do I even have to take my temperature?” I asked. “I know I feel sick.”
With extreme patience, Cassie finished tucking me in, practically swaddling me. “Because if the fever gets too high, that’s bad.”
“It’s not like we’re gonna go to the hospital.” That was a sure way to get plopped in a cot.
Cassie dodged my whining. “Would you rather I stick the thermometer somewhere else?” She grinned with her eyes, but kept the rest of her face calm and patient.
I felt too weak to so much as say, “Pass.” Instead I just feebly shook my head right before another cold flash ripped through my body.
She leaned over and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I moaned in relief at the very touch of her. I hadn’t even realized that I’d closed my eyes again. “Thank you,” I whispered.
“Welcome, hon,” she said.
I didn’t even realize she’d walked away. I might not have realized I’d almost gone back to sleep save for that I startled myself awake snoring. “Cassie?” I heard only silence and some light clacking. “Cassie?!”
Her footsteps were heavier coming back. “What’s wrong?” I couldn’t tell if she was annoyed, worried, a little bit of both. “It’s only been five minutes.” Her focus honed in on the bottle. “Just sip, hon. Don’t tank up too quickly or it’s bad for your stomach.” She reached over and picked up the bottle; frowning when she felt the weight of it. I hadn’t had a drop. “Oh. WHat’s wrong?”
What was wrong? I wasn’t sure. I wanted to ask her not to leave. I wanted her to be in the room with me, even if we weren’t directly interacting with each other. I wanted to ask her to help me climb into our bed so that I could at least be bundled up and unconscious within thirty feet of her. I just wanted her there.
A sliver of memory pierced through the mind fog I was feeling. “Can you start my DVD again?”
Cassie looked at the screen. “Yeah. Sure.” She went over and pressed play. “Sure, hon.”
“It helps me sleep.”
My eyes closed again and the rest of the day passed me by, interrupted only by the desperate need to not pee on the couch.
I opened my eyes, needing to pee yet again. I actually held my breath releasing my bladder, irrationally afraid that the diaper would leak. When the leak subtle seeps out the leakguard and soaks your clothes it almost feels like a betrayal. It had one job and it couldn’t even do that.
When the diaper leaks right as you're peeing, hot fresh urine actively dripping down your thighs and legs; it somehow feels worse. It feels even more pathetic than usual. Like I was having my first accident all over again. That was unlikely to happen again. After the first leak that morning, Janet changed me back into a nighttime diaper. I wasn’t feeling in any shape to walk anyways.
Janet had whisked me home immediately, changed me, and put me to bed. It was the first time in a while that I hadn’t stayed up trying to curse her name, but sleep had not come for me. I spent the whole night closing my eyes, waiting for sleep, but never feeling rested. Instead, the cold feeling just got worse, and anything that wasn’t cold was somehow on fire.
Night had bled into morning and Janet had seemed disappointed but not surprised that I’d yet to make a full recovery. “Don’t worry,” she told me. “I already sent emails saying I’d be out today. Stayed up all night making sub-plans.”
Several quiet, hazy hours had passed since then, with only a leaky diaper and Janet opting to lightly swaddle me to mark the time.
“Hey,” Janet whispered to me, once she knew I was awake. “How are you feeling?”
Everything aching I flopped my head to the side. We were still on Janet’s couch. She was reclining in it, holding me gently against her with her outside arm while working a cell phone with the other. The T.V. was onto some empty talk show where middle aged B-list lady celebrities talked in a circle to the hoots and hollers of their equally middle aged mostly lady audience.
“Not quite lunch,” she said softly. “I already called Dr. Milton and told him your symptoms. He thinks it’s just a bug but if you don’t get better by Sunday we’ll be going to see him on Monday.”
“Mark’s last name isn’t Milton, is it?”
“No.” She brushed some hair off my forehead. She didn’t laugh or roll her eyes. Just spoke to me softly like my paranoia was the most normal thing in the world. I suddenly felt silly. I’d forgotten that I already had a pediatrician. Mark probably wasn’t even a doctor.
I chuckled at my own stupidity, but the laughter came out as a weak panting.
Suddenly my body shook and spasmed, and she just gripped me so I didn’t fall. For either ten seconds or a year, every part of my body that was touching her felt like it was being nuked and the tiniest of slivers of skin that peaked out from the blanket was being flash frozen. I squirmed and wriggled to be closer to the giant source of warmth that only wanted to cuddle me. I was actually glad to have her there.
“You can go back to sleep if you want to,” Janet whispered gently to me. “I don’t mind.”
My eyes closed, but they felt itchy and burning instead of nice and heavy. I tried to count sheep in my head, hoping that I’d lose count and drift off but only one of those things happened. “No.” I said. “Can’t.”
Janet switched arms and picked up a bottle. She sat up a little straighter so that I was resting in her lap instead of curled up against her torso. “Here.” she said holding up the bottle with red liquid. “Take a drink.”
I opened my mouth and accepted the nipple, taking more gentle sips of some kind of watered down artificial drink with a flavor that matched the color. It wasn’t cherry, or strawberry, or watermelon. Just red.
Anxiety trickled down my brainstem, hissing to me about what the contents of that bottle were. There could have been poison or an addictive drug that caused me to become completely incontinent or killed my brain cells until I’d forgotten my shapes and colors. At that point in time I was so completely and utterly wiped out that I would have welcomed the death of self. Also, the stuff tasted pretty good. Once my cracked throat had some wash down it, it wanted more.
“Careful now,” Janet said. “Don’t drink too fast. You might upset your stomach.” She took the bottle away from me, letting me have sips every once in a while over the course of several minutes.I didn’t mind. I was just glad to not be alone.
“How do you think you got it?” Cassie asked.
I was sitting up, spooning broth into my mouth. “I don’t know. Probably just the summer campus crud.”
Cassie nodded. She’d heard this song and dance from me a billion times. “Somebody coughed on you last month or didn’t wash their hands or whatever and your body has just been putting getting sick on hold.”
I shrugged. “Yup.” I couldn’t tell if she’d heard me so I repeated myself.
“You are such a wimp when you get sick.” Cassie smiled at me. I felt like crap, but seeing the smile on her face made me feel a tiny bit better. My stomach wasn’t hurting, but anything more substantial than chicken soup wasn’t the least bit appetizing. The soup wasn’t exactly mouth watering, but I could picture myself eating it without feeling my throat tighten in rejection.
The way she was eating the spaghetti signaled that she was having no such problems. “I’ll take care of you if you get sick,” I offered.
“I’m not a wimp when I get sick,” Cassie said.
I took a drag from my sports bottle. The orange juice tasted like I’d just brushed my teeth despite all evidence to the contrary. It might be just because my taste buds were shot. “I’d still take care of you. Get you things.”
She favored me with a weak grin and slurped more noodles. “That’s fair.” She finished off her plate in a few more mouthfuls. “Though you know you don’t have to wait for me to be sick and dying to give me stuff.”
I coughed a bit and silently hoped that wasn’t a new symptom. “That’s fair.”
“I should stop picking on you,” her voice was both taunting and enervating. She was both flirting with me and making fun of me at the same time. If only I had the energy to do more than just whimper and imagine myself nuzzling against her in bed. “Okay. Back to work,” she groaned. I kept sipping broth and listening to dishes clink and clank in the sink. “Need anything?” She called out.
I swung my feet over the side of the couch and dropped the blankets to the floor. I tromped after her, doing my best not to shake. “How many clean towels do we have?”
The love of my life slowed and let me catch up with her. “At least two.”
“Can I get one wet?”
She looked at me quizzically. Her eyes glanced down to my shorts before zipping back up to my shoulders. “Sauna treatment?”
I rubbed my eyes, knowing sleep would not claim me now that I was awake; not when I wanted it. Sleep never came when I wanted to when I was sick.
Deep down, I knew exactly how I’d gotten to feeling so absolutely dreadful. For weeks on end I’d pushed and deprived myself so that others could know my pain. Even when I shouldn’t have. Especially when I shouldn’t have. On some level I’d been constantly on guard, constantly coiled, ready to strike.
That sweet taste of victory on the playground with Tommy had lulled my mind into enough security that my body finally let down its defenses and whatever gunk inside me had finally kicked into high gear. I’d stepped into the ring, swung against anything and everything within arms reach, and only heard the bell when Tommy hit the floor.
Back in my corner, I was out of breath and the adrenaline was taking me so far and I was now officially feeling every hit that life had dealt me.
I had this coming. I really had this coming; strategically if not karmically.
“I’m sorry,” Janet said. “I’m really really sorry.”
Laying in her arms, gazing past Janet and up at the bathroom ceiling, I croaked out. “Why?”
“I shouldn’t have taken you to the meeting last night,” she said. “I should have seen that you weren’t feeling like yourself with how sleepy you were and kept you home.” She reached up to a medicine cabinet. For the first time that morning, her voice lilted slightly into her cooing Mommy talk. “Poor guy. You burned yourself out playing when you should have been sleeping.
I moaned in half-agreement. “I’m pretty sure I’d still be sick.”
“But maybe not as sick,” Janet replied. “Let’s check your temperature.”
Every muscle that I could muster tensed up involuntarily. “Please don’t stick it up my butt!” I opened my mouth like a snake ready for a mouse.
The Amazon clearly wanted to laugh at me, but everything south of her eyes stayed calm and professional. “It’s a forehead scanner, Clark.” She dragged the top over my forehead and stared at the readout. “Hundred and two.” Her lips retreated inward. “Not the worst, but not great.”
The world tilted and the blankets drooped off me as Janet sat me on the bathroom counter by the sink. Blizzard air hit me right in the chest and I had to yank the blankets back across myself. Panting,I shifted and felt the wet squelch beneath me. Had I peed that much already?
Janet was busy pouring a viscous liquid into a cup that was tiny even for me. Every joint in my body ached, and despite the chill, the cool bathroom tile was starting to feel very good beneath my naked thighs. She turned back around and held it out to me. “Here you go,” she said just above a whisper. “It’s children’s strength.” She quickly corrected herself. “Amazon children…so…Little sized.”
“Will that put me to sleep?”
“Uh-uh.” she said. “It’s just acetaminophen. You can go to sleep if you want, but it’s just to help keep you comfortable.” Her eyelids flickered and she glanced back down at the cup. “Not enough for a bottle. Do you want me to put it in a syringe so you can suck it up?” My mouth hung slightly agape. It sounded like a genuine question instead of a veiled ultimatum.
I held out my hands and took the plastic cup gingerly from her. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. Both hands.”
I threw it back like it was a shot. The stuff was overly sugared, even for me, and went down like a milkshake. I set it down next to the sink and smacked my lips. “Can I have more to drink?”
“Sure. Let’s go get your bottle.” She stepped forward to envelop me again.
“Wait.” I held my hands out. “Stop!” Janet froze. My eyes gazed out past her to the bathtub. I was cold. I was trembling. I was wet. “Can I have…” I stopped and swallowed, tasting the last bits of the medicine again. “A shower?”
“A shower?” She looked over her shoulder to the tub’s showerhead as if it were a mysterious alien artifact. “You want to take a shower?”
Over a month and it had been all baths with the only variables being with or without bubbles. “Yeah…”
“Yeah, hon. Sure. You can have a shower.”
She transported me over to the tub and stood me up. It felt like a ball ‘n chain was coming off of me when she undid the tapes and my diaper fell down between my legs. I sat down with my knees pulled up to my chest as soon as she balled it up and cleared it away. The coolness of the tub’s basin was exaggerated by my addled senses. I was alone for the first time that day and uncannily awake. I dared not move.
Janet came back with a fluffy white towel and left it on the sink where I’d been sitting. “Close the door?” I asked.
She closed the door and turned on the water. “Let’s give this a try,” she said. The water came out of the tub faucet and lapped up to my toes, chilly at first. Janet ran her hand under the water until it was warm enough. She stood up to her full height and took the shower head attachment off from his perch and snaked it all the way to the floor. She aimed it down. “Ready?”
She pulled a knob on the faucet and it sputtered, stopping for a half a second as water was rerouted through different pipes and tubes. The showerhead surged to light spraying water down by my toes. I flinched when tiny droplets bounced off the floor and onto the tops of my feet. Janet held it steady and I gingerly- very gingerly- slid my feet into the stream.
Relief. Sweet relief as my feet felt the warmest they had in forever. I was in a hot spring in the middle of a blizzard tundra. My body untensed and my legs slowly withdrew away from my chest, hungry for more warmth.
The water came out hot and fast, stinging like thousands of bees; pulsing like a tattoo gun. My upper body still shook. Janet wisely took that as a cue. The wonderful torrential downpour maneuvered around me and started spraying on my back. My arms fell slack against the side.
“Feel good?” Janet asked.
“Yeah,” I said. Looking up at Janet. “How could you tell?”
My friend smiled lightly, not showing her teeth. “I’ve never heard you make that sound before.”
“I made a sound?”
In reply, she gave me only pleasant silence, with nothing but the sound of running water hitting my back and the basein to do it. My shoulders wouldn’t quite release the tension, flinching and jerking every few seconds. I heard a click above me and the water pressure changed. Still as hot, but not nearly as intense. That did the trick and my body must have telegraphed it.
“Better?” Janet asked.
“Yeah.” I threw back my head into the stream and rubbed my hands through my hair, quietly exhilarating in the wet curls flopping down my head and becoming malleable again. Steam quickly filled the bathroom, fogging the mirror and clouding my vision.
I inhaled through my nose and relished in the ability to do so. A stuffy nose wasn’t the worst symptom I’d had. I hadn’t consciously noticed it. But damn did it feel good. The medicine must have been kicking in.
I spent the next five minutes asking Janet to adjust the positioning of the portable showerhead. First my upper body was too cold, then my legs. Then back to my back. Anything that wasn’t being doused with near scalding water felt unusually cold. It wasn’t as bad as before, but it was closer to an itch that wouldn’t quite go away. I kept my eyes pointed downward, stuck in my own world.
“Do you wanna hold it?” Janet said. I looked up at her through the steam. I’d almost forgotten she was there. I sat up leaning back on my hands for balance and my legs spread open wide, not even attempting to conceal myself. Janet had seen me naked so many times that I’d lost count. She knelt over me, holding the wand-like apparatus. She was dressed in light blue sweatpants and a pink t-shirt; and the steam was starting to do things to her hair. My head was finally clear enough to look at her and notice her shifting her body weight and wiggling her shoulder. No way could that position be comfortable for long. “Do you want to hold the showerhead?” she repeated.
I reached up and out. “Sure.”
She passed it off to me and rolled her shoulder. “Thanks,” she said.
Even with aching joints and limbs that wanted to fall off me; even though the portable nozzle was like a hairbrush in Janet’s hands and a club in mine, I wanted it. A big dumb smile plastered itself on my mug right as I aimed the water right on my face. Funny: It took me being sick for Janet to let me do things myself.
Using both hands I moved the shower head to my spine. Janet stood back up and was lightly stretching, but she hadn’t taken her eyes off me. Through the artificial mist I couldn’t tell if her eyes contained that trademark Amazon Mommy madness or if she was showing shades of one friend worried and caring about another. Maybe both?
“Can I have that towel?” I asked.
Janet looked confused. “You want to get out?”
“Nuh-uh”. Whether because I was feeling a tad better or because the acoustics in the bathroom carried my voice more efficiently, but it came out loud and clear. “I want to get it wet. Heat blanket. Opposite of a cold wash cloth?”
Understanding came to her. “Got it.” She took the fluffy white towel and draped it over my head. “Here. Let me help.” I didn’t put up any kind of fight when she took the shower wand back from me. “I’ll give it back. Promise.”
I got hosed down with the towel cloaked over me. My eyes started rolling because of how good it felt. The weight of the sopping towel pressed down on my shoulders, absorbing and transferring the heat of the water all around me while making it last longer. “Oh yeah,” I groaned. “That’s the stuff.”
Janet’s laughter joined my voice. It was light, almost humming. Satisfied. She placed the showerhead down by my feet and I just let it spray on me. “Better?”
“Much. Thank you.” I looked at Janet and saw her turning away, rubbing her eyes. I’d made a mistake and was too tired to care. Hefting the showerhead one more time I gave the towel a fresh blast of heat.
“Clark?” Cassie’s voice bounced off our master bathroom. “You okay in there?”
I roused myself up from the tile. My hot water towel had cooled around me and I’d nodded off, the steam and my own exhaustion compensating. I let out a shiver and stood back up, feeling life return to me with more hot water. In truth, we were about out of hot water. It was more tepid than anything, just like with swimming my skin had gotten overly used to it, and my skin swore the air was made of sleet. “Yeah. I’m fine.”
“It’s been close to an hour,” Cassie said. There was a pause. “Did you fall asleep?” She didn’t need to say ‘again’. She technically didn’t need to ask. She knew.
“I’m getting out,” I called back.
“Okay,” she chirped. “I laid out some fresh clothes for you when you get out.”
My sick heart melted a bit. “Awww. Thanks, Cass!”
“Sure thing, babe!”
The toilet roared and I jolted out of my half-memory half-daydream. I almost gave myself whiplash. Janet was in the midst of pulling her pants back up over her hips.
“What?” Janet said. Her eyes widened. “Oh no! Did the water get too hot with the flush? I’m sorry!”
Without realizing it I’d let go of the shower head. The darn thing was snaking by the drain, spraying impotently by nothing.
“No. It’s not that, it’s just…” I started to mumble. Something close to a blush started to spread.
Janet allowed herself a smirk. “Big people need to go pee too, you know.”
“Yeah,” I said. “It’s just…you’ve never…around me.”
Her eyebrows knitted, trying to recollect while she washed her hands. “I haven’t? “ she said. “Huh. That’s weird. I’m sorry.”
She dried her hands on a bathroom towel. “Nothing. But if I made you uncomfortable I promise it wasn’t on purpose.”
I stopped myself from saying it was alright. As refreshed as I was starting to feel I was still exhausted. Only the sound of the shower filled the brief silence. “Thanks,” I mumbled.
The self-appointed nurse inched closer to the tub. “You’re all coiled up again. Feeling tense? Achey?” I barely nodded, but that was enough. Reaching over she picked up the showerhead and gently sprayed me down again, coating me with more warmth. I hadn’t even realized how close my shoulders were to my ears until they’d already lowered back down.
“Let me try something,” she said. She hoisted the showerhead back to its holster so far above me that I likely couldn’t reach it without being at full strength and being allowed to jump from the rim of the bath. She took a few moments to angle it, playing it. “Do you want it coming down on your head or by your feet?”
She angled it so that the stream came just south of my lap, then removed the towel from off my back and then held it close to the head until it was dripping. Gently, she placed the heated piece of cloth back over my shoulders and my upper body melted.
Janet didn’t stop there. She started pressing and squeezing at my back, shoulders, and neck. Kneading and massaging my aching muscles. I’d never been to a professional masseuse and I highly doubted Janet was anywhere near that skill level, but the level of care she applied more than made up for it.
I could feel her strength with every squeeze, but knew she was being careful. She probed and poked and prodded, but only until my body gave some sort of unconscious signal to move on or continue. I’d been touched and carried and picked up and toted and wiped and scrubbed and manhandled so far, but not like this.
“How’s this?” she asked.
“Uh-huh.” I let out a yawn. “Yeah.” Clearly I wasn’t at my most coherent.
“Can I wash your hair? It might feel good.”
Another yawn. “Yeah. Okay.”
I shivered a bit as flower scented goop was poured onto my hair. Even the shampoo felt cold to my short circuiting senses. The rest felt decadent, however. Every movement of her fingers gently digging into my scalp, massaging my hair was pure paradise.
And there was no singing. No cooing. No remarks on how cute she thought I looked. Just some tuneless humming as she took turns massaging my scalp and the rest of my body. For just a few minutes I let myself forget that there was a fresh diaper with my name on it after this.
As if she were reading my mind she took down the shower head and gently rinsed the suds from my hair and body. “I think it’s time for you to get out. You’re yawning an awful lot.”
“No I’m not,” I said right as the yawn bellowed out of me.
“Okay. No you’re not.” She turned off the water. “Stay right there and try not to fall asleep. I’m going to get a fresh towel.”
“Okay,” I said.
There in the quiet, with only light drips, I sighed to myself and ripped the massive wet towel off my back. It was losing heat quickly now. Good things never lasted it seemed.
Janet came in and scooped me up with the old towel’s dryer fluffier twin. She wrapped me up and swaddled me, paying attention. A few strides and we were across the hallway and I was back on my back with an especially thick Monkeez making its way under me.
Two giant fingers dipped themselves in a tub of cream. “You’re peeing a lot today.” She hastily added, “Which is normal. I’m going to put some of this on you just so you don’t get a rash.” I let out a tired breathy sigh which she must have taken for resignation if not consent. She started smearing the stuff down below, carefully rubbing it into all the folds and crevices of my skin.
Her nose wrinkled. Mine too. The stuff had a funny chemical smell to it. Memories of zit cream and off-brand sunscreen bubbled up into my brain. It was the kind of stuff that you could feel on you for a moment after it was applied. “How about some powder for the smell?”
I didn’t complain. She made it snow on my crotch before closing it off and taping the diaper up.
She sat me up. The padding of the Monkeez still stuck to me like I’d had a training chocolate level diarrhea. Unconsciously, my eyes started to drift over to the crib. For once it looked extremely comfortable.
“I know you’re sleepy,” Janet said in a soft quiet voice; even so it thundered slightly between my ears. “But first, I want to get some more liquid in you. Let’s go finish that bottle you started. Maybe we can try and get something to eat. Then you can go back for a nap like you normally do.” It was true. I was becoming accustomed to afternoon naps. “Something simple. Oatmeal, maybe.”
“Do we have any chicken soup?” I heard myself ask. “Broth?”
She tapped her chin, thinking. “Yeah. I think I’ve got some. How about I put it in a coffee mug and you can sip it with a straw? All by yourself?”
The idea of being able to use a straw sounded heavenly. “Okay. Sure.”
She cradled me back up in her arms and carried me to the kitchen.
I was still wet when I toweled off, but wasn’t dripping. My skin was back to vibrating the moment my feet were out of the shower. I threw on the loose shirt and shorts as fast as I could, praying that they’d somehow magically make me feel warm in a way that three layers of blankets and four stacks of pillows had so far failed. My strength almost spent I hoisted myself into bed and re-wrapped myself in
Cassie was at the computer, click-clacking away. The glow of the screen felt like an unreadable beacon to my tired eyes, and all I could see was the back of her head, and only if I sat up to watch her work. “Feel better?”
“Yeah,” I said. Then I corrected myself. “Better. But not good.” She kept typing, but I caught the faint outline of her turning around and smiling at me. “Thanks for taking care of me.”
“Of course,” she said. “It’s what we do.” She turned back around.
I nestled back and closed my eyes yet again. My yawn came out like a contented cat’s. “I love you, Cassie,” I said. She didn’t react. I must have been whispering when I thought I was talking normally again. “I love you,” I repeated myself. Nothing.
My eyes popped back open. She was ten feet away but it might as well have been a mile as far as sound went.
“I love you.”
Something was wrong. My eyes opened, for real this time and not in the fever induced half delirious dream. I was no longer in the past and still being cradled in Janet’s arms. She beamed down at me, softly smiling like I’d somehow granted her deepest wish.
The giantess had the refilled bottle of juice in her hands and placed it between my lips, waiting for me to suckle down the sugary sweet stuff before telling me, “I love you, too, baby boy.”
Stories of Age/Time Transformation