Chapter Description: Clark takes things too far with his treatment of stuffed animals.
I stood up and started to pump my fist, pretending to stab something.. “DIE! DIE! EEE! EEE! EEE! EEE!” I took my fingers and pointed them outward, cocking my thumbs. “I’m gonna give you to the count of ten. One…two…TEN! Pew! Pew! Pew! Pew!” I struck a pose worthy of the worst community theater in existence. “Muahahaha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in-”
Skinner cut me off. “Clark? No! Crows don’t say that. They go caw-caw, you silly goose!”
I sat back down and smiled at her, unnervingly staring and not blinking. “Then why is a group of them called a murder?”
The speech therapist looked at me like she was trying to decide whether I was a genius or an idiot.. Finally she laughed. “Oh Clark, you’re such a silly Little boy!”
Time to get really silly. “Oh Clarrr-k, You-er such a sillay Lil’ boy!” I even did her laugh. Skinner looked confused again, which to be fair to her, was sometimes her default state. I was beginning to rank her only slightly higher than Forrest in terms of quick wittedness.
“Can I ask you a question?” I said. I didn’t wait for her to respond. “You’re a speech teacher, yeah? Teach Amazon kids how to talk and pronounce words? Get rid of lisps? Then why don’t any of the kids you work with have your accent?”
Skinner puckered her lips a moment. “I don’t have an accent.”
“Ah don’t have an ack-sent!” In truth, she didn’t. At least no more of an accent than any of the other locals had. But what was a bit of gaslighting between ex-coworkers? I had to pass the time somehow. “Can you not hear it anymore?”
“Clark, stop it.”
“Clarrr-k, stahp it.”
“That’s very immature!”
“Thaaat’s very imma-shure!” It was a shorter reply than saying, “No shit it’s immature, you think I have a made up disease that turns me into a toddler!” What incentive did I have to act in good faith?
Skinner closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. “You are gonna be the death of me.”
I let out a gasp. “Ya’ll are gonna be the death of me? Did you say y’all?! You said y’all!”
“What? No!” She jolted in her seat. I saw her eyes looking off and her mouthing words to herself, afraid she’d slipped. “I did not say ‘y’all’.”
“You just did.” I got only stony silence in reply. “What? Lion wouldn’t shut up about it until I promised to tell you about your accent.”
“Lion’s not here, right now.”
“I took a message.”
Wisely, Skinner ignored me and moved on. “Okay. Okay. Here’s a new one.” She showed a poorly drawn picture of a woman holding a swaddled baby. Or it could have been a Little, I supposed. Proportions were hard to tell when swaddled and the Amazons in my life barely made the distinction themselves. “This is a Mommy. Mommy’s say ‘I love you’. What do Mommies say?”
I leaned back and started miming rubbing my nipples. “Ooooh. Ooooh,” I moaned. “Oh yes! Oh yeah! Oh yeah! Oh yeah!” I feigned closing my eyes just enough so that I could see the look of shock and discomfort on her face.
“Clark. That’s not what Mommies say.”
I bunched my fists up and put one right on top of the other like I was holding something long and then started shaking them like a jackhammer right over my crotch. “BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!”
“Oh Mark! Oh Mark! Oh Mark! OOOOOOOOOH!””
“Clark!” In a surprising move Skinner rose to her feet and did something close to a legitimately intimidating glare at me.
I froze. “Sorry,” I said. “I couldn’t understand you at first because of your accent. You might want to work on that.”
Her glare intensified. Wow. I was actually kind of impressed and sat up straight instead of continuing to pantomime masturbation.
“Mommies do not sound like that, Little boy!”
“Mine does…” I was lying, of course. As far as I had witnessed, Janet had zero libido or emotions that didn’t in some way relate into forcibly mothering me. Skinner didn’t need to know that.
She walked around the table and took my hand. “I think we’ve done enough work today. Let’s get going.”
I had no choice but to follow alongside her. We were walking along back to Beouf’s room. A pair of Tweeners, a teacher aide and a custodian stopped chatting while the Amazon and I passed.
“I can still work,” I said. “Don’t you want to know what Daddies say?”
“I know what Daddies say,” Skinner said in clipped, stressed out tones.
“You do? Who’s your Daddy, Skinner?”
Grunting, stilted laughter muffled behind hands reached my ears, even as the Tweeners turned away. Skinner didn’t take the time to glare or dress them down, choosing to ignore them. I had a feeling that Skinner was on the verge of a good old fashioned stress cry. A guy could hope, anyhow.
“Having trouble walking, bubba?” Skinner asked, purposefully increasing her strides so that I’d struggle to keep up and be pulled along more. “Looks like you might need a change when you get back. Your drawers are drooping.”
Petty bitch. “Will you change me?” I bluffed. I don’t think I’d ever seen her change a diaper. At least once she’d brought somebody back because of a ‘code brown’, citing her sensitive nose.
“If you want,” Skinner replied, “but I might not be as good at it as Mrs. B. or Mrs. Zoge.” Was that supposed to be a threat or something? It kind of felt like it.
“No thanks. I’m good.”
She muttered something under her breath. I suspect it was a disagreement about my status as ‘good’.
She flung open the door and dragged me back into Beouf’s room. “Okay. Clark’s done for a little bit. Can I please have Tommy, Annie, and Jesse?”
“Annie is in O.T. with Chaz and Shauna.” Beouf said.
“Okay. Then how about Mandy?”
Mandy got up from her seat at Zoge’s table and stuck her hands out. They were rainbow colored and not quite dripping with paint. Zoge practically engulfed them with baby wipes trying to quickly get all the paint off of her. There were a few blotches of fresh paint on the homemade smock.
Quietly, I considered making Mandy my next target. For her own good, of course…
“Great,” Skinner said. “Let’s go kids! Also, you might want to ease up on how much Clark drinks at snack time if you get my drift.”
“Sure thing,” Beouf said. “And on it.” I was picked up in Beouf’s arms by the end of that sentence. She gave the back of my pants a gentle squeeze. I did not crinkle very much. Admittedly, it was squishing near the bottom. The front had already been saturated and it just worked its way back.
“Oh yeah,” she said to Skinner. “Good call.” She looked at me. “You’re close to leaking!”
I bit my tongue. No shit I was close to leaking, not that anyone taller than me would take my word for it. On our way to the bathroom, I caught a beautiful sight of Tommy flicking the air right by Sandra Lynn’s ear on his way out. She flinched and looked around confused. Tommy was already growing up.
Too bad all three were bringing their stupid stuffed animals with them. I’d yet to break anyone of that habit, and the loss tasted almost as bad as the overcooked vegetables from the cafeteria. Jesse tucked his hobo clown under his arm like it was a football, and Mandy’s Teddy Bear was resting on her hip with a cloth napkin diaper pinned on. At least Tommy was dragging his alligator disdainfully by the tail. He still corrected it when prompted.
Over on the changing table, Beouf pulled my shorts all the way off my legs and examined them. “No leaking.” She gave my backside a gentle poke and added. “But close. You wouldn’t have made it to lunch like this.” My arms went rigid and my jaw clenched. “Don’t worry, I’m giving them back. I promise. It’s just easier to change you with them off so they’re not sliding up and down your ankles.” She laid them on my chest over the safety strap. “Here, you can hold them.”
I grabbed them like they were a life raft in the middle of the ocean.
“Can you ask my mommy to bring in some spare pants in case I leak?” I asked. The idea of being so exposed still made my brain burn and sizzle on constant high alert. I was willing to play the game to avoid that, pride be damned.
In reply, Beouf put a pacifier between my lips. “Hold on, baby. I need to concentrate. I don’t want to miss a spot and have you get all rashy. Your mommy wouldn’t like that.” Reluctantly, I started sucking. I wanted this over with. I thought she was reaching for a fresh diaper, but a familiar plush face tumbled into my arms. “You forgot this.”
‘Forgot’ had nothing to do about it, and I think she knew it.
While Beouf changed me, I sucked on my pacifier and stared at my reflection on the ceiling. I no longer saw a parody of a child. The initial shock of this treatment had long worn off. I didn’t look like a baby at all; just someone who had been silenced and restrained. Switch out the pacifier for a gag and Lion for a set of handcuffs and my expression or body position wouldn’t have been any different
“There we go,” Beouf said, taping me up. “All done.” As an exclamation point she dropped the old diaper in the pale with an audible thunk. Yeah. I knew she was done. We’d done this before. A lot.
I held out the neon lime green shorts from underneath Lion. “Not yet.”
She took the baggie shorts and slid them back over my legs. “Point taken.” I was allowed to stand up before she snapped them back over my temporary underwear.
“Let’s go finger paint,” she squeaked and chirped at me. “I think you’ll like it.”
Very quickly I was over at Zoge’s table with Ivy, Billy, and Sandra Lynn, an old button up shirt fastened backwards as my smock. The table was covered in old newspapers and weighed down by heavy bottles of paint, paper plates, glue and glitter. It was big enough to accommodate all four of us, but I’d gotten used to working in pairs so it felt crowded by comparison. Things always got mixed up on days when the so-called therapists showed up to take people away in groups of two and three. Beouf was taking one end of the kidney table, Zoge on my end. They were centralizing the art activity primarily because they didn’t have enough different colored paint to go around.
“What do you want to finger paint?” Zoge asked. “A butterfly? Or a bird? Or..?”
“A violent and bloody massacre,” I said, letting the pacifier drop from my mouth and dangle. “With as many different shades of red as possible.”
I saw Zoge look over my head, towards Beouf. She frowned lightly. “I don’t think that’s appropriate for something at school. What else?”
In front of me was a plain white sheet of paper. “A white rabbit in a snowstorm.”
“No.” Zoge said simply. “We don’t have enough white paint.”
I looked down at the stuffie now nestled between my feet. “What about Lion? Can I paint Lion?”
“You may create a picture of Lion,” Beouf said. “But you may not get any paint on Lion.” They weren’t going to fall for the same semantic trick again. Not surprising, but I felt it was worth trying.
I inhaled and exhaled, steadying my temper. “That’s fine.” Maybe I could get a few good shots in by destroying the fucking stuffed parasite in effigy. It was a thought, anyway.
I asked for yellow and got a glob of yellow squirted onto a paper plate next to me. I went to work, dipping my thumb in and dabbing it around the paper in a series of circles and ovals. A nice round circle for his head, a big round oval for the body, and four longer, narrower ovals for the limbs. The tail was closer to a skinny streak made by my pinky.
“Wipe please,” I thrust my hand forward, my pinky and thumb jutting out. Zoge immediately engulfed my fingers, scrubbing off the yellow.
“Are you done?” Zoge asked.
I audibly scoffed. “Of course not. I need to do his mane and tail and face.”
“Oh,” Zoge said in that musical tone of hers. “I’m very sorry, sir. Please forgive me.” Again her sightline went over my head and across the table. She was clearly very amused.
“Look!” Sandra Lynn called out. “I made a portal to another world!” Not a trace of white remained on the twit’s paper. Just red and blue and yellow smeared every which way on top of each other and blending together in puddles of purple and green and orange.
Billy looked over. “That’s just a mess.” Thank you Billy for not letting me have to be the one to say it.
“It’s a portal,” Sandra Lynn repeated herself. “They’re all sorts of colors! Like red and…orange…and yellow…” she was literally staring at her own technicolor mess and pointing out the different colors like she hadn’t put them there. Sandra Lynn was like Amy but without the wit. Or Ivy without the practiced care and faux daintiness. Speaking of which, Beouf was trusting her with glue and glitter. Bold choice, but Ivy wasn’t going to do anything on purpose.
“Your picture is a rectangle. Portals are round,” Billy said. “Everybody knows that.”
“How many portals have you seen?” Sandra Lynn asked in that way that people used when they didn’t expect a real answer.
“All the portals in cartoons are round.”
“Well the real ones are rectangles.” The matter seemed to be settled.
Briefly, I wondered what kind of woman Sandra Lynn was three years ago before Beouf had gotten her tendrils into the girl’s brain. “Can I get some brown, please?”
I took my left pinky and dabbed it gingerly in the goop. Sandra Lynn wasn’t done smearing yet. The moment Beouf or Zoge picked her paper up, there’d be a rectangular outline on the newsprint. If Beouff chose to hang it up for decoration, she’d have to make sure there was something beneath it to catch the dripping excess.
Sandra Lynn was such a mindfucked babydoll that even her art needed a diaper.
My pinky started dabbing and stroking around Lion’s head, creating the mane. I did a few at the end of his tail. I gently blew on the paper to make sure the yellow paint was dry enough to not mix with the brown around the chin. This was going to be such an awesome effigy to destroy! If only Beouf had a lighter or something to snatch.
Zoge obliged and I took a moment to rub my right shoulder. It was aching. I hadn’t consciously noticed but I’d been tensing it, controting it and moving it away from Sandra Lynn, like I was afraid I’d catch something. I sniffed. I knew that smell wasn’t coming from me. Her smock concealed more than a babified Little dress ever did, but it was a safe bet that the only thing keeping her onesie shut was the Amazonian strength poppers.
Billy took a moment from his messterpiece to look over and admire my picture. “Hey, that’s pretty good, Gibson.”
“Billy, Clark’s name isn’t ‘Gibson’.” It used to be. Just thinking that made the phantom hair on the back of my neck stand up.
“But he likes being called it!” I did. “Don’t you, Gibson?”
“Billy…” Beouf warned. “Make good choices.”
My personal bully boy sighed and threw me an apologetic look. “That’s a really good picture…Graaaaa…” No no no no! “Clark. That’s a really good picture, Clark.”
I allowed myself a non-humiliated, non-flustered blush.”Thanks, dude. I like yours too.” I was lying, but it was a lie based on returned courtesy.
I sat back and took a moment to admire my budding masterpiece. It was just some dumb finger painting that I was going to destroy for shock value, but the compliment felt good. It was nice to feel like I was half-way competent at something, even if it was just a stupid baby activity. Since adult activities were denied to me, the narrow field of options available had gained increased value to me. Maybe that’s why that pair at Little Voices were always complaining about blocks and gossiping about their daycare like it was office banter. They no longer had a job and something had come to fill the void…
Pushing those thoughts out of my head, I plotted my next steps. “Black, please.” The problem with using my pinky fingers so soon was that I had nothing smaller for the finer details like the beady eyes or the stitched on smile and claws. Maybe if I used the barest tip of my pinky I could pull it off; even if it wouldn’t be quite to scale. Shit, how was I going to do his nose and whiskers?
Maybe I could draw away from the weaknesses by adding in backgrounds. A blue sky and green grass beneath Lion. Use negative space to make the clouds. Did Lions live in grassy areas, or was it more like flat desert? I’d have to file that away and ask Amy about it later in the week.
The sun could be snuck in the upper right hand corner, I supposed, but how to make that distinct from Lion’s fur? Lion, the real Lion, was only yellow-ish. Closer to tan, but I didn’t have the paint mixing skills to get the correct hue so I had settled on yellow. Maybe I should have gone with orange fur inste…
Droplets of goopy gloppy paint rained down over my paper, splashing on Lion’s portrait in sickly greys and browns and blacks. “Wipe peeeeeease!” Sandra Lynn held both hands out towards Zoge. Her paper was a smeared palette of psychedelic colors, but her hands were murky and disgusting looking from all the mixing and sloshing.
Zoge rattled off something panicked in Yamatoan and pushed the Little girl’s hands out and away from my paper. I’d never heard Zoge talk that fast. “Baby girl!” she said. “You have to be careful! You don’t want to drip on…” But it was too late. Her whipping Sandra Lynn’s disgusting dirty palms had just made things worse, in fact. There was now a grayish bluish blotch right over Lion’s not yet illustrated face and reddish graying blackish flecks dotting his body and where the ground would have gone if I’d been afforded the time.. “Oh no. Clark. I’m so sorry, baby!” However bad she might have felt, it didn’t stop her from wiping Sandra Lynn’s hands.
My lips retreated inward over my teeth. I was mad that I kind of wanted to pop my pacifier back in and take a shot at biting the rubber nipple off.
That wouldn’t do. That wouldn’t do at all.
Beouf was already getting up and walking over to a cabinet to get a fresh sheet of paper. “It’s okay, Clark. I can get you a fresh piece of paper. You can have till lunch to finish.
Lion was suddenly in my lap. I didn’t even remember picking him up. “No. That’s fine Mrs. B.” I said. “I’m fine.”
“Are you sure? I don’t mind…” I couldn’t see Beouf but I could hear the worry and hesitation in her voice. Just like she could hear the brewing storm in mine.
“Yeah. I don’t mind,” I said. Robotically, I turned my head and looked at Sandra Lynn. “Thank you Sandra Lynn.”
“You’re…welcome…?” She backed up, slightly intimidated.
“Lion just gave me an idea,” I said. “A way to make it so the picture looks more like him.” I didn’t wait for anyone to ask me ‘what?’. I lashed my arm out and grabbed Sandra Lynn’s stupid fucking modern art portal bullshit smearing and wiped it all over Lion’s front. “Now he looks just like his picture!”
Lion’s fur and head became instantly smeared in wet paint, his head matted and dripping down over his eyeballs in shades of green and blue and yellow. Red and yellow and orange covered his lower face and chest. His lower half was blue and purplish. A few quick extra rubs added in the muddled gray of where two many paints mixed together. My stuffie was crying, barfing, and bleeding a rainbow!
Neither Grown-Up moved or said anything for a moment, too stunned by what had happened. Funnily enough, it was Zoge who said something first. “Clark! Look what you’ve done!” My initial reply was drowned out by Sandra Lynn’s screaming and bawling. Frankly, I thought I’d improved her work. I was even kind enough to put it back after I was done with it. Not that she saw it. She was too busy staining Beouf’s light sweater with her tears and snot.
“Clark Grange!” Beouf barked at me. “Say you’re sorry! Immediately!”
“What?” I shrugged. “The stuffed animal told me to do it. Lion thought it was a good idea.”
“You should apologize,” Zoge said softly to me. “I am very disappointed.”
“Mommy,” Ivy said.
“No,” I said. “I’m not going to apologize. Lion’s mine and I should get to paint on him if I want!” Sandra Lynn kept on crying and Beouf started walking her toward the nap room, rubbing her back and whispering gentle nothings in her ear.
Zoge stared directly into me. Neither of us blinked. “That was Sandra Lynn’s picture. You had no right to ruin it.”
“She ruined my picture first! Fair is fair!”
Ivy appeared in my peripheral vision tugging at Zoge’s sleeve. “Mommy!”
“It was an accident.”
“Yeah and when you’re a Little, all it takes is one ‘accident’!”
The aide’s lips formed a thin line. “I am disappointed,” she repeated. “But not surprised.”
Ivy was literally jumping and stomping her feet with every landing. “Mama! Mama! Mama!”
Zoge finally broke eye contact. “What?” I won.
During all the yelling and crying and arguing, all the eyes that mattered had been off of Billy. Now Zoge was treated to the sight of a stuffed tyrannosaurus rex on top of the table, drenched in paint, glue, and glitter. “What?” Billy said. “Rex told me to do it. He’s my dinosaur.” He’d managed to get a good portion of it in his hair, too. It was already starting to crust over from the looks of it.
Zoge asked Ivy something in Yamatoan. The sound of it was shocked and confused.
Ivy accidentally forgot to answer back in their secret shared language. “You told me to keep my hands, feet, and mouth to myself. Personal space…?”
Billy went to the corner. I went to the naughty stool. Lunch time we both got the green beans put in a blender and spoonfed. Mittens were shoved over our hands. Neither of us were being trusted to handle anything ourselves that day.
My timeout extended through naptime. At Beouf’s request, Tracy ran over a nap mat from the preschool room and I laid on the middle of the floor. Afterwards, I had to sit on the bench between Beouf and Zoge.
That had been a fatal mistake. Everyone had seen enough of what had happened and Tommy had planted the idea in enough ears that burying the stuffies alive, covering them in moss and dirt and leaves and roly poly bugs and mulch and bits of grass, would be a fun game.
The stuffies would have gotten even dirtier than they did if some people had minded their own business. Of course, the stuffies involved all ‘wanted’ to be buried alive. They’d told the members of the A.L.L. such. I just couldn’t stop beaming. The smile that blossomed on my lips stayed put the entire afternoon. All while Billy told a very disapproving and exasperated Beouf and Zoge this, I kept showing him my bright eyes and pearly whites. Well done, my good and faithful servant.
After the bus left, Beouf handed Janet a Lion wrapped up in a plastic grocery bag. “Here. Hopefully a couple runs through the wash on gentle will fix him.” Beouf sounded tired. “Hopefully it’ll work on mine, too. I don’t want to throw them out.”
“What did he do?” Janet was suspicious and irritated. My smile would not leave.
Beouf told her the thirty second version, which was mostly true except for the part where she called what I’d done a temper tantrum. Then she finished with. “Honestly, this whole stuffie at school thing isn’t working out the way I hoped. They’re just blaming every naughty thing they do on the stuffies. We’re gonna have to start phasing out I think. I don’t think we’re going to be able to trust them with paints and glue anymore, either.”
Janet added her tired sigh to the chorus. “Oh Clark…”
“Yes Mommy?” My smile hadn’t faded.