Chapter Description: Clark is brought along as a third wheel for his Mommy's date night.
It was Saturday night and Janet was buckling me into the carseat. “Ugh,” I groaned. “Do I have to go?”
“Yup, yup,” Janet said. “Sure do.” She clicked the five point harness into place, locking me in. No escape now.
“Why?” I whined. In reply she gave me a look, like I was deliberately trying to stall. To be fair, she was half-right. “No, seriously,” I said. “What about Jessica? She can come and make sure I don’t escape.”
Janet stayed there bent over in the rear passenger door. “Jessica has a life, too, you know. She’s busy.” She tapped me on the nose. “That and after what a terror you were on Wednesday she might not want to for a while.” The way she said it, it sounded both condescending and begrudging. Like she was still kind of upset with me, but still adored me.
Damn, I hated that.
She closed the door and I followed her with my eyes as she walked around to the driver’s seat. Even through the steel and glass I could hear her humming. She’d been humming all damn day. Changes, lap bounces, meal time. All humming. She even hummed when she was leaving me alone or letting me sulk or batting around baby toys or hiding in that obstacle course box. Because she wasn’t humming to me, she was humming to herself.
It didn’t take a genius to figure out why she was humming. Not that it was a secret. She’d started preparing me for this as soon as we got home from school that Friday. As the hours whittled away, and she started brushing her hair down and putting on those jeans that clung to her hips and that white off the shoulder blouse the whole thing became more and more real to me.
She was excited about tonight. Making herself pretty. Not that she wasn’t normally pretty. It’s just that “teacher pretty” and “date night pretty” are two different categories. Makeup can be used to make someone seem warm and inviting and nurturing, and then reapplied to become enticing and alluring.
Even her perfume was different. Most days, Janet smelled of lilacs and violets and jasmine. Settling, comforting, gentle scents that made the brain want to sit down and cuddle up. Or at least take a breather and listen to a lecture about sentence diagramming.
Very maternal. Very motherly. Very Amazon.
At present, she smelled like citrus: Wild, vibrant, and alive! The kind of smells of a tropical forest where one danced and drank and lived until one’s heart was ready to explode out of their chest!
As for me, I was in a diaper and a Muffet Littles T-shirt. My pantsless punishment procedure was still in full effect on the weekends.. No shoes or socks either. I wasn’t going to be doing much walking this trip. So she was dressed for the dance floor and I was dressed for the ball pit in one of those crappy pizza places.
“What if Mark meets us here, instead?” I asked once Janet had turned on the engine. Fewer people would see me that way, and I could at least retreat to the relative privacy of my nursery. Would probably still be stuck in a highchair for dinner, though. Such was life.
Janet glanced at me in the rearview mirror. “Do you really want Mark to know where we live?” she asked, coyly. “Would that be okay with you?” Once again, she’d cut past my defenses and hit at a broader soft spot.
“I’m not calling him ‘Daddy’.” I said, firmly. “Or ‘Uncle Mark’ or anything like that.” I inhaled and grimaced at just the thought. “Not even ‘Mister Mark’ or whatever his last name is. He’s not a teacher. He’s not my…he’s not you…he has no authority over me whatsoever.”
“Whoah! Whoah! Whoah!” Janet laughed. The car turned out of the neighborhood and started heading towards the highway. “Slow down there, buddy! This isn’t that kind of dinner.”
Sure seemed like it. “Oh?”
“Mark is just a nice man who wants to be my friend.” Bullshit. Janet kept going. “And I enjoy talking with him at the meetings. Now I want to spend some time with him outside of the meetings. See if we have more in common.”
I rolled my eyes. “But why do I have to be there for it?”
“Clark. You know why.”
Yeah. Because she wanted to be peak Amazon and tote me around as her padded, drooling trophy. I looked down for my pacifier. Lion was still M.I.A. and I needed something to crush or smother. Funnily enough, Janet had forgotten to re-clip it on. How about that?
“Because you can’t afford to pay a sitter and Jessica is busy,” I said.
“Because you’re one of the most important people in my life and I’m not ashamed of you.” I had no comeback for that that I hadn’t tried a million times before.
“I hhhhh….hhhhh….” Nope. The words still weren’t coming out. “Janet…”
“Look on the bright side,” Janet took the ramp up to the highway. “It’s a long drive to the city. The three of us might talk for a while, or the service might be slow. Chances are we won’t be back home until past your bedtime.”
“I get to talk with another Grown-Up, we both get to eat some fancy food, maybe some dessert, we’re going out of town to a place where there’s zero chance anyone will recognize you from school, and you get to stay up past your bedtime.” She gave me just a second to let me absorb all of that. “And all I’m asking is that you try and not say anything nasty to Mark. Deal?”
Logically, Janet made a great deal of sense. Just why did she have to make sense about this? I rubbed my cheek, thoughtfully. The phantom sting of Tracy slapping me yet lingered. It’s not like I had a lot of agency or any friends at the moment. In war, peace talks are often used as a stalling tactic. “Fine,” I huffed. “But I get to talk smack about him all the car ride back. Forrest too.”
My former co-worker laughed and said, “Deal. Do you want to listen to some music?”
“As long as it’s not kiddie music.”
Janet smiled. “Not quite.” She patched her phone into the car speakers and that’s how I learned about the abomination that is Tot Rox; where Top 40 hits are remastered, rearranged and re-recorded by heavily autotuned children accompanied to classroom instruments. At least I knew most of the words without it being nursery rhymes.
Approximately forty five minutes later, Janet parked the car and scooped me out of the seat. I looked up at the sign on top of the building and read it. “Mer-Cow?” The sign, all in yellow, featured a detailed sketch of a creature with the front end of a cow and the back half of a fish. “That’s…different.”
“Burgers and sushi,” Janet explained.
Still next to the car, she gave the front of my Monkeez a quick squeeze and a pat. “You’re fine. Still crinkly. A little wet, but still crinkly.” Then she lifted me over her shoulder long enough to gaze down the back. “Yeah. You’re fine.” And she readjusted me and kept walking.
She took her purse but left the diaper bag in the front seat and carried me through the parking lot. That made me oddly happy. It signaled that I was going to get changed in the backseat instead of the ladies’ room, assuming I got changed before the car ride back at all. As counter intuitive as it may seem, having the car roof over my head and Janet leaning over me provided me more privacy than out in the open of a restroom. Too many restrooms put changing stations just past the doorway so that everyone could get a look at your business before they did theirs.
A feeling of like a rock in my stomach signaled that sometime within the next twelve to fourteen hours, I’d be forced to mess myself. Darkly, I considered forcing it at an opportune time to end the date. It’s not like I hadn’t done it before or that it was below me at this point. A douche like Mark deserved no quarter.
The place was a slightly upscale “fusion cuisine” restaurant, meaning it was casual hipster pretentious instead of rich and snooty pretentious, with an entrance made of glass so that you could see the all yellow interior and people already seated and having a good time.
Janet opened the door and carried me in, so that I could see the fully stocked bar (that I would not be allowed to partake in), and what passed as modern art paintings hanging on the wall above the booths and tables.
An Amazon hostess stepped up to greet us. “Hi there, welcome to Mer-Cow! How many in your party and how many highchairs, or will just the one be enough?” She looked Yamatoan, but she had none of Zoge’s accent. So Yamatoan, but not from Yamatoa? I was probably overspeculating. None of my business anyway.
A random intrusive thought: That might be how Ivy had gotten Adopted. A vacation to the old country turned into something much much worse. It would certainly explain a lot.
“Oh no, it’s just him for the highchair.” Janet said. As was her habit she gave me a light bounce in her arms whenever she was talking about me.
“Lucky Little guy!” She made a curling motion with her finger and started zeroing in on the underside of my chin. “Somebody’s gonna get all the attention at din-din! Yes he is! Yes he is!”
Janet pivoted, putting herself in between me and the hostess. “We’re meeting someone here, actually.” She craned her neck. “Mind if we look around?”
“Oh sure, go ahead and-”
“Found him!” She walked past the hostess and straight to the booth. Of course she found him. How could you miss anyone that face? With oily black hair, ears that were too far back, a nose that was too pointy and somehow a chin that was too big and weak at the same time, Horsey McDoucheface aka ‘Mark’ was easy to spot.
He was wearing a maroon turtleneck too! Like some kind of beatnik or a wanna be college professor minus the tweed jacket. Oh no, was he a professor? Please no! Not another so-called educator in my life! Not Mark!
“Hey,” he waved to us, and stood up and gestured to the seat in front of him. “Good to see you, Janet!” The way he smiled at her: Ugh! And those teeth! If he didn’t have braces as a child it was only because those chompers were literally too big to wriggle out of place.
“You too, Mark. You don’t have to stand up.” Janet and Mark each got their own side of a booth. I got a wooden highchair slid up to the middle, so that every server would have to shimmy and slide behind me. I wasn’t sure how to feel about that.
Janet threaded my legs through the holes and buckled me in, tightening the strap around my waist. It was the cheap, generic kind of highchair that only existed in public eateries. No tray. No real backing. It was basically a bar stool that I was physically incapable of removing myself from. The soles of my feet barely grazed the uppermost rung.
With me secured, the two giants hugged each other, and I had to do my best to not vomit up the chicken tenders I’d been fed for lunch. It was just a friend hug, but Mark was no one worth being friends with.
The pair sat down and were more or less eye level with me. Mark regarded me and flashed a weak smile. “Hiiiii Clark.” His voice was subdued and unobtrusive…like a total douche. He looked nervous. Oh crud, was he cosseting me? Was this why he was interested in Janet?!
No. No, no, no. Don’t panic. Not yet. It’s too early in the night. Try to be decent. Try to be decent. Just try. Such a fucking douche! I inhaled and exhaled again before speaking. “Hi. Mark.”
The asshole smiled like he’d just won something. “It’s good to see you!”
“Thanks,” I said. Just be nice. Just be nice. Just be…nice.
A brunette Tweener waitress in elevator shoes that could have doubled as stilts walked up to the table. “Hi, welcome to Mer-Cow, I’m Laurel and I’ll be taking care of you tonight.”
“Thank you very much, Laurel.” Mark said. Oh how fucking corny. I closed my eyes so I could roll them less offensively.
The Tweener handed out two menus and slapped down a paper mat on my edge of the table. “Before we get started, how many checks will this be? One, two, or three? I’m kidding, I’m kidding!” She fake laughed at her own joke. “One or two?”
The giants exchanged pensive looks. “I don’t mind.” Mark said.
I saw Janet’s eyes glance over to me.. “No, don’t worry about it,” Janet said. “Two’s fine,” she told the waitress. “And I’m covering him,” she indicated me. My spirits soared. Then she looked back over to Mark. “You can get the next one. Then I’ll get the one after that.”
“Sure, sure,” Mark said. My expectations were immediately tempered. Just a friend. And the Hydra was just a snake.
“Okay,” the waitress said. “Before I give you folks a minute to look at the menus, what can I get you to drink?”
“I’ll have a Mocha-Cola,” Janet said.
Mark said, “Sounds good to me.”
“And what about the Little guy?” the waitress asked over my head. “Milk? Juice? We’ve got apple and orange. Is he allowed to have soda?”
Janet turned her head and regarded me. “Clark?”
Me? She was asking me what I wanted? Not ordering for me? “Um…uh…” I wracked my brain. You don’t realize that exercising choice is a kind of skill set until you go without it for nearly two months. What to order? Vodka! No. No one would give me vodka! Not here! Not dressed like this! What though? “Can I just have a water?”
“Sure, hon!” The waitress beamed. “I’ll get you some water!”
“Thank you,” I said.
“Oh wow, Clark.” Mark said. “That’s very polite of you.”
“Clark can be very polite,” Janet said. “When he wants to be.” Touche. Mark laughed. Fuck Mark. He wasn’t wearing glasses anymore. I wonder how much damage I’d do if I stuck my thumb in his eye. Would it be more or less if he had contacts in? I wondered.
“Let’s look at the menu real quick.” They looked at their full menus, thumbing through thick laminated pages describing the intricacies of each dish: hipster appetizers, spicy martinis, burgers that had sushi ingredients and vice versa.
I was relegated to the kids section. I picked up the paper placemat and flipped it over. On the back there was a maze, several blank tic-tac-toe boards and an even goofier looking version of the restaurant’s mascot.
I flipped it back over and read it. I didn’t technically need to read it, since every entry had a doodled version so that children or prisoners could just point instead of reading. The menu looked…kind of interesting, actually.
It had the typical options like grilled cheese, and chicken tenders, but it also had some sliders. A slider to an Amazon might mean a decent bite for me. Simple sushi options too. Too bad the sushi section bragged about not needing chopsticks.
The waitress returned with our drinks. Janet and Mark got tall glasses filled with bubbling soda. I, of course, got a cup with a sippy lid. “Okay, guys, do you need more time to look over the menu or are you ready to order?”
“I think we’re ready to order,” Mark said. He double checked with Janet. “Right?” Then looked to me. “Right?”
“I’ll have the firecracker roll,” Janet said.
“And give me the black and bleu burger, hold the bleu.” Mark said.
Smartly, the waitress pivoted around so she could make eye contact with me. “And what about you, sir?” Janet was grinning like an idiot, as if a Tweener talking to me like I was a so-called big person was just so gosh darn cute.
I gave the menu one last look. A particular item had, in fact, caught my attention. It was weird, and very childish by design, but it seemed too weird not to try at least once. Odds were I wouldn’t be eating here again any time soon.
“Can I please have the peanut butter and jelly sushi?” It was just the sandwich cut up and fashioned into mock rolls, but the idea was amusing. Better than macaroni and cheese or messy boneless wings covered in teriyaki sauce.
The waitress smiled her big fake professional smile. “You certainly may.” She turned her head to Janet and stage whispered, “He’s so polite!” Janet looked more than a little proud. Almost like she wanted to abduct me all over again.
“Ohhhh,” Mark said to me. “Very sophisticated. Good choice, buddy.” My blood turned cold as a lanky, bony hand playfully patted me on the shoulder. He addressed the waitress. “Any chance I could get one of those too? Might be good for a side dish or a dessert.”
The wink settled it. I tugged on the Tweener’s sleeve. “Actually, would it be okay if I changed my order to the cradle roll with the fish, cucumber and extra sweet cream cheese?”
“Of course, sweetie.” She pivoted slightly, “As long as it’s okay with your Mommy.” Just calling her my Mommy had sealed the deal and we both knew it. Janet nodded her approval. “Do you still want that pee-bee-and-jay roll, sir?”
Mark looked like someone had snuck up and given him a wedgie. “No, no. That’s fine. Thank you. I’ll just stick with the burger and fries.”
“Okie dokie. I’ll put those orders right in.” She reached down a pocket of her half apron. “Crayons?” They were a pair of plastic wrapped and double sided cheapos. Red and blue on one, and green and yellow on the other.
Janet started to speak for me. “I don’t think he’s inter-”
“Sure.” I said. “I mean, yes please.” I reached up and took the crayons. The wrapping was so flimsy that it broke in my grip.
“Okay. I’ll be back to check up on you in a bit.” The Tweener scooted around my chair and back towards the kitchen.
Mark and Janet waited till she was gone and tossed one another a look. “Still testing boundaries?” Mark asked.
“Always.” Janet said. “And that’s okay.” She reached out and brushed my increasingly curly hair. I didn’t flinch. “Clark likes things on his own terms as much as possible. It’s something I love about him. It means he’s always thinking of new and interesting things to do.”
“You mean like painting the frog?” Mark joked. “Oh my gosh. That was such a good story!”
I scowled. “Hey! What the-?”
“Clark…” Janet’s face was more pleading than stern. I stopped myself. Be nice. Be nice. Be nice. I had to at least wait till I got my sushi.
Douchey McHorseface feigned sincerity and said. “Sorry, Clark. I didn’t mean to talk about you like you’re not here.”
Fuck this jackass. “It’s okay.”
“It’s not okay, and I won’t do it again. I’m sorry.” The balls on this guy! Telling me I apologized wrong! “Your Mommy told me the story based on what your teacher told her. Would you like to tell me what happened when you painted the frog?”
I picked up my cup. “No, I would not.” I started gulping down refreshing cold ice water.
“Sure thing, dude.” Clearly, Mark was trying; really trying. Trying to get on my good side as a way to suck up to Janet and weasel his way in, but he was still trying. Creeping on Janet. Creeping on me. Janet might deserve that, but I certainly didn’t. Scratch that thought, not even Janet deserved that horse toothed scarecrow.
Mark was savvy enough to stop leaning on me and pay more attention to Janet. Janet was lonely enough that she let me be and talked with Mark. I minded my business: drinking my water, and scribbling on mindless paper. Occasionally Janet leaned over and inspected my ‘art’.
When Mark talked, I pretended to listen and worked on the maze at the back of the menu. From bits and pieces that I picked up on accident, I learned that he was a sales representative for a frozen food delivery company and had been promoted to regional manager and Oakshire had a lower cost of living.
Also, he was an aspiring Indie Game Designer and his real passion was in programming, game mechanics, and non-linear storytelling. Damn it! That was kind of interesting! Cool even! Also, people usually didn’t have to look at a game designer’s stupid face or hear their annoying voice so if he made it big in that field he might be making the world a better place.
Janet talked about her crop of students this year and the various stupid kid eccentricities and stupid stories of them literally saying the darndest things. Then she mentioned the frustrations she was having, as students who were acing her lessons were still making simple mistakes all over the place.
“It’s like they’ve got it in class, but as soon as I let them try it on their own, they keep messing up,” Janet winged.
My focus shifted and my brain switched priorities so that I listened more intently and only pretended to doodle. Don’t laugh. Don’t laugh. Don’t laugh. Don’t cackle maniacally and shout ‘You fool! You’ve fallen victim to my masterstroke!’ Fucking around with a few times table tests and grammar homework wasn’t going to be my masterstroke. Not by a longshot.
“It’s like I’m trying to teach them to ride a bike, and everytime I let go they crash into a mailbox.”
I saw a pair of lanky, greasy, disgusting hands twitch. Janet had placed her hands near the center of the table. Mark was.resisting the urge to reach out and take them.
“It’s okay, Mommy,” I said. “You’re doing your best. They are too. You just need to figure out what misconceptions there are in their schema and build up from there.” She was doing her best. I was doing my worst. “You’re a good teacher.”
Janet leaned over and pressed her forehead against mine. “Thank you, Clark. That’s very nice of you to say, and makes Mommy feel a lot better.”
The waitress came back carrying a tray of food. Saved! “One black and bleu burger, hold the bleu. One firecracker roll. One cradle roll.” She passed out the dishes the way a card shark dealt a hand of blackjack. “Some more colas. And one extra water for the thirsty boy.” She swapped out the glasses, mine included.
Finally! Some food! Maybe now people would shut up when there was something to stuff in their face holes. “Clark do you need help with-?” I’d already shoved the first piece of sushi in my mouth. “I guess not,” she laughed. Playfully she picked up her own piece of fish wrapped in rice and seaweed and popped it between her lips, mirroring me. “Who needs chopsticks?”
Mark’s mouth was too full to be coherent, a great improvement, but I was pretty sure he said “I know, right?”
The first piece was pure impulse to show that I didn’t need Janet to separate the pieces for me or help me any more than she already had. The second piece was purely for my enjoyment. Taking the time to really chew and savor the different flavors and texture. Mostly savory, and a bit dry, but there was more than a hint of sweetness that didn’t overpower the dish and the crunch of the cucumber really brought something to the table.
This was good. This was really really good. It wasn’t proper barbecue, but it was damn good! Food that wasn’t pureed and poured in a jar to be spoon fed, or come with a toy. It was near heavenly. At that moment, I felt kind of like an adult again, and if I just ignored literally everything about me below the neck I could let myself pretend for a few minutes. The food was good enough that this seemed reasonable.
I started paying attention to the restaurant and people watching. Nothing I hadn’t seen thousands of times elsewhere, of course: Amazons and Tweeners all enjoying a meal. Littles were confined to highchairs or laps. By turns they were being fed or feeding themselves finger food. A few were munching on sushi rolls, too.
Their Amazons alternately talked to each other and fawned over them. None of them cried or called out for help. They’d all learned that lesson, or were too broken to learn much of anything anymore. All of them seemed…happy enough. Content? Or maybe just beaten down.
No adult Littles, though. Not a single person my height or shorter wasn’t adopted. Were we really so rare a breed these days? Or was this part of town just known to be unsafe?
Wow. How about that?
A baby’s cry, a real one, sounded off, and a young mother got up and started rocking her child. I popped in another roll and witnessed a wave of Amazons paying sudden extra attention to their Littles. Basically, the real child slammed up against their collective lie and cognitive dissonance was forcing them to double down on their particular brand of madness.
I wouldn’t have been surprised if Janet decided just then to pepper me with kisses to the cheek and whisper sweet nothings about how good she thought I was being.
Turns out I was half right. I got a quick peck on the cheek, but then Janet stood up and grabbed her purse. “Excuse me, I’ve got to go freshen up.” She had that same look from yesterday. Almost like she’d peed her pants.
Both Doucheface McHorserson aka ‘Mark’ and I watched her until she disappeared behind the swinging door. I wondered if he was jealous knowing that if Janet had checked me just then, I might have been able to convince her to take me with her. More than likely she’d have to double back. It’s not like she could leave me on a fold out table while she sat down, but the jab was still there.
“So Clark,” the thing that would not take a hint said, “you like the Muffet Littles?” He pointed to my shirt. “I used to watch them all the time when I was a kid.”
He was trying…very trying…extremely trying.
“Not really,” I said flatly. “I prefer the Muffets. Janet just couldn’t find a shirt my size.”
“I know, just…nevermind. I won’t tell. Why do you like the Muffets? What do you like about them, I mean?”
My eye twitched. Had I not been in a low quality highchair I would have grabbed a soapbox to stand on. “Their best comedy is timeless and while it isn’t offensive to children, it doesn’t purposefully dumb anything down so adults can enjoy it too. The Muffet Babies are okay but it’s very much a show targeted at children to teach them about using their imagination. It’s well meaning, but not as good.”
Mark nodded. I swear I could hear his brain clanging around in his skull. “Cool cool. Cool cool.” Jackass hadn’t really been listening. He just waited until I stopped talking so he could reply. He took another bite of his burger.
“They’re also losers.”
The giant swallowed and took a sip of his drink. “Beg pardon?”
“They’re losers. Screw ups. Misfits. Their comedian can’t tell jokes, their chef can’t cook, and their diva is literally a pug. Things break all the time and something always goes wrong right before the final act that forces them to improvise or cobble something together. One episode they had to perform at a bus station because their usual theater was being bug bombed. But they always do it. The show goes on, and they get to perform another day, even though any rational person would quit or give up. There’s something kind of endearing about that.”
“Are you a Muffet?” Mark asked.
Now it was my turn to take a drink, swallow, and ask “Beg pardon?”
“Are you a Muffet?” Mark repeated himself. “Do you feel like them? Like a loser, or a screw up?”
Poor Mark. I swear I was very very close to kind of, sort of, almost tolerating him. Just because he sat in a room with other Amazons swapping stories about how they managed to emotionally and psychologically whip their Littles into submission, now he thought he was a therapist or something.
“Look Mark, just bec-”
Janet took her seat. “Hi boys. Sorry about that.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Mark said.
“Hope you two behaved yourself,” she ruffled my hair. She really meant me, even though she was signaling both of us.
Proving my point, Mark said. “Oh yeah. Clark was great. He was telling me about the difference between the Muffets and the Muffet Littles.”
“Muffet Babies,” I said.
“Right. What did I say? What’s the difference?”
“I can explain it to you, but I can’t make you understand.”
Janet threw her hands up in mock exasperation. “Don’t get him started!”
They laughed. I didn’t. I took another slug of water and finished my dinner. Janet was so going to hear about this on the drive back to her place.
“So Janet,” Mark said. “I was thinking…”
The horse with two feet leaned in and rested his elbows on the table. “I’ve learned a lot from listening to you and the others and doing the research into the benefits of Adoption and doing it right. So I’m going to do it. I’m taking next week off and calling an agency.”
“Awwww!” Janet squealed. “I’m so proud of you!” The queasy feeling in my stomach wasn’t just because I was close to being stuffed. That poor Little!
“So maybe next time we do a date, it might not be a date-date, but it can be a playdate.”
Oh geez! Screw that. This misery was in no mood for company. Especially if it meant seeing more of Clip-Clop the Frozen Food Clown.
“You bet,” Janet said. “Girl or boy?”
“No clue. I’m going in with an open mind. I’m going to look through the available case files and go from there! See who really reaches out to me.”
Janet let out another “Awwww!” Followed by, “That’s so good of you. You’re gonna make a great Daddy to somebody.”
“You and the others have inspired me,” Mark gushed. “I don’t just want to Adopt a Little. I want to save them. Just like you saved Clark.”
Save me? Save me?! What did Janet save me from? From my marriage? From my job? Technically, she saved me from New Beginnings but…
“Though thinking on that,” Mark interrupted my inner ranting and rambling, “I’ve got my suspicions about my secretary. She’s been acting rather erratically lately. Lotta potty breaks too. What did you say were some of Clark’s symptoms when his Maturosis started to manifest?”
Okay. Enough. Full stop. Time to derail this the only way I felt I could. I gripped the sides of the bar stool highchair, raised my bum and gave in to the pressure that had been silently gnawing on me and growing the whole evening.
Janet popped up and I plopped back down “I know what that means!” She started looking down at her feet and under the table
Blushing furiously, I settled back down, promising myself that it would make more work to clean up. Hadn’t thought it would be that loud, though. Or that wet. But mission accomplished. Heh. Butt Mission Accomplished… “Oh Mo-!” I stopped. My cocky grin didn’t even have time to settle.
Nothing was settling. Something was dripping however.
There’s no delicate, dignified way to say this, but it’s very easy to get used to a diaper over the course of several months. The way the wetness wicks away, or out the lumps settle into place. I’m not referring to the degradation or humiliation of the act. Forget about hygiene. I’m just saying that a body gets used to how things feel when the diaper is working properly and everything is contained.
The warm not quite solid wetness scraping at the back of my thighs and the putrid wet trickle going down my legs were signs that nothing was properly contained within. Whatever had been crammed up inside of me had been placing pressure on my bladder too and it exiting made my bladder relax. It was my final I.E.P. meeting as a teacher all over again, with shit running down my legs and piss dripping down the front.
Mark grabbed his napkin and started dabbing at my ankles and calves. “Uh-oh! We’ve got a bit of an emergency.”
“Mommy I…I…” I couldn’t get the words out. I looked down at my ring finger, the tan line long since faded. “Janet…”
“Diaper bag? Where’s the d-ohnoIforgotitinthecar!” She blurred out of the front door with me reaching out after her, silently begging her to take me with.
“It’s okay,” Mark shushed me, dabbing me down with napkins. “It’s okay. Your Mommy will be right back.”
“No…” I whispered.
“There’s no reason to be embarrassed. This happens to everybody.”
Not to everyone. “N..”
A stranger came up with a pack of wipes and a fresh diaper. “I saw Mommy run out to the car. If you want to, Daddy, you can change him so he doesn’t have to wait.”
Mark’s tremendous Adam's apple bobbed up and down like a lure that had snagged a big one. “That’s okay.. it’s just…he’s just…he’s not… I don’t know if I should..”
“Oh, that’s fine. Keep the wipes and she can give me the fresh diaper when she gets back.”
“He’s not my Daddy!” I said.
My protest was instantly waved off. “Oh don’t be so fussy, baby boy. Just because you Daddy and Mommy Adopted you doesn’t mean they don’t love you.” She was practically shoving the supplies in Mark’s lap.
“No,” Mark interrupted. “I’m not. I’m really not. And his Mommy hasn’t…I don’t know how she’d…we’d just both feel better if we waited.” He handed the diaper back.
The stranger shrugged and went back to her table. Her Little was blushing and trying to crawl into his own private embarrassment death hole.
Both of us at the table clenched up. “Some people…” Mark said.
“I know, right?” Douche had a point.
“You know what, Clark? I like you. You’re really lucky to have Janet as your Mommy, you know that?”
I’d tried to be nice. I really tried. Something about that last comment just set me off.
“Lucky?” I hissed. “You think I’m lucky? I leaned in, no longer caring that some poor server was going to have to run a mop over my chair. “You think this is lucky? I used to be married. I used to have a job. A fucking career! I used to do things! Things that fucking mattered! Maybe it wasn’t as important as I pretended it was in the big scheme of things but it mattered to me damnit! But all of that is gone. Fucking gone! And I’m stuck here! With you! Waiting on the woman who snatched me up to get back with a new fucking diaper! I can’t dress myself! I can’t feed myself! I can’t even go to the fucking bathroom anymore! And it’s got nothing to do with some bullshit disease that doesn’t exist, it’s because people like you won’t let me! You’re not helping Littles, you’re just lying to yourself so you can kidnap us and pat yourself on the back at the same time!”
It all came out bullet quick. I didn’t cry this time but I was still beet red and panting by the end of it. It might have started as a hiss and a whisper but by the end it was shotgun loud and the rest of the restaurant had gone deathly silent. They’d made themselves an audience to the melodrama of the evening.
Janet came in. All eyes were instantly on her. Scorn and pity and loathing radiated from the other giants. So-called parents muttering about how their so-called children never talked this way to them or any other ‘adult’..
“I’m back…” Janet puffed out of breath. “She saw the look of absolute hurt and terror in Mark’s face.” I had done that. Me. I was too angry to show it but I felt kind of proud. This was the face that had made Zoge cry. I still had it! “What happened?”
The giant douche canoe stood up.. “I gotta go.”
Mark didn’t answer. He just went right to the waitress and dug out his wallet.
Janet went into autopilot and got me out of the chair and took me to the bathroom to change me. No talking. No cooing. No humming. Definitely no humming.
Mark had already left the restaurant when Janet had finished with me. The waitress said he’d paid for all of us. No one in the restaurant was talking, only pointing and whispering.
We didn’t talk on the ride back. No music, either. Not even Tot Rox. Janet tried calling Mark a couple times but it went straight to voicemail. Her messages were all apologies and asking what was said or what happened. She never got a call back.
We got back to Janet’s house and she dressed me into jammies and tucked me into bed without a kiss.
Still no talking. From either of us.
She left the nursery. In the stillness and quiet of everything I could hear her start to sob walking down the hallway. It almost sounded like she was bawling out the word “Why?” over and over again.
“What?” I asked her through the baby monitor. “It’s not my fault he’s a total douche!”
Mark never showed up to another Little Voices meeting ever again.