After the trip to the zoo, Dan’s life changed. Mrs. Schneider seemed happy----more than happy, eager----to take care of him, and with work getting even worse, it was easy to let her. Later that week he let her talk him into staying home, and he spent the day relaxing: they went to a movie, watched television, and put together the puzzle he’d gotten from the zoo, all with Max excitedly running around and yapping happily at him.
The next day, he discovered that no one seemed to even care that he’d missed the day, but that he was still swamped with a never ending string of new problems and frustrating coworkers. As the next few weeks passed, and there were never and consequences to missing work, he skipped more and more.
Mrs. Schneider suggested he move into the main part of the house, to a rather nicer room than the one in the back he’d been renting, and he accepted. It was only after he moved that he realized that it meant he’d be sharing a bathroom with her, and the point was emphasized by the fact that she thought nothing of coming in while he was showering. It should have been odd, but by now he’d almost accepted that he was living like her kid, so he just ignored the few little strange things like that.
He bonded with Max, and often, on the days he spent home, spent an hour or two, at Max’s insistence, in the spacious back yard playing fetch or just running around with him.
He kept wondering if he shouldn’t fight to regain control of his life and act like an adult again, but Mrs. Schneider made it so easy to act like her kid, and work was so miserable, that he kept putting it off. When she came home one day with a bundle of clothes for him, and had him try them on to make sure they fit, he did so without a second thought. It was surprisingly easy to stand in front of her in his underwear, or to let her feel around his body checking the fit of the pants, and just enjoy being taken care of.
And the new clothes were shorts, t-shirts, and athletic outfits that fit his lifestyle much better than the khakis and button-down shirts that had made up his wardrobe before. A week later, she followed up with more clothes: colorful boxers with animals or sports equipment on them, to replace his dull checkers, and brightly colored socks in place of the interminable black ones he’d needed to wear with his work clothes.
Only a few days later, she pointed out that his shoes were getting worn (indeed, as inappropriate as they were for things like running outside, he’d been going barefoot as much as possible), and suggested that they get new ones. She drove him to a shoe store in town, and when he saw it, Dan had a moment of trepidation. It was, unmistakably, a children’s shoe store. Their elaborate game of pretend might be seductively enjoyable, but surely if someone else saw them, it would be at best embarrassing, and at worst might ruin everything.
But Mrs. Schneider just tugged on his arm, "Come on, Dan, stop dawdling," and pulled him in. The clerk seemed to find nothing unusual about the situation, and proceeded to size Dan’s feet and help him pick out a pair of sporty looking sneakers in a shade of neon green which Dan could only describe as "awesome." Despite that fact that Dan’s feet were well outside the range the store must have normally had, the clerk found one his size, and they fit perfectly.
His new shoes were so nice, and so much more comfortable, that he didn’t particularly want to sit, so as soon as Mrs. Schneider drove him back home, he and Max spent hours playing in the backyard, running around ceaselessly.