Morning came slowly and I was glad for that. I woke up especially groggily and it felt like at some point in the night my body was worked over by a professional football team. I felt like I had slept for days but recovered nothing from it, and as I yawned I was jolted a tad more awake as something dropped from my mouth as I opened it, startling me. I picked up the object and inspected it. A pacifier. I became angry. Furious even. I couldn’t even have time in my bed at the end of the day where I wasn’t having some baby-related object forced on me.
Enraged I kicked off the covers, exhibiting the poor emotional control that had marked my outburst yesterday. As I hopped from the bed and began to walk I noticed a watery bulge that was significantly impairing my gait, and I looked down to see my diaper bulged very obviously and weighted down my pajama bottoms. It was clearly evident that I had wet myself multiple times as I slept last night. Undeterred I continued my feverish march, fortified in thinking the diaper that swing around my legs as I stomped would do nothing to diminish my dignity, and I made my way downstairs.
“Good morning, sleepyh-“
“What is dis?!” I demanded at Karen, startling her from her morning perkiness.
“What do you mean? That’s a pacifier,” she said plainly, wondering why I was so distraught about it.
“Yeah, but what was it doing in my mouf?!” I yelled back.
“We gave it to you on the couch last night, Pete and I weren’t sure whether you’d like it or not. Listen, honey, there’s no need to-“
“No, you listen, bitch, I’m sick of all dis-“
And I trailed off, for the moment that awful “B” word came from my mouth and pierced Karen’s ear drums her face boiled and tightened and she came at me with a determined manner. As she picked up speed and approached she simultaneously outstretched her one arm like a running back, reaching around my shoulder and coming over top of me. She wrapped me around her knee that came forward as she dropped and balanced me on top of it, and in half a second I felt the deft sting of an open palm as it swatted my bottom, cracking against the sound of my wet diaper and producing a hollow thud. Just three painful swats and she released me, standing me tall in front of her, and though somewhat calmed, she still looked sternly into me.
“We do NOT say those words in this house, young man! Come with me!” She clenched my wrist and brought me with her as she moved towards the octagonal cove where the kitchen table sat. I was frightfully caught off guard and began to sob slightly. She spun a chair from under the table and placed it facing the walled corner. She quickly lifted me and placed me on the seat.
“Now you are going to sit for a few minutes and let this sink in: that kind of language is not acceptable for anyone in our house to use, and it will not be tolerated.”
Her gaze dug into my eyes for a moment before she huffed and spun away from me, leaving me staring at the ivory blankness of the wall in front of me. My face felt hot and I began to tear and moan, though not nearly with the same magnitude that defined yesterday. I heard Pete come down a few minutes later and stop short of the kitchen island, and him and Karen exchanged a few whispers before I heard Pete chuckle and continue walking, now towards me.
“Todd, you OK?” He said as he knelt beside me, putting a concerned look on his face.
“Yes,” I struggled to say.
“What got you so worked up this morning?”
“I woke up and I had dis pacifier in my mouf and my diaper was wet. I don’t wike it, I just don’t wike it!”
“That’s no reason to start crying.”
“I can’t hewp it!” I exclaimed as I sobbed harder. “It just happens.”
“Well, Todd, just because your body is smaller doesn’t mean your emotions are the same size. Dr. Brooks mentioned they might shrink a little with you and that you might have a hard time controlling them for a bit. Karen and I are just trying to make things easier on you and thought you might like a little of the carefree world in all of this. That’s no reason to get hostile.”
I lowered my head, submitting and unspoken apology.
“Come on,” he said slowly and outstretched his non-briefcase carrying hand over me, pulling me into his chest to offer a bit of comfort, and let me purge a few more tears and deposit them into the fabric of his button up shirt before pulling away.
“I’ll see you later this evening. Have fun with Karen today, she’s got a lot planned for you!”
Pete left and Karen quietly approach, placing her hands on her locked knees as she bent forward.
“Are you in a little better mood now?”
“OK, let’s get ready to go out, then. Come on.”
She spun the chair enabling me to hop from it and follow her upstairs and into my room. As we walked I wiped a combination of tears and morning eye gunk from my face and felt my cheeks cool.
“First things first, that diaper needs to go!” She said pleasantly, patting the edge of the bed and I waddled towards it. She pulled down my pajama bottoms and then pulled up my top, and in just a diaper I climbed on to the edge of the bed where she repeated last nights process, though this time I was less curious.
Freshly diapered she handed me a pair of oat colored corduroy pants before heading to the closet.
“Oh, wait one second,” she interjected as she saw me attempt to put on the pants, and she hurriedly rifled through a small stack of clothes before pulling out a white turtleneck and red sweatshirt, rushing towards me as if she didn’t come forth rapidly I would forget her orders to hold still.
“Arms up!” She joked and I shot my arms upwards and locked as she pulled the shirt over my head and my arms through it. She tugged it over me and let it dangle, and I immediately noticed extra cloth that hung down from the waist. She reached through my legs and pulled the rear flap through, and with one hand holding it, she moved her free hand to the front flap and lined up snaps on the bottom that I just noticed with their partners on the other side, clasping them together one at a time.
“Now we don’t have to worry about droopy diapers,” she smiled. “Yes,” I thought sarcastically, “anything but that.”
I finished getting dressed and hopped behind Karen as we went downstairs and prepared to begin our first day out together. I chuckled to myself as I bounced, noticing how much more energetic I felt, albeit spastic at times. It was like I had current running through my body at all times, and any change in the flux would demand I give a little hop or a skip, just to burn off some energy and maintain an equilibrium. Though it had only been twenty-four hours, I was pleasantly surprised with my new body, save a noticeable decrease in motor skills and a tendency to leak on occasion. I was curious to see what the day’s events would bring, and I was somewhat excited to travel with Karen. It was like we were both undercover agents in a dreadful TV spy drama.
I sat on the couch and waited for Karen to complete her pre-travel checklist so we could depart, and she seemed endlessly busy in getting things prepared or organizing things or standing still with her eyes placid, trying to remember another thing she’d forgotten. I entertained myself by playing with Piper and we were warming to each other quickly.
“Alrigh, Todd, let’s go!”
The car ride was fairly uneventful and I had refrained from wetting the car seat this time, bringing my car-riding percentage to just over half. We pulled into the same large mall that we prematurely departed from the other day and found a spot fairly close to the main entrance. Karen parked and shut the engine off, unbuckling herself and removing the keys. Before leaving, however, she turned to me and removed her sunglasses.
“Todd, do you remember what Peter and I said the other day?” She asked.
“Do you need me to remind you how important it is that nobody knows about this?”
I nodded in the opposite direction.
“Good. Todd, I really don’t like being a mean person, that’s not my nature, but you need to know that I will not hesitate to drag you out of the mall if you jeopardize my husband or my family’s legal well-being. I’m not threatening you, I’m really not, but I want to remind you that you need to focus at all times. We’re going to walk by the mall’s babysitting area. Don’t worry, I’m not going to drop you off, but I just want you to look around and get a feel for things. Get a feel for what to say and what not to, just stuff like that. It’s just research.” She ended with a smile and opened the door to exit as I waited strapped in the car seat until she released and lowered me. I began to walk towards the mall until I felt a tug on my hand and turned to see Karen smiling, as always, and pulling my hand into hers as she led me behind the SUV and opened the trunk to reveal what looked like a bundle of plastic rods encasing a role of fabric. She pulled out the contraption and with some odd rhythmic full-body flick the device sprawled open and clicked a few times in rapid succession, forming it’s mechanically true shape, and I stared what I could now see was my chariot.
“We’re going to be here for a while, Todd, you think you’ll make it the whole time?”
“Yeah, why woudn’t I?” I sincerely wondered where her question was based, but instead of answering she just returned a patronizing affirmation.
“Well, hold my hand anyway, especially while we’re in the parking lot.”
I consented and we walked in, me toddling almost frantically to keep up with her as she walked emphatically to the front entrance, finally relenting when we stepped onto the large concrete sidewalk. I was nearly out of breath and was thrilled to see her slow her throttle as we walked through the hulking motorized doors. Inside the mall was a cacophony of neon lights and the sounds of masses. While vendors buzzed and lit their products one could hear different chords of trendy music coming from each store, and families and individuals walked about in different patterns in some symphonic brand of chaos. At least, when you’re three feet tall, that’s what it looks like. It made me wonder if the Ringling Brothers had some major financial stake in this mall, and I stood flabbergasted until I realized I was being tugged along.
“You’ll have to keep up if you want to keep walking, OK?”
We walked inwards a few feet until coming to a small children’s clothing store, with miniature sized mannequins perched genderless in the window and the fluorescent lights cascading dimly off the bright colors of youth. Karen turned instinctively and I followed suit, and the narrow entrance gave way to a wide and stroller-accommodating interior.
“Welcome to Tabbots!” Yelled an over-caffeinated young saleswoman. “Oh!” she gasped, “Hello my good sir!” she joked. “What can I help the two of you with?”
“Todd here has outgrown most of his clothes and needs some new outfits for the fall.”
“Of course, of course! Is there anything specific I can help you find?”
“Well, we’ll look around, but we’ll definitely need some overalls first, where would I find them?”
“Here, I’ll show you,” the saleswoman said as she barreled through a clothing rack to best assist us. “Is it still chilly out? Some fall this is, it feels like winter already,” she continued, myself losing interest almost immediately, though I think Karen did as well.
“Here are the overalls, feel free to look around and find what you like. Is your son about a 3T? Ok, well we definitely have a lot of those, but I’m not sure if we have any with the snap enclosures along the inseam in stock. If that’s what you’re looking for just let me know and I’ll call around to some other stores.”
She finally left us alone for a moment and Karen became engrossed in the shopping experience, yanking clothes off racks and out of shelves as she bore down the wall like a cyclone. Having lost interest already I began to do the only thing that I really knew how to do: dawdle aimlessly around the store. I kept fairly close to Karen on the off-chance she would consult me for anything I’d be wearing, but I was curious to see how it felt to dance in and out of racks like I had seen children do before. The small pleasures of the vantage point, I guess.
As I mingled around the clothing stands and in and out of the circular racks I paused while inside one and waited for a moment. It was calming to have such a sense of invisibility as I stood shielded by the hanging trousers, and for only the briefest of moments it truly felt as though I had removed myself from another world. However, I was slammed into the previous world seconds thereafter when my abdomen lurched without warning. I was now intently focused on the spastic firings inside my belly and wondered what they were trying to produce. The storm below my diaphragm continued to build in ferocity as it lured whatever lingerer it could find inside to join it’s cause, and soon it felt like I had swallowed a large animal that had dug refuge deep in my stomach. I could feel it grow and as I did I noticed the pressure was now adding a direction. The mass was starting to head towards the nearest exit, and I began to realize the severity of the dilemma I was in. I wondered whether I should run to Karen and alert her that we should go instantly but I felt paralyzed by the instinctual cramping of my abdomen, and my mind and body were not working in tandem at this point. I began to worry out of bafflement.
But, as I looked solemnly around the innards of the clothing rack my body tensed without asking as it paved way for the releasing of the internal mass. I tried to move and to cry out, but in reality I sank slowly and spread my legs slightly as if I were being controlled from above, and I clenched my brow and teeth, frowning as I made a large inhale. Like a punch to the gut my stomach rippled in contractions and I bent further forward, and slowly I felt the mass peek out of my bottom, and instantly thereafter the rest of it came pouring out of me as I continued to hold my knees and try to expel all of it. Even after using all of my oxygen the messing did not stop while I inhaled, and it was incredibly awkward to be filling my lungs at the same time I was emptying my stomach. It felt like this dragged on for ten minutes, though I’m sure it only lasted a twentieth of that. As I was relieved and welcomed back to the conscious world I was then presented with the dilemma of having a sticky, grapefruit-sized mush in the seat of my pants.
I stood frozen for a minute, incorrectly assuming that just because the racks of clothes were keeping me from seeing the people beyond that the relationship was reciprocal.
“Todd, come over here for a minute,” Karen beckoned, “I want to see how these fit on you.”
I reached around my back and with my hand palmed the bulge on my backside to gauge how obvious it might be to any onlooker, and after feeling it’s expanse knew instantly it would be obvious to most anyone, let alone slip by the instinctively keen eye of Karen. I paced for a second trying to calm the thoughts swirling behind my eyes and bought a little more time.
Had I been a mouse I could have scurried away unnoticed, but alas, I was a toddler. I knew deeply inside that there would be no choice but to take the first brave step over the rack and brave the large world regardless of what situation I were sitting in. So, with a face growing warmer and red I took my first step outwards, approaching Karen sheepishly.
“There you are - let’s go try some new clothes on!” Karen hurdled much more excitedly than I to the dressing room.
Karen blazed a path to the first dressing room to the right and opened the door with one hand and held a gaggle of different types of clothes in the other as I entered as well, pretending all the while that nothing were any different than a mere ten minutes previous. Karen fuddled with the clothes and hung most of them up save a pair of overalls and I stood there wondering the next move. As she placed the lone pair of pants down on the seat she turned and without warning hoisted me up and plopped me onto the free space adjacent. It was a miserable feeling to have one’s own mess smear on themselves, and the speed at which everything happened made the experiences less than gratifying to say the least. I sat with a disgusted look on my face feeling two days worth of waste reach everywhere in my diaper, forcing the contents toward both directions of waistband. Karen pulled my shoes off and in one oddly successful movement laid me down by pulling the waistband of my pants from under me, leaving me on my back, my thighs perpendicular and leading to a bend in my knees as Karen wrestled the legs through the spaces provided in the pants. As she jingled the pants she paused, and I could see her eyes squint and look at the my now bulging bottom pressingly profoundly against the snaps and flap of the turtleneck onesie. As if she didn’t believe she extended her pointer and index finger outwards and pressed gently but firmly on the butt of my diaper, moving an already mashed inside a little more displaced.
“Oh, sweetie, why didn’t you tell me you had to go?”
“I didn’t know I had to,” I began to sob.
“Alright... well, I think these will be the right size anyway, we might as well just get them and return them if they don’t fit. Let’s go find a place to clean you up, that will probably make you a little happier. Right?”
I shrugged and nodded in unison, not really convinced that the answer to all my problems was found in a fresh diaper. She slid the rest of my pants off my feet leaving me in the turtleneck and sock combination. I remained on my backside as she gathered the clothes into one pile and opened the door, bringing my pants and shoes with her and I on the seat hoping for no passerby’s.
She came back and picked me up in almost the same fashion as she did the day previous when I christened my car seat, this time placing me in the plush seat of the stroller, which only added to my quiet sobs and groans, and even if I tried to recline and hide in the seat I was not greeted with cover but with the fullest part of my diaper saddling over the plastic escape-prevention device mounted on the front, adding to the bit of shame I was starting to experience, so I just closed my eyes in an effort to... well... it just seemed like the most reasonable course of action. Karen paid and attached the bags somehow to the stroller and wheeled me out into the colder golden-colored marble interior of the mall. It was still earlier in the day and the few shoppers were families and children or older couples walking aimlessly.
She walked for a few minutes whispering or humming, though to whom I wasn’t sure, until we found a small enclave that served as the hallway to the restroom, I kept my eyes closed as if I hoped to be surprised by some random infusion of dignity given to me in allowing me to clean myself up. The wheels of the stroller changed their clacking sound as we crossed the threshold from the industrial marble tiles of the hallway to what sounded like a softer toned interior bathroom tile, and the stroller came to rest just after the transition. While my eyes still remained closed and guarded by my two hands I could hear a snap of plastic and the sound of used hinges give way.
“Ok, Todd, let’s get you into some fresh pants!”
As I felt myself being lifted I opened my eyes, immediately being punished by the bright fluorescence of the interior light as it reflected off the glossy surface of bathroom tile. Karen had lowered the khaki plastic changing table in the bathroom and laid me upon it. She brought a thin black strap over both sides of my waist and buckled it out of habit, pulling the side of one until it pressed authoritatively against my midsection and locked me into the table’s surface. There I lay in the turtleneck and sweatshirt, my white-encased diaper sticking out below the waistband and two rounded socked feet hanging over the edge. Karen reached into the mesh basket I saw under the stroller and pulled out a dapper and sleek black bag that looked like an oversized office portfolio some career-minded woman might have, and she split it open from the top and pulled out a crinkly hard plastic envelope and another soft white diaper.
She went through the same process as she did the last few times in similar fashion, and as with each one I was becoming more anticipatory of her actions, though I was unprepared for the feeling this time of having the diaper stick to me. She cleaned up the rather large but thankfully odorless mess and left the soiled diaper just off to the side.
My concentration was broken as I heard two pairs of feet echo off the same tile entrance we had just overcame, one of them deep and hollow while the other touched down softly and quietly. I turned my head and looked at the two entering with an upside-down perspective, now looking at another mother and her daughter skipping in front of her.
“Look, mom,” the little girl spoke without hesitation or censorship, “look mom, that boy still wears diapers! I don’t wear diapers anymore, na-unh no way!” The girl skipped onwards as if she were merely a reporter telling the world news but offering no commentary or bias, just pointing out the facts, as one might say.
“Kelly, that’s not very nice to talk about someone like that,” her mom scolded gently, “now go to the bathroom. Besides,” she said as she started to smile and turn towards Karen and me while her charge used the restroom as intended, “I’m sure he’s trying really hard.”
Karen returned a polite smile and laugh.
“How old is he?” the woman asked.
“He’s almost three.”
“Almost three? Well time’s-a-tickin’ little guy, you better start using the potty if you want to get a date!” She joked and laughed with Karen. I just laid there and blush, still with my privates completely exposed to this stranger while Karen joked back and forth with her as if I were a dog or product that was immune to listening to conversation.
“Well, maybe sometime soon,” Karen quipped, “I hope so, anyway, he’s busting out of these diapers as it is, let alone when they’re full!” She smiled and joked, using her two fingers to give my chin a slight tickle before pulling the diaper up over me and securing it with two tabs. She unbuckled me and sat me upright as the tight and cardboard consistency diaper started to form to me, and Karen gathered my pants and shoes that she removed earlier. About the same time the girl came out with an air of elitism and came to her mother, standing about a foot over me as Karen held out my pants for me to step into, using her shoulder and the wall as a brace.
“It’s OK, baby,” the girl said, “you’ll learn one day.” I noted the sage advice of the wise schoolgirl with a blush, and when my pants were pulled over my fresh diaper I took a step forward and nestled into Karen’s leg as I hugged it, not wanting to engage in any conversations with the strangers.
“Aww,” the mother smiled, “Come on Kelly, I think Mr. Bashful wants some privacy. Let’s go wash our hands and get some lunch.”
The two women exchanged whispers that I imagine came with smiles attached as well before I heard the two footsteps leave and walk to the sink, and Karen deposited me in the stroller to better put my shoes back on.
“What’s the matter, Todd? You don’t need to worry about this stuff I was only teasing.” She whispered. I knew she was, and I also wasn’t genuinely upset, more-so still trying to get a feel for the appropriate response in that situation. Either way, it was a welcome reprieve to be sitting without a large and sticky goo creeping through your whole lower body.
“Where awe we gowing now?”
“Let’s see,” she said as she pulled out a checklist, pausing over every input for a moment, “next stop is the sports shop where we’ll get you a new pair of skates! Then a quick stop at Target and then head home. Did you want to go anywhere for lunch?”
“Wear-evewr, I don’t rearwy mind.”
The hockey store was an interesting experience. It was the first time in a long time that I was in the “trying on” phase of skate shopping, and I was a little frustrated to have some punk kid try and “sell” me hockey equipment when he likely never played in his life. I tried to fit into my new role, though, which was not to be the alpha in situations like this, and submitted to the purchasing whims of Karen.
We decided to go to the CheeseSteak Factory for lunch which sat at the end of the mall. This meant that instead of returning to the car with our purchases and return sans the stroller. Instead we became the couple that maneuvered awkwardly through the tight pathways of tables with large bags hanging from the rear of the pushcart. Finally we got to the table without seriously injuring anyone and the waitress brought a booster seat, and much like the day previous, Karen and I sat and dined.
“So, Todd, how is everything going for you? Be honest.”
“Um...” I began as I tilted my chin skywards and squinted slightly, looking a tad philosophic. “It’s been intewesting. There are some wearwy happy parts and some wearwy sad ones. It’s nice to not have to worrwy about some fings and just sort of do as I pwease, but at the same time, I get a little wonewy. It’s wike, dere’s dis whole worwld dat I’m a part of, but not wearwy, if dat makes sense.”
“Todd, trust me, it does.”
Karen began to stare off into the horizon of the restaurant, completely becoming ignorant of any conversation. She was looking into another experience right now, and it was slightly unsettling given her last comments and her gaze.
“Anyway,” she snapped back, “get excited for the Halloween party coming up. We go every year, the neighbors down the road are hosting it this time, it will be a lot of fun - oh, we need to get you a costume, too! Let’s add it to the list.”
And, little by little, as we went to Target, the list continued to grow, and at the end of the shopping trip I lay on the couch the new owner of a few pairs of clothes, a new pair of skates, and a new Halloween costume, though unfortunately it was the very typical pumpkin costume. It was supremely comfortable to be wedged into the corner of the large couch, and my breathing slowed as it did nearly every time I reclined, and with Penelope crammed into the corner adjacent to me, we nodded at one another and slept.