Back Seat Driver

[SIZE=2] [U][B]Back Seat Driver

The First Part

[SIZE=2] Summer holiday is supposed to be a time of relaxing and fun. Being at the beach or pool may be some people’s idea of relaxing or fun, but not Gareth’s. No, Gareth’s idea of relaxing is just taking a few minutes to enjoy the sight of something before it’s gone. His family, however, refuse to acknowledge being on holiday unless they are else than at home. This year, they’ve all decided to visit Carol’s mother in the south. In this instance, “all” refers to everyone except Gareth himself. The kids are looking forward to the week-long stay, but Gareth would honestly prefer to stay at work.

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[SIZE=2] Now it was about a month ago, whilst in a pub with his mates, that Gareth had made the claim to having no plans “to visit that old cunt of a mother-in-law or witch of a sister.” His wording when responding to his wife’s suggestion was much more tame, but he nonetheless remained unwilling. However, the visit was traditional, and despite his best attempts, remained as one to be kept. His eventual agreement was again voiced differently when retold to his sympathetic pub mates.

His main reason for postponing the visit was quite valid. Work at the office was in quite a state, and it began to require long hours to keep pace with the influx of additional tasks. Clearly, it was far from an opportune time for a holiday. It was not without difficulty that Gareth was able to make the proper arrangements for his absence. His small comfort came from the prediction by his boss that work was likely to pick up even more in the coming months, and that if a holiday must be taken over the summer, it would be best to get it out of the way promptly. Leave was granted for the week they agreed upon, and Gareth set about making every effort to keep ahead on his tasks.

On the days leading up to the trip, the family began to make other preparations. Carol was at home, ensuring that the packing was done, making sure that any previous arrangements would be put on hold, and fretting over the fact that the travel cot would not fit in the car’s boot. Gareth spend most evenings at the office. The two exceptions were the day he took the family car in for repairs, and the last day before the trip. On that day, he allowed himself one more night at the pub, certain that karma — in some form or another — would punish him for the indulgence. Actually, he figured that he’d already been condemned, and if that was the case, he should earn it at least. As a bonus, his pub-mates found this reasoning uproariously funny, immediately calling for another round as a send-off to their mate.

He knew that everything was already packed, and that all arrangements were already made. He didn’t make the mistake of coming home too late, nor did he get completely plastered. He did feel a little guilty for having a night to himself while his wife got everything prepared.

Gareth would be very surprised when he woke the next morning.

[/SIZE] The Second Part

[SIZE=2] It didn’t surprise him at all when he woke to a slight headache. Shaking off the morning stiffness, he showered and dressed quickly, stopping only to enjoy a mug of coffee before starting the day. The flat was still quiet when he left to fill the car’s tank with petrol; something he had forgotten to do the night before. But twenty minutes later when he returned, no one was up and he was slightly annoyed. He set about waking Carol and Shelly. Carol went straight to the shower, while Shelly grumbled at being disturbed, and required several attempts before she finally rose and got dressed. Of course, she then proceeded to complain about having to wait for her mum, stating several times that she could have slept more. She wasn’t the only one irritated by the extra wait.

Even by the time Carol was nearly ready, Shelly still hadn’t quite finished her own packing. Gareth was unaware of this, thinking that his wife had organised all of the packing the night before. He had busied himself packing the suitcases that were ready into the family car. When this was done, he gathered a selection of snacks for the trip. Initially, he had hoped to make the journey in a little over eight hours, but given how late it was, he now anticipated delays due to traffic. Being extra careful not to disturb the youngster, he changed Todd’s nappy and dressed him. Todd only squirmed for a minute or so before falling back asleep.

After another half-hour of delays, which ranged from a hectic breakfast, reorganising the car to fit the travel cot, and actually getting Shelly’s things packed, they all piled in. Todd was gently buckled into his child seat, and they were off. In total, they left an hour and a half later than Gareth had planned. All the while, Carol complained that Gareth hadn’t helped, and Shelly complained about being rushed, despite dragging her feet as much as figuratively possible. Gareth questioned the point of bothering to plan ahead if everything was going to go tits up.

Isn’t it funny how much work it is to go on holiday?

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[SIZE=2] “Calm down, dear, it’s not as bad as you’re making it out to be. We’ll get there yet.” Carol said, as she climbed into the car. “If you had helped with the things, this would have gone quicker.”

“I did help,” Gareth protested, looking back to ensure that both children were buckled properly. “I put everything in the car, and I had to pack half Todd’s things, and nearly all of Shelly’s. Did you know that she didn’t even start packing until this morning?”

“Can’t you be glad we’re on the road?” Carol said, leaning back.

Gareth chose not to start an argument at the outset of their journey. He wanted to mention the fact that letting a ten year-old pack her own clothes was a terrible idea to begin with, but he didn’t. He wanted to mention that Carol’s supervision was the condition on which he had agreed to Shelly’s begging. Shelly had wanted to prove herself responsible, claiming that she wasn’t a baby who needed looking after; but she had instead proven once again that she wasn’t up to the task. Gareth also wanted to question why his wife Carol, had seemingly done nothing about Shelly’s laziness. But he felt guilty for taking the previous evening for himself, and instead had to admit that he was glad to be on the road.

“Why do we have to leave so early?” Shelly said with a tone of annoyance. “I could’ve slept another hour.”

“You can sleep now that you’re in the car.” Gareth offered gently.

“But it’s cramped in here. I don’t wanna sleep in the car.”

But she would sleep in the car, just not right at that moment. Ten year-old Shelly was the first of two children, and of the occupants of the car, by far the most excited to visit her grandmother. Of course, her legs weren’t cramped at all, as the room in the back seat was sufficient even for an adult. That fact hadn’t stopped her from complaining in the past, and both of her parents were confident that she would change nothing for this trip. Of the handful of things she actually packed herself, her iPod was the first and most important to her. Her parents allowed this simply because it kept her more quiet. Not completely quiet, no, she would usually hum along to whatever was playing.

“You changed his nappy, right?” Carol said, looking back at Todd.

“Of course I did,” Gareth replied, braking as the light ahead of them turned amber.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, love.”

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[SIZE=2] “Oh no, Mum, I think I’ve forgot my new swimsuit!” Shelly suddenly blurted from the back-seat.

“We’ll just have to buy another one after we get to your Grandmother’s house.” Gareth quickly offered a solution that would keep them heading south.

“But I just got it a week ago!” Shelly whined. “It’s my favourite, and I haven’t even gotten a chance to wear it.”

“Come on, dear, we’re not far from home.” Carol murmured quietly, her eyes remaining shut. “Let’s just go back and get it for her. It is her favourite after all, she’ll miss it the whole time.”

“Please!” Shelly whined again.

Gareth knew they would be collecting the swimsuit before he even replied, and in fact, had already turned the car back toward home even before he spoke. “Alright love, just be quick about it when we pull up.”

He reasoned that at this point, it was already too late to avoid traffic delays, what was twenty minutes more? Well, twenty minutes turned into forty minutes, and they were further delayed by a recent collision that blocked the road. It was nearly an hour before they had reached the point at which they had turned around. Thankfully, the motorway was fairly clear for a stretch, and they were able to travel a decent distance before having to stop. By then, the sun was fully in their eyes. Carol and Todd slept, while Shelly donned sunglasses and isolated herself within the sound from her iPod. Gareth, of course, was left to squint into the sun, thankful for each tree and cloud that granted him shade.

The second stop was also caused by a request from Shelly, who had apparently brought a cola while collecting her swimsuit. Gareth had noticed, but had decided not to forbid her from having it. Normally, she wouldn’t be allowed to have it on a trip, but this was a holiday, and he decided to let her have something nice. Of course, it was hardly more than fifteen minutes after she finished it, that she began to complain loudly and plead to stop and find a toilet.

“And this is why I don’t like to let you have cola when we’re travelling.” Gareth said as he reluctantly exited the passing lane, quickly heading toward a small shop that looked reasonably well-to-do.

“Be easy on her, dear, we’re on holiday.” Carol said.

“I am, love.” Gareth defended softly, “I let her have it and I usually don’t, but now we have to stop again. It’ll be late by the time we arrive.”

With no other words, save for Shelly’s occasional whimpering, they quickly parked in front of a petrol station. Carol and Shelly disappeared for a few minutes, while Gareth checked Todd’s nappy. Todd had woken up as they bumped into the parking lot, so Gareth offered him a bottle of juice. When everyone returned, they began to make their way south once again, this time with a ban on Shelly’s cola intake.

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[SIZE=2] “Gareth, you’re going faster than the limit.”

“I’m only a little over, it’s not much.”

“You’re going to get a ticket.”

“I am not.” Gareth merged out of the passing lane.

“And you nearly hit that motorist.” Carol spun around in her seat to look back at the car they had just passed.

“I wasn’t even close, it just looked so from your seat!”

“Maybe you should just slow down. We don’t need to be stopped by the police.”

“We won’t, love. I’m trying to make the best of this clear motorway.” Gareth nodded forward, highlighting the nearly empty lanes that stretched out of sight. In this particular area, this was a rarity that must be appreciated and used to the fullest advantage. Gareth had no intention of stopping for a while…

…Until ten minutes later, when Shelly asked how long it had been since their last stop. At that point, Gareth already anticipated another, but waited for confirmation.

“It’s only been an hour, dear. Do you need to stop again?”

Shelly nodded her head, which her father could see from his position. He also noticed the empty bag of crisps and an empty package of liquorice. The latter worried him greatly, as past experience told him that it essentially signalled the end of decent progress.

“Did you eat all that liquorice, Shelly? You know how it sits with you.”

“But I was hungry.”

“Gareth, let her be.”

A short time later, Gareth drummed his fingers on the steering wheel as he waited for his wife and daughter to return from the toilet. All hope of making decent time was gone. This was turning into a nightmare. Gareth turned to check on Todd, who was quietly sucking away at his nearly-empty bottle. His nappy was swollen, and Gareth began looking around for a fresh one. Finding none, he exited the car and began searching the boot.

“Dear, where did you pack the nappies?” Gareth looked up as his wife and daughter returned.


“Yes, the nappies for Todd. Where are they?”

“Wherever you put them, honey, I don’t know.” Carol opened the door for Shelly.

“Me? I thought you were in charge of packing.” Gareth said, closing the boot. “Are you saying we have no spare nappies?”

Carol sighed heavily as she closed Shelly’s door and opened her own. “You’re the one that took it upon yourself to pack the car, it’s not my fault if you missed something.”

“I’m not trying to put anyone at fault, I’m just trying to figure out if we have any spare nappies or not.”

“If you didn’t pack them, then I guess we don’t.” Carol said bluntly as she entered the car and closed the door.

Gareth again opted not to launch into an argument with his wife, and instead checked the petrol station’s shop to see if there were any nappies for sale. There were, but none that would fit a two-and-a-half year old. After returning to the car and driving for five minutes in the opposite direction as they were headed, they eventually found a small market which had nappies in Todd’s size. Once Gareth had replaced Todd’s sodden nappy with a fresh one, they again headed south.

“Could this possibly get any worse?” Gareth asked the question to no one in particular, as he carried Todd back to the car. Todd didn’t answer, but ten minutes later when they were on the motorway, mother nature answered. The skies must have felt that it was a good time for a rainstorm, because they let loose with a good dousing. Traffic slowed instantly as road mist clouded their vision. Soon, there were collisions and the motorway slowed to a crawl.

“And this is why I wanted to leave earlier.” Gareth muttered, knowing that speaking was a mistake, even as the words left his mouth.

“You can’t blame me for the weather, Gareth.” Carol said in an offended tone. “I know what you’re thinking.”

Gareth wanted to explain that he wasn’t blaming her for the weather, but he knew that she knew he was blaming her for them being late. In her usual way, she had put such a twist on it that he had no hope of arguing to any understanding, or even so much as making a point. He kept quiet, knowing that her tone was daring him to reply. She was good at it, verbally working him into a corner so that no matter what he said would be wrong.

Had they left earlier, they might be past this spot on the motorway. This area was prone to heavy delays, and the summer holidays were not a helpful factor. If they had made it clear of this city before the rain, they mightn’t be caught in the present congestion. Gareth managed to calm himself somewhat by switching his focus to getting through the traffic. After all, there was nothing he could do to change the past, so instead of arguing about it, he decided to let it go. Spotting a slip road, he changed lanes and departed from the endless glow of tail lights from slow-moving cars.

“You’re not going to make us all sick again, are you, trying to speed down some winding country lane like a lunatic?”

“Honey, we’re barely moving, I’m taking a different route.” Gareth said, a tinge of frustration in his voice. One that he hoped wouldn’t set off a barrage of verbal jabs.

“I just can’t see why you must be so impatient all the time.” Carol said, leaning back in her seat.

For the next lengthy while, they made quite decent time actually. Although, Carol seemed to sigh or roll her eyes with every single gear change. Gareth felt antagonised, cringing each time he reached for the gear lever, and flinching as if he knew he would earn a swat atop the head for each time pressed the accelerator. He knew that she was observing his every move, scrutinising every action, and constantly finding fault. Somehow, getting to her mother’s house was not the priority. Instead, Gareth wondered if he had been dragged along simply to be aggravated at each step.

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[SIZE=2] Gareth wasn’t sure how much distance they had covered, but he was still sad to return to the motorway. Somehow, every hill had presented an opportunity to downshift, which in turn launched the car forward. And every straight let him press down on the accelerator, pushing them ever closer to their destination, and freedom from the increasingly uncomfortable car.

Carol, however, did not appreciate the twists in the road, nor the completely reasonable speed at which they travelled. Instead, she gripped the door handles at every turn, and tensed at every straight. Gareth could not help but catch these expressions of displeasure from the corner of his eye. Even if he was driving slower than the posted limit, her reactions implied she must think him a maniac. Nonetheless, they had covered ground faster than they presently were on the jammed motorway. As soon as they reached the next viable alternative, Gareth would take it without hesitation. It was evident to him that the motorways were clogged, and the only way to make decent time was to twist and wind across the countryside.

Eventually, and opportunity presented itself, but before they became totally surrounded by farmland, they stopped for lunch at a quaint little place near the centre of an equally quaint little town. Carol and Shelly claimed to need a break from being so cramped, and while he kept it to himself, Gareth wondered how that could be, given how many stops they had made already. Todd had become quite restless in his seat, and Gareth was glad to let him run around and burn off some energy.

Gareth was entirely unsuccessful in convincing his wife and daughter to make any manner of haste. Despite his reasoning that the trip would only take longer for each delay, they refused to hurry. In fact, it seemed that Carol was dragging out the stop, making it take as long as possible. Reluctantly he resigned himself to the extended wait. Across the street from the cafe where they had eaten, Carol took Shelly to browse through several small shops. Gareth waited with Todd, who was playing happily in the garden that surrounded the outdoor tables. Gareth managed to settle on the one positive note that he was enjoying the rest as his legs had tired from working the gas, brake, and clutch while in the heavy traffic.

“Alright, let’s go,” Carol stated with a tone of mild annoyance, as if this trip was not her idea in the first place.

“Did you find anything nice?” Gareth asked, looking up from where Todd was trying to catch some flying insect. He had to admit that at this point, perhaps thirty minutes after eating, he was finding the area to be rather relaxing. If they must delay, this certainly was not a bad choice of location.

“Yes,” Carol snapped back with a seemingly unprovoked hostility. “I know you seem to think this place is rubbish, because you’re so interested in being off, but there are, in fact, some nice things to be found. I for one, like to take my time and enjoy the places I go.”

Gareth struggled for words, having been taken completely off-guard by his wife’s sudden outburst. “What?” he finally managed, still stunned, “I only asked—”

“Oh, I know what you said,” Carol replied, cutting off the rest of his explanation, “but we both know what you meant.”

Gareth sighed, and stood up silently. He was already tired again. “I’m going to change Todd’s nappy,” he mumbled softly. “After that, we can leave whenever you’re ready.”

“I already told you I was.”

Gareth silently hoisted the boy to his side and collected the changing supplies. In a few minutes, he returned from inside the cafe. Todd was looking much happier.

In the car and back on the road, there was an uneasy silence between the two front seats. Shelly was asleep in the back, as was Todd. Gareth once again recalled that he never much enjoyed any of the visits to his mother-in-law. It was always like this; tension during the entire journey, antagonism from the relations when they got there, it was never pleasant for him. Given how much constant running around he anticipated for the following week, he knew that he would return more tired and more stressed than when he left. Some holiday. He regretted not bringing his laptop so he could continue working while away from the office.

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[SIZE=2] Once again, and not long later, Gareth found himself parked outside of a mini market. He couldn’t fathom how Carol managed to spend half an hour browsing the shops, and never bought the one item she actually needed. Of course, sunglasses were a trivial item when one wasn’t actually driving. And yet somehow, with miraculously coincidental timing, Shelly needed to stop for the toilet. Gareth pondered the idea of putting the entire family in nappies, just to avoid any more toilet stops… except for himself, of course. He discarded the idea with a chuckle, as he knew the chances of it succeeding were equal to the chances of making the Americans using the metric system.

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[SIZE=2] “Are you—?” Gareth stopped himself, took a breath, and lowered his voice. “You must be joking.”

“I’m not, Gareth, just pull over somewhere.”

“It’s not even been twenty minutes. And where on earth should I pull over? There’s nothing for miles.”

“Didn’t I tell you it was a stupid idea to drive through the country? Didn’t I say earlier that we should just stay on the motorway?” Carol sounded like she was about to launch into yet another verbal assault.

“No, Carol, don’t even think of putting this on me,” Gareth said firmly. “We literally just stopped fifteen minutes ago, you could’ve gone to the toilet then. You’re act—”

“I didn’t need to go, then. What do you want me to say?”

“Didn’t need—?” Gareth shot a glance across the car. “Shelly doesn’t even use that excuse! You’re acting like an absolute child, you are!”

“Oh, I’m the one who’s a child!?” Carol shot back, “well you’re the one who’s making a bigger deal out of this than it needs to be.”

“I said you’re acting like one, I didn’t say you were a child. We’ve probably spent more time at filling stations and shops than on the road. I’m half tempted to…”

“To do what?” Carol asked, clearly ready to dispute whatever he was about to say.

Gareth had slowed the car, and pulled into a garden centre. “Here is fine, I’m sure they have a public toilet,” he said flatly. “And take Shelly along, would you?”

“But I don’t need to go!” Shelly protested from the back seat.

Gareth gave a look to his wife, one that he was sure he’d hear about later on, but one that produced the desired result.

“Come along Shelly,” Carol said, her eyes lingering on Gareth as she climbed out of the car

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[SIZE=2] The mood within the car did not improve once they were underway again, nor did they complete the journey without another stop. Gareth and his wife kept mostly silent, leaving only Shelly’s off-key humming to mix with the road noise in the cabin of the car. When they finally arrived at the dreaded house occupied by his partly hated, partly feared mother-in-law, next to whom lived his equally hateful sister-in-law, Gareth was a tired man.

“Now honey,” Carol began in a forcedly soothing voice, “please don’t say any hurtful things about Joey.”

“I won’t dear,” Gareth replied indifferently, waiting until he detected his wife’s sigh before continuing, “as long as your mother doesn’t start directly comparing me to him.”

“She doesn’t mean anything by it.”

“She does and it’s rude,” Gareth said coldly. “She’s always pitting you against your sister, and saying that Ellie picked the better man, not you. Joey is redundant and I work hard for you and the kids. The only reason I said anything last time was simply because you did not. It was absolutely insulting to us both and I’ve no idea why you put up with it.”

Carol went on the defence, and replied quickly as they began to exit the car. “Let’s not get into this right now,” she said hastily, still collecting her things.

Gareth stopped and leaned back into the cabin to speak. “I’m not the one who brought it up.”

“Just try to be civil, they’re coming over for supper, tomorrow evening.”

Unsurprisingly, Todd was still bouncing with energy this late in the day. Gareth took him to the yard in back of the house, and let him run around until the sun drooped low in the sky. Finally, Gareth took him inside and left him with his wife, who had prepared some food while chatting with her mother. Todd ate hungrily, but Gareth wanted nothing more than to sleep.

His buttocks were sore from sitting so long, his legs were sore from frequent gear changes, his head hurt from all manner of reasons, and he knew damn well that his patience had run out long ago. If he said a word to anyone, it wasn’t likely to be a kind one. Furthermore, as he cleaned up and climbed into bed, he was aware that he would be spending a week in close proximity to the people he had deemed the absolute most unpleasant in the whole country. He was stressed more than he’d like, just from thinking about them. If there was a more unpleasant way to spend a holiday, he wanted to know it, simply for the sake of curiosity. As it was, he decided that this was an utterly horrid way to spend a summer holiday.

He fell asleep quickly, due to fatigue, clueless as to what was coming next. Nothing in the world would surprise him more than what he would find when he woke.

[/SIZE] The Next Part

[SIZE=2] Sometime in the night, Gareth woke to a blurry darkness. There was someone moving above him, but he was much too sleepy, and couldn’t rouse himself if he wanted to. There was a dim light, but he still couldn’t see what was going on. If it were early morning, he certainly had no intention of interacting with another human until the sun had risen, and he’d had a mug of coffee.

Surprisingly, he heard a male voice; a familiar one, but it sounded strange in a way he could not put his finger on. It reminded him of meeting someone in person after talking to them over the phone. But tiredness still gripped him like a clamp, and even as he felt himself being physically moved, he was powerless to resist. There was no discomfort, only a soothing male voice, and the sensation of being lifted. Sleep took him again, washing away his concern with the soft caress that only sleep can provide.

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[SIZE=2] When Gareth woke again, he knew right away that something was different. He felt restricted as if bound from many directions, or wrapped up tightly. The road noise from within a car surrounded him, and only the sound of familiar voices broke the constant rumble. Balling up his fists, he rubbed his eyes until the blur cleared, and he knew where he was. It was rather obvious that he was in the family car, but he couldn’t remember where they were going, or why anyone but him would be driving; he was seated in the back, behind the driver.

But slowly it dawned on him. Not only was he in the back, but he was in the child seat, the one meant for Todd. To his left was Shelly, in front of her was Carol, and in the driver’s seat… he couldn’t tell. But the identity of the driver was the least of his present concerns. The first of which being that he actually fit in the child seat. Stubby little legs kicked in front of him, and they were his legs. Equally stubby hands spun and grasped the air as he tested his limbs. The tightness that he felt was a combination of things; the child seat, the straps, and of course, the nappy he was wearing. That last part was hard to ignore, as the strange and massive-feeling bulk was very restrictive, pressing its mass into his privates where his trousers should instead be comfortably spacious.

Once he had taken in all of these things, he returned the previous mystery of the driver’s identity. If he was the size of Todd, then where was Todd, and who had taken his place?

“Oh mum, Todd’s awake,” Shelly said, drawing Gareth’s attention toward her. “Should I give him his bottle?”

“Yes dear, thank you,” Carol replied softly over her shoulder.

Well that answered that. Clearly, he wasn’t just small, he was Todd. And as he looked past Shelly, out her window, he noticed a familiar garden as it passed. This told him that they were back north, within forty minutes of their home town. He wanted to cry out, but he stopped suddenly.

In front of him, Carol and whomever was driving, were talking. The man sounded just like he did, even down his most subtle of mannerisms. But as they spoke, Gareth noticed something significant; they weren’t arguing. Instead, they were bantering pleasantly whilst discussing the upcoming week. It wasn’t entirely strange for them to be having a nice conversation, but he found it noteworthy for it to be while on holiday. Usually, planning, schedules, and relatives would dampen the mood, often resulting in edgy nerves and short tempers. Instead of bickering, they were getting along rather well, and Gareth did not miss the fact.

It seemed that time had skipped backwards, and they were reliving yesterday, except with several points of difference. Other than his new perspective from Todd’s position, it appeared that they were on the road several hours earlier than before. The sun was just peeking over the horizon, sending brilliant rays of light through the clouds and trees. The light glistened from the morning dew, causing Gareth to marvel at its beauty. Unlike yesterday, they were headed south at this point, meaning that the sun was to their left, rather than in front of them.

Everything appeared different, as if seen through a lens that somehow made everything better. Gareth saw details in the landscape that he had never before even noticed. The ride out of town felt smoother, and he had to concentrate to even detect the bumps in the road. Even the sounds were more pleasant. He noticed quickly that Shelly’s humming was no longer out of tune and off-key, but soothing and cheerful. And try as he might, he simply couldn’t hear the worrying tick in the engine’s quiet drone.

Shelly took out her ear buds and stopped humming as the dug through Todd’s nappy bag. Gareth took the bottle as Shelly handed it to him, quickly finding that he needed both hands to hold it. Spitting out his dummy, he brought the nipple to his lips. A moment of worry overcame him as he realised that the bottle was filled with apple juice; something he simply couldn’t stand the taste of.

Or rather, he used to. As the golden liquid dribbled into his mouth, he instantly knew the flavour was indeed apple juice. But instead of disgusting, he found it to be wonderful. The flavours were perfectly balanced, and he felt like he could drink it all day. This was fortunate, as he already expected to drink nothing else.

“Looks like somebody was thirsty,” Shelly commented with a smile.

Gareth looked over to find Shelly beaming widely. Her face was covered in pure enjoyment as she watched him drink. He didn’t know what it was about him that made her smile like that, but it was infectious. In seconds, he found it nearly impossible to keep drinking as he was smiling so wide. It was rare for her to get along with her little brother, and strange as his current situation was, it filled him with an indescribable warmth to see her so happy.

After a while, she returned to her music, and the car was once more filled with the pleasant sound of her humming. He once again began sucking down the juice from the bottle, and when it was finished, Carol handed him a small container of animal crackers. These, he munched happily, again surprised by how good they tasted. Trees, towns, and other motorists whizzed by his window, and he watched silently for some time.

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[SIZE=2] It wasn’t too long later that Gareth encountered his first problem in Todd’s body. But the problem turned out to be more of a discomfort than an obstacle to overcome. With little warning, he felt the sudden urge to urinate, but the feeling was hardly upon him before he was having a wee. His eyes went wide and he tried to clamp down, but his muscles were not yet trained, and he was helpless to stem the tide. He looked down in horror as the warm piss trickled between his legs and down under his bum. But instead of a dark stain, or any other telltale signs of his accident, he could only see the seatbelt clasp across his middle.

The moisture dissipated, sucked up quickly by his thirsty nappy, leaving only a soft warmth and additional bulk between his little legs and under his bum. He looked around the car, expecting to see shocked and disgusted expressions staring back at him. Instead, it seemed that no one even noticed him in his dilemma, and it was then that he realised it wasn’t a dilemma at all. No, as Todd, he wasn’t expected to do anything. He had no responsibilities, no tasks, and no one was relying on him. There were no deadlines or schedules, and he had all the time in the world to enjoy himself.

The wet nappy hadn’t been an accident because there had never been a way for him to prevent it in the first place. No one would be upset at him for pissing in his nappy. In fact, he was wearing a nappy specifically to use it. He wasn’t just not expected to hold his wee until a toilet could be found, he wasn’t even allowed the option. His nappies were there because he was not capable to using anything else. Whether he liked it or not, he knew he would be using his nappy again.

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[SIZE=2] “Todd,” Shelly whispered from beside him. “Hey Todd, you wanna help me with something?”

Gareth turned to look only because she had leaned toward him, he certainly was not used to responding to Todd’s name.

“You have to be quiet,” Shelly continued in a whisper, a smile playing across her face. She held out a folded piece of paper. “This is a surprise for daddy. Wanna write something to him?”

Gareth recalled that yesterday had been Saturday, and if he were living it over again, that must mean that it was Saturday once more. Tomorrow would be Sunday, the third Sunday of June: Father’s Day. This wasn’t a fact that escaped him on his previous journey in his own body, but Father’s Day was an oft-forgotten celebration in his household, and was rarely little more than an excuse to hire a babysitter whilst he and his wife went out for a quiet evening.

Perhaps he simply hadn’t noticed, but it was now apparent that Shelly was intending to give him a card for Father’s Day. It moved him deeply to see his daughter care enough to give him — or her father, at least — a card. Much as he loved her, it often appeared that she only viewed him as overbearing. And as much as he hated to admit it, even despite his best efforts, he couldn’t lie that Shelly was often very bratty. He had constantly tried to show her to be selfless, caring for others just as he worked to care for his family. But if his efforts bore fruit, he rarely got to see, and was thoroughly convinced that he and his wife were bringing up a selfish and rude little girl.

Mentally shaking himself from his thoughts, he had forcibly hide himself behind his silly two year old grin. Taking the paper, he also took the bright red crayon that Shelly offered. As he began to draw, he had intended to hide his inner adult by not writing or drawing something beyond his years, but it appeared he needn’t expend the effort. His diligently practised hand was gone completely, replaced instead with jerky movements and childish scribbles. He felt slight relief that he wouldn’t accidentally blow his cover, but also became worried and wondered what other skills he’d lost.

He tried to whisper to Shelly, but instead, loudly blurted out his words. “For daddy?”

Shelly quickly snatched the home-made card away from him, tucking it into the pages of her diary.

“What’s for daddy?” The adult Gareth asked playfully from the front of the car.

“Nothing,” sad Shelly, hastily tucking the diary into the pocket in the back of Carol’s seat.

Carol and adult Gareth chuckled amongst themselves. Shelly attempted to glare at her younger brother for possibly spoiling the surprise, but when she caught sight of his silly grin, her scowl vanished into a smile of her own. Gareth wasn’t immediately sure why he was even grinning, but he was grinning nonetheless. For a moment, he wondered if it was simply because his tiny new body was more easily entertained, but it quickly became clear that such was not the case. Instead, viewed the scene as a whole. There he was, an adult transferred into the body of a child, and his own son no less. He saw the silliness in the futility of trying to hide his underlying adulthood. As it turned out, there wasn’t much to hide. Additionally, he saw the humour in trying to hide from… who? He couldn’t even imagine that anyone would believe him if he were able to explain. No one was carefully observing him and no one was suspicious of him, there was no one to hide from. And finally, he saw the absurdity in the simple act of signing a card. He wondered if he had just signed a card to himself. He also wondered if he and Todd had swapped places. If that were so, he would have just finished signing a Father’s Day card to his son.

There were plenty of reasons to have a stupid grin plastered over his face.

[/SIZE][SIZE=2] #

[SIZE=2] When they finally stopped, Gareth wondered if his perception of time had also changed, or whether the family had managed to drive for what felt like two whole hours before stopping. The angle of the sun told him that the latter was more than likely correct.

The moment his feet hit the ground, he knew something was different. There was a bounce in every step that more than compensated for his slight wobble. He felt almost weightless, and wanted to simply run around, exploring his newfound youth. However, there were other plans already laid for him, though he wouldn’t have to wait long to know what they were.

“Come on, silly,” Shelly said, taking his hand and guiding him along

“Let’s get his nappy changed first, then he can run around.” Carol joined them on his other side. “Hold his hand tight, Shelly,” she reminded softly.

“I am,” Shelly said, tightening her grip a little.

It was strange for him to ever consider Shelly’s grip as firm, but he found himself doing just that. No amount of tugging could free his tiny hand from her comparatively giant one, so he soon gave up the struggle. He was distracted as they walked, not by any of his surroundings, but by something very close to him. While he himself felt very light, his nappy certainly did not. In fact, it became more of a burden with each step. His cumbrous undergarment swung between his legs and he suspected that its soggy bulk might be the primary cause for his unsteady gait. Oddly, but perhaps not too surprisingly, he felt a sudden desire to be carried.

To his dismay, he was not carried, and instead had to waddle along with the uncomfortable weight of a thoroughly sodden nappy. Eventually they reached their destination, which turned out to be a public toilet. Inside, it was Shelly, not Carol, who hoisted him onto the changing table.

“Lie still, little Todders,” she cooed.

Gareth couldn’t think of a single aspect of this event that wasn’t completely embarrassing. He couldn’t decide which was worse, having his older sister change his nappy, or the fact that it wasn’t all that long ago when he was changing her nappies as her father. Covering his face as best he could, he hoped this ordeal would be over with quickly. But instead, Shelly thought he wanted to play peekaboo. This left him with his trousers around his ankles and nothing else but a swollen nappy to cover his lower half. Eventually, Carol prompted Shelly to finish changing her brother.

So just when he thought he couldn’t be any more embarrassed, ‘rip’ went the tapes, and away went any shred of dignity he had left. Gareth was hardly able to enjoy the cool air between his legs, because he was desperately trying to remind himself that both Shelly and Carol had seen him — or Todd, rather — naked, many times before.

He jumped when the cold wipe touched his skin, which caused Shelly to giggle. She did an admirable job of cleaning him and removing the wet nappy. It may not have been the well-practiced routine that he and Carol could nearly do in their sleep, but it was a far cry from the outright refusal that he remembered of Shelly. From his memory, or his alternate or previous time line, or whatever it was; Shelly had only once been coerced into changing Todd’s nappy. Afterwards she swore never to do it again, and had made quite good on that oath. Here; however, Gareth was proud to see her taping him snugly into a fresh nappy. The tapes were straight, and even with his own limited experience in wearing them, he could tell that it was on him correctly.

Finally, his trousers were replaced, and Shelly disposed of the used nappy. Carol did have to remind her to wash her hands, but overall, she did quite well. And at that, Gareth was once again aware of the oddity into which he had been placed. Was it his daughter for whom he felt proud? Or did she belong the Gareth in this timeline? When they entered the shop, Shelly had certainly begged for candy loud enough, that he could have identified her as his daughter on that alone. Her mannerisms also had telltale signs of his own influence. “Todders” for one, was his own nickname for Todd.

Gareth was perplexed by this, and started to become worried. But no sooner had they left the building, than his mood brightened. Again, the happy desire to run around came upon him, only this time he was not weighed down by a wet nappy. For just a moment, he hesitated, unsure whether to go and play, or confront the conundrum of his present state. He felt a light push against his shoulder as Carol urged him toward a small playground. That was all he needed, and he was off to go play. That simple act reminded him that no matter when or who he thought he was, his family in this world knew him as Todd. They wanted him to play and have fun, and he could certainly oblige.

[/SIZE][SIZE=2] #

[SIZE=2] Back on the road, Gareth found a fascination with watching the other motorists. Instead of a quick glance, he was able to spend whole minutes at a time admiring some of the finer cars around them. He had always possessed the interest in cars, but now that he was able to take the time out to enjoy it, he was almost enraptured. Big lorries gave him a thrill with their size, and others with their design. As more and more luxury vehicles passed, he made a game of trying to recall the trim levels of each, comparing one to the next and trying to decide who was driving the nicest car. While some of them did make him a little envious, he certainly found no reason to envy the rich children with screens mounted in the back of the headrest. It didn’t make sense why someone would watch the telly when there were so many interesting things outside the window.

Suddenly a little roadster with a carbon fibre bonnet went speeding past them. It was only after Shelly started chuckling that he realised his own squeals of glee were audible to the rest of the occupants.

“Did someone see a shiny car?” Shelly teased.

“Yellow car go fast!” Gareth, or Todd rather, blurted with excitement. Of course, he felt embarrassed right after spouting such a childish remark. His face flushed, which only made Shelly all the more amused.

[/SIZE][SIZE=2] #

[SIZE=2] Later on, the weather had taken an expected turn for the worse, and the motorway slowed to a crawl. When they were halted, the rain trickled down his window, leaving streaks of water behind them. As the car started moving again, he picked a droplet and watched it turn, as if by its own choice, making a path toward the rear of the car. Picking up speed, it pushed its way across the glass; joined by dozens like it, they were all swept out of sight. It had been very long since he simply watched the rain as it traced intricate and unfathomable patterns across the windows. The combination of wind, rain, and car was mesmerising to him, and he marvelled at how such a simple thing could be so provoking. It was only when they pulled up at a traffic light that he realised they were no longer on the motorway.

“Are we stopping again?”

“No Shelly, we’re just going an alternate route,” adult Gareth said plainly. His voice was strong, but not annoyed as Gareth had been before. This time, there was no bickering, no constant stopping, and very few complaints from the rear seats. “Unless you need to, that is,” he continued, glancing back at the two children. “Do you need to stop, Shelly? And how is Todd’s nappy?”

“I don’t need to stop,” Shelly said defensively.

Gareth, the one who was no longer driving, looked up at the mention of his nappy.

Carol reached toward him, worked her hand beneath the buckle of his seatbelt, and pressed against the front of his trousers. “He’s wet, but it’s not bad,” she said, facing forward again. “He’ll be fine for a while yet.”

As the better part of that while passed, Gareth continued to watch through his window. The small township gave way to the rolling fields of a quaint little shire. A low fence ran along the side of the road, and Gareth marvelled at its stonework. When it ended, they passed a small open field with some sheep. It took all of his effort to keep from squealing and pointing at the sheep as if neither he, nor anyone else in the car had ever seen one before. The rain slowed to a drizzle as the grey clouds receded into the distance. Sunlight ignited their peaks like fire, while underneath, a murky shadow of rain continued to drench the land. But that was behind them, and their new route took them away from the slick pavement and slow progression of the motorway.

The rain had not touched the road they now travelled as they slowed for a small roundabout.

“Where are we going now?” Carol asked as they exited.

“Same place,” adult Gareth replied bluntly.

“Are you sure? The sign said back there said it was the other road.”

“I know, but this way is only a little bit longer, and far less travelled,” he said.

Even from the rear seat, Todd Gareth could tell his adult counterpart was grinning, just from the sound of his voice. He looked over to Carol who was casting a knowing smile toward her husband.

“Is there anything else about this road that you’d like to tell us?”

Gareth laughed and then replied. “It’s also much more fun.”

Until they reached the edge of town, they didn’t speed up, but once they did, Carol gripped the seat to hold herself in place. They launched forward with a surge as Gareth slammed the lever back into a lower gear. Both Carol and Shelly wore large grins as they rolled through the turns and shot forward again. All thought of watching the countryside vanished as little Gareth’s attention was pinned to the excitement of the drive.

“Dear, you’ll scare Todd,” Carol attempted, but was unable to hide her own smile.

Gareth twisted the rear-view until his eyes met Todd’s. “Looks like he’s enjoying himself to me.”

Little Gareth stared for a few moments, curious to see his own face in the mirror. His adult self looked just like he’d expect. The adult Gareth spoke like he’d expect, looked like he’d expect, and even drove like he’d expect. Unlike his own trip, where he was the driver, this version of Gareth did not look completely knackered as he would have at this leg of the journey. Instead, he was cheerful, and his attitude seemed to spread throughout the cabin.

But little Gareth had no time to ponder these things, as he was greatly excited by the movement of the car. They were barely over the speed limit, but to him, it felt like they must be in a race car. The force of acceleration, the lean in each turn, even the vibrations of the engine and the road underneath were all amplified for him. His stomach felt like it was about to leap into his throat, but he only giggled all the more. He loved driving fast, just as he would if he were still an adult. For him, this was pure bliss, and he was lost in it. So much so that he never noticed warmth enter his nappy. It wasn’t until later, when they stopped for lunch, that he realised that his nappy was decently soaked.

[/SIZE][SIZE=2] #

[SIZE=2] In stark contrast to the events of the previous day — if that’s what it might be called — the sun was still above them as they arrived. The adults worked to unpack the car, while Shelly took Todd, Gareth, out back to play. All it took was one toy tipper lorry to occupy him for the next several hours. As his grandma’s house was backed up to the forest, there was no shortage of pebbles and rocks for him to transport across the grass. His goal was to build a replica of the stone wall he had seen earlier, and as far as he was concerned, he did. But to anyone else, he did little more than collect a simple pile of stones.

The grass itself felt knee-deep, even if it barely reached above his ankles. His newfound stature lent nothing to his ability to run, but he pushed the toy lorry back and forth across the grass nonetheless. For a time, he completely lost himself in playing with his toys. He lost track of Shelly, who was watching him, and he lost track of time. He even lost track of being hungry, and the state of his nappy. It was only when Shelly gave him a bottle and a snack that he even remembered that he was hungry. The food was exactly what he needed, as he felt refreshed even as he ate. But no sooner had he finished his snack than he returned to his self-made game, once again losing himself as he played.

Some time later, though he wasn’t sure exactly how long, he noticed that Shelly was gone. Carol was watching him as he played, and he worried that she meant to drag him off to dinner earlier than he wanted. The sun was nearing the horizon, and he knew that meant bedtime was coming soon. With his adult judgement, he reasoned that it would be more than an hour before the sun had truly set. But he also knew that Carol would need little more than the slightest excuse to drag him inside. With that in mind, he wondered what he might do about an upcoming dilemma. His nappy was already wet, but not enough that it needed changing, or so he hoped. However, he could feel the need to poo coming on quite strongly, and he knew that if Carol took him inside for a change, he’d not likely be taken outside again that night.

Of course, his estimation for how long he could delay the inevitable was off by leagues. Barely a few minutes later, he found himself crouched beside his toy lorry, pretending to play, while in fact, he was desperate to relieve himself. Casting a quick look toward his mum, he pretended to play with his toys, so as to throw her off. Resistance was utterly useless, as — much to his disappointment — he felt his defences crumbling in mere seconds. A firm clump began to slide out, and at that point, he gave up entirely. In no time his nappy was rather uncomfortably occupied by a lump of poo, but he didn’t know what to do. As much as he wanted to be cleaned up, he also didn’t want to go inside, and he didn’t want to go in bed. He looked toward Carol, who didn’t seem to notice anything out of the ordinary. Worried that she might come to investigate his awkward, crouched position, he got up and began pushing his tipper lorry around as if nothing was the matter.

But something was the matter. His nappy was full of poo, and he didn’t like it. With each step, it rubbed against him uncomfortably, begging him to go over to his mum and ask for a nappy change. He knew it would be simple to ask for a change, but he also knew that he would not likely be let outside for the night. Somehow, as the sun began to set, he felt an ominous dread overcome him. Somehow, he felt that this would be the only day he would spend as a child. Deep inside, he knew that if he was put to bed, he would wake the next morning to find his adult body again.

So, to hide his mess, he toddled along and played with his toys as if nothing had happened. Slowly, as he played, he began to forget the lumpy mess. The more he pushed his toy lorry, the more he forgot he was even wearing a nappy, and the more stones he piled up, the more he forgot that his nappy was both soaked and filled to its limit. Even when he stumbled and fell, landing on his bum, he didn’t really notice the excessive squish from beneath. Instead, his entire focus was on staying awake.

It became harder and harder for him to lift the tipper, and dump the new stones on the already massive pile. Everything was becoming more difficult, it seemed. He began to trip more often, and the thoroughly flattened poo clung to his bum in a rather uncomfortable way. As the light dimmed, he looked up to see his mum coming toward him. Knowing that she was coming to put him to bed, he turned and ran. But she caught him quickly, and picked him up effortlessly.

“Goodness gracious! Did someone make a stinky nappy?” she cooed.

He wanted to answer. He wanted to tell her the truth, but he knew she wouldn’t believe him. She wouldn’t believe him, and she wouldn’t let him stay up any longer. No matter how hard he struggled, she held him tightly. There was nothing for him to do but cry in defeat. He knew she would take him inside, he knew she would change his nappy, and he knew she would put him to bed. Worst of all, he knew he would fall asleep and end this glorious day.

Everything had been so perfect, and he didn’t want it to go away. He didn’t want to give up his new life as a child. Sure, he lacked many of his abilities from adulthood, and sure, wet and poopy nappies weren’t pleasant. But he would give up countless years of savings for just one more day as Todd.

[/SIZE] The Final Part

[SIZE=2] Carol, of course, didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. Todd appeared to be cranky as usual. He whined and squirmed as she changed him and put him in his pyjamas. The top was a red shirt which featured a crest with a cannon, and the bottoms were navy blue. As Carol finally slipped the bottoms over his bulky disposable, Gareth remembered that he had picked the pyjamas himself to irritate his mother-in-law, who disagreed completely with his favoured football team.

“Oh, so you like these?” Carol said to him, apparently noticing his grin. “Don’t let mum see you in them, but your father would be proud of that smile.”

Much to his dismay, Gareth was not taken back out to display his colours before Carol’s mum. Instead, he was placed in the travel cot, given a bottle and a light kiss on the forehead, and left alone for the night. At this point, he knew that he wouldn’t last long before falling asleep. Even now, his eyes were drooping heavily. Laying on his back, he stared up at the ceiling, again noticing the difference between it and the room in which his adult self would sleep. All around him, the sides of the travel cot rose up, keeping him contained with a pleasant element of comfort.

He felt that in the morning, he would either return to his adult self, or remain as a baby. Beyond that, he couldn’t fathom what might happen. Still, he was rather convinced that the entire day might be a dream. But it all felt so real to him, and it felt so right that he almost didn’t want to let it go. This day had been the first holiday in years that truly felt like one.

This was not his body, though. It belonged to another, his own son. It wasn’t fair to take such joys for his own, especially if that meant taking anything away from Todd. This youth was Todd’s after all, Gareth had already lived through his own, long ago. As much as he enjoyed it, he still felt that it didn’t belong to him. He presently wondered if Todd had taken his place, and he wondered if Todd enjoyed it. Maybe the lad was having as much of a jolly time as an adult, as he was, romping around carefree. He stared at the ceiling for a few minutes, taking note of its relaxing shade of blue while he slowly drained his bottle.

As consciousness faded, he reflected on the day. He had been granted something that no one else had; the chance to enjoy youth from the matured appreciation of an adult mind. He had enjoyed all of the things he’d been able to see that day. Not from their beauty or magnificence, but simply from the fact that he had time to see them. Everything he had seen was no more impressive or interesting than it was when he was an adult, but the frantic pace at which each day seemed to travel left him with no time to stop and take in the sights. In Todd’s body, he had been able to sit back and simply enjoy the ride.

Again he wondered if this would all be gone in the morning, and as much as it hurt to imagine, he wondered if that wasn’t the right thing. On the one hand, he longed for the freedom of youth, the untethered state from which he could truly enjoy himself in whichever manner he chose. On the other hand, his mind-state as an adult drew him back, calling him to fulfil his duty as a father and husband. He was still unable to discern the nature of this occurrence, or why he felt like it would soon end. The feeling could just as easily be of magical origins as it could be mere pessimism, or furthermore; he could just be cranky in his young body. Regardless, there was no more time to worry and stress, as these were quickly being replaced by restful sleep and its telltale rhythmic breathing.

It would be good to be back as an adult, and if he woke to find himself the master of his old body, he would change little, save for to putting extra effort into making Shelly and Todd’s childhood one to be be remembered fondly. He couldn’t spoil them, and he couldn’t force them to understand adulthood. But he could help and encourage them to live through their early years so than when they were visiting him in his old age, they wouldn’t feel the pang of regret for rushing to achieve maturity.

On the flip side, if he woke again as Todd, he would be content to grow up once again. This time, he would take extra care to cherish the short years of childhood. Even now, he only possessed his own awareness, and knew not whether he retained any skill from his adult years. Maybe he would have to learn it all again, maybe he would fail utterly at something he previously mastered.

With a start, he found his eyes drooping again. But this time, he let them close willingly, no longer needing to fight to stay awake. Whatever the morning brought, whether childhood or adulthood, he was no longer anxious. Either one would be fine. He had enjoyed his day as a child, and would cherish it forever. With that, he drifted off into pleasant sleep.

Re: Back Seat Driver

This was genuinely cute. I think the couple of paragraphs of Aesop-esque “lessons learned” at the close were a bit unnecessary, but it doesn’t spoil what was otherwise a really neat story. And, from what I’ve been led to understand, being in little-space is not at all dissimilar to what he experienced here, outside of the confusion and the actual not being able to do things for himself. So in a way, we get a meta-commentary on the AB experience.

Re: Back Seat Driver

This is a wonderfully fun and sweet story. On the Aesop-esque ending bit WBDaddy mentioned, aren’t Aesop’s Fables just about the most traditional children’s stories in recorded history? Just about the right sort of thing for this audience, and (I think) just about right for a commentary on being little or big.

Re: Back Seat Driver

Another story that captures the irresponsibility of summer vacation, this time from the view of an adult to whom such an event is long-since lost.
Nothing like just sitting back an enjoying the view.

Re: Back Seat Driver

While I did use Les Lea’s name in place of my own, for the purpose of guessing the author, let it be known that I didn’t intend to impersonate.
I was simply trying to write a story based in England, from an English perspective. This kind of spiraled out of control, leading to all kinds of research to make it as authentic as I could.

Hint, to anyone who doesn’t know, there’s more of a difference between America and England than saying diaper versus nappy. :wink:

In response to what WBDaddy said, I didn’t really think about it like that. But yes, this is probably as close to little-space as I’ll ever get. As such, it was very fun to write. (the second half, that is.)

Re: Back Seat Driver

TBT, this was my favorite of the bunch. I was a little bummed that your vote count landed the same as mine.

Re: Back Seat Driver

I agree with the above. It got one of my votes as well and I’m surprised it didn’t get more as I think it managed to capture the theme of the contest the best.

Re: Back Seat Driver

This was one of my favorites; it really captured the lost nostalgia of childhood. Well done with the characterization, too. At first, Carol comes off as a nagging shrew and Gareth as hen pecked. Carol actually reminds me of a Brittish sitcom character, Hyacinth Bucket from “Keeping Up Appearances”, particularly with her comments on his driving. As for the setting, it really felt like England/ Brittish culture.

the ending was nicely closed yet open-ended.

Re: Back Seat Driver

This one was among my favorites, and I, too, was a bit disappointed to see it place where it did. Not that it was easy to pick out three to vote on.

Re: Back Seat Driver

That was a fun story. I really liked the scenes from Tod’s perspective, especially when [SIZE=2]Gareth was just going with it (rather than overthinking things).

I’m still not quite sure what to make of the second version of the day, though. At first I thought it was meant to be the exact same day, and everything being so much better had to do with Tod having a more positive attitude than Gareth did. However, it quickly became clear that things were significantly factually different, so that wasn’t it. Then I thought maybe it was meant to be that the bad aspects of the day had been Gareth’s fault, and that’s why the second version was better. But then that didn’t really work out either, so I gave up and just tried not to overanalyze things and enjoy the ride. I mostly succeeded at that.[/SIZE]

Re: Back Seat Driver

Probably the area where I struggled the most was making it clear that it was inexplicable, an unsolvable riddle, but that solving it really wasn’t the point…

This was.

Which I figure is a hard thing to do for an adult in his position, hence the little bit of back and forth between analyzing and enjoying. I guess that difficulty transferred to the reading somewhat.

Thanks for the feedback, it’s very helpful.