Evening Prayers by Jennifer Lorraine

Shadows grew in the spaces between the pews as the last multicolored rays from the stained glass window muted, then dimmed into darkness. In the rear of the empty church in a part of town that was doomed to slip quietly into slums, a solitary man meditated. The priest came in, performed his office quickly and left, sensing that only someone who wanted to be alone with his God would be in this dilapidated church on a Wednesday night. The Sun went down unnoticed as the man prayed for salvation from a fate he neither understood nor deserved.

George was thoroughly disgusted with life, he sat in the church pew cataloging the evils that had befallen him over the past half-year. Six months ago he had discovered his wife in bed with his best friend. A fight had ensued and his wife had left him after emptying their personal bank accounts. His best friend, who was also his business partner, had disappeared a few days later. Within a two months he had found himself the subject of an IRS audit. After an intensive investigation the IRS concluded that his partner hadn’t paid employee social security and withholding taxes into the firm’s accounts and had pocketed the money. That his partner had absconded with the money hadn’t mattered to the IRS one wit, George was half-owner of the company and therefore responsible for the money. The IRS demanded payment immediately.

When he couldn’t come up with the funds out of his looted accounts, the IRS seized his business and home and put them up at auction. The business had sold for less than a tenth of it’s fair market value. His home, which was heavily mortgaged, had created a financial disaster. While it was true that it had sold for a greater percentage of it’s value, about fifty percent of it’s worth, the sale had merely created more problems. The bank demanded immediate repayment of the loan and had sued for the balance of the money from the sale. The money from the sale of his house had vanished like a dimly remembered dream. Even with the money the bank had gotten from the sale of his house, he still owed the bank $350,000. He had been forced to declare bankruptcy. The IRS had informed him that they considered the money that the bank had lost on his house to be income and they expected payments to be made on the taxes due. They told him they were willing to be reasonable; they understood that he had lost his business and was unable to make immediate payments, quarterly payments would be quite acceptable, thank you. The agent had hinted darkly that if he did not make payments he could look forward to being a guest of the Federal Corrections System for a long time.

George was beside himself. In the six months since he had discovered his wife cheating on him he had been reduced to living out of an beat-up, old VW van parked in a vacant lot and working as a cook in a hamburger joint. There wasn’t a prayer that he could pay the IRS the money they demanded. He would never be able to start another business, he decided. There simply wasn’t enough time. He was forty five years old and had a well-documented heart condition. No one would hire him for anything but a minimum wage position. Just keeping himself fed was a struggle. The only way he could afford to buy his medications was to quit eating. He had gradually tapered off his heart medication until he had stopped taking it entirely. As a consequence, he was having angina attacks every night now and knew he would be dead by the end of the year. When George lost his job in the hamburger joint he knew he had hit rock bottom. Only a miracle could save him, he decided, and he went into the run-down Catholic church near the vacant lot to pray.

“If only I had more time,” he thought to himself. “It’s not that I couldn’t do it, it’s just that I don’t have enough time. The bankruptcy didn’t help, I thought it would make things simpler. Instead it made things more complicated. I’ve been a good man. God, why did you let this happen to me? I never cheated on my wife. I never stole from anyone. I don’t deserve this. Now the best thing I can hope for is to die before they send me to jail. If only I could be young again. I just need a fresh start. Just a few years of peace to get things together again. I’m not asking for much. I not asking to be wealthy. I just want to live a simple life, without having to worry about anything. Please, God,” he pleaded earnestly, “I just want to live the rest of my life with a good woman. Someone who will take care of me, someone I can love and trust absolutely.”

George heard the sound of a woman crying softly behind him. He turned and saw a well-dressed woman in her late twenties weeping bitterly into a handkerchief. He got up and sat quietly beside her. “Is there anything I can do?,” he whispered sympathetically to the young woman.

She shook her head and patted his hand. “No, no one can do anything,” she said morosely, “I just thought, I had hoped that God would answer my prayers. But I see now that he can’t. They’re gone. Gone forever!”

“Who’s gone?,” he asked innocently.

“My husband and my baby!,” she said and broke down into shoulder-wracking sobs. George put his arm around her shoulder and said, “Let me buy you a cup of coffee and we’ll talk about it.”

He helped her up and they walked down the aisle of the deserted church. When they reached the threshold he had the strange feeling that someone was watching him and smiling. He turned around to see who it was and saw only the crucifix above the altar. A warm feeling of well-being passed over him as he gazed at the crucifix and him knew instinctively he had done the right thing in helping this young lady. Perhaps God was looking out for them both. He turned back to the door and helped her out of the church. When they reached the curb, he pointed out the coffee shop two blocks up the street. “My name is George, George Sanders. We can go over to the coffee shop. It’s not far, we’ll walk. It’s only two blocks away.”

The young woman glanced at where he was pointing and turned to look at him. Her eyes focused and she seemed to see him clearly for the first time. “I…I don’t think I can go in there,” she said. “I must look a mess. Look, my makeup has run,” she said presenting her handkerchief for his inspection. He looked at her handkerchief, then her face and saw that the tears had made her mascara run in streaks down her face.

She looked at his face intently and said suddenly, “My name is Sandy. Something tells me I can trust you. My car is parked around the corner, would you like to come home with me for dinner? It wouldn’t be any trouble. I have plenty and I hate to cook just for me. It would be nice to have company for dinner again.”

George nodded and accompanied her to her car. As they drove down the street, George saw a city wrecker hauling his VW away. He stared as his last possessions were stolen by a faceless, uncaring government. His clothes were in the van in a suitcase and he didn’t have the money to get his van out of impoundment. He was homeless, totally destitute, without even a change of socks or underwear. He shook his head in utter disgust. He was at the end of his rope, he couldn’t take anymore. He would have dinner with this nice young lady, then walk downtown and throw himself under a moving bus. “Or maybe I’ll find a bridge to jump off, I really don’t want to cause anyone any trouble. I just want this life to end,” he mused silently.

They reached her house quickly and she sat him in her living room while she made some coffee. She returned with two cups, handed him one, and sat down and drank a cup of coffee with him before saying anything. She had evidently washed her face in the kitchen, she had a freshly scrubbed appearance that made her look even younger than he had originally thought. When she had finished, she said, “You’re down on your luck, aren’t you? If you’d like to wash up for dinner you can use the bathroom in the hall. There’s even a bathtub if you’d like to take a bath. It will take me about an hour to get dinner, there’s plenty of time.”

He looked at her and saw the slight wrinkling of her nose as she suggested he take a bath. His sponge baths in the gas station weren’t as effective as he’d hoped. “I should take her up on her offer,” he thought, “at least I can die clean.”

George smiled, thanked her and said he would very much like to take a bath. She showed him down the hall and told him to leave his clothes on the bathroom counter next to the door. She told him to get in the tub, close the shower curtain and call for her when he was ready for her to take his clothes. She would wash his clothes while dinner was cooking.

When George sat down to dinner he felt almost human again. He was truly clean for the first time in a month and his clothes exuded a fresh sweet smell. She came in with a platter of Chicken Kiev with Green Beans Almondine and New Potatoes. They ate virtually silently, making only those comments necessary to civilized dining. When they had finished, she ushered him into the living room again with cups of coffee. They sat on the sofa and became aquatinted. “You said you were down on your luck, what happened?”

He told her his story while she made sympathetic clucking noises in appropriate spots. He looked at her and said, “I’ve told you my story, if you’d like to tell me what happened to you, I’d like to hear your story. That’s is…,” he added cautiously, “if you want to talk about it.”

She told him that she had lost her husband and infant son in an auto accident two months before. " I was at home baking a cake for my son’s first birthday party, my husband went to the store to get some ice cream to have with the cake. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, the brakes failed on our car. The police said it was a million-to-one chance. My husband drove through a red light and was hit by a semi-trailer. They were killed instantly."

She bowed her head and began weeping silently. George got up and patted her on the shoulder helplessly. He felt overwhelmed by the enormity of her loss. She composed herself after a few minutes and said, “I miss them so much. I’m sorry I burdened you with it.”

George shook his head and said, “Please don’t apologize. You have every right to cry. I wish there was something I could do for you.”

She looked into his eyes and said, “I don’t know why, but I know I can trust you. Would you like to stay here until you get on your feet? I have plenty of room. You can sleep on the couch, it unfolds into a bed. I’ve always hated to be in a house alone. Even when it was just my baby and me in the house when my husband, Fred, was on a business trip, I felt better to have someone, even a baby, with me. Would you stay? Please?”

George agreed reluctantly, he didn’t want to be an imposition on anyone and told her so. They talked until after midnight when Sandy announced it was time for her to go to bed. She went to the linen closet and returned with sheets and a pillow. She helped him unfold and make the bed, then excused herself for the night. George undressed and hung his clothes carefully over the back of a chair he had placed near the daybed. He got into the bed gratefully, feeling emotionally wrung out. Perhaps his prayers had been answered, he would never have asked to stay the night, let alone stay until he got a job. This was certainly more comfortable than sleeping under a bridge. He turned out the lamp beside the sofa and fell asleep immediately.

Sandy woke to the sound of someone groaning loudly in her living room. She was about to call the police when she remembered she had invited George to stay. “His heart!,” she thought with alarm. “He told me he had a heart condition, he might be having a heart attack!”

She threw on a robe quickly and dashed out to the living room. “George?,” she called into the darkness, “George, Are you okay?”

George groaned again. She turned on the light and saw him flailing the bed under the sheets. He was completely covered by the bedclothes. She went to the side of the daybed and pulled the sheet off of his head. What she saw beneath the sheet stunned her into motionless silence.

It was George she was sure, but not the George she had had dinner with hours before. He lay in the bed thrashing about, his eyes open and unseeing, moaning in evident pain. What surprised her was his face; it wasn’t the face of a forty-five year old man, but the face of a teenager. He couldn’t be more than sixteen, she thought. She watched in fascinated horror as his face seemed to blur and melt into a still younger version of himself.

She gathered her courage and pulled the sheet off of his body. His underwear hung loosely about his hips. He was draped rather than dressed in his underwear, they were twice as big on him as they should have been to fit him. He had the body of a pre-pubescent child. She was sure that if she looked beneath his briefs she wouldn’t find any pubic hair. “Twelve? Ten? How old is he now?,” she thought to herself.

Sandy drew the chair close to the bed and sat down. She knew all anyone could do for him was to watch him and keep him from strangling on the bedclothes.

Ten minutes passed. His moans grew quieter and his thrashing gradually ceased. She reached over the bed and pulled the tent-like underwear down the legs of the five year old laying in front of her. Sandy sat and smiled as his body miraculously transformed itself into the body of a one-year old baby. She sat unmoving and waited for an hour more to see if his regression had completed itself.

“What had he said he had prayed for? Oh yes, now I remember. He said he had asked God to be young again. He wanted to live a simple life, without having to worry about anything. He wanted to live the rest of his life with a good woman. Someone who would take care of him, someone he could love and trust absolutely.”

She picked him up and held him next to her breast, then carried him into the nursery. Sandy laid him down on the changing table and began to diaper him, thinking, “I never told him what I was praying for in the church. He doesn’t know I asked God to give me a baby to take care of.” She chuckled quietly to herself at the irony of their situation. “I guess God heard both our prayers.”

She finished diapering him and sat down in the rocking chair with him in her lap. After a while he opened his eyes and yawned, then stared up at her in confusion. George looked around in panic and tried to ask her what had happened to him, but all that came out was a baby’s babble. He screwed up his face in frustration and began to cry. Sandy cuddled him close to her and said, “Don’t cry baby. Mommy’s right here. Don’t worry baby, Mommy will take care of everything.”

George wept bitterly at his predicament. Sandy carried him into the kitchen and put him in a high chair standing in the corner while she warmed a bottle of canned formula for him. When it was ready she carried him back into the nursery and sat back down in the rocking chair. He struggled fiercely as she pushed the bottle into his face and slipped the nipple into his mouth. He fought for a few moments more before his will broke and ability to resist drained out of him. He lay passively in her arms with the nipple between his lips. Sandy coaxed him into nursing the bottle and after a slow start, he was soon sucking on the nipple as if it was his first meal in months. When he had finished half of the bottle, Sandy eased the nipple from his lips and burped him.

He looked up into eyes that beamed love down onto him. He smiled tentatively up at her and was rewarded with a maternal smile that promised that he would never have to worry about anything again. He glanced down at his diaper self-consciously, he was embarrassed by the implications of being dressed in a diaper. Surely she didn’t expect him to use the diaper like a baby! “This must be a dream! I haven’t worn a diaper since I was a baby. But I’m not a baby, I’m a forty-five year old man! It must mean that she makes me feel secure. I guess my subconscious is telling me that I can trust Sandy, that she’s a good woman,” he decided.

George yawned sleepily, the formula had had a soporific effect and his eyes drooped, threatening to close on their own. She started to put him in the crib for the night when she noticed he had wet his diaper. “Did Mommy’s little baby pee his dydee?,” she said putting her fingers down into the front of his diaper.

She put him on the changing table, quickly removed his diaper, then topped and tailed him. He grunted in surprise as she lifted his legs with one hand while slipping a diaper underneath his bottom. Sandy powdered him, then pulled the diaper up between his legs, stretching and smoothing it over his tummy. She fastened the tapes, then picked him up and put him in the crib, placing a teddy bear in his arms to keep him company. Sandy turned out the light and said, “Sweet dreams baby. Mommy will see you in the morning.”

George woke in the morning feeling cold and clammy between his legs. I must have perspired heavily during the night, he thought, reaching down to scratch himself. His hand caused a soft crackling noise when he groped himself. He was surprised to find that he was covered in a thick, plastic-covered garment instead of his underwear. The smell of baby powder was absolutely overpowering. He opened his eyes and saw he was in a baby crib. The very same crib he had been dreaming about! He sat up and looked around. He was in a nursery! He pulled himself to a standing position with the crib rails and stood looking over the top of the crib side.

“I’m barely tall enough to see over the side of the crib! What’s happened to me?” He looked down at the garment fastened to his waist and thought in shock, “I’m wearing diapers! Did Sandy do this to me?” He felt a fullness in his bowels which instantly vanished and was replaced by a warm feeling of release. He stood motionless in confusion for a moment before understanding of what he had done struck him. “I’ve just shit in a diaper! I’ve lost control of my bowels!”

Suddenly he felt small, vulnerable and helpless. “I’m trapped in a baby’s body in a nursery!”

The sense of helplessness overwhelmed him and he began to cry in anger and frustration. The door opened and there stood Sandy with a baby bottle full of tepid water in hand. She had heard his cries and was coming to take care of him. He screamed in outrage at the pain of his humiliation. Sandy picked him up and put him on the changing table and unfastened his diaper. He whimpered and turned his head to the side, unable to meet her eyes. She cleaned him efficiently and put a clean diaper under his bottom. “Is that better, baby? Mommy is proud of her baby! He made a big poopy in his dydee!”

George glared at her in infantile rage, “How dare she speak to me like that! I’m old enough to be her father!”

She tickled him on his tummy and made him smile in spite of himself. “How is Mommy’s baby this morning? Is baby thirsty? Does he want his ba-ba?”

She put the nipple of his bottle in his mouth and finished diapering him. She picked him up and sat down in the rocking chair with him, then propped him against her arm and held the bottle for him to drink. “This is humiliating. She’s forcing me to drink from a baby bottle!”

He would have liked to have thrown the bottle in her face but he was scared of what she might do. He put the nipple between his lips and sucked tentatively at the bottle. The warm water entered his mouth and trickled down his throat. He realized that he was very thirsty and continued to suckle the nipple.

“Does baby remember what happened to him?”

He shook his head “no” while sucking on the nipple.

“Oh ho, so baby can understand what I’m saying. Do you remember that you told me that you prayed to be made younger?”

He nodded “yes”.

“I never got a chance to tell you what I prayed for. I asked God to send me a baby. He’s answered both our prayers. You’ve turned into a baby! My baby! You have to be fed and have your diaper changed like any other baby! Do you understand?”

He nodded “yes” again.

“I’m going to be your Mommy. I’ll change your dirty diapers and take care of you just like you were my very own. You won’t have to do anything but act like a baby. It won’t be hard! You’ll see. In a couple of weeks you won’t even remember your wife or your best friend. The IRS will never find you. You won’t have to go to prison. If anyone comes looking for you, all they’ll find is a diapered one-year old crawling on the floor. You’ll have the perfect disguise. You’ll be able to shout and scream at them all you want, they’ll never catch on. You don’t have to die, you’re a healthy baby boy. I had a dream last night after you changed. An angel came to me and said you would never grow up! God has turned you into a baby for me to take care of ! You’d always be my baby boy. Isn’t that wonderful? You’ll be Mommy’s sweet baby forever and ever!”

Evening Prayers by Jennifer Lorraine

“Have I truly turned into a baby? Is she going to be my Mommy?,” he thought in amazement.

She took the bottle away from him and sat it on the floor next to the chair, then sat him upright and burped him. George blushed at the sound of his burp and tried to hide his head in the hollow of her shoulder. Sandy cooed softly at his display of childish dependence and patted his back to comfort him. She got up and put him into his crib and tucked him in, saying “Now go back to sleep Georgie. It’s too early for you to be up. I’ll come back a wake you in an hour or so, then I’ll feed you a nice breakfast of strained oatmeal and eggs. Good night, Honey.”

She bent over and kissed him on the forehead, then put a pacifier in his mouth before leaving the room. Georgie whimpered fretfully over what God had done to him, then began thoughtlessly sucking on the pacifier. The pacifier fell from his open mouth as he drifted off into a peaceful sleep and began to snore softly.

Georgie woke to find himself being carried on Sandy’s hip out of the nursery. He peered into the open doorways from a new vantage point; this was his home now and he wanted to see what was in every room they passed.

Sandy carried him into the kitchen and strapped him into the high chair, then fitted the feeding tray over the arms of the chair. She stepped behind the chair for a moment and dropped a plastic bib over his head onto his chest. Sandy fastened it behind his neck and left him sitting in the chair while she went to the pantry. She returned with a feeding dish full of strained baby food and a white, rubber-covered spoon. Sandy pulled a dining chair up in front of the high chair and sat down facing Georgie. “Now Georgie,” she said with a condescending tone in her voice, “Mommy expects you to eat every bit of this yummy breakfast. If you don’t, Mommy will spank! Now open wide for the oatmeal choo-choo!”

Georgie screwed up his face with an expression of poorly concealed disgust and he opened his mouth expecting the worst. He concentrated on the ceiling, hoping the oatmeal would be as tasteless as it looked.

Sandy laded in the baby food and quickly followed it with another spoonful. Within seconds Georgie’s mouth was full to overflowing with strained oatmeal. He closed his mouth and swallowed convulsively. Food dripped from his lips and dribbled down his chin. He opened his eyes wide at the taste; he liked it! The oatmeal had been mixed with something fruity that had a pleasant sweet-tangy taste he couldn’t identify. “This is good!,” he thought to himself in surprise.

He opened his mouth eagerly for another spoonful and was surprised again when she spooned strained eggs into his mouth. “Eggs,” He thought, “they’re not as good as the oatmeal, but they’re not bad. I wonder why people say that baby food tastes bad? I like this!”

He raised his arms exuberantly and managed to knock a large spoonful of baby food onto his lap. The wet splat sound it made as it hit the plastic of his disposable diaper seemed incredibly comical to him and he began to chuckle uncontrollably. Sandy smiled with maternal tolerance and continued to spoon the food into his laughing mouth until the dish was empty. She got up from her chair and left him sitting in his high chair, still grinning and chuckling over his funny breakfast.

Sandy returned with a Polaroid camera and began snapping shots of him sitting in the chair, his face covered in baby food, grinning like a twelve month old baby. “These will be the first pictures in your baby book, Georgie,” she said handing him a warm bottle of infant formula.

He attacked it with relish; the sweet taste of the formula was ambrosial on his tongue. Georgie kicked his legs in delight at the taste of the formula. Deep down the last vestige of his adult mindset screamed at him to stop, but he was having much too good a time. He gurgled and bubbled happily as he guzzled down the infantile brew. Sandy snapped a few more photos, then put down the camera. She walked over to him, patted the top of his head affectionately and said, “That’s Mommy’s goood boy! Mommy will get a washcloth and get you cleaned up. Mommy’s very pleased with her baby boy!”

She returned and took the bottle from his hands and put it in the refrigerator, then scrubbed his face and hands with a damp washcloth. Sandy took the tray off of the chair and unstrapped him, then carried him into the living room and sat him down on the floor.

Georgie looked around him in shock. “What’s happening to me? I’m acting like a baby! Just because I’m in a baby’s body is no excuse for behaving like that. Am I regressing mentally too?”

He looked up at Sandy sitting on the sofa watching tv. “She’s doing this to me, he thought. She wants me to be her baby! She wants me to think like a baby as well as look like one. I’ll show her! She can’t make me act like a baby, I still have an adult mind!”

He looked down at the rug and was surprised to see that his right hand was next to his mouth with the fingers curling around the end of his nose. He suddenly realized he was sucking his thumb. He pulled his thumb out of his mouth guiltily and look up to see if she had seen him. “Ohh noooo,” he thought when he saw the broad grin spreading across her face.

His face clouded in disappointment and he began to cry in frustration. Sandy reached down with both hands and picked him up, then cuddled him next to her breast. He struggled for a few moments before relaxing in her comforting caress. He distantly heard her make soft noises to him without understanding what she was saying. She stroked the hair on his head and muttered “It’s okay, baby. Don’t worry. Everything will be allright.”

He quieted and she returned him to the rug, then she sat down on the floor beside him to help him play. Sandy reached into the playpen, took out a hammer and peg set and placed it before him. She demonstrated putting the peg in the hole of the playtable and drove it home with the plastic hammer. Georgie took the hammer from her sulkily and banged the hammer against the playtable in a bored way. A peg laying underneath the table shot out and hit Sandy on the knee startling her.

Georgie laughed delightedly and banged again. Soon he was laughing and playing with the pegs as if they were his favorite toy. He crawled around the floor chasing errant pegs and giggled when they skittered away from his clumsy hands. Sandy laughed too, to see what a happy baby he had become.

She ticked his bottom and tugged on his feet until his face was red with laughter. When his diaper became soaked and he piddled all over the rug, she laughed again and changed his diaper right there in the middle of the floor. She held him in her lap and said, “Can Georgie talk for Mommy? Come on baby, try and say something for Mommy.”

Georgie looked up adoringly into her eyes and said, “mmm……ma….Ma-Ma!”

Sandy bowed her head and kissed her baby sweetly on the top of his head. Georgie lay in her arms contentedly; he was home. His thought processes had regressed into infancy. He would never have to worry about anything again. She would take care of him. He trusted her more than he had ever trusted anyone in his life. He nestled his head against her breast and fell soundlessly asleep. He would never speak again, it wasn’t necessary. His prayers had all been answered.