Saint Patricia

The day I met her seemed like any other day, even though I knew that, technically, it wasn’t. There had been shamrocks hanging up all over my classroom for the past few weeks - after we’d cut them out, of course - and the mashed potatoes and milk in the cafeteria had been dyed green.

“Leprechauns got into the kitchen this morning,” our teacher had warned us before lunch. But, of course, I’d known that wasn’t true. Leprechauns weren’t real, that day or any other.

Really, there didn’t seem to be anything that was actually special about that day. You could tell that even our teacher was having trouble mustering up any actual enthusiasm for any of the stuff we’d been doing. And for me especially, it was just another ordinary day.

Wake up in a wet diaper, spend as long as possible begging momma to believe me that today would be the day I wouldn’t have even a tiny accident at school, then get put in a Pull-Up and shoved onto the bus anyway. Watch the other kids laugh and play around, making sure to quickly look away with a blush if they ever bothered to glance in my direction, while doing my very best to keep my pants dry. And then, eventually, usually on the bus ride home, if I was lucky, failing. And I’d look up at my momma with my big green eyes once I got home, try to explain to her how it was just an accident, how it wouldn’t happen again, and how she could just let me wear my big girl underwear.

She never listened, of course, but that hardly mattered, since I had discovered something wondrous just a few days before. I realized that I could just wait until she left me alone in my room, and then get out of those stupid old Pull-Ups myself. The first time I had been scared out of my wits that she would notice as soon as I left my room. So I hadn’t, and I’d wound up so afraid to set foot outside that I’d had an accident.

If I’d had a grasp on the concept of what a heart attack was at that point, I’d likely have expected to have one while cleaning up the puddle, and changing my clothes, stuffing my wet pants, and the towel, into the bottom of the hamper. And especially when momma asked me, “Weren’t you wearing your pink jeans earlier?”

I hadn’t wanted to fib, because I knew that was bad, but I didn’t want to tell her, either, so I decided that the best thing to do was just to tell her, “I just felt like wearing a skirt.” It was true - I’d chosen a skirt to change into, after all - and she’d accepted it with a bemused shrug. Of course, I’d had to put my Pull-Up back on, since whenever I wore a skirt, or a dress, momma somehow always just -knew- what I had on under it, but for a little while, in my room, I’d been able to feel like a big girl, for the first time in months.

And so it went for a couple days. I grew more daring, changing into pants and regular panties if - or, rather, when - I needed to. There had been some close calls, sure, when momma wasn’t totally convinced when I told her I was dry, and I thought she might check, but the world always seemed to be on my side, and she’d get distracted by the phone ringing, or the sound of something falling somewhere in the house, and she’d forget about it for long enough that I could go back to my room and get into a Pull-Up first.

Naturally, I expected things to go the same way that day. I allowed momma to replace my damp Pull-Up with a fresh one, not even protesting much, then waited for her to finish asking about what I’d done at school and leave me alone in my room. She seemed a little quieter than normal, but I took that as a good thing, because it meant she went away sooner.

I waited impatiently for a couple seconds, in case she thought of something else she’d meant to tell me that couldn’t wait until I decided to come out of my room, and then crept towards my dresser. It was big and heavy, and white. I’d tried to make it more interesting once with my crayons, but momma hadn’t liked that. It sometimes took a couple tries to get the drawers to come open enough to get anything out of them.

Of course, that day was one of those times. I tugged once, only getting the drawer as far open as I usually left it. ‘momma must have done the laundry,’ I’d mused to myself - she always closed the drawers all the way. Other than that, however, I didn’t think much about it as I gave the drawer another tug. I was already smiling when the third pulled it all the way open, already trying to decide which pair I would wear, leaning heavily towards the ones with pandas on them.

But my hand stopped a few inches above the drawer, frozen as if I was afraid a monster were going to jump up and snap off my fingers if they moved. Much to my dismay, there were no panties beneath them, only Pull-Ups, with a neatly divided line of diapers running down the right side.

Time stopped, along with my breathing, as I just stood there, staring down at them.

My sight starting to grow hazy as my eyes filled with tears signaled the return of time, but my mind was still blank, emptied by the horror of what was before me. It took four, maybe five attempts the get the next drawer open, in the vain hope that all my panties had somehow migrated there, but it was just my pants, the ones that I’d had accidents in sitting on top accusingly.

I didn’t even bother to close either of the drawers, or even to put my shoes back on, didn’t even think of doing so. I’m not sure what momma was doing, but she was doing it somewhere that wasn’t in the path between my room and the front door, so I didn’t see her as I ran that way. My sock-clad feet sank into the soggy ground, but I kept going, eventually finding my way to the sidewalk, which was far easier to get a decent speed on.

I wasn’t sure where I was going until I looked up and found myself there, in the middle of the park momma used to take me to when I was really little. I wasn’t at the playground, though; I was by the lake. My feet, to which my socks seemed to have become glued to with mud, had stopped there, seemingly of their own accord.

That still didn’t feel far enough from that terrible dresser, or from my terrible momma who had to be behind its sudden terribleness. But my feet were smarter than my head, and refused to move another inch. I looked down, annoyed, to figure out what was wrong, having to wipe my eyes, only to immediately wish I hadn’t.

I jumped at a sudden feeling of cold around my bottom, preceded by the slightest moment of warmth, as my Pull-Up alerted me that it had just been used for what I was sure was going to be the last time.

I opened my mouth, wanting to scream, to call for help, to do anything, but my bottom jaw just quivered uselessly in the silence.

Death stared up at me from the grass, hissing as it drew itself up, getting ready to strike. There were rules you were supposed to follow, if you stumbled across a snake - that much I knew. As far as what those rules were, however, I was clueless. Then again, if they had required anything other than standing still, I don’t know that I’d have been able to follow them anyway.

I closed my eyes, intending to pray, but even my mind had been rendered mute.

And then, by some kind of miracle, -she- showed up. The sound of her shouting, “Go on, get out of here!” was the first sign of her, followed by a glimpse of the stick she was holding, then, as the snake meekly slithered back through the grass, a swirl of red hair as she stepped in front of me.

“You all right?” she asked, kneeling down. “You were looking pretty scared, so I thought…”

I didn’t know her, so in the back of my mind I knew I shouldn’t even be talking to her; that didn’t stop me from collapsing into her arms, crying. “Its all right,” she cooed, stroking my hair. “It’s gone.”

She pushed me away eventually, holding me at arm’s length from her as she stared into my eyes. “What’s wrong?”

I knew she wasn’t talking about the snake - it felt as if her eyes were sifting through my memories, trying to deduce the answer for themselves. I wasn’t sure how old she was, though I knew she was older than me, and maybe not quite as old as momma.

“I’m scared,” was all I could think to say in reply.

“Well,” she smiled at me, “just remember that nobody will know that, unless you show them.”

And with that, she patted my shoulder and straightened up. She was already a few steps away when I got up the courage to ask, “Who are you?”

She didn’t turn around. “Who do you think I am?”

At first I was completely baffled - how was I supposed to know? But then I remembered something I’d heard in school that day, and everything just clicked into place. “Saint Patrick?” I asked, then blushed suddenly, even though she couldn’t see me. “Umm… Patricia, I mean.” I could hear her giggles ringing out across the park as she walked off.

The next day, when I saw one of the girls at school looking at me, I smiled over at her, forced my mouth to form the word, “Hi.” She, like most of the other kids in my class, had known me, back when I’d first started having accidents, and I was sure that, like everyone else, she was sure to know why I had seemingly stopped having them. But I thought back to what Saint Patricia had told me, and, as well as I could, pretended that none of that mattered.

The girl smiled back.

The next Saint Patrick’s Day, I convinced her to go with me to the lake, instead of going to the movies like she wanted. My heart sank when we arrived and there was no sign of Saint Patricia, but soon that was almost forgotten as we began an impromptu game of hide and go seek that quickly devolved into a game of tag that eventually ended in us collapsing, giggling as we re-caught our breath.

As I sat there, bottom cold and squishy, I saw her watching us from afar, grinning. I waved at her, and she waved back; by the time my friend turned to see who I’d spotted, she was gone.

I’ve been going back there every year on Saint Patrick’s Day ever since. Usually, she’ll just wave at me, but sometimes I’ll convince my friends to go on ahead to wherever we’re actually headed, and I’ll have a nice little chat with her before catching up with them.

So where is she now? I’ve been wandering the shore of the lake for almost an hour, wondering. I hate to just give up, but maybe she’s decided she’s seen all she needed to of me. Maybe she’s out there helping someone else.

I turn my head quickly as a small figure darts across the corner of my eye, and see a little girl, running. I don’t think she notices me, but she looks too upset to notice much of anything, at least until she comes to a sudden stop a few feet away.

It’s just a little garter snake, more scared of her than she is of it, but I can see how frightened she is. If not for the rain we’d had just the day before, I’d sit down and watch - I haven’t really seen Saint Patricia in action since that day.

But she doesn’t come, and the girl is still standing there, petrified. I turn, looking for Saint Patricia, wondering what could be keeping her, when I notice the stick on the ground next to me.

“Go on,” I yell at the snake, “get out of here!”

For as little as I’d actually done, the girl seems overly grateful, as she practically throws herself into my arms, crying into my brand new sweater. But I can feel her shaking like a leaf, probably at least partially because she for some reason doesn’t have any shoes on, so I give her a few minutes before trying to find out what was wrong.

She’s so small, so innocent, so obviously scared, even before she tells me she is. I want to tell her everything will work out, that nothing is as bad as it might seem to her at the moment, but I know that won’t help, not really. I can try to convince her of that all day long, but she won’t believe it until she sees it for herself. So I tell her what she needs to hear.

She stops me as I leave, wants to know who I am. I feel myself start to smile, even though she can’t see it. I can barely contain my laughter until after she answers my question.

Saint Patricia

Agreed, nice story there, Libby!!