Self-Perception, by ChrisMyst
Ben visits his family during a family reunion, and decides to show off some new equipment from work.
1 - Pressure
Ben stepped out of his Lexus and pulled his sunglasses down from his head to shield his eyes from the harsh morning sun. What a waste of time, he thought to himself, as his polished black shoes made crunching sounds on the cracked soil beneath his feet. I’m going to need to get these things professionally shined, he realized, already noticing the reddish dust that was accumulating on the sides of the wingtips.
He shut the door with a loud slam, and as he walked away, the key fob buzzed in his pocket and he heard the locks on his car automatically activate from his decreasing proximity. With a deep sigh, he clutched his briefcase tightly under his arm and made the long walk down the dirt path, already feeling the sweat begin to accumulate under his suit jacket. What a god damned pain in the ass, he thought, over and over as he climbed the incline toward the sprawling house.
As he passed the mailbox, he noticed the tacky balloons that blew in the breeze, fumbling against one another lazily in the hot air. Classy, he thought as he moved off the path to avoid getting struck by the tangle of colorful balloons. A few had begun to deflate in the hot sun, with several already popped from the heat, hanging limply from the bunch that was carried aloft.
“Ben!” he heard, from across the sprawling yard.
“Hey,” he lazily called back, feigning excitement and waving back to his mother, “How are you?”
The two embraced and he gave her a kiss on the cheek. His mother was still young, owing to an early pregnancy. He was always slightly embarrassed around his peers who had parents who were doctors or professors as parents, while his mother worked retail at a department store. She had gotten pregnant with him at seventeen. Still in his early thirties, Ben’s mother was not even yet fifty years old.
His mother spent lots of time in her garden, when she wasn’t working at the Toys R’ Us where she had worked most of her life. Her skin was freckled and bronzed from a lifetime of being outdoors, her hair a faded brown, with lines around her eyes from smiling. She regarded her only son warmly, smiling up at him as he looked around from behind his sunglasses.
“How was your trip, honey?” she asked, taking him by the hand.
“Good,” he said, freeing it, “do you know where I could put this down?” He raised his briefcase up to show her, the leather glinting as it caught the light from the sun.
“Oh, uh, sure,” she said, “You can just throw it inside, Christopher is in there, too, you should say hi!”
“Thanks,” he said, moving past her towards the screen door of the house.
“Are you sure you don’t want to say hello to everyone first?” she asked to his back.
“I will, just, let me take care of this stuff first, it’s pretty important, okay?” he quipped, sliding the door open.
As he came inside the house, he had expected air conditioning, but was greeted, instead, by an oscillating fan ineffectually blowing from an opened window. The house was, at best, a couple of degrees cooler, and he was already sweating. His cousin, Chris, was sitting on the brown, worn couch, fiddling with his iPhone 8.
“Hey, Ben,” Chris murmured, barely looking up from his phone, “How’s it going?”
“Pretty good,” he replied, gently placing his briefcase on the table and clicking it open with a swipe on the fingerprint reader.
The screen on the inside of the briefcase glowed instantly once it was opened, showing a visual display of the contents of the briefcase, all the hardware components within and the status of the neuropeptides and transmitters within their associated biocaps. He looked over the status readout for each, making sure each was working properly.
The screen door slid open again, his mother, his aunt and Chris’ wife walking in, carrying an old cardboard box with a Volleyball net and ball in it. They put the box down gingerly in the corner and walked over to the refrigerator.
“Do you guys want anything to drink?” his mother asked to Chris and Ben.
“Can I have some ice water with lemon?” Ben said, feeling the heat.
“Well, you can have the water part, at the least,” she said, reaching inside the fridge to pull out a pitcher. Condensation formed nearly instantly on the cold plastic as she placed it on the counter and reached for a glass to pour it in.
“Hi, Ben, didn’t see you came in, whatcha’ got there?” his aunt Carol asked, peering over his shoulder into the glowing briefcase.
“You haven’t seen these? They’re everywhere on TV now,” he replied, cooly.
“Can’t say I have, what is it?” she asked again.
“It’s perceptometry equipment,” he said flatly.
“Oh,” she answered, looking confused, “is it, like, music stuff?” She reached for one of the small flat chips, attached with a white cord to the plastic biocap, filled with transmitters.
“No,” Ben said, moving in to pick up the object before she could, “it’s for people who want to be seen differently. Hmm. Like, if you have a facial scar, you can program this so people don’t notice it, for example. Or, if you want to grow a beard, but you never could, you could use this and people would think you had a beard. They’d be able to touch it, shave it, the whole nine yards. But it’s just in their head. You can take the whole package here and then even you would believe it was real, eventually.”
“Wow! Haha, I should use these and drop twenty pounds for my husband,” his aunt said, laughing.
“Well, they’re very expensive. Namely because it’s a one-shot deal. You don’t need to take repeated doses or have a big surgery like the other perceptometers on the market. Lucky for me, I’m the CFO of the company, so most of my job is giving the things out for free,” he explained.
His mother poked her head over her sister’s shoulder, “For free? You mean like, you just give them away?”
“Yeah, of course, otherwise no one would realize how great they are. We do a free trial thing. The real money isn’t made on the implants, it’s made on the software which makes the custom transmitters,” he said, pointing to the array of tiny vials that lined the briefcase.
“Yeah, the stuff that you want to see. The chip is a basic signal device, but the transmitter does the work. Our software is what takes the characteristics you want and makes it into this,” Ben said, tapping on one of the vials, “These then do all the brain chemistry on both ends, the person being perceived and the person perceiving once the chip wirelessly tells the other persons chip what to perceive. Does that make sense?”
“I…I think so,” his mom said, looking slightly befuddled, “But what’s that?”
“This?” he said, picking up a small silver keypad, “This is what we call ‘the key,’ it’s what you can use to change someone else’s chip, like a little kid or something, if they can’t do it themselves.”
“Oh, that’s a good idea,” she said, “So, what kinds of things can you change about a person?”
“Look,” he said, spinning the laptop so she could see the interface, “You can select any characteristic you want right here.”
On the screen, a dizzying array of options lay before them, nearly laid out in alphabetical order: accent, age, charm, eye color, depth (voice), gender, height, intelligence, libido, musculature, nose length, penis size, stamina, teeth, and many more. Each click of an option revealed another array of radio buttons, property sliders and countless other ways to modify the initial value.
“Ben, I…know this is really important for work, but, well, since you give them out for free, do you think we could use them today? It might be fun to show the whole family how they work!”
Chris, naturally interested by the technical conversation, slid his phone into his pocket and walked over to the cluster of people huddling around the briefcase.
“Hmm,” Ben thought, pondering the situation, “I…suppose so. I don’t see why not, we would just use the perception chips on one another and not ourselves. That way, it’s just temporary.”
Chris’ girlfriend, Jennifer, finally piped in, “Yeah, can we try it, please? It sounds super fun!”
Ben thought this was a reasonable idea, after all. Messing around with some of his new products could give him some new perspectives to show real clients, plus it’d be a lot more fun than sweating all day in the backyard playing horseshoes, or something stupid like that, he realized.
“Let’s get everyone set up!”
2 - Perceptometry
“Okay, your turn, Chris,” Ben said, pulling up his sleeve and pressing the implanter to his bicep.
With a small amount of pressure, the implanter beeped.
“That’s it?” Chris asked, “There wasn’t even a pinch! No gas puff, nothing. I didn’t feel a thing.”
“Pretty good, right?” Ben said, chuckling, “Okay, everyone set up?”
Ben looked at the small crowd in front of him, all of them looking slightly concerned at what had just happened. Each one had received a small perceptometry chip and the corresponding transmitters. Now, with his briefcase touchscreen, all he had to do was select which chips would experience what, and what they would experience. He selected the fourth chip on the listing. He scrolled down the list to height and set the height at 6 feet tall. He pressed “SYNC” on his touchscreen and looked into the crowd to see his cousin Cara suddenly rocket up in height by a foot.
His family audibly gasped and jumped back from Cara, who had little to no idea what was happening. An eruption of laughter came from the crowd as they looked her up and down, astonished by her sudden growth spurt.
“You’re a giant!” someone yelled.
“How’s the weather up there?” another quipped.
“Hey! What’d you do?” Cara asked, not in on the joke.
“Here, I’ll show you!” he selected the fourth chip again, and set it to “SELF-PERCEPTION.”
Suddenly, Cara looked unsteady on her own two feet. She put her hands out as if to stop herself from falling, and then looked confused as she remained standing. After a moment, she balanced on her own feet again.
“Holy crap,” she remarked, “I’m huge!”
Ben smiled and then selected the tab on the tablet “PAST MEMORY” and toggled it to off. He selected all the chip devices except his own and hit “SYNC.”
Suddenly, even though his cousin was a foot taller than she had been, no one seemed to notice or act as if it was strange. Everyone, his now-tall cousin included, carried about the party as if nothing was wrong or out of place in the slightest.
3 - Too Hot
An hour went by, with people playing with the various toggles, making people’s hair different colors, changing their heights and various aspects of their appearances, often to great effect from the whole family erupting in raucous laughter, especially when Ben’s uncle swapped his own gender for a minute, laughing hysterically.
“Ben, these things are hilarious,” Chris exclaimed.
“Haha, I know! Most people use them for pretty serious stuff, but they’re fun to play around with,” he replied, smiling.
“Seriously! These are really incredible!” Chris added.
“Well, I appreciate the feedback, I’m glad everyone seems to like them,” Ben said, as his mother strode up to him, beaming.
“How’s it going, Ben?” she asked, “Are you having fun?”
“I’m okay, I’m getting a little tired, I might go check out the internet for a bit inside, maybe take a shower or something,” he pulled at his jacket, which felt sweaty from the warm afternoon sun, “Is that alright?”
“Oh, you don’t want to stay outside with everyone?” she said, disappointed, “Sure, the towels are—“
“Mom, I think I know where the towels are,” he snapped, taking the metallic chip key and sliding it into his pants pocket, “I grew up here. It’s not a big house. I’m fine.”
Ben slid the door behind him quickly and it closed loudly.
4 - Tethering
Ben ran his hands through his hair, enjoying the cool water in the shower. For a moment, he felt himself slip on the tub, his feet nearly jerking out from under him. He steadied himself on the wall. As he turned the knob to turn off the shower, he heard the screen door shut through the bathroom door. He toweled off, and re-dressed himself. Soon, he was re-dressed in his clothes, though he didn’t reaffix his tie, nor did he put his suit jacket back on. Not like it mattered, he was better dressed than the rest of his family even like this, thinking about the cheap clothes that his aunts, uncle and cousins were wearing.
When he walked out of the bathroom, he saw Chris, back at work on the couch, playing with his iPhone. At least he had some sense. Chris was in his late twenties, sharply dressed in nice jeans with a button-up shirt. He wore tasteful boat-shoes that tapped lightly on the ground to the music that was playing into his ears through his headphones.
“Ben?” he heard behind him as he made his way out of the bathroom, “Can you come here for a minute?”
He spun around to see his mother, “Hey mom,” he said, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” she said, “I just wanted to make sure you wanted to take a break. Are you sure you don’t want to hang out with your family?”
“Yeah, I’m sure,” he said, “I just need a little time to relax.”
“This isn’t relaxing?” she asked.
“You know what I mean,” he replied, realizing he was offending her.
“We’re your family, Ben. I think you’re a bit too involved with work, to be honest, maybe it would be good for you to unwind with us,” she said, gesturing towards the screen door that led to the backyard.
“Well, that stuff doesn’t really relax me, anymore. I think I’m a little too old to be playing horseshoes, don’t you think? I could get my suit all messed up,” he explained.
“I thought you might say that. Why don’t you get out of the suit for a bit, then?” she asked.
“I don’t have any other clothes.”
“I know,” she said, coolly.
“…you expect me to just go out there, naked or something?” Ben said, laughing a little.
“Is there something wrong with that? Your aunt used to let her kids play naked in the backyard all the time, and they turned out fine.”
“Okay,” he reasoned, “But I’m not a little kid anymore, so I don’t really—“
“Sure you are!” she exclaimed, showing him the small silver keypad in her hand, “Everyone else seems to think so.”
“Mom…,” he began, “…you didn’t.”
As he tried to make a move towards her, she took a step backwards and raised the keypad in the air, her thumb hovering over the SYNC button. He tried to say something, but it was too late. She wordlessly pressed the button, which produced an audible “click” in her palm. Nothing seemed to happen.
“I played around on your briefcase thingy to see if we could give this a shot,” she started, “I found some age presets. Plus, I saw there was an interesting little category that might help us out under TETHERING.”
Ben’s body went cold. The TETHERING feature made it so some chips would feel compelled to listen to other chips. They had developed the software to treat behavioral disorders in children, making their normally violent or impulsive behavior more manageable and susceptible to suggestion. Plus, without the keypad, he couldn’t control his own chip. She was in complete control.
“Mom, please,-” Ben began to say, but was cut off before he could finish.
“Now, now, your mother is talking,” she said, “And I do believe I said you should go outside and play. You were right, though, I don’t think you should mess your nice clothes up. Now stand still.”
“Mom, please, I’m begging you,” Ben said, pleading, trying to will himself to move, but finding himself unable.
“Shh, relax, this is for your benefit, you’ll thank me for this,” she said, chuckling.
His mother came over to him and began to unbutton his shirt. As each button came loose, the hair on his chest became more exposed until his shirt finally hung loose around him. She slipped it off behind him, pulling on the shirt to get the cuffs off of his hands. Next, she unbuckled his belt, and let his pants crash to the ground with a loud clang as the silver polished buckle hit the wooden floor.
Chris’ girlfriend, Jennifer, walked in the door at this opportune moment.
“What’s going on here? Are you giving Ben a bath, Lauren?” Jennifer asked.
“No, no, he’s going outside to play, I just don’t want him to mess up his cute little outfit,” she explained. “Now lie down, Ben.”
“Mom! Please!” Ben begged, his boxer briefs on display to the entire room.
“I can’t get your pants off with your shoes still on, can I? And don’t worry, you won’t be out there alone, your cousin will be going with you. Jennifer, can you send Chris out, too? I don’t want Ben to have to play all alone.”
“Sure thing! I’m sure he wants to play, too,” she said, “But Ben, be sure to be nice to him, okay? He’s not as old as you. You have to be gentle, right?”
Ben was confused, and apparently, given his expression as his girlfriend began to pull off his shirt, so was Chris.
“What the hell is going on?” Chris exclaimed, throwing his phone down on the couch as his shirt was wrestled over his head.
“Language!” Jennifer chided, “Where do you think he learned that?”
“Maybe one of the parents at daycare said it,” Ben’s mother suggested, “Ben has had a potty-mouth lately, too.”
“Hey! Hey! Ben, what the hell is going on? Something is wrong with this chip thing, I can’t—“ Chris began until his girlfriend easily pushed him down on the couch and yanked off his shoes and pants. Jennifer seemed not to even hear the very adult complaints that were coming from her boyfriend’s mouth as she quickly pulled off his boxers.
“Did you put him in these, Lauren?” she asked, holding up the adult boxers, “He’s not quite ready for them. He’s still potty-training, but I’m honestly not sure if he can hold it together outside of our house. I’m going to put him in his pull-ups, just to be sure.”
“Sounds good, Jennifer. Okay, Ben, lie down,” his mother said, leaning down over him as he felt his knees buckle against his will and his bare back press against the cool wooden floor, “While you were in the shower, I sent your aunt down to pick up some supplies for your big day with the family. Now, you better behave, okay? I know you’re a big boy, so be sure to act like one, okay?”
“Thanks for sending Carol out to get these, by the way,” Jennifer said, plucking an adult-sized pull-up from the grocery bag.
“Oh, no problem!” Ben’s mother replied, pulling the laces on her son’s black wingtip shoes until they were loose, then pulling them off and tossing them on the floor with a clatter, “It’s no problem at all!”
Ben’s mother reached her hands for his waistband, and he was completely helpless to stop her. He felt so stupid as she yanked the boxer-briefs down his thighs, his penis flopping comically out into view. He peered between his legs to see his cousin Chris in a similar situation, lying naked on the couch as his girlfriend grabbed his feet, completely powerless against her uncontested strength.
“Want to see what she sees?” his mother whispered, pressing a button on the side of the keypad.
Suddenly, Chris shrunk before his eyes. Instead of his muscular younger cousin lay a memory from what seemed like ages ago. A baby-faced little boy, no older than three, with his ankles held in his mother’s hands as she powdered his bottom and then slipped him into childish boy’s pull-up. His tiny nub of a penis suddenly hidden from view by the baby-blue drawings of a racecar on the front of the pull-up. Another click on the device, and his cousin was back. A grown man, vainly struggling against a tiny woman who easily pulled him to his feet.
Then, he was pulled to his own feet, and was ushered outside with his cousin. He stepped over the threshold of the screen door and immediately felt the warmth of the sun on his bare skin. He squinted in the bright afternoon light.
“Well, look who came out to join us!” his aunt cried out at them, “Come give your auntie a kiss, boys!”
“Go on,” his mother said, slapping him on his bare bottom. She held his briefcase against her leg, sat down in a lawn chair and opened it. In his head, he realized she was going to dial down his inhibitions. There was no use in resisting. Almost immediately, he felt a dizzying sensation, confirming that she had altered him.
Against his own will, he ran with his cousin to his aunt and planted a wet kiss against her cheek, his cousin doing the same. His cousin, visibly struggling, held his arms up to his aunt, who then let him climb up on her lap. Ben thought to himself how this looked: a grown man, a man with a college education, sitting in a pull-up on his mother’s lap.
“You little jay-birds must be hot! Do you want something to drink?” his aunt asked. Not waiting for an answer, she took some of the lemonade on the stand and poured a cup. She then took a sippy cup from a plastic bag and filled one for her son. “Be careful, Ben, don’t spill it, okay?”
Feeling incredibly hot, Ben eagerly accepted the drink, but found his coordination was not quite there anymore. He grasped the cup with both hands, while he watched his cousin having similar trouble with the sippy cup, which luckily prevented all of his spills as he raised the spout to his lips. As Ben pulled the cup up to his, he felt the liquid slosh up and run down his chin, sticky and cold on his chest.
“Uh oh! Ben, I told you to be careful,” his aunt reminded him.
“It’s okay, we’ll just give them a bath later,” his mother called, still fiddling with the briefcase, “Don’t worry about it!”
As they drank, Ben felt incredibly aware of the grass beneath his feet. He could feet the blades of grass poking between his toes. He drank more of the lemonade. His aunt refilled his glass, and he drank again. Then suddenly, he was being prodded.
“Go on,” Jennifer said, pulling him by the shoulders, “Go chase your cousin, he wants to play with you!”
Ben turned his head to see that Chris had lost much of his inhibitions. He was running on the lawn, his pull-up crinkling between his legs, running after a ball.
“Can I go inside, pwease?” he heard himself lisp, horrified by his voice.
“Why do you want to go inside, sweetheart?” Jennifer asked, getting very close to his face as if she were truly speaking to a child.
“Um…,” he thought, realizing his propensity for coming up with ideas felt like he was grasping at straws, “I…have to pee-pee.”
“You do, do you?” Jennifer said, brightening, “Well, if you can show Chris how to go pee-pee like a big boy, I think that would be very nice of you, don’t you think? Lauren, can you get the potties, please? I want to see if I can get Chris to use it. I think Ben has to go to the bathroom, too, so this might be a good opportunity.”
Almost immediately, two matching red potty chairs were whisked out to the backyard. He tried to stay away, but felt himself being gently pushed down by the shoulders onto one by his mother. Chris was lead to the other where his pull-up was pulled down so he could step out, and then he, too, was sat on the plastic red chair.
“Okay, Ben, show Chris how you make pee pees, okay?” his mother asked.
As he sat on the chair, he felt his cheeks burn with embarrassment. He was CFO. The Chief Financial Officer. He had years of experience. He had fired people. He made six figures and drove here in a Lexus. Now? He was sitting on a potty chair in front of his whole family. He felt his stomach drop when he saw a camera flash go off from one of his eighteen-year-old cousins.
“They are so cute!” the high school girl exclaimed, checking her phone to see the picture of the two naked men straining to use the bathroom.
As they sat, Ben wondered how much of the real Chris was left. He didn’t seem to have any fight in him. His fears were confirmed when he heard the thin tinkling sound from Chris’ potty as he streamed pee into it.
“Oh, good job, honey!” Jennifer exclaimed, causing Chris to immediately beam with self-pride. His cousin dug his toes into the grass, and rocked in the potty chair, as if it was his greatest accomplishment.
Ben’s mother looked down at him, “You don’t have to potty, Ben?” she asked.
“No!” he said, defiantly, finally mustering up enough courage.
“Okay, that’s fine, you’re a big boy, if you don’t have to go, you don’t have to go,” she said matter-of-factly.
After the two chairs were taken away, and one of them dumped in the toilet and cleaned, they were, again, left to play outside. Chris was now left naked like he was. His penis dangling and flopping in the warm air as he chased eagerly after his mother while she threw a volleyball on the grass for him to play with.
Suddenly, he was in the air.
“Whassamatter?! Don’t wanna play? Come on, Benny!” he heard his uncle say, as he lifted him in the air.
His uncle held him, nude, against his chest, supporting his body effortlessly with his one arm, and carried him over to where Chris was playing with the ball. Grabbing him under the stomach, he put him down in the grass.
As Ben laid for a moment in the grass, he felt his bladder fill from all the sudden movement. He had drank too much of that lemonade, he realized. He toddled over towards his mother, the one person who could see him as he truly was.
“Mom, can I pwease go inside?” he asked, politely.
“For what, honey?” she inquired.
“I…I hafta go to da baffroom,” he said, almost comically with his new imposed lisp.
“I thought you didn’t have to go? Isn’t that what you just told me?” she looked at him quizzically.
The pressure in his bladder was building as he spoke. He dug his bare toes into the grass and felt the blades twist and snap under his toes as he flexed them.
“Pwease, mom, I really, really, really hafta go!” he begged, staring at his mother imploringly.
It was too late. He felt his bladder give way and he began to stream urine right where he stood. The stream nearly landed on his mother, but he moved his hands in front of himself and managed to block the stream. But he couldn’t stop it. He pushed down on his penis, but felt the hot pee trickling between his thighs and running down his leg where the dry lawn eagerly soaked it up. Finally, he stood ashamed, the ground damp from where his pee had puddled under him.
“Well,” his mother began, “I guess I was wrong when I thought you were a big boy, wasn’t I, Ben?”
“Mom, pwease, I—“
“Be quiet, Ben, I wasn’t done talking,” she interrupted, “Now, if you can’t act like a big boy, I can’t treat you like one, can I?”
He remained silent. She flipped open the briefcase while he looked on in horror. Finally, she seemed satisfied and he watched in terror as she pressed the SYNC button on the small silver keypad.
He fell down instantly. His legs became like jelly, completely unable to support his weight. His full weight came crashing down and he landed with a wet thud as his bare bottom fell into the puddle of urine he had created only moments ago. Without warning, he felt a hotness behind his eyes as tears welled up. The hot tears streamed down his cheeks as he began to sob lightly at his situation.
“What happened, Lauren?” Jennifer asked, holding Chris by the hand.
“Oh, he just had an accident. I thought it would be okay to have him try to run around outside, but I just don’t think he’s old enough. I just wanted him to get some sun,” his mother explained.
To Jennifer, all that was sitting in the dirt was a naked baby boy, no more than nine months old. His plump bottom freckled with dirt as he sat in a small puddle of baby pee.
“Oh, okay, I thought he had gotten hurt because I heard him start to cry.”
“No, no, he cries about everything, it’s nothing to worry about,” she replied, smiling.
“Do you want me to clean him up?”
“No, it’s okay, I’ll do it,” she said, rising to her feet.
She picked him up, alarmingly easily, and carried him over to the table where his eighteen year old cousin, his uncle and aunt were sitting.
“Is it okay if I change Ben here?” she asked the group.
“No problem! Can Sophie help out? She wants to babysit over the summer, so this might be some good practice for her,” Carol said, putting her hand on Sophie’s shoulder.
“Of course she can,” his mother said, “Sophie, can you get the baby supplies from inside?”
“Sure,” Sophie said, walking inside and returning with a small grocery bag.
Ben felt so stupid. He had done this to himself. Why did he have to show them the devices? He sniffled, as he lay on his back staring up at the blue sky, his bare legs waving in the air, still caked in dirt and stale pee. He thought about yesterday, how he had meticulously cleaned his car. How he had gone out with his girlfriend in the city. How he had tipped generously for the lovely dinner. Now he thought about his current situation, as his mother pulled out a baby wipe and began to wipe him down. He was pathetic. His cousin, and everyone else aside from himself and his mother, saw him as nothing but a little baby. Now he was seen as even younger than Chris. He wasn’t even a toddler, he was an infant.
Lying on his back, he felt like he could barely control his limbs as they wavered wildly in front of him, only his cousin and mother’s face in view. He grabbed at his feet. They grew incredibly appealing. He tried to stay focused. Tried to remember who he was. He saw his mother fiddling with the silver box. The pretty box. She was doing something. Some…thing. It faded away from his memory like a leaf caught in a moving stream.
“Wow, Rich,” his aunt said to her husband, “I think he’s got you beat.” Everyone at the table laughed as she reached over and touched his bare penis to inspect it, which now seemed like only a tiny, half-inch nub, completely exposed on the table.
Ben jostled on the table, seemingly unaware of anyone else looking on to the situation at hand. His cousin slipped a disposable diaper underneath him as he saw his mother fiddle with the pretty silver again. Suddenly, his legs shrank. Everything grew larger. He remembered that he was worried about something, but he couldn’t think about what it was anymore. Then he saw the baby powder fall and freckle his tiny chubby legs.
“Mmmmm-paa!” he gurgled, looking up at his mommy as she smiled down at him.
His cousin took a baby wipe and tried to clean some of the dirt off of his feet as he tried to push his toes inside of his mouth, lying nude on the table. He sucked on his bare foot, completely unabashed, for the first time truly appreciating the love of the family he had.