Time for a change.
It was the first day of school, and the first day of the rest of his life. Mr. Ward sat in his car, going over every meticulous detail of his appearance one last time in the rear view mirror. First impressions were everything, and so much of first impressions, he had recently come to accept were based on appearance more than anything else. You could be the most knowledgeable person in the world, but if you didn’t appear credible, no one would listen.
He had found this out the hard way last semester, when he had volunteered for 12 hours a week at Morning View Elementary School as a requirement of his Classroom Management course. It didn’t matter that he knew all the best and research proven teaching techniques: framing the lesson, proximity control, asking in depth questions, blooms taxonomy; all the buzz words. But it simply didn’t matter if he couldn’t get people, even fourth graders, to take him seriously.
Sure, his mess of unkempt, curly black hair and once-a-month-kinda-sorta-trimmed beard, paired nicely with his t-shirt, jeans, and crocs (yes crocs), into a slacker-chic look that was the norm on his college campus. His friends didn’t mind, and even a few of the girls from his classes more than approved- another advantage to being a male getting an elementary teaching degree was that the sex ratio was very much tilted in his favor- but what they approved of was John the college kid. John the college kid had no place outside of college, and even a volunteer job as part of a college course was a job first and foremost, and he should look the part of the job. Mrs. Slattery, the teacher whom he had aided at Morning View last semester had written as much, though in much terser, hurtful words, in the end of semester review that she had sent to his course supervisor at the University.
He had received a nasty lecture at the end of the semester on “professionalism” as a result, and he maintained a “B” in the class, mostly because of his excellent test scores, essays, and presentations to college aged peers. He would have had an easy A if not for the scathing review on how he looked. That was the problem summed up, on paper he was an excellent teacher, but he didn’t look or dress the part. He had to change if he wanted to make it, and there was just no point in fighting change.
John had raged quietly in his head, fighting back tears during this lecture. It’s not like anyone had told him this. It’s not like Mrs. Slattery, or any of the professors on campus had told him that there was a problem with his appearance. All it would have taken was one word, and he would have given himself a total-makeover, effective the next day. When he brought this up in his defense, it was treated as no defense at all.
“You should have known,” was their retort. “It’s just common sense.”
John was exceptionally book smart, and “common sense” didn’t have a whole lot to do with his daily affairs. He could explain Howard Gardener’s theory of multiple intelligences and come up with lesson plans that played to the strength of each intelligence listed in the theory off the top of his head, but he couldn’t read a room for the life of him. How was he supposed to know that Mrs. Slattery’s big, constant smile, had been a sign that she was uncomfortable and was just trying to be polite? It’s not like he had ever seen her any other way to establish a baseline! And as for politeness, she certainly wasn’t polite when she had the chance to skewer him in a written review AFTER the fact. Fucking hypocrite two faced bitch.
Over the summer, he had elected not to take any classes, and just used the time off to mull over and mope in the quiet parts of his life, or bitch to his various friends and school mates after he had had a few too many drinks at a party or get together. In no text book ever, did it say “The teacher must dress impeccably at all times.” In no course presentation had there been a lecture or power point about “The importance of appearance.”
In fact, over John’s entire lifetime of schooling, he had been taught the opposite: John’s entire schooling from Kindergarten to College had been on how appearances can be deceiving and therefore should not be taken into consideration of merit. “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” “Looks don’t matter, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.” The Beast was a handsome prince all along. The ugly duckling was a swan. The old beggar turned out to be an angel or god or eccentric millionaire, and they were looking to find an example of human kindness so they could reward the protagonist of the story, and all of the coolest fictional educators in the various movies, TV shows, and so forth were the ones that dressed in wacky outfits like Mrs. Frizzle, or were cool enough to carry around a leather jacket or some other appropriation of “youth culture”.
Really, the moral of those stories shouldn’t have been “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Those stories really taught “it’s okay to be unpleasant to the eye if people feel it is out of your control, and you can dress however you want if you are powerful enough. Otherwise, fall in line.” Doing a mental inventory of his over twenty years of remembered life experiences, there was only one time when he was taught that how he dressed and looked mattered.
In one of his earliest memories, he was about 3 years old, maybe a little younger- but if the stories his mother had told were true, he was probably a little older, like not quite 3 and a half- and he was standing beside the then giant porcelain toilet, wearing nothing but a wet diaper, with his mommy holding out a pair of Pull-Ups.
“It’s time to stop wearing diapers,” she had told him.
“Why?” toddler him had asked, more curious than anything.
“Because,” she answered, “you’re a big boy now. And big boys don’t wear diapers.”
“No, they don’t. Only babies wear diapers. Are you a baby?” He had shook his head. He definitely was not a baby, this he knew.
“Then,” Mommy offered, “let’s take this diaper off, put you in these training pants, and when you stop going pee-pee and poo-poo in your pants, and you use the potty, you can start wearing underwear!” And that had been the end of that. It had taken less than two weeks for John to get the gist of toileting, much to his parents’ relief, and it gave his mother a story to brag about to her fellow mothers and a joke at his expense.
“All we had to do was tell him it was time to stop wearing diapers and use the big boy potty, and that was that,” his mother would brag, and then later in life embarrass him with. “Good thing we had that talk, though,” she would add, “if no one had told him, he’d probably still be in diapers right now.” At this John would often find his cheeks flushing a bit.
“He had absolutely no interest in the potty before that talk,” Mom would ramble on at family gatherings when the topic of “look how he’s grown,” or “he’s so smart”, would come up.
“It’s a good thing you told him he was a big boy, first,” a well-meaning aunt or uncle might chime in. “Otherwise he might have just thought he was a baby and tried to stay in diapers.”
“John has never been good at deciding when it was time to change something,” Mom would chuckle. “Diapers included. He would stay in a wet or a poopy diaper as long as possible, until I noticed he needed a change. He was always too busy playing to care about what was going on in his pants.”
“Typical male,” some elder family member, usually a grandmother or aunt would agree. Then all the family members who had experienced the “joys” of diapering and toilet training would have a nostalgic glad-that’s-over-with chuckle and the ritual of bragging on kids would update to more current affairs. Grades. School Plays. Learning to Drive. Sports. The usual.
To a degree, it made sense, to John that this story should be told over and over again. It illustrated his natural aptitude to learning and natural cooperativeness, though it also may have underscored his own natural lack of initiative. But, he reasoned, it also made sense because when you thought about it, potty training was likely the first skill that a child picked up that needed to be taught instead of learned naturally. Most kids learned to crawl, walk, and talk naturally over time through a combination of instinct and submersion into the environment necessitating it. Potty training took time and effort and for the parent to shift from a caregiver to a teacher.
Outside of therapies for children with severe disabilities or delays, there really wasn’t such a thing as walk training or a talk training. So, if a very proud parent were to list the accomplishments of a very intelligent child, it might make sense to start at the beginning: Potty training.
If only the curriculum of “it matters how you dress” had been extended beyond babies and diapers, John might not have had the rude awakening the previous semester. Well, it was a little late. But lesson learned.
Now, Mr. Ward was in his car, making one final check to see that everything about his image communicated “teacher”. He was not and would not be John today if he had any say in the matter. John was the college kid that got left behind once Mr. Ward left student housing on his way to his assigned teaching internship. Mr. Ward was his teacher persona. He had a teaching internship, and by golly he was going to make a good first impression.
The sun had been in the sky above Bayside Elementary school for nearly half an hour now, and Mr. Ward used the light on every angle to make sure he looked the part he intended to play. His curly black hair was now gelled back to give it a more professional look. His once shaggy beard had been trimmed down to a very neat and even goatee. He wasn’t giving up his facial hair altogether, since personal experience taught him that he was a complete baby face without it. He wanted to be taken seriously, and as long as he groomed it properly, the facial hair could be an advantage in that department.
It wasn’t perfect though. His neck and chin were still giving him trouble. One downside about having such dark hair as his is that even with a very close shave, a person could still make out little spots here and there if they were close enough and discerning. It gave him something of a mild five o’clock shadow. It probably wouldn’t show up in a photograph, but if people like Mrs. Slattery were the rule and not the exception, anything short of pure cleanliness would be considered a poor job and make his teacher “uncomfortable.” In truth, anything short of facial electrolysis would be unacceptable for Mrs. Slattery’s standards, may the two faced bitch rot in hell.
Hopefully the teacher he was interning with would be forgiving on that mark.
To compensate for his insecurities about his facial hair, Mr. Ward made sure that his clothes were nothing less than pristine. His orange, button up shirt and black slacks were both neatly pressed and taken just out of the dry cleaning bag this morning. The plain blue tie- a real one; a clip-on would not do today- was tied smartly thanks to a youtube video and about a dozen tries this morning before the sun came up. His shoes of choice were updated to black loafers and black socks. He was the consummate professional.
He returned his view to his tie. Orange and blue? Really?
“Shit…” he thought out loud, “I look like Mr. Two-Bits.” Maybe orange shirt and blue tie wasn’t such a good idea. But the blue tie was the only one he had, and he didn’t have any other clean shirts that went with it. Still, he looked and felt like he looked “adult” enough to make a good first impression and gain the respect of the class where he was interning. Mr. Ward took one final breath, and stepped out of his car and into the parking lot and towards Bayside Elementary, his new work home for the next semester.
It was a simple, but large, one story building, with a peach-ish tan-ish color that gave it a friendly but neutral feeling, with textured concrete walls; the kind that had made it look like the concrete had a bad case of rock acne, that gave a vibe of security but comfort. All the windows had plain white curtains drawn, so you couldn’t see into it but the windows on the front of the building weren’t big enough or close enough together to for Mr. Ward to think they were classroom windows. More likely they were office windows where the Dean, Secretary, Principal, and the other non-teaching administrative staff worked in small little rooms behind a phone or a computer, and they didn’t feel like having every school visitor spy on them first thing in the morning. Morning View Elementary had much the same design, and Mr. Ward suspected that they were built off the same basic blue prints.
The sun was warming up the parking lot quickly in the early morning. Even though it was the first day of school, summer apparently hadn’t gotten the memo, and so it promised to only be hotter as the day wore on. With his long sleeved shirt and slacks, Mr. Ward may have broken out into an uncomfortable sweat were he to stay outside more than five minutes, but that shouldn’t be a problem today. It’s not like he was interning to be a P.E. Coach, so he expected to spend most days in a comfortably climate controlled room.
As confidently as he could muster, Mr. Ward strolled through the glass front doors and into a large reception area. White tile made up the floor and cheery blue bricks made up the interior walls. There were several hallways directly in front and to the sides of the reception area that undoubtedly led to the classrooms proper. There were no children, and the place was mostly empty, save for a few adults walking out of one hallway or into another.
There was a large banner hanging from the ceiling that read “Welcome back!”
“Hello, how can I help you?” a woman behind a very large round counter called out and waved to get his attention. She was easily in her forties, and wore her light brown hair closely cropped, with golden earrings. Her makeup was impeccable, but she was still wearing what was likely the first day of school attire; a T-shirt that says “Bayside Elementary School”. Something to signal to parents that they worked there. Probably the receptionist. Mr. Ward walked to the counter.
“Yes,” he said, “My name is Mr. Ward, and I’m here for the teaching internship,” he said, the last word ending on a high tone like he was asking a question. He mentally kicked himself for being able to keep the uncertainty out of his voice.
“Oh?” the receptionist said, “you’re early if you are.”
Mr. Ward dug into his pocket and took out his cell phone. The time flashed 7:15. “I am?” he said. “I thought teachers had to be here by 7:15 at the latest.”
“They do,” she confirmed, “but if you’re a college kid, you’re not a teacher. It’s teachers here by 7:15, student breakfast at 7:30 and classes begin at 8:00.” Mr. Ward felt perplexed. Wasn’t the point of an internship to pretty much do all the work and have all of the responsibilities with none of the pay? Why should he be allowed to come in late?
Sensing his distress, the receptionist waved the matter away with a simple hand gesture, “But don’t worry too much about it,” she assured him. “Happens all the time with you college kids. A bunch of other girls came in nearly an hour ago. In fact, I think you’re the last arrival we were expecting, but let me check.”
“Other arrivals?” Mr. Ward asked.
“Of course,” the receptionist smiled in a non-condescending way, “you don’t think you’re the only college kid who was given an internship here, do you?” she waited a moment to realize that maybe Mr. Ward hadn’t given thought to it. “Silly goose,” she teased with another “oh pishaw” hand gesture.
“Really?” Mr. Ward remarked. He wanted to add in “So I’ve been sold?” but it might not have gone over well. Never show you’re quirks on the first date so to speak.
“I thought everyone knew that. Why else would we take you college kids in? Sometimes you’re more of a handful than the elementary school kids.” The receptionist piled on. Mr. Ward must have frowned at that because quickly the receptionist said, “Oh, don’t take it so hard, dear. I’m not trying to pick on you, and we still love ya for being here.”
“It’s just,” she continued, “schools need money, and taxes and donations don’t cover everything. It’s just common sense that when certain institutions offer us money to help educate their college kids or test certain equipment or use certain curriculums or products, we’d be fools not to jump at the chance. It’s common sense really.”
Mr. Ward rolled it over in his head. “I can see what you mean. No offense taken, by the way.”
“And none intended,” the receptionist added. “You’re not much on common sense, are you young man?” Mr. Ward had to smile at himself and shake his head, smiling. “Well, the beautiful part of working in a school is knowing that you are never too old or too young to learn something. Now let me see here” the receptionist turned over to a computer and began clicking on the screen.
“Ward you said?”
Mr. Ward nodded. The receptionists eyes skimmed down the screen.
“Ward…Ward…Ward…” she looked up again. “John?” Mr. Ward nodded, hated hearing his first name. He might be just some “college kid” to these people, but hopefully by the end of the day, the students would at least be calling him “Mr. Ward.”
“According to this, you are with Ms. Avery and Mrs. Zachowski’s group. They’re just down the hallway behind you.” She pointed behind him.
“Behind me?” Mr. Ward remarked, confused. He thumbed to the doors behind him, the morning sunlight streaming through. “What hallway…” he turned around. “behind me?” The doors weren’t there. Instead, just as indicated, was a blue bricked hallway, identical to all the other blue bricked hallways. He looked around, and he didn’t see the big glass doors that he had entered in anywhere.
“Follow me,” the receptionist motioned, walking down the hallway. Confused and not wanting to cause a scene, Mr. Ward followed.
“Um…” he called after the receptionist guiding him deeper into the new hallway, “what happened to the door?”
“The entrance to the school,” he clarified, trying to hide the frustration in his voice.
“The one behind you?”
Mr. Ward looked back over his shoulder. Sure enough, from the way he came, he could still make out the open reception area and the rectangular silhouette caused by light shining through a set of double glass doors.
“Not much of a sense of direction, either?” the woman remarked, “Well, more things to learn then. I’m sure Ms. Avery and Mrs. Zachowski will be thrilled.” But she didn’t slow her pace and Mr. Ward had to powerwalk to catch up.
Mr. Ward glanced at each of the classroom doors as they walked down the hall. They were all plain wooden doors with a handle to open, but each one was decorated with a particular theme. Usually animals.
“Mrs. Murray’s Toucans: 1st Grade” one said. With paper toucans decorating the door. The largest one at the top of the door had “Mrs. Murray” written on it. The same pattern was true for Mrs. Abernathy’s Penguins, and Ms. Miller’s Seagulls. All first grade. Deeper down the hall, there were classrooms like “Mrs. Crowder’s Cows: Kindergarten” as well as “Mrs. Brumer’s Piggies: Kindergarten.” And “Mrs. Dickey’s Lambs; Kindergarten.”
“So I’m guessing,” Mr. Ward broke the brief silence, “Each room has a mascot and each grade level has a theme? First grade is birds, and kindergarten is farm animals?”
“You’ve got it,” the receptionist confirmed, not breaking her stride. Finally, they came to the room at the end of the hall. The reception area where they had come from was now just a dot on the horizon. The door said, “Mrs. Avery and Mrs. Z’s Busy Bees”.
At the top of the door were two paper bees, both smiling with little crowns on top of their heads.
“They’re the Queen Bees,” the receptionist pointed to the little crafts. “get it?” Mr. Ward nodded and smiled politely while the receptionist chuckled a little too hard at a joke that wasn’t that funny.
“I don’t see a grade level. What do they teach?” Mr. Ward asked, his brow furrowed. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but something wasn’t right here. “And why two of them?”
“Oh, they don’t teach a grade level, technically. They work with our little ones. The little buggers are such a handful, it takes two teachers to handle them. That’s also why Mrs. Zachowski is Mrs. Z to the kids, it’s easier for them to say.”
“Little ones?!” Mr. Ward exclaimed in surprise. He had been hoping to be placed with a fifth grade class, a second grade class at the youngest. Kids who could already read and write, and be working on multiplication facts. He didn’t want to spend the semester teaching baby stuff to a bunch of little kids. And lower than Kindergarten? Yikes! That sent off alarm bells. “Um?…” he hesitated, “I’m not going to be changing diapers am I?”
“Goodness no!” the receptionist barked out a laugh. “You won’t be changing any diapers, at all. No, no, don’t worry about that.”
Mr. Ward felt himself breathing a sigh of relief out through his nose. Thank God for small mercies.
“Ms. Avery and Mrs. Z, have agreed to help the interns this year and so they’ll be running your orientation,” the receptionist explained. “You won’t be interning with them, but they will be responsible for you.”
“So they’ll be like on-site supervisors?” Mr. Ward asked. His hope renewed that he might yet be working with kids who already knew the damn ABC’s.
“Pretty much,” the receptionist nodded. “You and the other college kids will be with them for the day, and after today, then we’ll decide which classroom you should be in. See? Your classmates from the University are already here.”
Mr. Ward took a closer look at the door. Just as indicated, below the yellow “Queen Bees” of Ms. Avery and Mrs. Z, were smaller “Busy bees” in pink construction paper. Only four, to be exact, and each name he recognized from his classes at the University.
Well, this place might be a little strange, but at least he wouldn’t be going through it alone. To the immediate right of the door were two little cardstock pockets hanging on the wall with clipboard holding a sharpie marker and roll of scotch tape.
The receptionist took the clipboard off the wall, and reached into a cardstock pocket, pulling out a blue construction paper bee. She took the sharpie and said “J-O-H-N” as he wrote Mr. Ward’s first name out in capital letters.
“Actually,” Mr. Ward interjected, "Would it be okay, if you put Mr. Ward on there? I’m cool with going along with the room theme, but I really wanted to work on being pro- ".
“Would that be fair to the other interns who got here before you?” the receptionist interrupted him, while taking a piece of scotch tape and taping the blue bee with “JOHN” emblazoned on it firmly to the door.
“I guess not,” he conceded. “It’s not a big deal, I guess.”
“That’s right,” the receptionist said, then added, “It’s not like you’ll be interacting with any of the elementary schoolers today anyways. Let’s just get through orienting you, and then we’ll work on what the adults and elementary schoolers call you. Now enough chit-chat, your name is on the door, and Ms. Avery and Mrs. Z are expecting you. Go on in so I can go back to my desk.”
“Fair enough,” Mr. Ward said, as he grasped the door handle and turned it, opening the door. He stepped through.
As he crossed the threshold, Mr. Ward could have sworn that he had gone blind for a second. Not even going blind, as much as a very long blink, though he could have sworn that both eyes were open. The darkness however brief, had still been long enough to realize that he couldn’t see anything. He couldn’t hear anything either for a moment, but as his foot landed solidly past the threshold and into the classroom, he swore he heard a tinkling noise, like in a music box, or perhaps a child’s mobile. The chiming sound lasted for about as long as it took for his other foot to cross the threshold and step over. Then, just as abruptly, it stopped, and he could see again.
Standing in front of him was an older middle aged woman, with what must have been dirty blond hair, but now she was clearly graying. She wore a simple lavender t-shirt with Jeans and white sneakers. Her glasses rested comfortably on her nose.
“Why hello there!” She beamed. “You must be John.”
“Yes ma’am,” he said, “John Ward,” he extended his hand in greeting. Maybe he could get a first name out of her at least and he could be on equal footing in that regard.
“My name is Mrs. Zachowski, but everyone around here calls me Mrs. Z.” She grabbed his right hand by the wrist and pulled him into her arms. “Oh, we don’t handshake in this room. I’m a hugger. You’ll learn that about me.”
Mr. Ward hugged her back lightly and politely while she hugged him much more forcefully than anticipated. He felt her rubbing patting his back, which soon gave way to gently rubbing it. This hug was going on a little too long to be comfortable or appropriate. From the hug, he looked over Mrs. Z’s shoulder to get a better look around the classroom, focusing on anything other than this was better.
Once he focused on what was happening in the room though, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
The classroom was obviously arranged and decorated with infants and toddlers in mind. Everything was in simple and quiet colors, like a children’s storybook. The walls were painted in a sailing motif; the bottom half of the walls were painted to look like the ocean, with sand and seaweed near the bottom, and simple illustrations of sea creatures swimming in the water. Mr. Ward subconsciously noticed a whale, an octopus and a starfish among the underwater menagerie. Near the top of the water was a sailboat, and the part nearest the ceiling had clouds stenciled in.
Low shelves on one side of the wall had infant toys that your typical toddler would play within easy reach: Stacking rings, stuffed animals, plastic balls, tower toys, stuffed animals, dolls, and roller toys. The higher shelves had board books.
The back wall had a closed white door. Above it was stenciled “Nap Room” with a little drawing of a crib. Catty corner to that door was an open door with the words “Changing Room” and a drawing of a diaper and safety pin above the frame. The smell of baby powder permeated the air.
This wasn’t even a kindergarten class, probably not even a Pre-school room. More accurately this room was a nursery or a day-care.
Mr. Ward took all this in unconsciously, the same way a person watching a play will note the background and set pieces, but ultimately file it in the back of their mind and more or less forget it as their conscious thoughts focus on the actors on the stage. It was the other occupants of this room that caught Mr. Ward’s eye so hard it almost was yanked out of his socket.
It was his classmates from the University, though had he not known them so well from the countless lectures, projects, and study groups, over the semesters he might not have recognized them.
Shelly sat off to the far left of the room, her reddish brown hair, normally kept in a pony-tail, was now braided into pigtails. She wore a green baby doll dress with puffed up sleeves that ended above her elbows. Her feet were encased with frilly socks and black Maryjane shoes. Had that been it though, Shelly would have at best been described as dressing slightly provocatively. Shelly’s legs were bare, and her dress, which really couldn’t even be called a proper dress, because it ended shortly after the waistline, barely covered what could only be a diaper.
It wasn’t even an adult diaper, but rather a giant baby’s diaper. Even from the entrance way, a confused Mr. Ward could make out a landing strip waistline with infantile decorations, partially obscured by a large tape on each side.
Shelly sat on the floor sucking on a pacifier, and playing with a childish shape sorting puzzle, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she should be mortified in her current state. She sucked rhythmically on the binky, and carefully examined the different wooden blocks that could potentially fit into each hole with the same intensity that a world champion chess player might examine the board.
His other classmates, seemed less than enthused about their current state of dress.
Nicole sat propped up against one of the toy shelves, a worried and apprehensive look on her face. Her raven-black hair fell down to just above her shoulders, with her usual red beret hair clip keeping her hair out of her face. She wore a yellow baby dress almost identical in style to Shelly’s, but with yellow socks that frilled out and ended at her knees. Nicole had no shoes on, but she did have matching yellow panties on full display beneath her yellow dress. Perhaps diaper cover would have been a better descriptor since it did nothing to hide the bulge around her waist.
Nicole sat with her feet on the floor, and her knees up, her face twisting in concentration and perhaps discomfort or pain of some sort, as she clutched a plush killer whale for dear life.
Ruthann, was by far the most distressed it seemed. Her chestnut brown hair was tied back with a violet bow, her bangs still covering her forehead and her thick rimmed glasses still on her face. Ruthann had been dressed in a pastel pink number with a peter pan collar and sleeves that ran all the way down her arms, panties that covered her diaper with ruffles on the seat and matching frilly ankle socks.
Mr. Ward could not rationally believe that Ruthann had chosen to dress like this. Ruthann had a tendency to be a teacher’s pet and a bit of a whiner in study sessions, but was also a fashionista, and unless that Miley Cyrus video had become more of a cultural hit than expected, Ruthann wouldn’t have been caught dead in this objectively ridiculous and revealing outfit. Ruthann was on all fours on a rug covered with basic shapes, looking on in shock and disgust at Kimberly.
Kimberly was in the middle of the room, hunkered down on the balls of her bare feet on the pastel green carpeted floor, her finger tips gingerly brushing the ground and letting her balance. Her long, light auburn hair, tumbled down over the back of her bright pink with white polka dots dress which did nothing to conceal her plain white diaper.
As Mrs. Z released the hug on Mr. Ward, the diaper didn’t stay white. The bottom of the diaper was becoming discolored, and quickly the diaper was turning an off-yellow and spreading across the back as Kimberly pissed herself. That’s all it could be. Kimberly was pissing her pants in the middle of the room like an overgrown toddler. He felt numb inside and stumbled deeper into the room as he felt Mrs. Z’s hand guiding him in.
Ruthann called out from the floor to Mr. Ward. “Why are they doing this to us? We’re not babies!” Shelly looked up from the baby puzzle she was playing with and her eyes darted over to Ruthann and the pacifier in her mouth briefly stopped pulsating, then worked into overtime. Nicole still looked more scared than anything else.
Still in the squatting position, Kimberly looked back over her shoulder right at Mr. Ward. Her face turning bright red when their eyes met. Mr. Ward, or John rather, had been friends with all of his fellow college students, and had relied on them and in turn been relied on to memorize and learn the curriculum and theory. But he had been closest with Kimberly.
They had had more than a few dates, and a few hook ups, before they both came to the mutual conclusion that they were better suited as friends and study buddies instead of as a couple or even friends with benefits. But watching a girl that he had been intimate with pee herself in public like that disturbed him in a way most extreme and perhaps fascinated him in a way that was not at all appropriate. Perhaps that’s why he remained mute, or better put, dumb, as he was fostered deeper into the nursery.
“Kimberly! No!” Ruthann called from the floor. A woman came up behind Ruthann, leaned over and put her hand on Ruthann’s shoulder.
“Ruthann, honey, she’s just doing what babies do in their diapers. You do it to.” the woman said in a soft and gentle tone.
Ruthann gasped in disgust. “Do NOT!” she spat, not even looking up at the woman.
The woman was in her late thirties to early forties, and had hair the kind of perfect brown that could only come out of a bottle. She wore thin rimmed glasses and a black top that was cut to show off a little cleavage. A functionally useless tan accessory belt circled her waist, while she wore an off purple pencil skirt that ended at her ankles, where you might notice her toes wiggling in her sandals.
Mrs. Z’s simple dress gave the impression of a blue collar working grandma. An older woman who wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty with the kids and run around. This woman though, seemed pure soccer mom. This had to be Ms. Avery.
“I am NOT going to do that in my diap….” Ruthann stopped herself. “in my panties.”
“Well of course you won’t, Ruthann,” cooed Ms. Avery. “You have to be wearing big girl panties to go pee-pee in them. Speaking of which…” Ms. Avery leaned over and gave Ruthann’s butt a ginger pat. “Still dry, and I don’t smell anything…yet. You can keep playing, dear.”
“Fuck you!” Ruthann proclaimed, as she crawled away.
“Such language,” Ms. Avery shook her head knowingly, “we’ll have to deal with that later in the year, I think.” Then she walked up to Kimberly, who was still frozen on her haunches, her diaper likely warm and squishy with the recently deposited flood of urine. She put her hands on her knees and bent over to look Kimberly in the eye.
“Hello Kimberly,” she cooed in a too tone too high to be natural.
“Hi Ms. Avery.” Kimberly blushed more, looking back at her old classmate one last time before turning her full attention to the adult in front of her.
“Did you have an accident?” Ms. Avery asked in the same syrupy sweet voice. Kimberly nodded her head slowly.
“No you didn’t sweetie,” Ms. Avery corrected Kimberly, taking Kimberly’s chin in one hand. “Big girls have accidents in their panties and pull-ups. Big girls aren’t supposed to go pee-pee in their panties. That’s why it’s an accident. Babies just wet their diapers like they’re supposed too.” she paused a moment. “So let me ask you again. Did you have an accident?”
This time Kimberly shook her head obediently.
“Did you wet your diaper?”
“Is it time for a change?”
Kimberly shuddered visibly, and nodded her head one final time.
“Good girl!” Ms. Avery praised before looking up. “Mrs. Z, would you mind?”
“Not at all,” Mrs. Z answered going over to face Kimberly and lifted her with ease. Kimberly wrapped her legs around the older woman and rode resting her head on Mrs. Z’s shoulder. Mrs. Z turned around to head to the door marked “Changing Room.” Kimberly made eye contact with John, briefly, before blushing again and burying her head in Mrs. Z’s shoulder like a little girl hiding from a scary adult.
Ms. Avery waved at Mr. Ward, diverting his attention briefly. “Hello!” she said in the same overly cheery voice she had been talking to the girls with. “You must be John! I’m Ms. Avery.”
"Actually, I prefer Mr. War- ", and John was cut off with a quick and strong hug from the strange soccer mom teacher.
“I heard you introduce yourself to Mrs. Z,” Ms. Avery said. “And I’ll have you know that I’m a hugger too.” She broke off the hug, but kept her hands on John’s shoulders. “Though I don’t do them quite as long as Mrs. Z. She’s a ten second hugger, so it’s a good way to learn to count to ten,” she told John in a confidential tone. “Now, I’m sure you’ve got a lot of questions, looking around.”
Mr. John Ward nodded. Mrs. Z had meanwhile gone through the door marked “Changing Room”, and closed the door.
“Well,” Ms. Avery said by way of explanation, “today is just orientation day in the Busy Bee Room, so we’re not doing any work today. We’re just getting oriented, that means we’re getting used to stuff.” She spoke as if she was explaining things to a child. Mr. Ward only nodded, numbly, waiting for further explanation.
"So you can just play with any of the toys you want, and talk with your little friends from the University, and we’ll all get to know each other a little better. Just remember to share, and if you need anything, just come and ask me or Mrs. Z. If you want, we can read a book to you and later in the morning we’ll have snack time. Okie dokie? " Mr. Ward nodded dumbly. His attention already drifting to the now closed door of the changing room.
Ms Avery walked over to Shelly, still playing with the shape puzzle, and obviously the most comfortable in the room, and began whispering and cooing to Shelly. John vaguely overheard snips of phrases such as “Good girl-” and “-orienting very well.” All spoken with the tone reserved for dumb children and smart dogs.
What madness was going on here? He was the last to enter the room, so he had no idea how the girls had gotten in their ridiculous outfits or why Kimberly had just wet herself like an invalid.
He walked across the room and positioned himself so he could see the door of the changing room. Curiosity had gotten in the way of the precious little common sense he had been given. The door of the changing room had a window in it so that Mr. Ward could see through it. It didn’t take up the entire frame, but almost anyone could see what was going on if they cared to look.
“What the…” Mr. Ward gasped as he peered inside. There was a giant changing table inside, made of thick and sturdy wood. It had a thick blue mat on it that Kimberly was laying on, forced down with a strap across her chest. Honestly, if it weren’t for the tub of baby wipes and baby powder sitting in a panel by Kimberly’s feet, and the extra tubs of wipes and plastic gloves lining the shelves underneath Kimberly, John might have guessed this to be more of a doctor’s examination table instead of a baby changing station.
Kimberly laid on the table with the strap over her chest, her breathing fast and shallow based on the rising and falling of her chest. Mrs. Z had her back to Kimberly and she was looking through a bookshelf. John couldn’t hear what was being said, but Mrs. Z’s lips were moving and Kimberly, for her part appeared to be listening.
Mrs. Z turned around from the bookshelf holding a very large and very babyish diaper. Wow. It seems they weren’t bluffing. Was Kimberly about to get a diaper change from a complete stranger after soiling herself? Was this even legal?
Mrs. Z. continued talking, as she placed the diaper by Kimberly’s feet. John could tell because Mrs. Z’s lips were moving. Then, she reached for Kimberly’s diaper and swiftly undid the tapes, and pulled the front of the diaper open.
John Ward stood in rapt and morbid fascination as he watched the older woman grab a baby wipe and caress the most sensitive and private parts of the young woman, then lifting her legs and repeating the process with a second wipe on the girl’s buttocks. She slid the diaper out from beneath Kimberly, before rolling it up and depositing it into a till then unseen diaper pale located on a side panel of the changing table.
Looking at his classmate, friend, and briefly more-than-just-a-friend being made so submissive, caused John to tensely curl his toes and dig them into the soft pastel green carpet of the nursery floor. Some deeper part of his brain, realized there was something wrong with that; that he shouldn’t be able to dig his toes into the carpet through the soles of his new loafers, but that part of his brain was being drowned out by the absurd and strangely erotic scene unfolding in front of him. He had seen her naked before, but he felt dirty watching Kimberly in this state. And even though he was at least a dozen feet away from the door, mentally his face was pressed up against the glass; taking in every bizarre detail in this increasingly curious morning.
All the while, Mrs. Z was still talking, still saying something to Kimberly, and Kimberly seemed to be listening, slipping a thumb into her mouth around the time the soiled diaper was being removed. It was as the old woman was unfolding the new diaper, its designs filled with some kind of yellow and black dots on the front landing strip, and sliding it under Kimberly’s gorgeous ass, that Mr. Ward felt a tug on his shirt.
Mr. Ward looked down to see Ruthann, her indignant face not at all matching her undignified state of dress. It was like she was a different person, or age rather, from the neck down.
“What the hell are you looking at?” Ruthann demanded sternly from all fours on the floor. “Can’t you see what they’re doing to her?! What they’re doing to all of us?! Are you some kind of perv?”
Mr. Ward snapped out of his stupor and looked down at the girl. A girl that he was admittedly having more and more trouble taking seriously with each passing second. It was hard to take anyone seriously when they were dressed and diapered.
“Ruthann?”, he asked, “What the heck is going on?”
Ruthann let out a gasp of surprise, and covered her mouth. “John?!” she exclaimed in surprise. “Oh my god, I didn’t recognize you without your…-”
“Without my what?” Mr. Ward asked. Ruthann’s hand went to her chin and wiggled it a bit.
“Did you shave?” she inquired.
“Yeah a little bit,” Mr. Ward answered, his own hand unconsciously mirrored Ruthann’s. “But I still kept a little…” His hand touched his chin. His hand touched his clean shaven, smooth-as-a-baby’s-rump chin. Instantly his finger brushed his upper lip to find it similarly smooth. He quickly rubbed his cheeks and felt not even an instant of friction or a smidge of stubble.
He snapped his head down and moved his gaze past Ruthann still looking up at him and gazed at his own feet. Gone were his loafers and black socks. Now his bare feet touched the floor of the daycare. He was pant less as well, his thighs exposed to the open air. They were hairless too. He could have been on the swim team, his legs were so smooth. But something was still different about his legs. They were a little farther apart than usual, and it didn’t take John long to figure out why.
John briefly registered the plain orange t-shirt that had suddenly replaced his button up shirt, and his eyes shot down to the only garment he was wearing besides the t-shirt. Between his legs, covering his ass, cupping around his cock and balls, and wrapped around his waist, being held together by a large Velcro tape on each side, was a diaper. The landing strip on his waist was filled with little yellow cartoon bees: Fat circular yellow heads, with beady eyes and oval shaped black and yellow striped bodies. Some were smiling, others had pacifiers sticking out of their mouths, but all of them were wearing what could only be plain white diapers with the stinger poking out the back.
As if not fully believing what had happened, he poked the diaper in the front and rubbed his backside. His hands were rewarded with the soft yet stiff texture while his ears registered a distinct crinkle. John Ward shot his hands to his front and hunkered down to make his surface area smaller and conceal the most of himself. He was in nothing but a t-shirt and diaper in front of four beautiful girls and two grown women! He was close to naked and he had only been that vulnerable with one of them, and that was in the dark so it didn’t count as much.
“How long?” Ward asked. “How long have I been like…this?” He used his head to sort of gesture to his infantile garment. He didn’t dare move his hands yet.
“Since you came in,” Ruthann told him, an equal amount of panic and frustration in her voice. "We were all like this from the second we came into the classroom. “It gets worse,” Ruthann added. “Shelly peed her pants, and when they brought her out of that room, she kept insisting that she was really a baby. I think they change more than diapers in there, John.”
“I’m not waiting to find out,” Mr. Ward said sprinting towards the door, his diaper crinkling with every stride. Embarrassing outfit be damned, he’d explain it later if need be as soon as he was out.
“Wait!” Ruthann called out behind him, "That won’t- " Mr. Ward grabbed the handle to the hallway, turned it, and flung the door open so that he could see the-
Bathroom. The door that was supposed to lead back out into the hallway; the only other door in the room besides the ones labeled “Nap Room” and “Changing Room”, led to a one person bathroom. The tiled walls and floor contained a sink and a mirror right behind the door, with a toilet slightly to the right of the sink. John Ward’s eyes flickered up above the door. The words stenciled above the doorway said “Potty”, with a drawing of a toilet to the left of the word and a drawing of a baby on all fours- naked except for a white diaper was circled and crossed out in the universal symbol for “not allowed”- on the right of the word.
The bathroom mirror showed everything that needed to be seen. His entire face was hairless now, his precious and manly facial hair gone without a trace of a shadow, like his facial hair and never even been. His formerly slicked back hair, was once again wild, curly, tangled and free. The lack of facial hair made him look less like the wild man of Borneo, though, and instead made him look like a kid again. The diaper and t-shirt that did nothing to conceal the diaper combined to make him look like he was 2 years old again, at most.
John, for he could no longer think of himself as Mr. Ward now, felt a hand on his shoulder and a second reflection joined his in the mirror.
“No babies in the potty,” Ms. Avery said. “You’ll just make more of a mess in there than you clean up. Unless…” her head bent down, and John felt her finger pulling back the waist of his diaper to inspect inside. “No poopies,” she confirmed. Then she reached around the front and squeezed the crotch of the diaper. He heard yet another crinkle and the soft lining of the diaper as her hand squeezed his member through the babyish undergarment. “Not wet, either…unless”
John just stood there, unbelieving, as his most precious personal boundaries were so casually violated. John found himself spun around, and heard the door to the bathroom click closed as he faced a very serious looking Ms. Avery.
“John,” Ms. Avery looked him in the eye. “Tell the truth. Do you have to go potty? Are you a big boy?” She spoke slow and steady as one does when serious matters are brought up in front of children and you want to convey just how important the situation is.
“No ma’am,” John answered, shaking his head slightly. He had really meant to answer no to “Do you have to go potty?”, but he had inadvertently answered no to “Are you a big boy?” as well. So he had just communicated “No I do not have to go potty, and no I am not a big boy.” He wouldn’t get a chance to clarify either.
“Okie dokie.” Ms. Avery smiled. "Well, since you can walk- " (John felt as if there was an unspoken “still” in that sentence) “-if you need to go potty, you can come and get me or Mrs. Z, and you can take us to the potty, and we’ll help you get your diaper off so you can go potty like a big boy. When you go pee-pee or poopie in your diaper, that’s okay too. Mrs. Z or I will change you and make it all better. Okay?”
John nodded, still not fully registering everything that was happening. Ms. Avery was about to turn around, when John heard himself call out, “Wait!”
Ms. Avery turned around. “Yes, dear?”
“Why am I in a diaper?”
Ms. Avery seemed to consider that for a minute, and adjusted her glasses slightly.
“Well, it’s probably because your Mommy and Daddy didn’t want you to be too warm, so they dressed you in just a t-shirt and diaper so you’d be comfortable.”
“My parents didn’t dress me like this! You did!” John accused.
“Baby boy,” Ms. Avery caressed his face. “You’ve been wearing those clothes since you came in here. I haven’t done a thing.” She took a step back. “Now, I’m sure I’m going to be changing your diaper by the end of the day and I’ll be happy to do it; and we have some extra onesies in the changing room in case you make a mess on your shirt; but I have done absolutely nothing to dress or undress you since we’ve met, honey.” Before John could rebut “Now go and play with your little friends, and stop arguing with me, or it’s Nap Time for you Mr. Cranky Butt.” Her tone was slightly playful, but brooked no argument, and John found he couldn’t force himself to argue.
As he stumbled back away from the bathroom door, Mrs. Z emerged from the Changing Room, carrying a giggling Kimberly back into the nursery like a groom carrying a bride across the threshold. She was cooing and nuzzling Kimberly, and Kimberly seemed to be drinking it all in, squirming in delight as the older woman toted her effortlessly across the room.
“Who’s a clean and happy girl?” Mrs. Z asked rhetorically.
“I am!” Kimberly giggled with genuine enthusiasm.
“Who’s a clean and happy girl?!”
“That’s wonderful to hear,” Ms. Avery proclaimed, now dragging a large pink baby walker over to Mrs. Z and Kimberly. “Baby girls feel so much better after a diaper change, don’t they?” Kimberly nodded, agreeably with an “Mmmhmm”, a thumb hastening to her lips.
“You’re orienting so well, now, Kimberly.” Ms. Avery tousled Kimberly’s flowing hair.
“Oh she certainly is.” Mrs. Z agreed. “Would Kimberly like to play in the walker for a little bit?” Kimberly responded by smiling a big toothy grin. Taking her smile for consent, they lowered her into the contraption and Kimberly immediately began to wriggle her feet, and bat at the rattles, spinning toys, and mounted do-dads. She was entranced and delighted by them.
Ruthann looked on in further disbelief and indignation, her jaw practically hitting the carpet. Shelly watched from her spot with the shapes, her expression one of envy. Nicole stayed hunkered against the shelves, clutching the stuffed whale, her face grimacing while her eyes stared off into the middle distance. John was simply flabbergasted.
“Ms. Avery, do you mind if I run off for a potty break?” Mrs. Z asked the other adult.
“Not at all, I’ve got things handled here for the moment.” Ms. Avery smiled at her co-worker.
“Thank ya ma’am.”
“But of course ma’am.”
John kept his eyes trained on Mrs. Zachowski as she walked toward the door marked “Potty” and opened it. A wrinkled hand grasped the door handle and pushed down. The door opened into the room, and John peered across the threshold.
No tiny bathroom, just a big open hallway. And Mrs. Z walked out. Ms. Avery walked back over and got on her knees so she could look Nicole in the eye.
“Nicole, how are you doing, dear? Is it time for a change, yet?” Nicole grunted and bit her lip, but remained mute. Ms. Avery slipped a single manicured fingernail past the yellow baby panties and into the cuff of Nicole’s diaper. She looked disappointed and withdrew her finger. "Well that’s probably for the best anyways. I’m not supposed to change you unless another grown-up is here to keep an eye on the other little ones. So you’d just have to sit in your wet and poopy diaper until Mrs. Z got back from the potty.
“Leave her alone!” Ruthann shouted, march-crawling up to the teacher. Ms. Avery stood back up to her full height and bent back down to look Ruthann in the eye, showing her dominance.
John was sure that this exchange wouldn’t end well for Ruthann, so he tuned out the proceedings and walked, well waddled really, over to Kimberly. She was still going to town in the baby walker, almost oblivious to her old friend approaching her.
“Kimberly? Kim?” John asked. Kimberly stopped and looked up at him from the walker. Sitting in the contraption she came up to maybe his chest, and John didn’t dare bend over, with each shifting of his weight and bending of his waste reminding him of what he was wearing.
“Hi John!” Kimberly greeted him with enthusiasm, not breaking her stride on making the rattles bolted to the tray shake.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Pwayin’” she replied with a childish lisp and a matter-of-fact tone.
“Cuz iss fun.”
“Why is it fun? It’s just rattles and shit.”
“Cuz I’mma baby.”
“No you’re not.”
“Uh-huh” Kimberly asserted, still refusing to give John her full attention.
“But you’re twenty-two!” he retorted.
“Doesn’t matta,” she countered. She started to alternate beating on the different toys with each new point in a sing song voice…
"I came to schooooool- " RAT-A-TAT-A-TAT
“- and I got ma name on the door of da cwass woom- " JING-A-LING
“- and I cwawled on da floooooor” WHIIIIIIIIR
" – and I wet ma diapeeeeeee-” BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
“- and now I’m pwayin’.” She started rocking back in forth by only a matter of inches, the very motion of the walker beginning to amuse the girl.
“You’ve been potty trained for like twenty years, I’m betting.” John told her, his frustration rising.
“Nope.” Kimberly said.
“Nope?” John asked.
“Nope. We’ve been just –tendin’ to be big kids all this time. An’ we got lucky when our Mommies and Daddies and Bubbies and Sissies and Teachews got us to the potty on time. It wasn’t us. It was them. They was payin close ‘tention and helped us. Same with eatin’. Same with –tendin’ to dwive.”
“What about school? College?”
“We was jus’ pwayin’ Cowwege. Now we in schoo’. Now we get to be Busy Bees!”
“Was I pretending to be a big boy too?”
“Yup. You too.”
“Did I just get lucky when I made it to the toilet over the last two odd decades?”
“Yup. Evwyone of us.”
John leaned in and whispered in her ear. “What about when I got lucky with you?”
Kimberly finally stopped batting at the toys and looked up at John.
“What about when we had sex?”
For a tense second or she just sat there, looking at him. Her lip trembled and her eyes turned glassy and John swore she was about to start bawling. Then her face regained some composure and she spoke up.
“Well…you wiked it cuz it felt like you was goin’ pee-pee inta me. And I got to get wet all ova’ you. It was wike we were both –tendin’ to be diapees.” Kimberly spoke like she was reciting a well learned lesson. “Besides, if we was doin’ it, it wuddn’t weal sex. We both babies, and babies don’t have sex. We was just pwayin’ sex.”
“Un-be-fuckin-leavable” John muttered. Before he felt a tug on his shirt.
He looked down and saw Ruthann again, still on all fours. For her, he bent down to make eye contact.
“Don’t waste your time,” Ruthann told him. Without either one motioning to the other they began to distance themselves physically from their friend. “I tried the sex argument with Shelly about five minutes before you came in the room. Didn’t work.”
“You and Shelly?”
“Nooooo!” Ruthann scowled. “Shelly and I were just roommates, idiot, and when she had boyfriends over…” she let the thought drift out.
“Thin walls?” John asked.
“Very thin walls.” Ruthann confirmed. “Back to our problem.”
“Where’s the teacher?”
“Over there.” Ruthann thumbed over to where Shelly had been. Ms. Avery was now sitting cross legged on the floor with Shelly in her lap. She was cooing at the diapered girl as she guided her hand over hand into putting the square pegs in the square holes and the round pegs in the round holes. Shelly seemed to be loving every minute of it.
“What’s going on?” John asked. “Shelly’s got a better GPA than all of us.”
“It’s this room. It’s today. It’s those women.” Ruthann said. "We come in, the receptionist put our name on the door with the cutesy little bee. We walk through the doo