Friday morning marked Randy's first full day at his new age. As he expected, he was in a crib. Only on TV, he thought, does it occur to someone that a bad experience was "just a dream". This was strange, but real.
Sleepily, he contemplated what a different morning this was. Yesterday, he'd hopped out of bed, nuked a breakfast sandwich, changed clothes without a shower, and gone outside-- ending up at Miss Hepston's home. If he could have that day back, he thought... and then it occurred to him that he'd gotten his entire life back. Today, he was stuck in this bed until someone lifted him out, and he'd probably get a bath, a change of clothes and breakfast whether he liked it or not. He was cold and damp. I hope, he thought, that I don't wet the bed when I grow back up.
"Good, you're awake!" said Mom, leaning over the crib.
"What time is it?"
"It's past 10, sleepyhead. I've got a bath run for you, so let's hurry up."
She lifted him out. "Hurry? For what?"
"I've got lots of errands to do-- it's back to work at the store tomorrow."
In a matter of moments, she had him in the tub and was washing his hair, then bundled him up in a towel. As she took the towel away, he realized she had fastened a diaper on him without him noticing. She brought out a one piece shorts outfit. "It's a sailor suit!" said Randy, horrified, as she fit a hat over him.
"It's warm enough to do without all this clothing," she said, slipping on his shoes.
Randy got the point, and wore the suit.
"Josh, you still don't have your shoes! I asked you half an hour ago to get ready!" she shouted, and his brother ran back upstairs.
"He's coming too?"
"I need to buy him school clothes. School's starting in a few weeks for all of you... I hope. Anyway, you'll have some company."
Josh came back and carried Randy out to the car, even helping to buckle him in.
Mom's shopping trips were never as simple as she promised, and Randy had avoided them for years. But now that he was little again, he had no choice. The first step was the Safeway, for "just a few things" of course. Mindy wasted no time in plunking Randy into the shopping cart and inevitably, they were at the baby aisle. As she inspected a bag of disposable diapers, Randy whispered, "Mom! you already bought a week's worth!"
"I'm just comparing prices, honey."
"Mommy, I'm not doing this next week."
"Oh, that's cute. You called me mommy!"
There was nothing perishable in the cart when she left, other than Randy, who wanted to go somewhere to die.
At the Prospect Ridge mall, he got another surprise. Mom had a folding stroller and buckled him into it, denying Josh's offer to do the steering. Everywhere I am, thought Randy, I'm locked up. Every chair-- highchair, stroller, grocery cart-- had him restrained. When he wasn't tied up, he was in a small space, whether a crib or playpen. Even when he was "free" he was under the constant watch of guards who could pick him up if he strayed from the perimeter. He dozed as Mom wheeled him through one store aisle after another-- and then he was jarred awake.
"Hi Mrs. Pratterman!! Hi Josh!! Oh, what a cute little baby!"
It was Belinda, Randy's girlfriend! "I can't believe Randy would go off to camp without telling me. We were supposed to go to the movies tonight!" she said, bending down to get a better look at the baby. Randy met her gaze with horror, hoping she wouldn't pick him up from the stroller.
"He'll call you when he gets back," said Mindy, moving forward. Randy's mom didn't like his girlfriends or Carol's boyfriends.
"He looks just like a baby Randy!"
"Yeah, Randy kind of looked like that when he was a baby. We're taking care of this one for a week while his mother's on a trip."
"If you need a sitter, call me!"
"I'm sure we won't, but thank you... listen, I'm really in a hurry, so if you don't mind..."
Randy craned his neck to look back as the stroller moved onward, and saw his girlfriend waving "bye bye". "As if I would let that...." Mom muttered, then halted as she realized she was thinking aloud.
At the food court, Mindy picked Randy from the stroller. "Hand me his diaper bag!" she told Josh. As she carried him away, Randy whispered, "Wait! Where are we going?" She was carrying him into the ladies' room, where no 16 year old boy would dare go. Then again, no 16 year old could fit on the changing station that she folded down.
When they got home, Mindy dropped Josh off and they drove to Miss Hepston's house. "Let's see if we can get her to change you back," she said.
"Mom, this isn't a good idea." What if she makes me even younger? he thought.
"Well look what we have here!" said the old crone. Looking at Randy, she cackled. "How ya like me now?"
"Miss Hepston, I think Randy has learned his lesson. He wants to apologize to you."
Randy did want to apologize, but she just laughed as he started to speak.
"It's out of my hands now. There's no counterspell to make him grow up faster. It lasts about seven days, give or take. That is, unless you decide you want this to go longer."
"Longer?" asked Mindy.
"Mom! No!!" Randy shouted, and both women laughed.
"I could give you a vial of something to keep the spell from wearing off. Put a drop in his bottle and you can keep him like this for another day or two. Of course, he would still grow like any other baby."
Noticing the panicked look on Randy's face, she said to him, "Another few months and you'll have learned to walk."
"Can't you make him grow to about three?"
"No dear. Trust me, when this wears off, he won't remember this any better than his first babyhood."
"Then what's the point? I mean, I thought your idea was to teach him a lesson or something."
"You mean I won't remember any of this?" said Randy, perking up.
"It could shatter you for life if you did. You'll fear me when you grow back up, and you won't know why. I'll know why, and that's all I care about. As for you, Mrs. Pratterman, maybe I'm teaching you a lesson."
Miss Hepston turned and went back in.
"I guess that's that. I tried, Randy." said Mindy. As she strapped him in the car seat, Miss Hepston came back with a small bottle of blue liquid.
"I'm not interested in that..." began Mindy, but the old lady dropped it through the driver's window. "Maybe later you will be!" she said.
"Hmmm... it must have rolled under the seat," said Mindy, as she climbed in the car. Then, tilting the rear view to see Randy, she added, "Stop worrying! I'll find it and get rid of it later."
Randy was glad to be away from there, but the thought of that liquid being in the car bothered him.
Knowing there would be no permanent damage, he decided to make the best of his situation. He was determined that he would walk again, but despite encouragement -- "Come to Mommy!" Mindy found herself saying-- his legs buckled when he let go.
"Don't let this get you down, honey. The first time around, you didn't walk until after your first birthday."
He had made a deal with her that he could signal if he knew he was about to go to the bathroom, but it didn't lessen the embarassment and spared him only one messy diaper change. Mindy had to take off his clothes, set him on the toilet and hold him there, wipe him and dress him again.
"Make sure you pee while you're here," she said, steadying him. "And don't expect me to drag you here except for something messy."
"But if I have to pee..." he began, but she interrupted him, irritated. "So pee. Then tell me. I bought a jumbo pack of Pampers and that's what they're for."
As Friday afternoon gave way to Friday evening, Randy couldn't help but think what he would rather be doing. I should be with Belinda at the movies right now, or cruising the streets with my friends. Instead, he was watching Cartoon Network through the mesh of a playpen, listening to Mommy tell more than one caller that "Randy's at camp". Mom was tired, and Randy's only choice had been whether to wear jammies or a diaper only.
He had opted for the latter, still choosing the lesser of two evils. Bedtime would be soon.
--- TO BE CONTINUED---