Re: Joseph Kross: The Adventures Of
the adventures of
a short story by austin
********************* CHAPTER 1 *********************
Joseph Kross stood shivering as the first flakes of snow began to fall. Around him moved a constant flow of travelers rushing to leave SeaTac airport, arriving in the frigid, wet cold of winter in the Northwest United States. Cars, mini-vans, all much nicer makes and models than Joseph was used to, pulled up to the curb; people waved the drivers down and dived into the warm confines of the vehicle, which then sped off. Joseph looked about, bewildered and cold. People looked worried, rushed. Emergency vehicles, it seemed like hundreds of them, were arriving; more and more by the minute. Lights flashing, sirens screaming.
Joseph Kross was a small, scrawny eleven-year-old. His skin was a light bronze, tanned from hours and hours in the sun back home in Calexico, California where most of his time was spent outside playing in the sage-brush hills that surrounded the house where he lived. He certainly hadn’t dressed for the weather in Washington. In jeans, a t-shirt, and a light red wind breaker jacket his uncle had insisted he take, the cold was quickly taking away his body heat.
The airport was huge. So much bigger than the one he had left just a few hours before. As he had exited the plane, an instant barrage of sound and color assaulted his senses. There was an announcement that everyone was to leave the airport immediately. He knew someone was supposed to meet him there; a kind airline employee who would escort him to his bags and help him to a taxi. This formality was forgotten amongst the chaos that was quickly consuming the airport. So Joseph, after waiting a moment and sensing the urgency in the air, set out by himself. It was clearly not safe to be where he was at. He had counted no less than three Starbucks as he made his way to the exit, following the directional signs with uncertainty as all the other passengers: families, single businessmen, an elderly tour group, sped past him without so much as a glance. Joseph had eventually found himself at the baggage claim: a vast expanse of ten large contraptions with moving belts and somersaulting luggage. Security guards, soon joined by police and firefighters, were directing people to forget their luggage. It would be delivered to them at a later time. Their lives were more important than their belongings. Joseph didn’t know what was going on, but followed the rest of the crowd out into the cold anyways.
The cold caught him off guard. Where he was from in Calexico, it had still been 75 degrees. Here, the dark gray clouds were so low they seemed to be suffocating the airport. The snow started slow, but didn’t take long to become a blinding flurry of swirling white. A brownish slush was forming on the ground and the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles coupled with the muffling effect of the snow created a surreal world that seemed to Joseph very much like a dream. And similar to a dream, he had no idea what was going on, what was going to happen, no control over himself or those around him. He pulled his light coat closer to his shivering body. He had warmer clothes in his checked bag, but retrieving that was clearly out of the question. He had to pee. Glancing back at the now roped off entrances to the airport he knew there was going to be no access to any bathrooms. Joseph considered himself to be a fairly competent, strong eleven-year-old. A tough life of independence had taught him that. But the events of the last weeks had left him uncertain and timid. Perhaps it was this new found timidity that prevented him from thinking clearly now. He felt as frozen as the snow that was falling around him. He knew he needed to do something, anything. It was clear he was going to have to find his own way to his grandmother’s house in Seattle.
Walking over to the nearest police officer, Joseph cleared his throat. “Um, sir?” His voice, however, was lost amidst the continued sirens and chaotic chatter. The officer didn’t look down. Joseph tapped the man on his arm and tried again, “Sir?” This time, the officer looked down at Joseph, who wasn’t particularly tall, and responded with a questioning grunt.
Joseph waited for a moment, but when it was clear that was the only sort of response he was going to get, he continued. “Uh, I’m here alone.” The officer immediately began to pay more attention. He pulled Joseph away from the bustle to a slightly quieter section of sidewalk.
“Where are your parents?”
Joseph almost started telling him the truth, but realized it would take too long and wouldn’t mean much to the officer. “Back in California,” was all Joseph allowed.
“What’s that? You’re going to have to speak up, son.”
Joseph took a deep breath and practically shouted, “California!”
“Who’s picking you up?”
Joseph shrugged. “I think a taxi was supposed to take me. I’m going to my grandmother’s.”
“Where is your grandmother’s?”
With a shrug, Joseph responded, “I don’t really know. I have an address.” He reached into his pocket and retrieved a crumpled scrap of paper. “Here,” Joseph handed the address, which had been hurriedly scribbled by his uncle just before he left Calexico, to the officer. The police officer glanced at it.
“Right, well, we can make sure you get there.”
Joseph felt a strong hand on his shoulder and let himself be guided over to one of the flashing police cars. “Just wait in the car, son,” the officer said as he opened the door and motioned Joseph inside. As Joseph sat down on the hard plastic that made up the police car’s back seat, he started to speak up, intending to let the officer know about his growing need to relieve himself, but the door was already shut and the officer was now talking on his radio, his back turned to Joseph.
Joseph shivered. The officer hadn’t left the heat on and the frigid outside was quickly infiltrating the confines of the car. The fact that the seats were made out of hard plastic didn’t help. Joseph found them extremely uncomfortable. He pulled his knees up to his chest, grabbed a hold of them and held them close, trying to preserve what little heat his small body still retained.
Fortunately, the officer didn’t take long to return to the car. He opened up the front door and climbed in, rubbing his gloved hands together. “Whew! Cold out there, huh?”
Joseph, if he had had any more energy, would’ve rolled his eyes. The officer was clad in a down winter coat, thick gloves and ear muffs. And, he was supposed to be used to this weather. Compared to Joseph, he had it easy. But Joseph just mumbled his agreement.
“OK, well, I’m supposed to take you to your grandma’s. It will be nice to leave this mess!”
“What’s going on?” Joseph asked.
“Oh, bomb threat. Nothing serious, though, don’t worry about it. I’m Officer Leemon, by the way. What’s your name?”
Joseph gave Officer Leemon his name then fell silent. He looked over at the mess of lights and emergency vehicles and wondered how this officer was so sure. Seemed a lot of people were really worried about it. Joseph felt the car pull away from the curb. “Uh, sir?”
“Do you think I could sit up front. These seats are really uncomfortable.”
“Can’t do it, sorry. You’re too short. Airbag could kill you.” Joseph let out a small groan and leaned back in the hard plastic bucket seat. “Yeah, sorry about the seats,” the Leemon continued, “Plastic so we can clean 'em easily. You don’t want to know the kind of stuff that get’s on that back seat.”
Joseph wished he hadn’t have said that. He didn’t want to have any idea what he was sitting on, much preferring ignorance in this instance.
As the hubbub of the bomb threat was left behind, the drive became rather peaceful. The highway was deserted as no cars were being allowed near the airport. The snow, falling harder than ever, was sticking to the ground and muffling the sounds of the patrol car. Joseph, who had spent all of his young life in Southern California, was mesmerized by the snow. He noticed his breath collecting fog on the glass window and he scribbled his name with his finger. He watched it slowly fade.
As if a switch was suddenly flipped, the pressure in his bladder, which Joseph had momentarily forgotten amidst the excitement of bomb threats and snow, came back full force. Joseph sat up strait in the seat and gripped his legs tightly, squeezing with all of his might. The pressure gradually receded, but not before Leemon noticed.
“You all right back there?”
“Yeah,” Joseph said quietly, temporarily relieved that the pressure had subsided, but knowing it would come back soon and stronger than before. “Kinda have to go to the bathroom.”
“Well, you should be able to hold it. It is only about twenty minutes to this address.”
Though no visible reaction crossed Joseph’s face, he felt a sinking feeling of dread. Twenty minutes was too long. He had always had a bit of trouble holding it in, not that his parents (or anyone else for that matter) noticed. Luckily, where he lived in California, he spent most of his time outside and never really had to hold his pee in when he had to go. He had noticed, though, that he tended to pee a lot more than his friends and the intense sense of urgency in his bladder was a common feeling he dealt with on a daily basis. Twenty minutes.
Not long after, they reached the main highway, I-5, which led into the city of Seattle. Traffic was a mess. “If there’s one thing you’ll learn here,” Leemon said from the front seat, “it’s that people in Seattle can’t drive in the snow. Little bit of white on the road and they all piss themselves in fright.” Joseph squirmed in the backseat. He wondered if the irony of the officer’s words were lost on him. “Get a little snow,” he continued, “and we get hundred’s of accidents and drivers slow down to, well, just look around you, you get the idea.”
Joseph didn’t bother to reply. The pressure had come back. He stared intently out the window at the cars around him. Leemon was right, they were barely moving. Joseph shifted around, clenching his muscles as hard as he could. He couldn’t imagine how the situation could get any worse. Here he was in a strange city, away from any sort of comfort and familiarity, and struggling not to wet his pants. The pressure reached a crescendo and Joseph’s hand shot down to crab his crotch. “Sir, I really have to go.”
Leemon looked nonchalantly into the rearview mirror. “Nothing I can do about it, son,” He said calmly. “Can’t let you get out and pee here. That would be urinating in public. I would have to give you a ticket and take you to juvi. No can do.”
The traffic seemed to be speeding up a bit. “How much longer,” Joseph said, on the verge of tears, frustration and embarrassment flooding his emotions.
“At this rate…twenty minutes.”
Joseph’s hands were back on his thighs and he was squeezing so tightly they had turned a ghostly white as all blood had been forced out. He felt the pressure build past his ability to hold. He looked down at his jeans as he felt his weak bladder release. A dark spot immediately appeared along with intense feelings of relief and shame. Joseph couldn’t stop the flow now no matter what and quickly the spot grew and grew. The back seat of the police car was designed in such a way that Joseph’s bottom sat low and his knees were slightly raised, hanging over the edge of the seat. Therefore the hot urine did not spread down his legs, but rather puddled up in the seat, completely soaking all parts of Joseph’s bottom, underwear, seat of pants, and, of course, the front. He watched the spectacle unfold and when he finally finished wetting his pants, the pressure of being alone and in wet pants in a policeman’s car set in full force. He felt so very alone. But he didn’t cry. Joseph stared stony faced out the foggy window. And as he literally sat in a contained puddle of his own urine, he could feel whatever dry clothing that was left on his body thirstily sucking up the wetness. He could feel it crawling up the back of his shirt and down his legs to his knees. Officer Leemon looked back and shook his head.
“And that’s why we have the plastic seats. Case in point…” Joseph didn’t like Officer Leemon anymore. Leemon continued to chatter away about traffic and snow, seeming to have completely missed the enormity of Joseph’s accident and his feelings. Joseph eventually just shut him out and instead watched cars and worried about what his grandmother, whom he had never met, would think of his wet pants. Lost in his musings, it didn’t take long before they found themselves in front of a 50’s style rancher in the middle of a development of homogenous homes. The houses were small, but well kept. The house they had pulled up to was dark and the shades were drawn.
“…looks like suburbia,” Officer Leemon was saying, “but it isn’t. Used to be a golf course, but was developed in the 50’s. One of the only neighborhoods of its kind in Seattle.” Joseph wondered if he had been talking like this the entire ride. “Well, she sure don’t look home, but we should go check.”
Officer Leemon got out and walked carefully around the car and opened up the door for Joseph. “Careful, it is slippery out here.” The snow had continued to fall and there was nothing but white everywhere. Joseph didn’t want to get out of the car, he could already feel the cold air on his soaked pants, but he knew he had no choice. He climbed out of the car and felt his clothes hang heavily on his body.
“Whoa, you are wet!” Leemon exclaimed as Joseph stood up on the snowy sidewalk. Joseph felt blood rush to his face as he blushed in embarrassment. After staring at Joseph for a moment, Officer Leemon started to walk up the driveway, saying, “Well, come on then.” However, after several knocks on the door and rings of the doorbell, it was clear that his grandmother was not home. Either that, or she was too old and decrepit to hear the doorbell.
“Guess we’ll take you back to the station for now. Will you sit in the same seat on the way so I don’t have to clean both seats?” Walking back to the police cruiser, Joseph wondered what he had done wrong to get himself in this undesirable position. Having no idea what was going to happen to him, he climbed back in the car and settled back down in his soaked clothes.
After several calls on the radio, Officer Leemon was told to take Joseph to the Temporary Youth Housing Facility. “Nice place,” Leemon said, “kind like summer camp.” He paused for a moment. “Except that it is winter.” Leemon laughed to himself.
“Am I going to be able to change into some new clothes?” Joseph asked timidly.
“Oh, I’m sure. I’ll bet they have some clothes lying around that place somewhere.”
“Do a lot of kids stay there?” Suddenly, Joseph had a thousand questions about how and what his life was going to be like in the near future. The thought of staying in any sort of “facility” scared him. And the thought of walking into any such facility with wet pants was almost unbearable. His grandma would have been bad enough, but at least she was family.
“Oh, it depends. More now that it is cold and snowing. The street kids come in out of the alleys when it gets too chilly.”
The Temporary Youth Housing Facility was a low, sprawling, one story building nestled between two hills just south of downtown. The neighborhood looked industrial and dirty. The tops of the towering downtown skyscrapers could be seen poking out over the top of the hill. The skyscrapers where shrouded in a deep gray of low clouds and snow flurries. The snow seemed to be trying to cover up the industrial dirt that surrounded Joseph as he stepped out of the cruiser for a second time. He hoped that at least he’d be able to say goodbye to Officer Leemon for good.
Joseph followed Leemon in through the front doors after the Officer had swiped an identification card and the doors made an audible click. A blast of warm air hit Joseph as they stepped into the entry way.
“Oh, that is nice!” Officer Leemon commented. Joseph nodded in agreement, rubbing his hand together quickly, trying to warm them up. He looked around at his surroundings. A blue-gray nondescript carpet ran the length of the hallway. The walls were covered in art clearly done by children. Paintings of houses and families, of dogs, of cars. The hallway was well lit by fluorescent lights and Joseph got the feeling that he was in a school, though it would have been much nicer than any school he had ever attended in Calexico.
Joseph followed Officer Leemon a short way down the hall to a lobby area where there was a foosball table, pool table, TV, and a black, worn leather couch. It was empty. Leemon coughed loudly and looked around. A female voice yelled from somewhere down the hall that she’d be there in a moment. “Look’s kind of dead tonight,” Leemon commented. Joseph was relieved there didn’t seem to be many other people around. He’d rather it stay that way, at least until he had a chance to change clothes.
Proceeded by some muffled footsteps, a young woman rounded the corner slightly out of breath. Joseph’s breath caught in his throat. She was not very old, maybe just in college, and absolutely gorgeous. Wearing a baggy and homely faded pink sweatshirt, tight jeans, and tennis shoes, shoulder-length light-brown hair pulled back in a pony-tail, she didn’t look the least bit intimidating, strong, or obtrusive. Quite the opposite of Officer Leemon. “Sorry, they sent most of the staff over to help at the emergency shelter,” she said, coming to a stop in front of Leemon and Joseph. She smiled down at Joseph who felt blood rush to his face. He was so embarrassed about the condition of his clothes he wanted to melt, like the snow they had tracked in, right into the carpet.
“Oh, they opened up Roosevelt?” Leemon asked.
“Yeah,” the girl responded. “Below freezing, ya know. So all the streeties need somewhere to go. Don’t got enough room here. Left Steve and I to hold down the fort.” She winked at Joseph who quickly stared back at the carpet.
“Well, here’s something to keep you busy,” Officer Leemon said, putting an arm on Joseph’s shoulder. “I’d better get back to work. With all that craziness at the airport, not a lot of us out right now.”
Leemon walked over behind the desk and grabbed a styrofoam cup and poured steaming coffee from a carafe. He wished Joseph good luck and the girl a good night then went back out into the snow. Joseph found himself wishing Leemon wasn’t leaving. As much as he didn’t like him, at least he kind of knew the officer now. But with Leemon gone, Joseph was left standing in front of this strange, beautiful girl.
“Cold out there?” she asked.
“I’m sure it is even colder with those wet clothes.”
Joseph nodded again.
“Well, tell you what,” the girl said, putting a soft hand on Joseph’s shoulder and directing him down the hall, “why don’t we get you into something dry and you can join Steve and I for some warm chicken-noodle soup. How does that sound?”
Joseph allowed himself to be led down another hallway. As he walked, he could feel his wet pants sticking and chafing his legs. The idea of getting into something dry and warm did sound nice. They entered a softly lit room. There were a couple of chairs in the room and a wall of cupboards. Joseph could see another door leading into a bathroom. She shut the door quietly behind her. “This is our receiving room. You can take a shower, change your clothes, and try to get comfortable. Take as long as you want.”
Joseph mumbled a soft “OK.”
The girl turned to leave the room, grabbing for the doorknob, then stopped and turned around. “You’re Joseph, right?”
“Well, I’m Meg. I’m an intern here.” She held out her hand. Joseph timidly shook it. “It’s good to meet you Joseph,” Meg said with a smile. “Now, listen, it is nothing to be ashamed of. Do you have this problem regularly?” She asked, clearly nodding at Joseph’s wet clothes.
Joseph froze. He tried to shake his head, to say no, but nothing happened. He just stared back at Meg. He felt like he was about to cry. No, no, he was saying in his mind. But nothing came out, just a knot of frustration and emotion in his throat. He had always had a little trouble holding his bladder for very long and it was often that he had wet underpants and small wet spots on his shorts, but he hadn’t fully peed in his pants for several years. He could vaguely remember when he was seven having an accident. He did used to have a bed wetting problem, but that had passed a long, long time ago. So, no, this didn’t happen regularly. Finally he coughed out a “no.”
Meg knelt down in front of him. “It is ok if you do. A lot of kids that come through here sometimes have accidents.” She paused and looked at Joseph carefully. “Look, it is kind of a quiet night here. You’ve got nothing to worry about. You’ve had a rough day, haven’t you?”
Joseph nodded. “More like a rough year,” he said quietly, but he stopped himself from thinking back through what had happened in California. Meg reached out and pulled Joseph into a hug. She rubbed his back gently.
“Ok, why don’t you jump in the shower and clean up, then I’ll help you when you get out, ok?”
Joseph looked at her quizzically, “I don’t really need help.”
“Oh, I know you don’t sweetheart.” Meg stood up and opened up one of the cupboards and pulled out a towel. She led him into the bathroom and turned on the shower. With a smile, she left the bathroom, shutting the door behind her.
Joseph took a long shower. The water felt nice, but he worried the entire time what it was Meg was going to do when he got out. Apparently he took too long, because after a while, he heard the door open and Meg called in that it was time to get out. He turned off the water and reached out around the curtain, grabbing his towel quickly and drying himself. Once all the moisture was off his body, he wrapped the towel around his waist and stepped out. Glancing around the bathroom, he didn’t see any clothes anywhere, so he peaked into the receiving room and saw Meg rummaging through a tattered cardboard box. Hearing Joseph, she turned around and smiled.
“The shower feel good?”
“Yeah,” Joseph replied, only his head leaning into the room, keeping his body behind the door.
“Well, come in here, silly,” Meg said, turning back to the box. “Take a look in here and see what you want to wear.”
Joseph timidly stepped into the room, making sure that the towel covered his privates. He tightened the towel’s hold on his waist just to be sure, then knelt beside Meg and peered into the box. It was full of assorted second-hand clothes.
“They’re all clean,” Meg qualified, sensing Joseph’s apprehension. “We’re going to want something nice and cozy for tonight. How about these?” She held up a pair of black sweatpants. Joseph shrugged. “Looks fine to me,” he said. Meg handed them to Joseph along with a long-sleeved fleece shirt she had already pulled out. The shirt was Toy Story themed and had Buzz Lightyear on the front, giving a cheesy thumbs-up. It looked quite childish to Joseph, but it also looked warm and he decided he didn’t really care.
“What about underwear?” Joseph asked.
Meg stood up and brushed off her jeans as if they were dirty from the clothes. “Well,” she started, looking at Joseph who suddenly felt vulnerable standing in just a towel in front of Meg. He pulled the clothes he was holding up to his bare chest. Nice as Meg was, Joseph was still a little uncomfortable. He was not very confident about his body, aware that he was skinnier than he should be. Meg smiled kindly. “It’s up to you,” she continued, “We’ve got two other kids here tonight, brother and sister, and the boy, well…” Meg paused, running her hand through the bangs of light-brown hair that rested wispily on her forehead. “Let’s just say he had some wet pants too, if you know what I mean.”
Joseph did, and he felt a gnawing nervousness in his tummy. “Yeah?” Joseph asked quietly.
“Well, he’s wearing these,” Meg opened a drawer and pulled out what looked like very thick cloth underpants. They were bulky all the way around, though, not just in front, like other underpants. And much, much thicker. “And these,” she reached in and pulled out more underwear made out of vinyl. These were thin, off-white, and had elastic that pulled the leg holes and waist in bunches.
The feeling in Joseph’s tummy grew. He knew what those were, but he couldn’t bring himself to acknowledge Meg, who was now kneeling down in front of Joseph. “He’s about your age. Honestly, Joseph, a lot of kids who stay here wear these. They are very hard to see under the sweatpants, and will just help you avoid embarrassing yourself if you do have another accident.”
“The only reason I peed by pants was because Officer Leemon wouldn’t pull over when I needed to go,” Joseph burst out suddenly, talking much louder than he intended, almost yelling. Meg leaned back from Joseph in surprise. "If he just would’ve pulled over I wouldn’t have—"Joseph stopped talking suddenly, sensing that he was about to cry and he tried with all his might to subdue the lump that had formed in his throat and the tears that were bursting to escape from his eyes. A feeling of profound helplessness washed over him and he suddenly felt very tired. Joseph found himself wondering how so much could go wrong. His parents gone (not that he really cared about them), his home gone, a strange city, wet pants, and it was so unbelievably cold here…why so cold…
Meg sensed the change that had come over Joseph and pulled him into a strong hug. His small body was shaking. She rubbed his bare back steadily and waited for him to calm down. Joseph let himself get lost in the most loving contact he could remember having in a long, long time. He laid his head on Meg’s shoulder and tried to breathe deeply. He felt the towel loosening around his waist, as towels have a habit of doing if not watched carefully, and it started to slip off. Meg saw this and reached down to stop its slide, which she did, but not before the front came unfastened and he found himself standing fully exposed. Meg smiled easily. “Oh, Joseph, it’s just not your day, huh?” She pulled the towel around Joseph again and after wrapping it tightly around his waist, she stuffed a corner of the towel under the top fold. Joseph found himself giggle slightly as her hand pushed against his tummy to tuck the towel into place. “Ticklish?” Meg asked with a laugh. She pulled Joseph into another hug. “You feel better?”
Joseph shook his head. “No,” he said quickly. Then paused and added, “Well, maybe a little bit.” And he did. The hug and Meg’s soft, caring touch had made him feel much better. Meg released him and leaned back on her heels.
“I think you should put these on,” She picked up the thick underpants and vinyl cover. “The other kids–I think you’ll like them–won’t care. Remember, the boy’s got some on too. And this way, you won’t have to worry about anything. You can just relax tonight. You need a break, Joseph,” Meg said comfortingly. “Even if you don’t normally wet, these will help you relax. Trust me,” she added with a wink.
Joseph didn’t know what to do. The thought of wearing what was clearly diapers did not make him feel in the slightest bit comforted. But at the same time, he liked Meg and he found himself trusting her. And if this was going to make her like him, keep her treating him nice, then he wanted to wear them. In fact, he wanted Meg to hug him again too. “Ok,” he whispered after looking down at his toes for a while.
Meg smiled again and handed them to Joseph. He looked at the diaper, fingering the thick cloth. “What do I do?” He asked softly, “Just put them on like, uh, regular underpants?”
Meg laughed. “Yep. Do they look confusing?” Joseph felt himself blushing. “Do you want me to help you?” Meg asked.
Joseph shrugged and looked down at his toes. He didn’t know what he wanted, exactly, but he did feel like he wanted Meg to take care of him. He felt like she could make this horrible day, week, year, life, all better. Meg reached out and ruffled Joseph’s hair, which was nearly blond from the California sun, about an inch long and wavy. He liked to keep his hair buzzed short and trimmed it himself, but hadn’t been able to cut it in the confusion of the last month.
“Ok,” Meg said, then pulled the towel off of Joseph. Joseph didn’t know where to look, so he stared steadily at Meg’s faded pink sweatshirt she was wear baggily over a white t-shirt. He tried to ignore the fact that he was standing naked as the day he was born in front of a young woman he had just met less than an hour before. Meg opened up the thick underpants and held them out for Joseph to step into. He did, one timid foot at a time, and couldn’t help but look down and watch as Meg pulled up the diaper, over his boyhood, and snugly up to his waist. Joseph felt the thick cloth around his middle and any notion that these were just underpants quickly vanished. It was a cloth diaper, no other way to look at it. Meg then held out the vinyl pair. “Now for the plastic pants.” So that’s what they are called, Joseph thought to himself. “Without these, the, uh, underpants wouldn’t do much good,” Meg added as Joseph again stepped through the leg holes. As he moved his legs he could feel the peculiar pressure of the cloth around his middle. Meg pulled the plastic pants up. They went even further than the diaper, nearly up to his belly button. The elastic held tightly around his legs and waist. It felt funny and Joseph felt blood rushing to his face. Meg leaned back on her heels and admired Joseph with a smile and a wink. “Those suite you nicely, I think,” she said softly. Joseph couldn’t figure out how he had gotten himself into this position, but forced himself not to care. She was smiling at him and she thought he looked nice. “Cute,” Meg added. Cute. She thought he looked cute.
Meg helped Joseph with the sweatpants and pulled the Buzz Lightyear shirt over his head and when he was finally fully dressed (she had found some warm socks for him to put on), she suggested they go join the others for soup. Joseph padded quietly after the squeak Meg’s shoes made on the shiny linoleum which had replaced the carpet as they neared the kitchen. He listened to the barely perceptible swish the plastic pants made as he walked and couldn’t help thinking about the feeling of the thick cloth holding snugly between his legs. Joseph blinked a couple of times, trying to break out of what was clearly a very bizarre dream. But no matter how many times he blinked, the girl walking purposefully in front of him did not disappear, nor did the art decorated walls, nor the door that Meg was now holding open.
“After you, Joseph.”
Joseph, already so far out of his comfort zone that it no longer seemed to matter, didn’t feel barely any embarrassment as he walked into a brightly lit large room filled with tables that reminded him of the cafeteria at his school back in Calexico. Sitting at a table in the center of the room were a girl, another boy, and a young man. They were all leaning over steaming bowls of soup. The man was laughing at something, and the children were smiling shyly into their soup. For a split second Joseph thought they were laughing at him and he looked down at his diapered middle to see if it was obvious what was hiding under the sweatpants. But he could see no indication of his extra padding and looked back up. The man looked ever at Joseph, as if he just noticed him standing there. He smiled kindly and patted a spot on the bench next to him.
Joseph felt Meg’s soft touch on his back direct him toward the table. “Sit down, Joseph, and I’ll get you some food.”
Joseph walked to the seat and sat down. The sound of the plastic pants, which had sounded quiet just a moment before, seemed to echo in the large room. He sat down and stole a quick look at the other two children. They were looking at him quietly and quizzically. They didn’t look mean. The girl wore a baggy gray sweatshirt and plaid patterned pajama pants. She was thin and tired looking, maybe ten or eleven years old. Dark brown hair, almost black, fell in stringy curls over her shoulders. Soft features composed her friendly face. Catching Joseph’s eye, she smiled. Joseph immediately switched his attention to the boy who was sitting next to the girl. They were obviously siblings. The boy was younger (Meg had definitely lied when she said he was about the same age), but not by much. Perhaps a year younger than his sister. Like his sister, he had nearly black hair, except his was strait and thick. Also like his sister, the boy looked exhausted. Dark clouds seemed to hang under each of his eyes. Clothes that seemed a bit too big hung on the boy’s skinny frame and Joseph guessed that they had came from the same box that he had been digging through with Meg just moments before.
“So you must be Joseph,” the young man said, breaking Joseph away from his analysis of his lone companions in the Temporary Youth Housing Facility. Joseph nodded. “I’m Steve,” the man continued, then motioned toward the brother and sister who were sitting across the table. “And that’s Caleb and Emaline.”
Both of the other children looked up at Joseph and smiled. “Hi,” they said at almost the exact same time and with the same reserved, quiet voice. The girl added quickly, “You can just call me Emma.”
“Hi,” Joseph said back, his own voice soft and subdued with his nervousness.
Meg returned with a steaming bowl of soup and a plate full of buttered bread. Joseph realized just how hungry he was and wasted no time in slurping down the soup (almost too fast; when he was done he could tell he had burned his mouth) and several pieces of bread. Throughout the course of the soup eating, Meg and Steve tried to coax laughter, or at best, smiles, out of the displaced and nervous children. Steve was funny and animated and Joseph found himself letting small giggles escape as Steve told amusing stories of other children who had been through the Center. Steve wasn’t necessarily big, but his athletic, strong build exuded confidence and he provided a sense of security as the heavy weight of not-knowing tried to pull Joseph down. As the soup dissipated and replaced by steaming mugs of hot chocolate that were gripped tightly by the three children, the laughing became easier and Joseph did find himself relaxing. Even to the point where the diaper he was wearing wasn’t nearly as distracting as when Meg had first helped him into it. The contrast between the raging snow storm outside (from the windows in the cafeteria, Joseph could see the snow still billowing about in the blustery winds of the winter storm) and the warm, reassuring environment inside the center was stark and seemed to create a sort of synergy. The colder it looked outside (the fading sun was turning the gray day into a darker gray dusk; street lamps had turned on and were spreading a steady orange glow), the warmer it seemed in the cafe. Joseph felt childish in his Buzz Lightyear pajama top and the diaper made him feel downright babyish, but for some reason he could not comprehend, the regressive feelings were comforting. Especially with all the stress that Joseph had been through in the recent (and not-so-recent) past, the concept that he could just let go for a while was an option he felt himself embracing with his whole being. He had to admit, Meg had been onto something when she had said the diapers would make him feel better. Joseph wasn’t sure how or why, but at that moment, he did not care.
After more than an hour where neither Joseph, nor Caleb, nor Emma said more than a handful of words, Steve and Meg began to ask them questions, trying to give them the option to open up if they wanted (though Joseph got the feeling Meg and Steve already knew quite a bit about Emma and Caleb). The girl squirmed at the attention when Meg asked her what her favorite hobby was, but the boy piped right up. Joseph could tell, despite the subdued behavior of the last hour due to circumstances that Joseph was sure was as bad if not worse than his, that Caleb’s natural state was bubbling full of energy. Even though the question had been directed at his sister, after giving her a moment to speak, he jumped in and proceeded to expound upon the fine intricacies and nuances of Seattle’s soccer club, Sounders FC. Joseph had never heard of the team before and his knowledge of soccer did not extend past the haphazard rules of dusty schoolyard ventures back in Calexico. Steve, too, seemed to know quite a bit about the team and he talked animatedly about the season, which had ended the month before, with the boy as Meg watched on, an approving smile on her face, and the boy’s sister, clearly embarrassed by her little brother’s exuberance, slouched in her seat and seemed intent on analyzing the layer of chocolaty foam at the top of her mug with concentrated intensity. Joseph tried his best to follow what the boy and Steve were saying, but soon gave up and instead just enjoyed the secure feeling he was experiencing and surveyed the room.
Distracted from his optical wandering a short while later by a sudden silence in the room, Joseph looked frighteningly around the table, wondering what was amiss. Everyone was looking at him.
“What’s wrong?” He whispered.
Steve burst out laughing and Meg patted him lightly on his shoulder. “Day dreaming?” she asked with a smile.
Joseph shrugged, still confused.
“I just asked you what you liked to do.” Steve said.
Put on the spot, Joseph felt himself clam up. Not sure what to say, he shrugged again and looked down at his mug, which was still emitting a feeble wisp of steam. He took a sip of the sugary drink. He felt some foam stay on his lips and he licked them absently as he tried to think about an answer. “Dunno,” he said finally, “explore, I guess.” Joseph knew that sounded lame so he hurried to justify lest his new friends (did he really already think of them as friends?) think less of him. “Ya know, like around outside. I live out, away from any cities, so, ya know, there are lots of things to do,” Joseph stumbled along.
Steve nodded appreciatively. "Yeah man. I love just exploring. Not much of that to do here in Seattle, at least no exploring that you’d really want to do, but we got some great wilderness around here too."Joseph was relieved that Steve seemed to understand him. Truth be told, he didn’t really know what he liked to do. He liked to read, but that sounded dumb. He liked movies. He liked being outside. Really, Joseph realized, he liked anything that would allow him to escape the discomfort at home. But he didn’t want to think about that right now, not when he was feeling so good. “Yeah,” Joseph added, “there’s lots of stuff to see around my house.”
“Where is your house?” Meg asked.
“Calexico.” He saw blank looks all around the table. “It’s in California,” he clarified, “right near Mexico.” Not feeling like he wanted to talk anymore about the home he had left just that morning, he stopped talking.
Meg seemed to sense that they were done talking. “What do you say we put on a movie?”
Joseph stood up and was made immediately aware of his extra thick “underpants” and the vinyl that was covering them. He started to feel embarrassed at the audible sound of the plastic pants, then remembered that Caleb, according to Meg, was wearing similar attire under his clothes. Joseph, despite having a nagging feeling that he should politely turn away, curiously eyed Caleb as he started to stand up. Caleb noticed the attention and eyed Joseph with a slight smile. Caleb was wearing jeans and Joseph immediately felt sorry for him. Joseph was definitely better prepared to hide the diapers with the sweatpants. As Caleb rose from the table, the clear outline of the diaper was visible. Joseph got as good of a look as he could get before the baggy, well-worn shirt that Caleb was wearing fell down and effectively covered up the bulge. Meg and Steve seemed blissfully oblivious to the entire exchange and were already walking toward the door. Emma shot a quick half-smile at Joseph then caught up with Meg and Steve. That left Joseph and Caleb to walk together.
Joseph was an inch or so taller than Caleb, but they were both on the smaller end of the spectrum for their age. Joseph stole another look at Caleb’s middle and found himself fascinated by the prospect of what was hiding under the large shirt.
“Shoot, what are you looking at?” Caleb asked, looking up at Joseph with friendly, innocent look on his face.
Joseph quickly looked away, embarrassed at being caught. “Nothing.”
“You wearing diapers too?”
Joseph coughed loudly, surprised at the bluntness. He glanced at Caleb and saw the younger boy wasn’t trying to be mean. “Maybe,” Joseph mumbled, and coughed again. They were walking down the hallway, and despite the carpet, which muffled the sounds of their steps, Joseph thought the distinct rustle of the plastic pants he was wearing spoke for themselves. He heard a similar swishing coming from Caleb. They rounded a corner and were back in the main lobby where a large flat screen TV and couch invited their habitation.
“Want to get into something more comfortable?” Meg asked Caleb offhandedly as Joseph and Caleb entered the room. Caleb voiced his approval of the idea and followed Meg into the receiving room. A short while later, they reappeared. Caleb was still in the same baggy shirt, but he had striped pajama bottoms on. They were rather noticeable, brightly colored in blue, white, and red horizontal stripes. Caleb did look much more comfortable and he flopped down on the couch and immediately curled up with a pillow. The shirt rose up as he bent his knees in and Joseph, who took a seat on the opposite end of the couch, could see even more clearly than with the jeans the outline of the diaper Caleb was wearing. But instead of being embarrassed, Caleb seemed entirely at ease. Perhaps the happiest he had been all evening.
Steve put in a movie and they all crowded on the couch like a big family. As the movie played, Joseph realized that he was happy. Even in this bizarre situation, in a “facility” meant for displaced or homeless youth no less.
Midway through the movie, Joseph, who had had to go to the bathroom for quite some time, decided that he could enjoy the movie more if he wasn’t bothered by the pressure in his bladder. He whispered to Meg, who was lounging next to him, his need. She told him, if he wanted to use the bathroom, he should just go to the receiving room. As quietly as he could, he removed himself from the room and to the restroom.
Once the door was shut, he stood in front of the mirror and pulled down the sweatpants to get a better look at the diaper he was wearing. He felt he looked so silly and the whole idea that he was wearing one was so absurd. But he could sort of understand the content look on Caleb’s face as he curled up on the couch, securely wrapped in this protective cloth. The supreme definition of relaxation, to be as forgetful and oblivious as a baby, or even just a child young enough to have to wear diapers. Joseph felt that he could be that child, at least for a while. He even considered, for a brief moment, peeing in the diapers, but that seemed gross, and he wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do after that, keep them on? So he pulled them down and relieved himself in the normal way in the toilet. When he had finished, he pulled the diaper back on, again surprised, and again pleasantly, by the feeling of the warm, soft cloth around his middle. After the plastic pants and sweatpants were pulled back up, he went back out to the movie and took his place next to Meg. She smiled at him and nodded questioningly down at his diapered area. Joseph understood that she was wondering if he had used them and he shook his head. She winked and turned back to the movie.
When the movie was done and the weight of the long day was making the battle between gravity and Joseph’s eyelids a losing one, Steve suggested that they cash in for the evening and try to get some sleep. The idea had never sounded better to Joseph. Emma and Caleb stood up and walked purposefully down a hallway. Joseph was getting the idea that this wasn’t the first time they had been here and they knew their way around. Meg put a hand on Joseph’s shoulder.
“Let me get you a toothbrush so you can wash up, OK? Come with me.”
Joseph followed her the same way Caleb and Emma had gone and they ended up in a large washroom with several sinks. Both Caleb and Emma were washing up for bed. Meg provided Joseph with a wash cloth, a cup, and a toothbrush and he got down to business next to Caleb. As Meg was walking out of the room, she turned, almost as an afterthought, and asked if Caleb needed a change before bed. He looked at her reflection in the mirror and nodded. Joseph was embarrassed for him, but when he saw that Caleb was comfortable with the exchange, Joseph became curious. All the sudden, he wished he needed a change from Meg too. As Caleb followed Meg out of the bathroom, Joseph felt a slight twinge of jealousy.
Steve came in a moment later and offered to show Joseph to his bed. They walked to another room which was filled with bunk beds. Or, at least, there were several beds on sturdy stilts and underneath each, a mattress on the ground. A wrinkled and clearly slept-in green sleeping bag was on the bottom mattress on the bunk bed closest to the door. “I set you up here,” Steve said, indicating the top bunk above what must have been Caleb’s bed. There was another green sleeping bag spread out over a mattress and a pillow.
“Thanks,” Joseph said quietly. “Hey,” he said as he started to climb the ladder, “Should I, um, keep these on?” Joseph asked, nodding down toward his sweatpants.
Steve seemed to figure out that Joseph was referring to the diaper, not the sweatpants. “Up to you, man. You can take them off whenever you want. Just leave 'em in the bathroom. Or,” he added with a smile, “you can wear 'em all night. Up to you. Sleep well, ok? It’s good to have you here.” Steve turned out one of the light switches as he left with a wave and the room was darkened significantly, lit only by a lamp on a side table in the middle of the room. Joseph shrugged his shoulders, telling himself why not wear 'em, and climbed up the ladder and slid into the sleeping bag.
Joseph rolled around, waiting for Caleb to come in. The sleep that had been sneaking so quickly up on him during the movie seemed to have been lost somewhere and Joseph found himself distracted by the sound of the sleeping bag rustling on the vinyl covered mattress he was laying on. The mattresses were clearly made for easy cleaning and Joseph wondered just how many boys that had slept on this bed had wet it, or been wearing diapers. He’d have to ask Meg about that. He got the feeling it was quite a few.
A while later, Caleb walked in, Meg following close behind. At the sound of their entrance, Joseph sat up in bed and watched Caleb walk to his bed and crawl in to the sleeping bag. It was obvious that he was even more thickly diapered than before. The tired, tightly drawn face that revealed the hard life the boy lived was softened by a look of contentment that attested to the fact that a diaper and a caring person can bring reprieve from even the most ghastly of situations, at least for a short while.
Meg said goodnight to them both and shut off the table lamp. After closing the door behind her, the room was pitch black for a moment, then Joseph’s eyes began to adjust. The window blinds had been left open and the orange glow of a street lamp at first feebly attacked the dark in the room, then grew stronger as Joseph’s pupils expanded, his eyes wide open, still sitting up in bed and looking about the room. The shadows of the bunk beds, beginning as hazy apparitions, gained distinction, looming up around the room and sending ominous shadows onto the walls. Snow was still steadily falling outside and a bush near the window had long ago lost the battle to retain any sort of individuality in the now homogeneously white world, its leaves sagging helplessly under the growing weight of the relentless powder. The notion dawned on Joseph that he might be stuck here for quite some time, even if his grandmother had returned home. It seemed ludicrous to expect any wheeled vehicle to have success driving through the slippery snow, especially considering the hills that appeared to cover every inch of the city.
“Hey,” came a small voice. It was quietly said, but in the silent room, the word violently split the calm and made Joseph jump. He recovered quickly and told himself it was silly, as an eleven-year-old boy, to be afraid of the dark and the towering vagueness of the shadows in the room.
“Hey,” he responded, just as quietly, and just as loudly.
“So why you here, anyways?” Caleb asked, still whispering.
Joseph was silent for a moment, trying to figure out exactly why he was there. “Had some trouble back home, with my parents, and had to leave, I guess. My uncle couldn’t take me in, he’s poor as dirt, and my grandma is my only other living family member. So here I am, I guess.”
“Why aren’t you at your grandmas?”
“She wasn’t home.”
“So you ain’t homeless?”
“Naw, guess not. Well, guess I am right now, though, but I think they’re going to try and take me to her house tomorrow.”
Joseph stopped talking, expecting another question from Caleb, but none came. “You?” Joseph asked. “Why you here?”
“Man, it’s a long story,” sounding tired and tough at the same time, like time had made him stronger, but sapped any energy to use the strength.
“You seem to know this place pretty well,” Joseph said. “Have you been here before?”
Caleb laughed cynically. “Yes,” was all he said.
Joseph got the feeling Caleb wanted to talk, but he wasn’t sure how to coax the younger boy into sharing more.
After a period of silence where Joseph wasn’t sure if Caleb had gone to sleep or not, Caleb spoke up again. “Shoot, been here a lot, actually, the last couple of months. It’s usually not this quiet. They opened up the high school near here as a shelter and most of us went there. I’m glad Meg stayed back here. She’s the best.”
“She’s pretty nice,” Joseph agreed.
“She’s the one that got me into diapers.”
Joseph wasn’t sure what Caleb meant by that and told him so.
“Well, did she tell you that a lot of the kids here wear them?”
“Yeah, kind of.”
“That’s not really true. I’ve been coming off and on for a few months now and, man, I’m the only kid I’ve ever seen that wears 'em. Unless some of them are really good at hiding, which I doubt. There isn’t a whole lot of privacy here. Hey,” Caleb stopped suddenly.
“What?” Joseph replied.
“Can I come up there? It’s kind of hard to talk to you when all I can see is the bottom side of your mattress.”
Before he could really think about it, Joseph heard Caleb get out of bed and a moment later, he had hopped up on top and was sitting next to Joseph, his legs extended out and his back reclining on the wall. His diaper had swished and crinkled the entire way. By that time, Joseph’s eyes had completely adjusted to the dark and he could see quite clearly a smile on Caleb’s young face. “That’s better,” Caleb said.
Joseph adjusted so that he was sitting next to Caleb. His legs stuck out further than Caleb’s and nearly extended out over the edge of the bed.
“Anyways,” Caleb continued as if he hadn’t stopped, “like the second or third time my mom had to go to the hospital, I peed myself while I was staying here. Man, like right out there on the couch. Fell asleep watching a movie. I haven’t peed my pants since, like, I dunno, I was three or four or something. Long time. But there I was and I had definitely wet my pants, and the couch too. Meg woke me up and before I could panic or hide or whatever, she pulled me into that receiving room, helped me get undressed, and had me take a shower, the whole time comforting me and stuff. Shoot, normally I don’t let no one see me naked, ya know? Gotta protect your privacy. 'Specially where I live.”
Joseph wondered just where that normally was, but didn’t want to interrupt the story to ask.
“But for some reason, I didn’t worry about it too much with Meg. I mean, I was nervous and all. First woman that’s seen me naked except my sis and my mom. And next thing I know, she’s drying me off and telling me I should wear these diapers she’s pulled out of the drawer. I laughed right in her face, man, but she didn’t get mad or nothing. I mean, I know I pissed myself, but I was tired, mom was gettin’ her stomach pumped, I’d had a coke at the hospital and, ya know, shoot, I had an excuse. It’s not like I needed wearing something like a diaper. But after I laughed and she was still just kneeling there smiling at me holding them out, I figured what the heck, and stepped right into 'em.”
The way he was talking, it was reminding Joseph of earlier in the night when Caleb was talking about the Sounders with Steve. Caleb had a lot of energy and told a story the same way Joseph’s uncle did when he was drunk. Caleb was waving his arms all over the place, accentuating each line and animating the story into a captivating creation that completely held Joseph’s attention. And the way he told a story, Joseph was drawn so far in, so enraptured, that when Caleb stopped talking for a moment, Joseph immediately asked him what happened next.
“Well, you see me now, don’t ya?” Caleb answered. “I liked it. Man, all that crap that was going on outside, my mom, the piece of junk we call our house, school, shoot, all that, it didn’t matter no more. I was like, whew man, this is like a, I dunno, a dream I guess. Just brought me to where I didn’t care, like I was just a little kid, ya know.”
Joseph wanted to tell Caleb that he still was a little kid, but it sounded like he had enough conflict and trouble in his life that it just didn’t seem right calling him something like that.
“Brought me back 'fore when my dad died, 'fore mom went off crazy. Not that life was that good back then, but I just thought it was, ya now. Heck of a lot better than it is now. Anyways, been here like six, seven times since, and if Meg’s here, well, it don’t take me long to get myself wiggled into some of these.” Caleb affectionately patted near his belly button where the diaper and plastic pants he was wearing snuck up above the waist of his pajama bottoms (on which the striped colors had muted into different shades of brownish gray).
“What if Meg isn’t here?” Joseph asked softly.
“Eh, I’m not too close with the other staff. Steve’s cool, but wouldn’t want him doing that.”
“Well, can’t you just put them on yourself? They were just like underwear.”
“The kind you’re wearing is. I got the real thing on.”
“What do you mean by that?”
As an answer, Caleb lifted up his bottom and pulled down his plastic pants and pajamas, revealing pins holding together thick cloth diapers.
“Whoa,” was all Joseph said.
“Yep,” Caleb said, pulling them back on and readjusting until he was comfortable. “I mean, man, I sneak in and put on the pull-ups like you got, but I don’t tell no one. Lot of people, the kids I mean, are cruel around here, but they don’t mess with me when Meg’s here. They all love her, jealous, I think, of the attention she gives me.”
“Then why don’t they just let her diaper them too,” Joseph reasoned.
“Man, they don’t love her that much. They’re all tough. And, I don’t even think she offers.”
“What do the other staff think about it?”
“Mostly they just work in shifts together, see, so a lot of them don’t know what Meg does, Steve doesn’t care, and when the kids talk about it, the other staff just think I’ve got a problem, ya know, like I need them. I mean, that’s why they’ve got the diapers here in the first place. Meg’s mostly here every time I’m here though. I don’t get the feeling they have a lot of people workin’ here.”
“Why do you think Meg knew I’d wear them?” Joseph mused.
“Bet she didn’t. But there ain’t a lot of kids who come in here with wet pants, so she probably figured her chances were pretty good.”
“She totally lied to me.”
“Shoot. Whatever man. C’mon, ain’t you glad she did? You like them, right?”
“I dunno,” Joseph said honestly.
“Yeah, but they make you chill out and forget your troubles, right? Especially on a cold, snowy night like this. I mean, it just fits.”
Joseph thought about what Caleb was saying. On one hand it bothered him that Meg had duped him into believing that it was a common occurrence at the center, but on the other, what Caleb said made sense, and it was nice, he did have to admit that.
“Look at it like this,” Caleb continued, “it’s like therapy. You been to a doctor?”
“Sure, like when I get hurt?”
“Naw, not that kind. Like for your head, like the kind you talk to about problems and stuff.”
“Well, you probably will now, but anyways, they talk about all sorts of stuff and make you talk about even more and it is uncomfortable as heck. But Meg’s therapy, diapers, man, it works way better and you don’t gotta talk about anything. Much better…” Caleb trailed off. His eyes closed and he seemed to be dozing off.
“I guess when you say it like that,” Joseph said thoughtfully, “she’s just trying to help us. Knows what helps best.”
“Exactly,” Caleb murmured. His head was drooping. He nodded off completely and jerked back up suddenly, the jolt of his chin hitting his chest knocking him awake.
“How old are you anyways?” Joseph asked after a moment.
“Eleven!?” Joseph exclaimed, a little loudly.
“Eleven,” Caleb repeated, his eyes closed again, his head dropping.
Caleb didn’t respond.
“I’m way bigger than you.”
“Not way…shoot.” Caleb mumbled. “Just kinda. I might be a bit small.”
Joseph looked over Caleb carefully. He looked younger, but he sure did act and talk like he was at least Joseph’s age. “Eleven,” Joseph said again.
“Yep.” Caleb opened his eyes and it looked to Joseph as if it took a momentous effort. “Just gonna climb in bed here,” Caleb mumbled as he clumsily made his way back down the ladder and climbed in his sleeping bag.
“Goodnight,” Joseph whispered after him. Feeling pretty tried himself, Joseph crawled in his sleeping bag and moved about until he was comfortable. The day had been impossibly long. Leaving California that morning seemed like days and days ago. And the hectic week before, the poisoning, his parents arrested. What a mess, Joseph thought to himself. But as he snuggled up, cozily rolled in the warm sleeping bag, he felt like it was all going to be alright. The feeling of the diaper around his middle, though not as foreign and intrusive as it had been at first, was still comfortably enclosing Joseph in its protective embrace and it made Joseph feel like it was all going to be alright. The fact that Meg, with her alternative but incredibly effective therapy, was nearby; the sound of Caleb softly breathing in sleep; the renewing blanket of snow that was being draped over the world; it all made Joseph feel like it was all going to be alright.
********************* CHAPTER 2 *********************