Joseph Kross: The Adventures Of

Here is my most recent story.

The inspiration for Joseph Kross: The Adventures Of came from a picture. Milan Kundera, when he wrote The Joke, was inspired by a single instance, and when I heard about the inspiration behind his book, I’ve always wanted to do something similar. The character of Joseph Kross was inspired from a photo (you might recognize it from an album cover of an Irish rock group).

I looked at this photo and created the story below. In the spirit of Ken Kesey I write, so I hope you enjoy description 'cause there is a lot of it.

The structure of this story is simple. There are four chapters and each represents a phase of a hurricane. The first chapter is the first half of the storm; the second chapter is the eye (calm, but towering walls of ominous clouds all around. The sky shines blue for a moment, but everyone knows the worse is yet to come); the third chapter is the second half of the storm (it is brutal); but, peace comes for Joseph Kross, and in the fourth chapter, the storm has passed and Joseph rebuilds his life.

Please take the time to comment if you take the time to read. Enjoy…

Re: Joseph Kross: The Adventures Of

Joseph Kross:

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?”

“Yeah, son?”

“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.

Joseph nodded.

“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?”

Joseph nodded.

“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.

“I’m eleven.”

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 *********************

Re: Joseph Kross: The Adventures Of

Joseph Kross:

the adventures of

a short story by austin

We enter the eye of the storm. Relative calm…enjoy.

********************* CHAPTER 2 *********************

Joseph woke slowly, disoriented but warm, and by the chill that was reaching his cheeks from where they peaked out past the edge of his sleeping bag, he could tell that it was cold in the room. A dull, gray light filtered through the window that had fogged and frosted up overnight. Joseph sat up, pulling the sleeping bag up with him and keeping it closely held to his body. He lazily surveyed his surroundings and began to process where he was and how he had gotten there. Leaning over the edge of the bunk, Joseph saw that Caleb was still sleeping. Caleb must be incredibly warm blooded, Joseph thought, because he had shed the sleeping bag during the night along with his shirt and was laying on his tummy, stretched out over the mattress and sleeping bag bare backed, diaper clad, and pajama bottomed. Joseph watched him for a while, analyzing with wonder how thickly his bunkmate’s rear was padded. Caleb’s back rose and fell slowly with each breath the boy took. His shoulder blades stuck out sharply and Joseph was comforted in the fact that at least one other boy was as skinny as he was.

Joseph felt the need to use the toilet and climbed as carefully and quietly as he could down the ladder. He was reminded of his diapered state as his plastic pants whispered rather loudly on the way down. Caleb seemed to be in a deep sleep, however, and didn’t miss a beat in his steady breathing.

Closing the door gingerly, Joseph set off down the hallway toward the bathroom. As he rounded the corner that brought him past the front lounge and office area, the double doors burst open and a blast of frigidly cold air froze Joseph in his place. Steve stomped in, white snow caked well up his jeans and completely covering the boots that he was wearing. He was dressed in a thick ski coat and had a brown knit winter hat pulled down over his ears.

“Whew-ey!” Steve exclaimed, stomping his feet around on the welcome mat, trying to shake off the stubborn snow which didn’t seem very interested in disengaging from Steve’s boots and pants. “It…is…cold…out…there,” Steve said in between stomps. “Don’t think that is going to do any melting today.”

Joseph still stood still, embarrassed that he was wearing a diaper and it might be obvious, and that he had to pee, and completely fascinated with the snow. He was torn between wanting to bolt for the bathroom to relieve himself and get rid of this diaper (it didn’t seem as comforting anymore and he didn’t want to be seen in it), and wanting to go and see the snow. He realized again how unfamiliar he was with this snow stuff. Nothing like it in California, except maybe sand and dirt. That seemed to stick everywhere too when he tried to come indoors. Giving into his curiosity, Joseph walked over to the door, carefully avoiding with his sock covered feet the clumps of snow which Steve had shaken off.

Joseph’s breath caught in his throat. It was nothing short of amazing. Outside, it was completely white. Completely. From the sky on down to the ground. The sky was filled with a formless gray cloud cover. Trees with fluffy tuffs of snow hanging precariously from every leaf and towering high on every branch punctured the sky and filled in the spaces between the industrial warehouses and dilapidated buildings and houses which surrounded the center. Even the renewing sheen of the pure white snow couldn’t hide the poverty and disrepair which was readily apparent in every building Joseph could see. Cars parked along the edge of the street were covered in what looked to Joseph to be at least a foot and a half of snow. At an intersection, Joseph saw snow flying in the air and could make out a driver with a shovel trying to dislodge his car from the stubborn and slippery snow. And finally, Joseph could see footprints leading from the door to a car parked just on the street and back again.

“Quite something, isn’t it?” Steve said from behind Joseph.

Joseph just nodded.

“This is so out of the ordinary for Seattle. I mean, we’ll get snow once or twice a year, but it barely sticks and only lasts an hour. This…well, this is just crazy. This city is going to shut down.” Steve stomped a couple more times. “Looks like we’re going to be stuck here for a while.”

Joseph tore himself away from the window. He wanted to keep looking at the snow and he really really wanted to go out in it, but his need to pee was growing to the point where he couldn’t ignore it anymore.

“You probably want some breakfast?” Steve asked.

Joseph nodded, then sped past Steve into the receiving room. “Gotta pee first,” he called over his shoulder. He heard Steve laughing good-naturedly as he slammed the door and yanked down the diaper and sweatpants. When he was finished, Joseph stepped out of the diaper and plastic pants and put back on the sweatpants. He felt airy and almost naked without the extra padding and, much to his surprise, he instantly missed them. But the need he had felt last night had abated and the idea of wearing diapers seemed silly and far too infantile to entertain.

Steve was waiting for Joseph out in the entrance way, now minus the boots which were next to a heater, the snow quickly melting off. “You could have just gone in the diaper,” Steve said with a smile.

Joseph immediately blushed. “I…” he started.

Steve patted Joseph’s shoulder with a laugh. “I’m just kidding, buddy. Let’s go bust a munch, I’m hungry!”

“Bust a munch?” Joseph laughed.

“Yep, bust a mean munch.” They started on down the hallway. “Man, those cars aren’t moving an inch,” Steve said, more to himself than to Joseph. “We ain’t going nowhere today. I don’t even think Seattle’s got more than one snow plow.”

Joseph sat at the same table as the night before, a bowl of cold cereal and a steaming cup of hot chocolate in front of him. Meg and Emma were up eating as well, though it looked as if Meg was drinking coffee not cocoa. Emma smiled at Joseph. “How did you sleep?” she asked quietly.

Joseph shrugged. He was wondering how old Emma was if Caleb was his age and not nearly his size. “Pretty good,” he replied. “You?”

“Good,” Emma said, but she still looked tired. That same tired look, deep shadows under each eye. Joseph doubted if one good night’s sleep was enough to erase exhaustion so entrenched.

Joseph heard a rustling near the door and looked up to see Caleb shuffling in. He had put back on the shirt that was far too big for him. It went almost down to his knees and again covered up the thick diapers Joseph knew Caleb was wearing. Caleb took a seat at the table and poured himself some cereal from the box that was sitting open next to a carton of milk.

“Good morning, Caleb,” Meg said, taking a sip of coffee.

Caleb mumbled a reply, but it wasn’t translatable into any sort of understandable English.

“Caleb’s not really a morning person,” Meg explained to Joseph, reaching over and patting Caleb’s arm in a teasing manner. Caleb mumbled something else that didn’t sound very nice as he started to attack his cereal with frantic scooping. He must be starving, Joseph thought.

Steve asked Meg if she’d seen how much snow was outside, turning the attention away from Caleb.

“Yeah, looks like we might be gettin’ some overtime,” Meg said. “Joseph, I called the police and they said they’ll try to get in contact with your grandma, but to not expect anything today.”

Joseph nodded, but didn’t really mind the idea. He was just getting comfortable here and the thought of leaving Meg, Caleb, Emma, and Steve made him feel lonely. They were the first people who had treated him like he existed in quite some time and he wasn’t quite ready to leave.

“Well,” Steve said, leaning back from his food and looking around the table with a smile, “What should we do today?”

“I really want to go out in the snow!” Joseph blurted, immediately embarrassed and surprised he had talked. But he couldn’t contain the awe he felt about the winter wonderland that had been created overnight.

“That can be arranged,” Meg said, “We might have some snow clothes stowed away somewhere.”

“I’m sure we do,” Steve agreed, “We’ve got enough donations around here, there’s got to be something in all that mess that is waterproof.”

After they had cleaned up breakfast, Meg had Joseph follow her as they went to find more clothes for him to wear.

“So did you bring any bags with you from home?”

“Yeah, but they were left at the airport. They were kicking everybody out and I didn’t have the chance to get mine.”

“Well, I can’t guarantee good fit or comfort, but I think we can keep you clothed for as long as you need to stay here.”

“That’d be nice,” Joseph said as they went back into the receiving room and started to dig through the tattered cardboard box.

As they were looking, Meg noticed Joseph’s discarded diaper which he had left lying on the bathroom floor. “So, did that help you relax last night?” Meg asked, nodding toward the diaper.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Joseph said after a moment’s hesitation. He almost brought up what he and Caleb and discussed before falling asleep the night before, about alternative therapy and the little white lies Meg had told Joseph, but he decided against it.

“Doesn’t look like you used them.”

“Naw. Does…does Caleb?”

Meg laughed. “Oh my, does he ever. I swear he tries to pee even more when he has them on.”

“Isn’t that kind of gross?” Joseph asked with a shiver.

Meg shrugged. “Depends on how you look at it. Doesn’t really gross me out. Guess it might for some people.” She paused, her hands momentarily still, a pair of jeans in them. “There are a lot of different kinds of people in the world, and lots of different ways to do things, and I’ve decided that I’m not going to worry so much about what other people think.” Meg looked at Joseph and smiled. “And I’ve found that I like making tired, hurt boys feel better, and if that means changing a few diapers, then so be it.” She threw the jeans into a pile of discarded clothes saying, “Those look a little big.”

Joseph didn’t know how to respond to Meg’s comments, but they sounded right and clear and even noble. Joseph liked her even more in that moment. “Does Caleb wear them during the day, too?”

“If he wants to. He’s only really here for a day or two at most. It might be a bit different with the snow and his mom’s really not doing so well this time, so it is hard to say. But yes, if he is here during the day, he’ll usually ask me to put a diaper on him. Ah, try these on,” Meg said, holding out a pair of faded jeans that had a tear on each knee.

Joseph started to pull down his sweats, then stopped. “I’m not, uh, wearing any underwear.”

Meg didn’t stop searching for a shirt. “So,” was all she said, “I saw you naked last night, didn’t I? The pants are clean, I promise you. Just washed.”

Swallowing his embarrassment, Joseph stripped off the sweats and pulled the jeans up, quickly covering his exposed boyhood. “They fit,” he said after zipping up and buttoning them.

“Good,” Meg said, “Jump in the shower, I’ll find a shirt for you while you clean up.”

When Joseph was done showering, he came out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist. The room was empty. Before she left, Meg had laid out the jeans and a plaid button-down shirt on one of the chairs. Next to the clothes was an opened bag of new boxer briefs, and next to that one of the pull-up cloth diapers and plastic pants. She was giving him the choice. He paused, staring back and forth at the two options. He reached for the underpants, then stopped and took another look at the diaper. Joseph thought about how nice it had been last night, how comforting. He looked back and forth again, then made a dash for the diaper before he could change his mind. Quickly pulling it up, he immediately relished the feeling of the soft cloth is it traced its path from his belly button, over his boyhood, between his legs, and up over his bottom. After putting on the plastic pants, he went into the bathroom to look at himself in the mirror.

His hair, still damp from the shower, stuck down to his head and shined with a glossy sheen. His facial features were at once sharp as the bones that seemed to stick out all over his scrawny body and boyishly soft, reflecting his eleven years. Joseph was often told he had a calm, stoic face; that it rarely revealed the trouble that brewed both inside and out. When he was told that, it made him want to scream. His hazel eyes appeared to change color depending on his mood (and the color of shirt he wore). Sometimes icy blue, sometimes jade green, but most times a dull gray that seemed to repel any emotion from entering or escaping. Joseph thought that his face had betrayed him. He was good looking and he knew it, but did not like it. With chaos infiltrating every aspect of his life, Joseph felt that he should be marred or scarred, something to demonstrate and show the pain and uncertainty that was a constant part of his existence. But instead he glowed with boyish handsomeness, and this seemed to deter any help. Everyone around him just assumed he was OK. And the fact that he rarely showed any emotion only made matters worse.

His eyes drifted down his bare chest and to the diaper he was now wearing. It seemed so superfluous and outrageous, but at the same time the perfect remedy to the torn situation he had found himself in. Maybe it took something so over the top to sooth a situation that seemed unfixable and unbearable. It had felt bearable last night in a diaper, drinking hot chocolate, sitting next to Meg, Caleb, Emma, and Steve, and watching a movie. And it felt bearable now. The white diaper contrasted with his tanned body. The plastic pants puffed out around Josephs’ middle, bunched up around his smooth legs, and just reached his belly button, traces of abdomen muscles visible on his flat tummy. Joseph looked back up at his face and found that he was smiling. He left his reflection and went back into the room. He put on the jeans. They just fit over the diaper and it was obvious he was wearing extra padding, but Joseph didn’t mind. He just didn’t care. He buttoned up the shirt and stepped out into the lobby.

Meg, Steve, Caleb, and Emma were digging about in a pile of snow gear. Hats, gloves, and snow suites were flying about as everyone tried to find anything that might fit. The confidence that Joseph had had in the bathroom momentarily dissipated and he considered running back into the room and stripping off the diaper, but then he just shook his head and told himself it was time for some alternative therapy. Meg looked up at him and smiled, giving him a wink. Caleb had changed into different clothes, though they looked neither new nor fresh. Joseph bent down to find himself some snow gear and felt the jeans he was wearing tighten and hold the diaper even closer to his body. Joseph knew the outline must have been glaringly obvious, but tried to block any worry about his appearance.

After rifling through the rather large pile of gear, they were each able to find options that would fit. Joseph stepped into and pulled up snow suit overalls which were colored an opaque blue. The waterproof material was thick and warm and just a tad bit small. With the straps over Joseph’s shoulders, the suit was pulled up tight and seemed to press on the diaper even more. After putting on a thick green winter coat, Joseph pulled a yellow knit snow hat low over his ears, nearly down to his eyes, and covered his hands with some black gloves. He walked around the room while the others fitted themselves in the warm clothes. It felt weird with the extra clothing and diaper, much different than his usual attire of flip flops, shorts, and a tank top.

“Never worn a hat and gloves before,” Joseph said to no one in particular.

“Lucky,” grumbled Emma as she tried on a couple different hats, looking over to Meg for approval on each one, “wouldn’t mind trading this weather in for some California sunshine any day.”

“Done,” Joseph said and walked to the door, anxious to get out into the snow. “I’ll even let you have my room,” he added dryly.

The time in the snow did not fall short of Joseph’s sky high expectations. The vast opportunities that the endless white expanse offered multiplied with every new activity Steve and Meg came up for the five of them to do. The way Steve and Meg played, Joseph almost forgot they were probably twice his age. Using tupperware containers from the kitchen to form bricks, they built two towering snow forts and had a spirited snowball fight, girls versus boys. Meg showed Joseph how to make a snow angel, but, unimpressed, Joseph instead used the idea to create other impressions of creatures and letters in the snow, writing in large block letters across much of the street, “Aliens, please help!”

Steve had suggested they go to a hill that was nearby to see if they could sled down it. When they reached the hill, they found several other people, both kids and adults, hurtling down at breakneck speed. A shiny slick path had been forged down the long hill, grooved and smoothed to speedy perfection by the plentiful thrill seekers sledding down it (then trudging back up, a variety of colorful saucers and sleds in tow). Not having a sled of their own, they were forced to make the hike to the top of the residential-street-turned-sled-slope empty handed. The many footsteps up the sidewalk provided a type of stairs that made what was most certainly a slippery climb slightly easier. The hill was long with stretches of steep downhill, then, where a cross street intersected (which happened every 50 meters or so), a sudden flattening for a moment, then a quick plunge down the next down slope, and so on. Joseph counted five cross streets as they made their way up and was out of breath and very hot when they reached the top. He unzipped his coat and pulled off his hat. Steam rose lazily from his wet hair.

“Whew,” Joseph breathed as they all turned to take in the view. The valley below was covered in every inch by the gray outlines of buildings obscured in snow. Trees poked up here and there. A freeway wound its way through the corridor, though only a few brave cars were slowly following the feeble path traced along one of the lanes each way. To his left, Joseph could see clearly the towering skyscrapers of downtown Seattle, now no longer obscured by the hill which they had just climbed. They were so close he felt like he could reach out and touch the tall buildings with his gloved hand. It was majestic and induced the sort of awe that only skylines of that scale could produce. Joseph had seen Los Angeles before, choked in dirty brown smog, hazy from the unending heat, and smelly. But this was different. A city, no less, but a city clean and proud. Behind the tall downtown buildings, Joseph could see water stretching out into the fog and grayness of the day, and on either side, more hills, dotted with trees, undulated as far as he could see, layered and progressively more blurred into the horizon. It was hard to believe that this beauty was home to the sort of suffering that swallowed Caleb and Emma’s lives, the poverty and delinquency that even made a Temporary Youth Housing Facility necessary. How could the same people, the city, be at once so beautiful and ugly? The contradiction was great. And was it the fault of the beautiful or the fault of the ugly? Joseph suspected both.

Steve managed to procure bright red saucers from a father of two whose children were exhausted from too many climbs up the lofty hill and desired a rest. Sipping hot chocolate from a thermos, they watched as Joseph was coaxed onto the sled by a reassuring Meg.

“There isn’t anything to run into, Joseph, and the snow doesn’t hurt if you fall off. And,” she added, “That path is so set you won’t even have to steer.”

Joseph sat, his diapered bottom squarely in the middle of the red, round saucer. His booted feet dug deeply into the snow as he teetered on the edge of the hill. The hill seemed even longer from this vantage point, those sledders who had already made the decent mere dots at the bottom. Joseph could feel his heart pounding furiously in his chest. He zipped back up his coat and took a deep breath. He took one more look at Meg, who was standing with her hands in her pockets and smiling. She gave him a slight nod. He suddenly had to pee. He could feel the diaper around his middle and knew no one would be the wiser if he released his bladder right now.

“I’m going to push you off if you don’t go now!” Caleb said impatiently directly behind Joseph. Joseph, who had not known Caleb was there, was startled and accidentally lifted his feet in surprise. Gravity immediately took hold and before Joseph could protest, he was on his way down. He fixed his eyes steadily on the path in front of him, the adrenaline pulsing through his veins as the ground flew past. His speed quickly increased and Joseph could feel the cold air whipped against his face. His eyes started to water as they protested the frigid assault. Holding on to the saucer for dear life, he was not that far away from the ground and it rushed by. A strange silence had settled over Joseph, broken only by the steady crackling of the snow as the saucer followed the packed path. The houses on either side of the street whizzed past Joseph’s peripheral, their distinction muddied into streaking colors of blues, reds, greens; all diluted with the constant presence of white. Joseph reached the first cross street and was jolted as the path suddenly flatted then: airborne. Someone must have slowed everything down because Joseph had the impression he was floating. The houses were no longer diffused in motion. Joseph could clearly see the face of a small child, perhaps three or four years old, pressed into the glass of a window in a house on the side of the street, watching Joseph with wide, wonder-filled eyes. With a thud and a terrific jolt, Joseph was back on the ground, amazingly still on the saucer and, much to his dismay and excitement, still hurtling down the hill, the next terrace quickly approaching. Joseph let out a whoop. He gripped the side of the saucer tighter and suddenly realized he was peeing. He felt his bladder release, the warm urine quickly wicked by the thirsty cloth held close to Joseph by the jeans and snow suit. The sensory assault was fantastic. Still blazing down the hill and now peeing in a diaper for the first time since he was a proper age for such business. In the air again, the next terrace having come and tossed him mercilessly over the next precipitous decline. A warm, soggy feeling spreading throughout his crotch. He could feel liquid creeping its way between his legs and up his bottom. Then on the ground, speeding down. Joseph was dizzy with excitement and dumb with awe. Then, long before he wanted it to be over, after he had flown through the last couple cross streets, he was coasting, slowing rapidly, and finally stopped. The most amazing experience in his short life was over and Joseph sat there on the saucer, breathing rapidly, warmth radiating from his now wet diaper. He turned and looked up at the hill and saw, now miniature, Meg and Steve waving down at him. What must have been Caleb was already flying down the hill, yelling at the top of his lungs in ecstasy.

They sledded for hours, each taking turns, trading off with the rightful owners of the sleds and, once the other winter city adrenaline seekers found out where the five of them had come from, taking rides down the hill on a variety of other sleds. Everyone was very friendly. Even though Joseph could tell no one knew each other, they treated each other as neighbors. Joseph, Caleb, and Emma were even able to share a steaming cup of hot chocolate given to them by a friendly family.

Joseph peed in his diaper a second time, this time not by accident, but standing at the top of the hill, enjoying both the view and the warmth of the urine spreading around. Unexpectedly, he gasped in surprise and abruptly forced himself to stymie the flow of pee. A warm trickle was making its way down his leg. He was leaking. Joseph walked gingerly over to where Meg and Steve were conversing with a father who was holding the hand of a restless toddler. With each step he could feel a little more liquid escape the confines of the plastic pants and drip down his leg. It felt gross.

“Hey Meg?” Joseph butted in.

Meg looked at him with a smile. “Yeah, Joseph, what’s up?”

He asked her if he could talk to her for a moment and they stepped away from the others.

“Um,” he started, not quite sure if he wanted to say what he had to say out loud with so many people around.

Meg looked at him carefully then leaned down and whispered, “Do you need a change?”

Joseph nodded and looked away, embarrassed.

Leaking or not, Joseph decided the best way down the hill was sledding, not walking. The timing was good because one of the other families was leaving and volunteered one of their sleds for Joseph’s decent. One more time he basked in the exhilaration of the steep and speedy ride. At the bottom, he waited patiently for the walkers, sitting on the sled and watching others enjoy the winter fun. More and more people had shown up at the hill and police had even put up barriers to block the intersections, even though there was no risk of any cars trying to drive through. The roads were barren. It was clear that this was a unique day of celebration in Seattle. As Joseph sat, he felt the wet diaper squish around on his behind and crotch. It had stopped leaking, but he felt the wetness of the jeans on his legs and knew the sight would not be pretty when he took off the snow suit.

Caleb, Emma, and Steve followed behind Meg and Joseph back to the center. The way Caleb was walking, Joseph got the impression he had either crashed and hurt his bum or needed a change too.

When they reached the center after a short walk down sidewalks that were now hard packed with footprints, Meg and Joseph went into the receiving room after removing their wet boots, hats, and gloves. As Joseph walked, he felt that every part of him was wet, either from pee or melting snow, and he was starting to feel cold. As he pulled off the snow suit, Joseph saw that the leak had been pretty extensive, a large wet spot covering the front of the jeans and running down the legs.

“Probably should have put you in the real diapers,” Meg commented as she motioned for him to take off his pants. “These pull-ups can really only handle one wetting.”

Joseph felt his face blush at the implication that he had wet twice. He peeled off the pants and the diaper started to slide off his body. “That’s heavy!” Joseph commented.

“Yep,” Meg agreed, “go ahead and step out of it. You take a shower while I find you some new clothes.”

Joseph took off the diaper and found himself again standing with himself exposed in front of Meg. He realized he wasn’t as embarrassed as he was the first time. He stripped off the shirt too, then after one more look at Meg, who had already started digging through the box of used clothes, Joseph went into the bathroom and started the shower. After the cold hours outside, the hot water bit at his skin and he felt prickles trace their way down his back as the water ran in thick rivulets down his smooth skin. He shivered momentarily as his body adjusted to the water’s temperature. And when it had, Joseph let the hot water cascade over his head and run down his body. It felt so good and he shivered again, this time in pleasure.

Drying off, Joseph walked casually into the receiving room and froze. Meg was sitting on the floor folding two thick cloth diapers. She looked up at Joseph and smiled.

“Hey, I was starting to think you were stuck in there.”

“Water was nice,” Joseph mumbled, distractedly staring at the diapers.

Meg patted the carpeted floor in front of her. “Lie down, Joseph. Let’s get you ready so we can go eat lunch. I, for one, am starving.”

Joseph didn’t move. He wasn’t sure he wanted to lie down. The pull-up diapers had been one thing, but to be actually pinned up in diapers, like a baby…Joseph wasn’t sure.

Meg leaned back. “You don’t have to,” she said quietly, almost whispering. “I just thought you’d want to is all.”

“Caleb told me I’m the only other person he knows of that has worn diapers here,” Joseph said, looking at the wall behind Meg, avoiding her eyes.

Meg looked at Joseph, eying him carefully.

“And you told me,” Joseph continued, “that lots of boys do. You lied.”

“Oh Joseph,” Meg said, standing up and pulling Joseph, who was wrapped tightly in a thick, green towel, close to her body. “It wasn’t meant to be a mean lie.”

Maybe it was because of the stress of the last few days, maybe it was because he was embarrassed and vulnerable being so close to Meg and being so naked, or maybe it was because he had been so high, so happy out there sledding and playing in the snow, but all the sudden, Joseph felt interminably sad. And the most hopeless part of it all was Joseph had no real reason why. He had been happier that morning than he had ever been before in his life. For once, he was not surrounded by open hostility and neglect, convenient and inexcusable ignorance. For once he was not lonely or scared. For once he had been content. He had been happy. So why was he sad? Joseph wasn’t crying, shaking. Like usual, no emotion was showing on his face. He was just letting Meg hold him. He was feeling her warmth through the towel. He was feeling her hand lightly rub his back.

“I guess I just don’t…” Joseph started, then felt a lump in his throat. Suddenly he knew why he was unhappy. Suddenly he knew why he was about to cry for the first time in a long while. Joseph felt like he was choking. His mouth opened by no sound came out, just silent agony. He couldn’t take a breath.

“Breath, Joseph,” Meg whispered softly, “breath.”

Finally a moan escaped and Joseph took a deep breath. His whole body shook. Meg held him closer. “Breath,” she whispered. The tears fell from Joseph’s eyes directly into the fabric of Meg’s shirt, which was still a bit damp from the snow. “Breath.” Joseph let out a powerful sob. Not that crying is ever rhythmic or natural sounding, but Joseph’s crying seemed down right out of practice. Like he just didn’t know how. Just his small, shaking body in Meg’s embrace, and the tears, and the occasional sob. Meg’s mantric chanting of “Breath, breath, breath.”

After a while, Joseph’s sobs died out, the tears subsided, and his shaking body calmed. “I guess I just don’t want it to end,” Joseph finally finished. “It’s too good, you know? And it just don’t seem real. Especially this,” Joseph pulled away from Meg and gestured toward the diapers which she had dropped on the floor to hold Joseph. “I don’t want to go to my grandma’s. I don’t even know who she is. She might be as mean and as gone as my parents. I know you. I know Caleb, Emma, Steve. You guys are nice. I want to stay here.” Joseph’s emotions were back under control and he was speaking in a calm voice.

Meg reached out and put a hand on Joseph’s shoulder. “Well, I’m not going to lie to you about this. You can’t stay here, and you don’t want to, really. Part of my job is to make sure where you are going is a good place. I can come with you to your grandma’s if you’d like and make sure she is nice,” Meg said with a wink. “And I’m sure she is, Joseph,” she added.

Joseph shrugged. “We don’t know that.”

“You’re right, we don’t. But I’ll tell you what I do know. You’re going to be here at least until tomorrow, and we can make this the most relaxing, most fun day you can remember.”

Meg’s hand was still on Joseph’s shoulder. She gave him a slight squeeze. Joseph wiped the remaining dampness from his eyes and smiled at Meg. “I’d like that,” he said softly. “And,” Joseph added, nodding towards the diapers, “I think I’d like those on as well.”

“Well then,” Meg said with a smile and a pat on the ground, “You gotta lie down.”

Joseph unwrapped the towel and let it fall to his feet. As he was about to lie down, Meg reached out and grabbed the towel, quickly laying it out in front of her. Joseph correctly inferred that she wanted him to lie on the towel. “Cleaner,” was all Meg said. Joseph lay still and stiff on the towel, his hands at his side. The air was cold against Joseph’s bare skin. He stared up at Meg and felt a rush similar to what he had experienced at the top of the hill that morning, just before he let himself tip over the edge, before he let gravity take over, before he gave up his independence and self-determination, and let the hill take him where it willed. A similar feeling of expectation and trepidation, of inevitability. Joseph felt Meg’s electric touch pat him on his leg. “Relax,” Meg said. Joseph just stared at her, his eyes following the movement of her hands as she reached down and picked up the diapers. “Lift.” Some instinct, some muscle memory still intact years after Joseph had been diapered as a baby, kicked in and Joseph lifted his middle, the movement as common and comfortable as if he did it on a daily basis. Meg placed the cloth under Joseph’s bottom and he settled back down, his leg’s slightly spread. She pulled the diapers (she had placed two under him) up snugly over Joseph’s boyish penis and testicles. Joseph breathed deeply for the first time since Meg had begun the procedure as he felt the presence of the comforting cloth over his boyhood. After pinning the diapers securely in place, Meg pulled a pair of plastic pants, similar to what he had worn before but slightly bigger, up Joseph’s smooth legs and enclosed the diapers in its waterproof shell.

“There you go,” Meg said, patting Joseph on the leg again.

Joseph sat up, noticing how much thicker these diapers were compared to the pull-ups. Meg tossed him some sweats and a t-shirt. Joseph put them on as Meg folded the towel and put it in another box labeled “dirty.” The bulge under the sweatpants was much more noticeable than it was the night before with the pull-ups. Joseph followed Meg out of the room and towards the cafeteria. The bunches of cloth between his legs obstructed his walking and Joseph could tell it was going to take a while to get used to the extra layer.

They took a seat next to Caleb and Emma, both had already changed into dry clothes (Joseph wondered if Caleb was in a dry diaper too and if so, who had changed him?), and Steve, who was still in clothes damp from the snow. Soup, left over from last night, sat steaming in a large pot. Caleb turned toward Joseph and, noticing Joseph’s diapered state, smiled broadly, “Welcome to the club.”

Joseph felt blood rush to his face and he tried his best not to smile back. Emma, who was sitting next to Joseph, reached back and patted Joseph on his diapered bottom. “Oh, those are thick!” She said, poking Joseph in the side. Joseph, infinitely ticklish, squirmed away and finally let a grin crack his stony expression. This must be the way Emma and Caleb survive their harsh world, Joseph thought, with a little laughter and a little regression.

They ate soup and bread and talked. Joseph tried to stay concentrated on what the others were saying, but found his thoughts time and again drifting to the diaper snugly secured around his middle. It just seemed so bizarre. But then, so did many other aspects of Joseph’s life. His parents, his uncle, his house. Why not add something else out of the ordinary to an already peculiar life. Joseph didn’t like to think about his parents and that was especially true over the last few weeks when it had gotten really weird, but he couldn’t stop his thoughts from turning to them now. He almost wished they could be there, sitting with his new friends, just to see him. Joseph wanted to show them what it was like to care for him, to notice him, to make him feel at home. He wondered what they were doing right now, sitting in their jail cells. It’d be hot as hell, Joseph was sure.

The afternoon was magical, to say the least. The lone five occupants of the Temporary Youth Housing Facility lazily let the time drift into evening with card and board games. Most games Joseph, Emma, and Caleb did not know, but Meg and Steve patiently taught the displaced youth.

As the sun, which the drab gray cloud cover had never let through, drifted below the shrouded Olympic Mountains, the lighter gray of day faded into the darker gray of dusk. The hot chocolate that Joseph had been slurping down all afternoon made its desire to be released known. He pushed the growing urge to pee to the back burner of his consciousness for a while, but the nagging became more and more incessant and harder to ignore.

“Hey,” he whispered to Meg, who was sitting next to him. “I have to pee.”

Meg shrugged and turned back to the cards she was holding. Joseph waited for a moment, then concluded that she had no intention of answering him. He started to stand up, deciding that he would go to the bathroom and strip off the diapers to relieve himself. However, Meg reached out and with surprising strength, firmly held Joseph in his seat with a hand on his shoulder. Joseph looked over at her, surprised, but Meg was still looking at her cards, ostensibly unaware of her persuasive action. Joseph saw Steve watching the exchange from the corner of his eye, but Steve made no effort to intervene. Joseph tried to stand up again, but the hand shot out and held him down once more. With a loud sigh, Joseph relaxed and Meg released her grip. It was one thing to pee outside sledding where no one could be the wiser, but in here, in front of everyone, Joseph didn’t think he was comfortable with that.

Caleb looked over at Joseph. “I went in mine a long time ago. Don’t stress about it.”

Joseph looked at him, surprise showing on his face. Did they all want him to sit here and pee in a diaper in front of them? It sure seemed so. The urgency was building, and all this concentration on the issue wasn’t making matters any better for his bladder.

“Why else you wearing them if you ain’t goin to you use 'em?” Caleb said, laying a set of cards down to his collection of points in their game of rummy.

Caleb had a point, Joseph realized. And the idea of just peeing here, in front of everyone, was strangely exciting. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders and muttered, “Fine.” His bladder didn’t need to be told twice and he immediately felt the warm urine releasing through his penis and into the cloth diaper. Despite his desire to look up and see if anyone was watching, Joseph kept his eyes glued to the four of diamonds in his hand of seven. He shivered in the excitement of the situation; it seemed as if electricity was pulsing up his back. To his added embarrassment, the distinct sound of his peeing could be heard above the soft hum of the central air heating system, but no one made a comment. Steve played a run and discarded. “Your turn, Emma,” he said. Joseph felt the warm liquid spread and trickle around his groin, running up his bottom. The flow abated as the rotation of play reached him. He leaned forward to draw a card, not having anything to play, and felt the squish of the soaked cloth. It felt wonderful on his boyhood. Joseph couldn’t help but smile and he felt Meg pat him softly on his back. And that was it. No other mention of the incident was made until they packed up the cards to start on dinner preparations. Joseph pulled Meg aside and whispered, “Should I get a change?”

“Did you go more than once?” She asked back out loud. Joseph heard Caleb giggle.

Joseph shook his head.

“Then not yet. Let me know after the next time you pee,” Meg said with a wink.

Joseph looked back at Caleb and caught him with a silly grin on his face. Caleb turned away quickly.

The chance to get changed came after dinner was being cleaned up. Having gone a second time while he was washing dishes, Joseph approached Meg.

“I, um, I’m ready,” he stammered, nervous about how the situation would play out.

Meg looked down at Joseph as she dried a plate. “OK. Let me finish here and we’ll go get you cleaned up.”

Joseph watched as Meg took her time drying the rest of the dishes. He shifted from foot to foot restlessly while he waited. Caleb, Emma, and Steve had left the kitchen after finishing up their tasks and retired to the lounge to look for a movie to watch. The wet diaper, warm right after wetting, was now damp and cool and itchy. Joseph was anxious to get out of it.

Finally, Meg dried the last of the cups and took a deep breath. “Whew,” she said, “It’s been a long two days.” She smiled down at Joseph and for the first time, Joseph thought she looked tired. “Not that I don’t like spending time with you,” she added with a wink.

Joseph nodded. “Still a long time to be at work,” he agreed. He thought his voice sounded small and weak, high and boyish. Not the strong, comforting support he wished he could summon to make Meg feel better.

“OK, let’s get you taken care of,” Meg said with a sigh and a pat on Joseph’s back. Joseph felt his hand being grabbed and, though surprised, he did not resist Meg leading him out of the kitchen, down the hallway, past the lounge where Caleb, Emma, and Steve were kneeling in front of a box of DVDs, and into the receiving room.

Joseph stood awkwardly in the middle of the room as the door closed and Meg went over to the cupboards. She pulled out a fresh towel, a bottle of what was clearly powder, wipes, and two new diapers and a pair of plastic pants. Joseph thought it was rather brash of her to assume that he wanted to be changed into a fresh diaper, but he found himself keeping his mouth shut. Whatever resentment he had vanished in a moment as Meg laid out the towel and asked him to lie down. As he lay back on the towel, the same excitement that he had experienced earlier washed over him. Joseph could feel his heart beat as he lay on the towel, which did little to soften the thinly carpeted floor. He stared up at the ceiling, covered in aged tiles that showed remnants of once being white. Leaks in the roof and pipes above had created a collection of rust colored circles. Many of the tiles were broken and cracked, giving an insight in to the usual state of things at the center. Joseph knew that he had inadvertently chosen a good time to be homeless, an opportunity to experience a rare lull in the usual circus that must have plagued the shelter.

Meg was pulling off his sweatpants. Joseph felt for a moment that he should assist her, some reservations against her completely taking over for him. But he decided to just let her take care of him. That is what she seemed to enjoy most about the whole situation. The idea didn’t sound half bad to Joseph either. If they could both win, then why not?

After pulling off the plastic pants, Meg unpinned the wet diapers and pulled them off of Joseph. Feeling vulnerable being exposed and wet, Joseph bit back the instinct to cover himself with his hands. Instead, he held them flat and felt the fabric of the towel on his palms. Meg was wiping Joseph off with a cool wipe. As she cleaned his penis, he felt it tingle and knew he was going to get an erection. He hoped Meg would hurry up and finish before he got completely hard, but understood in the back of his mind that that was a lost cause. Meg didn’t seem to notice though. Just continued to clean Joseph thoroughly, getting a new wipe as she cleaned his bottom. Joseph had been around enough boys at school and while playing to know that he wasn’t especially big downstairs. He was reaching the age where he was starting to feel self-conscious about that sort of thing and Joseph hoped Meg wasn’t judging him. He knew that was a ridiculous worry, anyways. Joseph was aware he was well short of puberty; any size of any boy his age, small or not, would be nothing compared to what he was sure Meg had been involved with. So he tried to ignore his embarrassment. She finished wiping him off and put the two fresh diapers under his waiting bottom. They felt so clean and welcoming compared to the clammy and cold used diapers. Joseph broke his eyes away from analyzing the nuances of the aged tile and looked at Meg. She happened to look down at his eyes at that very moment and they held their gaze for a moment. She had brown eyes, deep and polished like a fresh chestnut. Her eye lashes were impossibly long, and they seemed to shudder with energy as she looked at Joseph. Her mouth smiled a reassuring smile and Joseph smiled back. Truly smiled. Grinned, really. Usually when Joseph smiled, even at the best of times, it was tight lipped and forced. But here, teeth showed, a true smile of true contentment and happiness. Meg pulled up the diapers snugly and pinned them securely. Joseph, finding staring at Meg’s soft, beautiful features much more interesting than the decrepit ceiling tiles, continued to watch her movements. After she had pulled the plastic pants up, she winked at Joseph and reached out and tickled his tummy. He squirmed, reaching his hands out and trying to pull her hand away. Meg softened her touch and gently rubbed Joseph’s stomach for a moment, as if trying to erase the obvious discomfort of the tickle. “Feel better?”

Joseph nodded. “Yeah,” he said softly.

She still had her hand on his tummy, as if holding him down. “I talked to the police earlier and they said they were able to get in contact with your grandma. She’s expecting you tomorrow.”

Joseph looked away for a moment. “OK,” he whispered.

On the couch, Joseph curled up his knees and leaned against Meg’s bosom. She had her arm around him and held his small body close. With the diaper and Meg’s comforting embrace, the world felt right to Joseph, like it just couldn’t touch him here. He was again going into the unknown. When the police came for him tomorrow, this bastion that had provided a short reprieve would be demolished and Joseph would again be forced out into the wild unknown, the untamed expanse that strikes fear into even the strongest man. And Joseph: small and weak, was very afraid. But for the moment, here snuggling with Meg, it all felt alright. And Joseph felt, after seeing that Caleb and Emma survived the daily horror that feasted upon their livelihood with ravenous hunger and left them exhausted, faces drawn and shadowed, and were still able to smile a silly smile and protect each other and still love, Joseph felt that it was all alright.

Joseph awoke in the night, having gone to bed after the movie in the bunk bed he had slept in the night before. Caleb’s steady breathing drifted up from the mattress below. Joseph was thirsty and very much awake. The heavy weariness that had made him instantly go to sleep when he laid his head on the pillow seemed to have evaporated. He climbed down the ladder and left the dark room for the lighted hallway to seek out something to drink. Joseph’s sock-clad feet padded softly on the carpeted floor and the diaper he was still wearing, only slightly wet, swished with each step. Rounding the corner toward the kitchen, he saw that the light was still on. He paused in the doorway and saw that Meg and Steve were sitting at a table, mugs in front of each, talking in soft voices. Steve looked over having sensed Joseph’s presence in the room.

“Hey buddy,” Steve said. Meg looked over at Joseph and smiled. She looked very tired. “Couldn’t sleep?”

Joseph shook his head. “I’m thirsty,” he said.

“Well, come and have a seat and I’ll get you some water,” Meg said as she got up to retrieve a glass.

Joseph walked over to the table and took a seat. He looked timidly over at Steve, getting the distinct impression that he was interrupting something. Steve was looking at his mug.

They sat in silence for a while after Meg had returned with the glass of water. Joseph took sips and tried not to feel awkward for intruding on whatever Meg and Steve had been talking about. He was about to get up and take his water to his room when Steve cleared his throat and looked at Joseph. “So,” Steve said, “tell us about yourself, Joseph. You’re from California, right?”

“Yeah,” Joseph answered. “Calexico.”

“Bet that is a pretty small town.”

Joseph nodded. “Oh yeah.”

“If you don’t mind me asking,” Meg said, “Why are you here? Where are your parents?”

“I don’t mind,” Joseph said, taking a drink of water and looking at Meg and Steve for a moment. “They’re in jail,” he said simply. “Arrested for trying to kill each other.”

“Jeez, Joseph,” Meg said softly, “That is horrible. I’m sorry to hear that.”

Joseph shrugged nonchalantly. “I don’t care about them.”

“That’s not true,” Steve said.

“Oh, yes it is,” Joseph responded, his voice harsher than he intended. “They don’t care about me, so I don’t care about them.”

“Why were they trying to kill each other?”

“Long story.”

“We’ve got a long time,” Meg said softly, “Let’s hear it.”

Joseph took a deep breath. He wasn’t sure he wanted to talk about it. But if he was going to talk about it with anyone, it would be these two. Meg and Steve patiently waited for him. “OK,” Joseph said softly. "Here we go.

"Well, basically, they do a lot of drugs. Mostly meth, but really anything they can get their hands on. It feels like they’ve been doing it forever, but I know it hasn’t been forever, just feels that long. It got really bad the last couple of years. I can’t remember much about when I was younger, but I feel like it wasn’t always as bad as it was there right before I had to leave. They’ve always drank a lot, ya know? My dad loves tequila and beer, my mom just drinks wine, and lots of it. And they get drunk, I mean really drunk. And it’s not like they are really mean to me. I ain’t been beaten or anything like that. So I know I’m lucky as far as that goes, but they just don’t care about me at all. It is as if I don’t exist most of the time. They only care about getting messed up.

"It’s nice all the time in California. Weather is, ya know? Sun, always sun. Rains like once or twice a year. So I just spent all my time outside, away from home. There is all sorts of things to do by my house, if you want to call it a house. I got friends down there. Most of their parents are as messed up as mine. We all look out for each other. Help each other survive. Have a little fun. I mean, probably the one and only thing I’ll miss about home is my friends down there. I ain’t very big and I sure ain’t strong, so I got pushed around a bit. I wasn’t very popular with my friends because I didn’t want to do a lot of the stuff they were all doing. Gettin drunk on their own, smokin weed, ya know. It just didn’t make sense to me, with my parent’s lives all messed up, for me to be doing the stuff that got them there in the first place. But my friends, they like to drink and smoke and tag stuff, paint all sorts of stuff on buildings. A couple of them are in juvi for stealing from my school during the night. Stuff like that. And I’m just not into it, so they didn’t like me much. Guess they weren’t the greatest of friends, now that I think about it, and maybe I won’t miss them much, but it was all I had, ya know? And a heck of a lot better than being at home.

"We lived in this small two room piece right by an old dried out riverbed. You would not believe the amount of garbage in my house. I sleep out on the porch. They, my parents, put a sleeping bag out there. I don’t mind it. It don’t smell out there as bad as it does inside. But it wasn’t great ‘cause I had scorpions and spiders and bugs in there all the time and, ya know, it is hard to get a good night’s sleep when you’re worrying about a scorpion stingin’ your toes. And those things can kill you. Inside, though, jeez, just empty beer cans and booze bottles, fast food wrappers, ash trays. It all smelled like alcohol, rotten food, and smoked cigarettes. Guess I got used to it, but I’d bet you would puke if you even got within a mile of our house.

"I mostly had to find my own food. Whatever was leftover. Guess my parents must have cared for me when I was smaller, before I could look out for myself. I survived, right? But guess when I got old enough where they decided I could find my own food, they just forgot about me. I went to school most of the time just 'cause it was something to do. But the teachers down there are terrible. And it isn’t just 'cause we were bad kids, I mean these teachers didn’t care at all whether we were learning anything or not. They just were there to get paid, ya know? It was just a job. I’m eleven, in fifth grade, but I bet I don’t know what a third grader is supposed to know. And I’m not even sure about that. I just don’t even know where I’m supposed to be at or what I’m supposed to know.

"Anyways, my parents started doing a lot of meth, and that is when it got really weird. They’d be up for three days strait just drinking beer and booze like it was water, chain smoking cigarettes and talking non-stop, taking hits. I’d try to just stay away, but if I wandered in, they’d always want to hug me and tell me how much they loved and cared about me and how they were going to turn things around. They had plans like you wouldn’t believe. Plans and plans and plans how they were going to go back to school, get degrees, start a business, move to L.A… Just on and on and on. They’d get high and happy and dream, but none of it ever happened. I was excited at first, thinking we’d get out of the mess, but after it kept happening and they kept talking, always talking about what they were going to do, but never did any of it except drink, smoke cigarettes, and do more drugs, I gave up on them. Then they’d come down, run out of drugs, and would sleep and groan and puke for days, then do it all over again. It was gross.

"It got really bad, though, ‘bout a month or so ago. They started dealing. Lots of people around there do drugs. All my friends’ parents did, my friends were starting too. It is a good business to get into. So my parents figured why not cash in. But all the meth was making them paranoid and crazy and they started thinking that the other was stealing. Both of them were accusing each other. They started really fighting, and even gettin high wouldn’t make it better, even for a little bit. My mom moved out a few weeks ago and started crashing at a friend of hers. Well, she tried to poison my dad one day. Tried to kill him off puttin poison in his drink while he was supposed to be gone. Well, he caught her and pulled a gun on her. So there they were, both trying to kill each other and being as crazy as hell. So I called the cops. I knew what they were doing, dealing and all, and I knew that if the cops came, they’d be put away for a while. But like I said, I just didn’t care.

"So the cops did come, found all the meth and I told them what happened and they arrested them. They were so messed up, I don’t even think they knew who turned them in. They didn’t even say goodbye to me. I don’t even think they knew I was there. Well, the county made me stay with my uncle 'cause he was my only other relative in the area. He don’t do drugs, so that is nice, but the guy was always drunk. From morning to night. I mean, even my parents stopped for a while each week while they were coming down. But I mean, this guy never stopped ‘cept when he was passed out and couldn’t. He’d probably keep drinkin’ while he was asleep if he could find a way. Well, he knew he couldn’t take care of me, and he didn’t want me around. Not that he was mean or anything. He’s actually a pretty nice and funny guy. He was strangely moral and didn’t want to mess me up anymore by being around him. So he shipped me off up here. Told me I was going to my grandma’s. I’m not even sure if he told the police I was coming up here. Just put me on a plane, put my grandma’s address in my pocket and, well, you know what happened next, I guess. There was a bomb threat at the airport I think. Something was going on, but a cop, Officer Leemon, took me to my grandma’s but she wasn’t there and here I am.

“It’s crazy. I know I have a crazy life. I’m only eleven, but man, I know most people in this country don’t live like I have. But, you know, seeing Caleb and Emma, it is nice that they have each other to look after, they can take care of each other. They can survive, ya know? Gives me hope. It seems that is the way to do it. It is bad for them, too, you can just tell, but they are there for each other. And they survive. And that is why I like it here, I guess…” Joseph paused, “I feel like you all are actually looking after me, like you actually care, and I feel like I can make it with you around…”

Joseph stopped talking. Meg and Steve weren’t staring at him in disbelief, weren’t shocked at his story, weren’t smothering him in hugs and tears and apologies for how life had committed inexcusable atrocities against his innocent soul. In fact, they didn’t even seem fazed.

Meg did put an arm around Joseph and pulled him in close after a moment. “We are here for you, and you are right, Joseph, the only way to survive and enjoy this life is with others.” She looked over at Steve and Joseph saw something pass between them.

Joseph wasn’t sure how he felt. He had never talked to anyone as much as he just had to Meg and Steve. He’d never told his story. Everyone always says that it helps to talk, to release what is inside. But he felt about the same. Talking didn’t magically fix anything. Especially when talking about unfix-able problems. If there was one thing that really annoyed Joseph it was unabashed sympathy. He hated it when people openly felt sorry for him or expressed any sort of gushy feelings. Those feelings were often forced or done just to make someone feel better and were rarely organic and sincere. So Joseph was thankful for Meg and Steve’s response. It would have made him feel awkward and uncomfortable about sharing had they over-reacted in their sympathy. Instead, their realistic acceptance of his situation confirmed his belief that his life wasn’t all that bad. He knew it was rough, relatively, but Joseph also knew that a lot of other people had it just as bad or worse. No one was talking at the table, but the silence was not oppressive. The subtle hum of the heater grew to a roar in the quiet room and Joseph realized he was sleepy. He yawned.

“Feel like you can go back to sleep?” Meg asked.

Joseph nodded.

“Do you need a change before bed?”

“No, I don’t think so, but thanks.”

Joseph made his way back to the dorm room after they all exchanged heartfelt “good nights” (their relationship had strengthened, fused by Joseph’s open chronicle of his life), leaving Steve and Meg alone once again. Caleb was still sleeping soundly and it did not take long for Joseph to join the surreal land of the unconscious.

********************* CHAPTER 3 *********************

Re: Joseph Kross: The Adventures Of

This is an excellent story. Thanks for posting it. Please keep going I can’t wait for more.

Re: Joseph Kross: The Adventures Of

I agree that this is a very good story. I have also read some of your other stories and have also enjoyed them very much too! I can’t wait for the next chapter. :slight_smile:

Re: Joseph Kross: The Adventures Of

Joseph Kross:

the adventures of

a short story by austin

Notes: Thank you all for your comments. They inspire me and I really truly, appreciate it. Thank you. Like I said in the forward, there are four chapters to this story. The structure of the plot is much like a hurricane. The first chapter was the first half of the storm. The second chapter was the eye (with the storm clouds still visible, towering and surrounding the calm). This chapter, chapter 3, is the second half of the storm. And it is a dark storm. For that I apologize. I know we all like to read happy stories. But that is not life. However, know that the storm does end. In chapter 4, the storm has passed and Joseph survives. Peace is coming for Joseph, I promise. But first we must weather the hurricane…

********************* CHAPTER 3 *********************

Morning came quickly. Someone was shaking Joseph and through the haze of sleep, Joseph recognized Meg’s voice.

“Time to wake up, Joseph. You’re ride is here.”

Joseph sat up and looked around, confused. He saw Meg standing next to the bunk bed. Her hair was tangled and messy from sleep and her eyes looked as if they were weighed down by heavy, dark gray bags.

“Officer Leemon is here for you.”

“Oh, not him again,” groaned Joseph sleepily. He got out of bed, though, and climbed down the ladder. He saw that Caleb’s sleeping bag had been rolled up. “Where is Caleb?”

“He was picked up earlier,” Meg said.

“Oh,” Joseph said, trying not to show disappointment. “He didn’t say goodbye.”

“Yeah, he did. Emma came in too. You were pretty out of it. But it is the thought that counts, I guess,” Meg said. “Now, hurry up and jump in the shower before Leemon get’s all agitated.”

Joseph didn’t want to see Leemon angry, so he hustled out of the room. On his way to the receiving room, which had become his de facto bathroom, Joseph had to pass through the entry way. He almost froze in his tracks when he not only saw Officer Leemon sipping coffee out of a steaming styrofoam cup, but a strange lady seated at the front desk. But Joseph hurried past, ignoring Leemon’s mumbled, “Good morning,” and painfully aware of the bulge around his middle and the prominent swishing of the plastic pants.

In the bathroom, Joseph saw, washed and folded neatly on the counter, the clothes he was wearing when he arrived in Seattle. Joseph quickly and unceremoniously stripped out of the diaper and his pajamas. He washed vigorously in the shower, feeling anxious and angry. He was dreading the day, and the next, and the next. And Joseph was angry that as soon as he found something good, it was being taken away from him. The unfairness was painful and Joseph fought back tears of frustration as he let the hot water wash his body. After drying off, Joseph quickly put on his clothes. For some reason they appeared barely recognizable even though he had just worn them two days before.

In the entry way, Meg was waiting with an apple and a banana and a plastic sack with dry cereal in it. “Here is some breakfast for you,” she said quietly. She wrapped Joseph in a tight hug and Joseph swore he felt her lightly kiss his hair. Meg pulled back and held him at arms length. “In a strange way, I hope I never see you again. That your grandma’s is perfect for you. That she’s nice and you never have to move again until you’re old enough to live on your own.”

Joseph nodded. He didn’t like the sound of it, but he knew what Meg said was the best possible way things could turn out. But the thought of not seeing Meg again really pained him. He looked away, feeling both angry and helpless. Meg hugged him again. “But also,” she whispered, “I hope I run into you again soon. You’re a special boy.”

It would have been cheesy and insincere coming from anybody else, but from Meg, Joseph felt truly special. He let a small smile briefly flash on his face. “Thanks for everything,” He said softly. “Say goodbye to Steve for me, I guess.”

“He’s showering, or I’m sure he’d be here to wish you good luck,” Meg said.

Joseph took a step back towards the door. “Go home and get some sleep or something,” he said, then turned and walked out before he could cry. He heard Officer Leemon follow him out the double doors.

Outside, the snow that had been so pristine, white, and soft the day before had turned into a soggy, slushy, cold, wet, uncomfortable mess. Joseph’s shoes and socks were immediately soaked. Continuous loud dripping sounds came from everywhere. The sun was attempting to break through a thin, yet effective cloud layer, and there was no direct shine to lighten the dreariness of the day. A snow plow had come by some time in the night and formed a bank along both sides of the street. Dirt from the street and exhaust from cars had mixed with the snow and the mounds were a putrid brownish black, dotted with gravel that had been spread on the street to increase traction.

“Messy, isn’t it,” Officer Leemon said as he opened up the door for Joseph.

Joseph just nodded and climbed into the hard plastic bucket seat in the back. Someone had disinfected it since Joseph’s accident. Next to him on the seat lay his lone bag. Someone had apparently retrieved it from the airport.

“This is the usual winter in Seattle for you. Wet, gray, and brown. The last two days were an anomaly. But just get through it. By May, it will be beautiful. We’ve got the best summers anywhere, period. Better than the Bahamas, better than California. Ain’t too hot, but it’s not cold. Plenty of water for swimming for you youngsters. Lots of parks, beaches, sports, you name it. It’s give and take, this life. Nothing is free,” Officer Leemon mused as he pulled the police cruiser onto the freeway. “A constant trade off. We pay the rent for seven months of beautiful blue skies with five months of rain. But if you can survive the rain, it’s sure one heck of a reward, the summers in Seattle. Wouldn’t trade it for nothing.”

Officer Leemon didn’t mention anything about the ride he had given Joseph two days before. To Joseph it seemed like a lifetime ago and he was glad to let certain aspects of the ride fall to the wayside of history. Leemon continued his pointless banter all the way to Joseph’s grandma’s house. Joseph hardly listened and Leemon didn’t seem to mind. Joseph wondered if he talked like this even when there wasn’t anyone else in the car. Probably.

The neighborhood that his grandma lived in was a stark difference to the surroundings of the Temporary Youth Housing Facility. Whereas that district had been acutely derelict, Joseph saw that his grandma’s neighborhood was well kept, domestic, and safe. He doubted that there were any shelters for homeless youth here, nor any need. Weirdly enough, though he had no proof, he also felt as if it wasn’t as friendly. Joseph supposed this was the opposite impression he was supposed to have. Cleanliness and tidiness and SUVs and new basketball hoops with real nets, two and three door garages, snow figures crafted by happy, innocent, clueless, smiling children (slowly drooping under the assault of the warming temperature), curbside mailboxes, no graffiti in sight, clean parks with no prone homeless figures lying motionless on the benches, no litter, signs on the side of the road warning of playing children, wide roads, strip malls and supermarkets, Starbucks, brown corduroy pants, fleece vests, dogs on leashes with owners dutifully following along (compulsory poop bag in hand), high-end road bikes, hybrid cars, new schools. The space was wide open, yet suffocating. All his life, Joseph had known nothing but poverty and being plunged into this affluent environment was anything but stabilizing. He just didn’t get the feeling that anyone would willingly share their sled with him here.

They pulled up next to the house, painted a gray blue that melded nicely with everything else gray and brown around it. Trudging up the driveway, slush splashed out from under Joseph’s sneakers. He felt nervous, but at least his pants were dry this time around. After ringing the doorbell, Officer Leemon took a step back. Joseph heard footsteps inside and the door slowly creaked open. A figure stood obscured behind the screen door.

“You must be my grandson,” came a scratchy old voice.

It wasn’t that she was mean, it was just that Joseph’s grandma wasn’t particularly nice, nor entirely present either physically or mentally. She was, without a doubt, the oldest person he had ever seen in real life. They didn’t live to be that old down in Calexico. The interior of the house looked to have been forgotten by her and everybody else years before. It wasn’t dirty, but everything inside it was old. Joseph felt like he was walking into a museum. Even the magazines which decorated the glass coffee table in the living room were from ten years before.

After a brief and awkward introduction, she had hobbled down rickety old stairs into a musty basement and took him to his room. The air smelled as if it hadn’t been freshened or ventilated in decades. The room was burrowed into a forgotten corner of the basement, through a hallway lined with bookshelves packed with old music records and books. A thick layer of dust covered everything in sight and did little to help illuminate the darkness with any sort of brightening reflection of the bare light bulb which hung from a frayed wire outside the door. The door itself was scratched, as if a dog had been trapped outside and pawed at the door, begging to be let in, though why anything or anyone would desire to be inside of that room, Joseph could not fathom. The room was small and the first impression Joseph had when he saw it was brown. Dark wood paneling covered the walls. An ancient portrait of a young boy, faded to sepia and bordered with an oval shaped frame, hung on the wall above a dresser. A bed was in the corner, covered with an old and dirty knit blanket made of beige material. Joseph saw a thin and deflated pillow peaking out from under the blanket. Brown shag carpet covered the ground and as Joseph stepped onto it, he got the feeling that in its long yarn hairs, the carpet was holding trapped secrets, stories of the room’s past. He could almost feel it through his feet. A lamp with a light brown shade sat on a small table next to the bed. The only component of the room that wasn’t brown was the dark and heavy pea-green curtains that covered what must have been a window, though there was no evidence of such as no light penetrated the stifling dimness of the room from that direction.

His grandma left him to get settled, as she put it, but Joseph, standing in the middle of the brown which was everywhere and closing in fast, knew that was going to be impossible. Putting his bag down on the bed, he took a closer look at the portrait above the dresser. The boy couldn’t have been more than five and was staring curiously at the camera, as if he didn’t quite know what it was and slightly afraid of what it was going to do to him. He was wearing overalls and underneath a collared shirt which the boy was obviously uncomfortable in. Pulled over well combed hair was a round cap with a small bill. The boy was sitting on a stool in what appeared to be a makeshift studio, perhaps of the traveling variety, with just a heavy wool blanket draped as a background. There was something about the photograph that Joseph didn’t like, something creepy. Maybe it was just the fact that it was so old, haunted; like everything else in the house. Joseph wondered if a portrait of himself would one day give the creeps to some other boy in the future.

Joseph turned from the haunting, questioning gaze of the boy and set about unpacking his meager belongings. He’d not had the chance to pack much, not that there were a lot of clothes to bring in the first place. Spreading them out in the different drawers of the dresser, Joseph put away his clothes, first attempting to fold them, though he could tell he wasn’t doing a good job. He had always felt alone down in Calexico and it didn’t really bother him, but as he folded the last of his three shirts and placed it in a drawer, Joseph felt something stronger and more painful. Joseph felt lonely. The rest of his life stretched out before him in all its disillusioned mediocrity: growing up alone with this ancient relic of a grandma, his only companion the confused and haunted boy on the wall. His skin would fade from its healthy bronze to a pale and translucent white in the dark confines of his basement room. To the neighborhood children, if there were any, he would be the eerie, sunken-eyed boy sometimes seen peeping from behind curtains at the world outside. He was sure his grandma wouldn’t even bother to sign him up for school and he’d have to teach himself with the outdated books which lined the dusty bookshelves outside his door. Joseph shivered, truly scared with the dreadfulness of it all.

Venturing upstairs after unpacking his bag, Joseph found his grandma seated in an easy chair in front of a television which was blaring loudly, its volume adjusted for the old woman’s failed hearing. The chair was frayed and well-used, a shabby faded green with brown foam stuffing poking out of various sized holes. It looked to Joseph that his grandma rarely, if ever, removed her frail body from the chair’s confines. The curtains in the room were drawn, not that there was much light outside, and the air smelled old and medical. On the table next to his grandma lay a startling collection of orange pill bottles, standing white caps on top, towering next to each other like the buildings of a downtown metropolis. The only other piece of furniture in the living room was a white couch and a few potted plants, brown and dry.

“Hi,” Joseph said meekly, walking up and standing next to his grandma. She was staring steadily at the glowing television, a talking head from cable news prattling on about war and terror. She didn’t seem to hear him.

“Hello,” Joseph said again, this time leaning toward her, trying to speak directly to her ear.

She turned and eyed him with her dull, watery eyes. She was wearing wide rimmed, thick-lensed glasses. Every inch of her face was wrinkled, her skin dry and leathery. Brown discolorations that resembled moles, but on a much larger scale, splotched everywhere. She was wearing a pink knit sweater, gray pants, and thick slippers which actually looked rather comfortable. She smiled at him. “Hello Joseph.” She turned back to the TV. “Food is in the kitchen if you want anything.”

Joseph saw that this was all he was going to get out of her. Despondently, he ventured into the kitchen to see if he could find anything that wasn’t moldy or outdated.

Laying in bed that night, the covers pulled up close to his chin, Joseph tried his best to see into the dark. He was frightened and cold. His small body shivered as odd, ominous noises came from deep inside the house. He felt very small and very alone; lonely. Never being much afraid of the dark in Calexico, Joseph had not seen the use of nightlights and thought them childish. But here in the dark basement of this house, rain pattering outside (mercilessly melting the snow) and creaking emitting from every floorboard, Joseph would have given a lot to have the comforting glow of a nightlight reassure him.

Joseph must have gone to sleep at some point, because he awoke with a start. There was no clock in the room so Joseph had no idea of the time. Something felt weird. It was still dark, Joseph had no idea how long he had been asleep. Something was off. Wet, cold, uncomfortable. With a groan, Joseph realized what it was. His bed was wet, the sheets soaked. Joseph lay there for a minute, surrounded by his own cold dampness which, he could feel, had spread far up his shirt and completely soaked his shorts, but did not know what to do. He had wet the bed. Joseph lay still, feeling the discomfort. It disgusted him. He wanted clean sheets but he had no idea where he could find fresh bedding in the house, and he didn’t particularly want to search in the darkness of the haunted shadows of the unfamiliar house. So Joseph just lay there, cold, shivering, uncomfortable, and wondering how and why he had actually wet his bed until he drifted back off to restless sleep.

The sun must have been up, because Joseph could see again, though there wasn’t much light in room. Just a dull glow coming from the behind the curtains. He sat up in bed still exhausted, the sheets around him still wet, receiving no incentive to dry from the cold temperature in the room. He rolled out of bed and felt his wet shirt and shorts cling to his skin. He looked down at his pajamas and saw that the wet shorts clung so close to his skin that an outline of his boyhood was clearly visible. Feeling gross, he quickly jogged out of the door and to the bathroom, which was just down the hallway and past the shelves of records and books. Taking off his urine soaked clothes, he turned on the shower and waited naked and shivering for the water to warm, the toes of his bare feet curled in against the cold of the tile floor. It took a long while. Finally, faint wisps of steam curled out from the top curves of the shower curtain. Joseph stepped into the stall and immediately wished he had something to protect his feet. A layer of brown mildew covered the entire floor of the stall and felt slimy with the hot water washing over it. The mildew crept up the wall in a relentless assault of damp decay. The hot water felt so good, but the relief and comfort he sought was denied by the disgusting state of this shower in which he was supposed to clean himself. Joseph was suddenly very angry with his grandma. Who was this woman? Who would let her house deteriorate to such an extent? How could even a woman of her age find repose in its malign archaic-ness?

There was no soap to bath himself with, so after letting the hot water do its best to wash away the accident from the night and rubbing himself down with his hands, Joseph stepped out of the stall, happy to leave behind the mildew, but immediately sorry to not have the warmth of the hot water. It was freezing in the bathroom and Joseph realized he had no means of drying himself off. His urine soaked clothes would do little good. Gingerly grabbing the hem of both shirt and shorts, Joseph dashed dripping and naked as the day he was born down the hallway and back to his room. Slamming the door shut behind him, Joseph deposited the wet clothes on the wet bed and realized it was silly for him to be worried about being seen by his grandma who surely never came downstairs. The excursion the day before to show Joseph his room was most certainly an irregularity. Seeing nothing else to serve as a towel, Joseph grabbed the thick blanket which covered the bed (it was still dry, the sheets taking most of the damage) and wrapped himself in it, hoping it would dry off his body. It smelled fetid and unwashed and Joseph was sure what little good the water had done to clean his body was being erased by this foul excuse for a bed cover.

As dry as he was going to get, Joseph put on his remaining pair of underwear and jeans, slipped on a t-shirt, and went upstairs to find some food to deter the gnawing hunger in his belly.

Joseph found his grandma shuffling around the kitchen in slippers and a bathrobe. She looked at him when he entered and huffed a raspy, “Good morning.”

“Good morning,” Joseph respectfully replied. He felt he should at least tell his grandma of his accident. “Uh, grandma?” He started.

“Mgmph,” came the unintelligible reply as she rummaged around in the fridge.

“I, uh, might have wet the bed,” Joseph got out quickly.

His grandma’s rummaging paused. “Might have? Did you or did you not wet the bed?” She asked, pulling out a carton of milk and eying it suspiciously.

“Uh, yes, I did.”

“Mgmph.” She put the milk back in the fridge and instead retrieved a half-empty jar of dill pickles.

Joseph grimaced in disgust, his stomach revolting at the thought of pickles, dill or otherwise, in the morning.

“Well,” Joseph’s grandma continued, her shaking hands struggling to open the lid, “didn’t know I was gettin’ a bed wetter.”

Joseph wanted to tell her that he wasn’t a bed wetter. This was, in fact, the first time he could remember doing such a thing for a very long time. But he kept his mouth shut.

“You’re Uncle Robert wet the bed until he was about your age. Maybe it runs in the family.” She had gotten the container open and had fished one of the pickles out with her grimy fingers. Joseph watched as she brought the pickle up to her mouth and took a loud, crunching bite. Joseph wanted to look away, but was too fascinated by the spectacle. His grandma was now looking absently out of the window in the kitchen and, chewing steadily, taking in the view of an overgrown backyard. Joseph could see the rain had done an impressive job at melting the snow. Only a few resilient clumps hung dripping from the leaves of the bushes. “I think I still have a plastic cover somewhere. I’ll dig it out and you can put it on to save the mattress.”

Joseph almost told her not to worry about it, that it wasn’t going to happen again, but he was suddenly worried. What if this didn’t stop? What if he wet the bed again that night, and again the next? The thought of waking up with that cold, clammy feeling again made him shiver. If only Meg were around, Joseph thought. Then she could diaper him and it wouldn’t be an issue at all. It would all be alright.

“Go ahead and wash the sheets and blanket. You’ll find the washer and dryer in the basement.” Joseph’s grandma started on her second pickle. “You can make a bed, can’t you?”

Joseph nodded. He felt his cold, emotionless exterior starting to crumble. A lump was building in his throat. All he wanted in that moment was a hug. Someone to comfort him and tell him it would all be alright. That he shouldn’t worry about his childish accident. But his grandma turned and walked into the living room, the jar of pickles still in her hand slightly tipped and dripping pickle juice on the floor. Joseph turned and walked back down the stairs, forgetting about breakfast, and felt a tear slide down his cheeks. Why couldn’t Meg be here to take care of him? He choked down a sob, each step into the basement taking him further into the depths of his hopelessness and despair.

As Joseph put the wet sheets and blanket into the washing machine, he saw a stack of towels on a homemade wood shelf high up on the wall near the unfinished basement ceiling. Joseph reached as high as his small eleven year old body would let him, but was short of the goal by a good six inches. Finding a stool next to a dirty wash sink, Joseph dragged it over and stepped up. First, he grabbed a towel with the intention of having a clean one to dry himself off with after his next shower. Then, after holding the towel in his hand for a moment, he realized it reminded him of the diapers Meg had pinned to him just two nights before. They were even white and clean (and appeared to be the only white and clean thing in the entire house). Why couldn’t he do something similar himself? It might bring him a degree of the comfort real diapers had provided. Joseph grabbed two more towels, looking over his shoulder as if his grandma might catch him in the act of his unsanctioned borrowing. But no one was there.

With the washing machine rumbling loudly behind him, Joseph went back to his room and stowed the towels under his bed. Now all he needed was something to act as plastic pants. He found that his breathing had become harder, his body responding to the thought of diapers with excitement. Joseph thought this weird, but pushed the doubt from his mind. Who cares? he asked himself. No one here surely did. No one here would surely notice. He was free and alone and lonely. If so much wrong had been done to him, wasn’t he allowed this new-found guilty pleasure? In fact, if he could find some money, why shouldn’t he just go to the store and purchase some real diapers? What was to stop him? Excitement was coursing through his veins, so much so that his hands were shaking. He deserved this. The mission to find the comfort that he had experienced those two nights at the Temporary Youth Housing Facility suddenly became a palpable need. What three days ago he would have laughed openly at had now been thrust into his life as the sole attainable means to escape the uncertainty and pain and, now, loneliness. The anger towards his grandma that had surfaced while showering amidst the mildew returned and Joseph resolved to find money somewhere in the wretched house. His grandma owed him that much at least.

Joseph crept up the stairs, each emitting a tired groan in turn as he stealthily made his way up. He could already hear the blast of the television eliminating any need for secrecy but what he was intending to do was so criminal, so horrible, Joseph couldn’t help but feel a formidable surge of guilt which washed over him and nearly made him retreat back to his bedroom. As depraved as his life had been to that point, it was always someone else’s iniquity which surrounded him and he was a degenerate by default. Joseph had never acted in a way to bring guilt on himself. Sure, there was the trivial childhood transgressions, a lie here and there, copied homework, minor trespass, and even the odd vandalism, but Joseph had never stolen anything. He had never taken anything that was not his own (although it can be argued that any sin is steeling in some sense). But here he was, about to steel, if he could find the money, from a woman he had known less than twenty-four hours. His own grandmother, no less. An old woman of indeterminate prosperity who had taken this strange grandson under her own roof on a moment’s notice. But Joseph felt he was owed this crime, that he would be excused if one day he stood in front of the great judge. It was only fair and, clearly, his grandma neither cared for his well-being nor was making any attempt to soften Joseph’s unexpected decent into orphanhood (more or less; his parents were as good as dead).

And so he tip-toed from the kitchen, down a shag-carpeted hallway, and into what Joseph safely guessed was his grandma’s bedroom. Like every other room in the house, the curtains were drawn. A thick, musty scent betrayed the presence of age, and every object in the room was from a bygone era. A wide king-sized bed with a thick flowered comforter dominated much of the room. Across from where Joseph stood in the doorway was an intricately designed wood dresser with a mirror attached on top. On the top of the dresser lay scattered jewelry, stones now dull but telling of a happier, livelier past. A framed picture of a smiling couple leaned dusty next to the earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. Joseph approached the picture and looked at it closely. The man in the photo could have been his father, except that it was black and white and faded. Certainly it was of a grandfather he never knew. The youthful female was only slightly recognizable as the decaying woman now trying her best to become one with the frayed recliner in which she sat. Joseph thought it strange that once his grandma was young. He found it perplexing, with no ability to understand, that one day he would be as old as the hopeful young man in the photo, probably eighty years after that picture was taken, facing the same problems and doubts and hopes that, much like late afternoon shadows, the human species, no matter the era, no matter the technology, have never been able to shake. Yet he knew it would be. He also knew (and even more frightening than the prospect of his twenties) that one day he would be as old as his grandma currently was, if he survived that long. The inevitability of time was, in its resilience and surety, both wonderfully exciting and suffocatingly terrifying. Joseph shivered and the giant question mark of life nearly made him run back down to his room and hide. But he knew there was no reprieve there. In fact, this was why he was thieving in the first place. This unfathomable question mark was at fault. Joseph tore his eyes away from the portrait, the smiling, young, hopeful faces of his grandparents (now mercilessly tattered by time; one decaying in the ground, one decaying in a chair), and began to open drawers with a vigor brought on not by hope, but by fear, of the insatiable need to escape.

Trying to ignore the disgust and discomfort he felt rifling through his grandma’s undergarments, Joseph looked for a container where an old woman might hide a stash of money. An old tin, perhaps once the holder of cookies, a wooden box, a safe. But the search yielded nothing, and after the last drawer had been scoured, Joseph had to admit there was no money in the chest of drawers.

Then Joseph saw it, cracked and fading pink: a pig. The obviousness of it was humorous and Joseph felt a smile on his face as he rushed over to the old piggy bank and overturned it, finding a wooden plug in a hole on the bottom. He pulled out the plug and saw inside more quarters than he had ever seen before. He dumped them out on the bed and scooped a giant handful into his pocket, feeling the weight pull the jeans down on his waist. Into the other pocket he deposited as much as his hand could grab. It seemed as if there wasn’t even a dent in the pile of quarters on the bed and Joseph was sure, unless his grandma counted the coins regularly, which he doubted, that she would not notice the missing weight. After pouring all but a final small mound back into the piggy bank, Joseph capped the container and put it back in its spot, clearly outlined by the absence of dust where the pig normally stood. Holding the last of the quarters in his hands, Joseph rushed out of the room, down the shag-carpet hallway, through the kitchen, and back down the squeaking and groaning stairs, the television still blaring loudly from the living room.

A short while later, Joseph was trudging through the slush toward a busy street he could hear in the distance with the hope that a super market would be near. In the pockets of his coat, constantly clinking, were the quarters. Joseph shoved his hands deep in his jean pockets and looked up at the sky as he walked. There were patches of blue sky poking out here and there, but overwhelmingly the sky was filled with deep, darkly textured clouds. The sun occasionally found a pathway through the tangled clouds and appeared on and off again as Joseph walked and the clouds drifted. What had been nearly a foot and a half of snow was now barely a few inches of dirty gray slush. Four distinct lines ran the length of each street where cars had parted the slushy seas. Despite the fact that his shoes and socks were soaked through and the wetness had soaked his jeans from the heel halfway up to his knees, Joseph felt energetic. Not happy, per se, but motivated, driven. He was excited, that was for certain.

Turning onto the busy street where cars sped by, splashing slush far up on the sidewalk each time they careened past, Joseph saw a supermarket. A large yellow sign with blue lettering read QFC. Joseph had never seen one before, but it had the appearance of a large grocery store with dozens of cars parked in the parking lot and carts being pushed by hurried patrons. Towering mounds of snow were piled high in several locations throughout the lot and Joseph guessed that the lot had been plowed. There sure were a lot of people there. Joseph felt the first faltering of his confidence. All of the sudden, he was afraid of what people would think. Would the checkout attendant ask him what his purchase was for? In the back of his mind, Joseph knew his worry was unfounded. Sure, people might wonder at someone his age buying diapers, but they wouldn’t know him. No one here did. So, really, he had nothing to worry about.

But still, as Joseph entered into the store and, immediately appreciating the lack of wet slush, made his way down the first aisle he saw, his hands were shaking, his heart was pounding, and he was nervous. Very, very nervous. He walked past a mother, a small child loitering near by, and was sure the glance she threw in his direction was accusatory, as if she knew what he was doing there. He turned his eyes down toward the tiled floor and walked quicker. Up and down each aisle he walked, keeping his eye out for packages of diapers. Joseph didn’t know why he felt this action was such a bad thing. Why should anyone care if he was buying diapers even if he didn’t need them? Why should anyone care if he wore them for fun and enjoyed it? Why was it such a societal taboo? There was a certain shame associated with diapers, Joseph felt it and knew everyone else did too. But why? If anything, it was silly. Just silly. Nothing more. And no one should care about silly things.

Finally, after walking several aisles, Joseph saw he had arrived. Towered high on the shelves were packages of baby diapers. Joseph felt his heart leap and he looked around quickly to see if anyone was watching. An employee was checking prices just further down the aisle, but he was concentrating hard on his task and didn’t seem to notice Joseph at all. Still, Joseph wished he’d find something else to do. Joseph looked over the vast array of options and knew most would be too small for him. Didn’t they make diapers for older kids? Joseph was about to give up and look elsewhere after all he saw was diapers intended for babies or toddlers when he saw a package labeled Goodnights. Boys about his age were featured on the front, dressed in pajamas and smiling happily. The package said it was underwear for bed wetting. Joseph didn’t know his weight, so he grabbed the package of extra larges just to be safe. Joseph glanced quickly back at the worker and saw, much to Joseph’s horror, the man curiously looking back at him. Joseph felt blood rush to his face and he quickly turned his back on the employee and hurried down the aisle, the package of diapers held tightly in his hands. They felt squishy and firm at the same time. Joseph could feel each individual diaper tightly packed next to each other. His heart was beating so fast and hard he suddenly was afraid it would tire and stop. Arriving at the check-out, Joseph looked for the checker with the shortest line. Apparently this was a busy day to shop because everywhere shoppers stood waiting next to carts piled high with groceries and antsy children covetously eying the candy displays and their scintillating attraction. Choosing the best line in an array of worsts, Joseph stood, hands shaking, package of diapers in his hand, shoes and socks and pant-legs wet from the slush, and slightly cold as drafts of Seattle winter air blasted past each time the sliding doors of the exit opened. Joseph felt eyes attacking him from every direction, but when he garnered the confidence to look around, he saw no one taking particular notice of him. Though he couldn’t shake the feeling that the concentration of the women behind him on the different types of chewing gum was sudden and forced and she’d much rather be looking at the small boy with the thin red wind breaker jacket clutching the package of diapers clearly meant for his wear and use.

Joseph began to wonder why he was putting himself through this torture. A battle raged in his head. One side frustrated and angry that he should be nervous so; so judged. One side just plain scared. And the side that was winning, despite lop-sided odds: the resolve. The proverbial middle finger. Sometimes a great notion to not give up; to fight. And so Joseph stood his ground, shaking and shivering, gusts of cold air, thin red wind breaker jacket, and pant legs, socks, and shoes soggy from his walk in the slush. But he stood. And moved slowly forward in line. And then he was placing the package on the conveyor belt where he could no longer hide it with his body, not that his body was doing a good job of hiding the diapers anyways. But on the black conveyor belt, it was out in the open, moving slowly toward the check-out attendant, a twenty something male, probably a college student, who stood smiling down at Joseph.

“How are you today?”

“Good,” Joseph replied. His voice sounded small, high, boyish, and weak. Very much how he felt at that particular moment.

“Just these?” The man, who was quite tall and towered over Joseph, asked as he nonchalantly picked up the diapers, scanned them, and placed them in a waiting plastic bag.

“Yeah,” Joseph whispered. He didn’t dare glance at the line to see who was watching him. He was sure it was everyone.

“Thirteen ninety-five.”

“Huh?” Joseph asked.

“It’ll be thirteen ninety-five,” the check-out man repeated, still smiling; the smile non-committal, neither denouncing nor supporting.

“Oh,” Joseph said, digging into his pockets and dropping two piles of quarters on the counter.

The smile on the attendant wavered. “Do you know how much that is?” He asked, still sounding kind, but Joseph could discern a slight shift.

“No,” Joseph replied simply.

An audible groan could be heard from an impatient shopper in line.

The attendant winked at Joseph, “No problem,” and he started to split the quarters into stacks of four. It didn’t take long actually, and soon there were fourteen piles on the counter and a small pile of left-overs which Joseph scooped back into his pocket. A printing machine whirred and produced a receipt which was stuffed in the plastic bag next to the Goodnights. The attendant handed the bag to Joseph with a nickel and a farewell smile. “Have a good day.”

“You too,” Joseph mumbled, then without waiting a moment more, he turned and rushed out of the store, through the sliding door (cold air blasting) and back into the slush.

The bag seemed thin and transparent, doing an absolutely shoddy job at hiding the fact that Joseph was carrying diapers. The whole way home, Joseph felt in each passing car curious and accusing eyes. The walk home seemed longer, but finally Joseph burst through the back downstairs door, which he had purposely left open, and rushing into his brown room, dropped the plastic bag on his bed.

He stared at it, finally able to feel excited without the troubling weight of shame (all the more troubling because it was needless and its presence defied reasonable explanation). Joseph glanced toward the old, oval-framed portrait of the boy. The boy was still curiously staring at Joseph, wondering. But Joseph didn’t feel like the boy was accusing him of anything. Just curious. As if he might like to try the diapers too. Joseph smiled at the boy, who’s expression remained unchanged, and turned back to the bag.

Joseph pulled out the package of diapers. Indents were visible where his fingers had dug into the thin packaging. With shaking hands, he ripped open the package and pulled out one of the pull-ups. The first thing he thought was that they were very thin. Much thinner than the cloth pull-ups he had worn at the shelter. They were also decorated with cheesy colorful prints of bikes and other boyish things. Joseph thought it was ridiculous that the package advertised that the bed-wetting pants were “like real underwear.” They didn’t remotely resemble real underwear. Which was fine with Joseph.

He undid the laces on his shoes and took them off. After peeling off his wet socks, Joseph undid the button on his jeans and pulled them down so that he was standing in just his underpants and t-shirt. He looked toward the door, wondering if he should lock himself in the bathroom, but even downstairs he could hear the television blaring and Joseph knew he did not have to worry about his grandma walking in. So he stepped out of his underpants and picked up the folded Goodnight diaper on the bed. He pulled it open and found the hushed rustling sound it made sent an excited shiver through his body. Stepping carefully through the leg holes, Joseph pulled the diaper up his legs and snugly around his middle. He could feel the absorbent material cupping his boyhood and holding securely to his bottom. He was staring intently at his diapered middle, waiting. He waited a moment longer, then with a sigh, sat down on the edge of his bed. There had been no rush of relief. No magical reprieve from his loneliness. No sudden shot of comfort. No bliss. No happiness. All of that buildup. All of that nervousness and shame. For nothing. Joseph looked forlornly down at where the pull-up bulged out around his boyhood. The front of his shirt hung down and covered the top of the Goodnight, so all he could see was the material between his legs. The blue bikes printed on cheap, white material. Joseph doubted if it was even waterproof. Probably didn’t even work. And it was so thin. While it did feel better than normal underwear, it was nowhere near as thick as the diapers Meg had put on him at the shelter. Still, Joseph admitted to himself, it was better than nothing. Joseph suddenly had the desire to be near someone else with the diapers on. The thought of knowing he had a diaper on and no one else would be the wiser gave Joseph another jolt of excitement. He stood up, excited that he might be able to find a way to discover the relief he expected a diaper to bring. Joseph pulled his jeans back on over the Goodnight and walked out of the room.

As he climbed the stairs to the kitchen, Joseph felt the diaper around his middle. The feeling was nice and Joseph decided that he might like the Goodnights at least a little bit. Even if it wasn’t everything he had been expecting, it was still nice and the thought of his grandma not knowing anything about it made Joseph smile as he walked through the kitchen and into the living room.

“Hi grandma,” Joseph said loudly as he took a seat on the white couch. It looked as if his grandma had not moved all day. The jar of dill pickles sat nearly empty on a side table next to her chair.

She looked over at him then turned back toward the TV without saying anything, only mildly interested that he had joined her.

Joseph looked down at his middle and swore he could see the outline of the pull-up through his jeans. Barely, but it was there. Joseph wiggled around a little, trying to get comfortable on the couch, and again felt the Goodnight snugly holding to his crotch. The jeans were pressing in on the diaper, making it even snugger. And Joseph smiled, looking back at his grandma watching the TV. It was absurd, what he was doing, but it was exciting. And Joseph found suddenly that he had to pee. He didn’t even think twice about it, but immediately let his bladder go and felt the warm urine spread out in the diaper, hot and nice. Then up a little, around his boyhood, and as he kept peeing, down the warmness spread, trickling in between his crack and up his bottom. It almost tickled and Joseph’s smile broadened. His grandma was oblivious, staring glassy eyed at the glowing TV screen. Joseph could feel the diaper expanding and growing thicker.

Joseph finished emptying his bladder and was pleasantly surprised to find, as far as he could tell, none had leaked out of the confines of the protective pull-up. Joseph sat for a while on the couch, just enjoying the feeling between his legs and absently watching the television, though he made no effort to process what was going on in the tube. It still wasn’t as good as he had hoped, but then again, what was it he was hoping for anyways? Wasn’t what he had good enough? It was better than nothing. And besides, it felt like a victory, albeit a small one, that he was able to go and buy the diapers despite his nervousness and shame. It made him feel a little more confident. For now, this would just have to do, and Joseph felt that it made an unbearable loneliness just a little more sufferable.

About the time that Joseph was scrounging for food in the kitchen, trying to scrape something together for dinner, lightning started to crash outside. Joseph had changed out of the wet Goodnight earlier and had put on a fresh one. The novelty hadn’t worn off and Joseph was enjoying immensely the forbidden act he was committing.

The lightning, however, took away Joseph’s new found equilibrium. Joseph didn’t like storms. They scared him. There had been some wicked ones in the desert of Calexico and nothing else made Joseph quite as scared. Not even the scorpions in his sleeping bag. Joseph wasn’t sure why electrical storms frightened him so. Maybe it was just the fact that there wasn’t a dang thing one could do about it. You were at the mercy of electrical charges and no amount of running or hiding was going to make you entirely safe. Lightning, when Joseph watched it spike across the hazy Southern California night sky, looked to the boy like God’s fingers, poking down out of heaven and snuffing out wayward trees and houses and the odd human or animal (a few cows had bought it due to direct lightning strike a couple of years back just outside of Calexico. This was all the proof Joseph needed of the danger of God’s untamed fingers). And Joseph thought if God were to snuff out a boy, he just might be that boy. His luck would seem to indicate that, yes, God might just fancy shocking a boy such as Joseph, and every lightning storm Joseph waited for God’s finger to poke him to his death. But so far, it hadn’t occurred. As the lightning flashed and cracked outside, though, Joseph was pretty sure this was it. All that had gone wrong in the last month, especially the last week, it sure as heck seemed like this just might be it. The lights flickered and the TV momentarily was silent.

“Joseph!” his grandma called, her voice scratchy and old, “Come look at this.”

Joseph hurried worriedly into the living room, feeling the Goodnight between his legs. Joseph’s grandma was standing by the window, her body leaned over, protesting this act of rising. “Come look at this,” she repeated.

Joseph went and stood next to her. Lightning flashed again, close by, and Joseph jumped visibly.

“Transformers are blowing,” his grandma breathed. “We’re gonna lose power.”

“What are transformers?” Joseph asked, fear making his voice higher, shakier.

“Don’t really know, 'cept they’re on power lines and when they blow we lose power.”

“How do you know they’re blowing?” Joseph asked, staring so intently out the window that he didn’t realize how close he was getting and he softly hit his forehead on the glass.

“Just watch. Look out over the houses.”

So Joseph did. He watched the tops of the houses. It was really blowing now and the trees outside of the window were bending and waving, frantically dancing to the whims of the wind. Joseph could hear whistling as the wind rushed by the house. The lights flickered again and then Joseph saw a brilliant flash. Like lightening, but coming from the ground.

“There!” his grandma burst. “You see that?”

“Yeah,” Joseph whispered. The lights went off and for a moment Joseph thought they were gone for good, but they flickered back to life. Another flash, then another, and pretty soon, flashes were lighting up the night sky from all over the expanse of houses Joseph could see and beyond. “Wow,” he breathed, truly amazed.

“Kinda pretty, ain’t it? If it didn’t mean we were about to be cold as ice, I’d actually enjoy this show,” Joseph’s grandma said softly, almost reverently.

Then, in an instant, it was dark and Joseph new that was the last of the light they were going to see that night. He just knew it. They stood, Joseph, Goodnights under his jeans, and his grandma, in dirty gray pants, body gnarled and leaned over like the trees outside. They stood in the dark, looking out of the window at the flashes of exploding transformers and flashes of lightning and the twisting trees. The whistling grew louder in the absence of the incessant television and the temperature in the house began to fall.

“Gonna get cold tonight,” his grandma said. “Yep, pretty cold.”

After a while watching the storm’s performance, not more than a handful of words passed between grandmother and grandson. Joseph had wet in his Goodnight, standing right next to her, and the thrill combined with his fear of the lightning was a pinnacle in his emotive history. But before long, the warm urine cooled and as the temperature in the house continued to ruthlessly drop, Joseph started shivering uncontrollably.

His grandma retrieved some candles and holders from a closet and in their flickering light Joseph and his grandma shared stale bread and dill pickles. Joseph was so hungry by that point that the dinner, if one could call it that, was actually good. They hardly spoke, but as they sat at the dusty dining room table (Joseph doubted she had used it in years), Joseph actually felt somewhat close to her. Like the shared experience of the power outage and pickles and stale bread was creating a bond

As Joseph was finishing his second pickle, washing it down with a glass of water, a particularly loud clap of thunder shook the house and in the sudden wave of fear that gripped the boy’s body, he felt his bladder scream to be released. Having not had to pee a moment before, Joseph was caught off guard and, perhaps his subconscious was aware of his diapered state, felt himself wetting in the Goodnight. He knew he had already used them once and he doubted the thin pull-ups would handle the extra liquid, but try as he might, he could not stop the flow. Thunder crashed again and a transformer blew with a sharp bang and Joseph closed his eyes tight, scared and trying to tell himself it was all OK. But then he felt a warm trickle running down his leg and he knew the diaper was leaking and he was wetting his pants. But still he could not stop the flow and his pants became wetter and he was reminded of sitting in the police car and he was scared. His grandma crunched into a pickle, quite unaware. Joseph wondered at her ability to be emotionally vacant at all times, regardless of the sudden addition of a grandson to her life, the lack of nourishing food, the crashing lightning, the lack of electricity. Her face: stony; her eyes: glassy. Just the steady chewing. Years of hard living had apparently dulled her ability to respond. Joseph knew people said the same about him. Always distant, rarely smiling, frowning or crying. But right now, his emotions were overflowing and his pants were wet and the diaper, soaked and expanded, actually feeling good. How weird to have a good feeling down there when he was so scared and lost. His bladder finished emptying and by then his pants were very wet and he knew the chair was most likely ruined. The candle danced in the currents of the room and its light shimmered. Joseph looked at his grandma and the candle light flickered in her glassy eyes. She looked ghostly and suddenly that connection Joseph had felt at the beginning of dinner disappeared and his grandma was an apparition with her vacant, dead eyes. Joseph was suddenly as scared of her as the lightning. He had to get away, down to his room. Away from this storm and away from her.

“I’m g-going to bed,” Joseph stammered, reaching out for one of the candle holders and threading his finger through the thin round handle.

The pickle crunched and the glassy eyes lazily looked up at Joseph. “OK.”

Joseph wondered if she was alright. She didn’t look healthy, but maybe that was just the candlelight. He decided that he was too afraid to care. Picking up the candle, Joseph stood up and felt the diaper sag between his legs, protesting the liquid weight, held in place only by his wet pants which were clinging to his legs. Cold and shivering, he shuffled out of the room, glancing back at his grandma to see if she had noticed the soaked condition of his clothes, but she was still staring glassily at the candle, her vacant eyes flickering. The stairs creaked as Joseph made his way carefully down the stairs. The candle shown dimly on the walls. Shadows elongated and danced and reached out to grab Joseph as he walked past. The sound of the howling wind was deafening and the house groaned with each gust.
In the room the young boy stared down from his oval frame, curiously eying Joseph’s bulging diapered middle and wet pants. The wood paneling that lined the walls seemed to absorb the light of the candle, not reflect it. The room was dark and shadowy and that boy wouldn’t stop staring at Joseph. Joseph wanted to rip the picture off the wall, smash that questioning, curious stare.

But instead he turned his back on the curious boy and set about removing his wet pants. The Goodnight fell immediately to the floor and had it not landed on the soft cushion of the carpet thick with memories, Joseph was sure it would have made a splat. Standing wet and cold, Joseph’s shivering became worse. He grabbed one of the towels he had stowed earlier and with shaking hands dried himself off.

The candle flame, jittery and excited, would not hold still. Joseph knew the only way to escape this nightmare was to fall asleep. Morning was the most efficient fixer. The best doctor. The most accomplished psychiatrist. The tide that, as the sun ascended each new day, rose up, washing away and smoothing the beach of life, erasing the footprints and refuse from the day before. It would need to be a strong tide to fix this disaster, Joseph knew.

Because it was the only form of comfort he could think of, Joseph slipped on another Goodnight over a boyhood and bottom that was becoming rank with stale urine. To fight the cold, Joseph put on his dry pair of jeans, a t-shirt, and his thin, red windbreaker jacket. Then, setting the candle on the bedside table and making sure anything flammable was far away from it, Joseph curled up beneath the sheets and dirty brown blanket. He drew his knees in as far as he could and wrapped his arms around his small, shivering body. He could feel the pull-up between his legs, but it offered little peace. Joseph desperately wanted the peace of sleep, but images of his glassy eyed grandma, wandering around zombie like and moaning, flashed every time Joseph closed his eyes. Then he’d open them and see, curiously staring down, the eyes of the oval framed young boy, sepia and ancient. And Joseph would close his eyes again, and hear the groaning and creaking of the house and it would sound as if someone or something was right outside his door. So he’d open eyes again and see the eyes of the little boy, curious and staring. The candle continued to burn down, hot wax spilling over the side and collecting, solidifying in artistic mass reminiscent of Gaudi. Then the feeling of the diaper, a moment’s comfort, then shivering and reality. Finally, sleep, though restless, came to Joseph.

How long Joseph slept, he was not sure, but he awoke to a racket so momentous he was sure the house was falling apart. The candle had burnt out and the room was as black and sticky as tar. Joseph felt pressure in his bladder and knew he would have to pee soon. It was so dark. Joseph sat up in bed, not able to see the hand he waved just inches from his eyes, and had the overwhelming need to see. He rolled out of bed, tried to take a step but his feet tangled in the dirty brown blanket and Joseph fell hard to the floor, though the hysterical laments of the house and the cushion of the memory ridden carpet swallowed any sound his fall might have made. His knee hurt. He stood up and stumbled in the direction he thought the door was, but ran headlong into the dresser (a sound this time). Anxiety gripped him and Joseph became frantic in the dark. He needed to see. The sounds around him were so much the louder in the absence of his sight. Thunder rolled outside. The floorboards creaked above. Was someone walking around up there? Was his grandma still wondering, glassy eyed and zombie-like? The prospect of seeing the flash of the lightning reflected in her dull eyes was frightening, but the need for a candle was greater.

Joseph found the door and felt his way along the hall, feeling the dust and cobwebs of the albums and books on his fingers. He passed the door of the bathroom and considered going and relieving his bladder (the need to release intensified by the anxiety and fear), but Joseph could not bare the thought of standing and peeing in absolute darkness with the creeping mildew of the shower reaching out its slimy tentacles, wanting nothing more than to wrap its decaying grip around the Joseph and rot the boy right into the floor.

Up the stairs, the socks on his feet not insulated enough to block the cold creeping up from the floor. No street lamps had power, so even upstairs, the big windows let in little light. Just the occasional flash of lightning and the diffused light of the moon, obscured behind a mile of clouds. The trees were bending and the rain was lashing. There was no sign of Joseph’s grandma. She wasn’t at the table. She wasn’t in her chair. Joseph made his way to his grandma’s bedroom, only able to make out shapes and vague outlines, his hands outstretched in case he suddenly tripped and fell. The door was open and Joseph walked in. He was again aware of the diaper he was wearing and he wondered if she’d notice. Of course not, he chided himself. A flash of lightning and he saw three things at once. On the dresser, the portrait of a young, smiling couple. In the mirror, a reflection, which made him jump before he realized it was just himself. And finally, in his peripheral vision, he could see his grandma, lying prone on the floor next to the bed. Joseph turned, his eyes wide with fear, now not able to see but an outline without the flash of the lightning, and knelt next to the woman. Lightning flashed again and he saw she was on top of a rug. He also noticed a smell, as if she had soiled her pants, and Joseph knew instinctually that there was no life in the body. A new flash and Joseph saw her eyes were open, even more glassy and dull than before, staring vacantly at the side of the bed with its flowered spread. Thunder rolled.

A new sound. A low moaning and Joseph realized that it was coming from himself. He also realized that he was wetting the diaper and didn’t know, nor desired to know, how to stop. He stared at his dead grandma, moaning and wetting himself, wanting so much to move, to leave this awful situation, but not know how to move his feet. A trickle of hot liquid down his leg. The Goodnight was leaking. Joseph’s only dry pair of pants was going to be wet.

Slowly, after his bladder emptied, the diaper expanded, warm, a large wet spot on the front of his pants, Joseph’s trance broke. The moaning subsided and survival instincts kicked in. He realized the facts. He was standing in a dark house with no possibility of light that was cold, old, and moldy, and now, there was a dead person a mere foot from him. Joseph also realized that he needed to get out and quick, before he went entirely crazy and kept moaning and wetting his pants forever. He stumbled out of the room, the diaper heavy between his legs, the front of his wet pants sticking to his thighs. First, he would get his shoes, then he would leave this house forever. Less than two days he had been there and that was far more than enough.

On the dining room table, where he and his now deceased grandma had shared a dinner of pickles and stale bread, Joseph found a half used candle and a book of matches. It seemed to be his first stroke of luck since before he could remember, if one didn’t count meeting Meg. Striking a match (usually a difficult task for Joseph, he was surprised to succeed on his first attempt), Joseph lit the candle and was amazed at its luminosity in the dark world that had surrounded him. The storm was still raging as rowdy as ever outside, and the candle, though scary in its own light, made the task of returning to the basement to retrieve his shoes a much easier task for Joseph.

Joseph recognized the shadows, grotesque figures on the wall, from his earlier trip into the basement with just a candle to light his way. They seemed to be welcoming him back to their world with their horrid dance. Joseph hurried past the open door to the bathroom (no tentacles of mildew on the floor yet), down the hallway lined with records and books (the path of his earlier groping clearly etched in the dust and cobwebs), and back into his room (the brown blanket lay twisted on the floor). Setting the candle down on the dresser and trying his best to avoid the curious gaze of the little boy in the portrait on the wall, Joseph put his shoes on as quickly as possible. His shaking hands made tying his shoes nearly impossible, not helped by the loud crashes of thunder that shook the house. Finally they were tied tight and Joseph stood up and, grabbing the candle, bolted for the door. Again, he was reminded of his wet pants and wet pull-up. He knew it was going to be cold outside. Cold and wet. But anything was better than this dungeon with the dead upstairs. Down the hall Joseph ran, the candle moving wildly in his hands provoking the shadows to dance faster and harder, the hysterical gyrations of sinners, the memories of the house. He reached the door and, throwing it open, burst out into the stormy night.

Joseph ran to the street where the heavy rain had flooded the street, the gutters clogged with the leaves of the trees dancing in the wind. He turned and looked at the house, lit by a timely flash of lightning, and felt safe. No more walls. He was free. And cold. And wet. The rain had mysteriously stopped, but the wind still howled and Joseph, looking up, could see clouds moving at breathtaking speeds, rushing over head, as if trying to escape their own wrath. Joseph didn’t blame them. He started walking, shivering, hands in his pockets. He could feel the wetness. With his fingers, he could feel the sodden Goodnight. He walked. The red windbreaker jacket pressed against his body by the wind. His hands in his pockets. Eyes down. He walked.

********************* CHAPTER 4 *********************

Re: Joseph Kross: The Adventures Of

Alright this is officially marked as one of the stories that I’m following. :slight_smile:

Re: Joseph Kross: The Adventures Of

I kept scrolling down, but no more story magically appeared :frowning:

This is really good stuff!

Re: Joseph Kross: The Adventures Of

Joseph Kross:

the adventures of

a short story by austin

Thanks for the support and comments. Before you read the ending, just let me say that I wanted it this way. That is all. You’ll understand when you get there. Let me know what you think.

********************* CHAPTER 4 *********************

“How are you doing?” the soft female voice asked.

The boy, just his hair (though short) showing tangled and disheveled through the opening of the green sleeping bag, groaned and rolled over.

“You going to survive?”

But the boy was back asleep and no answer came.

Joseph opened his eyes and groggily rubbed them, trying to clear his consciousness of the cobwebs of unconsciousness. He looked about, attempting to register his surroundings. Bunk beds, vinyl covered mattresses. The room was empty. A window. It looked familiar. He was so tired.

“Joseph,” the voice whispered.

Eyes open again. A vague recollection of someone talking. But no one was there. The room was empty. Sunlight streamed in from the window. So tired.

“Joseph, you’re wet,” came the voice again, soft, female, familiar. “I’m going to change you, OK?”

Joseph’s eyes fluttered open and he looked blankly in the direction of the voice. Slowly, his eyes focused. Meg was kneeling next to him, smiling and gently patting his shoulder. Joseph was lying on top of a green sleeping bag. He realized Meg was touching his skin. Looking down, he saw he wasn’t wearing a shirt. Looking further down, he saw he was wearing the same pajama bottoms that Caleb had worn. Horizontal stripes of white, blue, red, and pink. Primarily white, the colors just accents. Joseph felt a constant weight around his middle and, bulging out from the top of the pajama bottoms, protected by frosty yet nearly clear plastic pants, were thick cloth diapers. Joseph could just see the blue capped pin that held them to his body. Looking next to him, Joseph blinked in surprise. It wasn’t a baby bottle, per se, but it sure resembled one. It was like a tippy cup, but instead of the usual spill proof top, a baby bottle cap with a large, soft nipple was used instead. And next to the bottle, surprising Joseph again, was a big, brown teddy bear, lying contentedly on its side, a gold ribbon tied around its furry neck.

“Flip over for me, OK?” Meg said softly. She placed a hand on Joseph’s shoulder and another under his tummy and gently rolled him over so that he was lying on his back.

Joseph looked up at Meg, who was smiling down at him.

“Hi Joseph,” she said.

“Hi,” Joseph replied. He felt his pajama bottoms being pulled down and the plastic pants removed. “How did I get here?”

“You don’t remember?”


She was unpinning the diapers, and Joseph could tell by the difference of pressure when Meg pulled them out from under his slightly lifted bottom that they were quite soaked.

“Officer Leemon brought you in.”

“What?” Joseph said as surprised as his half-awake voice would let him.

“Yeah. Found you wandering…around.”

That’s quite a coincidence, Joseph thought. “Oh,” was all he said.

Meg was cleaning around Joseph’s boyhood with a wipe.

“How did I get here?”

“Well, he brought you here, silly,” Meg said, tickling Joseph briefly on his tummy. Joseph giggled.

“I know that,” Joseph said. “It’s just that…I don’t remember it,” he whispered.

“Who knows how long you’d been walking. Could have just been sleepwalking at that point.”

Meg was spreading oil around his middle. It felt so good. So warm and soft. “We think you were trying to come back here.”

Joseph nodded.

“Merry Christmas, by the way,” Meg said.

“Huh?” Joseph asked, sitting up on his elbows and looking curiously at Meg. She was pulling up two cloth diapers and they felt just wonderful.

“Merry Christmas,” she repeated.


Meg looked at Joseph who was staring back, disbelief on his face. Meg laughed. “Yes, Christmas.”

Joseph lay back down on the sleeping bag as Meg pinned the diapers snugly.

“You’re working on Christmas,” Joseph said faintly.

“Well,” Meg said quietly. “They called me last night and told me they’d brought you in.” She paused and put her hand, warm and soft, on Joseph’s bare thigh. “I thought I’d come in and just see how you were doing.”

Joseph felt emotion well up deep within him and he knew his stony facade was going to break. He made no effort to stop it. His head lying back on the pillow, tears welled up in his eyes and spilled down his face. He lay there silent, tears flowing down his face. He didn’t dare look up at Meg, he was so embarrassed for crying. But the overwhelming sense of caring, of being looked after, maybe even loved, was a lot for his tired, weak body. The contrast was so great from the rest of his life, from the nightmare at his grandma’s. He had to say something. He had to make sure Meg knew how much he appreciated seeing her in that moment, when his eyes fluttered open. It was like a dream come true. A most beautiful dream after the most awful of nightmares. “I’m…glad you…did,” Joseph choked out, “Thank you.”

Joseph opened his eyes, and through the blurriness of tears, saw that Meg had looked away and was staring out the window. Joseph brought his hands up and wiped his tears away so he could see clearer. Was she looking away from him in disgust? For his open emotion? Then he saw her bite her lip and when she turned back and looked in Joseph’s eyes, he could see tears of her own.

“I’m just glad you are OK,” Meg said. “When I got the call, I was…I was scared. But,” She blinked and the tears were gone, “You’re here, you’re fine. And,” she pulled up plastic pants around the diapers and they came up to his belly button, “You’re all diapered up now. Bet you’re hungry.”

Joseph nodded.

“Alright then, throw this on.” Meg threw Joseph the same Buzz Lightyear pajama top he had worn before. “It’s not going to be as warm out there as it is in here. We had the heat pumped up for you.”

Joseph slipped it on and stood up. He could feel a tightness in his knees and soreness in his muscles. He groaned slightly and stretched. Up on his toes and as he raised his hands far above his head and yawned, he could feel the diaper, clean, soft, and warm. Back down to the balls of his feet, Joseph took a step toward the door and smiled. “This is nice,” he said. And it was. It might have been just like heaven. Cozy, diapered, and warm. Safe.

Meg turned and wrapped him in a hug. Joseph felt her warm body, her arms pulling his small frame into her embrace. Then she let go and they were walking out of the door.

The temperature drop was immediate. “Whew, it is cold,” Joseph said, rubbing his forearms with his hands.

“Yeah, you’ll adjust. Give it a minute.”

In the cafeteria, Joseph saw a staff member he didn’t recognize sitting with three other kids huddled over steaming bowls of soup.

“Other people are here now,” Joseph stopping in the doorway and whispering to Meg.

She stopped and turned around. “So? You want to hide out in your room?” Meg winked and walked into the kitchen

Joseph shook his head and swallowed any last bit of self-pride and embarrassment. He took another bold step into the well-lit room and took a seat at a table. The other kids didn’t even look up. They were clearly far more interested in their soup than any eleven year old boy in diapers. Joseph looked around the room and noticed two other children sitting alone in a corner. He blinked in surprise and recognized Caleb and Emma. He almost called over to them when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“I wouldn’t bother them just yet,” Meg said softly. She set a bowl of soup and a few pieces of bread in front of Joseph. “Their mom died yesterday.”

“Oh,” Joseph said, a sinking feeling of mourning and sadness filling him. He’d seen someone dead, but hadn’t felt anything other than fear. But now the moment came back to him and he realized the truth. His grandma had died. She was dead. And Caleb and Emma. Their mom. Joseph looked at the two children sitting next to each other in the corner, hunched over and tired. Joseph could see the fatigue and sadness in their eyes from halfway across the room.

“They’ll be fine. They didn’t see much of her anyways, ya know? But it is still hard.”

“Yeah,” Joseph said.

“Eat,” Meg directed, pushing the bowl of soup over to Joseph.

Joseph tore his gaze away and started slurping down the soup. “This is good,” Joseph said, looking up at Meg with a smile. She smiled back.

It was weird, Joseph thought. So much suffering everywhere. So many things wrong in the world. Joseph felt guilty that he should be able to enjoy the comfort of being diapered and held by Meg, even if it had only been for a moment. Didn’t everyone deserve that comfort?

“I diapered Caleb this morning, of course,” Meg said. “And I could tell he was going to be fine. I could just tell. Ya know, he was just enjoying it, gettin’ cared for, like he always does, and I could just tell he was gonna be fine. You gotta be real worried if kids don’t enjoy anything anymore. Even what they love most.”

Joseph was amazed at Meg and her intuition. It was almost like she could read his mind. His worry and reservations. He supposed that you had to take advantage of what pleasure you were afforded. Looking around the room, Joseph saw problems everywhere. Stories too gruesome for most people to understand. He alone, Joseph knew, had absorbed more trouble than was meant to be bestowed upon eleven year old boys. But, Joseph understood, there were some who were going to have it better than others. Life wasn’t fair, and he knew it. But the fortunate probably just found problems in whatever life they led. Everyone’s got troubles. From the richest man in the world to the poorest, from the most connected to the loneliest. Everyone has problems and their problems, in their eyes and from their perspective, are the biggest problems in the world. Because one can only know and define pain and suffering from what they have experienced. Learning about the suffering of a neighbor won’t suffice, won’t replace true experience. Empathy is only as real and genuine as experience allows. So one person’s pain is just as real as the next, in their eyes at least. However, that is not to say that some pain and suffering have more value, more substance than others. Certainly there are levels, there is better and worse. A rich man will admit that he has less suffering than the poor, but in reality, in his daily life, there are as many gripes, if not more, than the poor man. Is the same ambiguity in experience present with joy? It is why humans desire newness. As soon as joy has been experienced and cataloged, it can never be reached as simply as the first time; as organically, as innocently again. In that light, then, shouldn’t one take advantage of whatever comfort they are allowed? As long as one doesn’t forget the pain and doesn’t live in ignorance of the real pain of others, then pleasure should be enjoyed…at least every once in a while. So, Joseph decided, he should not feel guilty about being in a moment of salvation, of wonderful reprieve, of deep peace, of calm, of an incredible sense of…rightness. He had experienced his pain. He knew he had enough suffering to give him ammo for empathy, enough to last a long, long while. So this was allowed. Joseph knew the same respite would come for Caleb and Emma eventually, just as it would for the other children of pain in the room. This was his time.

“What are you thinkin’ about?” Meg asked.

Joseph looked up from his soup and saw that it was gone.

“You’ve been staring at that empty bowl of soup for a while.”

“Mph,” Joseph grunted, “Nothing.”

“I’ll bet,” Meg said with a wink and took a sip of coffee from a mug she must have grabbed while Joseph’s mind had drifted. “What I’ll bet is that you’ve got a whole lot more up in that head of yours than you let on.”

Joseph lowered his eyes timidly. He was reminded of what he was wearing and how clearly the diaper he had on stood out and he found it funny that anyone would take him seriously at this moment. He laughed lightly. Yes, he would just have to enjoy what this life threw at him, one step at a time. Joseph felt a soft hand on his and he looked up. Meg was eying him, a serious look on her face.

“So, we know you’re grandma died.”

Joseph nodded.

“They sent some officers over there this morning to see why you had left and they found her. I’m sorry you had to see that, Joseph.”

Joseph shrugged.

“Was it scary?”

Joseph nodded. “Yeah,” he said softly.

Meg patted his hand. “We can talk more about it a little later. I’m just glad you are safe now. Hey,” Meg stopped and looked at Joseph with her head tilted slightly to the side. “Being that it is Christmas and all, why don’t we try to enjoy ourselves? Just be lazy and watch a movie or something?”

“I’d like that,” Joseph said with a smile.

“Why don’t you go see if Caleb and Emma would like to join us,” Meg said, standing up and, with a final smile, walked into the kitchen.

It was obvious that Caleb was excited to see Joseph (though it was as if he had already known Joseph was there), but his greeting was still subdued and when Joseph asked them to join him and Meg for a movie, he could tell both Caleb and Emma had been crying. They wanted to come, though, and as the three children walked down the hall, Joseph could see that Caleb was diapered, waddling slightly. Emma walked with her arm around her younger brother and Joseph just wanted to hug them, and for them to hug him back. Like they were siblings, children of the same mother of pain.

They all curled up on the couch, managing to squeeze all four of them on the black, worn leather. The movie was nice, the mood was calm, and Joseph was happy. Happy to be next to three people he enjoyed and liked. Three people who noticed him and would not hurt him in any way. His head was leaned against Meg’s body, his knees curled up, bringing the diaper pulled tight against his middle. Mid-way through the movie, he didn’t hesitate to empty his bladder and wet the diaper, thoroughly enjoying the profound sense of relief and relaxation that filled his entire being.

When the movie was through, Meg asked if either Joseph or Caleb needed a change. Joseph was at first embarrassed that she would ask so blatantly and loud, but then realized no one was around except Caleb, Emma, and Meg.

Joseph shrugged. “I guess,” he said softly.

Caleb nodded but didn’t say anything.

“Well, let’s save some time and get you both changed at once. Emma, you want to help?”

Joseph coughed in surprise. But before he could protest, he was being herded into the receiving room by Meg, Emma and Caleb close behind. Emma shut the door behind her as Meg laid out two towels on the floor.

“Joseph, you get this one. Caleb, over here.”

Joseph lay down nervously on the towel toward which he was directed and Caleb plopped down next to him. Caleb looked over sideways and smiled slightly at Joseph. He didn’t say anything, though, and turned his head to stare at the ceiling as Meg pulled off the sweatpants he was wearing. Even though Joseph didn’t know Caleb that well, he knew Caleb enough to recognize that he was not his usual talkative self.

Joseph, though, all the sudden stopped caring about whether Caleb was his usual self or not as he felt his pajama bottoms being firmly pulled off. He looked up in surprise to see Emma reaching for his plastic pants.

“Whoa!” Joseph squealed. “You’re not changing me, are you?”

Emma shrugged and placed her finger under the elastic waistband. Her finger pressed into Joseph’s stomach.

He tensed up. “I thought…uh…Meg was going to change me.”

“I’m busy with Caleb, Joseph,” Meg said, unpinning Caleb’s diapers.

“She’s busy,” Emma unnecessarily reiterated.

“I can wait,” Joseph said quickly.

“Nope,” Meg butted in again. “It’s now or never. I ain’t changing you later.”

Joseph coughed uncomfortably. Emma’s finger was still on his tummy. He wasn’t even comfortable with Meg seeing him naked and the thought of a girl pretty much his own age, at least compared to Meg, was a tough pill to swallow. Emma pushed her finger in, slightly kneading Joseph’s abdomen muscles. He giggled and squirmed uncontrollably.

“He’s really ticklish,” Meg commented. She was already wiping down Caleb.

Joseph felt a nervous flutter in his stomach. Caleb was stark naked beside him, getting changed like a baby. And here Joseph was, about to be changed by a girl just a little older than himself. How strange. How weirdly, wonderfully strange.

“Now or never,” Meg repeated.

“Fine,” Joseph grumbled and took a quick look at Emma, who was smiling down at him, clearly enjoying herself (she looked beautiful in that moment, even with the dark clouds under her eyes), then turned his head sideways and stared steadily at the cabinets on the wall. Joseph felt the plastic pants pulled off the wet cloth diapers. The diaper pins undone. Then the cloth was gone, pulled out from under his bottom. Joseph was still staring at the cabinets. He didn’t dare look up. Emma was wiping his genitals with a wipe and Joseph felt flutters and flutters and excitement and he stared at the cabinets (brown and faded, painted, not covered with wood veneer. Cheap plywood. Not very well sanded, bumpy). The flutters and excitement and she was oiling, rubbing his bottom and boyhood and, oh god, the flutters and Joseph could feel blood rushing and he knew his boyhood penis was standing strait up, embracing this curious sensation with delight. The cabinets had handles. Some loose and half falling off. In disrepair. Joseph wondered why they weren’t fixed and Emma was asking him to lift his bottom. He did, and he felt soft cloth underneath, then pulled up tightly against his genitals and it felt amazing. Simply amazing and Joseph knew what happiness was at that moment. And he also understood, in that moment, that happiness is fleeting. Not a way of living or a constant state of mind, but a fleeting, fluttering moment in which all is right and the sorrows, which still exist just beyond the gentle folds of that moment, are pushed aside. Not forgotten, just ignored for a moment. And one’s only job, in that moment, is to live in the moment and let the whole body, mind, and soul enjoy the height of human emotion. And that is what Joseph did. He closed his eyes and smiled and let Emma pin the diapers snug and direct plastic pants up until the elastic band hugged his tummy up to his belly button. Then she was patting him on the side of his leg. Joseph opened his eyes and smiled up at Emma, who, silhouetted and haloed by the light on the ceiling behind her head, smiled back.

Joseph could hear Caleb’s diaper rustling and looked over. He could see Caleb standing up on the towel next to Joseph. Caleb had yet to put back on the sweatpants and Joseph saw what his own body must look like in a diaper. Caleb’s bare feet, small and slightly dirty. His smooth legs, slight prickles of nearly transparent boyish hair running up from his calves to his thighs. The plastic pants puffing out around the thick folds of cloth, hugging securely to Caleb’s legs and up around his middle. The top of the diaper disappeared under the front of Caleb’s shirt. And his arms around Meg, and Meg holding him, rubbing him slightly on his back, his head leaned against Meg’s bosom. And Joseph knew Caleb was also experiencing that moment of happiness. All the pain and suffering his life had given him, and still was amply providing, temporarily forgotten to pay homage to the great god: happiness.

Joseph stood up too and whispered a thank you to Emma. Emma handed him his pajama bottoms. White with red, blue, and pink stripes.

She smiled again. “No problem, Joseph. Any time.”

That night Joseph lay on his mattress, the green sleeping bag pulled up under his chin. Caleb was in the top bunk and Joseph could tell by his breathing that he was still awake. The room was empty except for them. Emma had gone to bed just after their Christmas dinner. It had been funny to watch the expressions of the other youths at the shelter when Joseph and Caleb sat down, clearly diapered and not the least bit worried about it. No one bothered them and the dinner, with steaming soup and bread and a turkey donated by a neighborhood church group, was wonderful. Now Joseph lay in bed and couldn’t help but smile. Meg had tucked them in with the promise that she’d be back in the morning to clean them up. She looked tired, but bright. When she’d bent down to give Joseph a hug, Joseph had told her honestly that it had been the best Christmas of his life.

“Hey,” came a small voice.

“Hey,” Joseph whispered back.

“Can I, uh, come down there?” Caleb asked.

Joseph laughed softly, “Of course.”

Joseph could hear the crinkle of the plastic pants and the swish of Caleb’s sleeping bag, then Joseph could see Caleb’s sock covered feet feeling their way down the ladder. Caleb hopped the last step onto the floor making a muffled thud. Without hesitation, he crawled into the sleeping bag right next to Joseph.

“Shoot. Too cold to be sittin’ outside,” Caleb said as explanation.

Joseph shrugged and rolled onto his back, placing his hands under his head. Caleb lay on his back too.

“Sorry about your mom,” Joseph said quietly.

Caleb didn’t respond right away. Joseph didn’t push him. “Yeah,” he finally whispered. “Thanks.”

“I’m not very good at comforting people,” Joseph said, not knowing what to say next.

Joseph felt Caleb shrug his shoulders. “It’s OK,” he said. “Didn’t know I was ever going to see you again. So that is comfort enough. You know, I’ve met a lot of people in here, but none of 'em is like you. I could just tell you was different. Could just tell.”

Joseph didn’t know how to respond, so he didn’t say anything. Just took a deep breath and felt good. That good feeling when someone recognizes and vocalizes your worth.

“You know, the kids in here, we are all just so focused on our own problems. It’s all we see. Not each other. But for some reason, we saw you. Emma sees it too. You’re a good person. You ain’t like the others. We don’t do the bad stuff, ya know? Shoot, we just in the bad stuff. There is a difference.”

Joseph could kind of understand what he was saying. He could see the difference between himself and the friends at home. He didn’t want to take part in half the bad stuff his friends (well, acquaintances at best) seemed to enjoy doing.

Caleb didn’t seem to have anything else he wanted to say. He just breathed steadily. In and out.

“What are you going to do next?” Joseph asked.

“What? Now that my mom is dead?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Joseph replied, uncomfortable that Caleb was so forward about it.

“We didn’t have much of a home in the first place. Like I told you before, I wouldn’t exactly call the house me and my sis lived in a home. Lots of people lived in it and they all did drugs and just left their…their crap everywhere. It is disgusting.”

“Yeah,” Joseph agreed. “I think I know what you are talking about.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you do,” Caleb said. “We all do, you know. Anyways, I don’t really know what’s next. We just came here 'cause it is the only place we knew to go. Meg wasn’t here. She came in because of you, ya know. You were strait passed out, man, when they brought you in. We were worried.”

“You saw me?” Joseph asked, surprised and curious.

“Yep. That cop just carried you in. You were soaked, man. Probably from the rain, but it looked like you pissed yourself too. Smelled pretty funky too. Think you may have pooped in your pants too.”


“Yeah, think so. Whatever man, it happens. Why were you runnin’, anyways? Didn’t you go to your grandma’s or somethin’?”

“She died.”

“You saw her?”



“Yeah.” Joseph paused. “Did you see…did you see…” he paused, curious but not wanting to be insensitive.

“My mom?”

“Yeah, your mom.”


“You saw her die?”

“Naw, didn’t see her actually die. Saw her dead, though, on the bathroom floor.”

Joseph was silent. It was bad seeing his grandma’s dead body. But he couldn’t imagine how bad it would have been to see his mom’s, even as much as he didn’t care about her.

“It must have been…bad.”

“Shoot man,” Caleb scoffed. “'Course it was.”

Joseph felt lame for saying it. “Yeah, of course it was. Sorry.”

“Naw, it is OK, man. I know you are just trying to be a friend.”

That sounded nice to Joseph. A friend.

“Man, me and you are a lot alike,” Caleb said quietly.

“Yeah,” Joseph agreed.

“Might as well be brothers.”


They lay there in silence for a few minutes. Just laying there and enjoying.

“Well shoot,” Caleb said, breaking the silence, “You tired?”

“Kinda,” Joseph replied. And he was. The sleeping bag was warming up with two bodies and the diaper was snug and comforting. Joseph could feel his eyes longing to close.

“You know what?” Caleb whispered.

“Huh?” Joseph mumbled.

“This was my best Christmas too.”

The next morning, after breakfast and a shower, Meg had Joseph dress in clean clothes. When he asked her if she could diaper him, she shook her head.

“Why not?” Joseph asked, surprised.

“You’ll see,” Meg said with a smile, throwing him a pair of new underpants. “Wear these for now.”

Trying to hide his disappointment, but not succeeding, Joseph slipped into the briefs and jeans. He felt almost naked as he followed Meg out of the receiving room.

“Brittany isn’t supposed to work today. Day after Christmas. But she’s doing me a favor,” Meg said.

“Who’s Brittany?”

“Your new case worker.”

“Case worker?”

“The state is going to look after you now, Joseph. Now she is kinda like your mom, I guess.”

“But I want you to be my mom,” Joseph blurted. The idea of the state looking after him was scary.

Meg laughed lightly and put an arm around Joseph’s shoulder and pulled him into a hug as they walked. “Just talk to Brittany.”

They entered a small room. There were pictures on the wall of calm scenes of water and mountains and birds. There were four folding chairs in a circle. In one sat a lady that looked just a bit older than Meg. She actually looked nice. Her hair, blond, was pulled back into a pony tail and she was wearing a casual t-shirt and jeans. Her beauty was apparent. Next to her sat Steve. He smiled at Joseph.

“Good morning, buddy.”

“Hey Steve,” Joseph said timidly, confused.

“Take a seat, Joseph,” the lady said with an easy smile. “My name is Brittany.”

“You already know my name, I guess,” Joseph mumbled nervously, rubbing his palms, which were suddenly sweaty, on his pant legs.

Brittany laughed.

“Listen, I know this is a lot for you. There is a lot going on in your life right now. A lot of change. I’m here to help you in every way I can, OK? I know you don’t know me. But if you can trust me, I can help you a lot.”

“She’s one of my good friends,” Meg added, taking a seat between Joseph and Steve. Joseph saw Steve reach out a hand and pat Meg’s leg.

“OK,” Joseph said quietly.

“I’ve been assigned to your case at the request of Meg.”

She paused, looking at Joseph. Joseph felt nervous with three pairs of eyes on him and averted his eyes to his lap. He imagined a diaper bulge there. It would be nice if there was.

When he didn’t say anything, Brittany continued. “My first priority is to find someplace stable for you to stay. This facility, though Meg, Steve, and the rest of the staff do a great job here, isn’t a good long-term option. And we want long-term. We’ve talked to the State of California and it sounds like they are fine with you staying up here. If you want to, that is,” she added. “Do you know what a foster home is?”

“Yeah,” Joseph mumbled.

“I know you have probably heard a lot of bad things about them. But I’m here to make sure you are taken care of and I guarantee you the family you are placed with will treat you with respect and dignity.”

Joseph nodded. He felt rather numb, like the rest of his life was being decided for him. As far as he could tell, Joseph liked Brittany, but this was a lot of responsibility. But he felt helpless, like he couldn’t do a thing about it. He was just glad Meg was sitting next to him.

“I’ll check in on you every week until you are settled. Then, after that, as often as you need.”

“Where am I going to go, then,” Joseph asked.

“Well,” Brittany said, then paused and smiled over at Meg. “Meg and Steve are registered as foster parents in the state of Washington. And they would like you to come stay with them.”

Joseph felt like the world was spinning. Had he heard her correctly? Meg and Steve? Foster parents? Him? Live with Meg? Live with them?

“Would you like to do that, Joseph?”

Joseph looked up at Meg, who was smiling at him, and her image blurred as tears welled up and slid down his cheeks. He took a shaky deep breath, his small body quivering. “Yes,” Joseph said, “I’d like that.”

Meg stood up and stepped toward Joseph. Joseph stood up, tears streaming down his face, and let Meg hug him tight. They stood like that for how long, Joseph did not know. And did not care. He couldn’t believe it. But he knew it was true. Meg wouldn’t lie to him like this. He was really going to go live with Meg. Could he be any luckier? He was the luckiest boy alive, of that he was sure.

After Steve had given him a hug and they had sat back down, Joseph asked about Meg and Steve. “I didn’t know you lived together.”

“Married two years,” Steve said. Meg turned and smiled at Steve.

Joseph smiled at them. He was genuinely happy for them. He hadn’t felt real happiness for someone else before like this and it felt nice to enjoy someone else’s happiness.

“I hope it is OK with you,” Brittany spoke up again, “But you will have a brother and a sister.”

“You guys have kids?” Joseph said, surprised.

“Well, no,” Meg said.

“What I mean is,” Brittany continued, “another boy and girl need a someplace to stay for a while too, and Meg and Steve have offered to take them in too.”

“You don’t mean…” Joseph started, a big smile sneaking onto his face. He couldn’t hold it back.

“Caleb and Emma are going to be with Meg and Steve too,” Brittany finished.

Joseph let out a whoop. It was unlike him, but he was so excited, so happy, he couldn’t help but shout.

Meg was beaming and Joseph swore there was moisture in Steve’s eyes.

“I can’t believe it,” Joseph breathed. “Caleb and I were just talking last night about how we were pretty much brothers.”

“Maybe it was meant to be,” Brittany said. “Now, am I correct in assuming you want to live with Meg and Steve until a more permanent solution can be found?”

Joseph nodded. “Except, I’d like to be there forever. I want that to be the permanent solution.”

“Well,” Brittany said with a smile, “one thing at a time, Joseph.”

In the cafeteria, Joseph hugged Caleb and Emma, who had already been given the news. Meg and Steve looked on, holding hands, on their face the most true, genuine smiles possible. The others in the cafe looked on. Not jealous. Just curious. Joseph almost felt bad for his joy, and then remembered that it was his time. His only job right then was to live in the moment and enjoy it as much as he could. It would not always be good. Life was life, and life had its ups and downs. Joseph knew that. So he had to enjoy this and be thankful for what he had been given. Maybe it all did even out after all.

“Now,” Meg said after the celebration had run its course. “Let’s get you two into some diapers before you have an accident.”

“Hey!” Joseph said. “I won’t have an accident. I wear them because I like 'em, not 'cause I need 'em.”

Meg just shook her head and laughed as she led them out of the room. Joseph didn’t mind at all the questioning eyes of the other youths that followed him out of the cafeteria. Who were these strange boys that wanted to wear diapers?

Joseph lay in his bed, his own bed, and watched the slivers of streetlight let in by the window shades shiver slightly on the ceiling, coaxed into movement by the crisp winter breeze blowing refreshingly in the still dark sky outside the window in Meg and Steve’s third story apartment. The sound of Caleb’s methodical, slow breathing drifted from where he slept in his bed across the room. Joseph quietly slipped out of bed and padded softly over to the window. As he walked, Joseph could feel the thick diaper between his legs, still dry, pinned snugly around his middle by Meg as he had been getting ready for bed the night before. Though the window was cool to the touch and thinly frosted, Joseph felt warm. The full-body footed fleece sleeper Meg had gotten for him did a phenomenal job at retaining body heat. Joseph loved the sleeper and was already dreading having to lose it when warmer weather hit.

Joseph was afforded a breathtaking view from the window. One of the benefits of living in North Seattle. Cresting the peaks of the Cascades Mountain Range to the east, the sun rose and cast its pink, fresh rays on Mt. Rainier, which he could just see to the left. Cutting through the jagged peaks of natural mountainous beauty, past the hazy peaks of human accomplishment (the ever-growing sky scrapers of the rapidly expanding suburb of Bellevue), over the tree studded hills of East Seattle, reflecting on the still calm shimmering surface of Green Lake (which lay nestled not more than a half mile away), and finally to Joseph’s eyes: he saw the beauty of the day. It promised to be a welcomed break from the monotonous drudgery of thirty-one days of rain. Almost a new record for Seattle (and that was saying something). The sky was clear, washed clean by the relentless rain, and crisp, and Joseph felt that just taking a breath of it would renew him and give him strength (though he already felt healthier and stronger than he ever had in his life).

He quietly left the room and went over to the other side of the apartment, which was small and cozy (sometimes just a little bit too small and cozy with five bodies and a cat squeezed into three rooms. Joseph shared a room with Caleb. Emma won the right to her own room with her age, which turned out to be 13, and gender. Meg and Steve shared the final bedroom). Joseph carefully opened the sliding door and stepped out onto the deck, still wet with the night’s rain. Standing with his hands on the railing, Joseph took in the vista. The sun’s rays shining westward. The third-story deck overlooked the rolling hills of North Seattle, then just beyond, the choppy waters of the Puget Sound, and still further in the distance, faded from the moisture in the air, the Olympics, the smaller brother of the Cascades, but arguably more beautiful with its stark simplicity, the entire range visible from start to finish, cutting into the horizon.

Standing there on the deck, thickly diapered, comfortable and warm in the footed sleeper, and gazing out at the breathtaking beauty that now surrounded his life, Joseph understood the concept of new beginnings. Even if it had been raining outside, quite hard; perhaps no sunrise, just the gradual thinning of the dark black sky into shades of gray, which would then, at the end of the day, fade back into black (such had been most of Joseph’s days in Seattle), Joseph knew it would have been just fine. Survive and fight the hard times, enjoy the good, and moment by moment, day by day, year by year…in the end, if he never forgot the pain and always enjoyed the rare treat of happiness, Joseph knew he would be just fine.


1 Like

Re: Joseph Kross: The Adventures Of

nicely done found a few grammar and spelling mistakes but nicely done

Re: Joseph Kross: The Adventures Of

I’m honestly always trying to improve my grammar and spelling. Do you mind pointing out what you found? I’d appreciate the effort.

Re: Joseph Kross: The Adventures Of

This like the rest of your stories was very well written. I enjoyed it very much and glad that it had a happy ending. :slight_smile:

Re: Joseph Kross: The Adventures Of

if you want i can edit your storys