Morning came early on Tuesday and we grabbed McDonald's to go and hit the road. I was behind the wheel and north of Vegas I began to smell something. Something funky. Something not quite right. Something, I hoped, that had come out of a cow or a fertilizer truck or the carcass of a dead animal on the side of the road. Something, however, that smelled like it probably came from the posterior of my son.
"Can you sniff around back there and make sure that's him, before I pull off?" I asked as we neared an area that had gas stations. Troy buried his head in the car seat, returned to his seat, and declared, "I only smell hash browns." Now, I could write an entire post--heck, I could write an entire series--on my husband's lack of smelling ability so I should have investigated for myself. Literally, there have been times when Troy is bouncing The Little Buddy on his lap in a separate room and I ask how he can't smell him since, by then, the scent will have drifted from wherever they are into my own nostrils. It's a problem. Or a gift. Depending on which one of us you are.
So, for some unknown reason I took his hash brownie word for it and continued on. The Husband nestled into the crooks and crannies of the passenger seat and fell asleep. Maybe The Little Buddy shifted or twisted or turned but something made that smell intensify and it wasn't long before I knew we were in for another bad diaper change.
Trouble was, there was no good place to stop. Sure, I could have pulled over and changed him in the dirt on the side of the road but that hardly seemed like a good idea. We trudged on. And, with every mile the smell got worse until, finally, I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw my oldest son riding with a finger up each nostril. "What's wrong, dude?" I asked him even though, clearly, I knew the answer.
"It smells like gross, stinky, dying, diareara in here." (And, diareara is not a typo it just happens to be that only my four-year-old can make diarrhea a cute word. Also, he is not dramatic at all.) For effect or clarification, I'll never know, he added, "Matthew did it."
For some reason I suddenly became irrationally irritated. Not with the fact that Matthew had clearly eaten too much fruit on our camping trip but with Troy's inability to smell it. Indeed, I was ticked at my husband's nose. And I wasn't mad that he hadn't smelled it to begin with because, truthfully, at that point I actually thought we may have passed a fertilizer truck. I was mad because our toddler was sitting in sewage, our four-year-old was riding with his fingers crammed up his nose and I had long ago resorted to only breathing out of my mouth. Yet, somehow, The Husband slept. I'm worried that someday our house will catch fire and he'll sleep right through the smell of smoke.
Finally, we crept up upon the town of Mesquite and swung right. Once off the freeway I went in search of a gas station. As the car slowed, my husband woke up. Sure, a decrease in speed will wake him but the smell of rotten bowels apparently works as a sleep aid. "Why are we stopping?" he mumbled groggily.
I blame the road trip, the close quarters, my own tiredness for the bite that came out with my voice, "You don't smell that?" I hissed. He breathed. Deeply.
Then he gagged out, "Now I do!"
I'd learned my lesson the day before so I did not sling The Little Buddy onto my hip. Instead, I held his hand and we walked in to the gas station. I was halfway through when I realized that tiny bits of poop were falling from his body and plopping themselves onto the floor. Momentarily I was immobilized. I couldn't very well just leave feces in the middle of the floor for anyone buying a bag of chips to step in but I also couldn't start cleaning it up while it was still falling from the child. I needed to cut the poop off at the source. So I left the chunks.
I just left them, like little miniature cow pies. Like tiny landmines. I'm a bad person. I entered the restroom and realized that, once again, there was no changing table. My think bubble had a lot of symbols in it. Followed by an exclamation mark. Thankfully, this bathroom was cleaner than the previous one and I didn't feel like quite as bad of a mother lying my child down on it.
I surveyed the damage. Matthew's right leg looked like he'd dipped it into a cesspool or a porta-potty or the hole at a dump station. Again, he found this experience to be hilarious and, as he happily wiggled his legs he coated his feet, his sandals, his whole body, it seemed. The floor smeared with poop.
About twenty wipes later I had him mostly cleaned and was about to start on the spot where I'd changed him when I heard Troy call out from beyond the door. "Here is a change of clothes. What else can I do to help?" I went to him.
He was standing on one of the Matthew pies. "We need to clean the floor," I motioned to where he was standing, "that's Matthew's poop." He took a step back--into another pie, I might add--looked horrified, picked up his flip flop to examine it, and turned on his heels. The Rock Star, who was with him, thought this was all very funny.
As I cleaned the floor of the bathroom, washed my hands, rinsed The Little Buddy's pants out, cleaned the sink because half the poop from his shorts was in chunks too big to go down the drain, and put the pooper into his new outfit, Troy followed--and cleaned--a fecal trail from the bathroom door all the way out to the car, and Garrett announced to anyone within ear shot that the tiny brown lumps were, in fact, his brother's poops.
We got back on the road 25 minutes later. We saved five minutes since we hadn't had to unpack the entire car this time. I informed Troy that I was scheduling a consultation for his nasal malfunctions--an empty threat, really. I apologized for being snappy. He apologized for his nose. And the miles passed under the wheels of our car.
"Why do I keep smelling poop?" I finally asked.
"I don't know," he replied.
"Do you smell it?" I questioned as though suddenly, yes, he'd start smelling things.
He simply looked at me. We continued on.
"WHY do I smell poop? Did he poop again?" I put my head back against the seat and moved my hands up the steering wheel so that both were side by side at the top. And that's when I noticed the brown smear painted across the back of my left hand. Somehow I'd missed that when I'd vigorously washed them back at the gas station.
So I ask you, which story sounds worse to you?