A Million Pieces

by jkatejohnston

23 April 2015

Dear Max,

One of Enzo’s favorite things to say is, “Oh, gross! I’m gonna hurl!” and then make retching noises. Well, hurl he did. Like a hero. How can his little body hold so much?

He was up probably about fifteen times last night, shitting or barfing or both. He’s a brave boy. No crying. And as soon as it became clear that he wouldn’t be going to school the next day, no complaining.

He wanted us to take him to the doctor, and we said we didn’t need to do that right now, we would just take care of him at home. He brought it up a few more times and then said, “Mom, if this happens every night, we are going to the doctor no matter what.” We agreed—if it happens every night.

The first big barf happened while Teresa was reading to him before bed. We cleaned him up and took the living room rug outside to hose off. Enzo came along, seeming extremely keen and interested, especially when Colin started snacking on the barf-bits, and we thought, well he just ate something wrong, and he obviously got it out, so now he’s fine.

I gave him bubbly water with a bit of limeaid and later some sips of 7-Up. “I think the acids are dissolving every barf-piece in my stomach.” But a few minutes later, “I feel like my heart is breaking into a million pieces,” then blaaaa! There were no chunks this time, just the liquids I’d given him.

I don’t remember exactly when the shitting started, but when it did it was strange stuff—not the usual healthy animal stink, but a foul brew, and every time he farted, a bit would come out­­, not enough to get on the bed, more like farts with benefits, and we would just change his pajama bottoms and clean him up with baby wipes. At one point I was completing this operation, and he said, “Mom, it’s coming!” It didn’t occur to me to ask which end. I grabbed a hank of wipes and staunched the flow from his butt, and we managed to hobble to the bathroom with my hand and the wipes sort of clamped to his crack. He made it, and out the shit came, and then he was barfing on the floor while shitting. I crouched beside him holding his head. Teresa stood in the doorway.

When he was done and wiped, I tried to pick him up off the toilet and lift him over the mess to Teresa, but I was standing in it, and he weighs 65 pounds, and I was afraid to take step and fall, so I set him down, and he walked to Teresa on his barfy little feet. It’s not as bad as it sounds. It was about equal parts Pedialyte, water and stomach acid.

Teresa cleaned Enzo up and changed his pajamas. I cleaned the bathroom. Everyone back to bed. But I think he was afraid to sleep, or just too unsettled. And then another shit-fart, up, change, wipe, down, rest, barf, shit-fart, it’s all a blur.

This morning Enzo seems much better. Nothing has come out of him for several hours. We’ve been spoon-feeding him Pedialyte slushies. Now he’s eating an Otter Pop and watching America’s Funniest Home Videos.

How do single parents do this? It took everything Teresa and I had: one to clean up, one to comfort; one to stay with him, one to run to Walgreen’s for Pedialyte and so on. And this morning we both look like refugees, or maybe just poisoned by lack of sleep. There’s a reason mothers are supposed to be young.

Reading this over, I see how energetic it sounds. Don’t believe it.

(Next day.)

My laptop was in Enzo’s bedroom all that bad night, and in the commotion it got splashed with a touch of barf (I hope it was barf). The next morning it seemed to be working fine. I wrote up my notes from the night before, but toward the end the touchpad started behaving very strangely. The arrow mostly just wouldn’t move, and then it started moving on its own, opening programs and windows and documents at random: system preferences, Adobe Acrobate Professonal, iPhoto, autopsy pictures that I didn’t even know I still had. OS X Possessed.

Last backup? Probably last night. Or the day before. And of course Dropbox was up to date. Or was it? I connected my external hard drive, and managed to nudge the arrow up to the Time Machine icon and click it open.

THE IDENTITY OF THE BACKUP DISK HAS CHANGED SINCE THE PREVIOUS BACKUP. THE DISK MAY HAVE BEEN REPLACED OR ERASED, OR SOMEONE MAY BE TRYING TO TRICK YOUR COMPUTER INTO BACKING UP TO THE WRONG DISK. And then two buttons to choose from: USE THIS DISK or DON’T BACK UP.

I tried to remember if I’d written anything worth keeping in the last few days. All I could think of was steady backward progress on my fish book. No great loss there. But of course there was the diary entry I’d just written about the barf storm, which I knew was of historical dimensions.

I tried to nudge the arrow over to USE THIS DISK, and it did respond in a delayed and jerky fashion, but it was also moving on its own. Nudge, jerk, slide, scoot, scoot. And then the arrow was over the button and I clicked. It started backing up, probably transfering the infection or possession to my backup disk, but too late, and I still think it was the right move. I’m writing now on the barfed-on computer with an external keyboard and mouse, and so far so good. I think the possessed curser was actually responding to my own desperate manipulation of the touchpad, though in an extremely delayed fashion.

*

Last night it rained and Enzo slept and slept.

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