First Tony heard the bushes rustling. Then he heard breathing. “Is someone there?” he asked, beginning to turn around.
“Be cool, man,” came the reply.
“What?” Tony turned around completely to see who was standing in the bushes behind him.
The rebuke came immediately. “Are you kidding me with this? Don’t look at me.”
“That’s right, turn around.” And as Tony complied, the stranger added, “Thanks, now just be cool. Thought I’d never get away from the old lady.”
Tony scanned the other park-goers. “Is that her? Tall woman, pink skirt?”
“You know it. And what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. I tell ya, man. You think you have a handle on things. You think the world makes sense. Then all of the sudden all the rules change. You gotta figure out your own way.” Tony heard disconcerting noises behind him, along with a heavy sigh. “Been holding this one in all day.”
“Are you…” Confusion, disgust, shock, Tony felt it all. “You’re hiding behind me so you can pee? I’m your pee shield?”
“Potty training,” the toddler said with an embittered laugh. “They may have taken my diapers, but they’ll never make me use the potty.”
* * *