You need to stop doing that," Emma said.
"I am not doing anything," I said. "I am just looking in the mirror."
"With your shirt off," she pointed out.
"I haven’t had time to put one on yet."
"You are not fooling me one bit, Justin Trudeau-Fairchild."
"Okay," I said. "You got me. I saw the picture of Justin Trudeau without his shirt off."
"You are letting him live in your head without paying any rent, you know that," Emma said. "Although I don’t think you’re going to do anything about it."
"He looks very nice with his shirt off," I said. I left the corollary unsaid.
"You look fine," Emma said, but without anything that sounded like conviction. I knew she was a bit self-conscious about her weight, and that we’d both have to figure a way to start hitting the gym at some point. I was definitely self-conscious about my weight, to the point where I was contemplating drafting legislation banning the sale of Tastykakes in convenience stores, you know, as a public health issue.
"I don’t feel fine. I feel stressed and tired and fat."
"Welcome to the club," she said. "Okay, my recommendation to you is to get dressed. You’ve got a busy morning ahead of you."
"I don’t know if I’d call it busy," I said. "I’ve got a speech to give at the New Jersey Council on Home Health Care Aides, and I’m walking precincts in the afternoon."
Emma looked at me with one of those looks that told me that I had missed something important, and that I was wrong.
"Please tell me that you haven’t forgotten what today is," she said.
"I have forgotten what today is," I said.
"We had this conversation a week ago. I said I had an appointment with my OB/GYN, and then I was going to get a massage, and you said you could take care of Richie all day."
"I said that?"
"You did."
I thought back. "What I think I said was that I would need to check with Polly first, to see if I had anything scheduled that day."
"And you forgot to do that, so I called her myself, and she said you didn’t have anything."
I was going to have a long talk with Polly about scheduling, it seemed. "Well, I don’t want you to cancel your doctor’s appointment. What do we do?"
*
"Oh, wook at him. He’s so cuuuute."
"Yes, he is," I said, for the eighteenth time that morning.
"What’s your name, little fella?"
"This is Richie. Can you say hello, Richie?"
The home health care worker put out her hand, and Richie batted at it.
"Look at you. Look at you. Widdle Wichie. So cute. Sooooo cute."
Richie was getting more than his fair share of attention, and as far as I could tell, he was enjoying the heck out of it. I had him strapped in the Baby Bjorn, and he was free to swing his little fists and kick his little feet, and he was as pleased as punch. (Although I don’t know specifically how punch could feel pleasure, or anything, but that’s another story.)
"Anyway, my name is Justin Fairchild, and I’m running for…"
"Izzat your daddy there, widdle Wichie? He’s a big man, isn’t he? Yes, he is."
"He’s a good baby," I said. "And I’m a good candidate for Congress."
"Oh, is your daddy going to go to Washington? What do you think about that? Do we like that? No, we don’t like that at all? Wook at the cute cutie! He doesn’t want his daddy to go anywhere."
"Mr. Fairchild?" This was the event organizer, come to save my life. "We’re about ready for your talk."
*
"Just as home health care is central to our health care system," I said, "so is the Affordable Care Act central to our health care financing system. Without the ACA, people simply would not have the resources available to get the health care that they need, which of course includes home health care. My opponent has voted to repeal the ACA fifty-seven times. Not just once, not just twice, but fifty-seven different times. I want to go to Washington to help Hillary Clinton protect the ACA, not repeal it."
That got a nice little ripple of applause. It was a nice-sized crowd, and they were low-income service employees in a highly-regulated sector, which meant that they were probably ninety-percent Democrats. A friendly audience for once, and they were nodding along and not nodding off. Richie shifted restlessly in the Baby Bjorn.
"But keeping the ACA safe from repeal is just the start of what Democrats hope to accomplish," I said. "The single most important thing we need to do is bring the minimum wage up to fifteen dollars an hour, where it needs to be." That got a round of applause, a big one. "Home health care workers have been undervalued for years, and we need to take steps to reverse that. Raising the minimum wage is a key part of that effort."
Everyone liked that. The home health care workers loved it. The hotel staff in the back of the room were clapping, too. I looked out on a sea of happy faces and suddenly felt good about the campaign, and of course that’s when Richie let loose.
"My opponent would tell you that the minimum wage increase isn’t necessary. I am here to tell you that it’s about fairness," I said. And that’s when the smell hit me, sour and overwhelming. This was not just a dirty diaper. This was a toxic waste hazard.
"Everyone wants to be treated fairly," I said. The smell was getting worse, to the point that I was starting to worry about throwing up all over the podium. "And everyone needs quality care. I’ve learned so much caring for my own son, and I really appreciate what each of you do for the people you care for. Thank you so much."
I tried walking away from the podium, but the event organizer stopped me. "I think we should do some Q and A," she said.
"I would love to, maybe a little later," I said.
"Does anyone have any questions for Mr. Fairchild?" she asked.
"Really," I said. "I can’t answer questions right now. I have to deal with Richie here for a minute." I felt like I was going to pass out. But this woman was standing between me and the diaper bag, and she wasn’t moving.
"I had a question about what we could do about the coding process," someone said from the audience.
"It’s just so complicated."
"I’d be happy to answer later," I said. "If you could please excuse me a minute."
"Are you sure you couldn’t answer?" the organizer asked. "I’m sure we’d all like to hear what you have to say about medical coding."
What I knew about medical coding, you could fit in a very small hat. "I am having a diaper emergency," I said. "Please. Excuse me."
The organizer looked confused at first, and then the wave of diaper stench hit her like a grenade. "Oh, God," she said. "What are you feeding that poor child?"
I looked at her, my face pleading, do not make this more embarrassing than it already is. She finally got out of my way, and I scooped up the diaper bag and headed for the men’s room. I will spare you the gory details, for which you can be grateful.
I decided to try and duck out of the reception so as to spare myself any further humiliation, but no such luck. I got cornered by three home health care aides in the vestibule outside the conference room. "Oh, look at the cute cutie," one of them said.
"Did you poop for your daddy? Are you a super pooper? Wook at the super pooper!"
"Okay, look, I need to go," I said. I was still a little green around the gills from the experience.
"Does the big man need to go?" one of them asked. "Maybe this little cutie-wutie can stay here with us."
"I don’t think…"
"Wook at the cutie-wutie! Wook at his little feet!"
I eventually managed to work my way outside, and got Richie out of the Baby Bjorn and into his car seat, where he took a quick nap. I knew going the distance would be difficult, but I never thought it would smell quite that way.
****
Check out the previous installments:
Last year:
Week Forty-Nine:The True North
Week Fifty:The Garden State
This year:
Week Four:The Brain Trust
Week Six:The Snow Day

Week Seven:The Coin Flip

Week Eight:The Wicked Witch
Week Eleven:The State Dinner
Week Twelve:The Maple Leaf Rag
Week Thirteen:The Large Endowment
Week Fourteen:The Transit Authority
Week Fifteen:The Ten Forty
Week Sixteen:The Bachelor Party
Week Seventeen:The Refugee Crisis
Week Eighteen:The Taco Bowl
Week Nineteen:The Trending Topic
Week Twenty-One:The Blessed Event
Week Twenty-Two:The 3AM Feeding
Week Twenty-Three:The Stuffed Elephant
Week Twenty-Five:The Turkey Jive
Week Twenty-Six: The Wiki Leak