Front Toward Enemy

The account below is true.

During the first year after my son was born, I served as primary caretaker. We set up a changing table for him, and because it was winter, we had a nice little space heater that we positioned at the south end of the table. When I changed him, the heater’s fan would blow warm air at him so he wouldn’t freeze his nethers.

We were proud of this setup. Often, he would drift off into blissful sleep when we changed him. When I was done and he was all clean again, I’d lift him from the table and he’d burrow into my shoulder, tiny hands gripping whatever fabric would give him purchase. I’d lay on the couch and he’d doze on my chest, eyes squeezed shut in a mole-like squint, the two of us just breathing.

One morning, while waiting for his my mother-in-law to visit so he could have peekaboo time and I could study for seminars, my son made a rather rank deposit in his diaper.

I laid him on the changing table and started up the heating fan. Opening the diaper and finding that the poo within was wet and runny, I drew his legs up northward by the ankles to get a better angle at the mess.

As I reached for wipes, however, my son projected a jet of liquid feces so powerful that it cleared two feet without touching the table—

—and shot straight into the heater’s hot, spinning fan blades.

As one of the few people in the world who’s literally seen shit hit a fan, I can’t find much to recommend about the experience. The substance tends to get kinda everywhere. I had drippy poo on my shirt, on my glasses, and hanging from my hair. The wall looked as though we’d hired Jackson Pollock to paint the room, and from all the swatches in the world, he’d selected a most unfortunate shade of brown. Shit clung to the fan blades, which slowed, groaned in protest and humiliation, and then stopped.

As I took stock of exactly how much might have entered my mouth, the doorbell rang. Desperate to prevent my mother-in-law from leaving, I hastily swaddled the baby and raced for the door to throw it open.

I must have looked like I hadn’t much planned on having company.

My son, for his part, looked very relieved and chose this moment to coo adorably.

I couldn’t see my mother-in-law very well through the spots on my glasses, but I witnessed perhaps half of a grin.

She laughed and said, “Take your time. I’ll be in the living room.”


It’s a commonplace that we should reflect on our experiences and learn from them. I’m not sure what I was supposed to have gleaned from that particular morning, but if I were to take a shot, I suppose it would look something like this:

Observation 1: No fans downwind of the baby. No matter how safe you think the distance is, it isn’t. Your baby is special. Your baby is powerful. Your baby has an ass like a claymore mine. Mise en place accordingly

Observation 2: Should the worst comes to pass, give up on the fan. You’ll never get it clean.

Observation 3: Grandparents are done with this shit. They get to sit in the living room.


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