Were you on the M1 last week? As you drove past Leicester Forest East services, did your headlights momentarily engulf something strange at the edge of the carpark, at the top of the verge, just feet from the carriageway? Did you see a man there, standing behind an open hatchback?
Was there something not quite right about him? A little taller than average. Glasses. Slightly ginger. Sticky up hair. A little chubby. But it wasn’t that. Was it the lost, hollow look on his face as he turned towards you? Was it, perhaps, that he was naked from the waist up? Was it the two feet dangling out of the car, writhing and kicking? You may even, over the roar of the motorway, have heard a piercing wail, a human air raid siren falling in tone as you speed past.
“No, I’ll do it.” I volunteer. I’d like to pretend I was heroically hurling of myself in front of a poo bullet, but nearer the truth is that it was a bid for brownie points. Literally. “You go for a wee.” I smile at my wife, feeling like superman.
I decide to back the car up to the edge of the car park, so no one will have to watch me clean the… unpleasantness… off my daughter’s bum. She is deep into potty training, with a dodgy tum. No nappy. It will be bad. But I’m a veteran. I’ve seen things no one should ever have to see. This should be a walk in the park.
It’s dark. I think it’s probably a blessing that I can’t see much. Lessens the trauma. I lay her down in the back of the car and start the clean up. The traffic is thundering. My daughter is wailing. The headlights capture moments of our struggle like lightning tableau.
Finally I finish, haul her back into the car. I wonder to myself whether this is the worst one ever. No. Not even close.
It’s when I try and put on her seat belt in the dim light of the car interior that I notice it. My blood freezes. The seat belt buckle is covered in poo. The horror film violinists begin to drag their fingers up the strings. Her legs are covered. Her feet. Her hands. Her clothes.
My heart is pounding, my face contorting in terror and disgust. My hands are shaking. My hands. They are covered too. Oh God. No. The horror violins squeal and stab. My arms. My top. It’s smeared thickly down my t-shirt in broad streaks. I desperately look around for my wife, but she is a universe away, pleasantly browsing M and S food.
Back to the back of the car. I have to strip my daughter down, nearly strip myself down. At the height of the nightmare someone passing bips their horn, turning me like a chubby, half naked rabbit. Thanks for that.
“Have you changed your top?” My wife asks some time later.
There aren’t enough brownie points in the world.