“Mrs. Croppy,” sighed the doctor at bedside, “we have some good news and some bad news for you.”
Fresh out of the maternity ward at Father Charles Coughlin Memorial Hospital, Abigail Croppy sat up in her bed, flustered. She hadn’t been expecting any bad news.
“Where’s my baby?”
Pediatrician Shale Sackworth cleared his throat. “See, that’s just it—he’s alive and resting in an incubator, but there are certain…complications we need to discuss before you can see him.”
“Complications?” She looked at her husband. “Jake, what the hell is he talking about?”
Jake Croppy meekly shrugged and nodded at Dr. Sackworth, yielding the floor to him.
“Mrs. Croppy,” the doctor continued, “have you ever heard of ‘cranio-rectal interpolation’?”
“Cranio-rectal interpolation, also known as Ouroboros Syndrome.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” she asked desperately, her upper lip misting with stress sweat.
Dr. Sackworth shifted his weight from one leg to the other, cleared his throat, and continued. “It’s a dangerous congenital condition in which a child is born, eh, with his head fully inserted into his rectum.”
“So…he was born with his head up his ass?”
“Yes, in a manner of speaking…yes. Yes, he was. Your son was born with his head up his ass.”
She stared at him, her mouth hanging open.
“It’s possible to correct this condition,” Sackworth continued, “but it will require a series of deeply invasive and possibly life-threatening surgeries. And even if the surgeries are unsuccessful, there’s nothing preventing him from having a long, happy, and fulfilling life.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
“I wish I was, Mrs. Croppy—I wish I was. The situation is not hopeless, but like I said, it’s delicate and complicated. I mean, it’s not like you can just tell him, ‘Hey—pull your head out of your ass.’ It’s a lot more complicated than that.”
“How is he ever going to learn anything with his head up his ass?” she asked the doctor, her voice cracking.
“But that’s just it—it’s not about learning. It’s about coping.”
Six months later, little Todd Croppy had yet to see the light of day. He spent all of his time strapped to a bed in the nursery room his family had prepared for him at home, surrounded by an elaborately wheezing constellation of machines and clear plastic tubes and wires and IV drips.
The seal between his head and rectum was not airtight—there was just enough space to run tubes that pumped a constant of influx of oxygen up through his anus and into his nostrils to keep him alive.
His parents were tasked with monitoring him and keeping him clean. The wet, drippy feces that would leak down and around his neck required constant wiping and disinfecting. It was arduous, thankless work, and it put a strain on the couple’s marriage.
There were no organized support groups or public charities for cranio-rectal interpolation. There were no T-shirts or marches or slogans or Facebook memes. Although friends and family offered their token support and sympathy, the Croppys mostly had to go it alone.
They loved their son, even though they would probably never get to kiss him.
As the years ground slowly onward and little Todd reached puberty with his head still firmly lodged deep inside his rectum, word came of a miracle homeopathic procedure in India that permanently cured cranio-rectal interpolation. Rather than the risky and exorbitantly expensive Western surgeries, this was a holistic procedure that was not covered by insurance. It involved six weeks of an herbal salve that would slowly dilate the anus to the point where Todd’s head would eventually slip out of its own accord.
Armed with an unwavering faith and the generous contributions of a family benefactor the Croppys packed their bags and headed with their son to India.
On the second day of the sixth week as they slept on the floor outside Todd’s dirty little hospital room, the Croppys were suddenly awakened by a loud, wet popping sound.
They rushed excitedly into the room, and there he was—their baby boy Todd, although hardly a baby anymore, was blinking his eyelids and looking at them for the very first time.
Crying tears of joy, the Croppys soaked a pair of towels in warm water and began cleaning their son’s face.
“I love you, my little morsel,” Abigail Croppy said, choking back tears. “This was so very painful, but it was all worth it.”
The Croppys paid their Ayurvedic doctors in cash and flew back home to America, joyous beyond words.
“Abby? Jesus fuck, Abby, get in here!” shrieked Jake Croppy only two days after the family arrived back home.
Abby rushed into Todd’s nursery room, which they had now retrofitted with a TV and a desktop computer.
To her supreme horror, Abigail Croppy dashed into her son’s room, only to realize that his head was already shoved completely back up his ass.
“What—what—Jake, WHAT THE FUCK!? Did you do this? This isn’t happening!”
“It’s already happened,” Jake Croppy said with the enthusiasm of a deflated balloon. “And no, of course I didn’t do this. You know me better than that, Abby. He did this to himself. All I did was go downstairs to pour him some orange juice, and when I came back up…well…just look at him.”
The Croppys were flabbergasted.
Todd Croppy had made a decision. He would never travel anywhere, do anything, or make anything of himself. He would depend entirely on the kindness and the resources of those around him. He preferred the darkness, the solitude, the quiet, the warmth.
Their son would rather have his head up his ass and be fed and bathed by others. And his parents had no right to interfere with his decision to continue life being exactly who he was.
Jake Croppy sighed, swallowed, grabbed the sponges and disinfectants, and silently began cleaning up again.