December 19, 1977 12:00 PM

In this corner wearing beige cords and Pampers is Jamie “Kid” Bruening of Cleveland, 2’6″, 23 lb., and in the other corner is his dad, Ed, 5’6″, 143 lb. and losing weight. Why? Because his broken jaw is wired shut and he’s on a liquid diet. And how did he break his jaw? We get back to the kid in Pampers.

One morning last month Mary Ann Bruening told 17-month-old Jamie to go wake up his father. “He jumped on the bed,” recalls Ed, 33, “and we started playing around. He was tunneling under the blankets, and I was tickling him. He’s superfast, and suddenly he swung at me while I was laughing and caught me with his right hand on my left jaw just in front of the earlobe.”

It didn’t hurt, but a few minutes later, when Bruening tried to drink his breakfast coffee, it streamed out the side of his mouth. By mid-afternoon he could only open wide enough to grimace, and X-rays that night confirmed he had a fracture. After a three-hour operation to wire his mouth shut, Bruening began the milk shakes, cream soups and runny mashed potatoes that will have to do until Christmas.

Even more difficult is the razzing that Bruening, a forklift operator, is getting from fellow workers. “They call Jamie ‘Little Rocky,’ ” he says, “and tell me from now on when the kid doesn’t want his Maypo, I should know enough not to make him eat it.” Little Jamie went unspanked for belting Dad. “How can you punish a 17-month-old,” his mother asks, “when he doesn’t know what he did?” Ed meanwhile is keeping his guard up. “We’re expecting another baby in April,” he says. “I’m hoping it’s a girl.”

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