The Little Pipsqueak

© 2012-2013 Matthew Templar

This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

This story is copyrighted by Matthew Templar, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.

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Chapter Forty-seven

CRASH! Clank! Clank!

My head was spinning. I think I was waking up but I was so disoriented. There shouldn't be such a crash anywhere, unless . . .

That thought had me sitting straight up in bed, awake from a wonderful dream about which, of course, I will never have any recollection.

By instinct I looked over at the empty crib . . .


Luckily I was wearing light sleeping shorts, but it wouldn't have made any difference if I hadn't been. I shot down those stairs at record speed. Had anything been in my way, it would have been pulverized. Okay, I'd probably have been a mangled mess at the bottom of the steps, but I tried to get to the kitchen as fast as possible.

When I arrived Lewis was propped up in his car seat on the table in the kitchen, where we usually put him when he's on display or we think he wants to watch what we're doing. He was even buckled in, though the straps were twisted and he hadn't been changed out of his jammies.

At the pantry closet was the rear end of my AJ, in his semi-regular attire for the warm nights of summer, some really short PJ shorts and no shirt. It was what his attire usually was in the morning, if that much, until I told him to at least go get a shirt on, and sometimes pants, if he wanted breakfast.

He was pulling out the waffle maker that I kept in that closet. I also noticed a couple of pans, my alarm clock that morning, no doubt, laying on the floor of the closet.

The waffle iron wasn't quite old enough to predate the iron revolution but it must have been among the first ever built and somehow got to Vivian by way of a garage sale or some such event. Even Vivian had a hard time carrying it, but, in its defense, it still made good waffles.

As AJ turned with his heavy load, barely able to raise it high enough to get it onto the island counter, he looked up and saw me. It was after he clunked the appliance onto the counter, making the baby wince from the noise and near proximity, that he turned and saw the noise makers on the floor.

"Oops! Uh, morning, Dad. I was just gonna do something special for breakfast 'cuz I know how you and the guys like waffles and bacon and I figured Lewis has never tried 'em yet."

He turned away from me to quickly replace the fallen pans to their rightful spots, attempting it several times before he was successful, which probably woke up any friendly neighbors we might have still had in several surrounding counties.

Sometimes, when you want to be the boss, the parent, but something like a little angel gets in the way, it's all you can do to keep from falling on the floor laughing.

Through snickers I said, "AJ, I think Lewis is still a bit young for bacon or maybe even waffles. You sure are thoughtful though."

I don't think Lewis or I had to squint too much from that bright smile, but it was one of AJ's best.

"Ugh, mornin'. You guys hear something crash into our bedroom just now? Sounded like an army tank." Jeffy was rubbing his eyes, then his bare chest, his hair, then scratched his boxer brief covered bottom. No modesty in my family.

"Um, no, Jeffy. AJ was about to make waffles."

"Oh, well, oh boy," he said without one iota of enthusiasm. "You'll have to give me the recipe, pipsqueak, so I can start a business of raisin' people from the dead."

"I didn't even get to the doughy part yet, Jeffy. Oh, it was cuzza the noise, huh? Sorry."

"No problem, little bro. I always like to get up two hours early in the summer."

"Really? Oh. Sorry."

Just then the front door opened, then closed and into the kitchen walked a sweaty boy named Elliot.

"Geez, Elliot, you ride your bike through a sprinkler or somethin'?" asked Jeffy, knowing full-well the amount of perspiration the strenuous exercise produced.

"He he, nope. It's what you'd look like if you got your lazy butt out of bed at a decent hour and did some exercise with me more often, like bike riding for an hour."

"I need orange juice," said the three of us in unison to our morning chef.

"Okay, so this is what you do, Lewis. See this shiny thing? It's called a, a, hmmm, oh, a digger. Yeah, and you push this pointy part into the dirt and when you lift it out, oops, it's prob'ly too hard for you yet, you got a weed and you pull it out and shake off the dirt like this."

AJ's lesson wasn't all talk. He was showing Lewis each action as he mentioned them. He shook off the dirt like he usually does when he's, um, let's call it helping me. But he usually doesn't have a baby in a car seat a foot from him, so he spent the next few minutes brushing the dirt from all over an excited Lewis.

"Sorry, Lewis, but it can be a dirty job, ya know."

Lewis was sputtering, then squealing, delighted to be helping with the gardening, no doubt.

I'd just walked around the corner to see my boy working at the weeds, something I usually had to ask him to do. But this was evidently a learning session for his young nephew. Well, I suppose it was more a tickle time than anything at the moment I appeared.

"Dad, Lewis likes gard'ning," said AJ, brushing off the laughing boy.

"I can see that. But I think he mostly likes you explaining things to him. You're very good at it."

"Really? Hey, Dad, me and Lewis was thinkin'. We decided we need a swimming pool since it's summer and all. That'd help keep us cool, huh?"

Whew! Sure, just throw an Olympic-sized pool into the mix. No problem.

"Um, it sure would, but, um, they tend to be expensive, tyke. We'd really have to look into just how to work it into the design of the yard and how to heat it. There's a ton of information we'd need. Probably couldn't even consider it until next summer."

"Huh? What are you talkin' about?" asked AJ, turning to stare up at me standing over him, trying to block the sun from his eyes.

"A swimming pool. There's lots to figure out and . . ."

"O-o-oh. Dad, Lewis and I got it all figured out, don't we Lewis?"

Lewis gave us a cutie smile and even turned to look up at me as well, just like he really was in on the deal.

"So you think you have it all figured out, huh?"


"Okay, let's hear it, then."

I knelt down and put my hand on the boy's shoulder and he beamed with confidence.

"See, we get in the truck and go to Walmart. Then we get out and walk over to the whole big stack of 'em against the wall, by the garden stuff. Then we go into the store with one and pay the $7.99! Easy-peasey!" he finished, holding up his hands to show me just how easy it was.

I don't think I had quite started laughing as he continued.

"Then we put it in the back of the truck and bring it home and put it down and fill it up and Lewis and me get our swim suits on and jump in!"

"AJ, you really do have it all worked out. Wow! I'm very impressed."

His smile was contagious as usual. Then he turned to Lewis and stuck out his hand in an obvious high-five. Of course, Lewis had no idea what that was yet so he just smiled even bigger at his big boy uncle and reached out and grabbed the boy's wrist.

As I left them, AJ was trying very unsuccessfully to show Lewis how to do a high-five.

"Lewis! No! Let go!"

Later that afternoon, AJ took it upon himself to be the first to share a bath with Lewis, since he was the one that got dirt all over him. But mostly it was because he always had so much fun with Lewis and because he wanted to be the one to teach Lewis how to be a great kid like he was.

"Okay, big guy, but you have to choose someone to be in there with you while you bathe the baby just in case something happens that you need help with."

"Da-ad, I'm big enough. I can handle this little guy."

"I'm sure you are but when you're both all soapy there's no telling what could happen in there."

"Oh, alright. I don't care who helps me. Um, you, I guess, cuz you know more about this stuff. Hey, how we all gonna fit into that bathtub?"

Of course the other two boys perked up when this conversation started. By the time AJ talked about having me in the tub with him and Lewis, they were laughing and rolling around on the floor.

"AJ, I'll just sit on the toilet and be close enough if I'm needed. Remember, you can do it all by yourself."

"Oh, yeah. Heh! Good idea."

So the three of us traipsed up the stairs to the bathroom for the feature event. Really, AJ and I might have traipsed but Lewis was in AJ's arms and smiling all the way.

Lewis liked to be clean. He didn't like wet or dirty diapers and he loved his baths. He wasn't old enough to play by himself with toys in his bath, but that time was quickly approaching.

AJ took Lewis right into the bathroom and Lewis immediately started to lean toward the bathtub making it hard for AJ to hold him.

"Lewis! You need to wait. I gotta get your clothes off and stuff before you can go in there and there's no water even. Geesh!"

None of that seemed to bother Lewis. Somehow AJ managed to get the little guy naked and in his lap while he reached over to turn on the water.

"Um, Dad, could you . . . ."

"Nope. You have to learn how to do it by yourself. However, I would suggest that maybe next time you get ready for the bath and run the water before you go get Lewis and get him ready. Then you can both just climb right into the tub."

"Hmmm. Yeah, good idea. Wish I'da thought of it," AJ said as he used one hand to hold Lewis and one to get his own clothes off. Luckily, there weren't many.

AJ had never been shy about his body. I may have said before that, given his way, he'd be bare all the time. I never particularly cared as long as it wasn't at the table or we had a guest. So AJ could not have cared less about who was in the bathroom with him. But since it was the first time, I quickly realized that we had an audience.

"So, you guys can learn from how I do this, huh?" asked AJ when he saw his brothers standing the doorway.

"Yes, AJ, you look like you're handling it quite well," said Elliot.

"Yeah, maybe you can do it all the time, AJ," stated Jeffy.

Neither Jeffy nor Elliot were anywhere near as immodest about their bodies as was AJ, but, especially after what they'd been through, walking around in their undies was something that came natural. If one of them came down from their bath with or without a robe or towel, nothing was ever said. So I figured they wouldn't have a hard time getting into the bathing with Lewis, whether they told AJ so or not.

"Can I, Dad?" asked AJ of me as he turned on the water.

Lewis was getting a little perturbed at the time it was taking to get him into his bathtub.

"No. All you boys need to be a part of everything. Besides, I think you're going to have a blast in a few seconds and they'll want to be involved too. Right, boys?"

"Oh sure."

"Well, yeah. I suppose."

AJ tested the water and lifted Lewis and swung their legs over and they slipped into the tub. Lewis immediately slapped the water and splashed AJ and him making both boys gasp.

"Hey, Lewis. Careful. Now I gotta wash ya so you need to stay still."

Well that was like asking Jello to stay in its shape in the sunshine. That slippery guy was all over the place. He'd move and slip down until AJ caught him and pulled him back. One time Lewis slipped and turned so his head was staring right at AJ's genitals. AJ barely noticed except to make sure Lewis didn't get dunked in the water. He was so serious about his job, he looked up at me and sighed like it was a somewhat bigger task than he thought it would be. He was trying to lift Lewis up again.

Right about then AJ let out a blood curding scream that had all of us rushing forward!

Lewis saw a new, never seen before, toy and tried to grab it to play with it. Unfortunately for AJ, it was attached and wasn't about to give way.

"Oh my God, Pop, he's got him by the . . . "

"I can see that, Jeffy," I answered, somewhat concerned.

Almost immediately Lewis let go, totally startled by AJ's scream, and began crying, as was AJ. I lifted out Lewis and wrapped him in a towel while they both quieted down.

"Dad, that really hurt," said AJ, rubbing the offended area between his legs.

"Wow, AJ. That did not look good," added Elliot.

"Okay, okay. It's over. AJ, are you okay to keep going?" I asked him.

He gave me a sort of smile, rubbed the offended area once more and nodded, this time with a much better smile.

"I'm glad you're okay, AJ. That must have hurt. Now, let's get back to our task. AJ, let me hold him this time while you bathe him. We'll get this done so you can get out and cuddle Lewis so he knows you aren't angry with him. Okay?"

"'Kay. Thanks, Dad. It really hurt but it really surprised me too. He's got a really good grip and stuff, ya know."

As he finished his sentence he started laughing, thinking about how innocently it all had come about. Of course that got Elliot and Jeffy laughing and soon we were all laughing and telling the story over and over again from each person's angle, though none funnier than AJ's. Lewis was busy slapping the water and laughing between slaps and gasps as well.

After the very exciting bath, the four of us played with Lewis on the floor in the living room until dinner. We all wanted to be sure that Lewis was not too alarmed by his actions and that he knew we all loved him. Looking at the boys interacting with the baby, I knew their hearts were given over to the boy.

I was so fortunate.

"Dad, Great Grampa wants to come over and see what we got that's new."

AJ had just popped in from berry collecting right after breakfast which we enjoyed with Karen on hand as well.

Elliot was feeding Lewis some fruit concoction from a jar. Lewis also had a teething biscuit in one hand. It looked like every time Elliot tried to serve up a spoonful of fruit, Lewis would swing the biscuit toward his mouth, missing as often as he hit his target. It should have been a little frustrating for Elliot. But he'd just laugh it off and try again. That boy sure had a lot of patience. They were sure fun to watch too. Lewis wouldn't take his eyes off Elliot until AJ came bounding in. Then, of course, he got a spoonful of fruit on the side of his face instead of his mouth when he turned to see AJ. Elliot thought that was about the funniest thing.

"AJ, did you tell great grampa who we had here?"

"Nope. I just said something new. Good, huh? I wanted us all to see his surprise when he sees Lewis for the first time."

Of course, Jeb was totally beside himself when we invited him over for dinner that very day, quickly realizing he was now a great great grampa to our littlest member.

"Tarnation, Tim, he sure is purdy. Why, you'd better keep him from me or I'll just squeeze the little dumplin' something awful, he's so cute."

Lewis didn't quite know what to think. Jeb was loud and demonstrative and, even though Lewis was becoming somewhat accustomed to such behavior from his own boys, the person he was being introduced to was huge compared to them. So, in the beginning he was not about to part from my arms.

Well, Jeb wasn't having any of that. He turned on his gentler side and began to work his magic on Lewis. Even when the boys would play with Lewis on the floor on his blanket, every time Jeb said something Lewis' head swung that way and he just stared, wide-eyed. Jeb's first few guffaws had Lewis in a tizzy. Not quite crawling yet, he found it hard to get away from such an alarming sound. His fat little legs and arms would go like crazy but his big butt and tummy kept him in place. He hadn't quite figured out the technique yet.

As soon as Jeb recognized what he'd done, he calmed down and, instead of laughing in such a loud way, he'd look down at Lewis, and just act like he was laughing at the funniest thing in the world, but in mime.

That must have really confused Lewis, because he couldn't get enough of that action. He'd play with one of the boys with a toy and then look over at Jeb to see what he was doing. Then he'd play a little more and, if it caused him to laugh, he'd quickly look at Jeb to see if he would laugh in his funny way too.

Of course, Jeb was more than ready to honor his new baby's unspoken request and would laugh like a clown with his hands on either side of his face like huge ears and bounce his head around, just no sound. Soon Lewis quit doing anything else and just stared at Jeb. No one else in the room mattered to the little guy. It even upset AJ just a little.

"Hey, Lewis, aren't you gonna play with us anymore?" he'd ask.

Lewis didn't even turn away from staring at Jeb.

"Just watch him and your great grampa, AJ," I whispered to AJ. "See what he does."

It was fascinating to watch their interaction and we all stopped and just watched.

During their play, the boys had scooted closer and closer to Jeb and me where we sat on the two recliners. Of course, Lewis was scooted closer as well, much to his displeasure in the beginning, but soon, he didn't seem to care.

Once Jeb slowly reached out his arm at Lewis, to poke him in his ribs to tickle him.

Lewis watched that finger as it got close until it was a foot away when he realized, I guess, that it was on its way to him, to get him. Well, he wasn't going to let that happen. He tried to get away and, of course, Jeb immediately stopped and sat back in the chair with a big smile on his face.

The second and third time Jeb tried the same action Lewis reacted somewhat the same, though not as bad. But by the fourth time I guess Lewis wanted to know where that finger was really going and what it was really going to do.

That's when the tickling started. That's when the laughing began and continued. Lewis had a whole different laugh when he was tickled. It sounded so deep and full, somehow. The sound captivated all of us as we joined in laughing at Lewis laughing.

And Jeb had him!

Once again, Jeb had captivated his audience until they succumbed to his charms. What surprised us most though, was when Lewis held out his arms to Jeb so that he'd pick up the little guy. Oh, that's not to say it didn't happen all the time for us to pick him up, but the turnaround to let Jeb have him was remarkable.

"I don't know why that would surprise you, Pop," said Elliot. "It's what he does, what he's good at. Hey, I'm a prime example of that one." He was so cute, and so right. Maybe he'd be our psychologist one day.

"Now see here, smarty-pants," said Jeb in the most calm voice we've ever heard from him, while bouncing little Lewis on his lap. "Why, I just see someone who needs a nice lap and get around to asking them up. 'Course, you were kinda big for my lap, big boy."

Elliot blushed a bit and smiled at his adopted great grandfather.

When Lewis started to really crawl he would beeline for Jeb the minute he sat down. Jeb couldn't have been more pleased. AJ, at his great grampa's knees, had a whole new archive of stories and songs from listening to his great grampa as he coddled his newest littlest boy.

Yes, the McGill family had quickly grown. I had never been happier and certainly never prouder of all my boys.

The next day, we were suddenly among the elite, complete with solar heated pool, about four feet wide and six inches deep and heated by the sun. Oh, and just to keep the rest of the troops happy and energetic I got one of those Slip 'n' Slide things where they run and slide on a stretched out piece of plastic with running water making it slippery. All the kids loved it and even Lewis squealed when each boy in turn slid him along it.

Of course, it also meant extending our shopping just a bit to include swim suits for all four of my growing boys. Lewis actually just needed those waterproof diapers but a lot of the time he wore nothing. The other boys got swim shorts but at least they weren't the board shorts kind that looked like they'd drag on the ground if they were an inch longer. Sometimes they'd just pull off their shorts down to their undies and start their playing around. We also had to get beach towels and even a couple of plastic loungers for their old man and Great Grampa to relax Their weary bones while we watched them in their frivolity.

I was so amazed at how much attention they paid to our littlest and newest clan member. Lewis was always somewhere between a laugh and a gasp at what the boys put him through. But his naps sure showed how much energy he put into his time with them. He was always exhausted.

Karen came over faithfully each morning to supervise. She seemed to think we were doing very well, learning what Lewis's needs were and responding to them. Most of us were trying to show her what we'd learned.

Most of us.

See, it became obvious to us that someone had a major crush on Karen. Remember she was a real looker as well as looking younger than she was. Still, she was several years older than her admirer, Jeffy!

You'd have thought he'd never seen a cute girl before; certainly not in our house and certainly not expecting to, I would think, as he came into the kitchen in his boxer briefs the second day she was helping out.

Even though he saw her, knew she was looking at him in his almost altogether, just the important parts covered, he came in scratching and ogling Karen like he'd done most of the day before. He was so totally enthralled by her presence that he was unaware of his condition.

"Um, Jeffy?" I started.

Karen waved me off and had the cutest grin on her face. Then she turned back to Jeffy.

"Good Morning, Jeffy," she said.

I don't know why he didn't think she'd speak to him; maybe just not awake yet.

"Oh, um, yes, it is. Um, good morning to you too, um, Karen," he stuttered.

"Um, Jeffy?" I started again.

He just ignored me and sat, never taking his eyes off of our guest.

Karen, through her smile, asked him, "Is the baby up, Jeffy? Maybe you should go see and bring him down if he's awake."

"Oh, yes, ma'am," he practically shouted as he jumped up. Had he saluted her I would not have been surprised. He ran out of the room and Karen just laughed.

"Karen, I hope you weren't embarrassed by him just now."

"Oh, heavens, no, Mr. McGill. No, I'm very flattered that he's oblivious to his state of dress. Or maybe he's just comfortable around others that way."

"No, he's just a tad less shy than Elliot about his body. He doesn't even come close to being the nudist that AJ is, luckily."

"He he he. Your boys are all so cute, Mr. McGill."

"Karen, please call me Tim. I'm not like your employer or anything. It's more like you're our salvation around here. Ha!"

"Well, that won't take long to change. You're all doing a terrific job."

Just then we heard a squawk from upstairs that sounded like Lewis being startled or not too happy about something. It was quiet except for Jeffy's footsteps down the stairs and into the kitchen, complete with frowning baby in his arms.

"Pop, he's ripe!"

"Okay. Why didn't you change him while you were up there?"

"Um, well, I thought if I did it here and I ran into trouble then Karen could help me?" he said like he was asking as he swung his head over to ogle Karen again.

"Oh, brother, Jeffy. You know perfectly well . . ." I started to say until I saw Karen wave me off again.

"Jeffy, why don't you start? I doubt if you need my help but I certainly do want to see how well you do." Karen was in true form.

Jeffy smiled with pride at her remark and plopped the baby down on the kitchen table.

"Um, no, son," I exclaimed. "We don't change the baby on our eating surface. Nope. Living room, please."

"But how will Karen know . . ."

"She has feet. She can follow you."

"Oh, yeah. Heh!"

Lewis started fussing while he was being moved yet again. All he wanted was a change of diaper and a clean bottom, I'm sure. But he was so cute when Jeffy laid him on his blanket on the floor and Karen sat on the couch to watch. Lewis tried to squirm around to see her and Jeffy kept pulling him around to face him.

"Lewis, hold still."

"Jeffy, why don't you turn him so he can see me and not have to keep changing positions on you," Karen said with laughter in her voice.

"Oh, yeah. Heh!"

So, just as Jeffy turned Lewis so Karen was right to his side and easy to see, our AJ came walking into the room, rubbing the sleepy from his eyes. He too was dressed only in his undies and for that I was thankful. It could just as well have been one piece of clothing less than what he had on.

"Morning, everyone. Morning, Karen."

Of course, as soon as Lewis heard his big boy uncle's voice he tried to squirm around the opposite way to see him. Jeffy was getting a little perturbed.

"AJ! Hey, come sit by Karen please. He keeps wantin' ta turn toward all the voices. Lewis, hold still. You're gonna make a mess."

I think Karen was enjoying this rodeo as much as I was. Lewis was squirming while Jeffy could just as well have been trying to hogtie him. Eventually the dirty diaper came off, Lewis got his po-po wiped down of the poo-poo, which he seemed to know made him clean and happy, then the clean diaper went on. Jeffy had done a remarkable job despite the many irritations along the way.

"Great job, Jeffy," Karen praised him as he picked up Lewis and gave him a big hug.

Oh, Lewis sure liked his hugs. He'd really want to cuddle right in to make the most of it and his contented sigh was so precious.

"Wow, Jeffy, you don't usually come down with just your undies on when we have company, do you?" asked AJ.

"Of course no . . ." started Jeffy as he looked at his lap between Lewis and him. "Oh my God!" he shrieked. Well, luckily not too loud. It just caused his lap partner to giggle like he knew what was going on.

"It's okay, Jeffy. I don't mind. Really," Karen tried to say, but most of it was to a hightailing boy flying up the stairs, Leaving Lewis spinning on the carpet, trying to figure out where his ride went.

I'll bet it was an hour before I went up to see if Jeffy was okay.

"Pop, why didn't you tell me," asked my middle son as he lay in a fetal position on his bed. He'd taken enough time to put on basketball shorts that came to his ankles and a t-shirt. I think the only reason it was short-sleeved was because he didn't have one that was long-sleeved.

"Jeffy, I promise you I tried on two occasions but you were a little enamored of our guest and she waved me off from continuing."

"What? Really? Hey, Pop, what's enameled?"

"Oh, well the word is enamored and it means when you are stricken by someone, like a crush on them."

"Oh. Wait, I don't . . . Oh, okay," he finished burying his head into his pillow.

"She is very cute, isn't she, son? You have very good taste."

"No, I . . . Okay, yeah, I guess I kinda have the hots . . . I mean, I think she looks pretty fine. But I didn't think it showed."

"First of all, she thought it was a great compliment to her."

"She did? She said so?"

"Pretty much. Second, walking in and not noticing your state of dress because of you staring at her is a good sign of something going on. Besides," I said as I started to walk out, "Drooling isn't too cool in front of a cute girl, you know."

"Oh, yeah. Hey! Po-op!"

"Now, come on down. She isn't leaving for a few hours. You can't stay up here all day."

"But, Pop, I was almost naked in front of her!"

"But Jeffy, if we'd been at a pool or the beach say, you'd have been in a swim suit that is no bigger than what you had on. Right? And it would have been perfectly acceptable."

"Huh. Yeah, I guess you're right, Pop. Thanks," he said, coming over and giving me a hug before we both made our way downstairs.

One day, during Lewis' nap, Ray, one of the three kidnapped amigos, rode over on his bike. He was his usual boisterous self, commenting on everything, trying to get the two boys to go over what had happened on their adventure with him. They didn't want to revisit that particular event so soon after it, so it was finally dropped.

But then Ray began to quiet down and kind of look around at things like they were foreign to him. It then dawned on me that he hadn't been over since we'd added Lewis into our family. He saw baby toys and a stack of diapers, even some baby clothes in the laundry basket that I was about to fold.

"Um, you guys into some strange stuff lately?" he asked to no one in particular.

"Huh? Watcha mean, Carlton," asked Jeffy.

"Um, how come ya got all this baby stuff, Daniel? AJ revert to goo goo daa daa?"

"Hey. Have not. I'm an uncle, so there!" said AJ indignantly.

"We found a baby for sale at Walmart and Pop bought him for us. You know, somethin' ta do." Jeffy was in true form.

"Ha, ha, yeah, right," said Ray. But as he looked around the room, he was the only one laughing. "Hey! You can't do that! Didn't we just almost go through that with being kidnapped and stuff? That's just not right."

"He's right, you guys. Jeffy, tell him what happened please," I asked of him.

Jeffy got around to telling Ray what really happened after some false starts that had us laughing at his creativity. Ray was finally getting into the fun and then stopped and yelped when he heard Lewis telling us he was done with his nap and needed changing. He seemed to have to be home very quickly when we asked him if he'd like to learn how to change a dirty diaper. But, overall, he had a good time with Lewis. A couple more visits and he'd accept him or, more likely, understand him, a little more completely.

Then the tribe of Perkins came over to meet our boy. Linda Sue made the boys promise to be quiet and not be too active around Lewis. Of course, by that time, Lewis was used to being the center of attention and the attention was generally of the rambunctious type.

Jacob had left to go back home by then. Enrique told us about the picture that Denver drew as his going away gift. Then Michael told us they'd already exchanged letters.

I asked Dan if there would be another boy to take his place but he had decided to slowly diminish the family as Linda Sue's and his wedding got closer.

As he was telling us that, Denver whispered something into AJ's ear and AJ let out a 'Whoop!' of excitement followed by a huge grin.

"AJ! That's a little rude while our guest is talking," I scolded.

"Oops! Sorry, Dad, but Denver said somethin' so neat." He was still kind of bouncing around, like he had to let it out before it popped out.

"Okay, out with it then," I said.

"Denver?" asked Dan of his youngest. Then a wave of realization came over Dan and he turned to all of us. "I believe that Denver told AJ that it is my plan to adopt him after the wedding. He's too precious to me to send him off with relatives that are much too old and don't really know what to do with a young boy anymore. However, we did meet his relatives and they were very grateful that he is doing so well."

Denver, needless to say, was beaming.

"Congrats, Denver," said Jeffy.

Elliot gave him a small hug and said how wonderful it was that Denver had a family like he, Elliot, did.

I should add here that most of the time Elliot and Enrique spent together, off to one side. They'd just be talking back and forth but every once in a while I'd notice one of them holding the other's hand.

Tyler was fascinated with Lewis. He'd had contact with very few, if any, children in the atmosphere in which he grew up, of course. He was always kept separated from any children the kidnapping ring brought to the farm. It was almost a shock for him, discovering the boys closest to his own age when he was found and living with Linda Sue and being with our family as well as Dan's troops. But the smallest child he'd ever met was Lewis.

"Would you like to hold Lewis, Tyler?" asked AJ, holding his young nephew as well as he could.

"Oh, no, thank you, AJ. I might hurt him and he is too beautiful to have any pain."

"Tyler," said Linda Sue, who approached the boys when she heard Tyler's answer, "You won't hurt little Lewis. In fact, it will give him joy to know that you really care enough about him to hold him close to you. You do like the feeling of being close to people you love, right?"

"Oh, yes! That's my best feeling ever. Well, if you think it will be okay with Lewis, I guess I would like to hold him then."

Linda Sue had Tyler sit on the couch with Lewis in his lap, just so they would be supported and she felt it would give Tyler more assurance that he wouldn't hurt the baby.

Lewis immediately loved Tyler. It looked like the feelings were mutual as well. Lewis began to turn around and began to inspect Tyler as Tyler tentatively inspected Lewis, carefully checking out his fingers and toes, all the parts of our little one that were so tiny. Lewis was a bit more aggressive. He'd reach for Tyler's nose or touch the wisp of mustache that naturally grew above Tyler's upper lip. Then he reached out, turned Tyler's head and grabbed for his ear.

That startled Tyler and he gave out a laugh that startled Lewis and stopped him, but only for a second. He turned Tyler's head back to look him in the eye, then laughed and turned his head again to examine that strange outcropping from the side of the older boy's head.

Tyler was in awe of the attention and looked like he was having a totally new enjoyable experience. His amazed eyes never got any smaller and his mouth was open or laughing the whole time.

"I . . . I think he likes my ears," said Tyler after a minute of acute examination by his companion.

"I think he likes all of you, Tyler, but it's a good thing you have your pants on," said AJ, smiling at the two on the couch.

We spent some time explaining AJ's statement while Linda Sue laughed and all the boys and men kind of cringed and let their hands make sure everything was still intact.

And so it was that our family had grown. We prepared for the newly remodeled home, adding that extra bedroom in the process, making the family room larger as well.

End of Chapter Forty-seven

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