Frances Picard didn’t get out much. She preferred the quiet comforts of home – a good adventure book, a cup of hot tea, and her warm blanket. However, tonight was anything but quiet at the Picard residence in Roaring Heights. Tonight they had a very special visitor with an amazing set of lungs.
“Shut her up, will ya?” her brother, Gerald yelled from the living room.
Frances released a sigh of exasperation. “I’m trying,” she said. “Why don’t you come in here and help?”
“Oh no,” he replied loudly. “I’m doing something very important.”
Frances rolled her eyes. Gerald was watching his favorite true crime shows. She didn’t understand how a grown man could sit in his parent’s home and watch blood, guts, and forensics after working all day in the county coroner’s office. Everyone knew the plots were contrived anyway despite the “true” label, and the cheesy creep-out music was just for effect.
“Sure you are,” she said sarcastically, picking up the small screeching niece of her friend’s and carrying the girl into the living room.
She took a seat next to her older brother on the couch.
“Hey, what are you doing in here?” he asked, reaching across her for the remote to turn up the volume of his “very important activity.”
“Well, she’s already crying. It can’t get much worse, can it, Hope?” Frances lifted the toddler up and switched her tone to baby talk.
“Stop it! I can’t hear what they’re saying,” Gerald grumbled.
“Maybe we can find a kids show,” Frances suggested.
“This late?” Gerald squeaked. “It’s ten o’clock at night.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Frances slumped, and shifted the toddler. “We could go for a walk?”
“Not this late,” Gerald shook his head. “Uh uh… I am not going to be responsible for you getting shanked or something.”
“You only get shanked in prison, Gerry,” Frances smirked. “Come on, big forensics guy! I thought you’d know that.”
“No you shut up.”
“No the baby needs to shut up. Here…” Frances held out the little girl. “You hold her.”
“I’m not a miracle worker,” he refused and pushed her back, causing Hope to cry harder. “Why don’t you call mom or something?”
“Because she doesn’t know Hope is here,” Frances replied. “And besides, she’s away at that spa convention. She won’t be back till after Thanksgiving.”
“Why can’t she know Hope is here?” Gerald frowned.
“Because I’m babysitting for Lolly who is supposed to be babysitting Hope, but she went out to see her crush tonight and I promised her I wouldn’t call unless it’s an emergency. And Mom said no visitors while we were gone.”
“I think she meant no boys, Fran.”
“Still, I don’t want to risk it. Last time I had Danny Rodriguez over when she was gone for an overnight trip, I was grounded for a month. And nothing happened either. We just stayed up all night talking and watching movies. The guy is totally gay anyhow.”
“Yeah but that’s different. Hey doesn’t Danny babysit?”
“Uh uh… I am not getting myself in trouble again.”
“Fine… but…” Gerald grimaced. “We need to figure something out. We can’t have her screaming all night.”
“Well you’re the detective.”
“Same diff,” Frances shrugged. “Let’s make an itemized list for deduction.”
Gerald rubbed his chin thoughtfully, and then muted the television, grabbing a pen and pencil from the end table. “Okay, let’s…” he began scribbling. “Did you feed her?”
“Duh! I’ve fed her twice since she’s been here.”
“And what did you feed her?”
“Cooked carrots and brown rice for dinner. And then Llama-O’s for a snack and a cup of almond milk.”
“Not regular milk?”
“Maybe that’s it.”
“You want to run to the store?”
“No… it’s late. Next?”
“I checked her diaper.”
“Gerry, babies poop. We all do. It’s normal.”
“Moving on…” he cleared his throat loudly. “Tired?”
“Yeah, I’ve tried three times to get her to sleep. I changed her into her pajamas. I tucked her in with the blanket Lolly brought and that creepy looking doll she carries around apparently everywhere,” Frances replied. “She doesn’t want to sleep.”
“Maybe it’s the bed?” Gerald surmised.
“That could be it. It’s unfamiliar. I tried laying down with her. That didn’t seem to work,” Frances explained as she felt Hope’s forehead, neck, and arms. “She doesn’t feel hot… so probably no fever.”
“That’s good,” Gerald sighed. “I’d hate to have to take her to the emergency room. Do you think something at dinner didn’t sit well with her stomach?”
“Rice is pretty bland. The cooked carrots… I mean… they were pretty smooshed,” Frances said. “So I doubt it was that. Llama-O’s are just wheat and honey.”
“And honey is nature’s miracle food,” Gerald lifted one finger in the air excitedly.
“You’re such a dork,” Frances hit him with the corner of a throw pillow.
“Almond milk? Think it’s expired?” Gerald inquired.
Frances shrugged. “Maybe.”
“I’ll go check,” he said as he scampered off into the kitchen.
“Come on baby,” Frances said, looking into Hope’s tear-filled eyes. “You’ve gotta pull through for your cousin’s sake. This is her shot with Sinbad. It’s her dream guy. You gotta pull through for me too. You’re driving me batty. Oh why am I talking to you? It’s not like you understand.”
She laid Hope next to her. The toddler continued to kick her legs and wave her arms in distress. Frances hoped they would come up with a solution soon, no pun intended. Gerald returned from the kitchen.
“No luck. Milk’s fine. I tasted some to be sure.”
“Okay… back to square one…”
The Picard siblings stared off at the television. A commercial for fishing rods and reels interrupted the true crime program. There was a man standing in a lake wearing fishing gear, pulling a large sea bass from the water and displaying it proudly for the cameras. Gerald un-muted the set. Hope suddenly sat forward and grabbed her ankles. Her eyes grew wide as she watched the screen. Frances stared at the toddler in awe.
“We found something?” Gerald mouthed.
Frances bobbed her head excitedly. “We found something,” she whispered.
As soon as the commercial ended, Hope’s lower lip wobbled. Gerald quickly changed the channel to Fishing Fracas. Within five minutes, Hope stopped crying and had fallen asleep peacefully, head on Frances’ lap and legs on Gerald’s.
“Huh? Fishing Fracas. Who would’da thunk?” he remarked.
“Yeah,” she leaned back and propped her head up with an elbow. “Who would’da thunk?”