The Guardian Angels
"Is it necessary?" Nick asked.
"Of course it is!" Audra exclaimed. "Modern medicine recommends that the linen is promptly changed with a clean one and boiled before being used again. Now, pass me a safety pin."
"A safety pin, huh?"
"That's what I said."
"A safety pin is a metal pin that is used for attaching things and that has a spring at one end and a cover at the other into which the pointed end fits. It was patented by Walter Hunt in 1849. It obviates the necessity of binding the diaper tightly around the baby's body, or the use of regular pins that may be dangerous for the baby," Jarrod intervened.
"What are you, a nurse?" Nick retorted, annoyed.
"Some of us love to be informed, Brother Nick. When I came to know we were going to keep the baby, I did my researches," Jarrod said solemnly.
"Now, boys, the baby doesn't need the whole family around for his diapering. And honestly, we don't need it either. Get out of here. Shoo," an exasperated Victoria said, gesturing eloquently toward the door. "Here is your safety pin, Darling," she addressed her daughter, as the boys sheepishly left the room.
"Thank you, Mother," Audra said taking the little useful invention.
Like three nervous fathers-to-be, the three banned Barkleys were standing outside the nursery, whispering among themselves.
"How can someone so small produce that amount of manure?" Nick marveled.
"His name is Joey, not Coco, Nick. He's a baby, not your horse. What he produces are human excrements, not manure" Jarrod corrected.
"Well, whatever. I wonder if it's normal," Nick pondered.
"It is, Big Brother," Heath responded.
"How would you know?"
"Well, I lived with a family once for a while, that had twelve of 'em. A man had ta kinda learn to diaper in self-defense," Heath recounted quietly.
"You're saying you know how to diaper and didn't let Mother and Audra know?" Jarrod asked.
One corner of Heath's mouth curled upward. "They didn't ask," he replied straightforwardly. "I'm rather concerned about his teething," he added.
"Oh, yeah, yeah. The poor little fella drooled on my shirt. Abudantly," Nick confirmed.
Audra came out and closed the door as quietly as she could.
"How's he, Sis?", Heath asked under his breath.
"Oh, he's alright, Heath. He's clean, already sleeping and Mother is putting him in the cradle," Audra said with a smile, got on her toes to put a little kiss on the worried new daddy's cheek.
"Uh, well, you know, we were wondering… with the teething and all…" Nick began gruffly.
"Mother gave him the wooden spoon for his teething, Nick. You have nothing to worry about, Big Brother," Audra reassured the new uncle with a sweet smile.
"Did you get him to burp?" Jarrod asked worriedly. "I read that it is important to help the baby to be free of excess air. Too much swallowed air can lead to spitting up, crankiness, and gassiness."
Audra smiled at the other new uncle's medical-science-based worries. "We've fed him, we've burped him, we've rocked him, we've sung to him," she listed patiently, counting on her fingers.
Victoria's white head peeped out through the slightly ajar door. "What are you all doing still up this time of the night?" She said making them jump.
"Mother, why don't you go to bed? You must be tired," Audra asked.
"I just want to be sure Joey's fast asleep before, and you all may be whispering but I can hear you from there!" she said and disappeared again inside.
"Well I guess I'll call it a day, and I suggest you do the same, Heath," Nick said and yawned.
"Yeah, yeah I know, this is a working ranch and all," Heath said and yawned in turn.
"Well, I'm taking the early train tomorrow morning. I bid you goodnight, gentlemen. I'll escort you to your room, young lady" Jarrod said bowing slightly toward Audra.
"Why thank you, kind Sir," the girl said with a smile.
Hours later, a baby's cry broke the silence of the night. A mysterious figure walked quietly along the hallway and slipped shiftily in the nursery.
After a while, another mysterious figure moved in the dark in the same direction.
A few minutes later, a third mysterious figure walked on the same path and disappeared behind the nursery door.
Audra woke up with a start. From where were those sounds coming? She put on her slippers and rushed out of her room. As she started walking toward the nursery, from where the sounds seemed to be coming, her mother appeared. They met out of the door.
"What's happening? Who's inside Joey's room?", Victoria asked in a whisper.
"I guess there's only one way to know, Mother," Audra said and opened the door.
Both women suck air in their lungs at the sight before their eyes.
"Oh, Mother," Audra said with a sigh, leaning on Victoria's arm. "Have you ever seen anything sweeter?"
"No, Audra, I haven't," Victoria said, the emotion clear to hear in her voice.
Jarrod, Nick, and Heath Barkley were lying in different positions on a quilt that been laid on the floor, all the three of them snoring in various different keys.
Among them, little Joey was sleeping peacefully, a slight smile on his cute little face, his breathing regular and steady.
"He may be Ben Rawlins' son and an orphan, but he's a lucky child," Victoria said.
"Yes, Mother. With these three as guardian angels, he won't have anything to worry about, ever," Audra agreed. The two women smiled at each other, before walking out of the room and closing the door with a click.
"Good night, Mother," Audra said.
"Good night, Sweetheart," Victoria said.
The Barkley household was quiet. No sounds could be heard.
Except for three different keys of snoring.