Kate isn’t impressed by Shane’s messy bachelor pad, rocker image, or sexy tattoos. As a matter of fact she finds it all very sophomoric. The sooner she’s off the case the better. Everything from his long hair to his sarcastic attitude threatens her professionalism. But when he lowers his guard and asks for help, she discovers a side to this tattooed musician she can’t resist. Behind this simple man is an unsung hero.
When Duce left, Shane sifted through the bag. There were tiny diapers, wipes, some sort of yoga mat thing, a bunch of creams. He laughed when he saw something called Butt Paste. That was self-explanatory.
There was something resembling a miniature turkey baster. He found clothes, itty-bitty socks, a knit cap, a few rattles, two containers of formula, some bottles, and a small booklet with doctor’s visits listed in it. He recognized the writing as his sister’s and a strange, sad nostalgia settled over him.
Was she here watching him now? “He’s beautiful, Noel,” he whispered. “I’m gonna do this. Don’t worry. I’ll figure it out and I’ll take good care of him for you. You’ll see.”
By the time Duce returned Shane was reading the bottle of formula. “What’s that?” his friend asked as he plopped down the paper takeout bag of food.
“Formula. I didn’t find any food. Do you think I should wake him to eat?”
“Uh, isn’t there some rule about never waking a sleeping baby?”
Shane shrugged. “Maybe I should make up a bottle so it’s ready when he does wake. He’s been sleeping for two hours. He’s gotta be hungry.”
Shane wished he had Internet. He wasn’t really computer savvy, but people were always talking about finding shit online. Duce was staring at him with a peculiar look. “What?”
“I think you should give him back.”
“Give him back? There is no back. I’m it.”
“He’s just all perfect and small. What if you fuck him up?”
“Hey, don’t curse in front of him. And I’m not going to mess him up. I just need some practice. I’ll figure it out.”
“Maybe you should ask someone who has kids what to do.”
Shane reached for an egg roll. “I don’t know anyone with kids. I have to take a class and I have a crap load of reading material.”
“When do you take the class? Maybe that was something you should have done beforehand.”
“It starts tomorrow night. I’ll be fine.”
They ate and zoned out to some reality TV. Baby Shane was so quiet they’d almost forgotten about him. Then Duce’s face began to twitch. “Dude, what’s that smell?”
Shane sniffed and choked. Whatever it was, it was powerful enough to make his eyes water. “Aw man, did you fart?”
In unison, they slowly turned to the baby who still slept soundly. He leaned over and sniffed, almost gagging as he jerked back. “Holy crap! How could something so pintsize smell that bad?”
Duce covered his mouth and went to the window, quickly opening it to let some air in. The little guy made a tiny nook-nook sound and his miniature fist curled up by his chin in a dainty stretch. He looked like the fighting Irish.
“It’s moving,” Duce whispered as though the baby were a bomb about to detonate. And suddenly an explosion happened.
Baby Shane’s face screwed up tight, turning an unnatural shade of red. His mouth opened wide, showing nothing but pink gums, and an unholy squawk roared out of him.
They jumped and stared as the baby screamed, his little chest working in quick breaths as he drew in only enough air to force out another shrill, squawking cry.
“Do something!” Duce demanded.
Shane panicked. He reached for the book and began to thumb through, not sure what he was looking for.
“Don’t fucking read! Pick it up!” Duce snapped.
Shane tossed the book on the couch and quickly kneeled in front of the angry baby. He wailed and Shane began to freak. Was he in pain? Ugh, the smell coming off of him was burning the back of his throat. “Sweet Jesus, he stinks!”
He quickly removed the soft blanket. Shane was strapped down with some sort of five-point harness a person needed a degree in engineering to figure out. He pressed buttons and undid latches, shaking with the urgent need to make him stop screaming.
Sweat seeped through the baby’s tiny cotton jumper. The closer he got the worse the stench became.
“I thought babies were supposed to smell good?” Duce said, fanning the front door to let some air in.
“So did I. I can’t figure out how to unbuckle him!”
“Hit the red buttons on the side. You gotta get the handle out of the way.”
Sweat trickled into his eyes as he tried to dismantle the carrier. Finally he had the harness undone. “Now what?”
“Pick it up!”
Duce scowled. “So, my ear drums are about to burst. You gotta get in there. Tough it out. Take one for the team!”
Shane carefully picked up the screaming baby. He held him in front of his chest like a potted plant. He was so incredibly light. “What now?”
“I don’t know. You’re the one who’s supposed to be Mr. Mom. Comfort it. Pat its back. Sing or something!”
Shane stood and awkwardly turned, swaying slightly. He didn’t want to shake him and break him. He sang the first song that came to his mind, wincing at the lyrics about loaded guns.
Duce’s mouth fell open. “Teen Spirit? Really? How about Rock-a-bye Baby?”
“I don’t know Rock-a-bye Baby. Nirvana’s the first thing that popped into my head.”
“It’s not really appropriate, Shane,” Duce said coolly as if he were suddenly more qualified than him with babies.
“You wanna try?”
“No, I’m set.”
He continued to sing Teen Spirit and eventually Baby Shane quieted. Blue eyes stared back at him and slowly the world began to settle.
Shane was sweating and Duce looked petrified.
“Hi,” Shane said. The baby blinked. “I’m your Uncle Shane.”
“I don’t think he can talk.”
“No shit, Sherlock.”