”Do you have plans this Friday, Sport?”
The green Nimmo was visiting his brother and his family. X, Sport’s brother, had asked the question. It was innocent enough.
Thinking nothing of the question, Sport shrugged his shoulders. “Swimmer and I have no plans. Why do you ask?”
The spotted Gelert, at his brother’s answer, exchanged a swift glance with his wife, Nisha. That’s when Sport felt the first inkling of alarm. Had X’s question not been as innocent as Sport had first thought? The green Nimmo shifted, sitting forward in his seat and studying his brother and his sister-in-law closely.
“Will you please babysit Yekaterina and Zachri for us on Friday evening?” X asked, long black ears flicked forward as he spoke in an eager rush.
If Sport had been drinking something, he would have spit it out. Instead, he was struck speechless…for a split second.
“Me? You want me to babysit? What about Lofty or Sweet or Legend?” Sport asked, almost adding, “Or anyone else?” to his suggestions.
“They can’t. We’re asking you. We know you don’t like children,” X began.
“We trust you, Sport. We know how responsible you are,” Nisha said.
“The twins are relatively easy to care for.”
Sport listened to X and Nisha try to convince him. They sounded almost desperate and he didn’t like that at all.
“Yes, I will babysit my niece and nephew,” Sport said.
“Thank you, Sport,” Nisha said, sounding relieved.
Friday came all too quickly. X and Nisha were out the door within a minute of Sport’s arrival. He was alone, save for Swimmer, his Slymook, and the babies. He went to their playroom, where they were happily playing ball with each other. He exchanged a small smile with Swimmer.
“This isn’t so bad,” Sport said, walking around the room.
The green Nimmo admired the room. It was actually the largest room in the entire Neohome. There were toddler-sized building blocks, giant puzzles and who knew how many toys! It was painted a sensible neutral slate blue. Blue was X’s favorite color and for Nisha, it reminded her of the mountains where she was born.
“My niece and nephew lack for nothing.”
Then, Sport realized something and looked down. They were drooling on his tennis shoes! He kept himself from recoiling, not wanting to hurt them but just barely.
“Ugh! If I wanted to get drool on my shoes I would have a Dribblet!”
Sport looked down at the twins. Yekaterina raised her arms, wanting to be picked up. Her uncle acquiesced and scooped up her brother as well.
“How about a story, you two?” Sport asked the Gelert babies.
They wagged their tails at this suggestion.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” Zach barked.
“Swimmer, will you please get me a book?” Sport asked his Slymook.
Swimmer came back a moment later with 3 Bags of Babaa. Sport began to read, slowly. Each Babaa was a white ball of fluff and Yekaterina and Zach both stroked the Babaas quite a few times (each one on every single page). The fifteen page book took half an hour to read. Sport didn’t mind, since it kept the babies quiet and happy.
Book finished, the green Nimmo set his niece and nephew on the floor and put 3 Bags of Babaa away. That’s when he heard the crying begin. Alarmed, he raced back, tripping over an Air Faerie Doll in the process. As the crying continued, he scrabbled to his feet, dodged around other toys and hurtled over a large red rubber ball, finally reaching the twins. They were both crying hysterically.
Sport was at a complete loss. Already the crying was making his head hurt. What was wrong? They had been just fine a moment ago. Swimmer was no help; the Slymook had two tentacles slapped over his head, cringing.
So, it was up to Sport to find a solution. He couldn’t ask the one year old babies, of course. At their age, they just didn’t have the vocabulary to express themselves with words. The most effective way they could communicate was by crying. Having gotten this far, Sport wracked his brain for reasons why.
They couldn’t be afraid. They weren’t too hot or too cold. Then, Sport hoped he had it. They must be hungry! Hunger made anyone cranky.
The Nimmo scooped up the wailing babies and headed for the kitchen. He settled them into their high chairs and then set about getting food for them. He got apple juice in sippy cups and Beef and Veg Baby Food. To Sport’s relief, the crying stopped as soon as he popped a mouthful of food into each of the wide open mouths. He took turns feeding them a spoonful at a time and he watched them calm down with amazement.
“Babies are something else!”
After they finished eating, Sport cleaned up the babies. Zach just needed a good rubdown with a warm damp cloth. Yekaterina, being a snow Gelert, was a different matter entirely. Then, he looked in the extra freezer in the kitchen. It was filled with clean, fresh snow!
Sport gave Yekaterina a brisk snow rubdown, which she enjoyed immensely while his hands went numb. The trio returned to the playroom. For the next fifteen minutes, Sport entertained Yekaterina and Zachri with a yellow Bori puppet singing the ABCs. They were delighted, clapping their hands as their uncle sang, even if they didn’t learn any letters. At the end of the song, Sport found a packet of balloons.
For the next forty-five minutes, the green Nimmo blew up all one hundred balloons, enchanting the Gelert twins with their bright colors as they bobbed and dipped around the room. Finished, Sport lay flat on the floor, taking great gulps of air, getting his breath back. He kept track of the babies by listening to their laughs and awe-filled cries. He took in his next gulp of air and gagged, sitting up quickly. He hacked and spluttered, eyes beginning to water.
“What is that smell?”
Swimmer was now in front of Sport. The Slymook had one tentacle slapped over his nose but at his owner’s question, he shrugged two other tentacles in an ‘I don’t know’ gesture. Sport rose to his feet, now with his hand over his nose. The Nimmo blinked rapidly, trying to clear his watery eyes with little success. He looked for his niece and nephew, trying not to run from the noxious gases they emanated.
Very reluctantly, Sport picked up his niece and nephew. He moved as quickly as he could through the balloons and toy strewn playroom to get to the twins’ bedroom. He tried holding his breath but couldn’t do that for long. Now he was the one crying silent tears as he set Zach in his crib and Yekaterina on one of the two changing tables. This was a disaster!
This was the part that Sport had been dreading most. He had to change not one but two dirty diapers! He needed gloves and would have loved a gas mask, if he could find one. Then, he came upon the first problem. He couldn’t find gloves anywhere!
That meant Sport had to change dirty diapers with his bare hands! The Nimmo almost passed out at the thought. He reentered the bedroom and headed for Yekaterina, trying not to throw up. He had to make a run for fresh air there times before he dashed some baby powder on a clean Yekaterina, pleased that the new diaper looked like he had put it on right. His niece had been manageable.
Now, it was Zach’s turn. The spotted Gelert was a wriggler. He kicked madly as his uncle removed his dirty diaper and dumped it into the dirty diaper bin. Sport had to carefully pin Zach as he cleaned him up. He leapt back with a startled yelp, rubbing his jaw.
Zachri had kicked his uncle squarely in the jaw.
“You’ll make one incredible athlete when you grow up, just like your father,” Sport said, managing a wry grin.
The green Nimmo managed to finish changing his nephew, dodging flailing limbs. He had just set the now clean baby into his crib when he heard his brother and sister-in-law entering the Neohome.
“They couldn’t have come before I had to change your dirty diapers?” Sport told the twins.
A moment later, X and Nisha entered their children’s bedroom. They greeted their children and scooped them into their arms.
“Well, how did your evening go, Sport?” X asked.
Sport filled in his brother and sister-in-law on what they had done.
“Thank you so much, Sport. We truly appreciate that you did this for us,” Nisha said with a warm smile.
“You’re welcome. I admire you both for actually raising them. Swimmer and I will be going now,” Sport said with a nod to X and Nisha.
“Unkoo,” Zachri said.
“Spoyt,” Yekaterina said.
Sport stopped in his tracks, surprised. X and Nisha beamed in delight.
“Congratulations, Sport!” X said.
“They’ve been saying Momma and Daddy for a while,” Nisha said.
“We’ve even heard them say Unkoo and Awnie, but you’re the first relative to be called by name other than our Petpets.”
Sport was incredibly touched. He walked back to look at the twins.
“As far as children go, you two aren’t so bad,” the Nimmo said, tickling one of Zachri’s ears and allowing Yekaterina to grasp one of his fingers with her small, cool hand for a moment before letting go.
Sport took his leave as X and Nisha put Zachri and Yekaterina to bed. He reflected on his first and-hopefully-last babysitting job. It had been everything he expected it to be and equal parts better and worse. Children were certainly surprising. Even so, he was just fine as he was.
“Being Uncle Sport isn’t so bad,” the Nimmo said with a smile.