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The Secret Smile

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Greta jumped when she heard Baby Auggie's cries, her book flying comically out of her hands and crashing into Lou's newspaper, where it made a sound that caused her little brother to cry even louder.

Lou smiled wryly. “I've read about the Big Bang before, but never like that.”

Greta crossed to the bassinet and picked up the squalling baby, who squirmed in her arms as though he knew she was an impostor.

“Relax, Greta, and work the problem,” said Lou as he folded his newspaper and put it down on the coffee table. She knew she could drop the baby into his lap and run up to her room, but she really wanted to prove that she was capable of babysitting. Even if she was terrified of babysitting.

She sat on the couch and laid Auggie down next to her, where he continued to cry and started to kick his stubby legs, loosening the swaddled blanket. “Thad. Temperature. Hunger. Alone. Diaper.”

She put a hand down his tiny blue onesie, but he didn't feel markedly hot or cold, so she reasoned he wasn't crying because he was too hot or cold. “Mom just fed him before she left and said he wouldn't be due for a feeding for another three hours, so he's probably not hungry.”

“Probably not, but how can you know for sure? Does he seem to be telling you that he's hungry?” asked Lou.

Greta studied the baby like he was the most difficult story problem that Common Core had to offer. She was about to give up. After all, he was a five-week old baby and couldn't talk or even smile yet. How in the world could he tell her anything?

But then Greta remembered the last few times that her dad and mom had said Auggie was hungry. And each time, she'd nearly laughed because he was jamming his chunky little fist into his mouth like he thought that would do any good.

“He's not trying to eat his own hands, so no, he's not telling me that he's hungry. Alone – I've taken him out of the the bassinet, and he's still crying so that just leaves...” Greta swallowed hard and then the smell hit her. Sweet and yeasty, like the half-baked bread rolls that her dad used to buy for her when they were living alone up in Duluth.

Now Greta really wanted to dump the baby and run, but instead, she picked him up and took him to the changing table. Gingerly, she popped open his onsie and sighed as she saw the bulging diaper.

Lou was hovering at her elbow now. He handed her a fresh diaper. “You're going to want to open this up and slide it under him before you even think about opening up that disaster area of a diaper.”

Greta nodded and did as he directed, then opened up the dirty diaper and removed it as deftly as possible, no mean feat when Auggie insisted on kicking his legs like a cross-country skier on the home stretch. She balled up the diaper and then dropped into it the plastic bag that Lou was helpfully holding open for her.

Then she grabbed some wipes and started a mop-up job. She was just about done when she suddenly had the crazy thought that it was raining inside the house. Then she realized her baby brother was peeing in her face.

“Hey!” she protested as Lou laughed and reached a hand down to fold over the diaper.

“Little boys just love to let loose in the fresh air,” said Lou, smiling down at the baby.

“You could've told me that was going to happen!” Greta wiped her face with a clean wipe. She opened her eyes and saw Auggie smiling up at her.

“That's his first smile!”

“Kid's got a great sense of humor, I guess. Don't know where he gets that from,” said Lou.

“I can't wait to tell Mom and Dad. Although...” she paused for a moment before continuing. “I bet they'll be sad they missed it. Maybe we should keep it a secret and then they can be surprised by his first smile.”

Lou put a hand on her shoulder. “You know, ordinarily, I wouldn't condone keeping secrets from your parents, but in this case, I think I'll make an exception. Now let's get this kid cleaned up.”