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      “Mama.” Phillip was awake. The strange voices were gone.

      “What happened?” Jessie’s voice trembled.

      Tina turned off the monitor. “I’ve heard of this. Conversations from other houses in the neighborhood come through the baby monitor.” She picked up her notebook and the big blue popcorn bowl and set them on the coffee table. “The speakers have to be in the room with a baby monitor turned on. I think it’s about the airwaves. Now that’s the science project we should be doing—something useful.”  The girls took the hall stairs two-at-a-time, back up to Phillip’s room.

      “Spooky!” Jessie’s blue eyes sparkled. “You know what?”

      “Uh-oh.” Tina frowned. “I’m afraid to ask. What?”

      “We’d better brush up on our detective skills.” Jessie turned the glass knob on Phillip’s door.       “Those two sounded like they were planning to steal something.”

      “I guess you’re right,” Tina said. “We should find out who they are before somebody gets hurt.”

Phillip jumped up and down in his crib, gleeful at the sight of Jessie and Tina. “Jes-sie, Ti-na, Jes-sie, Ti-na,” he chanted.  He was two now. Tall for two. Jessie loved the way his hair curled and was turning blond like hers.  He winked at them. A perfect wink.

Tina laughed. “He winked at me! Babies can’t wink”     

Jessie lifted Phillip and his teddy bear out of the crib. “I taught him. To make up for teaching him to stick out his tongue.”

      “Did your folks ever find out where he learned that?”   

      “No! And don’t you tell, Tina. They’re still hoping it’ll go away. Wink, Phillip.”

He winked with one eye and then the other.  Tina kissed his cheek. “You are very cute, Phillip Hanson.”

      “Down,” he said and struggled from Jessie’s grasp.

Jessie grabbed a fresh diaper from the shelf. “Wait, Phillip. Let’s change your pants.”  He laughed and ran. “Don’t catch me! Don’t catch me!”

Jessie giggled. “I’m gonna catch you. Here I come.”

      Gently, the girls tackled him, wrestled him to the carpet and changed him in a hurry. When they released him, he bolted like a calf let out of a pen.

Tina flung herself onto the floor and feigned exhaustion. “I think I’m too old to have a baby brother.”

      Jessie knew Tina changed her mind daily about being a big sister. Sometimes she hated the idea and sometimes she could see the advantages. She said the big bonus would be her parents having someone else to fuss over besides her.

Downstairs, the front door closed. “Hi. Where is everyone?” Jessie’s mom was home.

      “Mama!” Phillip hurried down the steps, careful to hang onto the banister.

Jessie ran to the top of the stairs. “Mom, are people bringing their little kids to the baby shower tomorrow?”

Strangers In The Lane

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