Summary: An abandoned infant takes an inexplicable liking to Clayton.
by Christine Henderson
"I hate Mondays," Katie Gatling complained as she finished her breakfast.
Gretchen Kraus looked at the governor's young daughter. "Why? It's just another day of the week."
"Yeah, the one right after the weekend," Katie said. "I think every Monday should be a holiday."
"You've got my vote," Marcy Hill, the governor's secretary, said. "If you follow in your dad's footsteps, maybe you can pass that legislation someday."
"Maybe I will."
"Of course, to do that," Marcy added, "you'll have to go to school and get an education first."
Katie sighed. "There's always a catch."
Clayton Endicott III, the chief of staff, entered the kitchen, carrying a large wicker basket. "You'll never guess what I just found outside the door," he said.
"A puppy?" Katie asked hopefully, trying to see inside. "Kittens?"
"I hope not," Miss Kraus said. "The last thing we need around here is a litter." She started to take a peek, then paused. "It's not something dead, is it?"
"No, he's very much alive," Clayton assured her.
"He?" Miss Kraus asked.
"Well, I haven't verified it yet, but that's what the note says." Clayton lowered the basket so they could see.
Katie gasped. "Wow, a baby!"
"Oh, the poor little thing," Marcy said. "Who would leave a baby on the doorstep?"
"I didn't see anyone," Clayton told her. "Whoever she is, she didn't want to be found."
"She says she can't take care of him anymore," Miss Kraus announced, reading the note. "She hopes we can find him a good home."
Governor Gene Gatling came into the room with Benson DuBois and press secretary Pete Downey. "What's going on?" he asked.
"Daddy, come see Clayton's baby!" Katie said.
"I didn't know you were a father," the governor remarked as he looked into the basket.
"I'm not, sir," Clayton said. "I found this child by the back door."
"Can we keep him?" Katie asked.
"Katie, he's not a pet," the governor told her, glancing at the note. "We can't just keep him."
"But his mother left him here," she pointed out. "And I always wanted a little brother."
"I'm sorry, honey. He might have other relatives. We'll have to call Social Services."
"I'll do it, sir," Clayton offered. "Miss Kraus, would you mind taking him?"
"I guess not," she said, scooping the baby out of the basket. He started to cry. "Uh…Marcy, you're the motherly type."
Marcy took the baby from her, but he continued to wail. "What's the matter, little guy? Are you hungry?" She looked in the basket. "There's a bottle and some formula in here. And a few diapers."
"I'll heat up a bottle," Miss Kraus said.
"I'll help you." Marcy turned to Clayton. "Here. Finders, keepers."
"But…I don't know anything about babies," he protested as she handed him the fussy infant. There was a sudden silence. He looked at the baby, which had stopped crying. Even more astonishing, a toothless grin lit up the tiny face.
"Aw," Katie said, smiling. "He likes you, Clayton!"
"Probably just gas," Benson murmured, going to the refrigerator.
"For once, Benson, I have to agree with you," Clayton admitted. "It can't possibly be me."
"Well, there's one way to find out," the governor said. He took the baby from him and checked his diaper. "He's dry," he reported over the baby's renewed wails.
"You were wrong, Benson," Katie said.
He grunted. "Shouldn't you be going to school now?"
"I guess so," she replied. "Unless you want me to stay here and help."
"Goodbye, sweetheart," the governor said.
"Aw, man…something exciting finally happens on a Monday, and I have to miss it," Katie complained. She rubbed the baby's back. "Don't cry, baby. My dad's a nice guy."
"I think he's just hungry," the governor told her. "So we'll let his favorite person feed him."
"Here." Miss Kraus handed Clayton the bottle.
"Sir, I really don't—"
"Sit down," the governor interrupted. "I'll go call DSS."
Clayton sighed, sitting at the table. The governor put the baby in his arms, and the infant stopped crying again. "Tell them to hurry, sir."
"Why? You're doing fine," the governor said, leaving the room. Pete paused to take a picture before following him and Benson.
"I don't recall listing 'babysitter' on my résumé," Clayton complained, giving the baby his bottle.
"Oh, come on, Clayton, he's adorable," Marcy said. "Wow, look at him go. You should tip the bottle up a little bit, though, so he won't take in too much air."
He moved it. "Like this?"
"Yes, that's good."
"I wonder why the mother left him here, at the governor's mansion," Miss Kraus commented.
"Maybe she works here," Marcy suggested. "Or she could be related to someone who does."
"Well, I hope the security cameras got a picture of her."
The governor returned a few minutes later. "They're sending a social worker to pick up our little visitor," he said. "But we might have to wait a while. They're pretty busy."
"But, sir, what about the transportation system meeting?" Clayton asked. "The secretary's going to be here in about an hour."
"I guess you'll just have to bring him along," he replied.
"You really expect Thomas D. Rutherford to share his meeting with an infant?" The man wasn't exactly the most cordial under the best of circumstances.
"If he wants me to listen to him, he will." The governor looked at the baby. "Did he finish that whole bottle already?"
"Just about. With any luck, maybe he'll go to sleep now."
"Don't forget to burp him," the governor said.
Clayton stared at him. "I beg your pardon?"
"You know, put him up on your shoulder and pat him on the back till he burps."
"Would you like to show me how it's done, sir?" Clayton asked hopefully.
"I'd love to," the governor said, "but I have to get ready for that meeting. See you later."
"I'd better get to work, too," Marcy added. "I'll be at my desk if you need me."
"Yes…thank you." Clayton propped the baby up, and Miss Kraus put a dishtowel over his left shoulder.
"In case he spits up," she explained.
He looked alarmed. "Spits up?"
"Sometimes they do." She watched as he tentatively tapped the baby's back. "I think you need to do it a little harder."
"I don't want to hurt him," Clayton said.
"Babies are not that fragile," Miss Kraus assured him. "Pat him with the palm of your hand."
"I still don't understand why I have to do all this," he commented. "I don't even—" Suddenly, the baby burped. Clayton looked at him. "It worked."
"Congratulations," Miss Kraus said.
"Well, young man, I hope you're ready for a nice long nap," Clayton told him. "Unless, of course, you'd rather watch me work on my report."
The baby yawned.
"That's what I thought." He put him back in the basket and carried it out of the kitchen.
Clayton was almost finished with his paperwork when Pete entered his office.
"Hey, Clayton, I brought the—"
"Shh!" He pointed to the basket beside him. "Don't wake the baby."
"Oh, sorry," Pete whispered. "I didn't know he was still here."
"The social worker's running late. What do you want?"
"I brought a copy of the press release that you asked for," he told him.
"Oh, yes. Thank you, Peter," Clayton said.
Pete peeked into the basket. "He sure is a cute little guy, huh?"
Clayton looked up from his work. "Yes, very nice."
"He sure does like you, too. I wonder why."
"I don't know. He hasn't told me," Clayton replied, sarcastic.
"Hey, maybe he thinks you're his rescuer," Pete said. "You know, since you were the first one to pick him up."
"Peter, that's the most preposterous thing I've ever heard."
"Well, do you have any better ideas?" he demanded.
The baby began to whimper.
"Oh, now you've done it," Clayton complained.
"I didn't do anything," Pete argued. He sniffed the air near the basket, then made a face. "But I think he just did."
The baby was awake now, squirming fretfully. Clayton picked up the phone. "Marcy, could you come here for a moment, please?" he asked.
"I think I'd better be going now," Pete said.
Marcy came in. "What's wrong?" She caught a whiff of dirty diaper. "Oh, my."
"Yes, we have a little problem," Clayton said.
"Then why don't you take care of it?" she asked.
"You expect me to change a diaper?"
Marcy crossed her arms. "Well, it's certainly not going to change itself."
"All right. How much?" Clayton asked her.
"What's your price?" he wanted to know.
Marcy laughed. "Are you trying to bribe me?"
"Yes, if that's what it takes."
"You can't afford me," she told him.
"Oh, come on, Marcy," Clayton protested. "I've never changed a diaper in my life."
"Then it's about time you learned," Marcy said. "It'll be good practice for Clayton IV."
He stared at her. "The fourth?"
"Your future son." She walked over to the basket, where the baby was still fussing. "I'll tell you what to do, but you have to do it."
"You're really enjoying this, aren't you?" Clayton grumbled.
"Immensely. All you have to do is take the old diaper off—very carefully—and put a new one on. It's not rocket science."
Clayton unfastened the tape on each side of the diaper, and pulled it off. "Good lord…what have they been feeding this child?"
Marcy laughed again.
"Is this normal?" he asked her.
"Yes. Just throw it away. Then you'll need to wipe him."
He sighed, grabbing some tissues from his desk.
"Oh, and you might want to cover his—" Before Marcy could finish her sentence, an arcing stream hit Clayton's tie.
"Thanks for the warning," he complained, wiping at the spot.
"Well, you're a guy," she said, breathless from laughter. "You should've thought of that yourself."
"This is one conversation I certainly never thought we'd be having," Clayton said, embarrassed.
"I know. But I have to admit, you're doing a good job," Marcy told him. "Oh, wait, it's backwards."
Clayton looked at the clean diaper in his hand. "How can you tell?"
"One side's a little higher than the other, see? That's the back."
"Oh." He turned it around and put it on the baby, then fastened the snaps on the onesie.
"See? Nothing to it," Marcy said. "Now pick him up."
"Because he wants you to."
"How on earth do you know that?" Clayton demanded.
"He's awake now, so he wants some attention," she explained. "Besides, your meeting's going to start soon, and you don't want to have to lug that big basket into the governor's office, do you?"
"I suppose not." As he picked the baby up, he noticed that she was leaving. "Marcy."
"Thank you for all your help," Clayton said.
She smiled. "You're welcome."
"Well, how's our little guest doing?" the governor asked, as Clayton entered his office with the baby in tow.
"Just fine, sir."
"Hmm. I thought you'd be cowering under your desk by now," Benson remarked.
Clayton smirked. "Sorry to disappoint you, Benson."
The transportation secretary appeared at the door.
"Hi, Tom. Come on in," the governor told him. They shook hands. After greeting the others brusquely, the secretary noticed the baby.
"Well, who's this?" he asked, with a rare smile. "New intern?"
"Maybe someday," the governor said. "Actually, someone abandoned him here this morning. We're still waiting for the social worker."
"Really? Aw, I'm sorry to hear that." He patted the baby on the back. "But I'm sure they'll find you a nice family. I was adopted myself, you know."
"You were?" the governor asked, surprised. "I didn't know that."
"Yes, my adoptive father was a truck driver. That's how I got interested in transportation."
Everyone sat down, ready to begin the meeting. Clayton bounced the baby on his lap. Marcy was right about him wanting attention. Apparently, he was ready to play. Smiling, making noises, kicking his little feet.
"Uh, Clayton?" the governor said.
He looked up, embarrassed, from making faces at the baby. "Yes, sir?"
"I asked if you have your report."
"Oh, yes." He handed it to the governor. As he sat down again, the baby got hold of the glasses hanging around Clayton's neck and started sucking on one of the stems. He removed it gently from his mouth, then transferred him to his shoulder.
"He's a busy little fellow, isn't he?" The secretary actually sounded amused.
"Yes, very active," Clayton agreed, as the baby tried to grab his nose.
The rest of the meeting went quickly. Everyone had done their homework, but Rutherford was so delighted by the baby's antics, he didn't seem to mind that only half of the project funding he sought would be allocated.
"Is there anything else, before we wrap this up?" the governor asked.
Nothing from the secretary. Could they really be that fortunate?
"I'd like to make an announcement," Benson spoke up. "Clayton, the baby's drooling."
Clayton looked at his left shoulder, which was now wet. "Well," he said, "at least it wasn't the other end."
"What do you say we all go out for lunch?" the governor suggested. He named Clayton's favorite restaurant. "I think you've earned a break from all this…public service."
The men got up and headed for the door, but Clayton hesitated.
"What about the baby, sir?" he asked.
"I'm sure Marcy won't mind taking over for a little while," the governor said. "I honestly didn't think you'd be stuck with him this long."
Clayton winced at the word stuck, then realized that the baby was too young to understand it, anyway. "I think maybe I'd better just wait here, sir. You all go on ahead."
"You sure you're feeling all right?" Benson asked him, surprised.
"Yes, I'm sure." He tried to explain. "For whatever reason, this child has put his trust in me, and…I don't want to let him down."
"All right," the governor replied, "if that's the way you feel."
"Sir," Marcy said, walking over to Gatling with another woman. "This is Mrs. Hernandez, from Social Services."
"Oh, good," he said. "Perfect timing."
"I'm sorry I'm late," the woman told him. "It's been one of those days."
"I know what you mean," the governor agreed. "But I have to admit, it's been nice having a little one around here. It's been a long time for me."
Mrs. Hernandez smiled. "He's darling. Thank you for looking after him."
"Security got a few pictures of the woman who left him here," the governor added. "And there was a note in the basket, along with some diapers and formula. I'll get someone to take it out to your car."
"Thank you, Governor." She turned to Clayton. "I'll take him now."
He nodded. "Well, I guess it's time to say goodbye," he told the baby. "Thank you for putting up with me. I hope you'll always be happy." He kissed him, then handed him to the social worker. To his relief, the baby didn't cry. So why did he feel a little sad about that, too?
"Are you ready to go for a ride, sweetie?" the social worker asked cheerfully. The baby didn't object, so they left the room.
"Well, Clayton," the governor said, "I'll bet you're glad that's over."
"Yes." He took off his jacket. Fortunately, his vest was dry underneath. "And I'm sure he's glad to finally be in competent hands."
As they left the office, Clayton saw Pete and remembered something.
"Peter, you took a picture of me with the baby earlier, didn't you?" he asked.
"Yeah. I thought it'd be a good PR story," he replied. "You don't mind, do you?"
"No," Clayton said. "As a matter of fact…I'd like to have a copy. You know, as a memento."
Pete smiled. "The kid really got to you, huh?"
"I'm afraid so."
"Just wait till you have one of your own," the governor told him.
"That's exactly what I intend to do, sir," Clayton said. "Wait."
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