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Meet the Uncles

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April 1903

Daisy had just discovered her hands.  Jack, who had gotten in the habit of sketching on the balcony as the sun rose, returned to his bedroom to find Daisy half asleep on Kat’s chest with the knuckles of her first two fingers in her tiny pink mouth.

“G’morning, ladies.” Jack whispered. He set his leather-bound sketchbook on his nightstand and leaned over Daisy to give Katherine a kiss.

“You’re up early.” Kat said. “And so is Miss Daisy.”

“This is new.” He said. “She ain’t chewed on her hand before.” Jack gently touched the top of her downy head. She had a full head of soft blonde curls he constantly played with.

Kat smiled sleepily. “You so hungry you need to eat your hands, little girl? Huh?”  She passed the baby to Jack. “Hang out with Daddy while I get dressed.”

The whole world was new for Daisy. It made Jack a little jealous for his daughter, how everything was so fresh and untainted.  He laid her in his lap so she could look up at him with her wide, curious grey eyes. “You’re gonna meet your uncles today, a stóirín (my little treasure).”  He said. “They been begging since the day you was born, but we wasn’t ready to share ya yet.”

Kat emerged from the closet, now in a simple red dress instead of her nightgown. “What time are they coming?” She asked. She sat down at her vanity and started brushing her hair.

“Davey said he’d bring a few of the guys around ‘bout 10.” Jack said. “Which means they should be here by noon. But they ain’t stayin’ long. I’ll kick ‘em out whenever you need me to if you’re not up to it.”

Kat was using both hands to twist her hair away from her face. “Giving birth doesn’t make you an invalid, Jack.” She said around the bobby pin between her teeth. “I’m excited to see them.” she pinned back a curl. “Staying home for weeks makes a gal restless.”

Jack kissed Daisy’s forehead, then laid her in her bassinet. “I’m gonna put on some coffee.”

 

Jack’s brothers showed up just before 11--not too late by newsboys time.

“Where’s the baby?” Tommy asked as soon as he stepped inside.

“Good to see you too.” Jack said.  

Jack gave Les and Davey quick hugs as they came in, followed by Crutchie and Race.  

“Les you’re a giant, kid!” Jack exclaimed. “I ain’t seen ya in what, a month, maybe? And ya grown a foot on me.”

“Thanks, Dad.” Les rolled his eyes. He was fourteen now, lanky and clumsily charming.

“Come on in boys!” Kat called from the parlor.

They shuffled in and arranged themselves on the couch. Kat sat in a tall chair, patting Daisy’s back.

“Good to see ya, Kat.” Crutchie said.

“How are you?” Davey asked. He sat down on the couch near her, Les between him and Tommy.

Kat smiled. “Doing well.” She said. “I made cookies and coffee.” she pointed at a plate on the table.

“Aw, you didn’t need to make a fuss for us.” Race said.  Les helped himself to a cookie.

“I needed something to do with my hands. Sugar cookies aren’t difficult.” She said. “We’ve all slept so little my brain is too fuzzy to write, but I’m getting antsy.”

Jack shook his head and pulled up another chair next to his wife. “A baby ain’t enough excitement for Ace.” He said. “She always gotta have ten plates spinning.”

“You should take it easy.” Davey said. “Rest.” Kat rolled her eyes.

“Let me see her, Kat.” Les said. “Does she look like you?”

Kat shifted Daisy in her arms so the boys could get a good look at her.

“Aww, y’all.” Crutchie said. He put his elbows on his knees to have a better view. “She’s beautiful.”

“Hiya, Daisy.” Race said. “I didn’t know she’d be so small. She’s...like...way less than a bundle of papes.”

They all laughed.  Tommy’s head was swiveling like a puppet on a string: he looked at Daisy, then up at Kat, then at Daisy, then at Jack, then at down Daisy again.

“What?” Jack said.

“Tryin’ figure out who she look like.” He said. His face was tight and serious. “Hopin’ she didn’t get ya ugly mug.”

Kat looked down at Daisy. “I’ve decided she’s got my mouth and chin.” She said. “Jack’s nose, maybe.”

“She’s so alert!” Davey exclaimed. “I didn’t know babies so little would keep their eyes open so much.”

“She’ll be a nosy, curious reporter like her mama.” Tommy said.

“Shut up.” Jack said. Tommy reached for another cookie.

They were quiet for a minute, savoring a chance to breathe and to slouch on expensive furniture. Les was almost done with school; their family was doing okay, but couldn’t afford high school right now.  Crutchie and Race were still newsboys, keeping the youngest boys of Manhattan safe and out of trouble best they could. Davey, the brains, stocked shelves at a library, and Tommy had just finished training as a bricklayer.

“It’s hard work.” Tommy told Race. “I’s sore all the time. But it pays better than pushin’ headlines.”

“My old man was a bricklayer almost 20 years.” Jack said. He took a long drink of coffee. “Good, hard, honest work my ma always said.”

Race nodded. “I gotta find somethin’ to do besides papes. I ain’t ten anymore.”

“She’s...named after your sister, isn’t she?” Davey said quietly, watching Daisy chew on her fist. “I thought Race said that when you told us her name.”

Jack nodded. “Daisy Ciara.” he said. “Ciara was my little sister.” He put a hand on Kat’s knee.

“Wanna hold her, boys?” Kat asked.

Davey set down his coffee cup and held out his arms. “Hello, little girl.” he whispered.

“This one’s gonna fill ya head with big words and big ideas.” Tommy said to the baby.

Les put his chin on Davey’s shoulder, fixated on Daisy. “I can’t believe I was that little.”

Davey’s lips curled into a small smile. “You weren’t quite so small.” Davey said.

“Congratulations, you two.” Race said. “Truly. Haven’t got to say that yet.”

Crutchie reached across Les for Daisy, then held him hesitantly against his chest. “Hiya.” He said. “You’re the first baby I ever held for real.”

“Really?” Les said.

Crutchie nodded. “Far as I can remember. I was always the baby of the group.”

Race leaned closer to Crutchie. “Your first word gonna be Uncle Race, ain’t it, kid?”

“Fat chance.” Tommy said. “Tommy’s easier to say.”

“Um, helloo boys?” Kat raised her eyebrows. “What about mama?”

“Nah.” Race said. Kat yawned.

Daisy started to fuss and Crutchie froze, his fingers hovering stiffly over her back. “What’d I do?” he said.

“Ya broke her.” Race said.

“Don’t ya ever believe a word from Uncle Race, baby girl.” Jack said. He stood up and took the baby from Crutchie. “Shh.”

He sat back down and within a minute she was asleep on his chest.

“You’re a good dad, Jack.” Davey said quietly.

“Proud of ya.” Crutchie nodded.  

“Aw, don’t ya get soft on me, fellas.”

He reached for his crutch to get up. “We better get goin’.”  He pointed at Kat, whose head kept bobbing. Race smiled.

“I’m not that tired, boys.” She said. Her eyes were mostly closed. “Don’t rush out on my account.”

The boys stacked their coffee cups and blew kisses at Daisy and Kat as they left. Jack shook his head, but he was smiling. His hand rested on Daisy’s back.

“Those dang fellas will do anything for you, little girl.”