"Mommy?" asked innocent little Tess as she tugged on her mother's pant leg. "Where do babies come from?"
Rosita dropped the plate she was scrubbing, not even caring that it shattered to pieces on the floor. Slowly, she looked down to face her daughter, face bearing the look of abject horror only a parent who would have to give the impending talk could make.
"U-Um...why don't you ask your father?"
"I did." she replied. "He said to ask you."
"Did he, now?" laughed Rosita, but on the inside, she was bristling. 'Someone's on the couch tonight.' "Well, you see, um...the thing is..." She bit the inside of her cheek. Tess was always the inquisitive one. If anyone was bound to ask that question, it would've been her.
She couldn't do it. She was too young, too pure, and she didn't want to scar her fragile mind. She'd much rather let someone else do it.
"Could you give me a second?" she spoke, reaching for the phone.
"Easy on the turns, there, Johnny!" shouted Buster as they sipped around another bend at what he swore was light speed.
"Sorry, Mr. M--Buster." Some of his getaway driver skills resurfaced every now and again. Old habits were hard to break.
"So, did she tell you what she needed us for?" asked Ash, idly toying with her quills. A loose one fell, and she promptly tossed it aside.
"No, just that it was 'extremely important' and we 'need to come right away'."
"I bet you it's marriage trouble." Ash discarded another loose quill. "The passion probably burned out for the two of them and they need us to help her find a new man."
Several pairs of eyes turned to stare at Ash, who stared back. "What? I was only joking. Rosie and Norm love each other."
"That's right!" agreed Gunter. "The two of them get on like bread and sauerkraut!"
"Which is which?" Ash snickered, earning a frown from Meena.
Rosita was twiddling her thumbs as her castmates approached, and she almost broke into a run as she went to greet them. "Thank you so much for coming. I'm in a big predicament and I could really, really, really use your help."
"Cucumbers." Again, all eyes were on Ash. "Or pickles. Eggplant, big carrots, really, anything you're comfortable with--OW! I was joking!" Ash pouted as she rubbed the spot where Johnny thumped her.
"Okay, what do you guys know about babies?"
While that wasn't the 'oddest' question Rosita had ever asked them, it certainly raised a few brows. It was Johnny who spoke up for the group. "Not much, really. I mean, we don't have any brothers or sisters. Why?"
Rosita took a deep breath. "Tess needs 'the talk'." Eyes went wide. Meena's ears went further in as her face tinged pink. Ash couldn't even form a snarky quip.
"Wait, what is 'the talk'?" asked Gunter.
"The...y'know..." Ash struggled to get out. "The talk. About babies?"
"Ooh, I love babies!" he squealed. "Where is Tess? We could talk about babies all into the night, ja?"
"I gave her a Rubik's cube, but I don't think it'll distract her for much longer. She's really good at th--"
"Mommy, I'm done!" A blur of pink burst from the house, holding up a brightly colored cube, all six sides solid. Her smile only widened when she saw the rest of her mom's friends. "Uncle Buster, Uncle Johnny, Uncle Gunter! Aunt Meena, Aunt Ash!" She tossed away the Rubik's cube (Rosita expertly catching it), tackling Buster to the ground.
"I'm gonna have to start wearing armor everytime I come here." laughed Buster as he picked himself up. "Nice to see you, too, Tess."
"Uncle Buster, do you know where babies come from?"
Even though they knew what Rosita had been referring to, it was still so jarring to hear it from one so young. Uneasy glances were shared amongst the cast again. But perhaps the most striking change was Gunter's demeanor.
None of the cast had seen Gunter scared before. They didn't even think he was capable of an emotion beyond 'ecstatic exuberance'. But his eyes were threatening to pop out of his skull, and his chin brushed the ground. "W-Why would kinder need to know such things!?" he exclaimed.
"Hey, you're the one who wanted to 'talk about babies all into the night'." commented Ash.
"Ja, babies! How cute they are, and the little noises they make!"
It took a good minute for them to realize that when Gunter had said he wanted to talk about babies, he was very literal. The situation would've been a lot funnier if Tess wasn't looking around at them with expectant eyes.
"Babies!" Buster piped up, breaking the silence. "Babies, babies, babies. Um..." He was vamping. The oldest trick in the book. But he didn't have any others at his disposal. "See, the thing about babies. Have you...ever heard of storks?"
"I love that movie!" squealed Tess.
"Hoo, boy." the koala muttered as Ash snickered in the background. "Well, you see, when two people love each other very much--"
"Or they're drunk. Ow! What!? I can't make a joke, Johnny!?"
"Anyway...when two people love each other very much, if they want a baby, they just ask a stork, and a short while later, one gives it to them!"
Silently, all present prayed the mattered was settled. But what Rosita neglected to tell them about Tess; she was nothing if not precocious. And perceptive.
"You're lying!" she pouted.
"W-What!? No, I'm not!"
"Yes, you are! You're not looking at me in the eye!"
Johnny looked up at Rosita and mouthed 'How on earth can she do that?' to which she mouthed back 'I have no idea.'
At a loss for words, Buster did the one trick that hadn't failed him in the past. Mostly. He handed the problem off. "Meena, you're up." With a grunt of effort, he hurled Tess into the air, the shocked Meena quickly grabbing the joyously squealing piglet with her trunk. The frowns she and Rosita gave Buster made the koala slink behind Johnny.
"Aunt Meena, do you know where babies come from?"
Meena's ears could only cover so much. "Well, you see...um...I think you're a little too young know about something like that."
"Nuh-uh!" Tess shot back, shaking her head. "Mommy says I'm smart for my age!"
Meena looked up desperately at the housewife, who mouthed 'Well, she is!' and urged her to go on.
"...I can't do it." squeaked Meena as she shoved Tess into Johnny's hands. "I just can't. I still don't think I've fully recovered from when my grandpa told me."
"Okay, I would give half my quills to know how that conversation went." laughed Ash.
"I-I'm not exactly better!" Johnny stammered. "You know what my dad did when I asked him? He drove me to the--" He glanced down at Tess, who was listening intently. Covering her ears (making her cross her arms and huff), he continued. "He drove me to the red-light district, and took me inside every. Single. Building." He shuddered. "I couldn't sleep a wink for a week. The things some people will do for money..."
"Okay, I would give all my quills, and my guitar to have seen that."
Johnny lamented that he couldn't thump Ash while holding a child. "Well, you think you're so bloody clever, why don't you tell her?"
"Totally, give her here."
"Absolutely not!" shouted Rosita, startling them. "No offense, but Ash is the last person I would want my child to discuss the 'birds and the bees' with."
Ash nodded, not the least bit upset. "Yeah, I can understand that. I'm kind of a degenerate."
"What do bees and birds have to do with it?" asked Tess, making Buster facepalm. "Oh, is there honey? I love honey!"
"Don't!" interrupted Johnny, pointing a finger at the porcupine. "I know what you're gonna say; don't even think it!"
"Ugh, do you have a trophy for 'Biggest Killjoy' in your room somewhere?"
While the two argued, with Meena trying to keep peace, Gunter catatonic, and Rosita on the verge of a breakdown, Buster decided there was one thing left to do.
"She what!?" exclaimed Eddie. Unfortunately, he was adjusting the mic frequency, and the feedback screeched throughout the theater, making Ms. Crawley wince. "And why did you call me for this!?"
"I didn't know what else to do!"
"Did you try the stork story?"
"Yes! And she saw right through me!"
Eddie snickered as he adjusted the volume. "Couldn't make eye contact, could you?"
"Okay, how did you notice that?"
"I've known you for years, dude. What did the others do?"
"Well, Gunter misunderstood, Meena couldn't do it, Johnny couldn't do it, and Ash would've scarred her for life."
"Yeah, probably. So, again, why did you call me?"
"Well, I can't help you there. Nana was the one who told me."
Buster nearly dropped his phone. He couldn't imagine, even a little bit, Nana Noodleman sitting Eddie down and giving him probably the most significant talk in a child's life.
And if he could, he didn't want to.
"What. Do. I. Do."
"First, I suggest breathe. Next, just suck it up and tell her! I mean, what's the worst that could happen?"
"Rosita could kill me."
"Mmhm, I see that. Alright, one sec." Covering the phone, he turned to Ms. Crawley. "What do you know about 'the talk'?"
"Quite a bit." she replied, and there was a gleam of pride in her good eye. "Why do you ask?"
"Buster, put Tess on the phone." Eddie said, handing his own to Ms. Crawley. "She's a kid, so be...tactful, I guess?"
Ms. Crawley nodded, took the phone, and began to speak.
No one knows what Ms. Crawley said to the piglet. All they could glean from the conversation was told through Tess' facial expressions. First bored, then curious, then enraptured. She didn't seem to have any questions; if they formed, Ms. Crawley seemed to answer them before they were even voiced. As worried as she was what the elderly lizard was filling her daughter's head with, she was impressed; she'd never seen Tess so still.
After about fifteen minutes, the call finished, and the piglet's eyes were practically gleaming. "Grandma Crawley's amazing!" she exclaimed, before leaping out of Johnny's arms and racing back inside, shouting for her siblings to share her newfound information with.
"...Okay." spoke Ash. "What just happened?"
"Kiddo, I have no idea." Buster shook his head, but couldn't resist a smile. "I knew there was a reason I kept that crazy lizard around."