Mike turned to Sam. “Samantha…” he began, but she stopped him.
“They remind me of you, and when they’re cleaned up, I imagine they’ll look just like you.”
This brought more laughter from the family. Pat smiled fondly at her two grown sons. “There is some justice in the world after all if it means you boys are going to have children as bad as you were. Yes, Samantha, dear, Kane’s boys are just like he and Mike were as children, and may heaven help you if you want to learn about children on those two.”
After a noisy leave-taking, with lots of kissing and hugging and hundreds of invitations to come to Colorado and to Maine, Samantha and Mike set off toward Mike’s house, each holding the hand of a dirty twin boy.
Later, at the house, Samantha sent the boys into the garden to play while she prepared a late snack for them—and Samantha got her first experience of what had made Mike groan when she said she wanted to take the twins.
It wasn’t that they were bad children. They didn’t play pranks on their elders or see what they could get away with. Truthfully they seemed to be happy with just each other and didn’t seem aware that Samantha and Mike were there. What caused the problem was that they were so very, very active and the fact that there were so very many of them.
Samantha glanced out at the floodlit garden and saw one child climbing the fence, ready to fall to his death, while another child ran up the fire escape as fast as his stubby legs could carry him, while a third child was climbing up the side of the house, beside the fire escape, and was now at the top of the first story, also on the precipice of death. A fourth child was eating the roses, thorns and all, while number five was climbing onto a lawn chair that was balanced on one leg on the edge of the brick walkway.
“Mike!” Samantha yelped in desperation as she stood at the glass doors and looked out in helplessness. “They’re going to be killed—all eight of them. Or is it twelve?”
Mike didn’t look up from his newspaper. “Those two are in a class all their own.”
“I think you should—” she began, her voice filled with fear since one child was now moving up the wall of the town house toward the second floor.
“You wanted them, now you have them.”
Turning to Mike in disbelief, she saw that his face was hidden by the newspaper. Obviously he wasn’t going to help her. She went outside into the garden to see what she could do to prevent the children from killing themselves.
Contrary to what it seemed, Mike was very aware of what was going on and very interested in what Samantha was planning. Standing to one side of the glass doors, he unabashedly spied on her, watching as she at first tried talking to the boys as though they were adults, reasoning with them that they were on the very precipice of death and should control their baser urges. She suggested paper and colored pens and lemonade. When that had no effect, she gently tried to take a child down from the wall. Gentleness had no effect on the sturdy four-year-old who was now out of Samantha’s reach.
Watching, Mike saw that, for a moment, Samantha seemed to have no idea what to do, but then his nephew gave it all away by laughing, letting Samantha know that he saw her dilemma and was enjoying being the cause of it.
“You little scamp,” she said, narrowing her eyes at him as the boy kept working his way up the rose trellis on the wall. In the next minute, Samantha was after him, and the child, still laughing while his brother shrieked encouragement from the ground, led Samantha on a chase across the side of the wall, like two crabs moving on a perpendicular surface.
Stepping into the yard, Mike was ready to catch one or the other of them should they start to fall, but Samantha caught the child by the seat of his pants and the imp turned to look at her as if to say, Now what are you going to do? Mike could see that Sam had no idea how to get the big kid down, but she was trying not to let the boy see that. He saw, and he delighted in her consternation.
“Are you going to let a four-year-old defeat you?” Mike asked from the ground.
Without looking down at Mike, Samantha gave the child an I’m-bigger-than-you-and-I’m-going-to-win grin and the next minute she had him in her arms—all of what had to be a hundred pounds of him. Somehow, she got him to the ground. Of course Mike was there for those last few feet, catching them both in his strong arms when a rose branch broke and setting them upright on the lawn.
The minute the child’s feet touched earth, he scampered off with his brother while Samantha rubbed her arms. They were aching from the exertion and from hundreds of rose thorn scratches. “Now I understand why you lift weights. It’s to prepare you for dealing with children. Do you think I should give them a bath?”
Smiling, Mike gave her a soft kiss and pulled her into his arms. “Mike, where are the boys?”
“Mmmm,” he said, caressing her back. “You said the bad word.”
“ ‘Boys?’ How is that a bad word?”
“No, you said, bath. They’ve disappeared, and you’ll have to find them if you mean to clean those two up. Half the time Kane admits defeat and throws them into a horse trough. His theory is that they
’ll take a bath when they discover girls, so why bother until then?”
She pushed away from him and when she looked at him, her mouth was set. “My grandmother dealt with gangsters, so I think I am capable of dealing with two little boys. What we need here is a cunning mind and the strength of Hercules. Stand over there,” she ordered and when he was at one side of the garden, she said, “My goodness, it’s Donatello and Michelangelo and Raphael and Leonardo right here in our garden!” When two dirty little boys appeared from nowhere, Samantha grabbed one about the waist then the other. Bowing under the weight like an Olympic bar across a squatter’s shoulders, she held on through ferocious wiggles.
“You fibbed!” one child yelled, startling Samantha for she didn’t know the boys could talk.
“Yes I did,” she answered calmly. “I learned how from your uncle Mike. He’s the best fibber in the world.”
For a moment both boys stopped struggling to look at their uncle Mike with new respect, but he looked just the same, just like their dad, so he wasn’t of much interest. They resumed their attempts to get away from Samantha. She wasn’t very big, but she seemed extraordinarily strong.
“You two are going to have a bath, then I’m going to read you a story and you’re going to bed.” When the boys kept struggling, nearly tearing Samantha’s arms out of their sockets, she said, “It’s the goriest story you’ve ever heard. Lots of blood and people being chopped in half and—”
The boys stopped wiggling as they listened to Sam tell them about what she was going to tell them all the way up the stairs.