Slurred speech in the manner of young children or babies... in example

Is joo my wittle beebee? joo iz my wittle beebee... joo are soo cutesy wootsie. I wub joo my wittle beebee... beebee wanna babool?
Honey give me a babool... er bottle for the baby...
If you ever find the woman in your life starting to talk like this to you, this Lizard advises extreme caution.

I'm not being mean or unromantic, I would simply like to point out some of the possible reasons for her using this icky mode of speech with you:

  • She believes you have the mental age of a two year-old. You are in an unequal and patronising relationship which you should quit immediately.
  • You are a two year-old. - In which case Oo's a cwever ickle baby? joo iz uoosing ze Internet-ums!
  • She is incurably wet. Dump her sharpish before she covers your bed in Beanie Babies, paints everything pink, and only lets you touch her breasts if you conceed that you're Mumsie's Naughty Ickle Diddums-Poppet
  • She's gone broody. Buy her a cat. If that doesn't work buy her some rabbits too. If all else fails let the cat eat the rabbits and find yourself a real woman.

Another relationship counselling gem from The Doctor Of Lurve

     She watched her mother with wide eyes. Mother paced back and forth talking into the telephone. She wound its cord around her fingers, around her hand, unwinding it and doing it again and again. Such a spectacular toy! The bouncy, curly wire was certainly a plaything, but it belonged to her mother. Whenever she tried to reach for it, her mother made a disapproving sound; when her mother did that she would crumple her face and cry, not understanding why this wonderful toy was only for her mother.

     She sat on the floor and banged her plastic blocks together. These toys were colorful, and their corners were pleasing to put inside her mouth, but still she wasn't as interested in them as she was in the phone cord. She wanted to put that in her mouth and get her tongue tangled up in it; she wanted to press it down between her lips and spit it back out, then start all over. She wanted to wind it around her whole body the way her mother did with just her hands. She wanted to tell her mother that she wanted to play too, but her mother didn't understand her.

     She was frustrated. She threw a block at her mother. It fell short of its mark and landed softly on the carpet. Mother didn't turn around, so she howled and threw another one. She kicked her feet at the pile of blocks and tried to scatter them. She wanted to go after the blocks she had thrown, but she was too annoyed to focus on making her way over there. She began to howl again.

     She stopped crying when she saw she had her mother's attention. Mother put the phone down and started to come toward her. Seeing that she'd left the desired plaything so far out of reach on the counter, she began to cry even as Mother approached.

     She was soothed and patted and talked to, but nothing helped because her mother didn't have the telephone. She didn't want to be hugged or touched, she just wanted to play with the phone and she could not.

     Mother left her there and went back to the phone. Bewildered by the sudden abandonment, she stopped crying and watched her mother. She had picked up the telephone and begun to talk to it, touching its elusive cord as she spoke. This was too much to take. She began to make angry sounds with her mouth, wishing that just once her mother would listen to what she was saying.

     Her mother turned and looked at her in surprise. Seeing that she had gotten what she wanted, she continued to make the sound, banging her fists for emphasis. Her mother gibbered excitedly into the phone for a moment, then rushed to pick her up. She was cooed at and hugged, bewilderingly, and then the unthinkable happened: her mother set her on the counter and held the phone out to her.

     Instantly she grabbed the phone cord and stuffed it into her mouth. Her mother made a sharp noise and snatched it from her, then pushed the uninteresting part of the toy at her face again. She didn't care about the hard part. She wanted to play with the springy part. When she grabbed for it again, her mother made another angry-sounding noise and held the phone away from her.

     "Say 'Mama' for Grandma, like you did before," her mother demanded, holding the phone too far away to reach. She was fed up with this and began to yell again, making angry sounds to respond to her mother's unwillingness to cooperate.

     "Good girl!" her mother cried, putting the phone close again. She clutched the phone cord and tangled her fingers in it, making sounds with her voice since that was what her mother apparently required as a prerequisite to playing with the best toys.

            --© 1999-2001

Dr. Sally Ward has written a book called "BabyTalk" on how to talk to your baby. Much of it is intuitive but some is quite helpful. She has research showing higher IQs at 8 years of age for children of parents who used her program. Many parents know lots of talking to babies is good but what I find valuable about this book is the discussion of the quality not just the quantity of the talk. For instance, she tells us not to ask the baby "what is X, Y, or Z" before 16 months of age because the child is not yet able to articulate adequately and this just makes them feel bad.

Dr. Ward also recommends reducing background noise and spending time dedicated to talking to baby, using names instead of pronouns, using lots of repetition of the same word in different contexts and talking about what the baby is interested in - not just following the parent's agenda.

This so much reminds me of swankivy's frustrated baby node above. I decided to place this write up here, despite the fact that the book's title is just one word (BAbyTalk)with funky capitalization.

Marguerite's brother took forever to learn how to talk.

"Is there something wrong with him?" One of the Aunts asked Marguerite's mother.

Marguerite sat beneath the table, surrounded by pant-legs, dress-skirts, human legs of varying thickness, and table legs whose thickness stayed mostly the same. She tried to listen, matching voices with the bottom halves that went with them. Her brother Toby sat beside her, completely absorbed in his etch-a-sketch.

"Nothin's wrong with the boy," said Aunt Petunia. Drumstick-shaped legs in frilly green skirts that didn't go down all the way crossed idly. "Slow talkers always wind up smarter. 'S common knowledge."

"Have you and Ben gone to a doctor?" said a timid voice. It belonged to a pair of waspy-thin legs covered up in a light blue dress that touched the floor and hid her feet. Aunt Marigold, then.

"Not yet," said a medium-thin pair hidden inside jeans. Mama. "We figure we'll wait until he's five. We'll see if maybe school will draw him out of it." There was the gentle clatter of porcelain and the polite sipping of tea.

"Now Rose," said Aunty Petunia. "You're sure it's just the talking he's having trouble with?"

"Yes," said Marguerite's mother. "And even then, I'm not so sure he doesn't know how to talk. I swear, sometimes it's like he just chooses not to."

Marguerite looked at Toby. He wasn't really drawing with the etch-a-sketch; just sporadically turning the knobs so that all he had was a big tangle of black threads. She prodded his shoulder. He remained silent, focusing only on his picture.

"He talks to Daisy doesn't he?"

Marguerite perked up.

"He might. I don't know. Marguerite?" The tablecloth was lifted up and their mother looked down at them, partially tilted from leaning over. "Hello Daisy."

"How'd you know I was here?"

There were chuckles overhead.

"Magic," said her mother with a smile. "Does Toby ever talk to you?"

"No. Not people talk."

Her mother sat up again and let the tablecloth drop.

"There you have it," said Aunt Petunia. "Not a talker. You know what you ought to do?"

"No," said Mama. She had a slight edge to her voice. "We're not going there, 'Tuny."

"C'mon, Rosie! I'm not saying you should stuff the kid up with spells or anything. I'm just saying that maybe he could use a little. . . help. A nudge."

"It might help," said Marigold softy. "If you don't want to do it, I have a recipe I've been meaning to try that should do the trick-"

"No." said Mama again. "Ben and I've already decided. We're going to let this take its natural course. In all likelihood, it's just a phase. If we do have to intervene, it will be with a doctor. A professional."

"But I can-" said Petunia.

"It's really no trouble-" said Marigold.

"No, thank you," said Mama.

And that was final.

* * * *

The next morning, after her father had left for work, but before Toby had woken up, Marguerite crept down the hall and peeked into her mother's study.

Against probable odds, the study was a large room. From the hall outside, it was a plain little door squished between a bathroom and a laundry room and logically should've been the size of a broom closet. From the inside, it was a bright, spacious room lined with counters and connected to a greenhouse. Marguerite never questioned where the greenhouse actually was, since it certainly wasn't at their house.

Her mother was at the counter, elbow deep in a pile of clay.

"Mama," she said, coming closer. "What are you doing?"

"Something for work," she said. She kneaded and rolled the clay into a noodle. "Can you tell what it is?"

Marguerite craned her neck over the top of the counter in order to see. There was a large ovally hunk, and a smaller ovally hunk on top of it, and some noodly things on the sides. She jumped a few times and saw that more clay figures were piled up beside it.

"A doll?"

"Yes," said Mama. She attached the noodle she made onto the side, giving the doll its right arm. "That's exactly what it is."

Marguerite went around her mother and went to see the other dolls. These ones, unlike the one her mother was making, looked finished. They had hollowed out spaces for eyes and gaping holed where their mouths were. Next to them was a ream of odd looking papers. She went over to investigate. The paper was delicate. It crumpled easily, and felt clean to the touch. Even the smell of it was odd: old and slightly dusty.

"Can I color on this?" she said, holding up a piece.

"No," said her mother, still kneading. "Go use the printer paper in the office. I need that kind." She reached over for a small tin jar and started dusting the clay with black powder.

"How come?" The paper looked pretty. It was light brown with little flecks of goldish sparkly bits. What good was paper that pretty if you couldn't color on it?

"It's special paper," she said. "Mommy needs it for the dolls work."

"Can I help?"

Her mama smiled and handed her a lump of clay. "Here," she said. "Roll this up into little sticks- here, like this. Yes, good. Just make three more like that, and then a little stubby one for the thumb, okay?"

Marguerite happily complied. She made several more sets of fingers and thumbs before Toby wandered in, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He saw the clay, and a large smile split his face. He went over to his mother and stuck out his hands, hopping back and forth eagerly. Without looking away from her work, Rose handed him a lump of clay.

“Don’t make a mess,” was all she said.

While Marguerite and her brother played with the clay, Rose grabbed one of the finished dolls and set it aside. Marguerite watched with interest as her mother scribbled something down on the paper, then placed it inside the doll's mouth. There was a brief moment where nothing happened. Then, with a small creak, the doll began to move. First its feet began to twitch, then its fingers. It shivered.

"Golem," said her mother. "Sit up."

With the muddy sound of damp clay rubbing against damp clay, the doll sat up. Inside the hollow spots it had for eyes, there was the tiniest of flames fizzing bright yellow.

Marguerite's mother smiled. "Good," she said. "Just a test run. You can go back to sleep now."

The doll nodded. The two sparks in its eyes winked out, and it went limp, falling back onto the table with a thud.

"Did you do that, or the paper?" said Marguerite, completely unperturbed.

"A little bit of both," said her mother.

Toby made an urgent 'Uh!' noise and tugged at his mother's skirt. In his hand he held a mashed up lump of clay that might've looked like a heart if Marguerite squinted just right. He showed it off proudly.

Their mother beamed. "It's beautiful, honey." She bent down to take it and give him a hug. "I'm going to put this someplace special, okay?"

Toby nodded eagerly and walked with her across the room, to a shelf beside the hall door. Marguerite took the opportunity to grab a sheet of the fancy paper and tuck it into her pocket.

"Oh darn," said her mother, when she got back to her table.

"What is it?" said Marguerite.

"I'm out of the powder I need for the clay." She took off her gloves. "Come on, you two. Go wash you're hands, we need to run down to the store."

Marguerite thought of all the special paper that would be left unguarded if her mother left. "But I don't wanna go!"

"Daisy. . ."

"Please Mama?" She clasped her hands together beseechingly. Toby copied her, not really knowing what the big deal was, but knowing his sister thought it was important. "Please?"

Mama looked them over for a long minute. "Fine," she said with a sigh. "But not alone. I'll check and see if Petunia can watch you. Pretty sure she's free today. . ." She pulled her cell out of her pocket and ushered them out of the room.

"Petunia?" she said, closing and locking the door behind her. "Hello, it's me. I was wondering if you could- yes, actually. Yeah- alright then. Thanks. Yes, thanks. Alright, bye, 'Tuny. See you in a few." She hung up.

"Alright, guys, you got lucky. Petunia was already on her way over and-"

Both Marguerite and Toby ran up and hugged her around the knees, almost sending them all sprawling to the floor.

"Thank you Mama thank you Mama thank you Mama!"

"You're welcome, you're welcome!" She said, trying to pry them off. Once they'd let go, she went to the kitchen and grabbed her keys off the counter. "I'll only be gone for a little bit," she said. "And Petunia will be here in a few minutes. I don't want you two making any messes, alright?"

They stood in the kitchen, Rose with her hand on the door, Marguerite and Toby by the table, seeing her off.

"Okay, Mama," said Marguerite. Toby nodded and smiled. Marguerite could tell he was trying his best to be charming.

"Alright," said Rose. Love you both. Marguerite, take care of your brother."

"I will. Love you too."

Toby blew his mother a kiss. She made a catching motion, slapped her hand to her cheek, and then left. The door locked behind her.

Instantly, Marguerite and her brother turned to give each other high-fives before going their separate ways: him into his bedroom and her to hers, where she pulled out the piece of fancy paper and tried to think of what to draw.

In less than the time it took for her to find all her colored pencils, there was a knock at the door, followed by a saccharine-sweet,

"Helloooo, dear!"

With a disappointed moan, Marguerite went to let her Aunty in.

"Mom's not home," she said as Aunt Marigold brushed past, leaving behind the thick scent her of Jasmine perfume. Her eyes began to water from the smell of it. "She's gone to the store."

Marigold set her purse on the table and started sifting through the clutter inside. It was, Marguerite noticed, mostly makeup and tiny perfume bottles. "I know, dear. Your Aunt Petunia's having a little trouble with traffic. She called me to come check up on you until she gets here. Where’s Toby?" She looked around the room, as though he might pop out of the walls. "I have something for him."

"A present?" said Marguerite. "Is there one for me?"

"No. I'm sorry. It's not really that kind of a present." She smiled at Marguerite and leaned in conspiratorially. "It's actually a kind of secret," she whispered over-loudly. "Can you keep a secret?"

"From who?"

"Ideally, everyone. But your mother especially." She went back to rummaging. "I can't stay for long, and your Aunt Petunia should be over in a bit, so we'll have to make this fast. Ah! Here we are." She pulled out a small jar filled with green-blue goop.

"What's that?" said Marguerite.

"Stuff to help your brother." A spoon followed the jar out of the purse and onto the table. "Toby? Toby, dear, come out here. I have something for you!" She unscrewed the top of the jar and scooped up a spoonful.

Toby ran out of the hall, arms held out in front of him for balance. He flew to his aunt's legs and began hopping around, arms outstretched for whatever the present was. Marguerite scowled.

"Hello, Toby. Yes, I love you too. Now, I need you to take some of this."

Steam was wafting up from the glop in light, green-tinted waves. Toby eyed it suspiciously. His mouth stayed resolutely shut.

"Don't worry," said Marigold. She leaned in, bringing the spoon closer. "I promise it's not going to hurt or anything. Go on, be a big boy. Open up."

He looked to his sister. She shrugged. "Might as well."

He nodded, closed his eyes, stuck out his chest bravely and then opened his mouth. Aunt Marigold stuck the spoon in and made sure he'd eaten all the glop off before taking it back. Almost immediately, Toby burst into tears and ran into the bathroom.

"Wait!" said Marigold. "What's wrong?" She and Marguerite ran after and found him trying to scrub his mouth out with a washcloth.

"Toby! Stop that!" Aunt Marigold tore the towel out of his hands. He made the high pitched keening noise that Marguerite had come to recognize as 'give it back!' and tried jumping for it, but Marigold held the towel out of reach.

"I know it tastes bad, but you have to let it set in or else it won't work."

Toby whined and stamped his feet. "Come on, Toby. It’s not that bad. It’ll fix you! Come on, Say something. Say 'Aunty Marigold'. Come on, try!"

He looked uncertainly up to his sister. She shrugged. "Go ahead. See if it worked."

He slapped his hand over his eyes and rubbed his face. When he opened his mouth, nothing came out but a hollow croak. Marigold sighed.

"Maybe it still needs more time to kick in. Ah well." She pocketed the spoon and went back to the kitchen to collect her purse. "Petunia's pulling in," she said to Marguerite. “I can hear. But before I go, Daisy dear, I have something very important to ask you."

"Yes, Aunty?"

Marigold crouched down until she was roughly eye-to-eye with Marguerite. "Now, honey, what just happened? What I just did? This will have to be our little secret. Can I trust you?"

Marguerite clasped her hands behind her back and curled them into fists. She knew when she was being patronized. "Yes, Aunty."

Marigold smiled. "Good, good. I knew I could, you’re aunty’s big girl. But just in case. . ."

She held her finger up to Marguerite's lips in a 'shhh' motion. There was a small tingling for a second, but it stopped as soon as she broke contact.

Marguerite touched her mouth. "What was that?"

"Nothing. A little something to help you. See? I guess I brought a gift for you after all!" There was the familiar sound of Aunt Petunia thumping her way up the porch. "Well, time for me to go." She adjusted her sun hat and went for the door. "And remember, Daisy. Our little secret."

She left and ran into Petunia on the porch. “So nice to see you!" she trilled. "I was just leaving. . .”

Petunia said something in return, and Marguerite just knew they’d be talking for forever, now, just like grown ups always did when they said they were ‘just leaving’. She went to check up on Toby.

He was still in the bathroom, this time at the sink. He was standing on top of the toilet so he could reach the faucet, and swallowing handful after handful of water. If he could, Marguerite thought, he'd probably just stick his whole mouth over the tap and drink it all in one go.

"Was it really that bad?" she said.

He stopped drinking long enough to nod her way and make a face.

"She meant well."

He snorted, unconvinced.

"Hang on," she said. "I'll go get you a cup."

She was just returning to the kitchen when Petunia stormed in.

“Hello Daisy!" she said, tossing her bag onto the kitchen table. "Where's your brother?"

"The bathroom-"

"Toby!" she shouted, "Hurry up in there! I have something for you!"

Marguerite felt her stomach begin to sink. "What-?"

Petunia rolled right over her. She went to where her purse had landed and emptied it all onto the table. "Daisy my girl, go get your brother. Bring him here. I'll get this set up."

Daisy did as she was bid and returned to find Petunia surrounded by a dozen different colored piles of powder, taking pinches of each and mixing them into a glass of water.

"Aunty, what're you doing?" Toby clutched her hand and half-hid behind her.

The glass tinked delicately as Petunia hit the sides with the stirring spoon. "Somethin’ your Mama should've done a long time ago." She brought the glass up to the light and nodded, apparently satisfied. "I'm gonna help Toby."

"But Aunty Mari-"

Toby bolted. He turned tail and ran. Petunia was already on her way after him.

"Toby," she called. "Toby hon, no need to hide. Come here and give your favorite aunt a hug."

Toby crept out of his room just enough to shake his head 'no'.

"None of that," she said. "I just need you to open you mouth wide for me, 'kay?"

Toby eyes went wide, and he darted back into his room. Petunia jammed her shoe into the frame before he could close the door. "Toby honey! I promise it'll be good for you!"

Don't, Marguerite said. Aunty Marigold's already helped him!

Only nothing came out. She closed her mouth and frowned. "Apples," she said. "Bananas. Aunty Marigold-" Did a spell on Toby.


"Aunty Marigold has a nice hat," she said to test. Okay, that was fine, then. "Aunty Marigold-" gave Toby magic green goop.

"Damn!" she said. She immediately looked around in case anyone had heard her. Her parents had both made it quite clear long ago that that Sort of Language wasn't tolerated.

She was safe. Aunt Petunia was too busy trying to get Toby to drink to notice her slip up. She dragged Toby out of the bedroom and held onto him in the hall, trying to get the glass near his mouth.

"I'm telling you, Toby, it's good for you!"

He wriggled in her large arms. Marguerite watched them, trying to find some way to tell Petunia to stop but unable to due to Marigold's geas.

"Toby," said Petunia firmly. "If you do not drink this, then there will be no Christmas presents for you this year."

He stopped struggling.

"Or," she said dramatically, "The one after. In fact, you will never, ever have a present from me ever again." She let go of him. He didn't run. Instead, he turned around to stare at her in open mouthed horror.

"Or birthdays." She held out the glass.

Toby took the glass and looked back at Marguerite like he was going to cry.

"Just drink it," she said. "If you do, then she'll leave you alone."

Aunt Petunia scowled at her over his shoulder, but said nothing. Slowly, Toby closed his eyes and took a sip. After a second, he opened his eyes, surprised. Then he took another swig. Soon the entire glass was empty and he was holding it up to Petunia for more.

"Sorry," she said. "That's all you're getting. Try saying something. Say 'Petunia'. Go one, Tell me who your favorite aunt is."

He opened his mouth. Nothing came out but the sound of air moving.

Petunia frowned. "That should've worked," she said. "Try again."

Toby did, to no avail.

"I don't know what could have gone wrong. . . "

"Maybe it just needs to set?" said Marguerite. "To- uh- get into his system?"

"I suppose so. . . Yeah, that's probably it." She sighed and straightened up. "Ah well. Maybe tomorrow. Oh, and Daisy?"


"What happened just now? It's-"

"A secret?"

She nodded. "Yep. Can't have you blabbing to your mom. She wouldn't understand. Come over here for a second."

Marguerite did, and Petunia made the same 'shhh'ing gesture that Marigold had done not too long before. Again, the tingling crept up through Marguerite's mouth, and again she found herself unable to say anything about Toby's spell.

"Thanks, hon. Just making sure, you know?" Petunia checked her watch. "Your mama should be back pretty soon. Are either of you hungry?"

"Not really-"

Toby held the glass close to his chest and started dancing around, nodding madly and making little 'ah!' noises.

"Well alright then.," said Petunia, smiling. She offered Toby her hand, and together they walked into the kitchen.

"Who's up for macaroni and cheese?"

Marguerite sighed and followed them.

* * * *

The next morning, Marguerite went into Toby's room and gave him a good prodding.

"Wake up," she said. "Breakfast."

He mumbled something and hid his head beneath the pillows. In one well-practiced motion, Marguerite pulled the blanket off the bed, revealing Toby curled up in his race car pajamas.

"Wake up. It's pancakes."

Slowly, he sat up and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. "Dazzerit, he said sleepily. "Nahama na veh."

Marguerite blinked. This wasn't the first time she'd heard his voice, but it was the first time she'd ever heard him use more than one syllable at a time. It sounded strange when it was all strung together.

"What?" she said.

"Kavaaaaa-" he yawned mid-word. "-aah quara. Mah niet lechorva. Na zeh."

Marguerite blinked. "Mom," she called. "Dad. Toby's talking."


She turned around and screamed. "Toby's talking!" She grabbed his wrist and dragged him out into the kitchen, where her mother and father were having breakfast.

"Toby," she said, pushing him forward. "Say something."

He looked up at them groggily. "Lohome rieste vah lahalo setti. Vatu kirada neirda schrie keh haloh na vort." He then turned to his usual chair and crawled up to the table, where he picked up the fork waiting for him ad waited for his food. "Ahma," he said, pointing to his mouth with his free hand. "Neirada."

They all stared.

"How long has he been like this?" said their father.

"I don't know," said Margie. "Toby, do you know when this started?"

"Eteresk na maen," he said mournfully.

Dad knelt down to Toby-height. "Did he hit his head?" he gently checked Toby's skull.

"No," said Marguerite. "He didn't." It's all the Aunties' fault! she tried to say. They're the ones that did it!

"My lab," Rose said suddenly. "They were in there yesterday. And then after- I left them. I went to pick up more ink, and they were only alone for a few minutes. 'Tunia and Mari came over to watch them, but he could've gotten into something. . ."

"We'll have to call a doctor then. A specialist. Do a complete cleansing ritual-"

"Shochai!" said Toby, looking really awake for the first time. "Vinyatta yiet moharo!" He looked desperately at his sister. "Loquova shet vah halov niena nivehinen na macku."

"He doesn't want to go to the doctors," said Marguerite.

"He should of thought about that before meddling around in your mom's lab."

There was a knock at door. "You hoo!"

Ben rubbed his temples. "Dear?" he said. "I think it's your sister."

Mama sighed and went to answer the door. "Hello, Pe-"

Aunt Petunia plowed right over her. "Hello, Rosie! Just stopping by to drop off the casserole dish I borrowed." She thrust the dish into Mama's arms and breezed into the kitchen.

"But that was months ago!"

"Better late than never. Hello, Ben. And how are my lovely niece and nephew?"

"We're actually having some trouble," said Dad. "Toby's learned how to talk."

"Oh has he?" said Petunia, obviously delighted. Toby glared at her with all the disgust his four year old features could manage.

"Let's hear it then!"

Dad waved a hand. "Might as well. Toby?"

"Nichrayat na veh aye vinyada shahkeh!"

Petunia's face froze, still smiling. Slowly, the smile tensed. "That's. . .odd." she said eventually.

"We can't figure it out," said Ben. "Rose seems to think he got into her study and messed with something, but she didn't have anything in there that could have done this."

Mama put away the casserole dish. "I'm actually hoping it'll wear off. So far the talking's the only thing that seems wrong. We're going to take him to a specialist once I make the appointment to give him an ethereal cleansing. If that doesn't work, we'll have to take him to a mundane doctor."

Aunt Petunia, Marguerite noticed, was looking very pale. "Oh, yes. I'm sure that's the best option. I wouldn't rush into anything, if I were you. I'm sure whatever it is will wear off eventually. Daisy?" she said. "Can you join me in the hall for a moment?"

Mama raised an eyebrow, but nodded. "Go ahead, Daisy."

Marguerite scowled and joined her aunt. There were two people in the world she didn't want to talk to today, and Petunia was tied for first.

"Remember not to tell your mother," said Petunia quietly.

"How could I forget?" grumbled Marguerite.

Petunia wasn't listening. "I'll fix this, don't you worry. I got something. Sure of it. . ." she trailed off.

"Maybe you should ask Aunt Marigold," said Marguerite. "She-" she stopped herself and thought very carefully about what she would say next. "She's. . . smart. She was here yesterday. Maybe she knows something you don't."

Petunia frowned. "Mari? Why would. . . alright, then. I'll go ask Mari. Maybe she saw something."

She stood a little straighter and adjusted her hat.

"You're a good girl, Daisy." She stepped back into the dining room and said loud enough for everyone else to hear, "I can see you've all got things to think about, and I'm afraid I must be off, everyone." She made a beeline for the door. "So long. Best of luck! Be sure to call me if anything happens, Rosie. Bye, Ben. Love you, Toby. Marguerite." She closed the door behind her with a resounding slam!

"Well that was odd," said Ben. "What do you think she's up to?"

Rose scowled at him.

"What? She was acting completely suspicious." He scratched his chin absently. "Do you think she wants money?"

"Oh, Ben. . . "

"I'm just saying! She was acting off. Even Toby could tell. I bet you before the hour's up, We're going to get a call from Mari, too. I swear those two are telepathically linked-"

The telephone began to ring, postponing whatever argument might've happened next. Ben was closest, so he answered it.

"Hello? Marigold!" he said, looking meaningfully to Rose. "We were just talking about you! Uh-huh. Yes. That's nice. Yes, she's right here. Rose, honey? It's Marigold. . ."

Marguerite glared at them all, unnoticed. She'd had enough. If nobody was going to listen to her, then she'd just have to deal with this herself. She turned to Toby and tugged on the sleeve of his jammies.

"Nah veh!" he whined. "Yamarrow kida." He banged his fork on the table.

"They're not going to give you breakfast," she said. "They're too busy with the aunts."

"Vinyatta!" he snarled.

"I know. Come on, we don't need them. Follow me."

He dropped the fork and did as his big sister wanted.

I know it's around here somewhere, she thought, digging through the clutter in her room. It's gotta be- there! She pulled out the page of special paper she'd stolen from her mother's lab the day before.

"Hang on a sec," she said, scribbling onto the paper. When she was done writing, she folded it up into something manageable and gave it to her brother.

"Eat it," she said.


"You heard me. Eat it. I've seen you eat cardboard before. Besides, if you eat it, the Aunties'll stop bothering you about your talking."

Toby reluctantly took the paper. He stuffed it into his mouth and began to chew. The paper was gone in seconds.

"Well?" she said. "Try saying something. How do you feel?"

"Mein Mund kitzelt."

"Oh no! It didn't work! You're still talking nonsense!"

"No," he said. "I think I'm okay. I just feel strange." He rubbed his eyes. "My head feels swimmy."

"Toby," she said, giddy. "You're talking! You're talking like a grown up! Mom, dad! I fixed Toby!" She pulled her brother back into the kitchen.
"Look, see? Toby, say something again!"

"Bonjour, Mere, Pere. J'ai faim. Puis-je avoir le petit dejeuner?"

"No, wait. Try again, Toby. You were still talking gibberish."

"Mama? I'm hungry." He lifted up his arms like he wanted to be picked up. "Can I have pancakes?"

"Oh dear," said Rose. She bent down to hug him.

"What?" said Marguerite, a sinking feeling in her stomach. She looked to her father. "What's wrong?"

"Daisy, honey," he said. "How exactly did you help Toby?"

She shuffled uncomfortably. "Well I saw Mama using the special paper to make the dolls do things, so I thought maybe it'd work for Toby too."

Mom had sat Toby up on the table and was now examining his mouth. "And?"

"He ate the paper."

"Marguerite," said her mother patiently. "What did you write on the paper?"

"'Talk people talk.'"

Dad looked at Toby. "And you ate up all the paper?"

He nodded happily "Yup. Catado picante. Muy picante. Puedo tomar el desayuno ahora?"

"I caught that one. Spanish." Dad rubbed his forehead. "Rose? Do you think the cleansing will work if he ate that paper?"

"I don't know," she said. They both kept their eyes on their son. "I know it doesn't work on golems- the paper keeps them going no matter what. It could be that he's stuck this way."

Toby frowned. "Er jeg i knibe?"

"Honey," said Rose. "We can only understand about half of what you're saying."

"Sorry," he said. "I don't know how to turn it off."

"Doesn't he sound like a grownup?" said Marguerite. "He talks better than me!"

"I do?" For the first time since eating the paper, Toby looked genuinely alarmed. "I don't know if I like that."

"Well you may have to get used to it," said Rose. "I'll go schedule the specialist."

Dad got to his feet. "I'll go call your sisters. We still don't know what started this to begin with. Maybe one of them saw something and forgot to tell us. Toby? Daisy? You two go and be quiet. Daisy, take care of your brother. Tell us if he starts acting funny, okay?"

"Yes, Daddy."

Their parents both left to make phone calls in the other room, leaving them alone together. She felt someone tugging at the hem of her shirt.

"Daisy?" said Toby. "I'm still hungry." He pouted at her, doing his best to look pathetic.

"Okay," she said. "Go get in your chair."

He did as his big sister told him while she went and got him some pancakes off the big, family plate.

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