He didn’t mean to use the kid as an excuse, but it couldn’t be helped. It was too necessary for him to take a break from the conversation, and too easy for it to be a reason to leave, if only for a few minutes.

So he offered to take him so that his sister could finally eat dinner and she handed him right over. He held the crying baby against his shoulder, and walked him out the front door and down the street into the warm, dark night until none of his cries could reach the dining room, and no sound from inside could reach them. “Shhh. Shhh. It’s all right now,” he whispered, then turned his head up to look for stars.

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