Sven woke the next morning to the sound of shouts from the deck above. Somebody shook him.

"Hoi, Sven! Get up! We've reached home."

"Ah. Thanks for telling me, Oleg."

"You'd better get up there now or Unnson'll have your hide. We're all supposed to help unload the loot."

"The loot. Right. I'll be up in a minute." Oleg nodded and went topside. Sven turned back to the basket at his feet where he'd put the baby the night before. It still slept.

"Don't you do anything but sleep?" As if in answer, there came the unmistakable sound of gas from the child's rear end, followed by a horrid stench.

"Oh, Gods, this can't be happening. Not now."


"In a minute, Eric!" The baby began to cry.

"No! This is quite possibly the worst timing ever. Couldn't you have held it?" The baby only cried louder. Sven reached into the basket and picked up the baby. He removed the cloth tied around its bottom to catch its messes. It was filthy and brown, and stunk worse than it had before. The babe continued crying.

"Shut up, you!" On impulse, Sven stuffed a finger in its mouth. The stunned baby clammed up, staring up at him in surprise.

"Now hold on while I get something to replace that rag." Sven hunted around, finally settling for the cloth in the basket. He ripped off a piece of this and tied it as best he could around and over the offending orifice. He removed his finger. The child remained silent.

"Apparently you do do more than sleep, eh? Now keep quiet." He placed his charge in its basket once more, and got up to the deck, dirty diaper in hand so that he could get rid of it.

"It's about damned time, Sven. What took you so long?" Unnson hollered when Sven arrived on the deck.

"Sorry, Unnson. I…er…I had to relieve myself."

"Well that at least explains the stench. Now help us get all this stuff off the ship. We'll divide it later."

"Right." Discreetly, Sven turned around and dumped the diaper into the water.

"What was that?" somebody asked from behind him. Sven whirled around. It was Oleg.


"I said, what was that?" Oleg repeated.

"Er…Nothing. Just...the bucket down below. From having to relieve myself.

"Then where's the bucket?"


"Are you deaf? Where's the bucket, Sven?"

"Erm…Look! Over there! It looks like a fight's starting."

"Where? I want to join!" Oleg turned and looked behind him. Sven used this chance to hightail it to another section of the boat and started filling a sack with loot.

"Hey, Sven! You lied to me! There wasn't a fight."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Sven said quickly.

"You're loony," Oleg replied, and left him. Finally, Sven thought to himself, and he breathed an inward sigh of relief.

After all the loot had been unloaded, Sven returned for the basket, looking apprehensively over his shoulder the whole way.

"SVEN!" he jumped. What now? Unnson stood behind him.

"What is it?" he asked nervously.

"Don't you want your loot?" Unnson held up a bag.

"Oh. Right. Loot. Of course. Thanks, Unnson."

"Go home, Sven."

"Right you are, Unnson." With the loot in one hand and the basket in the other, Sven began walking home.

Sven's home, or hut rather, was built alongside a few others. It was small, but houses at that time generally weren't big, so it was about average. It was, however, uncommonly neat for a Viking Bachelor's home. This was because Sven, as much as he hated to admit it, was a bit of a neat freak. If ever his comrades were coming by to drink, he had to make sure that his house was sufficiently messy.

Sven entered the one-room hut now, and set the basket containing his new responsibility on the table. He peeked under the blanket. The baby was still sleeping.

"Hey. It's alright. I think you can wake up now," he told it. The baby yawned and blinked its eyes. It held its arms upward, expecting to be lifted.

"Oh come on. I don't even know how to hold a baby." The baby began wailing.

"Gods damn it. Fine, fine. I'll pick you up. But don't get mad if I can't do it right." He reached down and picked up the baby.

"Well, this is home," he told it. "I'm sorry it's not very baby-friendly, but I wasn't really expecting you. Maybe now that we're at home, I'll have some time to get things ready."

Almost at once, the door began pounding.

"Sven? Sven, we know you're home. Answer the door!" His mother.

"SVEN! WHAT'S KEEPING YOU, FOR ODIN'S SAKE?" His father. They were both here. Wonderful. He quickly took the baby off his shoulder and jammed him into the basket, which he shoved under his bed.

"I'll be there in a minute!"

"You're taking FOREVER. We won't live much longer, Sven!" his mother called from outside. Sven ran over and opened the door to let them in.

"Hello Mother. Father." Sven's dad gave him a hearty slap on the back.

"Well, let's see it!" Sven's father boomed.


"Where's the loot?" he said.

"Ah. You wanted to see the loot."

"Why else did you think we'd come?" his mother asked.

"Of course. How silly of me to forget. Uh, the bag's right…here."

"Sven, that's your laundry."

"Of course it is. All the sacks look so much alike. Ummm….Ah! Here it is." He dumped out the contents of the loot bag onto the table.

"Ooh! Look at all that glitter!" his mother said, "Looks like there's some good jewelry in there."

"Never mind the jewelry, look at that axehead! That's a good, sharp axehead, that is. Well done, Sven."

"You can have whatever you want of it."

"What the hell are you talking about? Vikings don't share. Keep your damn loot."

"I'm not sharing. I'm giving it to you. Take all of that stuff. I don't want it."

"Something's got into you, Sven. I'm not sure what it is, but I don't like it," his father leaned over the table and looked him right in the eye. "You've changed, my boy."

"Err…I don't know what you're talking about." Sven tried to appear nonchalant, though inside he felt he was about to explode.

"What's that noise?" Sven's mother wondered aloud. A muffled sort of cry sounded through the air.

"You must be hearing things, mother. I don't hear a thing."

"Like hell you don't," said his father, "I hear it, too."

"I think it's coming from below your bed, son." Sven's mother leaned over and began approaching the bed.

"Look, perhaps you two ought to leave. I'm really tired and…"

"Sven? Is there something under here?" his mother asked.

"OUT! NOW! GET OUT!" Sven threw open the door, shoved his protesting parents outside, then slammed and barred it.

"Sven? What's going on?" his mother asked, confused.

"You can't just throw us out like that! We're your parents." Sven opened the door and poked his head outside.

"I bloody well can, and I just did. Now go away." He slammed the door again, then began to attend to the problem at hand. He turned toward the bed.

"Sven, please, just tell me what's wrong." Sven's mother was at the window now.

"Gods! Don't you people get PRIVACY? GO AWAY!" Sven stuffed the empty loot bag into the window hole. Finally, he was alone. Sven reached under the bed and pulled out the screaming baby.

"Alright, you. What's wrong now?" he checked the cloth diaper. No, it seemed to be reasonably clean. He picked up the infant and patted it on its back. Still no result. No belching, no barfing. What was wrong? And then he realized. The poor kid hadn't had anything to eat since last night. It was hungry. What do you feed a baby? He thought frantically to himself. The answer came in a flash. Babies drink milk from their mothers. Since he lacked the correct anatomical resources, Sven couldn't possibly feed this baby. Not properly. What he needed now was somebody willing to provide food. He needed a woman.