Max was suspicious.

The table was metal, like Workshop, but there were no tools here, or Jarvis, just cotton balls and a lady in a white coat. She had on a long necklace with a shiny button on it.

Mama was holding his hands and telling him he was a good boy. That was not right. Just that morning Max had spilled juice, and in the car he'd made a big fuss about Seat Belt, so Max *knew* he wasn't a good boy.

"It will all be over in a second, Max," the lady in the white coat said. "And then I will give you some stickers for being brave today."

Max liked stickers. He liked to put them on things and take them off again. Over and over.

Dummy liked stickers too, and let Max put them on his claws.

The tribbles did not like stickers.

"Okay, here we go," the lady said, and then she did something and it hurt.

Max yelled! He looked at his leg and he could see a sharp in her hand, and then she was wiping his leg with cotton, but Max was kicking now, and getting really MAD.

Mama was petting him, and the Lady was talking like everything was okay, but Max knew it wasn't. He'd been stuck and that HURT.

He stuck out his lip and cried.

Afterwards, Max let Mama carry him outside and they went to the park. Usually Max loved the park because it was full of stuff to look at and play with and jump on. But Max was cranky.

He let Mama put him on the blanket and give him some juice. Max flopped down and drank a little and then he fell asleep, even though it was not Nap time.

His beach place was there, but Max didn't see Miss Clairol or Augie or the Pengraff babies at all. He tried to stand up but it took a long time because he was hot and tired. Max went to where the water was supposed to be but it wasn't there.

He looked, and it was far away. Very far away.

Max wanted to cry. The water was far away and he wanted to go into it where it would be cold, but he couldn't.

He tried to Up. His wings came out and he bounced, but very slowly because Max was tired. The beach would not be nearer, even though he tried hard and hard and hard to go to it . . .

Max woke up. Mama was holding a washcloth on his head and it felt good. They were at Home, and Max was confused because he thought they were at the park. It was dark outside now, and the tribbles were humming.

He was very tired.

Mama was there and Dada too, and they were talking in low voices.

Max closed his eyes again.

He felt better in the morning. Mama was fussy though, so they had to go in the car again. It was the big car, and Max liked that because Mama could play Patty Cake with him while the happy man drove.

The happy man was a good driver. Max wondered if that was what made him so happy, even though he didn't smile.

Now Max was on the metal table again, and the Lady in the White Coat looked at him carefully.

Max looked at her carefully too. Was she going to stick him again?

"He's had a bit of a reaction, but his vitals are fine and he doesn't have a fever, so I'd say he's on the mend. As long as you keep him hydrated he should be fine."

Hydrated sounded scary. Max hugged Mama tight and was glad when she gave him some juice instead.

In the Wait Room, they waited for Dada to come get them. Max looked around at all the pictures and toys and then he saw a Thing in a man's lap. It was looking at him, and he looked back.

The Thing had a binky.

Max wanted a binky. His was in the car, with Dada.

Max hoped Dad would bring it. He made Down noise and Mama set him on the carpet, keeping an eye on him. Max held on the chair and went over to the Thing.

The Thing looked at him, and Max could see the binky better.

It was a nice one! Max grabbed it; and put it in his own mouth.

"Max!" Mama said.

Max started to wiggle away from her, but then the Thing reached out and grabbed his nose, HARD.

Max yelled and dropped the binky.

The Thing laughed and it sounded so squeaky and funny that Max laughed too, even though his nose hurt a little bit.

"Whoah, Cecilia Jane, let go of the boy, honey," the man said and reached out to take the Thing's fingers off Max's nose.

Max stared at the Thing. The Thing made the funny noise again, and then burped.

Max laughed. He LIKED burping, and the Thing could burp too!

Then Mama picked him up and said she was so sorry to the man and the Thing and gave back the binky. The man laughed said it was no big deal but he put it away. The Thing looked at Max and yelled.

Max yelled too, to show he could.

"Cool it, CeeCee," the man said. The Thing wanted down; Max could tell. It wiggled and twisted, and finally the man set it down. Max walked over when it was on the carpet and stared.

The Thing had overalls, but they were pink.

Max wanted pink overalls.

The Thing had tennis shoes with glitter on them.

Max wanted tennis shoes with glitter on them.

The Thing had a bow on its head, with little shiny hearts on it.

Max . . . did NOT want a bow.

Bows were for . . .

He stared at the Thing and went a little bit closer to it.

The Thing stared back at him, so Max very carefully reeeeeeeached out and . . . poked.

The Thing did that squeaky noise, and rolled over, legs kicking, and everyone smiled. Mama and the man laughed.

Max suddenly wanted to do it again. He went closer and was going to poke the Thing again but the Thing grabbed his hand and tasted his finger!

Max yelled a little; it didn't hurt but it was weird. Then Mama tried to pick him up while Thing's Dada came over.

"I'm really sorry about that; she's not usually a biter," he said. Max was making his Down noise a lot because he wanted to go back to the Thing and poke it more. He put his wet finger in his mouth and it tasted . . . good.

Mama and the man talked while he gave the Thing a rattle.

The Thing threw it far away.

Max decided he liked the Thing.

"He seems fine," Mama said and carefully put Max on the floor. He crawled fast over to the Thing and looked at it again.

This time the Thing looked back at him. Max reached out and grabbed the Thing's overalls.

The Thing said "Ahhhhhmmmawwaaaaa!"

Max got the giggles. He crawled around the Thing in a big circle, and then it started to follow him and that was fun. Max stopped and then it was his turn to try and grab. He did, and he tasted the Thing's fingers.

They tasted like juice!

The Thing did that squeaky noise again and Max really liked that because it made his tummy all funny inside.

"Max!" Mama said, and he looked up. Dada was there too!

Dada squatted down and turned his head a little to the side. Max knew that meant Dada was going to smile, and he did.

"Gotta let go of the girl-baby, MaxQuack."

Girl?

Max stared at the Thing again, suspiciously.

The Thing pulled its hand--her hand—and went "Ahhhwaaaama!" as she patted his face.

Mama and Dada laughed and Max didn't know what to do, so he huffed a little in warning that he might yell or cry, even though he didn't really want to.

"Cecilia?" it was the lady in the white coat, and now the Thing's dada was picking her up off the floor. Max watched her and when she went in the room with the lady in the white coat, Max felt bad.

Dada had him now, and was talking about lunch at the beach, but Max was still worried. He put an arm around Dada's neck and looked over his shoulder as they got ready to go. Max was still watching the door when he heard it.

Everybody heard it, because it was LOUD.

Max sighed sadly and put his head on Dada's shoulder.

Yep.

Thing got stuck too.

In the car, Max fussed about his seat while Mama and Dada talked. Mama called him a heartbreaker, but that was wrong because Max didn't break anything. He was careful.

Dada said it was a guy thing and Mama said no, it was a Stark thing, and hitting on girls before being a year old had to be a record.

Max was mad. He didn't hit the Thing. He poked the Thing and that was okay.

Dada said it wasn't a record because when he was a toddler, he had his ants eating out of his hand.

Max liked that. He liked ants. And hands were good for eating.

Ants were good for eating too, and Max thought about ants and eating.

But mostly, he thought about the Thing before he fell asleep, and he smiled.