by Patricia Russo
"No," I told Mimi.
"His name’s Van," she said, fussing over the bassinet like she hadn’t heard. Then she stopped, tired of playacting. "It’ll only be for a little bit. As soon as I get an apartment I’ll be back for him."
I knew that was a lie. She hadn’t brought any diapers, or formula, or even a change of clothes. Just a bassinet, a blanket, & a baby. A boy baby. He still had the hospital tag stapled around his wrist.
That’s what I get for thinking girls were different. I knew I should’ve taken care of Mimi like I did all the boys the first time she hit me across the mouth & stole the money out of my purse. But it was too late then. She was fourteen, & stronger than me.
Mimi didn’t hit me that much nowadays. Mostly because she wasn’t around a lot.
But now she’d gone & done this.
"He’s your son," I said. "You take care of him yourself, damnit."
"Goddamn old bitch," she yelled. "You’re my mother. You’re supposed to help me!"
Of course the baby started screaming. Mimi glared at me like it was my fault, snatched her jacket off the back of the chair, & slammed out the door.
She wouldn’t be back. Not for months, if I was lucky.
I looked at the squalling baby, & thought: serves you right. I couldn’t deny it. I’d let Mimi live & now I’d gotten what I deserved.
I heard Lennie come rolling out of his room to see what was going on. it took him a long time, sipping & sucking on the mouthpiece that controlled the chair. When we saw the bassinet on the kitchen table, he stopped.
"Mimi’s," I said.
Lennie’s head waggled loosely.
I had made a mistake with Lennie. But he was my first, & I thought maybe I didn’t have to kill him, if I made sure he didn’t get too big or too strong. Actually I was right. Lennie was sure no threat to anyone, what with the quadriplegia & the brain damage. His disability check helped out with the rent, too. But one Lennie was enough for any mother.
When he was born, Lennie looked a lot like van did now. Tiny face, wrinkled up nose, teeny curled-up fingers, feet only as long as my thumb.
"Go back to your room," I said.
He went, slowly.
I gazed down at Van. By the time he was twelve or thirteen, he’d outweigh me. By fifteen, he’d be four inches taller. At eighteen, he’d be a monster, his open hand as wide as my face, his arms half again as long as mine. Both my feet would fit into one of his shoes. He’d be able to knock me down with a half-hearted shove. Smash my skull with one blow of his fist.
I wasn’t safe.
Mimi wasn’t safe, either.
How could we be, when we gave birth to monsters?
I lifted Van out of the bassinet & carried him to my bedroom. He was still crying some.
Pulling the fat goosedown pillow out from under the sheet, I set it on the center of the bedspread, then laid Van on it, face down.
He sank right in. after a few seconds, his feet started to kick a little bit.
I left the room, shutting the door behind me. In an hour or so I’d go back, just to check. But I was sure Van couldn’t get himself off the pillow, not at his age. Just about anything will kill them when they’re that young.