The chair keeps moving back, forward, back, forward. It's mostly for the bonding of late. Little Danny has fallen asleep long, long ago. But for Elspeth, that month might as well not have happened. She still holds him in her arms, crooning in her cracked voice, whispering comforting words.
"It's alright, Danny," she murmurs. "I'm still here, still here for you. Everyone else thinks there's nothing left for you. I know better." She stops and sighs. "I wish I could be with your soul. It was so much easier to care for you before your death." She smiles down at him, ignoring how his rotting flesh hangs slack around the face that peeps out of the filthy blanket, how glossy his eyes are. "But I trust those people I sent up there to care for you. They are doing the job well. You don't know that story? Alright, I'll tell you, but you must go to sleep right afterwards. Promise? Okay."
"We've always had problems, but there's always a solution. Sometimes I envy you, Danny. You just rest through all this."
Elspeth walked into her house, clutching a blue bundle in her arms, hoping that her father wouldn't notice that she held her two month old son in her arms. Without looking away from the TV that blazed trashy movies, Joe Trinson said, "So, the resident slut decides to come home. Got any cash? It's only due after you brought that damn baby in here, letting him eat all our food." Elspeth gritted her teeth and tossed a tiny rolled up piece of money at her only parent. Don't know why I bother trying to get my Danny a future, she muttered in her head. The fat old son of a bitch won't let me save a penny for his college.
But she knew why she kept trying. Dan was her life, since her boyfriend walked out on her and she had to drop out of school at her father's command. Joe made her get a job because he insisted the baby was a huge expense. He was one to talk. He drank at the expense of her not eating. It would have been ironic if it hadn't been heartbreaking to hear Danny crying for food that rarely came. He ate innocently, without a single thought that because of his appetite, his mother would only have six meals that week. Six wasn't nearly enough in the face of Joe's abuse. He'd drink, she'd knock over his ashtray by accident, or come into the room in an exciting part of the movie, and Joe would drop everything to beat her savagely. If Dan let out a peep that he heard, both she and the two month old would be sent to sleep in the cramped doghouse for the night. "If so much as a finger leaves that doghouse," Joe loved to threaten, "I'll beat you until you can't stand up and throw your precious brat down the river." Lying there under the stars, Elspeth often wondered where her mother had gone. Her mother was the kindest being on the face of the earth, and when she left the house after Joe’s worst day, what peace there had been in the house went with her. That was the stem of Elspeth’s fear for her son. She was afraid that if she left Danny alone for a minute, Joe would hurt him. She couldn’t bear it if anything happened to her son.
"Sweetie, no thing as common as death could keep me from watching out for you. Sleep well."
Dan lay in Elspeth’s lap in her dingy bedroom. His cheeks were thin, his head sweaty, and his eyes were glazed. He used to cry, but not anymore. It was as if he learned that Joe would never feed either of them. He didn’t cry over his condition. He hung lifeless on the thin thread between living and dying. Elspeth didn’t cry either. Her subconscious kept her from facing her baby boy’s illness, from facing that without him, she had nothing. Every part of her thought that death didn’t make a difference, that he was simply sleepy, that it was a growth spurt. When at last, weary of malnutrition, of having nothing at all, his heart stopped, Elspeth smiled. Finally, she thought. He’s sleeping, better than ever before. A nice long sleep, with better dreams for an afterlife. She set the newly made corpse of her treasure down on her bed.
"Only the Best"
“See,” Elspeth crooned, “things were always hard for us at your grandpa’s. I could have killed him, but I didn’t want you to be burdened with him in your afterlife. Only the kind ones can care for you. I made sure of that.”
After tenderly tucking a blanket around her baby and taking Dan into her arms, Elspeth opened the door from her room and entered the living room. “Whada’ya want, you free-loading bitch?” Joe snarled.
“Sit tight, sweetie,” Elspeth whispered, setting her baby on an armchair.
“You brought that punk in my living room?” Joe growled. Elspeth pinched in her cheeks.
“You’re setting a bad example for your grandson,” she rebuked. Checking first to make sure Dan’s eyes were closed, then gripped the kitchen chair sitting in the living room. Joe stood up, swaying from side to side, staggering over to his daughter. She could smell the Bud Light on his breath.
“You still here, whore? Why don’t you go out with your little bastard and earn some more money so I can afford the shot to put in you?” He leaned over, putting his face in hers. “Ya hear me? Ya hear me, or do I have to push it through your goddamn hard skull? You want me to—” his words were cut off in a spray of blood. Elspeth lowered the chair, breathing heavily. Joe fell to the ground. Liquor and pain clouded his mind, but he still saw the look in his daughter’s eyes. She saw the fear in his.
“I’m not gonna kill you,” she spat, picking up her baby. “Danny’s sleeping now, and any afterlife with you in it is nothing but a nightmare. Only the best can go take care of him. Oh, I’ll be sure to tell Mom you said hello.” Joe could barely comprehend a word she said before the pain swirled his vision into blackness.
“You never knew your granny in this life, sweetheart. She loved you. She loved you so much she cried.”
“Elspeth!” Laura Trinson cried. “It’s been years, literally! Come in, come in. How did you find me?”
“It took a heck of a time,” Elspeth remarked.
“Oh, who’s the little guy?” Laura exclaimed.
“My son,” Elspeth said proudly.
“Oh, congratulations! Come, sit down, tell me about your life. How’s your father?”
“Not much better. I’d rather not speak of it,” said Elsie, sitting down and placing her purse on her lap.
“Hey, would you like to hold Danny? That’s his name.”
“Oh! I’d love to!” Laura took the baby into her arms.
“Aw, he’s asl—Oh my god! Elsie, this baby is dead! What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“Shush! Death is a delicate sleep. That’s what I’m here for, anyway. I need you to watch over him for me."
"Elspeth, this baby has been dead for days! There's no way I can even keep him in the house, let alone babysit him!" Elspeth laughed.
"Come on, it's easy! He never cries. I just need someone to head to the afterlife, to keep him safe." Laura's mouth fell open in horror as she saw the butt of a gun emerging from her child's purse.
"You're insane!" she cried, and began to sob.
"Mother," Elsie pleaded, "He's all I have! You left, Dad beats me... Dan is my life! If I can't be with him, I still need to look out for him! Won't you help me?"
"If you want him safe," Laura said quickly, "Why don't you go yourself?" A tear rolled down Elspeth's cheek. Another one traced the wet path. Finally, she started to cry. Little sobs at first, getting more intense, shaking her until it sounded like her heart was breaking. "I was never a good mother to him," she screamed. "I never fought for him. I let him starve instead of coming up with a plan. I might as well have killed him myself! You're the best woman I know. You can be his mother." With that, the bullet left the barrel and entered Laura's brain.
"Every good person I knew, every kind, gentle man and woman," Elspeth whispered, "Got sent up there with you. I killed them all, to care for you. The good die, all for you, Danny. All for you."