Though impractical as a nursery the attic afforded both light and space. My husband’s mother occupied the guest room and given her condition we’d not thought it wise to move her. Her anomalous lungs grew stiffer each day. Her pale blue face expressionless despite the unmediated pain. She was not long for this world and it felt to me as if a part of her had already departed.
“Place this in the baby’s bassinet…” I took the straw doll from my mother-in-law’s withered hand. The effluvium of her decomposing breath forcing an unconscious retreat.
“What’s in the pouch?” I already knew the answer some days ago she’d come to me with a pair of cooking shears and clipped a lock of the hair from the base of my neck.
“You ask a lot of unnecessary questions…” She eyed me with something between surrender and frustration.
“You know how I feel about Voodoo…I am a Christian….I intend to raise the baby as a Christian…” I said trying to keep my voice firm but respectful. We’d argued over religion in the past but my husband had assured me nothing would ever come of the conversations. She’d never forcefully interfered with his conversion despite verbal objection. Now that she was ill there was little she could do. It was very unlikely her grandson would ever have the opportunity to know her. I did not pity him.
“Pfft…it’s not Voodoo…it’s nothing but a simple protective charm….” She said arms folded across her shrunken frame. She looked as if she might crack a smile but it was only a moment before her features fell again into retirement. “I don’t want to cause you no alarm…but he’s a-coming….” She said her voice nothing more than a ravaged whisper.
“Whose a-coming?” I asked studying the sutures of her loosely drawn skin, as if the folds could be divined sans explanation.
“The baby….” She said the tone in her voice unnerved me even more than her words.
“In three weeks yes…” I said overly enunciating each word in the hope that hers would not recant mine.
“I suspect he’ll be here in the next few days…a weak baby like that…could use a bit of luck…don’t you think?” She asked staring down at my bulbous abdomen her traitorous eyes as black as pitch. I placed my hand protectively over my belly and bolted for the attic.
“Do as I say girl if you want the baby to live….” I felt her voice murmuring in my bones, in the back of my skull like a haunting.