The woman stood over the boy’s bed, choking back the sobs. The sharp smell in the air didn’t help her tears.
“Hush little baby, don’t say a word”
The woman gently stroked her son’s hair as he lay down in his bed. She fought to keep her hand steady.
“Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.”
Her voice shook with fear, and she looked at the window to see silhouettes swiftly strutting across her field of vision like moving shadows.
“And if that mockingbird don’t sing”
The child stifled a yawn, and she continued to stroke the side of his head. With her other hand, she took his, and ran her fingers along his knuckles.
“Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.”
The woman could not hold back tears now, as she heard the familiar footsteps approaching the door.
“And if that diamond ring turns brass”
She heard a loud thumping sound as the doors banged open and hit the walls. Still she continued her song, trying to swallow the bile of her thoughts.
“Mama’s gonna buy you a looking glass.”
The woman choked on her words in a moment of fright. On a thought of what might be.
“And if that looking glass gets broke”
The sound of heavy footsteps greeted the other ones. The woman’s heart beat heavily in her chest. The footsteps’ owners talked in hushed tones outside her door.
“Mama’s gonna buy you a billy goat”
The mother watched her son sleep peacefully; the innocence on his sleeping face made the palpitations of her heart all the heavier.
“And if that billy goat don’t pull.”
She caught a lump in her throat when she saw one less shadow from beneath a crack in the door.
“Mama’s gonna buy you a cart and a bull.”
Her voice quivered. Her resolve was all but gone.
“And if that cart and bull turn over.”
The shadow owner’s whispers were barely audible. She could not control her trembling hands.
“Mama’s gonna buy you a dog named Rover.”
The door screeched open, but the mother continued singing softly to her son. Tears came, now, despite her best efforts to restrain them.
“And if that dog named Rover don’t bark”
The woman looked upon the man with sandy brown hair with harsh green eyes. He wore what looked to be an expensive suit, which he straightened upon entrance. His entrance broke all resolve.
“Mama’s gonna buy you a horse and cart.”
The man looked down at the woman and her son.
“And if that horse and cart fall down…”
The man put a long, bony finger to his lips. His footsteps echoed through the room.
“You’ll still be the sweetest little boy in town…”
He knelt next to her and put a slender arm around her.
“So hush little baby…”
Gradually, the woman took her hands off her boy and buried her face in them. Her word came muffled.
“Don’t you cry…”
The man pulled a plug, and the line went flat. His smile vanished, and he sang.
“Daddy loves you and so do I.”