Cassandra looked at the piece of A4 paper pinned on the community notice-board, it advertised a job and that was what she was looking for. It read:
Wanted: Babysitter to babysit a baby boy. Must have experience. Females only. Must be available twenty-four hours, seven days a week. Pay and conditions to be discussed upon contact. Please call… XXXX-XXXX
She needed the job, having found herself out of work recently. Having raised children of her own she was more than qualified for the job. Her children had grown up and all left the nest, leaving her available around the clock. She ripped the piece of paper off the community notice-board to make sure she would be the only applicant. Although the idea of not having any time off gave her caution, work was difficult to get these days, so she gave the number a ring.
“Hello,” Cassandra spoke into her phone.
“Hello?” A male voice responded.
“Hi, my name is Cassandra, I’m calling about the babysitting job.”
“Oh, hi Cassandra, my name’s Mel.”
“You must be the father?” Cassandra asked the question with apprehension in her voice.
“Not really, listen why don’t you come around and we can discuss the details face-to-face.”
Cassandra agreed and took down Mel’s address details. The next day Cassandra went to visit Mel, who lived one suburb over from her own home. She knocked on the door of a house with overgrown grass and trees that had never been pruned. An old run-down station wagon remained parked in the driveway, but it didn’t look like it was going anywhere. The door was opened by a man, presumably Mel, who looked just as unkempt as the house did.
“Mel?” Cassandra questioned.
“That’s me,” he patted his stomach, “you must be Cassandra.” He said before going to shake Cassandra’s hand. Mel shook hands like a limp fish and Cassandra noted down the oddity in her mind. Mel showed her into the house which was in absolute disarray and there was some sort of funky smell she hadn’t encountered in all her years that hung heavy in the hallway. “Can I make you a coffee?” Mel asked.
“That would be lovely.” Cassandra sat down at the kitchen table. There was a Hustler magazine in plain sight, but she chose to ignore it.
As Mel made the coffee, he began explaining the situation with his back facing Cassandra. “What I’m about to suggest may sound a little weird. But I want you to keep in mind that I have thought this through quite a lot and have come to this conclusion after careful consideration.”
“What conclusion would that be?”
Mel turned around to face Cassandra, “I’m going to die Cassandra. I’m not asking you to take care of a baby. I’m asking you to take care of me.” The coffee had finished boiling and Mel poured them out a cup each.
Cassandra took a sip of the coffee, she knew how delicate the situation was. “For how long?”
She eyed him and caught right to the chase, “And how will you be paying me?”
“I can’t afford much. I don’t own the house, I pay rent, I’m surviving off welfare. But what I do have is a life insurance policy. It will pay out two hundred and fifty thousand dollars upon the event of my death. I have no friends left, the only family I had were my parents and they’re long gone. I would be making you the sole benefactor of that policy.”
“I don’t think that’s weird at all. It would be a pleasure to keep you company in your final moments.”
“Well, here’s the weird part. I don’t have any terminal illness, I’m not actually dying from any cause. On the inside, I’m already dead. I took out the insurance policy just the other week. In the event that I commit suicide, after a period of fourteen months, I will be eligible for a payout figure as I mentioned previously.”
“You’re going to kill yourself?” Cassandra’s eyes bulged.
“Only after the life insurance policy becomes legit. Then all that money will be yours’.”
Cassandra stood up out of her seat, about to leave, “I’m not going to help you kill yourself.”
Mel held her up, “I’m not asking you to. I can take care of that by myself. I’m going to kill myself anyway, I’ve already decided on that. I just want to give someone the opportunity to make a lot of money as I make my final bow on life’s stage.”
Cassandra sat back down, she thought about. Mel was going to die anyway. He was obviously somewhat deranged. Why shouldn’t she be the one to take advantage of the situation? She decided she would make an attempt to try and change his mind, it was the humane thing to do. “Mel, I don’t know you very well, but suicide is never the answer.”
“Look!” Mel was agitated by the situation, “I have been fucked and fucked and then fucked some more throughout life. I am damaged beyond repair. There is no hope for me. I’m fucking sick of it, I can’t stand living anymore. I hate everyone, everyone hates me and that includes myself. I’m not going to tell you my life story or why I’ve come to the decision I’ve come to, but it’s fair to say that I have attempted to seek professional help previously. I’ve taken every drug and every prescription to try and help my situation, but it has done fuck all for me. There is no answer to my life except one. And that’s death, that’s the answer to everyone’s life and they just don’t get it. People throughout their lives are always asking themselves so many questions. Well, I’ve got the answer to those questions and it’s death. If you’re not going to help me out in this, I’ll just find someone else who will.”
Cassandra thought it over. He was right, if she didn’t agree to do this he would just find someone else who would. Someone with less morals than she. “Okay.”
“You’ll do it?”
“Yes.” The answer pained her to admit, but she was in desperate need of money, and this may well be the answer to her prayers. Mel pulled out a final will and testament, he showed Cassandra the copy of his life insurance policy. Cassandra looked them over very carefully. She then signed to be the benefactor of the life insurance policy. All the paperwork was in order.
“Listen,” Mel explained, “When I advertised for a babysitter for a baby, I meant it. That’s what will be required of you. I’m going to be your little baby boy. I’m going to mentally check out for the next fourteen months and you will have to look after me like you would a baby.”
Cassandra didn’t really understand that, but replied anyway, “Okay, when do I start?”
“Now. You can start by going to buy me some adult diapers.” So Cassandra went to the local pharmacy and bought some adult diapers. She bought other things too, a tonne of baby food and all the necessities to take care of Mel. Mel had given her some money, he told her he had saved up quite a bit of money from his previous jobs and handed it all over to her to take care of his needs. He gave it out sparingly, whenever he wanted something, he seemed to have the cash to cover the expense. Apart from these transactions he was a baby, body and soul.
Apart from the diapers and the other baby related products there was only one other item that Mel insisted on having, and that was beer. Instead of milk he wanted beer. He could live off the baby food and without many things, but he was an alcoholic through and through and his metabolism had adjusted itself for a dependency on liquor.
He would lie in bed everyday drinking beer and shitting himself. Cassandra would change his diapers and apart from the beer he was just like a baby. He would not talk, he would not even give her commands. When he wanted something he would cry out. Cassandra had to move out of her own home and into Mels’ due to this fact. Sometimes she would sit him in front of the television. He seemed to like some shows more than others and through no verbal communication whatsoever, Cassandra came to an understanding of his tastes. It was difficult to move him from one place to another, but she bought a wheelbarrow from the hardware store and wheeled him around the house. Over the fourteen months she developed a mother’s instinct for Mel’s needs. She tried to keep things interesting for herself, she made outfits for Mel and dressed him up in all sorts of ways. She hand fed him. She changed his diapers. She fed him beer while nurturing him in her lap. Once, when she was changing his diapers, Mel let out a stream of urine that went all over her clothes. She had to take a shower and change after that.
Time went by, the months past and she had developed a special bond with Mel. At some points he was her baby boy. At other points she had come to hate him and overall she would not be sad at his passing. She was doing this for the pay-check at the end. The day came when the fourteen months were up, she woke up that morning and found that Mel wasn’t there. He wasn’t anywhere to be seen. She suspected that he had gone off somewhere to do what he had agreed to do fourteen months ago. Away from her.
Cassandra moved back home and continued on with her life. Always waiting for that phone call that would tell her that Mel had been found somewhere dead. She waited for that phone call, but that phone call would never arrive. It would take Cassandra some time to come to any understanding of what had happened.