Excerpt of St Albans Fire by Archer Mayor
(Page 3 of 5)
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That was one of the things that had so disappointed him with Marianne. He'd
envisioned her here, with him, working by his side in the barn, sharing a
lifestyle that he'd been taught by his father and which he cherished as among
the best in the world. But that was before he'd woken up to her true nature.
It was pretty clear now he'd been fantasizing from the start, fueled entirely
by his hunger for her.
Unconsciously, he reached out and laid his hand on the smooth haunch of a
nearby cow, taking comfort from its warmth. Now that he was here, surrounded by
all that gave him sustenance, he recognized how foolish he'd been, and how, in
fact, he might end up having to thank Marianne for dumping him.
Not that he was quite ready for that yet.
A sudden lowing from near the stable's far wall made him move quickly in
that direction, both the sound and his experience preparing him for what he soon
saw. A large cow was lying in a calving pen apart from the stalls, her benign
expression at odds with the obvious tension rippling through her body. From her
hind quarters, a glistening, milky white sack, the size of a duffel bag, was
working its way into the half-lit world.
Gently, Bobby entered the stall. "Hey there, Annie," he said quietly,
"you're rushing things. You were supposed to wait a few more days."
He positioned himself behind her and cradled the wet, slippery sack as it
continued to emerge from the birth canal, the calf's front feet and nose
visible through the thin membrane. Excited and fearful at his lucky timing,
Bobby seized the feet as the sack ripped open, and half caught, half eased the
bundle onto the hay-covered ground, straining against both the weight and the
awkwardness of his package.
Now on his knees, covered with blood, viscous fluid, and the wet, powerful
smell of afterbirth, he struggled against Annie's large, inquisitive nose as
she tried to push him out of the way to conduct a maternal inspection.
"Easy, girl. Let me do this," he urged, struggling with the small, slimy
creature in an attempt to lift its hind leg and check its sex. Successful at
last, he smiled at what he found. "Nice, Anniea future milker. Good
Free to get to work, Annie's enormous tongue immediately began rasping
against the calf's nose and eyes with surprising force, cleaning it off as it
snorted and shook its head.
Bobby moved back and sat on his haunches, smiling broadly, all thoughts of
Marianne banished, and admired the scene, pleased not only by the sight but also
by the fact that he'd worked without direction or help. In the morning, he'd
surprise his father with this tale of serendipity.
Which thought brought him back to reality. His job wasn't done yet, and
what he had to do was way beyond Annie's capabilities. After cleaning up the
mess and spreading more sawdust, he traveled back the length of the stable to
the milk room and opened up the cabinet housing the drugs and medicines. After
setting out two buckets to be filled with tepid water for Annie, he prepared one
2 cc syringe for injection into the calf's nostril and loaded a pill gun so he
could deliver a bolus of medicine straight down its throat. He then returned to
the pen and distracted the mother with the water, which she gulped down in a
thirsty panic while he set out to medicate the newcomer.
Now he was done, he thought, stepping back at last and slipping the syringe
into his breast pocket for later disposal. Almost.
Still smiling, he made for the nearest shortcut to the vast hayloft overhead:
a broad wooden ladder punching through an open trapdoor in the ceiling. The
least he could do was supply the happy twosome with some fresh hay.
Climbing with the ease of a seasoned sailor up a ratline, Bobby broke through
to the hayloft floor in seconds, its suddenly enormous, domed, black vastness
emphasized by its emptiness. So late in the season, there was but one towering
pile of bales left, against the far south wall. The rest of the expansive floor
space was bare, aside from a six-inch layer of chaff rustling underfoot.
Copyright © 2005 by Archer Mayor