They don’t have Mothers’ Day on the planet Llannonn, but around this time is when the pratties give birth. Holly and two of the Council City Living Library are always happy to help.
Birthing Day on Llannonn
by Marian Allen
Every Birthing Day, Head Librarian Holly Jahangiri’s extended family held a reunion. Several of the Jahangiris held adjoining plots of prime pratty grazing land just outside Holly’s home town of Boonieburgh, and Birthing Day was the day all the pratties on Llannonn dropped progeny. Everybody was needed to monitor and assist.
In fact, the ratio of pratty to prattybirther was so disproportionate, Holly had been urged to bring a couple of living books along. Of the volunteers, she had chosen All Creatures Great and Small and Far From the Madding Crowd, on the basis that they had chunks of text about wooly creatures that her Terran acquaintances claimed were very like miniature pratties.
Holly and the books had pedaled into Boonieburgh in Holly’s new sports pedicar the night before and had enjoyed the Pre-Birth Festivities before an early bedtime. They would be up before the sun in the morning.
The morning air in Meadow of Flowers Province, particularly in her native town of Boonieburgh, was rich with the spicy scent of star flowers and the refreshing sharpness of brightherb. She took a deep, appreciative breath as she and the books pedaled out to Ma Jahangiri’s meadow.
The books, one beside her and one behind her, grunted and uchhhed their lack of agreement. Holly was astonished until she realized they were focused on an aroma she had habitually filtered out: manure. When people rhapsodized about “that fresh, clean country air,” she knew they had never been to a pratty ranch.
Ma Jahangiri had seven pratties expecting today. Six were in their stalls in the barn, four of them attended by Jahangiris of fewer years than Ma’s.
“Gosh blame it,” Ma swore, like the salty old rancher that she was. “Pimwose didn’t come in last night. Dag flab that so-and-so!”
Holly resisted the urge to cover the books’ ears. She had warned them that there might be some strong language used during the stressful day, and that no disrespect was intended. Still, a librarian has a responsibility for the moral character of her charges.
Her reflection was interrupted by her mother, who said, “Holly! You and these two fellers of yours go out and track down Pimwose. You always had a way with pratties, even as a girl.”
It was true. If Holly had been familiar with Terran literature back then, she would have thought of herself as Little Bo Peep, for she and pratties had seemed to share a special bond only possible to a child of a pratty rancher.
“Hurry up, now. We don’t want her birthing in the field.”
Indeed, they didn’t. Predators and rustlers lived for Birthing Day.
The three left the barn and Holly led the way to a hollow that had been favored by the pratties of her youth.
There, they found Pimwose, already on her side, panting and heaving.
Holly sat on the ground and stroked the pratty’s neck, murmuring soothing reassurance. She instructed Far From the Madding Crowd to kneel by Pimwose’s midsection and push on her belly at Holly’s cues. All Creatures Great and Small, who bragged, when he was in his cups, that he could probably deliver any Terran animal baby on the basis of his text, Holly ordered to sit in front of Pimwose and take her (Pimwose’s) head in his lap.
Pimwose stopped heaving and gagged.
“Here it comes!” Holly whispered.
But it didn’t come. Pimwose gagged and coughed, heaved more, and made a rather alarming aaaakk aaakk aaakk sound, followed by an unproductive gloomp.
“She needs help,” Holly said, in case the books couldn’t tell. “Creatures, stick your arm down her throat.”
“I need to wash up, first! I need hot water and soap!”
Almost irritated, Holly almost snapped, “What do you think that whacking great bottle of lubricating arm sanitizer is for?”
Creature slathered on the sanitizer and, grimacing with distaste and effort, shoved his arm past Pimwose’s teeth and down her neck.
“Got it!” His face transformed from grimace to glowing wonder. “I’ve got it!” His text kicked in and he gently turned the baby and eased it out.
And there, before them, was a little miracle, a newborn pratty. Hairless and tender-footed, the baby would grow hair and hooves within two weeks and be able to join its fellows in the play pen, then the herd in the flowery meadow.
Three growls above them alerted Holly to danger, for a librarian is always aware of her surroundings.
“Pratty gobblers!” she hissed. “I’ll guard mother and baby. You two drive them off.”
“Why us?” Creatures wanted to know.
Holly played her trump card.
“Because I said so.”
At the lowest point of the rim of the hollow stood three short-necked birds with thick stubby legs, and beaks that looked like they could snap a pratty’s bone – or a Llannonninn’s bone – right in two. Which they could. Each was half the size of a person. Any one of them could gobble a baby pratty in a moment – hence, the name – and three of them could easily dispatch a grown pratty who had just given birth.
“Drive them off!” Holly repeated. “I have to get Pimwose on her feet so we can take her back to the barn. She’ll never survive out here.”
All Creatures tried to make himself look smaller which, when you come to think about it, probably wasn’t the best idea he’d ever had.
“I’m a book about veterinarians, dammit,” he said, “not a book about pratty gobbler drivers!”
“Leave this to me,” said the taciturn Far From the Madding Crowd, spinning his shepherd’s crook with an expertise that made Holly almost hear exciting music. In two very large steps, he waded into the pratty gobblers, landing very satisfying thumps and drawing from the predators very satisfying squawks.
Meanwhile, Holly (the baby pratty tucked into her tunic) and All Creatures Great and Small urged Pimwose to her feet.
As the thwacks and pained whistles receded, Pimwose followed Holly and the scent of her (Pimwose’s) baby back to the barn, where she and her rescuers were met by Far From the Madding Crowd, spotted with the hero’s badges of blood and feathers.
“Well done!” said Ma Jahangiri, not glancing up from the pratty she was tending. “But don’t just stand there looking pleased with yourself; there’s still two waiting in those stalls over there.”
“Welcome to my world,” Holly said to the books as they went, together, to help usher in the miracle of life.
MY PROMPT TODAY: Holly Jahangiri and Mother’s Day