When Gregory awoke in the early hours of the morning it was not to the howling winds that had picked up about his house. It was not to the whistling of the kettle on the stove (although why his mother was awake he couldn't tell at the time). No, Jenny was at the foot of his bed, baying, the lower half of her plastered in bloods and other fluids. It was time for her to give birth!
He got up and pulled on his dressing gown, pulling the cords tightly against the chill of the night. His hot water bottle had long since become cold. I went to the airing cupboard and pulled a few ratty old towels from the neat piles, mussing up the order.
He took them back to jenny who by now had delivered her first. A puppy unlike her in color and facial shape. While Jenny and Daisy were both the whitest of Sheepdogs you could possibly have seen, this puppy was the purest of black and his face was rounded much like that of a Jack Russell or a Felton Terier. 'So now we know who their bastard father is - The Ratters' dog.'
The reverend picked the tiny creature from his mother, wiping the mucusy blood from his mouth and eyes. He wrapped the young dog carefully and placed him at Jenny's teat where he began to suckle.
"Ma! Jenny is birthing. Can you bring a saucer of milk and a piece of that stew?" Greg almost fell down the stairs to get to his mother. He found her in a trance-like state knitting on a rocking chair, muttering to herself.
"Must make the baby booties, can't let their feet get cold. Gregory I'm so glad you married, your twins are goregous." Her head lolled forward and almost immediately after she got up. "Sorry son. Must've fallen asleep. What did you want?"
"Jenny is birthing. I asked for some milk and stew for her."
"Got it - go see to her and I'll bring them up." She ushered him back up the stairs despite his obvious reluctance to leave his mother in such a fragile state.
When he returned to the room there were four puppies sniffing on the floor. All were of the same color as the first, and having already been licked clean, Gregory covered them in the towels and gave them back to Jenny. It was a good thing Jenny trusted him so much that he didn't get bitten. She let the puppies come to her full teats and suckle, occasionally biting with their gums, but she was already devoted to them and didn't move. Two more puppies were both and given to her, another being born dead.
Then she whined, a long solemn whine that broke the moment and another puppy slipped from her.
This puppy was unlike the others, for one, it was a runt, but the puppy was a beautiful brown with white markings about the feet. The others were surprisingly dull compared to this minisucle sibling. Gregory took the puppy, he wasn't breathing. With the puppy cradled in the last towel he rubbed it vigorously from head to toe, simulating a breathing. The minute dog began to breathe! Greg placed the baby near her mother but she nudged it away - not even acknowledging it after.
"I have the milk, I warmed it slightly." His mother put the milk on the floor for Jenny but Gregory pushed his finger into it and let the dog in his arms suck the milk off his finger. "What are you going to do with him Greg?" His mother put her hand on his shoulder and he felt her words.
"Give him the best chances God can afford, I'll have to mother him, as I mothered Daisy."
"Ok, just remember, runts aren't healthy babies." The sun had started to really rise now and the sunlight poured into the room.
His mother had sat down on his bed in the time it had taken him to watch the sun. He head was lolled forward and she was muttering. "Can I see the twins? Your wife is glowing. Where's my needles?" And she fell forward onto the floor, hitting the wooden boards face first.
Greg almost forgot the dog in his arms. He could have thrown it, he didn't. he pu the dog quickly on his pillow and got his mother off the floor. "Mam - Are you ok?"
"Mammie?" He hadn't used that childish word since years before he left for thelogy college. It felt like the right word. She had died. Sitting there, talking about knitting, an imaginary wife and children.
A few days later Gregory was standing at his altar, trying to give a funeral service to the woman who meant more to him than anyone else ever had.
"Not only has this woman taught me many things. To be a loving son and preacher. But to be joyous, to be sad. For life never ceases! In God's arms my mother will lay,keeping watch of the things that I do." He put his paper down and looked to the coffin. "...she had reached an amazing 67 years or life, a feat many don't even think of. I will not forget her, and i'm sure neither will any of you." he got down from the altar and let a cousin of his do a reading.
In his grief he had neglected to do a service for those days preceding, instead looking after the house and dogs in silence. He'd refused visitors and sat on his own, not reading or eating. Just taking on enough fluids to sustain him. His mother was dead. What else was he to do?