Business at the Post Office had improved with the going of Bert Mead’s bakery. Cybil had spoken with Melvin Hendladys, the Muckleford baker, with whom she came to an arrangement. Melvin delivered each day a selection of baked items, including cakes, to the Fekenham Post office. Cybil added a light mark-up then sold them to anyone requiring buns, bread or pastries. Horace Gracegirdle had retired, leaving the role of village greengrocer vacant. Cybil once again showed her business acumen. This time she spoke with Horace’s nephew, Neville, who ran his own shop in Muckleford with whom she made a similar arrangement. It proved to be an ideal way for those villagers not wishing to go to Muckleford to buy their daily groceries. With the arrival of the circus, business suddenly increased as circus folk not only purchased pastries and carrots but also daily papers, cigarettes, magazines and other ancillary items.
The morning had arrived sparkling bright defying the season. Cyril had woken Cybil with a cup of tea followed by a peck on the cheek.
“I’m off now my love, going to do my morning rounds. I should be back by ten for a cuddle and a cuppa.”
Cybil smiled then watched him go from the bedroom window. He wasn’t quite as tall as Ralph but there could only be an inch between them. Looking at him now, the back of him, Cybil was filled with an overwhelming sense of love. They had been married now for a little over two years and in that time, although they had their ups and downs, she had never faltered in her devotion to her husband. That adoration was reciprocated with a steadfast, attentive commitment that bordered on piety. If two people had truly been made for each other those two would be Cybil and Cyril Updike.
Cybil finished her tea then ran herself a bath. Her bump had grown. It now presented itself with pride hanging large where her waist once had been. She eased herself into the balm-like water, relaxing in its warm comfort. At six thirty she got out, dried, dressed then went down to open the shop door. Waiting for her was Maurice Tinkercuss the village postman, milkman and part-time fireman. He had already been to the Muckleford sorting office where he had collected the village mail then on to the dairy where he did the same with the milk.
“Mornin’ Cybil, how’s it going?”
“Morning Maurice, I’m fine thanks’. Sorry if I am a bit late.”
“No worries. I have mail and milk. I just wanted to make sure you didn’t have anything else for me?”
“As it happens I do. A parcel was delivered yesterday for the Brigadier; will you take it to him for me?”
“Course, go fetch it and I’ll chuck it in me van.”
Cybil nodded then turned back into her shop, going to the counter to collect the package. She picked it up and as she did felt a sharp stabbing sensation. Clutching at her stomach in shock she emitted a squeal of pain. Hearing her, Maurice called out.
“You all right?”
A low groan was the only response Maurice received.
“My waters have broke.”
“Not to worry,” said the postman reassuringly, “I’ll fetch a plumber.”
“No! Not that sort of water,” groaned Cybil, “my waters, the waters from my womb.”
“Not any bloody room you stupid man,” screamed Cybil, sounding remarkably like her birth mother. “The baby’s coming!”
Maurice’s face went from purple with rage to ashen with fear in the pulse of a heartbeat.
“Right,” he said, trying to sound calm. “Right. Mustn’t panic, mustn’t panic.”
At which point he ran into the street.
“Help! Help! Baby coming! Baby coming! Help! Help!”
It was then that Maurice started hallucinating; at least he thought he was when he saw Ethel Blowvalve pull up in what appeared to be a porcine drawn chariot. Maurice held his head in his hands shaking it. He tried to ignore the delusion even though it continued to speak to him.
“Maurice? Maurice? What on earth is wrong with you?”
Cybil appeared in the Post Office doorway clutching her swollen belly.
“Is that really you Ethel?” enquired Maurice pathetically.
“Of course it’s me you oaf. Who did you think it was?”
“Boudicca.” replied the postman come milkman come fireman come quivering jelly. “I thought I saw a pig pulling you on a chariot.”
“You did. Bladder has grown so big I thought I’d make a wagon for him to pull me in. Now what’s going on? Cybil, are you okay?”
“Her womb’s broke and her waters are leaking. My van is filled with milk, parcels and bottles of post so I can’t get her there.”
“Shut up you fool,” said Ethel, “clambering down from her hand-made carriage, “Cybil, no time to waste, climb up here so I can get you to Doctor Kettle’s surgery.”
Taking hold of Cybil’s elbow, Ethel guided the pregnant postmistress into the stout wooden cart. Seeing Cybil’s look of fear Ethel did her best to reassure her.
“Don’t worry, I didn’t make the cart, Neil Beefshank’s did.”
This fact was meant to dispel any concerns that Cybil may have harboured but unfortunately only exacerbated them.
“But Neil’s a butcher.” said Cybil. .
“He could always slaughter the pig,” said Maurice, desperate to add his two pennies worth.
“Shut up Maurice,” said Ethel and Cybil together.
Maurice watched as Ethel, with Cybil by her side, called out to Bladder to pull the cart. The pig responded with a cheerful grunt but gave Maurice a fearful scowl then shot away more like a bat out of hell than a pig out of Fekenham.
The cart, pulled by the pig, rattled on through the village passing the Hamfists’ farm on the way. They also passed a bemused Vicar Linkthorpe, who was out walking. Susanne. He looked on slack-jawed at the sight of a pig drawn cart carrying two females. He and Susanne had come to the High Street to see ‘the shop.’ The ‘shop,’ brothel in fact, was still being decorated but was nearly ready for its grand opening. Linkthorpe feared that event, not knowing quite how the villagers would take to having the baker’s shop replaced with (by) a bordello. He shrugged and took a long drag on his spliff.
Cybil’s face was wan. She screwed her eyes up as another sharp, all-encompassing pain shot through her. Ethel, from the corner of her eye, observed Cybil with growing feelings of disquiet. She looked up with apprehension as Bladder, now grown far bigger than she thought possible in so few months, dragged the carriage that had been made from old pram wheels and a degree of make-and-do mend carpentry, forward at a pace that was alarming. The pig had its head down and eyes closed. When it opened them again, Bladder, now filled with enough porcine testosterone to flood a sty filled with lady pigs, gave little thought to the ditch. He merely charged on even as Ethel screamed for him to stop. Bladder leapt the ditch, dragging the cart behind. Pig and cart crossed the divide but the sudden leap and subsequent descent made one wheel buckle as the other one came off. Both Ethel and Cybil were thrown out of the carriage with the latter falling onto the former in a strident symphony of shrieks and screams. Ethel lay winded but unhurt, her first thoughts being for Cybil who was panting like a runaway train. Bladder looked back on the wreckage with a hint of joy: he had never really liked pulling the bloody thing in the first place.
“Cybil, are you alright?” enquired Ethel.
“The baby’s coming,” panted Cybil, doing her best to recall what the midwife had instructed her do when in labour. “I can’t stop wanting to push.”
Ethel gathered her senses then smacked Bladder on the nose as he wandered too close. She then turned to Cybil who was lying on her side with tears streaming down her face. She rolled Cybil onto her back, and then brushed her hands down her dress.
“First things first,” said the blonde widow. “At the risk of sounding like Arthur Bentwhistle, those knickers have got to come off.” With that she tore the undergarments from Cybil who really couldn’t care less then she gently pushed the postmistress’s legs apart.
“Right my girl, not very dignified I grant you but when needs must, and they really must at this point in time, we just have to get with it as best we can. Now then, you’ve never had a baby before have you?” Cybil indicated she hadn’t. “That’s good ‘cos I’ve never delivered one.” said Fekenham’s favourite floozy.
In reality there was little for either Ethel or Cybil to do. Nature took hold of the moment, dictating matters that the pair, albeit in their own ways, could only react to. Amid a deal of moans and grunts from Ethel with the occasional noise made by the mother-to-be, the top of a tiny head appeared, apparently deciding whether it really liked the idea of straying into the sunlight or in preference remaining in the warm, dark delights of its mother’s womb. With Mother Nature involved though choices are few and in this case limited to one. Cybil gave one final heave and the baby’s head thrust out to greet the world. At first it stayed with its nose just above its mother’s bottom then, as if deciding it wrong for an infant to gawp over long at something so intimate, it slipped out its shoulders then, quickly after that, its backside, legs and feet.
Ethel held the boy, for a boy it evidently was judging from the well-appointed if small genitalia, and then smiled at Cybil.
“Congratulations, you have a son. Just like his father he is too!”
At this point Elvis Linkthorpe arrived looking pale and shaken.
“Is everything alright?”
“Everything is fine.” said Ethel, passing Cybil her son.
“Oh my!” commented the vicar, a little lost for words.
“Jonah Cyril Harvey Elvis Updike say hello to Granddad,” said Cybil.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.