I wanted to stay with her too but Mama said I should head off to bed since I had to go to work in the morning. Mama stayed with her the whole night though she didn’t deliver until morning. She waited to give birth with the sun. Mama and I don’t normally help with the lambing, but then again we’ve never done it in the wintertime before. Not since I've been born at least. We’d never had to. But this way Mama said we’d have lambs ready by Easter and then again in the fall. Normally I wouldn’t mind. Winter’s not too busy after all and I like to help with the lambing, but ever since summer I been working a job off the farm too. It makes for less time to help around here. So this morning while I been in the house bringing oatmeal to a boil, Mama and Louisey been out in the shed bringing baby lambs into the world.
When I finished breakfast I put on my coat and headed out to the shed. Mama wasn’t with her though. She was sitting on a stool, face in her hands.
She looked up and forced a smile. “Hey Sug!”
“What’s wrong Mama?”
“Poor Louisey, she had dystocia. Real bad. By the time I could deliver they were stillborn.”
“Oh Mama, I’m sorry!”
“Two precious little lambs.”
“Oh Mama,” I kneeled down and wrapped my arms around her. “I’m sorry Mama. Where's Louisey?”
“The dystocia, it was real bad.”
“Oh, Mama!” I squeezed her tighter. “Why didn’t you call me to help?”
“Wasn’t nothing another set of hands could do anything about.” Her smile was brave, “You better go to work.”
I crawled into our truck and rolled out onto the road. I followed it over the river, through the woods, and started my ascent up out of the valley. I breached the crest towards the county road when the truck stuttered and stalled. I turned the key. Not a sound. I tried again. The engine didn’t turn. It was still. I sunk a little further into my seat. There was a gas station up on the county road but it wasn’t for another couple miles. If I stayed with our truck on the back roads it could be hours before someone came along. Maybe longer. I zipped up my coat, knotted my scarf, and headed towards the county road on foot. I knew what this meant for Mama and I. Where else would I be able to work? I walked to the gas station in shame. What will we do now?
The lights are turned way down low, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow
* * *
“Hello, Allison? It’s Sophie.”
“Sophie, where are you?”
“Allison, I’m so, so sorry. I know my shift started over an hour ago but our truck stalled and I couldn’t get it to start again.”
“Where are you calling from?”
“I’m using the pay phone at the gas station.”
“Your truck’s at the gas station?”
“Erm, no. A few miles from the gas station.”
“Oh, Sophie dear! You walked for over an hour in this weather!”
“I’m so sorry Allison, It just died!”
“Sophie, don’t you worry about that. These things happen. I’m going to send Danny over and he can pick you up. Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
“Just sit tight, Soph. Danny will be right over.” She hung the receiver on the hook.
“God bless you Allison.”
I was so relieved to see Danny. I could tell he was happy to be running this special errand for me too. I ran out to his truck and popped up into the front seat.
“I hear you went for a morning stroll.”
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t kid. Are you okay?”
“I dunno," I slipped him another smile, "I guess I’m okay now.”
He beamed back. “What are we gunna do about that ‘ol truck of yours?”
“Gosh, we woulda been better off if Dad just left us one of his horses instead of that rusted clunker!”
After work Danny drove me back to our truck.
“Alright, try starting it now.” The flywheel engaged, the crankshaft rotated, the engine turned over, rolled, groaned, and coughed to life. “Don’t be afraid to push heavy on the gas when you’re coming up on the clutch. It’ll help keep it from stalling.”
“Thanks Danny! I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“If you ever have any trouble again, give me a call. Anytime.”
“Okay! Thanks again!” I shifted into gear.
Danny jumped down from his truck, motioning for me to roll down my window. I craned the side of my head out the window to hear over the rumbling engines. He bounded over and kissed me on the cheek.
After chores I helped Mama put Louisey’s body with her lambs in the compost windrow. We covered their bodies with sawdust and snow and walked back to the house.
“I started some stew in the crock-pot during breakfast Mama. It should be nice and melded by now.”
I paused and turned to face her. “I’m sorry about Louisey, I—”
She stopped me with her hand on my shoulder. “All that hope and anticipation that builds in us with their growing bellies—it’s so hard when we lose the first one. But it’s alright Sug. These things happen. Tulip, Emma-Lee, and Georgette will have their turn. Then Valentine, Miss Havisham, and Wanda-Jack soon after. Can you imagine by Easter? We'll have so many sweet little lambs bounding about! Oooh, that stew smells so good!”