NORMALLY ERNIE BRIDLINGTON wouldn’t dream of bringing an animal to the surgery, let alone a ewe, but No 276 is different. She’s been scanned with triplets and what’s more, was put to a tup worth £5k.
And now she’s having trouble lambing.
Ernie, waving his shovel hands around at Susie and informing her that he’s already “had a good go at the job”, begrudgingly states that the effort “better be worth it”. The trailer, however, was too much effort, and so 276 is poked into the back of a Nissan van amongst rolls of baler twine, barbed wire, staples and a couple of tubs of rat poison.
The words Because you’re worth it and images of L’Oreal’s unreal glamour girls march through Susie’s head as she rummages around the spaghetti of limbs in 276’s interior. Meanwhile Ernie leans over the ewe’s spine to get a better look (whether at the lambing or at Susie’s cleavage, Susie can’t be sure), and it’s only natural that a few shoppers from the high street drift into the surgery car park and form a little knot around the van doors.
The audience swells with “Ooohs” and “Ahhs” and Susie’s ears burn with such sage and helpful comments as, “My mum helped the neighbour’s cat have kittens last summer, want me to ping her a text, get some tips?” and “On Countryfile they take their tops off, love.”
Susie wills a mask of professional resolve across her inward scowl.
The limbs begin to unwind. A pair of back legs join onto a bottom, and it’s a match. The first lamb emerges, Persil-white and sneezing surprise at its brave new world. A begrudging applause ripples around the audience, and a few folks, assuming the show’s over, melt away.
Susie delves again; Ernie ogles. A second lamb splutters forth, not quite so white but definitely pearly. The ewe bleats relief. Last round. Susie plunges into what has become a cavernous interior; locates the last, turns it round, and pulls forth.
This one, mustard-coloured in its tell-tale jacket of meconium, is a little less enthusiastic about its earthly arrival. But it’s alive, alive, alive, and that’s all that matters.
Susie, now affording a grin, turns for her deserved applause. The expectant smile slides from her face. They’ve all gone. What’s the use of a bunch of voyeuristic bystanders if they all bugger off before the grand finale? Even wretched Ernie slaps Susie on the back and says, “Keep the bill down, would you love” – high praise from Ernie, or at least Susie would like to think so.
As she unbends from the van doors, blood and meconium and amniotic fluid streaking her arms, face, calving top, and even gluing her hair, Susie has to reflect that, Ernie and audiences besides, and very un-L’Orealish, the lambing was indeed worth it.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental. The opinions expressed are those of the characters and should not be confused with those of the author.