This evening my wife gave birth to a litter of puppies. I had noticed her belly pouting for several weeks. Eventually it started to expand, drooping like a watermelon under her skin. And tonight, after a hearty dinner of potatoes and beef she waddled from the kitchen to the corner of our garage and began to whimper. I remembered the symptoms from wartime medical training. The woman in Sarajevo, who gave birth to pigs, never left my mind. This was no different. I followed my wife into the swarthy dampness and watched her remove her clothes, every piece of clothing except her pearl necklace and her brown stockings, which clung haphazardly from her swollen thighs. She stood for a moment staring into me with naked profundity then, grunting, she released a deluge of birth-sea from her loins onto the cold floor.
I managed to recall where we kept a large enough box. I went to the basement and produced the corrugated box in which our new water heater had been delivered. I heard her begin to yelp. The stirring of lights and voices commenced around the block. As I dragged the cardboard up the stairs I heard a sharp tick-tock on the glass of the front door. Setting the box down, I went to the entrance to discern the shadow behind the milky exterior. I twisted the knob and the door came slightly ajar, gagging sharply on the end of the door latch.
"Hey Joseph, itís Stan! It sounds like the missus is in your garage, but she donít sound real good."
"She giving birth, good neighbor."
"No kidding? Can I watch?"
I unhooked the chain. He followed me into the garage holding the small end of the box languidly. She lay in a different corner, this time beside the Toyota, which frightened me at first. In a moment of panic I imagined her jumping into the well. Stan gawked at her nakedness while I prepared a proper place for her to lie. I grabbed several blankets from the bed of my truck and set them in layers inside the box, which would soak up urine, blood, and whatever else. I sliced the box long way so she could breathe. Stan stood fumbling in his pockets and mumbling to himself in-between the jagged cries of my wife.
"Wow. Iíve never seen a woman give birth. My wife never let me go into the barn when she had ours."
I replied, "I need you to help me carry her over to the box."
He grabbed her ankles with his balmy hands while I hooked mine under her armpits to support her weight. We set her gently into the depths of the box, while she turned to face me saying, "Iím dreadfully sorry, Joseph."
Soon the neighbors were standing in a semicircle outside the house waiting to view the miracle like lusty saints. I lifted the garage door and they filed in two by two. They all carried candles of reverence and burned effigies of their children. The gay couple down the street brought frankincense and myrrh. One man brought a chicken. It squawked and fought with the tenacity of the soon-to-be executed. Itís feathers came loose in the melee and floated like snow around the manger. Two matronly women held the chicken in place while the man removed his shirt, slipping a box-knife from his pressed trousers. My wife screamed and the chicken struggled. His blade gleamed wickedly, and with two, three, four slices of the blade the man severed the birdís head, lifting the red and white mess to the ceiling allowing the blood of the animal to shower him. The feathers around the chickenís decapitated head turned a weird shade of pink. The onlookers applauded. I leaned over the edge of the box and watched with curiosity as my wife rolled over on her side as she panted and let loose a watercourse of obscenities
. "The first one is coming!" I announced.
I watched my wifeís legs part as the membranous newborn pressed outward from her aperture. She howled as the animal protruded forth into the world and fell from her womb. She lifted it with swollen ringed fingers, licked the dog-child clean and placed it on the cusp of her fleshy breasts. The dog squirmed and fought, but soon found the nipple where it rested.
The second and third were rapid in succession. My wife gripped the sides of the box, which collapsed in her hands while she vacillated between puffing and moaning. Number two was fast out of the tract. It slid with less effort than its sibling, and she proceeded to clean it thoroughly while number three flew out like a wet baseball.
Number four came out dead. Its body was black. Rotted. Its features had decomposed slightly as it floated, a corpse in the life-water of its siblings. My wife took the rancid child and buried it in the folds of the blankets. I noticed a small rivulet of a tear drop like dew from the side of a pink mountain. In a moment of short energy the placenta burst from her cave like a purple heart. It seemed alive as it jiggled on the soiled quilt with pastoral patterns of little Dutch boys and girls with linked hands and stitched smiles. I wonder if they, the children, were real? If they were, did they have a litter too? My wife propped up slightly and devoured the organ like a starved animal.
"Congratulations, Joseph." Stan proclaimed, slapping me with manful intent on the back, while the rest of the men filed around and shook my sweaty hands. The women cooed and mewled over the newborns, talking in unintelligible baby talk. My wife slumped half-destroyed in the box breathing soft rations of stale air. I knelt and kissed her clammy forehead.
"Joseph, Iím so glad we decided to have dogs instead of babies, they will be so much easier to take care of, donít you agree?"
"Yes, Marylyn. Woof."
I walked outside into the doggone bitter air. The fires of a million homes seemed to burn in every possible direction and distance, all chimney red and leprechaun green. The night was an enormous strand of lights, Christmas lights, and we were the crowning star.
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