Jebediah's Night In
Jebediah’s Night In
By Tony DeLorger © 2011
Jebediah peered up at the darkened cloud cover. Continually evolving and swelling, the grey plumes rushed swiftly, filling the sky with an ominous blanket of thick lightless fog. He stroked his beard and went inside, going straight to the fire and stoking it to life. With winter on the doorstep, this could be the first rain and in the mountains that meant trouble.
The cabin was firmly grounded on bedrock and Jeb had done his best to build it strong, but water in great volume found its own way and with the summit so far up behind him, he always worried about it.
Having lashed down everything he could and tending his horse in the shelter behind the cabin, he happily locked the front door and swung the old iron pot over the fire to heat up some stew. He sat on his haunches in front of the fire, rubbing his hands together. There was an icy chill in the air and even Hector, Jeb’s canine companion sat sleepily on his blanket by the fire, unwilling to move. Jeb looked at him and shook his head. ‘You’re no fool, boy,’ he said with a smile, grabbing a ladle and stirring the thick glutinous liquid.
Jeb sat at his makeshift table and slurped the hot stew by candlelight, Hector now interested and sitting obediently by Jeb’s leg, eyes wide, ears pricked up with that expectant expression of excitement hard to ignore. ‘Bring ya Bowl!’ snapped Jeb. Hector rushed to the corner and retrieved his tin bowl, bringing it back and dropping it at Jeb’s feet. Jeb went to the pot and filled the bowl, leaving it next to the fire. There were no thanks, not a word; Hector’s head buried in the bowl before it even touched the floor.
Jeb was just about to sit down and continue his own meal when a loud wrap on the door startled him. He stood there for a moment, wondering who the hell would be out there, when another wrap echoed in the cabin, this time with a plea for help. Jeb removed the door brace and opened the door to find a young man with a girl in his arms, soaked. The man pushed his way in, panicked, and rushed over to Jeb’s bed, placing the girl gently on it. She groaned in pain.
‘The child’s near,’ the man shouted, fussing over her and arranging a blanket. Jeb grabbed another blanket from a chest and gave it to the man. ‘I’m sorry, mister, the names Jenkins...Henry Jenkins. This is my wife Sarah. She’s not due for three weeks but she fell from our buggy and everything just started up.’
‘What the hell ya doin up here?’ asked Jeb, still in shock.
‘On the way to Jessop, took the mountain road ‘cause it’s quicker. Then this storm started brewin, the horse got jumpy and here we are.’
‘Hope ya know what to do Jenkins, I ain’t no family man?’
Henry just looked at him blankly, the fear rising up in him like a freight train. Sarah groaned again, half conscious, clutching at her extended stomach and rocking gently as the contraction took hold. Henry dropped to his knees, stoking her forehead and talking softly and encouragingly.
‘Boiled water...and towels; ain’t that what ya supposed to do,’ asked Jeb, feeling helpless.
‘Do it; I don’t know what else,’
Jeb busied himself then quickly returned to the bed. ‘What now then?’
Henry looked down under Sarah’s dress and saw the babies head was crowning. It looked disgusting; a round wet hairy thing about to burst forth. ‘Lord Jesus!’ he cried, instinctively washing his hands in the hot water bucket Jeb has placed next to the bed. He dried his hands and placed a towel under Sarah and pulled back the folds of her dress.
Suddenly she screamed, the shrill sound piecing and nearly taking off their heads. Jeb moved to the head of the bed, unwilling to see anything. Henry moved to the end, staring down the barrel, hands out like a baseball catcher.
‘It’ll be fine,’ said Jeb, not knowing what to do.
‘Hold her hand; help her push,’ shouted Henry, trying to be heard over the wind squall outside.
Jeb knelt down and grabbed Sarah’s hand; she immediately clamped down on his with the force of a bear trap. Jeb flinched, his eyes wide.
‘Push, Sarah!’ shouted Henry, the babies head slowly immerging.
Sarah hunched up and pushed down, her face grimaced and bright red. She cried and grunted, then fell back down unable to push any longer.
‘The head's almost there Sarah; one more push ‘ill do it!’
Sarah hunched up again and Jeb supported her back, his face contorted, feeling every bit of her desperate last push.
‘It’s coming.....it’s out. The babies head’s out, Sarah; one more time...you can do it.’
Sarah exhaustedly lifted her head and squeezed down with every last ounce of energy. With one painful parting the shoulders appeared, and then the baby’s body launched itself into Henry’s arms, like a spat melon seed. He quickly and nervously wrapped the baby in a towel and laid it on Sarah’s stomach. ‘What is it?’ she slurred, barely conscious.
‘It’s a baby,’ followed Jeb, his mouth gaping.
Henry parted the towel and looked down. ‘It’s a boy!’ he said excitedly, just as the child opened its mouth and screamed at the top of its lungs. Jeb was dumbfounded, amazed and speechless. All he could do was smile, a toothy unstoppable smile that looked a little odd. Henry, Sarah and the baby were all tangled up on the bed, gooing and garing when another contraction took over. Henry looked up. ‘Have ya got any twine? Something to tie the cord,’ he asked. Jeb ran to a drawer and retrieved a ball of twine he used for tying up ducks feet when he caught ‘em.
‘Perfect,’ said Henry, as he took a small piece of the twine with his penknife and quickly tied the cord a few inches from the baby’s tummy. Then he cut the chord above it, just as the afterbirth emerged, falling out on the towel covered bed. Jeb felt a sudden compulsion to vomit but he swallowed and held it in, taking the towel with the afterbirth and guiding it apprehensively into the water bucket. The sound of it made him shudder and he averted his head.
Henry grabbed another towel and folded it tight, placing it with pressure on Sarah’ bloodied nether regions. ‘She’s not bleeding too much; everything must be OK,’ said Henry, his voice slight but relieved.
Jeb flopped down on a nearby chair and sighed, feeling exhausted; the most intense ten minutes of his life. Henry looked up as Sarah placed the baby to her breast to feed. The child was strong and was suckling well, her mother looking down adoringly
‘We didn’t even get your name,’ said Henry with a smile.
‘Pleased to meet ya Jeb; so glad we found you.’
Jeb looked to Sarah, her face dripping with sweat, her eyes sparkling with maternal emotion.
‘So what’s his name?’ asked Jeb.
‘Cane for a boy,’ answered Sarah.
Henry nodded and turned to Jeb. ‘How about Cane Jebediah Jenkins?’ He smiled.
‘A fine name for a man,’ followed Jeb.
Hector wandered over from his corner bed and stretched out nonchalantly, as if nothing untoward had happened. Jeb ruffled his head and stood up.
‘Let’s gives these people a few minutes,’ he said, heading for the door.
The rainfall was torrential and constant, the wind relentless. Jeb stood on the porch and looked out. On both sides of the cabin were torrents of water, carved into the earth. They rushed at an extraordinary rate, taking saplings and debris as they went. Strangely, the torrents had missed the cabin, as if diverted by something, some invisible force.
Jeb looked up and smiled. ‘Someone’s takin care of these two,’ he mumbled, easing back on a nearby rocker and taking out his corn pipe. Hector sat by his side, quietly looking out into the rain.