Putrescence and her husband watched Orpah and her camera crew beat a hasty exit before turning back to the Wedding ceremony. Their new daughter-in-law threw a bouquet of wildflowers over her shoulder – causing violence to erupt as the minor horde of gnome, goblin, and mixed-heritage guests fought for the unoffending flowers. Oglingston’s gnome parents enjoyed the spectacle from a safe distance near the cave’s main exit.
“Are you alright, dearest?” Hortensio asked his wife. After three hundred years of marriage, he knew well enough to ask even though he didn’t need to.
Putrescence put down the paper bag she’d used to catch her fast, quick breaths. “Yes, husband, thank you. I think we managed to stay out of ‘the public eye’ as King Gob would say; don’t you think? Hiding in the back at our own son’s wedding! Though I wouldn’t want our human guests – I mean, our new family – to see how… I mean, that we…”
“There, there,” said Hortensio. The plump little man patted the loose skin of his wife’s arm and gave her a sympathetic grin. He opened his mouth to add some additional encouragement, when he noticed Putrescence staring wide-eyed over his shoulder. “What the-?”
“Orpah! Orpah!” called out the Gnome King, running past the couple at the mouth of the cave. “Wait! There’s more to film… Think of the ratings!”
Hortensio turned to see his new daughter-in-law sitting on the cave floor, breathing heavily. Her protruding round belly rose and fell, and her new husband knelt by her side. The woman’s human parents hurried to the front of the cave, bending over their daughter and completely obstructing Hortensio’s view.
“Do you think-?” asked Putrescence.
“Let’s go check it out.” Hortensio took his wife’s arm and led her to where the bride squatted. This was more difficult than it would seem since the bouquet riot had not yet dissipated. After navigating the writhing mass in front of the alter, they stood next to Jenny and Oglingston.
“Son?” asked Hortensio. The resemblance between father and son was unmistakable – both gnomes possessed the same large, bulbous nose, shaggy grey beard, and blotchy pink skin. Father and son regarded each other warily before both broke into sharp-toothed grins.
“It’s time!” cried Oglingston. Then, after a quick look around, “Where’d the King go?”
As if summoned by his subject, the old King returned to the fray, accompanied by a reluctant-looking camera crew. Orpah followed close behind, powdering her nose with a small compact. No other makeup was necessary, since anticipation of record-breaking ratings lent her cheeks their own dazzling glow.
Meanwhile, poor Jenny lay panting on the cave floor. Some of the bouquet-wrestlers had given up by this time. The lighting of the camera crew promised something more exciting in the works than wildflowers.
Oglingston, in an effort to preserve some order, pointed out the way to the buffet; Though the reception was obviously canceled the buffet had already been set. The guests were more than welcome to help themselves there – where they would be out of the way. Several guests took the groom up on his suggestion and headed for the feast.
“Shouldn’t we get the poor girl into a bed?” asked Putrescence. Several dozen gnome babies of her own had more than acquainted her with the ‘joys’ of childbirth, and she sympathized with the poor girl. After all, the woman was barely forty – just a baby herself. Within moments, she’d arranged several of the camera crew to carry a panting, wheezing Jenny through the winding tunnels of the cave and deposit her on the large oaken bed of the Bridal Chamber.
Putrescence pulled at the sheets around Jenny and helped remove her velvet overalls (during labor, all thoughts of modesty were forgotten). Jenny’s cheeks flushed, her lips and face had swollen. Water retention blessed the girl with several new chins. Oglingston’s mother was forced to admit that childbirth suited her new human daughter; she was even lovelier than before.
Oglingston held his wife’s hand as he looked around the bedchamber. Jenny’s parents hovered in a nearby doorway – practically tossed from the room by the camera crew, an enthusiastic Orpah, and throngs of milling guests. The latter snacked on bits of reception buffet that they’d brought along; tonight they’d get dinner and a show. “Where’s the mid-wife?” asked Oglingston.
A battered but (not quite) beaten gnomic matron entered the room seconds later. Petals stuck from her thickly matted silver hair, her face was scratched, her eyes bulged like those of a mad woman. “Sorry, I’m late,” she cried. She stood for a moment, gripping the wall, to catch her breath. “I caught the bouquet!”
“Where’s the-?” Hortensio began to ask, but then thought better of it.
The mid-wife hurried to Jenny’s side, pushing away non-essential ‘men-folk’ – she couldn’t abide interference while she worked. The camera crew stayed, though at the far end of the bedchamber, because their flood lights made her job easier. King Gob and Orpah stayed because the king wished it, so it was out of the matron’s plump-but-capable hands. The mid-wife told Oglingston to go fetch a pail of water and some towels.
“I have a bucket, but no towels-” began the gnome.
“Then go shopping!” she snapped. King Gob patted Oglingston on the back; with a worried look, the younger gnome hurried from the chamber.
“Are the towels really that important?” crooned Orpah, leaning in despite the matron’s protests.
“They are if they keep him out of my way!” The mid-wife glared at the talk-show host with red eyes that would have made a dung beetle head for the hills. Orpah remained unphased. She knew how to handle peril. After all, she’d survived Sweeps Week, and this film footage promised to get her through another one.
Soon, time in the enclosed room beat to the rhythm of Jenny’s ragged breath. She bit down on rags, sweated, grunted; her skin took on the blotched sheen of a woman in the throes of labor.
With the room cleared, the matron donned the catcher’s mitts that Jenny had kept in the room for the occasion – just in case. Given the bride’s compulsive knitting, each glove was covered by a soft cotton cover – catcher’s mitt cozies. The matron positioned herself about six feet in front of Jenny, catching each baby as it shot across the room, and dropping him (or her) into a blanket-lined basket.
Orpah’s camera crew continued filming the spectacle. Their illustrious employer, the king, and both sets of (soon to be) grandparents kept quiet during ‘the miracle of birth.’ Soon the squall of gnome-human babies filled the small chamber.
The guests that found their way back began arguing over the placentas. They held up empty plates for a gruesome handout. Putrescence shooed them away. “But you’ve got twelve!” responded the goblin guests. She grabbed a nearby candle-holder, and they scattered.
Oglingston ran into the room, his arms filled with towels. A large bucket hung from one shoulder, sloshing water onto the cave floor. “Did I miss it?”
Jenny smiled at him, her own arms filled with their twelve new children. “Yes, Oggy, you did.”
“Oh, thank Odin!” muttered the little man. “I don’t think I could have taken the matron’s sharp tongue, and-” He stopped, noticing the glowing red eyes of the mid-wife. “Oops.”
“Oh, Oggy,” said Jenny,“she’s the least of your worries.” She beamed. “You’re a father now!” Oglingston ran over and embraced his new bride and children.
“And that, ladies and gentlemen, concludes our coverage of this historic birth,” sang out Orpah, jumping in front of the camera once again and (to her camera crew’s utmost annoyance) blocking their shot of the family scene. “But be sure to keep watching our show, folks! We’ll follow up from time to time, and keep our viewers informed on the growth of these dozen little guys – the first gnome-human babies ever born!”
Her plastic smile remained until someone yelled, “Cut!” Then the mask fell, and she took a deep breath. “Thank goodness that’s over. King,” she addressed Gob, “thanks for the coverage.” And like a whirlwind, they were gone.
Without the cameras and promise of entertainment, the guests trickled away. The parents of the bride and groom – after a few brief exchanges – also departed, and Jenny and Oglingston were left to bask in the glow of their new family.
They had no idea what they were in for – but couldn’t wait to find out. They were the Spitworthys, and their new life finally began.
I hope you enjoyed this installment in the Oglingston Spitworthy serial (click here to read from the beginning). In December, I began posting installments every Friday as an experiment in writing a series. When I finish, I plan to podcast the entire thing as one complete reading.
My aim with Oglingston is to write something funny that’s both kid and adult friendly. The jokes are meant to be cute in a gross way (or gross in a cute way) but entertaining. Did I succeed? Did you get enough information about the story to understand what was happening overall?
Also, if you are interested, my flash poem, “Dice”, is up at the 52/250 flash site. The theme was ‘Coincidence’.
As always, I beg for welcome polite feedback!
*UPDATED 02-27-2011 I revised this to expand on my description of the birth. My intention was to be completely finished (except for an epilogue next week), but I couldn’t resist the idea that came to me (unfortunately) the day after I posted this. My Sunday audio reading will be of the newly revised text. Thank you.
**image courtesy of State Library and Archives of Florida via Flicker. No known copyright restrictions.