Posted by Suze Appleton on Saturday, May 11, 2013 Under: Short fiction
Goat testicles - A story inspired by the news that Henry VIII ate goat testicles for virility.
They all looked down at the baby.
'Well, I never expected that,' said the midwife.
'I don't think that was quite the effect he wanted,' agreed the lady in waiting.
'And who's going to be the one to tell him? Not me,' chipped in the physician, cleaning his hands of the blood.
The baby lay on its back in the cradle, its features obscured by the large, well, snout on his face. There was no other word for it. The cloven hooves instead of hands and feet completed the picture of half baby, half goat.
The lady in waiting began to cry.
'I knew he shouldn't have eaten all those goat's testicles,' she said. 'It was all that stupid fool's fault. And who listens to the wisdom of a fool, I ask you? Only another fool.'
'Take care, milady,' cautioned the midwife, the only sensible woman among them. 'Talk like that could get you thrown in the Tower. The king takes his virility very seriously. Now, I suggest we take action swiftly to put right this terrible disaster.'
'Put it right! Put it right!' The lady in waiting was becoming hysterical. 'How on God's earth do you suggest we do that?'
'Calm down milady,' continued the midwife, taking the opportunity to deliver a satisfying slap to the lady's face. 'It happens that I attended a young girl in the village two days ago and she had a baby boy. Now the girl is a bit simple, keeps talking about how we live in something called a universe and travelling to the stars but she's good at heart, and more importantly, of good strong stock. I think in the circumstances that we have to accept the least of a bad situation and switch babies before anyone else finds out.'
The physician nodded gravely. It wouldn't be the first time that a substitution had to be made. But what were they to do with the half child? Should it join all the other 'mistakes' in the institution for half breeds? It was getting too full to take in another one and some of them were getting out of hand. The half lion child was reaching five and was already breaking out of the compound every night, bringing back half dead lambs, and the gentle half sheep child had started wetting its straw again. As for the half eagle child... That had disappeared one night and been sighted in the mountains of Wales.
He sighed, wishing that the king would stop eating all these animal testicles to enhance his own performance. All it was doing was mixing up human bodies with those of the animals. What could he expect if he ate their testicles? Why couldn't the king stick with eating just the meat like everyone else?
The midwife hadn't waited for a reply before dispatching her young assistant to go for the baby. She had known this might happen again and she didn't approve of keeping these babies alive but she couldn't argue with the physician. His word was law in the birthing room but if he just turned his back for a minute he'd find that the baby was having difficulty breathing... He didn't, however. He came to look at the mother, a young girl who had only recently been made queen.
'What a shame, what a dreadful shame,' he cried, wringing his hands over her lifeless body as the lady in waiting tidied her up. 'Such a pretty girl and so young. But it's God's blessing that she didn't live to see the child. I'm not sure even a mother's love could overcome that shock.
A knock on the door alerted them to the interest of the prime minister.
'What goes on there? It's all gone very quiet,' he called. 'Does the lady's modesty allow for witnesses? Let me remind you that the King's minister should be present at the birth. This is very irregular, you know.'
'More irregular than you could ever know,' muttered the midwife, surreptitiously smothering the baby in layers of cloth to stop it from crying out as she smuggled it out under her coat. As the physician went to deal with the prime minister she pulled the cloth tight, saying a quiet prayer under her breath.
'Dear Lord forgive me for criticising thy great work but I think thee were asleep on the job when this one got through. Bless his soul and find a place for him in thy heaven. Amen.'
Spotting her assistant slipping into the room through the servants' secret panel she continued in a louder voice. 'Ah, here's my girl now. My lord physician, all is well, the baby is ready for visitors.'
She unwrapped the new delivery and held him out to the physician who reached out his hands happily until he saw the baby in the light of the candle. He opened his mouth to speak but no words came. He turned pale and crumpled onto the floor.
The midwife looked at him in shock then back at the baby.
'Oh Lord,' she said, 'I never noticed that in the dark hut.'
The lady in waiting came to look at the baby and screamed.
'How on earth are we going to pass that off as the King's? He's green! And he's got the biggest eyes I've ever seen.'
The midwife took a closer look at the baby and sighed. She decided it was time to get out of the baby business. It was just getting too strange.
In : Short fiction
Tags: goat testicles king babies