This month, we begin the second round of categories in OUT OF THE SLUSHPILE, Novel Journey’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame Contest.
We had fewer entries for the Historical Fiction category this time, but we do have a winner to declare: Room For Freedom by Heidi Chiavaroli of Swansea, Massachusetts.
This is Historical Romance (WWII era) with all the fixin’s. An array of personal secrets, deceit and longing, the horrors of war, with some classical Gone With The Wind-style cross-purposes on the side.
Are you hungry? Dig in!
Room For Freedom
And he [Isaac] removed from thence, and digged another well; and for that they strove not: and he called the name of it Rehoboth; and he said, “For now the Lord hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”
Rehoboth, Massachusetts, April, 1941
“Mitch, I can’t do this.” Liberty Cobb stared at the fraying rope offered in her neighbor’s palm.
“I thought you wanted to be the next Clara Barton. Well, here’s your chance.”
She snatched up the line. “A nurse, Mitch Adams. Not a veterinarian.”
A smile teased the corners of his mouth. “The quicker this calf is born, the better for Lolly. Now you pull when I tell you.” He gripped his side of the rope and spread long, coverall-clad legs hip-length apart. “Okay, now.”
She tugged. Poor Lolly. And to even think how Mitch managed to tie the wretched ropes to the unborn calf’s legs… Lolly bawled long and low. Oh, if only Daddy were here.
“Good, Lib, keep pulling!”
The encouraging words eased the growing tightness in her chest. If she had to carry through with this task, she supposed there was no man in the world she’d rather do so with than the sweaty one beside her.
“There’s his head! See it?”
Liberty breathed around a rattle in her throat and glanced at Lolly’s rear end, where a small, slimy nose perched upon two front legs. She gritted her teeth. “And just how do you know it’s a he?”
A drop of moisture fell from Mitch’s brow onto the straining muscles in his arm. “You never mind how I know and keep up that pulling.”
The rope burned her fingers, but she continued heaving until the calf’s hips finally broke into the open. Its brown-spackled body slid onto the straw at their feet. Liberty gasped for air and leaned against the stall door.
Mitch removed the leftover birth sack from around the calf’s hind legs and untied the ropes. “A male. Just like I thought.” His satisfied grin could have lit up all of Union Station on a stormy night. He patted Lolly’s rump. “Enough resting, old girl. Come and clean your little son.” The cow’s low mooing filled the evening air.
“Uh, Mitch. I could be wrong, but, well—”
Liberty pointed at the cow’s rear end.
“Well I’ll be. Twins” He examined Lolly with one hand and then retrieved the ropes. “He’s backwards, this one’s not going to be so easy. Come on, Lib, one more time.”
Lolly’s moans persisted as Mitch worked to tie the ropes. Liberty busied herself with rubbing the newborn calf’s slick head. When he squinted up at her with droopy eyes, a warm, tingling feeling filled her.
“Okay, all set. Let’s get this little guy out and pray there’s no more in there.”
Liberty gave the calf one last pat and grasped the rope again. They pulled, once and then twice, but no budge. A third time. Lolly tossed her head with loud, hearty protests.
“Something’s not right, Mitch.”
“It’s just because he’s backwards. Hips have to come through first. Keep pulling.”
She obeyed for three long, firm tugs, but when Lolly’s complaints turned to all-out squeals, Liberty dropped the rope and moved toward Lolly’s tail. “I wonder…”
But the thought of putting her hand there…oh for pity’s sake, if she wanted to be a decent nurse one day, she couldn’t balk at every undesirable duty. Swallowing down her hesitation, Liberty plunged her hand into Lolly’s warm depths.