Contributed by Joan Hunt of DaGoddess fame
The Town Without A Name
By Joan Hunt
The town was narrow. And short. It consisted of all of three parallel and three cross streets. The houses on Main lined one side of the old highway. A road is what they had for a front yard. The only break to the cookie cutter houses came smack dab in the center of the line. A country store with a wooden Indian, one neon beer sign, and an old fashioned cooler on the front porch.
I pulled the car over. I was tired and my swollen belly was feeling a little achy. I got out of the sedan and climbed the four steps leading to the porch. In total dismay I noticed that the place was closed.
"Would you like to have a sit, young lady?" came a dusky voice off to the right.
Startled, I turned. In my state of exhaustion, I hadn't noticed the weathered old man sitting in one of the rocking chairs near the cooler.
"Oh. No thank you. I was hoping to get a cool drink is all," I replied. "I didn't realize you were closed."
"Well, come sit down over here and I'll fetch you something," said the man. "I'm Emmett. We're open when we need to be."
I waddled over to the chair and managed to sit myself down. Emmett asked what I'd like to drink and I accepted the bottle of Coke that he drew from within the depths of the cooler.
"Due any day, are you?" he asked.
"I'm still five weeks away."
"I think you're gonna find that you'll be delivering sooner than that, young lady."
"I hope not. I still need to finish a few things before the baby arrives," I laughed. "I'm nowhere near ready!"
At that point my pregnant belly began to cramp again. I must have grimaced a bit because Emmett looked at me, practically winking and nodding.
"See? You're ready."
"Braxton-Hicks contractions, actually," I said, knowingly.
"Emmett, what's the name of this town? I don't even know where I am!"
"We're the town with no name. Now, let me go get some help for you."
"I think I'm okay. I was just parched and in need of a stretch. I'll be okay. I don't have more than two hundred miles left to drive. But, thank you so much for your concern."
"No. I don't think so. Let me go get Kristy. She'll know what to do to make you more comfortable." And he was off through the screen door before I could protest. Not two minutes later a matronly woman appeared with Emmett trailing behind. She strolled on over and crouched down in front of me.
Placing a large, calloused hand on my tummy, she nodded and told Emmett to get the spare room ready.
"Really, please. I'm fine. These are just false labor contractions," I insisted.
"Nonsense! You're about ready to burst!" she said. "Just let Kristy help you out and you'll be fine. Emmett, call Doc Morton while you're at it in there."
"Please, I don't want to be a bother to anyone. I'm on my way to Dillon and my family. My new doctor's there. I'm not due for another five weeks at least!"
Kristy looked at me with her head atilt. "Hush, child. I know these things. This is your first, right? Of course it is. Just follow me and you'll be fine." She stood up again. Knees cracking and hands on her back, she pulled me to my feet, guided me inside, and led me to a room above the store. She handed me a robe just as my water broke. I was stunned.
"Get yourself changed into this here robe and go rest on the bed," were the orders I got as my contractions grew stronger and I grew too weak to resist. She was kind enough not to tell me "I told you so."
I changed out of my dress and slipped the robe on. I started to pull down the old quilt on the bed.
"Don't be worrying about that old thing, honey. Your baby won't be the first to be born on that thing. I was born on it myself." That was Emmett's voice behind me. "Just have a lay down and rest until Kristy and the doctor can be of help. They're pretty good at this thing these days."
My mind reeled. I didn't know these people at all and they were being so kind! I started asking a million questions.
"Well, let's see. Kristy, here, is my youngest girl. She stayed on to take care of me and help run this store after my beloved Genevieve passed eighteen years ago. I wanted her to get out of this town and go on to be a teacher or a nurse but she wouldn't hear of it. She's a fine daughter, she is.
"I've always lived in this town. No, we don't have a name for this place. Only a route number with the post office over in O'Neill. Never had a name and don't see that changing any time soon.
"My wife, my beloved Genevieve, and I took over the store from a family setting out on the path to bigger and better things over in O'Neill thirty years ago......"
I continued to listen to his soothing voice as the pain in my belly grew stronger. Somehow, he knew right when to speak in quieter tones. I was mesmerized by the tale of the town without a name, his family, and the doings of the neighbors. My mind forgot about the contractions as he related his history. He picked up objects, pointed to photographs, and gestured here and there as he spoke. Kristy bustled back into the room with fresh linens, a bucket of ice, and a low stool. Without thinking, I followed her directions. She placed a sheet over my legs, gently pushed my knees apart, and proclaimed that the baby wasn't going to be waiting for Doc Morton. She sent Emmett to the phone to ask him to hurry it up some.
"Now, child, I want you to keep on doing as you have been. You're doing just fine. Keep breathing nice and relaxed-like. There you go. That's a girl."
She kept moving about the room, gathering a couple of pillows from a chiffarobe, some towels, and a basin of water. Emmett returned and knelt down beside the bed. His warm, wrinkled hand clasped mine as he returned to his tale.
"I met my beloved Genevieve back when we were children. I think I was only about thirteen. I saw her across the room at a barn dance. Yes, we used to have those here when the town was bigger.
"I never went to school as a boy. I hadn't met her or her family. I was taken with her from the get go. Genevieve was a fine, handsome girl. Strong and tall. Taller'n me. I didn't mind. I knew I had to meet her. So I went over to her and, after wiping my hands on my bib'alls, I held out my hand and said, 'hi, I'm Em.'
"She had a mighty fine grip for a girl. Firm and steady. I was grinnin' from ear to ear, I know it. When she said her name I believe I felt a little weak in my knees. I was a brash boy and there weren't much that could get me wobbly. Genevieve did that. "We danced every dance that night and I walked her home after. She was a bold young thing and gave me a bashful kiss on the cheek before going into the house. From that night on, we were pretty much together all the time. Our folks didn't mind. They thought we made a right smart couple.
"A few months later, I found out that she was almost two years older'n me. Nobody thought that was strange back then."
I focused on Emmett's voice more and more as I felt each contraction tumble over themselves. They were coming fast and hard and Emmett became my touchstone. Kristy interrupted her father occasionally to tell me not to push or to have me roll this way or that.
"When we got married, the whole town turned out. Back then, that's how it was done. I was only seventeen at the time. We shared a house with my brother and his new bride and worked the farm together for a few years. Then, my brother and his lady moved to work in a factory after her aunt or cousin wrote and told them of the easy life they could have in the city. Genevieve and I stayed on. We took care of the farm and raised us some fine children.
"Jacob and Matthew were our first. Twins. Good boys - both of them. Janet was next. She didn't live long. It darn near broke Genevieve's and my heart losing that little girl. Came down with something in her lungs at four. Her little sister, Emma (named after me) was just a baby. We took Janet to Norfolk (O'Neill didn't have a hospital back then) to the new hospital there and she passed quickly. It was another year before Genevieve brought Kristy into this world. Kristy reminded us of Janet so much. Same little towhead full of curls and face full of freckles. Sturdier'n Janet, though. Our little family had grown nicely and we stopped at that point.
"Jacob and Matthew went off to college, quick as you please.
"Take a deep breath, young lady. You'll be fine. Squeeze my hand as you need.
"Emma went and married Tracy. He was from another little town nearby and worked on our farm for a bit. Then, he took her off to his family place and left us with Kristy. Ain't she a fine lady? She has always tended to my beloved and me. Always looked in on the neighbors, too. She should have gone off to school to be a teacher or a nurse, I always say.
"Kristy, sounds like the doc is here. I'll go get his things from the car. And, don't worry, young lady. I'll be right back. I may be old, but I'm quick as a can be."
As his hand withdrew from mine, I felt the pain increase. I quickly imagined him telling his story again, half listening to his voice off in the distance. The doctor appeared at the foot of the bed, next to Kristy. Then, he went to wash up. Returning, he took the low stool from Kristy and said hello to me. Told me there was nothing to worry about, everything was looking fine. Kristy positioned herself to the left of the doctor as Emmett reappeared with a little bassinet, more blankets, and finally, a small table. It looked like an old changing table. I didn't ask because the next contraction took my breath away.
"Here I am, young lady. I'm back. You just take Emmett's hand and I'll help you through this.
"Where was I? Oh. My Kristy's a fine woman, isn't she? You have yourself one like her and you'll be a lucky mom. Do you know if you're having a boy or a girl? No? Well, no matter which, you'll be a good mama and raise the child to have polite manners, okay? The child will sometimes break your heart and then kiss your tears away. That's what children do. They're gifts from Heaven.
"Okay. Doc says it's time for you to start pushing. You hold my hand and squeeze. Listen to my voice. It's okay if you need to cry out. Having babies is tough work but you can do it. All you need is a hand to hold to help you through." For the next two hours, I pushed and I squeezed Emmett's hand. Kristy wiped my brow from time to time and offered me sips of water. She stood at the ready beside the doctor the rest of the time. Then, suddenly, I gave one strong push and felt relief.
"It's a girl!" Doc Morton cried. Kristy briskly rubbed my baby with some little towels and wrapped her tightly in a blanket. She brought her to my side and whispered that she was ready to meet her mommy. Her loud shrieks indicated that she was ready for something. The doctor called Kristy and told her to get more blankets. Apparently we weren't done yet.
I figured the placenta would follow easily, but the doctor seemed to be a little more concerned. As I held my beautiful little girl, my belly tightened again. The uncontrollable urge to push took over and I bore down hard. Again, sudden relief - followed by a lusty cry.
"It's a girl!" Doc cried. Twins? I hadn't known. Not even a clue. Emmett looked at me with a sort of pride.
"Just like my beloved Genevieve. You struck double gold the first time around, young lady. A double blessing."
His eyes twinkled as he gently took my firstborn from my arms and allowed Kristy to hand me the next bundle of pink, warm cries. I looked at my newest daughter and then at the first one. Laughing, crying, exhausted, and surprised. The doctor worked steadily delivering the afterbirth and cleaning me up.
Kristy, in her efficient way, helped him and me, simultaneously. She helped me position the babies for their first feeds. Emmett sat beside me, beaming like a proud granddaddy.
"What are you going to name the little angels?" He asked. All three sets of grown up eyes looked at me inquiringly. I had to laugh. I had no idea. I thought I still had plenty of time to decide and my husband, who was thousands of miles away on a military assignment, hadn't weighed in with his pick either. Now I had to come up with two names.
I told them all that I'd have to see what their daddy thought. He helped create these beauties, I felt it only fair to let him help name them. Everyone nodded and seemed to accept my decision to wait. Doctor Morton told me that he'd called for an air ambulance before he'd left his house and that they should be around shortly. Because the babies were early, and twins, he wanted us to be where all three of us could be monitored closely. The thought of leaving this nest startled me. I felt as though nothing could go wrong surrounded by the kind Emmett, the efficient Kristy, and the experienced doctor. I didn't protest though. So far, they'd been right on every call and I wasn't going to argue with them. They assured me my car would be fine until I could arrange to have someone get it. The doctor told me not to worry about the bill. We'd work everything out in the end. They wanted the babies and me safe.
I heard the helicopter approach the field across the street. I looked around me and studied the faces - all five of them - and smiled. The sight of my girls filled me with a happiness and love I'd never known before. I thanked Doc Morton for delivering my girls safely. I thanked Kristy for keeping me safe and for knowing what to do.
The flight crew entered the room and got a report from the doctor and his able assistant. I turned and looked at Emmett. His eyes twinkled a bit. They were watery and smiling at me. I thanked him for his strong hand, gentle voice, and for his wonderful story.
"Think nothing of it, young lady. You happened to stop in the right place at the right time," he replied. "You just take this scrap of paper with our address and send us a picture of those precious angels from time to time, you hear?"
I promised that I would. And, I would. Anything for these kind strangers who helped me bring my babies safely into this world. As I was being lifted into the helicopter, the babies were taken out of my arms and placed in isolettes nearby. I looked at the paper I was still somehow clutching in my hand.
Emmett and Kristy Lockwood
Route 4 Off State Highway 275
Looking at the paper, I kept thinking back to the warm hand that had clasped mine throughout the worst parts of my labor. One touch and one voice had guided me through it all. Kindness, gentleness, true concern poured out of that heart. I felt it profoundly.
I knew without a doubt that the town without a name would always be Emmett to me.
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