The 8th day of Christmas presents the singer with maids a-milking. Nowadays there’s not much call for milk maids, as technology has improved the efficiency and cost of milking cows. So in that spirit, I’ve written a short story about a young milkmaid that falls in love. I call it…
There’s Something About Dairy
It was a cold December morning on Blueberry Farm. Mary the Milkmaid sat on her milking stool and rubbed her hands together to keep warm. The wind was blowing strong - she regretted having that big curry the night before.
She looked around the farm through her frosted-up glasses and sighed, for it was her last day on the farm. Tomorrow the new owners would be taking over and bringing their ‘technological advances’ with them.
‘What am I going to do?’ she thought. In the distance, she spotted her favourite cow. She liked all the cows, of course, but Bertrude was special. She was the first cow that Mary had milked and so Mary had developed quite an affection for her bovine bestie. Mary ran across the field to the cow and grabbed her by the face.
‘Don’t you worry Bertrude, I won’t let them take you away. When Farmer Palmer goes to his marrow decorating class, we’re going to escape and go into the city, and we’ll finally be able to be together forever. Just us.’
She patted the cow on the head and rushed back to her stool, where she could keep a lookout for Farmer Palmer coming out of the farmhouse.
‘Nick,’ said a voice coming from the back half of the cow, ‘what are we going to do?’
‘I don’t know Rob,’ came a voice from the front half of the cow. ‘I think we’ll have to play along.’
What Mary didn’t know, thanks to her terrible eyesight and general stupidity, was that the cow she’d mistaken for her beloved Bertrude was in fact two men disguised in a pantomime cow costume. Nick Steel and Rob Cash had infiltrated the farm earlier that day as part of a plan to steal some chickens, but they had not counted on Mary and her own plan to elope to the city with a cow.
‘What if she tries to milk us?’ asked Rob.
‘Don’t worry, I stuck a couple of cartons of milk in the tentacle thingys,’ said Nick, before adding, ‘Oh god, she’s coming back.’
‘But I need the toilet,’ cried Rob.
‘You’ll just have to hold it in,’ said Nick. ‘Try not to think about it.’
‘I’m staring at your backside Nick, it’s hard not to think about it!’
Nick gave little nudge to Rob and they both returned to their role as Bertrude the cow. Neither of them had any professional theatrical training, but they’d watched a few documentaries on dairy farming to get into character. Nick noticed that Mary had a bag with her; she was ready to go.
‘Right, he’s gone, let’s go,’ said Mary. ‘Shall I ride on top of you?’
‘No!’ shouted Rob.
Nick kicked the back leg of the cow, which belonged to Rob.
‘Uh… mooooo,’ said Nick, doing his best cow impression.
‘You’re right,’ said Mary. ‘That would look silly. Good thinking.’
She tied a lead around the cow’s neck and led it out onto the road. The town was only a mile away, which was fortunate for Nick and Rob who weren’t exactly dressed for long treks. When they arrived in the town, a thought suddenly occurred to Mary.
‘What if people wonder why I’m walking around with a cow? We’d better get you a disguise,’ she whispered to Bertrude, not realising that walking around with a cow on a lead was only marginally less suspicious walking around with two men in a pantomime costume on a lead.
Mary instructed the cow to wait in an alley while she ran into a charity shop. Once she’d left, Rob suggested they make a run for it, but Nick felt sorry for the girl and wondered if they could help her in some way. By the time they’d both settled on making a run for it, she’d returned with a large coat and a flat cap, which she put on the cow. They’d have to stick with her for now.
On the other side of the road, two old women were staring nosily, as old women are prone to do.
‘’Ere Mabel, that funny looking cow’s got a hat on look,’ said the first old lady.
‘Ooh yeah. And what’s that big animal she’s got on a lead?’ asked the second.
‘It looks like that cow that was in the pantomime last week.’
‘Oh no it doesn’t.’
‘Oh yes it does.’
‘Oh no it doesn’t!’
‘Oh yes it does!’
This went on for quite a while, with the two old ladies arguing well into the night. However, Mary and her cow wandered down the high street wondering what to do next.
‘I feel a bit peckish,’ said Mary. Across the street her eyes were drawn to a building with a sign written in a foreign language. ‘Ooh, that must be the new French restaurant the farmer was talking about. Let’s try it out.’
From inside the cow costume, Nick looked up at the sign, which read: Abattoir. He gave a little yelp and began tugging on the lead, trying to pull Mary away from the place that was most certainly not a French restaurant.
‘Oh come on,’ said Mary. ‘I know it’s not great, but this French muck has got to be better than eating grass.’
Nick could tell that Mary wasn’t going to give up without a fight. Rob couldn’t tell very much; he was in the back of the cow wondering why Nick’s trousers had suddenly changed colour.
Nick had been okay with wandering down the high street, he’d even tolerated wearing an old cap and coat, but no amount of chickens was worth getting killed for. He pushed Rob back, jumped out of the cow costume and ran down the road, screaming for his life.
Mary looked around and saw Rob sitting on the floor, his body poking out of the cow legs.
‘Oh Bertrude!’ cried Mary. ‘You’re a real boy!’
‘That’s it. I’ve had enough of this,’ thought Rob. He jumped up and followed his friend down the street.
Mary watched as both halves of her beloved cow ran down the road and out of her life forever. She crouched down and gathered the material that made up the pantomime cow. A tear began to trickle down her cheek.
But then she heard a familiar sound.
She looked up and there in front of her, glistening in the lamp light, was a cow. A real cow.
‘Bertrude!’ she cheered.
She got up and hugged her cow. The cow gave her a little rough lick to return her greeting. Bertrude gave a little gesture and Mary hopped onto his back. The cow reared up onto its hind legs and gave a cheery moo, then the two best friends rode off into the night.
Check out our previous instalments to read our takes on the 12 gifts