Caroline didn't make it out in time. A freak lash of winter closed in around the cabin and the plane that was supposed to take her to Whitehorse was grounded on the other side of the pass. Bob drove his team hard all night and all day and got to the cabin just as she was turning otherworldly with pain and the fear of doing it all alone.
He didn't panic. He wasn't a religious man, so he didn't pray, but he said her name over and over and over, sometimes under his breath, sometimes shouting it, until it became its own kind of ritual utterance, a binding spell to keep her in this world. She worked hard all through the night, shouting back at him, things he'd never in his life heard her say.
Buck arrived with the doctor just as Bob was tying a length of twine around the umbilical cord. Soon after, Michaelmas Twoshoes blew in with his wife, Cherry, and she cluck-clucked the men away from the bed so she could "make things decent, my God, my sweet Jesus." Michael put up some bottled rabbit on the stove and came to stand with the rest of them on the porch to smoke cigars. Michael and Cherry set off again at sundown, taking the doctor with them and leaving behind another bottled rabbit and a forty pounder of rye. Buck saw them off and then settled himself down for the night in the woodshed with the dogs.
It was starting to snow again when Bob sat at the table where he could see them there, Caroline and the boy, curled together in the bed, poured himself a healthy drink from the bottle and opened his journal. He inscribed a new page with the date and then wrote three words. That was when it started, the trembling, when he read those words--It's a boy--and his hands started to shake so hard he had to lift the pen from the page.
So he sat there in front of the blank page while the snow fell and fell and wondered if every miracle felt like this, like a kick to the chest that knocked the breath out of a man, and if so, he decided, it was a good thing they happened rarely. He sat with his pen hovering over the page and wondered how so vast and intricate an instrument as the English language could find itself to be so profoundly inadequate to the task of describing a being so new and so small.
The page was still blank when, finally, Caroline turned her hand up on the blanket and beckoned him to bed.
*cetera desunt means "the rest is missing"
Notes: this is a tag or sequel, or prequel, or answer or something to the story I posted last night, "Imprint." I was thinking about that one line from Bob's diary and... well, this happened.
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