“Margie, about ten minutes to sunset.” Eula finished her coffee, wiped her mouth neatly with a napkin, and picked up her jacket from the booth. “I’ll go pay and call Dr. Murton. You finish up.”
Margie grumbled into her coffee mug and checked her watch. 7:26pm. She needed a smoke, but Eula was a Nazi about not smelling like smoke in front of “her mamas and babies.” Not like they were humans, she thought. Dogs didn’t care what you smelled like; neither should wolves.
She lifted her tall, slim build out of the booth like a much heavier woman and stifled a yawn. The Wolf Moon wasn’t even out yet and she was bone-weary. This is my last year doing this, Margie thought, I’m not a veterinarian’s nurse. No vacation is worth putting up with that stuck-up, crunchy granola, unlicensed midwife for a whole night, especially delivering rabid dogs of their litters.
“You ladies have a good night, all right?” Margie walked up and swiped a mint from the dish and grunted at the woman behind the cash register. “I hear you’re not so busy as you were last year.”
Margie walked out the door without a word and Eula squinted disapprovingly. So impolite. She was reminded yet again that Pennsylvania was a long way from the bayou where she was raised. “Yes, it looks like we only have four mothers this year. We’re thinking one might break Kiley Fogelsanger’s record from last year, though.”
“Six?” The clerk let out a low whistle. “You’ns have fun.” She left the register, shaking her head.
Eula stepped outside, where Margie was hastily sucking at a cigarette. At her look, Margie rolled her eyes and ground it out in the ashtray. “I have a mint. See?” She popped it in her mouth. “Where we going first?”
“Looks like right across the square. We’ll walk.” Eula went to her beat-up old clunker and got out a large duffel bag, a backpack and an oxygen tank. She slung the backpack over her shoulder and gave the duffel to Margie, who sagged under the weight, grumbling.
“What the hell do you carry in here? Doesn’t this thing have wheels?”
Eula ignored her grumbling and pulled out her cell phone. There was procedure to follow. “Dr. Murton?”
“Well hello, Ms. Bujeau. You ready for an exciting night?”
“Always ready, Dr. Murton.” She smiled fondly as she huffed across the square, dragging the oxygen tank and Margie along. “Are Dr. Alquist and Dell in place?”
“We’re all ready. Had to make the mighty chief of police put down his bottle of whiskey, and Agda’s convinced that with you around, there’s no need for a veterinarian.” He let out a loud cough. “Can’t imagine why the Mayor’s Office feels the need to have any of us on call tonight, especially since it’s not like we can transfer these ladies to a hospital if things go south.”
“Well, I’m sure I don’t know. It’s probably just a precaution.” Eula made sure not to let her nervousness show. You’ve done this before, she said to herself. No need to get all Nervous Nellie on yourself right before you have to go do your job. “I’m sure everything will be fine. Besides, it makes me feel good knowing I’ve got you on the other line if I need something.”
“Well, we’re here if you need anything. You have a good night Ms. Bujeau.”
“You too, Dr. Murton. Give my best to Agda and Dell for me, y’hear?” Eula hung up the phone and stuffed it in her pocket. She took the last few steps to the gate surrounding the small craftsman house – the gate with the “DO NOT TRESPASS – WOLF MOON RESIDENT IN QUARANTINE” sign hanging on the latch.
Margie walked up behind her and set the duffel bag down with a loud thump. “You’re carrying that next time.” There was the loud howl of a wolf from behind the door, and the crash of a lamp. “Jay-sus,” Margie muttered. “These hellions sure make a lot of ruckus.”
Eula sighed, moved the sign so she could open the gate, and walked up to the door. Just before she walked into the house, she looked behind her at the Wolf Moon rising in the east and a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. It was going to be an exciting night.
* * *
Six hours later, Eula found herself washing her hands at the sink of a different house – her fourth house of the night. Thankfully, it had been an uneventful night as Wolf Moons went, and she’d needed no real help. There had been the eighth – eighth! – of Marnie Wilson’s babies to come out, all wet and shiny and so, so small. He’d needed resuscitation, but took his first breath, pinked up, and then exploded into a tiny ball of fur, just like a good lycanthrope babe should.
This birth, however, had been textbook-perfect; at least as far as lycanthrope births went. Soft, mewling sounds came from upstairs and a haggard young man clunked down the stairs in his bare feet and took a beer out of the fridge. He offered one to Eula, who declined, and then to Margie, who all but snatched it out of his hand.
“You all right, Michael?” Eula took a small bottle of lotion out of her backpack and started rubbing it into her hands. The latex gloves did a number on her skin, and by the end of a busy night, they were cracked and painful. “These girls have their babes real fast and it can sometimes be a bit of a shock.”
Margie grunted and took a swig of her beer, but she stayed silent. Michael sat down heavily on a stool in the kitchen, his head in his hands. “It was just so fast… and… four?” He looked up at her, his beer forgotten on the counter. “Do I really have four?”
Eula patted him on the hand and then started rummaging in the cabinets for coffee. She’d spotted a coffee maker, so there must be coffee around. “Four is a good number to start with, Michael. Remember, the first month is easy. They stay pups and they stay in the house. All you have to do is feed mama.” Ah, there it is. Decaf, but coffee. “Housebreaking is difficult, which is why I was telling you to get the area rugs off the floor as soon as you can.”
He nodded numbly. “I wanted to be a father, but… four? And wolves?”
Eula turned from where she was fussing with the coffee pot, hands on hips. “Now you see here. Those are your babies, Mr. Lindner.” Margie snorted and took her beer into the other room. A few seconds later, the television turned on, blaring a rerun of one of the Pirates’ preseason games. “I know it can be tough to see that now, but just wait until this first month passes and you’ll see. You’ll be surprised how much they look like you and Stephanie.”
Michael sighed, drawing circles on the counter with the condensation dripping from his beer. It was an unseasonably warm April, but they weren’t allowed to open the windows until sunup because of the quarantine and local noise ordinances, so the house was almost unbearably hot. “You’re right. I just don’t know if I’m ready for all of this. I mean, I didn’t even know she was a werewolf ’til she got pregnant…” his voice trailed off, and he made a frustrated sound. “I’m going to go watch TV,” he blurted, and went into the living room. The volume went up.
Turning back to the coffee maker, Eula made a note to herself to call for a counselor to come see this family. It looked like there would be some need for a more structured talk. The coffee began to drip from the pot, and she headed upstairs to check on mama one more time.
The walls were bare – the house was one the couple had obviously just purchased. Eula said a little prayer that the couple would make it through raising these babies and be able to live long, happy lives in this house. She peeked into the master bedroom at the top of the stairs, eyes resting fondly on the enormous tan wolf-shaped figure in the middle of the floor. Stephanie Lindner was sprawled out on a pile of comforters and linens, three happy pups curled up sleeping next to her and a fourth nursing voraciously.
“Come on in, Eula,” Steph growled. Her voice was obviously effeminate, but had a low quality that raised the hackles on the back of Eula’s neck. She always felt a thrill talking to these women – there was such barely-controlled power there. She preferred after the birth, when there wasn’t so much… wildness to their presence. Lycanthrope birth was an awesome sight to see, but terrifying.
“How you doing, mama? Little ones nursing all right?” Eula leaned against the doorway, not daring to go closer. The first time she was at a Wolf Moon birth, she barreled in afterwards like it was her living room and almost lost a hand trying to examine a pup. Now she was smarter, and kept her distance unless asked.
“Mmmm…” Steph almost purred, nudging the nursing pup. “This one is going to be trouble. Already insatiable.”
Eula smiled. “Good. Keep them well-fed, drink plenty of water, and make sure you call me if one turns human before the next full moon, y’hear?” Steph nodded her massive head. “All right then. I’m going to head out. It’s almost daylight. Good work, mama.”
The tools went into the bag, coffee went into the travel mug, phone numbers were exchanged, and instructions given for the next month, until she came back to check everyone. Margie left, lighting a cigarette in the increasing brightness of the dawn, taking the quarantine sign with her and throwing it carelessly in a trashcan down the street.
Eula dragged her bag and her oxygen tank to her car, then leaned against it, watching the Wolf Moon set. The next time she saw these four ladies, they would be human, healed, and have perfect little human babies. As the town began to stir and wake, she yawned, stretched, and climbed into her car to go to bed with a smile. Time to add 27 new little people to the population of Gloaming Gap.