A whimsical story written for a Leeds Savages writers group task on the rather challenging theme of 'Heavenly Cows'. Hope you enjoy it!
Ever since he’d got his pensioners bus pass Frank had continued to bore and distress his family in equal measure with constant talk of his own mortality. After all their protestations that he was as fit as a fiddle and would without a doubt be winding them up for another twenty years yet, he was smugly pleased to have proved them wrong. Frank couldn’t recall what he had been doing when he died, only that everything went dark and he was overwhelmed by a sensation of weightlessness, as if floating away from his body on the gentlest of breezes. It was quite a pleasant experience really, the nearest comparison he could make from his mortal experience being the bliss he’d felt whilst having a full body massage performed at the skilful hands of a young woman on holiday in Turkey back in 2003, but on this occasion without the inappropriate erotic thoughts.
Although he may have once or twice in his seventy years of existence uttered the expression ‘Holy Cow’, Frank had never for a minute considered there to be anything divine about the bovine kind. Cows were useful, granted, in terms of their capacity to provide the creamy gold top in which he liked to bathe his rice crispies of a morning and the occasional Big Mac, but he had never had any interest in the hooved milk-bars beyond consuming their by-products. It came as a surprise, therefore, when he found himself staring straight into the big expressionless eyes of a Friesian, its black and white head surrounded by a halo of light In the back of his mind he seemed to recall hearing that certain religions believed cows to be sacred, but he certainly didn’t remember the sermons he’d experienced during forty years of weekly attendance at St David’s (or at least the ten percent which he’d managed to stay awake through) ever touching on the subject of being welcomed into the afterlife by a farm animal.
“Moo-oooo-oooooooo-ooooooooo” said the cow dolefully. “Mooo-ooooo-ooooo-ooooooooooooo.”
“Yes, I get it, you’re a cow;” replied Frank. “Mooooooooooo to you too. So what’s going on? Don’t tell me that those fellows wearing dresses and banging on tambourines outside Sainsburys were right all along with that reincarnation mumbo-jumbo and I’m now a mouse or something. I really have wasted a lot of Sundays if that’s the case.”
“Moooooooooooooooooooooo.” The cow broke its eye contact with Frank and pointed its damp pink nose down his body.
“Oh, what a relief, all four limbs appear to be present and correct. You got me worried for a minute there! So what happens next, girl? Is St Peter out at lunch or something? I’ve thought there’d be angels playing sweet ‘moo-sic’ on harps or something – ‘moo’sic, you get it? No, of course you don’t, I’m being ‘udderly’ stupid trying to crack jokes to a cow. I’m going to milk this for all its worth though, haha!”
With another languid moo the cow stepped back and Frank was bathed in the blinding light which had previously been casting an ethereal glow around the heifer.
“Oh lord, I’m sorry if it looks like I’ve not been taking the situation seriously, it’s just that I’ve always brought out the puns when I get nervous. Take me now, lord, I’m ready;” Frank prayed out loud, closing his eyes. “Ready for what I’m not quite sure, as this really isn’t what I was expecting, but I guess I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.” The last thing Frank felt was a big wet tongue licking his face, and then darkness swallowed him once more.
“Mum, mum, I think he’s waking up!”
Frank slowly prised open a lead heavy eyelid to see his wife, daughter and grandson all stood looking over him like some kind of museum exhibit.
“What the? What the?” Frank stuttered, the forming of each single syllable requiring an inordinate level of effort.
“Hush, Dad, you need to rest;” his daughter said. “You’ve given us all a scare, but you’re going to be ok.”
“The cow? Where’s the cow?”
“He remembers the cow, Mum!” his grandson said excitedly. “I thought the doctor said he probably wouldn’t remember anything?”
“Keep your voice down darling, I’m sure Grandad doesn’t want to hear you shouting.”
Unable to move his head having been wedged between a barricade of pillows on either side, Frank rolled his eyes from left to right, taking in a variety of tubes and beeping machines which all appeared to be attached to his body.
“I’m in hospital;” he stated, looking to his wife who nodded in confirmation. “I’m not dead at all. But what about the angel cow? I was dead, I’m sure of it.”
“I’m not sure if it was of the heavenly variety, but it’s probably thanks to that cow that you’re alive. You were walking through the field berry picking when you collapsed in some kind of fit – the doctors think you probably ate something poisonous whilst you were foraging, never could wait until you got home, could you? The cow kept nudging you which they reckon may have stopped you falling into a coma or even worse; and apparently it was making such a racket that it caught the attention of some walkers who went over to the animal thinking it was in some kind of distress only to find you prostrate on the grass with berries smeared all round your face.”
“I’m so sorry for giving you a scare;” Frank replied. “I may have joked with you before that I was on my last legs but I reckon that there’s actually plenty of life in this dog yet, and I want to spend as many years as God is willing to give me with all of you. Can you all forgive me for being a foolish old man?”
“Nothing to apologise for, Dad, you weren’t to know, although from now on you’re getting all of your fruit from the grocers!” his daughter replied. “So is it safe to say we’re going to see a more serious side to you after your near-death experience?”
Frank paused for several seconds with an expressionless face before bursting into a massive grin.
“You’d butter believe it!”