The Ibble took great interest in the Earth Ambassador’s pregnancy. They offered Dolores McCloud chairs and cosseted her to death. Still, she could leave any boring reception at any time by pleading tiredness. She could decline Ibble delicacies without giving offense. The Minister for Aliens even had some strawberries shipped out from earth in a stasis field at vast expense, because she happened to mention that she missed them. On the whole, Dolores found it rather pleasant. If only she knew where to have the darn baby! She couldn’t settle to anything until she got this sorted out.
“No problem!” said the vice-president of United Ibble, waving his blue feelers in excitement. “Have your child here. We have the nicest ceremonies to welcome new Ibbles.”
Dolores didn’t like the sound of that, but she put on her professional interested face and inquired politely.
“It’s all designed to help the mother discard civilization for a while. We believe a little craziness helps things along wonderfully.”
That sounded ominous. “And how do you do that?”
“Well first we have special suits for the attendants that make a sort of hummy-sound, rather like your terrestrial cats.”
That didn’t sound too bad. Dolores found a cat’s purr soothing.
“And then we have special music. Beautiful music.”
“Music?” Ibble music always gave Dolores a headache. It mostly consisted of thudding drums and shrill flutes. Her Scottish husband loved it. He insisted on calling the flutes “fifes”, and he frequently played along on his bagpipe. Sometimes Dolores wondered if bagpipes were legal grounds for divorce.
“And dancing! Lots of dancing.” As the vice president warmed to his theme, the tips of his feelers turned lipstick pink.
Dolores turned cold. An Ibble was about the same size and shape as a hippopotamus (with added feelers), and their dancing was energetic. Even one Ibble jigging about made the room shake.
She forced a big smile. “How delightful! But I’m afraid I’m feeling rather tired now. I’d better go home and rest.”
Once home, rest was the last thing on her mind. It was time to assert her independence. She sent off a priority diplomatic signal. “Get me out of here! I refuse to have my baby in the middle of a circus ring!” She couldn’t bear the thought of push coming to shove with all that pandemonium going on.
Earth promised a beautiful hospital ship in ten month’s time.
“What???” enquired the ambassador, ready to launch into a full and frank exchange of views.
Yes really, said the personnel department. Just pop into stasis at the first real twinge, and we’ll take you out when the ship arrives. Nothing to it.
Dolores calmed down. In fact she felt wonderfully serene, right up until the day all the statis fields on the planet blew up in a chain reaction, when she was 9 months pregnant and ready to pop. She was trapped. If she got into a spaceship, the G-forces might damage the baby.
There was no escape. In spite of her declaration of independence, her child would be born within alien Ibble rites, among them fife, jiggerty, and the purr-suit of wackiness.
Published in Planet Relish, 1999
© Sheila Crosby 1999