Maxwell’s punctuality at mealtimes led Ann to suspect that his stomach was built in Switzerland, even if the rest of him was of pure Scottish stock. Therefore, his absence from the dining table one mild autumn evening came as something of a surprise. Not wishing to appear overly concerned, Ann took a walk into the farmyard, still wearing her carpet slippers, in search of her wayward husband. She started in the feed room but finding it deserted continued to the chicken shed, which was quite the opposite, though only occupied by avian residents. Finally, she headed for the milking parlour, but on entering, all she could see through the gloom was a large Friesian cow apparently in a state of levitation. The harmless beast looked at her solemnly, its big doleful eyes expressing no alarm. With a feeling of gentle resignation, Ann concluded that her husband must be up to his tricks again.
‘Maxwell?’ she called out in expectation.
‘My name’s Dolly,’ came the deadpan reply, in a gravelly Scottish accent.
It was the kind of humour Ann had suffered for the best part of 20 years. At least her suspicions had been confirmed. And when she finally remembered her husband’s latest harebrained idea, everything fell into place.
It had all started months before on the day of Dolly’s birth. She had been carried from the fields, Maxwell cradling her in a delicate grip that would impress the most learned of midwives. It was an action he had performed many times before but only with Dolly had he considered the long-term possibilities of such behaviour. It struck him that if he were to lift these same ungulate bones on a daily basis, then the incremental increase in weight would prove negligible meaning that one day, he would be able to lift a fully grown cow. Ann had received full briefing of the idea and had suggested that he trial it with a creature of more manageable size, such as a sheep or a pig at the very most. Not one to entertain half measures, Maxwell resolved to stick with the original plan and so Dolly became his subject for investigation.
As Ann stood looking on, it became apparent that Maxwell had no intention of returning the poor beast to the ground. Evidently, he had finished the milking for that evening, so Ann grabbed a couple of bottles and returned to the farmhouse, safe in the knowledge that her husband hadn’t suffered an inglorious farming accident. No, he just happened to be holding a cow aloft. Shortly afterwards, she was relieved to hear the sound of the front door, the power of his appetite having not been totally usurped by other activities. Her husband sat down and she bounced a large bowl of beef stew to him across the kitchen table. They were not the most talkative of couples at the best of times, often surviving on a series of grunts and purrs, but this evening Maxwell seemed unusually quiet and contemplative. Maybe he was reflecting on the irony of his unbelievable cow lifting strength being based upon a hearty consumption of beef. Or maybe there was something else on his mind now that his latest physical challenge had been successfully completed, as witnessed through the impartial eyes of his wife.
Maxwell got up from the table, his body uncurling like a party blower as he stretched to his impressive full height. Taking a bottle of milk from the fridge, he poured himself a full pint, the glass fitting his hand like a half pint would for any person of average build. He opened his gullet and took a long steady swig, his contemplative gaze slowly subsiding to be replaced by an expression of mischief and mirth.
‘Ann,’ he said inquiringly, ‘do you think there’s a market for elephant milk?’
Duncan Hedges lives and works in Leeds, West Yorkshire. He writes short stories in his spare time. He has previously been published online at Ellipsis Zine, Spelk and Bending Genres. https://twitter.com/duncan_hedges