Beefed Up

Irish Times, 17/07/2019


There are many ailments that can cause an unfortunate cow to end up in hospital.

Brucellosis, pulpy kidney, summer mastitis, pseudocowpox, foot rot, fatty liver and wooden tongue are just some of the less gross.

And that is not even to mention the dreaded Mad Cow Disease, which might cause the creature to meow like a cat, wear a tinfoil hat, or believe it’s a Ford Cortina.

Imagine if we ate them.

Bettina was afflicted by none of the above. A week ago, on a very hot afternoon, she had simply swished her tail to try to cool herself, and had flicked it against an electrified fence.

The effects had been, well, electrifying. Her hide took on a ghostly sheen, her dung had the aroma of avocado toast, and the ring in her nose began to pick up Radio Luxembourg.

She had been rushed to hospital, and had spent a lovely week indoors, freed from the burden of daily milkings, of having to suddenly sit down when rain was coming, and of random visitations from Big Boy Billy, the local bull and bully.

Admittedly the grass that they fed her was dry and tasteless, but such is the way with hospital food.

But now they were planning to send her home. She looked despairingly at Doctor Duck (in the animal world all the doctors are ducks. Ever wondered where the phrase “quack doctor” comes from? Now you know).

“But I’m not ready yet, Doc,” she pleaded. “I’m still as sick as a parrot.”

“What?” squawked the parrot in the next bed. “Are you losing your feathers too?”

Bettina and Doctor Duck both regarded him silently for a moment, then turned back to face each other. “You’re fine, Bettina,” said the doctor. “Your temperature is normal, your stool is fine -”

“How do you know?” snapped Bettina. “It’s still back in the milking yard.”

“- and,” went on the doctor, ignoring her, “your weight is down to a healthy sixteen hundred pounds.”

“Really?” said Bettina, momentarily impressed. “That’s the best it’s been in years.”

“So you see?” said Doctor Duck. “You’re good to go.”

And so it was that Bettina, half an hour later, found herself outside the derelict building that housed the animal hospital, (humans don’t notice wizards running full-belt into railway station walls, they’re not going to notice an animal hospital in their midst) on the main street of Ennis, County Clare. She was just standing there, trying to work up the will to start her walk home, when a local farmer passed by.

“All right, Daisy?” he said.

Calling a cow “Daisy” is as annoying to them as is calling an Irishman “Paddy”. Bettina felt her blood begin to boil, which is unfortunate when you’ve recently been super-charged.

And even more unfortunate when at that moment the farmer gives you a friendly slap on the rump.

There was a loud bang and a bright flash. Bettina’s white-hot hooves burned four marks into the tarmac, the milk in her udders turned to brie and she had a sudden desperate urge to run with the bulls in Pamplona.

The farmer was blown in through a shop window. A china shop, as it happened.

Bettina glared at him as he sat up in bewilderment. Through her flaring nostrils Adele was yelling at someone to never mind, that she would find someone like him.

“I told them I was sick,” muttered Bettina.




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