Where the Sheep Went (Part 5)

    In the horse yard, Shem was studying half a carrot he had found in the grass, while Candace was standing right beside the old Clydesdale, talking almost too fast to make sense. “I always knew there was more to all this than just trudging around the sheep paddock eating grass,” she said. “I’d never even seen a horse before—well, not up close anyway. And now look at me. Something inside me couldn’t sleep, and it was like my mind was always running someplace else. I couldn’t take it anymore, so this morning I left the sheep paddock. Shem and Delilah came with me. We’re going to see what’s beyond the farm.”

 The old Clydesdale had been listening in silence, nodding along with her head bowed down chewing grass. But at this last sentence, she stopped chewing and looked at the young sheep.

 Candace’s eyes were wide, and her breath raced. “That’s right,” she said, “we’re leaving the farm.”

 The old Clydesdale slowly raised her head and stood to her full height. Candace had to stretch her head back as far as she could to look up at her. The old Clydesdale looked down at the young sheep and snorted through wide nostrils. “That is not a good idea,” she said.

 Candace took a step back. “What? What do you mean?”

 The old Clydesdale shook her head and flicked her tail. “The world beyond these fences is a dangerous place. You should stay on the farm.”

 Candace backed up and shook her head. Tears welled in her eyes. “But… I told you—I have to leave. Of all the farm animals, I thought you would understand.”

 “Why?” said the old Clydesdale.

 A loud whinny split the still morning air, followed by a swift thump and the clopping of hooves. Everyone turned to the stables. There, the young Clydesdale, now almost as big as his mother, stamped his hooves and shook his mane, then turned around. On the ground in front of him lay Delilah. She had walked up behind the young horse as he fed in his stall, approaching so quietly he did not notice her until she was right behind him. Out of fright he had kicked with his enormous hooves and struck Delilah in the face. The young horse stared at her.

 “Delilah?” said Shem.

 The old Clydesdale plodded over to the stables. She stood over Delilah, lowered her nose and nudged the little sheep. With a sniff then a snort, the old Clydesdale raised her head. She went and stood next to her son, resting her head across his neck. Shem ran over. “Delilah!” he yelled. On the ground, Delilah’s legs kicked out then stiffened, and she made an unusual groaning sort of sound. After he watched her lying there for a minute, he looked up at the old Clydesdale. “Is she okay?” he asked.

 The horse turned to face him. “She is breathing.”

 Delilah opened her eyes wide and climbed stiffly to her feet. She faced toward the sheep paddock, her mouth hanging slightly open and blood trickling for her nose.

 “Delilah?” said Shem. “Are you okay?”

 Delilah just stared ahead. The old Clydesdale stepped around in front of her and looked at her with concern. Shem put his head down and nudged her side.

 “Shem! Delilah!” called Candace. “Come on, we’re leaving.”

 At the sound of Candace’s voice, Delilah spun around and ran toward her, baaing a deep, unusual baa. Shem watched her, then turned to the old Clydesdale. The old Clydesdale sighed and shook her mane, then went into her stall.

 “Hurry up, Shem!” said Candace.

 Shem ran after her.

    The three sheep ducked under the fence on the far side of the horse yard. Delilah kept her head down well past the fence, almost dragging her nose on the grass.

 “Delilah, are you feeling all right?” asked Shem.

 “I can’t believe that horse,” said Candace. She sniffed and shook her head. “I shared my dream with her, and she tried to crush it. She’s probably jealous. Well, I’ll never tell another animal on this farm what I feel inside.”

 “Candace,” said Shem, “I think Delilah is hurt.”

 “What?” said Candace abruptly. She looked at Delilah. “Delilah, what are you doing?”

 Delilah raised her head and looked at Candace with a vacant grin.

 “She’s fine,” said Candace. “Just scared. Well, it’s okay to feel a little scared, I think. No sheep has ever done what we’re doing. But we’ll do it anyway. Come on.”

 Candace trotted away. Delilah followed, her head bouncing around as though the kick from the horse had knocked it loose. Shem watched for a moment, then went after them.

© 2021 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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