Where the Sheep Went (Part 7)

 “I don’t think we can break through this fence,” said Shem.

 A guttural bleat blared behind them, with the frantic thunder of little hooves. Delilah raced across the grass, straight toward them.

 “Look out!” cried Candace, and she and Shem jumped aside.

 Delilah charged between them at full speed and rammed face-first into the gate. With a thump and a rattle, her head rocked back and she bounced off the timber, dropping to her knees. Through her sagging jaw escaped a drawl that was half laugh, half groan. She staggered to her feet and wobbled a little before finding her balance, then stood still and stared at the gate in front of her.

 “Look,” said Shem.

 Delilah had struck the very edge of the gate that opened outward when Mr or Mrs McGinley drove their car through. Though a thick chain secured that end of the gate to an adjacent fencepost, Candace had succeeded in snapping the metal peg that held the bottom of the gate in place in the ground. With the peg gone and the chain fastened loosely, the gate creaked outward, opening a gap between the gate and the fencepost just wide enough for a young sheep to escape through. Raindrops began to fall.

    Mr McGinley’s voice hollered almost wildly. Candace dashed straight for the gap and wiggled her woolly body between the gate and the fencepost. “Hurry up, Shem!” she said, as soon as she was through.

 Shem looked at Delilah staring distantly at the gate right in front of her.

 “Shem, are you coming?” said Candace.

 “Yes, okay,” said Shem. He slipped through and joined Candace on the other side of the fence, then poked his head back through the slim opening. “Hey Delilah, we have to go. Come on. Delilah.

 A long, loud whistle came from up the hill. It was the whistle Mr McGinley used to call the sheepdog.

 “Shem, we have to go now,” said Candace, “before Mr McGinley sees us.”

 “Delilah, come on, let’s go,” said Shem. Delilah stood still. It seemed she had not even heard him. Shem sighed and turned to Candace. “I don’t think she’s coming.”

 “Well, she doesn’t have to,” said Candace. Her hooves tapped the grass, unable to keep still, as she looked at Shem with wide eyes. “Can you believe it? We’re really doing it. Shem, we’re outside the farm!”

 Shem nodded. “I’m happy for you, Candace.”

 Mr McGinley’s voice cried out, high-pitched and panicked. The sound echoed down the hill.

 “Quickly,” said Candace.

 She turned and ran ahead into the wide, wondrous unknown. Shem trotted after her.

    The two young sheep followed the dirt path as it continued beyond the boundary of the farm, crossed over a small ditch of mud and long grass and came to a road. There they stopped. Across the road, they saw a shallow creek, and beyond that, a thick forest of tall pine trees. The sky was dark above the trees and flashed in the distance. Thunder rumbled. With a joyful whistle, a family of sparrows darted up from the reeds beside the creek and flew high, over toward the farm. Candace watched them go. “This is so wonderful,” she said.

 Shem tapped the road with his hoof but stayed at the roadside. “Lots of little stones,” he said, examining the hard black surface. He looked at Candace. “Where do you want to go now?”

 An engine neared. Candace looked one way along the road, and then the other. To the left, the road disappeared around a corner where the forest began; to the right, the road went straight and far, past neighbouring farms. She nodded to the right. “We should take the path that way.” She stepped out into the middle of the road and peered into the distance. The engine grew louder. “Shem, I believe this is going to be the start of a grand adventure.”

© 2021 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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