The engine growled and a small truck came speeding around the corner. Shem jumped back from the edge of the road. Candace spun around and stood frozen and silent as the vehicle charged. It slowed down with a mechanical squeak and a shudder until it rolled gently forward. A man stuck his head out a side window. The truck crept off to the side of the road opposite Butterberry Farm and stopped right next to Candace. A door creaked open, and a man jumped down and out of the truck. He looked at the young sheep in the middle of the road, then across at the farm. He lifted his hat and looked one way down the road and then the other. Slowly he stepped toward Candace, and spoke with a soft, comforting voice, like how Mr McGinley spoke to the sheep. Candace stood still and watched him.
“Candace,” bleated Shem, stepping back from the roadside.
The man looked at Shem and made a soothing clicking noise with his tongue. He looked each way along the road again, and then, with a swift movement, crouched and scooped Candace up in his arms.
“Candace?” said Shem.
The man lifted Candace up onto the tray at the back of his truck. He looped a rope around her neck and tied it, securing her to the tray. He rubbed the back of her neck, then turned and looked at Shem.
“Candace, what are you doing?” said Shem.
“It’s okay,” bleated Candace. “This is the adventure we’ve dreamed of. It’s finally happening.”
The man crossed the road toward Shem. Shem backed away.
“Don’t be afraid,” said Candace. “Think of all the amazing things we’re going to see.”
The man stepped gently toward Shem and clicked his tongue again. Shem felt as though his feet were stuck. He watched the man approach. Up at the farm, Mr McGinley’s voice called out, and then he whistled for the sheepdog. The man in the middle of the road suddenly stopped and looked up. He backed away, turned around and returned to his truck, not looking at Shem again. He got in the truck, slammed the door and crunched the vehicle into gear. As the truck rolled forward, Shem stepped toward the road. “Candace?” he called.
She looked at him with affection. “Can you believe it Shem? I’m going to see what’s beyond the farm. I’m going on an adventure!” The truck grunted and rumbled and clambered back onto the road.
“Candace!” called Shem. The truck roared and sped up.
“Tell the others I made it,” bleated Candace, as the wind rushed through her wool. “Tell them I made it off the farm! Goodbye Shem! Goodbye!”
Shem ran after the truck, but it soon raced away. He stood on the road, watching Candace shrink into the distance, until he could hear her excited baaing no more.
Shem turned and walked back along the road, back onto the dirt path, over the ditch, and back to the front gate of Butterberry Farm. He squeezed through the gap between the gate and the fencepost. Delilah was still standing there, staring blankly ahead. Heavy rain began to fall.
“Come one, Delilah,” said Shem. “Let’s go back to the sheep paddock.” Delilah remained silent and still, the rain pelting down upon her. “Delilah,” said Shem, nudging her with his nose. “Come on.” When she failed to answer him again, he bit her ear. She turned around and faced him. There was no expression on her face. Shem sighed. “Let’s go.”
He looked about through the teeming rain for a landmark to guide him, but everything in the distance was hazy and grey. Fearing he would run into the chief rooster if he followed the dirt path, he took a different route up the hill. After walking a short way, he turned back and saw Delilah still standing by the gate. “Come on Delilah,” he called with a loud baa. Her head raised, and she ran after him.
In the pouring rain, Shem went up through the fruit trees, unknowingly heading further away from the sheep paddock. He trekked all the way to the bottom of the north hill, where he stopped and stared for a long time, before turning to Delilah. She was right behind him like a duckling behind its mother. “The ground is rocky here, and the grass is rough.” he said. “This is not a paddock. We must be going the wrong way.” Delilah looked at him. He looked curiously at her. “Delilah, do you understand me?”
It seemed she did not.
© 2021 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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