Still Counting

It was early in the morning and the air was sweet and crisp. Just the way he liked it. He had been bringing the sheep up here for over 2 years now. Alone. It was his most favourite chore, and if he could tend to sheep all day, he would be the happiest. It was easy, really. All he had to do was lead the sheep safely to the grazing site, make sure they didn’t get eaten or lost and then take them back home, safely. And while they nibbled at the grass and made baa-baa noises, he would stretch out on the cool green floor, bite on a twig and dream. He’d dream about a bottle of ice-cold coke and girls and movies and football and silly things like the other side of the world. It was easy to see why he liked doing this. Who wouldn’t? The only thing he had to be careful of was the wild dogs. Occasionally he’d get lucky and kill one before it got to the sheep. He would take the dead animal home and ceremoniously present it to his parents. But sometimes a sheep would wander off too far and disappear. Those were the worst hidings he’d receive. He remembered each and every one of them, all four. He still had marks to show. He was particularly proud of the purple patch on his leg; every boy in the village was envious of it, even the bigger ones. He smiled as he propped himself up on his elbows. It was time to head back home. Come on, let’s go, let’s go, he yelled at them. One, two, three, he started gathering each one. Four, five, six, something wasn’t right here. Seven, eights, nine, oh god! Ten, eleven, where was the last one? He frantically looked around the landscape for twelve. No, no, NO! Not again, this couldn’t happen to him again. He clutched at his hair for support, he yelled and he cursed, even his purple wound began to burn. But twelve didn’t come.

Far away from the boy, on the other side of the world, where it was still dark, a young man lay twisting and turning in his bed. He kept getting stuck and he kept losing count. He just couldn’t get through. I hate the bloody sheep and I sure as hell hate their bloody fence, he thought as he reached for his bottle of sleeping pills.

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