The shears rested on the dusty bench by the door. “Why me?” she bleated as she went to the chopping block.

“You aren’t meat. Not yet anyway. Follow me.”

“ I wish I were a pig.

smarter.

You. sir, wish you were a bird.

Lighter.

But you’d look real funny flying. Humans don’t fly.”

“Yeah. Actually we do.”

“You think your sheep think they are saying something when they make all that noise up on the shearing block?” the farm hand asked.

“Yeah. Actually I do. Say something. Anything. Like you were talking to a dog and they will calm down.”

The shepherd is just (put an a in front and it changes everything) (an) overall-ed farmer with a wife and four kids. The daughters and mother chatter up a storm. (When they edit their thoughts, their minds burn the drafts in a coal furnace. Sometimes a little bit of steam comes out the corners of their eyes.)

They work-play in the rain and bake strawberry pies.

The son. prodigal. off in California somewhere.

“He’ll come back all situated. Take over the farm someday. We’re all counting on him. That’s what the girls say anyway. He’ll be back. To shepherd the sheep.. in some new-fangled red (stop.). fancy overalls and a BMW tractor.”

Just a farmer. Just the head of something that means a little bit more than that corporation out to revolutionize things. Knead the old ways in on themselves.

quietly.

like British fences suffocating the pastures,

Brutally.

like Soviet collectives, shooting a millennium of tradition in the back of the head.

“The corporation that wants to buy us out. Wants to put numbers on intangibles you can’t industrialize.

Who is the good shepherd now? a computer… Lord. Comrade. mechanized mother. bleating over the loudspeaker to lull the flock to sleep.

A flock. A flock of flying sheep. It flowed together. I started counting by the hundreds. They kept me awake with their dull, matte eyes. They kept me awake because those sheep never asked about the shears.. or what ‘freed of their burdens’ on the chopping block meant. I always tell my sheep, ‘This is just splitting hairs.’

Pete, you know as well as I do that we outsource the executions.

Corporatization does (stop.). keep us from slitting their throats by hand. The great compromise. I’ll let them pay me for the right to these dull, matte lives. (stop.).

)Breathe(,

As long as they respect my fences and stay the hell off my land.

but the sheep that streamed. through the bloodshot panorama in a sweat-drenched sober night. looked through me as if I were a carcass in the river. Something to flow around on the way to the falls. These sheep are not my own.”

Not understanding the shepherd’s rambling parable, Pete turned his back in embarrassment.

Still walking, the farmer started. The glint of the sun on a bottle in the haymow caught his eye.the needle” What he would do with the needle was superfluous. It was the thought of stumbling upon it without doing all the searching required that made his lungs push his overalls out a little bit faster and further (stop.). (breathing. like you’ve already won the race) than they had when his eyes were still straight on the fields.

Much bigger and much less than a needle, the bottle by the barn was cracked and gleaming. What would it feel like in between his teeth? a crunch, a crash. A clash between the slick ridges. Sharp explosions on the side where his tongue attaches a little more loosely than the other.

He turned and left the bottle on the ground. uncapitalized. not a period. but an empty space

un,:;?punctuated. by further contact. The wasp that crawled lazily on the inside, flew out to follow him.

To watch him with the globular trypophilic eyes.. which, much larger than its brain, sit. always unmoving.

Communication only with its own. (kind) Plotting to attack and (cannibalize?) the meandering bumblebees that live in the rafters of the barn.

A nap in the lazy oak shade. His sheep were in the pasture. The sheep that had kept him awake all night had reached the precipice and cascaded down to splash like water on the rocks.

In his dream, the wasp killed the shepherd. Too stupid to realize they were free, the sheep stayed on the hill eating grass for three days. The Romans fed the wolves gladiator meat in the interim. There can be a million;

;;;;;;types of lives;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

death — .

Meat is meat. They made use of the flesh that would have gone to waste on the red dirt, blood dirt. of the Colosseum floor.

This made the wolves laugh like hyenas. The whimpers of the stray dog in the corner were silent. But the shepherd felt its tremors like a blind man.

The sheep, blissfully unaware that lives with (chosen) souls were sacrificed so the wolves could dance, began to curdle the grass in their stomachs, churning them like glass. Blades, slowly cutting through their intestines to form a combustible star of white and green lacerations with yellow fluid seeping out.

We watched. waiting for the grotesque piñata to burst-Brilliant.

confetti guts and prickly sheep feathers.

But lo! so low. the shepherd — — — — — — — — — — — — — -returned.

Turning to chase the fleeing laughter. we retreated with the wolves. Looking for a safe place. Black and pure, to dance again.

“Peter. That’s the third time you done run off. We got work to do. PETA showed up here the other day. Lots of them. They tried to throw blood on us, but got the sheep instead. I wonder what kind of blood it was. Maybe fake, maybe stolen from blood drives. The crazies. I know my sheep by name.

My son. I saw him in the back. With a fur coat.. and those square sunglasses. He’s 26 this year. 27 is when things.. happen. He still looks like a child, waiting. 

I hope he decides to stay. The sheep don’t give a shit and the wolves are old with creaking bones, fur too matted to skin for a new coat. but the holy spirit, winding with the wasps, siding with the bees, laughing, ever laughing, just wants to be reborn in his Marlboro red.

When he smokes, the holy spirit jumps inside the barrel like a monkey, waiting to get shot out into the breeze to swing. Unbalanced. Wobbling free. An unhinged pendulum pivoting on the guerra familia of the (insert Latin word for whatever makes this bumblebee wasp apocalyptic tragedy. look like a slender-armed sister drowning her chubby little brother.)

I told my boy to paint the town she-devil red. Not the damned.

(by every lascivious, base, and gleaming: wasp-god, sheep-wolf, dog-bee, bitch. whatever we decided does the damning these days)

Colosseum.

Pete, my boy’s just as in-charge as I am. I’ll be gone someday. Everybody dies.. just like that bull Zeus that just keeled over. If my boy runs off again, wait for him. He’ll be back. but in the mean-time make sure the corporation doesn’t take the farm.”

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