Wednesday, 8 October 2008
Of sheep and men
The sheep munched lazily on the grass. Hazy viewed afternoon; Jennifer settled down on the grass, a safe distance from the animal.
She didn’t like sheep. She would tell other people that she didn’t like anything which had a plural the same as its singular. This would disarm or amuse the person interrogating her so that they wouldn’t ask why she was scared of fluffy little, wouldn’t hurt a fly, cute and cuddly, sheep. They could walk on by without further questioning.
Now that she sat in this vale, with nobody but her and one sheep for company, she wondered if it was their multitude that scared her. Flocks and sheep are words inextricably linked. It was unusual to find one here, contentedly chewing the long summer grasses, completely alone.
Watching the sheep intently, Jennifer wondered if the two of them hadn’t been led here, by some greater power, to better strengthen the bond between man and sheep. To gain a better understanding of each other and cast off the fear of the unknown.
The sheep, she gathered, needed little. It wished only for grass, which was in plentiful supply. And, when the weather grew cold, a coat of the very finest wool grew heavily across its body.
‘It’s not a bad life for a sheep,’ she thought, completely forgetting where the creature stood in the food chain.
Jennifer hopped up onto her knees and then allowed her bodyweight to shift forward. Her arms reached out and caught the ground before her. Her simulation of life on four legs was simplistic, but it would have to do.
She looked back at the sheep, brushing her long black locks from her face in order to better observe it. The creature bent its neck low and bit at the long green stalks, vacuuming them into its mouth and ruminating upon them with a professional ease.
Jennifer tried it. She found that she really had to grind her teeth together hard and then use all the strength of her neck muscles to help rip the tough grasses free. And then she munched.
The girl stayed in her four-legged pose while she worked the cud round and round in her mouth. It felt like her saliva had become thickened and milky in her mouth. She looked at the ground and noticed the odd fly and beetle hopping across the stalks. Undeterred, she kept on chewing and, when she felt like she could chew no more, she swallowed it all back. It was a strange sensation as the thin blades were sucked down into her gullet and she choked a little before it was all gone. She considered the taste for a moment, but could only place it as ‘grassy’. It seemed like she instantly recognised the taste of grass, though she couldn’t say for sure that she’d eaten it before. ‘Perhaps it’s the same for everyone,’ she mused, as if knowledge of the taste of grass was innate to human beings.
She was dribbling a little onto the ground and when she looked up she saw the sheep across the vale was staring at her, quite obtusely, as if she had no manners whatsoever.
“It’s alright for you,” she called. “You’ve done it all your life, I’m new to all this grass malarkey!” And with that she sat back down on her bottom, scowling at the sheep, and wiped her face with the back of her hand, smearing her cheek green.
The sheep looked away, nonchalantly as you like, and moved a little closer to the river where the grass is even lusher.