Hollow Men: Nine
I stayed at Adam's place a couple of days. Adam said I could stay as long as I wanted, but I'm not dumb, I know the last thing they needed was an old guy draining their resources. I can eat astounding amounts of meatloaf. Nice of him to offer, sure, but he couldn't have wanted it or fully meant it. Also it was getting cold. The rain had let up in a way that had the smell of snow, and the last thing I wanted was to be caught in the backwoods in snow. So I told him I was going and they offered to drive me down but I refused, I needed the head space anyway.
But what about the people that might want to find her, they might want to be finding you, Adam suggested. I shrugged that off. Maybe, I said, but more likely they know she's out of range now so why would they care about me? Punishment, Adam suggested. I told him punishment was too personal and too expensive, something a vengeful God might do, sure, but not a successful corporation.
So Dog and I took off, and it felt good and natural, like no time had passed at all. But of course it had. The days traveling went by like they always did, as a moment in time punctuated by bird song and chipmunks yelping and the occasional roast squirrel--and for that I was grateful.
The farm survived. Dog and I sneaked up on it from the woods like homesick wolves. I circumnavigated it twice with a wary eye. There seemed like nothing unnatural, or unnaturally preternatural. It looked cold. The way you can look at a house and see it spiritually shivering. When I walked back to the porch I saw dead chickens in the pen and I saw that the fencing everywhere looked good enough but my God those are some skinny sheep. Start a fire. Tend the sheep. Feed Dog. Like that, those are the way things are.
As I worked off the cold I dozed, I was feeling warm enough and secure enough to doze. Then I was woken by a distant bleat. Not unusual to hear a bleat. Yet from that direction and without sheep playing Marco Polo in response like they do, just a single bleat out there somewhere. And without any real rational provocation I put on my jacket and stepped out into the nice cold air which seemed like brand new air and I walked about, still hearing it in a fairly regular pattern nowhere near the barn.
I walked down my road, towards the bit of wet land, the place on the road with the clearing and the big boulder, and I looked out across the land very sure this was the direction that sound was coming from and there in the moonlight, standing on that goddamn boulder was my sheep, my lost sheep.