Who woulda thought a sheep and wolf could be friends?
|"Today's the day!" Daddy bleated. His dark eyes sparkled as he glanced from Ma to me. I fought the urge to roll my eyes and scooped up another bite of oatmeal and sugar beets.
"Do I have to be here for this?" I swirled my spoon in the mush, creating a bowl full of red goop. Daddy plopped into his seat and reached for his breakfast bowl.
"Of course you do, young lady! Our herd has worked like a dog, pardon the expression, to get this deal off the ground. What would it look like if, as the head of Shear One, my own family refused to stand by my side in this exciting, yet critical time?"
I sighed and pushed my oats away. Ignoring Ma's disapproving glare, I stood.
"Can I be excused? Fangston and I were going to pick strawberries near Why-River."
Daddy frowned as he dropped a chunk of beet into his oats, "You and Fangston, eh?"
"Curly..." Ma warned, "Don't get started —"
"What?" Daddy growled, "You don't think we should be concerned that our only daughter is friends with a wolf? A wolf, Ewegenia!"
Ma waved an indifferent hoof, "It's not the same as when we were lambs, Curly. The wolf clan has matured through the years. They're trustworthy now—"
"Fine," Daddy snorted. He shook his spoon at me and squinted his eyes. "But you be careful, Barbraa. And I expect you home before our guest arrives this evening."
I couldn't resist rolling my eyes this time.
"Okay, Daddy. I'll be here. Can I go now?"
"Yes. Get on, then," he sighed.
"Do you want to drive her away?" Ma hissed as I skipped from the dining room. "This wolf phase will fade if you stop pestering ..."
I covered my ears with my hooves and dashed out the front door.
"Another fight?" a voice snarled.
I lowered my front legs and nodded, "I'll give you three guesses as to what it was about."
Fangston's tongue lolled out of his mouth as he laughed, "Lemme see. Was it about yours truly?"
I chuckled, "I think Daddy's afraid I'm going to follow in my great aunt's hoofsteps."
"Is that the one —"
"That married a wolf? Yup. But what else would you expect from the black sheep in the family?"
Fangston licked his lips and nudged me with an elbow, "So only black sheep can stray from the path, eh? You'd never consider ...?" he snapped his jaws shut and looked away, embarrassed.
"Why, Fangston Howl the Third, are you suggesting what I think you're suggesting?"
"No. Uh, that's crazy talk," Fangston growled. I paused on the road but Fangston kept walking, his tail drooping to the ground. Trotting to catch up to him, I bit my bottom lip and caught his paw with my hoof.
"I didn't mean to ruffle your fur, Fangston. You're my best friend. I've never considered —"
"Forget about it," Fangston barked and pointed across the river. "Looks like the berries are ripe for the pickin'." He dropped to all fours and loped across the plains.
"You're not off the hook that easy, Mr. Howl," I grumbled.
I took my time catching up to Fangston at the Why. A few fish jumped from the water, their silver sides glinting before they splashed back into the depths of the river. I imagined them following the course of the river from the mountains, down to our little village of Shepherdsville, smack dab between the branches of the Why, and on to the Big City. I noticed Fangston staring at the leaping fish, as well. He licked the drool from his jowls and gave me a sheepish look.
"Sorry about earlier."
"No problem," I shrugged.
An amiable silence settled between us. I pulled a few strands of grass with my hooves and popped the pieces into my mouth.
"Did you hear about the guest we're having over tonight?" I asked.
Fangston snapped at a fly buzzing around his hairy head, "Nope."
"Apparently daddy got Wooliam Staffner to come to the factory. He's going to be promoting our business in Big City."
Fangston's eyes widened, "The Wooliam Staffner? The actor in the stage play Space Tracks?"
"You've seen it?"
"My litter-mates and I snuck off to Big City a few moons back to see him perform. He's the most talented sheep I've ever seen!"
"Hey! I protested.
"Present company excluded," he winked.
I flopped onto my back and watched a few lazy clouds drift by.
"I wish I didn't have to go to this stupid meeting," I moaned.
"Why not?" Fangston fixed keen eyes on mine, surprised. "You'll be meeting a celebrity, for moonlight's sake!"
"But I just know I'll stick my hoof in my mouth and say the wrong thing. We really need to get our custom wool socks and mittens into the limelight. What if I wreck the deal? Our herd will be devestated!"
"You would be the one to bring the herd down —"
"Stop it!" I laughed and smacked his arm. "You're supposed to be making me feel better about this."
He rubbed his shoulder, "Well, how about this for making you feel better? I'll come with you."
I slowly blinked my eyes, "To my house?"
"What? You ashamed to bring a wolf to a sheep party? I could always come in disguise, if you want. I think Grampy has an old sheepsuit in the attic."
I glared at him, "No. I just don't think daddy would like it."
"Oh. Well, it was just an idea," Fangston cleared his throat. "You think you could get Wooliam's autograph for me while he's in town?"
"No," I stood and held out my hoof. He raised an eyebrow.
"You're going to get it yourself."
"But you said your dad —"
I rolled my eyes, "It's about time daddy met you face-to-face. He's only ever seen your tail-end skulking around the property. Besides, I bet Mr. Staffner will love having a fan drooling all over him."
Fangston took my hoof with his massive paw and I hefted him up off the ground.
"Of course," I grinned, "That's just a figure of speech. It's probably best you don't literally drool on him."
Fangston laughed as we ran paw-in-hoof back to my herd.
Written for "A Fistful of Merit Badges" — Animal Badge