October 15, 2015 § 13 Comments

140319-16-029-Copy 2-Chester-rfsmain-1000

His mother was a wild creature and knew how to run. With the brown hair-like fleece of her feral descendants, she was living archaeology to the ancient sheep of the Asian mountains. Her son had slit yellow eyes, and slid onto the long grass when no one was looking. He was a good size and already at the teat when I found him. Feisty and proud with sharp, thick horns, I kept him as breeding stock.

That was eleven years ago. Every November he did his job. I put him in with the ewes, and five months later each one scraped a shallow bowl in the home field, lay down, and pushed out his lambs.

He stayed wild – he never let me know him. And he hated the sheep dog – teaching his family to scatter. Eleven is old for a sheep, and he knew. His age could be counted on the rings of his horns – his battle scars shiny and white on his forehead. He was a fighter – and had been battling again with his younger brothers to keep his place in the flock when I found him. His body looked wrong, his neck crooked. Perhaps dislocated.

The man came with the captive bolt in a shiny, black case. I made myself watch. I thought the killing would be easy, but the skull was old and thick. The ram fell forward when the crack came. Then he got up. Teetered. Shook himself. The man fetched a bolt strong enough for a cow. A louder crack, and the blood came like a bung lost from a barrel.

I walked away to be sick.

A while after that the lambs came. A brown ewe scraped and lay down to push her baby out. All day it wouldn’t come. I washed my hands and put my fingers inside. Legs. Two back ones and a tail. Sticky yellow shit and blood stains on my hands.

I waited for her to squeeze, and carefully twisted the lamb out of her. Long and thin, it stretched out on the ground. With no breath.

I cleared the mucus from its mouth, its nose. Rubbed it gently. Spluttering. It shook itself to life.

The mother heard the life noise. A lick, a snicker. The only sound she ever made.


I wrote the bare bones of this about ten years ago when I thought it was going to be a poem. I picked it up in 2012 and let it finish itself. I blogged it under the same title in 2013. It mostly really happened.

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§ 13 Responses to circle

  • mikesteeden says:

    Ah that smooth writing style I enjoy so much! You have the gift!

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      Thanks, Mike. Glad it hit the spot. Those short sentences have their uses… 🙂

      • mikesteeden says:

        I’ve always like your stories…they were the very first thing I took to, enjoyed and ‘liked’ when starting blogging I recall…plus my more recent stabs at poetry were born of your much valued advice

        • Rachael Charmley says:

          Ha. It seems a long time ago, right? We’ve both grown and developed our work a lot, I think. And got a teensy, weensy bit older… 🙂

          • mikesteeden says:

            True…I’m very old now…even my FB page I recall has me at 110 years! Since my tumble down a flight of stairs recently (sober I stress – passed out with low blood pressure at 4.30am…my wife found me…how shall I put it, ‘without clothes’ in a heap sometime later) I feel very, very old but still do my 12k a day (just)! Do wish you’d re-run that mermaid piece I first read though…I think it was an incomplete as in unfished tale yet I liked it regardless!

          • Rachael Charmley says:

            What was it De Gaulle said about old age? Let’s not go there 🙂 Sorry about your low blood pressure blip – it’s a common thing to happen. What isn’t common is doing it au naturelle. I hope you’re wearing stripey brushed cotton jimjams these days…

            PS. No idea which Mermaid piece you’re referring to. Give us a clue svp 🙂

          • mikesteeden says:

            It was all rather embarrassing I must say…having concluded I was still alive (it seems most of my fall was ‘on my back as opposed to head first) and contemplating calling 999 my dear wife thought to protect whatever vestige of modesty I had with a handy tea towel from the kitchen! As to the first post of yours I read I will need to work out when I started blogging and match that date to more or less your previous posts then report back!

  • Dan Antion says:

    This was sad and touching Rachael. I was surprised when I saw that is wasn’t a poem, but I enjoyed reading it, despite the sadness. the message that life goes on and the cycle continues is important to understand. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      Thanks, Dan. I didn’t find it disturbing as it happened such a long time ago, but at the time it was pretty disturbing, and so a challenge to write about.

  • Very moving and well written, Rachael

  • SirenaTales says:

    Dear Rachael, This certainly packs a powerful, visceral punch…along with gentler sensations of tenderness and poignancy. I experienced a lot of it in my gut–a sure sign of your command of the pacing and rhythm and language. Brava, my friend…xxo

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      So grateful you took the time to read this; I was interested to know what you thought of it. My best, distant friend. xxx

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