The sheep

Write about how you ended up not liking an animal.

For Ilinca.

A trip to the zoo, at the age of four, changed my relationship with sheep forever. I loved the zoo, not necessarily because of the animals (which most of the times looked sad to me) but because of the snacks called “pufuleti”. They are fuzzy corn nibbles that every Romanian child or adult loves, although they aren’t particularly healthy, so eating pufuleti happened only on days out or if I had been especially good (which was a rarity).

Oh! How wonderful they tasted. Their crunchy fuzziness melted in my mouth leaving a trace of salty bliss on my tongue and I particularly enjoyed to decorate my dresses with the tiny particles of fluffy corn because they glimmered in the sunlight and made my dress look as if it had been polished with fairy dust.

In fact my dress looked as if someone had smeared with glue and attached tiny white feathers to it, giving me the appearance of a mutant chicken rather than an elegant princess, but reality and imagination are a blurred world in the mind of a four year old, so who could tell me otherwise?

My uniform was completed by pink shoes, two piglet tails and a mischievous smile (elements that must have looked peculiar to the locked up chickens, who used to eye me with the same interest a scientist shows upon discovering a  new species)

Picture my four year old self skipping down the road that leads to the sheep’s fence. I remember that road vividly. There were three huge fields behind three fences, all on the left hand side, each allocated to three animals: ostriches, lamas and sheep. In my mind, there were two levels to pass before I could reach the safe zone, the sheep zone.

I had to duck the mean ostriches who would undoubtedly try and pinch my head off. This story stemmed from my previous visit at the zoo, when an ostrich had pinched my mom’s hair because she had gotten too close to its fence.

That was the reality. But reality isn’t fun to any four year old in this whole wide world, so it needs to be mixed with creativity, a substance children’s brains seem to have in abundance.

Thus, the story of the evil ostriches who pinched off anyone’s head if you came too near to their filthy fence was a plausible alternative. After I managed to dodge the evil ostriches (my frantic dance always caught the birds’ attention and whenever I made eye contact with them, I shrieked and ran forwards as fast as my little pink shoes would carry me and my pufuleti bag) I had to face my next opponent: the spitting lamas.

My dad once told me that lamas are the best spitters nature has created, which immediately fed my wild imagination. Lamas had become nature’s machine guns. Their thick spit was like acid and could dissolve your clothes and leave your stark naked (a disastrous situation) so you had to always move to make it hard for them to hit you.

I even invented a General Lama who took it upon himself to cause utter shame to passing by children. He was a fine quadruped with a long grey beard that he always tripped on, which amused the children and annoyed him greatly.

I ran and jumped and ducked and ran some more, barely dodging the spits spluttering behind me. On that day, General Lama was especially angry because a child had grabbed him by his beard, which meant he was more determined to annihilate children passing by his fence (and if he could, he would hit a parent too, to teach them to educate their “little parasites”).

I reached the sheep’s fence unharmed by the Genral and his army. I took three deep breaths and calmed my racing heart.

A sheep was staring at me. I approached, stepped over the boundary line  until only the thin coils of the fence separated me from the animal. I noticed a small hole in the fence and offered  the sheep a “pufulete” through it, as it was big enough for its hairy mouth to fit in.

Not even my imagination could have predicted what happened next. My mom called me. I turned. It proved to be fatal.

Thug. Thug. Thug.

 Then I screamed.

My bag of pufuleti stuck out from the sheep’s mouth. Half of it was spilled in the muddy grass at my feet (the five seconds rule hadn’t been invented at that time and even if it had been I doubt anyone would have dared to eat muddy pufuleti) the other half was being sucked in through the hole in the fence by the merciless sheep.

The world around me had come to an abrupt halt. It was just me, my pufuleti bag and the sheep.

“Why?” I asked it.

I could see my pathetic face reflected in the sheep’s glassy horizontal pupils. It continued to chew.

“Why?!” I demanded.

The sheep finished its kill (plastic and all) and baaed. It was laughing. I gathered all the venom I could find in my small body and hissed:

“You groody sheep!!” (which translates to “You greedy sheep!!”)

The sheep merely turned its woolly beige bum in my face and left.

I started to cry. My greatest enemy turned out to be my guardian sheep. On top of it all, I could hear mom and dad laughing their heads off behind me.

But I knew better now.

I had fought a war and lost a dear comrade (the pufuleti bag). I had life experience:

Sheep can not be trusted.

 

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