The Sheep Farmer

She was stretched out on a reclining chair, a towel covering her midriff, having a pedicure. Her treatment ran over into mine. Trying to still my irritation I joined in their conversation. I should be separating the sheep today, she was saying to the therapist, but I booked this ages ago. It’s lovely to have it done properly, she continued, lying back her hands folded across her groin, particularly the leg waxing, there’s always bits you miss.

She had the most amazing eyes. Black irises set deep in the clearest of pale blue. I couldn’t help staring at her. Do the mothers get upset when you take the lambs away? I asked. Oh yes, she said, but we only take the fat ones. 70 k some of them. (What? I wanted to ask but didn’t for fear of coming across as completely stupid, 70 kilos?) The therapist, who by now was applying the dark grey varnish, nodded in agreement and obvious understanding and then I remembered that she was Swedish and probably raised on a farm. Are they weaned when you separate them? I asked. Yes, she said, though there’s no weaning field this year, what with the weather. We kept talking about separation instead of death. For that is what this is about, slaughter of the fattest. What’s it called, she asked, when they have the fasting? I took me a few seconds to understand what she was getting at. Ramadan? I suggested. No, said the therapist with certainty, that’s gone. Diwali? I said again, the Festival of Light. Yes, said the sheep farmer, one of those, I think. The prices for lambs are high. It must be that. We must’ve missed Ramadan.

The talk moved to long haul flights. When I get old, she said, I’m never going to go on a night flight. No, I said.

Fifteen minutes late and I’m lying on the couch ready for my massage. Pain, pleasure and relief. My head throbbing with the releasing of toxins. Are you sure it’s that? he said in the car afterwards, forever suspicious of what he sees as my surmising. That’s what she said, I said, and it makes perfect sense to me. Hmm, he said.

We’d got there early and watched a one-web-footed seagull across the road. It kept flying up and landing on our car, once it did so carrying an empty plastic bag. Plastic equals food to them. It is now part of their evolution. It had a regal limp but was a little battle-worn, it’s head plumage rather shabby. Non-plussed by the people walking by, it remained on the same patch of pavement, looking at us with its one dark, yellow-ringed eye. A man put a key on a shelf outside the bank.  Boy scout that he is, he first took it into the bank, then after talking to the man who first found it, he retrieved it from the bank and took it to the police station.

He is kind. Picking me up from work yesterday he told me of the Liverpuddlian homeless man who he gave a few quid to outside the 24 hour Spar. I took him in with me, he said, to choose a sandwich which he did and then asked for a packet of crisps too. Then the man asked at the till if he could claim a free Sun. No, they said. So I bought him one also. People treat me like shit, he told him.

A bitty day full of loose ends to sort out. Amen to that and the solving of it.

Less scared on waking.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.