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My Black Sheep

Story by Nick Brown (Read author interview) June 26, 2012

art by Dave Reale

On our farm we have a black sheep. We nicknamed our black sheep Smog. Sometimes sheep look like clouds, but a cloud of smog might resemble a black sheep. Our farm has several cows also, but they’re all pretty normal. Sometimes Smog wanders into the house to eat cereal. He makes a mess all over the kitchen, you know, that kind of mess. Pa has considered taking him out to the old shed in the back where he keeps his axe. I don’t think he knows that Daryl takes him out to the shed every other weekend. He comes back all sweaty, his clothes all disheveled.

We took Smog to the fair once; he was the only black sheep in Lockmeyer County. It wasn’t really that big a deal though, he wasn’t as interesting to look at as the pink or orange sheep. Still, he was a prettier sight than the grey sheep. I think he likes it better back at the farm; at the fair he bites people. I always thought it was because Smog was a wild sheep. Pa says he found him in a crater behind the barn. He filled in the crater with dirt. Ma wanted to move. Pa didn’t.

Sometimes at night, I dream that Smog is my pillow, and I rest my head against his black wool, counting the other white sheep as they fly by overhead, hopping the fence in the sky. Sometimes they don’t always make it, and they’ll break a leg on the way over. That’s when the wolves come. It isn’t pretty. When I wake up in the middle of the night, sometimes I get worried and wonder if Smog was eaten by wolves and I run out to the barn to find him. My brother Daryl caught me out there once. It didnt end well.

Sometimes when it gets really hot outside I’ll take Smog to the well for a drink. Pa says the water isn’t good because of mold spores, says it makes yo thnik ufnny We’re supposed to get our water from the hose, but Smog promised not to tell anyone. The spores don’t seem to bother him anyhow.

Once, we took a family vacation to Bitter Springs. Daryl stayed behind to keep an eye on Smog and the cows. When we got back, the house had burned down, and Daryl was sprawled naked on the front lawn. Pa found Smog and the cows in the shed. One of the cows had been eaten.

After the house burned down, we moved into Pa’s old trailer from before he met Ma. Daryl had to sleep outside. Once, I thought I heard hooves on the roof, when I went outside I saw Smog on top of the trailer. He wouldn’t tell me how he got there. The next morning he was back in the barn with Daryl’s hat on.

With the house burned down, we had to get our water from the well. Pa said it would be okay as long as we boiled it first. Sometimes Pa forgot two boyl ittt

Men showed up from the government. They said they needed to do some digging. Pa told them they couldn’t. Ma told me Pa had to go away for a long time. I never saw him again. Men came with digging equipment and tore up the yard. One of the men wanted to see the crater where we found Smog.

They kept on digging for a while. The machines they used kicked up a bunch of green dust into the air. The men started wearing funny suits. Tyeh dind’t giv usseny sutes Daryl offered to help the men dig, but he didn’t have a suit. Daryl got sick and they took him away too.

Lots of people started driving by the house. They stared at me and Ma as they went by. Smog didn’t like all the people. He got mad and bit one of the diggers. The people from the government told Ma that they would have to take Smog away for examination. I told them they couldn’t, but Ma squeezed my shoulder real hard, which means to stop talking.

It took five men to get Smog into the truck. He was bucking and wailing like Daryl’s cat did when I tried to give it a bath. I wanted to yell, but Ma would be angry. I stood and watched as they forced Smog into their truck, and cried as they drove away with my black sheep.

When the men came back to get their equipment, a man told Ma that there were active radios in the water and that we should move right away.

I was confused. I never heard any music in the well.

About the Author

Nick Brown is an up-and-coming graduate of SUNY Oswego’s Broadcasting and Creative Writing programs. He has served as the treasurer of the SUNY Oswego Writers’ Open Forum and of the college’s student run literary magazine the Great Lake Review. He hopes to pursue further education in graduate school and working in the marketing department at a coffee company.

About the Artist

Dave Reale graduated from Arcadia University with a degree in English. Originally from Philadelphia, he now has set up temporarily in New Orleans to paint.

This story appeared in Issue Thirty-Six of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Thirty-Six

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