By Marie Ellen Pacha

It was a land far from the realm of Normal, where most people did everything the same way, or a least tried to. The lamb was found wandering the streets of the hamlet one day, a hamlet so small it had no name. Obviously she was a well bred lamb for her manners were impeccable, and her fleece showed signs of a recent grooming though it was slightly unkempt at the present time.

She stopped in at the local restaurant, and asked the Chef for directions to the Shepherd’s house. “How do you do,” she asked, “can you please direct me to the nearest Shepherd? I appear to have left the country behind in my meanderings, and I am quite turned about.”

The Chef, a man of Welsh heritage, had a fondness for lambs, (and not just on a platter for dinner) as he was used to seeing them frolic on the hillsides in Wales…though he was slightly startled to hear one speak English. He answered courteously; however, “Quite well thank you, and how does a lamb come to speak English? And how did you come to our hamlet on your own?”

“My mother Ewegenia, said I was a prodigy lamb, and also that I had a gift for gab (though I think she erred about that). I was playing in the fields with the other spring lambs when a wolf came and scattered us. My mother always said, if lost or in trouble I should find a shepherd, so when I spotted your village, I thought I should seek directions. Where please might I find him?”

At that moment a diner in the restaurant asked his waitress for some mint jelly. The lamb overheard, and with a start, dove under the nearest table, where she trembled in terror. “Perhaps yyyoou might callll the shepherd for me,” she spoke, her voice trembling. “Mint jelly and wolves are the two things of which I am deathly afraid.” And she refused to budge from beneath the table.

The Chef, his name was Jack, recognized terror when he saw it, and sent a regular patron, and gourmand named Sisyphus to fetch the Shepherd. He knew when he did this that it could take awhile, as Sisy tended to be somewhat verbose, however he was the only one there who had finished dining. Off went Sisyphus, without his rock, which Jack promised to watch.

Jack tried to convince the lamb to come out from beneath the table, enticing her with a delectable clover salad with mango dressing, and while she accepted the salad, she nibbled on it from under the tablecloth, every now and again peering out to be sure the diner requesting the mint jelly had NOT moved in her direction.

Eventually Sisyphus returned with the Shepherd, who peered beneath the table at the little lamb. “What have we here,” he spoke gently, “and why is a lamb huddled beneath a table when she should be frolicking in the field?”

“It’s that MAN!!” she spoke indignantly. “He asked for mmmminntt jelly,” and her mouth stuttered as she spoke the word. “Bad enough to be chased by wolves today, but to have to face a condiment is too much for a lamb to handle. Why, that’s as bad as asking for mutton for dinner, which could be someone near and dear to me. My own mother, Ewegenia even, who drew the wolves away so I could escape.” and at that thought the little lamb burst into sobs and little bleats of despair.

The Shepherd, who doubled as the hamlet accountant when there were no lambs to be saved, recognized a crisis. He reached for the lamb who was clinging for dear life to the leg of the table, and pulled her as gently as possible from her refuge. He only received one or two minor contusions in the process of extracting her. “For such a little creature, you sure are feisty!” and he rubbed his nose where her head had butted him. “And hard headed as well”. He pulled his Shepherd Certificate from his pocket, and presented it to her.

“Oh my,” she said, slightly embarrassed. “Why didn’t you show that to me first? Anyone can claim to be a Shepherd, even a wolf, why they even wear sheep’s’ clothing sometimes. Those it doesn’t look nearly as nice on a wolf. Everyone knows that…But a Shepherd Certificate requires a lifetime of training, and that means I can trust you. Is your nose alright, mother always said I had an extremely hard head,” and she explained her predicament, in a rush of words.

The Shepherd nodded his head, he would have spoken but he couldn’t get a word in edgewise or upside down for that matter. Finally the lamb paused (I think she was out of breath) and he spoke, “Well, I am the only Shepherd in the vicinity, and it could be difficult finding your flock, scattered as it was by the wolves. I suspect the best thing for you to do would be to come home with me. At the present time I have no other lambs to guard, and you can keep me company. What is your name that I might address you properly?”

“Mother always just called me Lamby, once in a while Lambykins, and the others ewes had some other names for me…..but mother told me NOT to repeat them.” the lamb said innocently, which the shepherd immediately found suspicious.

“Bit of an ornery streak, huh?” he asked, with a grin on his face.

“Uh, ornery, ME?” and her eyes opened wide as if the thought shocked her. But the smile on her face belied her increduable look. “Well, there was the time I took the other lambs ice skating on the last frozen pond and the ice broke and we had to be rescued. It’s not easy ice skating on four hooves, but I found out a lamb CAN do the splits! And then there was the time we all went in separate directions and had the shepherd’s dog in quite a frenzy! The other lambs all let them selves be rounded up, but I dodged for about an hour, till he finally tackled me! For some reason the shepherd put this on me after that,” and she displayed a little bell tied to her neck with a bright pink ribbon. “It makes it a little harder to hide, but I discovered if I stuff it with a spare bit of fleece it doesn’t ring for awhile. And the ribbon is quite fetching don’t you think.”

At this point the Shepherd interrupted as he was quite exhausted by this discourse and beginning to wonder exactly what he might have gotten himself into. “You can tell me more later, and I am sure you will,” he murmured the last just under his breath. “But it’s time now for us to let Jack go about his business, and for us to settle you in at what I call my little palace.”

The lamb curtsied to Jack,(remember I said she was well bred), glared at the gentleman who had mentioned mint jelly (well bred but NOT perfect), and pranced out of the restaurant at the side of the Shepherd, who for some reason held on tightly to her little pink ribbon. She bounced down the street at his side for some time till she saw a sign that make her bleat, “EEEEEEEEEEEEK!!”

The Shepherd let go of her ribbon and covered his ears. “What was that for?” he spoke rather loudly as he had nearly been deafened.

Her hoof pointed at the sign of the offending store >>>Bob’s Butcher Shoppe it read and her little body trembled again.

“What kind of a hamlet is this?” she mumbled.

“Nothing for you to worry about Lamby,” said the Shepherd. “Bob is a vegetarian butcher, the closet thing he has to meat is a beefsteak tomato, but boy can he slice it. Oh and he does have some eggplant parmesan.”

“Veggies?” said Lamby, who suddenly remembered she had only nibbled on the salad Jack had offered her. AND that her mother had always said a lamb should eat regularly to grow up big and strong. Her pace slowed as they neared the shop and her nose quivered as the smells of the vegetables within assailed it. She came to a complete halt directly in front of the store.

Shepherd walked on a step or two before he realized that she was not at his side, and turned immediately to find her standing with her eyes shut, and a blissful look on her face. “Now what are you doing?” he asked, puzzled (and it won’t be the last time.)

“I think I am in lamb heaven,” one of her eyes opened and she peeked at him. “What is that wonderful smell?”

“It must be one of Bob’s Veggie Burgers or some such creation…He’s quite creative when it comes to food. Are you hungry?” asked the Shepherd.

“Well, uhmmm, YES!!!” she stuttered and then stammered. The wolves interrupted my breakfast, and I ran and ran forever, and Jack offered me a salad but I couldn’t eat in the presence of mint jelly, and I am rather famished, now that you mention it.” And she batted her eyes innocently up at him. Something deep inside warned him about that look.

“Well then, let’s just stop and pick up something for dinner, as I really hadn’t planned on two.” and he held the door open for her. If she had thought she was in heaven outside the door, inside she was floating on a cloud. She had never seen so many vegetables arrayed in such an attractive display. She rested her nose on the glass display case and sighed happily.

Bob the butcher was at the counter talking to the most attractive young black and white cow, when they entered. They were discussing a recipe for mango meringue pie. Shepherd joined the discussion and said, “What would you recommend for my young charge for dinner, and I’ll take one of those pies for dessert!”

Both Bob and Eddie (for that was the lady cow’s name) turned to look at Shepherd’s companion. Shepherd introduced both of them and Lamby, somewhat distracted by the food, remembered her manners finally, and curtsied and spoke, “It’s a pleasure to meet you both and what smells sooooo delicious!”

They both laughed and Shepherd spoke, “Lost lambs are my responsibility you know, and this one is apparently starving as well. Is that your veggie pizza I smell Bob that has Lamby ready to swoon? If it is we had better take two to go.” Lamby chattered away to Eddie as Bob wrapped up the pizzas, one eye never left sight of the packages, and she trotted along at Shepherd’s side and kept trying to nibble the corner of one of the boxes as they walked.

Bob and Eddie watched them as they moved down the street and Eddie commented, “I think she’s going to keep him busy.”

“But can he keep that one OUT of trouble, she has a look of mischief in her eyes,” commented Bob.

“Time will tell,” Eddie answered.

Once at his “palace” which was actually built of plywood, and a simple building, Lamby followed the food as he set it on the table, and got out plates. Prodigy lamb that she was she climbed into a chair and sat, waiting, fidgeting as little as she could, considering how close she was to food.

Shepherd put her first piece of pizza on the plate and watching as she devoured it…He waited till he had given her the second piece before he took one for himself. After her fourth piece she still showed no sign of slowing up, and he was concerned that she might explode if she continued to eat at that pace, so he waited to give her another piece, and chatted with her as he started to pick up the pieces she had dropped in her feeding frenzy. Hooves do not exactly make eating pizza easy you know?

“I will put a little pillow and a blanket in that little box at the foot of my bed for you Lamby. It will be warm and soft for you. And the fire will burn slowly all night, so you can see where you are, as it is a strange place for you. There is always water in the bucket by the door, and tomorrow we shall see about getting the tangles out of your fleece.”

As her stomach had filled, Lamby’s eyes began to droop. It had been a day full of excitement and new things and she was still a young lamb. Shepherd turned back to the table after picking up his plate to see her asleep with her little pink nose centered upon her dish. He smiled and wiped her face gently, and laid her in her bed.

He played his guitar as was his habit before bed, and watched as her ears twitched occasionally to the sound. Then he turned out the light and went to bed. He woke sometime during the night with an itchy nose, and when he went to scratch it was not terribly surprised to find the top of her head nestled next to his, where she curled on his pillow.

Note from the Town Crier:

Now you have to remember this is not your normal little sleepy hamlet. Normal was down the road a bit, just past Whimsey, which was a delightful little place. The residents of our little hamlet found Normal just a tad bit shy of boring and somehow felt a little out of place there. More about Normal and Whimsey further into our story. It’s time for you to meet three of our other main residents.

Sisyphus, who you met in the restaurant with his rock, whose name is Rock, but may not necessarily be the same rock you met the day before, is the realtor in town. Unfortunately for Sisyphus, sales are frequently slow and houses can be difficult to move. And since the hamlet is sooo small he has to do a great deal of the construction himself. Thus you can frequently see him pushing a rock UP the hill to where his construction area is located. Because the hill is quite steep and gravity being what it is, by the end of the day, a rock frequently gets out of his grasp and rolls back down. The residents of our hamlet are used to this mishap, and have developed a warning system. And Sisy, as he is lovingly called by the residents is quite adept at jumping OUT of the way.

Mumm’s Cookie is one of the most beloved residents of our hamlet. She owns and runs the bakery/day care center. She serves the residents and wipes the noses of all the small children that come into her care, while wearing a tiara, and feathered boa. She is a touch of class where ever her high heels touch pavement.

And finally, Prev, who came to the hamlet quite by accident. He had been in Normal to pick up a load of turkeys, and while there were turkeys there they were foul, and NOT fowl. Having a vehicle large enough to transport a flock, they offered him a deal on a shipment of flamingos. Whimsey which was the next town over was not interested in flamingos, and so he stopped in our hamlet. Sisyphus, thinking that they would be an instant draw to any properties up for sale immediately grabbed them up. Unfortunately, unlike a statue of a flamingo, these were not satisfied to merely stand in a yard, but migrated to the pond behind Shepherd’s house. Prev, while he worked somewhere beyond Normal, decided that this hamlet was a much nicer place to be, and bought himself a cottage in the burbs.