Joseph and the Sheep, part two

Click here to read part one.

The next morning Joseph arose, opened the wolf’s cage and placed a rope around his neck. He led him to the sheepfold and opened the gate, then beckoned the sheep to pasture. Obediently as always, though with a sense of apprehension, they moved forward. Still and silent, the wolf looked on.

The day progressed as each day before, with the lone exception being the wolf sitting at Joseph’s side. The sheep milled about, each to his own business, eating grass as hunger dictated. By midday Joseph signaled for all to advance to the river and led the procession with wolf in tow. Once arrived, they all drank.

The afternoon held more of the same. Joseph stood solemnly with the wolf by his side as the sheep would graze. Yet for some reason the wolf grew more and more agitated. It started slowly with a low, guttural bellow. A little while later his tail began to sway, slightly more than usual. Sometime later, he began to twitch.

The two sheep who earlier had tried to communicate with the wolf were the first to notice the change in constitution. Sympathetically, they approached to inquire and offer their greetings. They had realized that all morning the wolf had been neglected, as each sheep, including themselves, had simply pursued their normal routine. The wolf, they thought, had behaved all day, but was never extended a welcome.

Just as the sheep were gaining their awareness, the wolf was losing his. The twitching had become a full on shake; he was not suffering from loneliness, but from hunger. Denied his prey the day before, it had been far too long since he had eaten. The sheep’s grass did not appeal at all.

As the sheep sauntered closer his instincts kicked in. Explosively he launched himself at the tender sheep who froze in their tracks. Inches away from descending upon them he jerked back, as Joseph held the rope taut. The wolf collapsed and whimpered in pain as the sheep, cautiously, gathered around.

At this point in the story Emma spoke up. “Maybe they should kill a kharouf, or a baqara.” I cannot tell if she knew exactly what she was saying, but she gave me the ending necessary. The word baqara is Arabic for cow, but kharouf is Arabic for sheep.

Joseph gathered the extended rope and began again to tie the wolf’s mouth and front legs. Just then an older sheep moved forward sadly, but deliberately. He spoke to Joseph while looking at the wolf, “It is true a wolf must eat meat. We sheep love you Joseph, and enjoy the meadow and the river and the sheepfold. But we also know that the day will come when we are slaughtered so that men can eat. I am the oldest sheep here, and therefore the next to die. Take me now, sacrifice me, and give my meat to the wolf. Then he can stay with us, be filled, and not attack.”

Joseph looked at his sheep with compassion; all nodded their heads in agreement, implicitly knowing their time would also come. Joseph drew his knife and cut up the generous sheep.

That evening the wolf ate more deliberately than he ever did before. As Joseph led the sheep back to the fold he brought the wolf, bound now only by the original rope around his neck, back to the cage. He entered, sheepishly, and Joseph spoke to him. “Tomorrow you will come out with us again, only this time, there will be no rope. You will be fed by the meat provided yesterday, and drink with the sheep from the river. You will stay by my side, and I will watch you. Take care, but join our flock.”

The next morning the sheep went out again, walking with one eye askance at the wolf who was walking unbound by Joseph’s side. During the morning grazing the two sheep wandered but then remembered to greet the wolf. From afar they made their way towards him, making sure their approach kept Joseph in between the two parties. Taking notice of them the wolf’s ears shot up. He burst past Joseph, knocking him down as he raced in their direction. The sheep had imagined being less timid, but their primal fear resurfaced as the wolf’s fangs emerged. As he leaped their “Baaaaaaa” hung in the air like an icy chill but then trailed off as the wolf, strangely, missed his mark. The sheep looked back to find the wolf covered in blood, his jaw clenched around the throat of a jackal which had moved against the sheep from behind.

Joseph came quickly and all the other sheep looked on. He rubbed his hand against the fur of the wolf and whispered his thanks into his ear. Then he collected the carcass of the jackal to prepare later for food, redeeming the life of the now-oldest sheep, if only for a time. The two sheep, meanwhile, had recovered from their shock and nestled their noses into the wolf’s side. “Next time,” they said as they smiled, “perhaps you can talk to him first; maybe he would be friendly. But you will have to be very brave…”

Note: ‘cut up’ is the language Emma uses for how sheep die. To find out why, read this earlier post.

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