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Added: 1 April 2005

Sheep Suicide

We share the hotel free breakfast room with some breakfast-ruining posh types in loud voices. Immigrants are all right if only they'd keep to the middle of Australia, but they insist on wanting the cities. The economy is good now that we've busted up the unions. I drive a Mercedes and these streets are too narrow. We vow never to return but we do.

We go out on our traditional coastal walk where traditionally we do see a certain number of dead sheep. Sometimes there is first some death whiff that sets you half looking and half avoiding, but other times it's just the jolting horror of sudden eye sockets, ribs, and patches of matted fluff. It's strangely enjoyable but that's not why we go.

We are enjoying the beautiful scenery of harbor and bay and hill and cliff and we are not averse to catching a glimpse of Fungi the Dingle Dolphin, who does not appear. We see some sheep who are alive and playing a game of races. Sheep can run quite fast when they want to and these sheep want to. Nobody is chasing them, they have no reason to do it. They run for no reason, without reason. They run for fun. They run fast, in a tight little group, a sheep race.

They run straight towards a wall at top speed. Just before the wall they all stop. All except one, who gets caught up in excitement or despair and keeps right on going, slamming WHAM head first into the wall at full blast and crumples like sticks in a bag and doesn't get up.

The other sheep don't know what to do. There is a quieting. Any additional races are cancelled. They stand patiently and wait. One senses apprehension. A non-specific emanation of guilt. A touch of embarrassment. The fallen sheep twitches, but does not get up.

The waiting continues uncertainly. Some of the sheep begin whispering to each other and shifting about uneasily. Some of them look around, check their watches. Nobody wants to be the first one to say let's go. The mortally crunched sheep stays down. One senses a nascent resentment among some of the gruffer sheep. They wouldn't say so, but they think he's a bit of a tick eejit. Still, gentle loyalty wins the day, and nobody leaves. They are after all, to a man, sheep.

Somehow they arrive at a group idea. Maybe he just needs some encouragement. Maybe if we start up a new game, he'll pop up and come along. What if we all run off at a trot, mightn't he get up and join us? When we were all running, things were great. If we all run again, couldn't it be like those gay times once more?

The sheep trot off half-heartedly, going only a few paces. Two of them towards the back are the first to stop. Hold up guys, this isn't working. The group slowly re-coalesces around its fallen comrade in the ditch by the wall, the wall of death. They wait uncertainly. One can be seen to venture a longing look at the clouds slowly drifting by overhead. Some of them simply look at each other. Got any ideas? Nope. Me neither. Is he getting up? Nah. Didn't think so. Was that motion!? No. Just an involuntary twitch. Yeah. Well. This is awkward. Shall we try the running thing one more time? May as well. Spread the thought.

Getting the consensus takes some time and involves a considerable amount of standing around uncomfortably. Is there a better idea? Anyone? No? Ultimately they do try the running thing again, albeit even less enthusiastically than before, and with no better results. As they trot off together at half speed, half looking around behind them to see if he's sprung up, it quickly becomes apparent that the wished-for rejuvenating effect will not occur. Nobody is truly surprised. Two at the back stop again and go back. It is impossible to tell if it's the same two as the last time. From this distance, at least, they all pretty much look exactly alike. Guys, guys, hold up, it ain't working. Home boy is still down.

You can't say they didn't wait long enough and you can't say they didn't try. That sheep just wasn't getting up. After a while, it didn't even twitch. It sort of shlumped down and disappeared into the ditch and started to become eye sockets and ribs and fluff patches. The rest of them? They stayed nearby, but spread out just a bit and started to graze. The clouds continued to drift slowly by overhead.