Cal wiped the sweat from his forehead.
“Cal, you look worn out. How many today?”
Cal looked up at the owner of the ewe and grinned through his exhaustion. “Six this afternoon.”
“Phew! Guess this time of year you just have to expect it.”
Cal looked thoughtful. “Yeah, guess I expect it all right, but it still never ceases to awe me to see a new life come into the world. That’s it little mama, help her up.” This last was addressed to the new mother as she nosed her tiny offspring, just minutes old, to her feet.
“You see how perfect each little hoof is? Two eyes, two ears, four hooves. Most all of ‘em the same, like they were designed,” Cal continued.
“Better be. This here’s some good stock. Worth a pretty penny, ‘long as they’re perfect.” The owner less awed than practical.
Cal stood and picked up his bag. “This one’s gonna’ be fine.” Bidding the owner so long, he got into his truck and headed homeward, looking forward to dinner and his easy chair.
The evening light was fading and the figure walking along the side of road ahead of him was indistinct. At first he wasn’t sure if it was a man or a woman. Then she turned sideways and he knew.
Pulling alongside her he slowed and rolled down his window. “Need a ride?”
She stared at him and he thought she looked much too young for all the misery he saw in her face. Without a word she opened the door and stepped into his truck.
“You headed into town?” Cal thought he’d try for easy answers first.
Cal pondered the girl. Who was she?
“When are you due? Looks like your time’s getting pretty close.”
“Don’t want to talk about it.” She looked out the window.
It was dark and late and Cal knew there was no place in town for the girl to stay. He had no choice now but to take her to his own home.
The girl didn’t move when Cal parked the truck. Gracie, his twelve-year-old Lab came out of the barn to meet him, wagging her tail.
Cal figured the girl needed time so he left her there and went into the house.
He made dinner and went to invite her inside. She had left the truck finally but he had no idea where she had gone. He glanced around the property and into the barn but there was no sign of her. Feeling oddly responsible, he drove down the road both ways and peered into the woods on either side. Finally giving up, he ate his dinner cold and went to bed early, exhausted.
Unable to sleep Cal finally got out of bed and onto his knees. “Lord, I don’t even know her name, but you do. You also know what demons are chasing her. Please take her under your wings and give her wisdom, rest, and peace. In Your precious name Lord. Amen.”
Listening to the peaceful cooing of a pair of doves nesting just outside his bedroom window, Cal fell asleep.
Around midnight Gracie awakened him, nuzzling his hand and whimpering.
“What is it girl? You need out?”
Outside the back door, the dog ran to the barn and stood barking. Still drowsy, Cal wondered if some critter had gotten into the barn. He grabbed a flashlight and followed his dog.
Shining a flashlight around, he caught movement and looked more closely. Curled in a corner was the young girl, sobbing. Cal stood uncertainly for a moment not sure about trying to comfort her.
Gracie drew close to the girl and whined softly. The girl stopped sobbing and looked at the dog. Gracie came closer and licked her cheek. The girl threw her arms around the dog.
Cal returned to the house and made a sandwich. Taking it and a glass of cold milk out to the barn, he set them near the girl.
He sank down in the straw near the door, saying nothing, just waiting.
She reached for the sandwich and ate it hungrily, downing the milk in one or two gulps.
“I don’t want to have this baby.” She said it straight out and a little belligerently.
Cal smiled. At least she knew it was a baby she carried.
His cell phone rang. He listened and replied “Sure, I’ll be right over.”
To the girl: “Ok. By the way, I’ve got to go deliver a lamb. Wanna’ come along?”
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