Jonas walked up a hill behind the soccer field where his parents were watching his brother’s game. Being only six on his next birthday, he was not allowed to play.
Jonas pushed through thick bushes, stumbled and fell. When he got up, he felt as though the world had tilted and then righted itself. He shook his head, and opened his eyes. His vision blurred then sharpened. A strong, salty wind brushed his hair back from his forehead. He could hear surf in the distance.
Before him was a stone ruin, and he walked around it. He walked inside, and admired the thick walls. He had never seen any ruins near the soccer fields before. A tall window was set in a partially standing wall. He looked through, and as far as his eye could see stretched rolling hills and bright blue skies. He stepped through, and the air shimmered.
Birds circled in the gusts of wind blowing over the hills. Everywhere his eye looked, he saw very hairy sheep. Behind him, he could see only the ruin, and could not hear the sounds of the soccer game any more.
He walked up and down three hills. The sheep followed him. Whenever he looked at them, they looked away, but they continued to follow him.
As he crested the third hill, he heard a woman’s voice and a man’s voice, raised in an argument.
“You were supposed to watch the sheep, Elspeth! Now they are spread all over the countryside. I need them for the shearing.” A man with wispy brown hair was looking down his nose at a pretty woman, with a wide red skirt who was looking angrily back.
“I have looked after your sheep, Prince Rowan! Count them, and you will see they are all still here.”
“How can I count them when they are scattered to the four winds?” The prince asked. By this time, all the sheep had gathered behind Jonas. The prince looked around, and turned to stare at Jonas and the sheep. Elspeth clapped her hands, and ran over to Jonas.
“You clever boy, how did you get them all to come to you? I am a shepherdess, but I don’t have the magic to make the sheep come to me and neither does Prince Rowan.”
“I don’t quite know,” Jonas admitted. “They just came.”
“Very wise! That is the best way. Come with us then.” Jonas followed them into the next valley, and the sheep came too. “Walk them into that paddock,” the prince called. The sheep followed Jonas right into the paddock. Jonas climbed the fence on the other side and circled back. “You’re hired!” Prince Rowan declared.
Elspeth gave Jonas some fresh milk and cheese. He sat on a fence munching and sipping from a horn cup.
“I have to go back to my family,” Jonas said sadly, after a brief struggle with himself about how lovely it would be to work in the sunshine walking the hillsides with sheep following him. He wondered if his family would miss him, and he quite liked the idea. Elspeth walked over to Prince Rowan who was putting on a large leather apron.
“That’s right! After I have worked for you for three years, this boy comes along, and it’s out with Elspeth, and in with a young boy! That’s gratitude for you!” Elspeth declared, huffing. “I will see this boy home while you oversee the shearing.”
The prince eyes twinkled at Elspeth, but he disappeared into the shearing shed without a word. The clicking of shears were soon heard and dirty, gray hairs rose on the breeze.
Elspeth had a nice smile. She chatted gaily about sheep, wolves, spinning and Prince Rowan’s nasty disposition the whole way up and down three hillsides. She looked dubiously at the ruin. “You live in there?” Jonas nodded and pointed at the window.
“I live just through there.” He started climbing through.
“Well, I’m going then,” she said and off she ran, lightly down the hill. Jonas never saw her, the sheep or the prince again. But he found his family on the other side of the bushes, after the world tilted and righted. That made Jonas smile, even though his family hadn’t even noticed he was gone. He dreamed of sunshine and sheep forever afterwards.
Copyright 2013 Brenda Davis Harsham
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