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March 4, 2013 Fiction

The French Shepherd

Liam Harkin

The French Shepherd photo

Rue Henri Dunant. Grenoble. July twenty-eleven. The poet heads away from his house. The poet a kid. He stole a girl from a Milanese man with a poem. The poem featured the moon. The poem featured anatomic parts. The poem featured a city. The poem featured mountains. He was sure it was no good. He was sure it wouldn’t work. But it did. Why. The poet still heads away from his house. Down rue Henri Dunant. Away from the girl. It will be like this for a while now. He said. He found a job online. It was up in the Alps. Le Taillefer. There were wolves near there. Wolves killing sheep. Poetry is dead. He thought. He could lend a hand. The farmer would pay forty euros a night. The farmer would supply a rifle. The farmer’s wife would supply food. He wanted someone unknown. A deadeye. He had deadeyes. He said. Wolves were protected. He got in his car. He hadn’t even seen most things. It was dusk. He’d seen dusk. But not this dusk. His hands were at ten to two. He drove to Le Taillefer. It took one hour. He was higher. It was nine-thirty. He met the farmer in a clearing. Flock close by. The farmer gave him a thermos. Gave him some food. Gave him a rifle. Gave him a torch. The farmer left. He sat on a rock. A rock above the sheep. An electric fence circled the sheep. He waited. He was cold. Cold with a thin coat. The sheep milled in the night. He heard bats. He heard insects. He gripped the rifle. He waited. A sheep sounded. He drank from the thermos. Soup. Nothing happened. For a long time. Only. He

     watched. He woke up. He walked down rue Henri Dunant. The girl had walked down here. Earlier. To work. He got in his car. He hadn’t seen much. It was dusk. He’d seen dusk. But not this dusk. His hands were at ten to two. He drove to Le Taillefer. It took one hour. He was higher. It was nine-forty. He got out the rifle. Got out the torch. The farmer was there. The farmer gave him a thermos. Gave him some food. The farmer left. He sat on a rock. A rock above the sheep. An electric fence circled the sheep. He waited. He didn’t want to look up. He had paper in his pocket. He heard bats. He heard insects. He had paper in his pocket. And the sky. Some sheep baa’d. He saw no difference. One side of the bed empty. Memory foam. Rue Henri Dunant. Dusk. Ten to two. The farmer was there. Thermos. Food. Rock. Silence in the night. Stationary thoughts. A note on the table. Get some milk. Love, memory foam. Rue Henri Dunant. Dusk. Ten to two. The farmer was there. Thermos. Food. Rock. No note on the table. A poem on the fridge. Blurred words. He read it and it read him. Tired. Dull throbbing optics. Fridged milk. Rue Henri Dunant. Dusk. Ten to two. The farmer was there. Thermos. Food. Rock. The girl woke him for sex. He just lay. Rue Henri Dunant. Dusk. Ten to two. The farmer was there. Thermos. Food. Rock. Baa. Baa. Something

     different. The air was sharp and loitered and the smell of the sheep droppings rose. There was no moon, just compensating stars, tired furious light. The first died when he picked up his pen. It barely yelped. Two shadows dragged the corpse through the fence precisely. Reflective trail. Nothing shocking. He put his pen to paper. Teeth incised flesh. He wrote. Then crossed it out. He could not change that it happened. Another dead now. The flock clocked on now. Crying up to the stars. A more collected collective noun now in one corner of the pen. Two wolves opposite slitting a throat. He wrote. He could not see the page well. The stars dimmed as he put pen to page. What about the girl? He wrote. The Milanese man? More wolves emerged in the black, flanking the sheep and they were repulsed. Screaming as a murmuration away from fear in fear electrified by the fence falling over twitch limbs out to freedom void the semi-circle of wolves avoided till the fall. Pocketed paper he cocked the rifle as the flock flung out over the cliff edge in delayed epiphany. The ovine waterfall plunged, savage cataract to cadavers. He shot a wolf and it rag-dolled with a whimper, another, then a scattering. The air was still sharp but dulled with the faint ghost echoes of gunshots and morbid cries. He wrote a poem that day. As the sun rose and circled the air warmed. At dusk he left. Ten to two. The farmer found a thermos and crusts and corpses and grass painted evenly in dark congealed blood. A sliver of a moon silvered the red. The poem featured the moon. The poem featured anatomic parts. The poem featured a city. The poem featured mountains. It was not the same as one before. He showed it to the girl the next day. Bloodshot eyes. They made love. The Milanese man called the house eight times drunk, the seventh time the poet kid read him the poem and the Milanese man cried. Then he called again, and read his own poem that sounded like a vicious tinny war cry from an answer phone throat.

image: Jane Carlson


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