by Kirby Wright
The blonde hostess carries a pack of Archetype Cards to the table. She shuffles. Ancient Kauri trees frame a view of Muriwai Beach below her house. This meditation circle has become habit for the women after Pilates on Saturday mornings. She deals: one card per woman, face down.
She asks for a volunteer. A redhead flips over her card and reveals The Fool. “I am my card,” she mumbles, staring out the bay window to the Tasman Sea. The black dots that are surfers make her think of a flock on an ever-shifting landscape of hills and dips. She admits she can’t get Garfunkle’s “Bright Eyes” out of her head. Life for her is a working ranch, where sheep grazed from the front door up a grassy rise. They were family. Her husband called them “our investment.” She supervised summer sheerings, filled troughs, and handfed lambs. She loved the smell of newborns and barley. She had her favorites: Wooly Willy, Big Mama, and Lambskin. The flock was good company during her childless days on the ranch, in those blue hours when self-doubt and longing switched the world of color to black and white. Her husband stunned her when he phoned in the mobile butchers. A Home Kill truck rumbled through, kicking up tiny dust tornadoes.
“You are Sheep Woman,” the hostess says.
The redhead nods. “I only see shadows.”
Sheep Woman watched men climb out of a white truck. A tattooed man spat. The driver shook hands with her husband. They drove the flock by clapping and shouting—one kicked Wooly Willy. Big Mama hunkered down. The driver got back in his truck and gunned it. The rumble frightened her sheep up the hill. A horn blast made Big Mama scamper. All the sheep were gone, except for a wobbly newborn. She knew everyone would be herded into a pen below the crest, the only structure she couldn’t see. “Stay inside,” her husband warned before snatching the lamb and vanishing over the hill. Low voices mixed with calls of “Ma, ma, ma.” The whine of whirling saws turned the green hill black. The breeze carried a blood stench through the screen as she washed a greasy skillet. She felt ugly. A desire to sell everything and move to Australia burned inside. Part of her wanted a divorce. A bigger part wanted to die.
The meditation circle is silent. The women know confession is the first step but that grace comes only after forgiveness. The hostess asks for another volunteer. A new bride raises her hand.
Sheep Woman leaves. The aroma of baking scones comforts her in the kitchen. She pours Earl Gray into a white cup, cooling it with cream. She remembers the sound of metal striking and avoids hitting the porcelain sides while stirring. She studies a sea with waves breaking deep and spitting their white toward shore. A Takapu drops as if wounded. The surfers are gone.
The wind off the Tasman rattles the Kauri like bones.