General Non-Fiction posted February 16, 2016

This work has reached the exceptional level
Rescuing a lamb on a chill winter night

Stolen Lamb

by zarawest

The lamb spilled from its mother in a rain of blood and fluid on a night so cold snowflakes fell inside the barn. Frost cracked the window pane. Wind slapped the broken barn door. And I knew I had no choice. I would have to steal this lamb.

The ewe watched me, her pale-lashed, brown eyes blinking slowly, her sides pulling in and out as the afterbirth passed. This had happened before. It would happen again. I gathered up the newborn in my trembling hands. Then, like the thief I was, I bundled the slippery ball of life inside my stained parka.

Then I ran, pursued by a plunderer greater than I--the piercing cold that would not hesitate to steal us both. Leaping and stumbling, I crossed the drifts, the yellow porch light a beacon of warmth. Still, tail and hooves froze by the time I reached the kitchen door and pushed inside. The cold would have its due.

In the kitchen, the heat of the wood stove flamed against my frozen skin. I tore off my gloves with my teeth, kicked off my boots, and headed to the sink. With one hand, I turned on the faucet and let the dishpan fill with warm water. With the other, I extracted the newborn from its nest against my breast.

It looked dead--nose bluish, translucent eyelids milky white, swirls of first wool ashy gray. Frost crystals clung to its tail and legs. Gently, I lowered the stiff limbs and limp body into the water, returning it to the liquid warmth of the womb.

Now came the hard part. It was not enough to warm the outside. Cold settled deep. I poured colostrum, the thick yellow milk stolen from another winter-night mother, into a cup, heated it, and then, took down the long pink tube that hung above the sink like an intestine turned inside out. I pried open the ice cold mouth, the milk teeth cutting into my fingers. Then slowly, ever so slowly, I threaded the tube down the stiff throat, praying all the while I reached the stomach--not the lungs.

Drip by drip, the colostrum slipped down the tube, slow drops of heat to fight the chill. It didn't always work, and many shepherds would not bother for such a weak lamb--a lamb that if it survived three months would be worth no more than forty dollars at auction. But when I placed my hand on the bony chest, I could feel the shallow rise and fall of its breath. It wasn't a question of money. It was what one life owed another.

Warmed, dried, stirring alive, the lamb jerked in my arms. Welcome to the world, my heart said. Silently, I carried my baby into the dining room, nestled it in its new home of cardboard, newspaper, and soft towels.

I stared down at the creature plucked from the cold fingers of winter. Another spring lamb. I glanced around the dim lit room counting boxes. Counting tiny white bodies. Counting stolen babies. Six. Seven. Eight.

I kissed the woolly head.

Nine. Another successful theft.

Non-Fiction Writing Contest contest entry
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