Mary Peace Finley Award-winning author of books for young people
© Mary Peace Finley 2012
The night was too silent. No sheep bleated, no nighthawk swooped, no cricket chirped. Julio slipped his reed flute into his bag and scanned the faint outlines of the blue mountains, eyes straining to see through the darkness. He picked up a torch from his small fire and began to circle the flock with Chivita, his sheep dog, at his side. "Santa Maria," he prayed aloud, asking for protection from what he felt lurking outside the meadow--wolves, bears, Jicarilla Apaches, spirits… The sheep grunted and shuffled, averting their eyes from the torch, and tightened into a circle of dusty wool. A newborn lamb bleated. Julio stiffened, listening, senses alert, sliding a tiny silver coin back and forth between his thumb and forefinger. The smells of rich, oily fleece and trampled grass rose to his nostrils. Cool air brushed against his skin. A hoof clicked. Chivita began to growl softly. Slipping the coin into his bag, Julio dropped the torch. He put a rounded rock in his sling and stood tensed, straining to hear. Still nothing moved in the blackness. Chivita broke into a bark. She raced around the sheep, her black coat swallowed by the night, the white patches flashing like ghosts. The screams of a terrified lamb and a triumphant yelp---"Yah-hee! Yah!" ---shattered the tension.
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