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The ewe belted out a painful squeal, almost half-human in it's expression of disbelief. Her first birth, so certainly a new wonderment, all this activity. He knelt down and jammed his arm far up into the sheep until he could feel out the problem. The head wasn't where it was supposed to be. Nevertheless, he quickly put things right - like an electrician working in a tight spot with no light, feeling things our with his hands, working the legs and shoulders down and finally tugging on the hooves till the proper locked and loaded position was achieved. She pulled the trigger almost before he had a chance to get clear and there it was, a little baby lamb covered in amniotic fluid and blood and mucus. It flopped, fish like, in the hay. Steam rose off it. The February night was cold. He picked a small piece of straw from the barn floor and poked at it's nostrils till it sneezed a good hearty life-giving sneeze, and it gasped it's first breaths as a graduate of the existensial purgatory of wombliving - a new member of mother earth's grand carnival. Twenty minutes later, it was on it's feet.

Later, much later and in the city, he walked slowly with his hands jammed in his pockets and his hat pulled close over his eyes - not so much from the cold but from the sheer distrust of the large buildings, the concrete, the cement. January thaw dampened the air but there was still snow on the ground. His distrust was in the snow; it was not natural snow like he knew. It wasn't brown or muddy or chewed up by the traffic of animals pounding away at it. It was more stomped out as if an office full of rubber-stamp clerks had spent a shift at it; boot and sneaker imprints layed one ontop of another, overlapping, but each perfectly the same as the one directly ahead and behind it. There were no pieces of grass or hay mixed into the stew of ice and water and slush. Just sand strewn on top where the ice patches were thick. The sidewalks beneath stared up through the ice like frozen corpses - blankly and without any emotion.

There weren't any animals around but there were people. He paused at a street light waiting for the traffic to stop, listening for the *clunk - clunk* of the changing of red to green, green to red, that strangely serene sound of simple mechanics doing it's simple thing. He saw it, but he never heard it. Right before the light changed a babbling gaggle of girls bumped into him from behind talking loudly of tv shows and bar scenes, clucking and squawking over eachother, loitering at the light. When he was across the street and walking faster now, pulling away from the flock behind him he passed through the college campus and to his right he noticed a maintenance crew worker spearing bits of paper and old cigarette boxes, bent over poking pigeon-like at the refuse of animals.

Further still, a quarter of an hour later. Through the front window of the dollar store he could see magpies by the dozens collecting small and useless shiny little knick-knacks that they would soon decorate their nests with. Hitchcock would be proud, or at least a little creeped out.

Fade to black. Enter the old mage in his black suit and white rim of hair, his balding cap and his famously-demure non-smile. A wink - a blink? What is the moral this time, old fella? What have you got for us today?

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