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"Riding Sheepback", a short story by Roman Payne

"Riding Sheepback" by Roman Payne

Riding Sheepback
By Roman Payne
"Riding Sheepback" llustration by Roman Payne - copyright 2005
(Illustration: Ink and Watercolor, by Roman Payne, Copyright 2005)

When you think that riding sheepback through a sunny valley, alongside a brook, with mountains towering on either side, is one of the most pleasurable sensations of all; and that everyone in your party has a canteen full of fresh clear mountain water, from which to drink, to be nourished and happy in the springtime sun, - and that all of the sheep – including those your friends are riding upon, as well as the lamb you are saddled into – are happy to be trotting alongside such a peaceful mountain brook, and with this knowledge that your friends are happy to be riding sheepback with you especially, and that all of the sheep are happy and still have much energy, as it is early in the day and the weather is good, and they too have had much to drink from the clear mountain brook; and you can hear your friends laughing up ahead – and your friends riding behind you are smiling and cheery too… for there are many hours left to enjoy the springtime sun… because the valley goes on for a long time yet, and the mountains continue to tower on either side for still quite a ways, and the sun will not go behind them, nor behind any clouds for a long while yet to come, and you have no place to go except where you are going, and your friends have no place that they have to be, and the sheep too aren’t in a hurry to get back, - and with the vernal flowers scenting the air and the picnic lunch in your knapsack, with the pure cool drinking water, and the happy blue azure of the sky and the sunny, green grass underneath, you’d think…

…you’d think that you too would be happy and smiling and cheery – for there could be no more pleasurable of a sensation than you are feeling right now – and there is much more of this ahead.

But instead, you are not enjoying any of this; because you know that A. has no intention of inviting you to her house this Saturday for her birthday get-together, - and because you’ve torn your trousers and realize that you will have to go into town tomorrow to buy a new pair – and no doubt that will be very expensive … and you can’t stop thinking that you owe B. a lot of money as it is … and, C. keeps looking at you strangely … probably because it is his house you are at tonight, and this is his dinner table at which you are seated this moment; and it’s obvious to him that you are not entertained by the stories he tells, or the songs he chooses to play; and it’s obvious to everyone that you are upset about the way he keeps talking to A. … and it is apparent that you don’t like the casserole that C. prepared, - nor are you fond of some of the other guests he’s invited (most of whom he has seated beside you), - all of them obviously thinking that you are acting strange because you don’t comment on what the others say, and you don’t laugh when the others do, and you don’t smile at anyone … because you are lost in your imagination, picturing yourself riding sheepback through a sunny valley, alongside a brook, with mountains towering on either side, - while, absentmindedly, you make a mess of your plate, stirring the casserole around (which you don’t like very much, and which is obvious). …And, although it is known to C. that you don’t approve of his choice of wine for the evening, you drink your glass quickly to ease the tedious mood at the dinner table.

So, how could you be happy and smiling and cheery when you don’t care for your present company, and your imagination is running away with you as it is? …when it’s obvious that you won’t be invited to A.’s house on her birthday; as it is evident that you will never be invited again to have dinner here at C.’s apartment, for how strangely he is looking at you – as if you are no longer welcome here! …and worst of all, the most lovely and beautiful A. (who won’t even look you in the eyes anymore), is now putting on her coat to leave with D. – whom you can’t stand at all.


AUTHOR'S NOTE: “Riding Sheepback” was written in a frenzy of emotion lasting about eight minutes. When reading it, it is obvious to some that I emulated so-and-so’s style quite a bit; whereas other seem to think I was deliberately feigning the style of some other so-and-so. Whether I wrote it in the spirit of another writer – consciously or not – I really don’t recall. I also don’t recall where I was when I wrote this or when exactly it was written; and I’m not exactly sure why I like it so much, but I do. Other’s have dismissed it as not being a story at all. Some say it could possible be considered, if one overlooks certain aspects that are or are not said to be present, a “prose-poem”, whatever that means. Some just dismiss it because they don’t like the way it is punctuated.
I include this piece in my collection, because it is one of my few drivellings that I’ve enjoyed reading on more than three occasions. I include it for my own fancy.
- Roman Payne



"Riding Sheepback", a short story by Roman Payne
From The Old Century - written in 1998
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