In which it is revealed that
Aesop wasn’t paying attention
even if the ill-fated shepherd was
It was a warm spring evening the first time the wolf emerged from the bushes, casting a long shadow and a ravenous glance toward the oblivious sheep. The boy, the young shepherd, only chanced to look up from his homework in time to raise the alarm, sending a quick text to his abusive older brothers and his lazy lout of a father who were, at that moment, lolling at home in an after dinner torpor.
But the home troops were as good as their word. They had all promised the boy’s mother that they would rise to his defense if he ever called for help, and rise they did, clamoring out the back door and up into the field. Still, they found it disappointing when they arrived to see the sheep grazing peacefully and the boy returning to his studies, saying only: “It’s okay, you guys. The wolf’s gone.”
Several days passed before the wolf made another appearance, stalking again from the far corner of the field. The boy had changed his usual position in anticipation that the wolf would turn up in the same spot, so he noticed the threat immediately. Again he sent a quick text and again the reinforcements came running. At least, his brothers came shouting from the house – their father didn’t bother – but the older boys were disappointed once again to arrive only after the wolf had fled. They took their displeasure out on their baby brother the next morning at breakfast, enlisting their father in a round of teasing that their cowardly youngest sibling was just jumping at shadows and quaking at the rustling of wind in the bushes.
So it was that on the third occasion, the boy waited until the wolf had actually invaded far enough into the field that it startled the sheep, which ran in a blind panic into the opposite fence. The movement seemed to stir some additional bloodlust in the wolf, even as it caused the boy to fluster at the keys of his cell phone.
At home, the garbled text barely roused the loutish father, who snarled at his two older sons, urging them once again into the field. The middle son looked up from his X-Box and said, “Oh, c’mon. It’ll take me five more minutes to beat this level.” The elder son pointed at the TV and said, “Dad! It’s American Idol. They’re announcing the winner after the next commercial.”
Thus, the back-up team stayed home and the boy discovered with horrifying certainty that he was no match for the wolf. The killing frenzy that followed cost the lives of the boy and four sheep – a tragedy that went undiscovered until the mother returned from the late shift at Wal-Mart and inquired after the whereabouts of the only other responsible member of her family.
The story ends as all these stories seem to end, with pain piled upon pain. The father, now suddenly righteous and indignant, gathered a posse of hunters and dogs, who in the days to followed wound up killing three wolves – and a cougar just for good measure. The mother, somehow, didn’t accept this as adequate redress for her losses. She divorced her loutish husband and, having won custody of the surviving children and the house, sold the sheep and had the brothers plant carrots and radishes in the blood-soaked field.
Unfazed – in fact, somewhat energized by the crisis – the father hit the speaker circuit, endlessly trying to justify his inaction by heaping criticism on his late son and promoting his own unique credentials as a risk analysis expert. In that role he is to this day a frequent and popular commentator on Fox News.