Shearing Sheep


“Juan! Go make out with Bonnie in the closet. Unless you’re too chicken.” They caught me daydreaming again. I look to my left and see Claudia laughing along with two girls beside her. One of them appears to be uncomfortable, but that’s just a guess. She had been relatively quiet up to this point. She seemed to me unfit for the environment, like myself. Like a puzzle piece to the wrong puzzle, similar in appearance but unfitting. I look to my right and see Luis making mock kissing faces as Bonnie looks down at the lip of the wine bottle connecting us. I stand up. Bonnie and I walk hand in hand into the closet as pockets of giggling egg us on. When I close the door, I find the combination of silence and darkness reflectively peaceful. I close my eyes and observe myself somewhere high up, amongst the River of Dreams. Atop a starlit staircase as currents of dreams rush towards an endless abyss of space, I think of Solomon. Above all, Solomon’s story is one of Contentedness. Counting one’s blessings.

“Are you gonna kiss me or what?”

A train crashes loudly against the cement walls of an underground station.

“At least show me your dick or something. I can’t go back out there and say nothing happened.”

Bonnie’s hands run up my arm and then across my chest, before moving down towards my waist. She fingers at the zipper of my jeans. I stand rigid, frozen in my stance, as if the control center operating my body has vanished. With one hand on my waist she uses the other to grab one of mine, before pulling it up and forcing it against her chest. My hand stays neutral, making no attempt to advance or retreat, numbly indifferent.

“Why aren’t you into this?” she jabs. “What’s wrong with you?”

“There’s a spider on your head.”

Almost immediately, Bonnie screams, pounding at the doors of the closet. Eventually she breaks free, falling to the ground outside where the rest of the group watches in confusion.

“What the fuck is wrong with you!” Bonnie screams.

Accusing eyes overwhelm, searching for an answer.

“There was a spider on your head.”

Amidst a scourge of disapproval and suspended anger, I make my way from the closet to the stained orange carpet staircase. As I walk swiftly upwards, steps transform themselves into crystal stars as I make my exit.

When I exit the house, I examine the large tree in the front yard. Its branches stretch across the sky, dodging cable lines, covering windows. It holds an ecosystem of unique creatures. Lichen spreads around its trunk, an array of tiny insects—ladybugs, courier ants, aphids and the like, busy themselves amongst the branch highways, birds build their homes in its canopy, cherries sprout abundantly from low hanging twigs. I consider the fact that the tree to which these organisms belong is their universe, and their existence depends upon not only the tree, an organism itself existing between its own wider universe, but one another as well. I scratch my head by the philosophy of it all. Interconnectedness. Separate, but together.

I grip the thick trunk at a spot that appears clean, free from dust or lichen. I hoist myself up and begin climbing, like a bear, to the first sturdy branch, where I perform a quick pull-up to sit. As I lean against the trunk atop this branch, I think to myself that I’ve now joined the tree’s ecosystem. A sense of comfort washes over me like a smooth rock on a shoreline. I close my eyes and attempt to feel the tree. I sense warmth on my back, coldness on the tips of my fingers. There is a gentle breeze. I focus on the atmosphere in which I am belonging at the moment. Indistinct chatter drowns the sound of the wind.


I hear my name.

“Juan, focus.”

I open my eyes and roll my head against the trunk, towards the voice. The quiet girl from the party is looking up at me, her head sprung out of the window. Her long wavy brown hair is precariously close to covering her eyes. Her skin looks nice, smooth. And her eyes look innocent, guarded. She’s wearing a waffled red dress, a smart choice for the day’s weather conditions. Up to this point, I’ve never heard her speak. I noticed her today for the first time. New girl. Her presence was enigmatic, but evocative. She seemed out of place, unsure, in the crowd of partygoers.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

“Lily,” she responds in a soft tone, almost cautious sort of way.

I catch her eyes moving to another place, maybe across the street. A subtle switch. I wonder what her intentions are. How she’s feeling. What she’s thinking. It strikes me as peculiar that she’s engaged me in conversation but has seemingly discontinued so quickly thereafter. As if she is unprepared. As if she was hoping that I lead. I roll my head back against the trunk to its original position, in contemplation of the decision. I choose to speak, but the moment I open my mouth, she starts again.

“I didn’t do it either,” she says.

I’m intrigued now. I lift my head from the trunk, meeting her eyes again. Pieces of dust fall into my open hood. “Didn’t do what?”

“The game. I thought I was gonna do it, but when I was in there I just couldn’t bring myself to. Tony lied afterwards. He was probably embarrassed. It’s not that I didn’t want to kiss him, I probably would have, it’s just when I was in there my body froze. Almost numb-like. I couldn’t move a muscle. Couldn’t even say anything.”

Our eyes remained fixed on each other’s for a moment, before she looked elsewhere again. At this, I redirected my gaze to the sky. A big puffy grey cloud drifting slowly.

“They’re all in the backyard now.”

My gaze stayed fixed on the gentle cloud.

“Playing Truth or Dare. I don’t want to play.” Lily stopped her speech for a moment, before continuing, “If they see you here, they’re going to make fun of you,” she revealed. I had already sort of gathered that on my own. “What are you doing?”

“Participating in the ecosystem,” I remark.

I could see Lily mulling the comment.

“Can I join?”


A few seconds later Lily emerges from the front door and I catch her full image. She has perfect proportions, and her skin looks nice, like a fleece cloud, soft to the touch. As she walks towards the tree, she runs her hand through her hair, pushing it to the side. I get to my knees to ready myself to move further up the tree, to allow Lily my spot.

“Come down from there. Let’s go to the park instead. I don’t want them bothering us. Plus there’s bigger trees at the park. Probably better for climbing.” I take a short breath out and ponder the suggestion. I notice Lily push some hair to the side once again.

“Alright,” I agree, jumping down from the branch. Leaves rustle in the act, and several cherries drop to the ground. I grab one and bite into it.

“You know what these are?” I ask.

Lily bends to grab the nearest piece, picking it up and examining it closely. “Cherry?” She guesses in a semi-question, semi-answer sort of way.

“Kind of,” I begin. “I could be wrong, but based on the colour and size, I believe these are Acerola Cherries. They’re like a super cherry. Very high-performing. Doctors are starting to use them as cancer treatment. It’s not big news though because of how scarce they are. They have something like 50 times the amount of Vitamin C than a regular cherry.”

Lily smiled a twitch, maybe impressed. I picked one up and took another generous bite. Lily’s smile widened as she bit into hers, too. She looked up at me and opened her mouth to say something, before deciding not to.

“Good, huh?”

“Very good,” she replied, nodding her head in approval. “Let’s bring some to the park.”

As we make our way down the block to the park at the end of the street I learn that Lily is not native to Oiapoque. Her mother is Brazilian, but her father is Canadian. She was born in a small Canadian city, in a place called Sault Ste. Marie. She explains that she grew up in a big house on the shore of Lake Michigan, but left with her mother when her father got arrested. Fraud. She proceeds to tell me about her father, and the implications of his crimes.

“Scott Busey, Taylor Waycott, Tremaine Stefan, Wystan Mathew, Sam Glenn, Quincey Ashley, and Tom Scairn. Seven total. Tom Scairn, he’s the one that got my dad locked up. A semi on the freeway hits a guy and the next day he’s making purchases; something doesn’t add up. We were both shocked. My mom was devastated. Tremaine Stefan, he’s the one that sent us all the threatening emails. He sent letters, too. I have them all saved in a box I keep under the stairs. I read them whenever there’s something I want but can’t have; it reminds me to not want things too much.”

We locate a big oak at the bottom of a hill near the back of the park and make our way across the long grass toward it. When we arrive, we sit at the base. It is a humongous tree; nearly double the size of the previous one we’d been sitting in. I look up at the sky in wonder. What was previously a sky filled with a few grey clouds has morphed into a dark sky, with darker and fuller clouds. The occasional star pushes itself out from behind the dark grey clouds. I close my eyes and find myself drifting through the universe, cruising past galaxies and nebulae. I ponder the story of Lily’s move to Oiapoque. It is tragic. It is not her fault. This I consider her in my relation to her. A specific set of occurrences has resulted in our acquaintance. I imagine Lily as one of the stars in my voyage, a bright light in the dark, beautiful on its own, but ultimately part of a larger ecosystem, subject to the waves and ripples of the universal tide to which it belongs. In the void, I hear somewhat of a call, recognizing it as Lily’s voice. She’s lost somewhere. Needing help. It’s nighttime and the waves are rising. I open my eyes. Lily’s face appears above mine and I closer look at its delicate features, despite the darkening sky. She appears to have really soft, clean skin.

“Did you fall asleep?” She asks.

“No, just daydreaming.”

“You do that a lot, don’t you?”

“Not more or less than the average person,” I growled.

Lily drops her head onto my open chest, using it as a pillow. I catch her looking up, directly at the moon.

“I don’t belong either,” I confess. “I’ve never fit in anywhere. I don’t jive with this world; people busying themselves, running from errand to errand, task to task, job to job. Aimlessly. Meaninglessly. Never stopping to smell the roses. Life passing them utterly by.”

“Not noticing the Acerola cherries. Is that what you mean?” She asks me holding up a round, ripe, red Acerola.

“I suppose that’s what I’m saying.”

“Where do you go?”

Where do I go? I think to myself. “Where do I go… when?”

“When you daydream. Where do you go when you daydream?”

I look down at Lily’s wavy brown hair. I sense the weight of her head supported by my chest. It feels warm. Her presence makes me feel warm, like a gentle flame in a cave, light and warm.

“The river,” I say, closing my eyes.

A moment of silence passes before Lily asks, “can I join?”