Once a ram butted its head against one stone wall too many. As it staggered back and fell into an unseemly sprawl, the accumulated buttings and sprawlings of a lifetime flashed before the ram’s eyes, and it had to wonder, “What’s the point anymore?” When it came right down to it, what had continually throwing itself against everything that stood in its path brought the ram? The thrill of triumph? Some sense of improved worth and security? Or just the next barrier to be charged? There on the ground, its forehead bleeding yet again, the ram thought perhaps it might not get up this time. Just lie there and concede defeat. Hadn’t it done enough, tried enough? How much could be asked of one ram? Its victories and defeats roughly balanced out thus far. Was “six of one and half a dozen of the other” the best one could hope for from life? What was it, then, that had always driven the ram on, again and again, to fracture its skull on one barrier after another? A death wish? How trite an explanation that would be. If anything, the ram thought to itself, it had been running at life and the fulfillment of all its wishes, not death. And each time life knocked it on its back, did the wishes seem any less worthy of its efforts? Or on the contrary, only more so? What creature in its right mind would have continued in the face of some of the setbacks the ram had met with? The miscalculations, thwartings, blunders, humiliations, all the evidence that most walls in this world are not meant for one to break through, no matter how earnestly you throw yourself at them. No matter how desperate you become. You can dream a lifetime of barriers burst through and yet, in the end, be forced to admit the rubble at your feet was only that, a dream. A mirage. Just picking yourself back up took all the strength you could still manage. All the nerve you could afford. So what was it, the ram wondered once more; what was it that drove this charge against the inevitable again and again? Every ram it had ever known had been obsessed with seeking out limits to break through. As though it were a ritual passed down from one generation to another, this compulsion to go in quest of some defining trial of one’s strength. As though wounding and scarring oneself without stop boasted its own value. And when one stumbled back from smashing into walls, what was there to show for it? Had you played your role in some grand adventure, some defining rite of ramhood? Was that what all this was about? Would they nail your skull to a pole in years to come in solemn recognition of your efforts, then watch it bleach in the sun? The ram looked at the stone wall and at each of its own splayed legs in turn and then lowered its head slowly back onto the ground and stared up at the sky. It watched the clouds drift on the wind for a while and thought it saw in them the shapes of many different birds and animals and fish. Just no rams.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans