Once a sheep rented a wolf suit. It didn’t tell any of the other sheep about the suit. They wouldn’t have understood. The very idea would have been incomprehensible to them. Renting the suit was not a spur-of-the-moment decision, however. The sheep had always felt a secret longing to live a wolf’s life. A humdrum existence grazing over hill and dale year in and year out had never struck it as very exciting. By contrast, being out there on the edge, a mysterious figure pacing the far ridges of experience, now that was a life! It was larger than life, in fact. The sheep had seen wolves in the movies and read novel after novel in which life as a lone wolf was portrayed as far more romantic than anything the sheep had known in its years of plodding along with the rest of the flock. Misunderstood rebels, conflicted loners who spent nights on the roam and days on the run—it all sent a tingling excitement down the sheep’s spine. After it had returned from the rental shop and unpacked the suit, the sheep laid out the thick pelt in silent admiration. Gingerly, it touched the dark fur and was sure it could feel the rush of the wind passing through it. Leaning forward, it could almost smell the romance of the frontier, hear the distant call of the wild. The sheep tried a tentative howl, but it wasn’t at all convincing. Perhaps with the suit on, the effort would sound less like a rattling bleat. The sheep slowly began to draw the wolfskin over its wool, which proved to be far more difficult than it had anticipated. Squeezing its rotund, fluffy bulk into the lean form of a wolf required much sucking in of the breath, it discovered. Finally, however, the sheep managed to get into the suit. It had faced away from the mirror throughout so as to enjoy to the fullest the liberating thrill of the moment when it caught first sight of its new self. Now it whirled around with a snarl it had long practiced in secret, flashed a set of enormous fangs, and immediately sprang backwards in terror. Its heart pounded in its throat as it struggled frantically to pull the wolf’s head back off and find once again the soft, reassuring lines of its own face in the mirror. Panting heavily before the more familiar features, the sheep felt as if it had looked over the edge of a cliff in a night so dark it could see nothing, only hear—perhaps in the far depths, perhaps right behind its ear—a muffled growl. What a fright it had given itself! The life of a wolf must be something quite different from what it had imagined! The movies and the novels hadn’t come close. A true wolf must be as far removed from these fantasies as they themselves had seemed from the sheep’s own middling but safe existence. Yet there was something about the figure in the mirror that held the sheep’s trembling attention: some chill, haunting trace of a great wilderness it now realized it would never have the courage to enter. Instead, it would live out its days between the secure fences of the pasture it had thought to leave, keeping the memory of this alarming episode entirely to itself. If it hurried, it could still get the wolf suit back to the rental shop just ahead of closing time. Before it did, though, the sheep took a pair of shears and quietly, carefully, snipped off a small tuft of fur.
Copyright © 2003-2004 by Geoffrey Grosshans