I’m sure Ellie doesn’t want to go out for her birthday. She’ll bury her nose in a book, and I’ll let her be. Plus, I have more DVRed shows to watch. Then I hear her squeal in the kitchen. But when I get there, she’s already gone, the sliding glass door left open. I see a long-haired sheep in the backyard. And Ellie is on her knees beside the animal, patting its silky wool that drapes down to its hooves.
I step outside. “Where did this sheep—”
“Mister Gold is a ram.” She points at the curved horns. “A birthday present from my mom, I bet.” The ram stares sedately at the cinder block wall, periodically moving his mouth like he’s chewing a hockey puck.
“But this is not New River.” Ellie’s mom lives up there on an acre of open desert, where she can be a livestock nut, letting her goats and pigs and chickens run all over the place. “We can’t keep livestock here.”
“He isn’t livestock.” She slowly weaves her fingers through the long strands. “I knew my mom could find you, Mister Gold.” Ellie starts weeping, of all things.
His hair looks blonde to me, but I’m not going to push it. “If you want a pet, we can get a dog. A golden retriever?”
Ellie looks at me. Really, for the first time in I don’t know how long. I wished her a happy birthday in the bathroom earlier and she continued brushing her teeth resolutely, staring into the mirror like a ram.
Ellie scoffs. “I bet you don’t even know about the Golden Fleece, right?” Then she hugs the ram. “His real name is Chrysomallus, but I like Mister Gold better.”
I’m bewildered. “Maybe we can take him—”
“Mister Gold isn’t leaving without me.” Ellie is exhilarated. “He’s rescuing me from this suffocating mire. Good-bye, mediocrity! I’m on my way, new loves and adventure!” Ellie clutches big fistfuls of the animal’s wool. The ram bucks.
It’s only when the ram floats over Ellie’s head, her body stretching, her bare toes wiggling inches over the dirt, that I snap out of my weird stupor.
“Hey, Ellie, let go,” I whisper.
The ram’s fleece turns gilded against the dazzling expanse of the sky. And now Ellie is singing overhead, for the first time in I don’t know how long.
Dan Crawley is the author of the novella Straight Down the Road (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2019). His writing appears or is forthcoming in a number of journals, including New World Writing, Bending Genres, Jellyfish Review, and Atticus Review. His work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart Prize. Find him at https://twitter.com/danbillyc.