'Far Off From The Gates Of Gold' by Ed Broom

Not under the shelter. Not by the hedge. Not in the ditch. Jogging from pen to pen, Micah carried out one last headcount. Ninety-nine present, for which he tried to feel grateful. That afternoon’s freak hailstorm had been a portent. One had gone astray.

'Nothing else for it,' said Micah aloud. Hood raised against the drizzle, he set out for the far corner of the park. There was the board that marked the perimeter. They shouldn’t go beyond this point, he thought, and when they do, nothing good comes of it.

It had already been a long day, and his legs protested as he scoured the rough and steep track. Nothing. His hands stung from the thorn-ridden brush that peppered both sides. Still nothing.

The day’s light had gone by the time he reached the stream. Micah cursed himself. Why hadn’t he thought to bring a torch? He picked his way along the water’s edge, straining his eyes through the falling rain. Again, nothing. No, wait.

Without thinking, Micah bounded into the freezing water that covered his feet, his ankles, his knees. Here was the one that had wandered, unable to right itself. He lifted it tenderly out of the current and waded back to the shore, then found the strength to balance it on his shoulders for the long return journey, spent but joyful.

Finally back in the park, Micah returned it to the shelter and the safety of the fold. In so doing, he became aware of being observed. A young lad was keeping dry under a nearby pen.

'Rejoice,' shouted Micah, 'for what was lost is found!'

The boy looked from Micah, then to the shelter, and finally back to Micah.

'Mate,' he said, 'it’s only a trolley.'

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