There were sheep in the paddock beside the house they rented. One ram and about ten ewes. They called him Barry because he had a baritone baa and you could say baaa-rry. The ram had massive, pendulous testicles that banged back and forwards on his rear knees when he bounded up to the fence to eat the scraps he was offered from a white bucket under the sink.
Why does Barry eat everything before the others?
It’s called the patriarchy.
He hated Barry. He made this weird thing in his head about Barry and arrogance and violence. He tried explaining it.
You’re aware he’s just a sheep, right?
He didn’t have much time for sheep. All they did all day was eat and shit. It was depressing. Not for the sheep but for him watching them eat out their days until what? He didn’t know if it was the abattoir or just keeling over one day for these sheep. He supposed the knackers yard. For the sheep it was probably the best of all possible worlds. Predator free fields of food. Like humans at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
When people went into the paddock Barry would charge them and slam his head into them. He wanted the food scraps, but he didn’t want you on his scrap of earth.
Barry probably broke his routine occasionally, in the right season, to do a bit of rooting. The ewes probably carried on eating with Barry’s balls banging on their hind legs.
They went down the road past their rented house one day to see what was at the end of it. The road was gravel and after a couple of turns past fields and trees and a dry creek bed it ended at the gate to someone’s house.
He turned the car around and headed back the way he had come but found there was a white ute up ahead. The road was narrow and they had to shimmy past each other, but the driver of the ute waved to stop. They talked to each other through their driver’s side windows.
What are you looking for?
We’re staying just back up the road
This is private property.
There’s a sign.
I didn’t see the sign.
Country folk don’t like people just driving around. There’s a sign.
I didn’t see the sign.
Well, there were two cars down here yesterday. We don’t like it.
Something about this beetroot-coloured man in a white ute reminded him of Barry. They parted company. There was no sign. Except for one stuck to a post by a tree in a field that said: “This Area is Under 24 Hour Security Surveillance”.
There’s a good Motorhead song called Eat the Rich.
You can play it in your head when you drive through Slatetown. There are always a lot of rich city-folk in Slatetown. They look at things in the boutiques. Many of the things are pretty enough to pick up and put down again but not to buy. Anyway, he had been listening to On the Beach and it always put him in a certain mood. The one where you want to throw an “antique” French bookend through a plate glass window where it might conk a middle aged man in designer shorts and loafers on the head.
Historic (Pākehā) Tree.
Historic (Pākehā) Building.
“Most Beautiful Small Town 2017” stickers are everywhere. The town has preserved many of the buildings of the white people who settled here. In the outskirts they drive around in white utes. They probably listen to Neil Young. He felt like Beetroot Man when he was in Slatetown and wanted to tell all the city-folk to bugger off. It wasn’t that ironic because he disliked Beetroot Man as much as he disliked himself and he was city-folk.
The house they were renting was about five minutes out of Slatetown and next to a marae.
He wondered if Beetroot Man had much to do with it. He wondered if Beetroot Man ever told Māori people to get off his land. Maybe not. They might grab him by his testicles, swing him around and around their head, and fling him into the post with the “This Area is Under 24 Hour Security Surveillance” sign on it.
They would go to jail of course. Their game of Communalism had been changed to his game of Monopoly and you can’t play one game with the rules of another.
The sheep put things into perspective. That was the problem, he decided. He found it hard to think of ways he was different from Barry. He liked to go back and forth over his same patch of ground. He was free of predators. Eating was nice. Even his testicles had begun to sag more. Unless there was a sudden change in how society operated he probably wouldn’t get shorn or sent to an abattoir, but you never knew.
One day you’re playing draughts and the next it’s chess and no one has explained the new rules.
Just before they leave to go home he notices that the owner of the house in the paddock rounding up one of the sheep. He walks out to the fence.
He butted one too many people.
The owner nods at the ram known to some as Barry.
Where’s he going?
Barry stands in the high-sided trailer behind the owner’s ute and stares back at the ewes in the paddock in a slightly conceited way. The ewes are eating grass.
I’m taking him to a man who will take care of him.
The owner says “take care of him” in the way that a mafia don in a movie speaks to a hit man and not in the way a doctor speaks to a nurse.
Barry’s testicles swing in the wind.
The ute and the trailer drive away.
He had been prepared for all kinds of endings to the trip but not an execution.
It ruins everything to sympathise with Barry.