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 A Place in the Herd 

        "You look weird!” the black lamb bleated, sticking his tongue at Pascal before turning away to munch at a tuft of grass.

 

        With snow-white wool as fluffy as cotton candy,  Pascal was the newest lamb on the farm. He was looking forward to getting to know all his brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, and aunts, but his first encounter out in the pasture hadn’t gone so well. 

 

        Everyone else was, well, quite a bit darker. A lot of them were grey, like Mom and his older brothers, sisters, and cousins. Others were dark brown like cousin Abigail, among his aunts and uncles. The rest were black, like Dad and the lamb who said he looked weird. 

 

        Mom peered up and gave him a reassuring smile as if to say “it’ll be okay.” Then, gradually, she and the rest of the flock wandered off, out over the pasture, to munch on more of the juicy grass.

 

        Dejected, Pascal sighed and wandered down to the little stream by the stone wall at the edge of the pasture. On the other side of the wall a big fat pig wallowed quite satisfied in the mud. It snorted and squealed for a few moments before noticing Pascal.

 

        “Whats’a matter, pal?” the pig asked.

 

        “Oh, I guess I just don’t fit in.”

 

        The pig grunted and looked at Pascal, then over at the flock of sheep spread across the pasture, then back at  Pascal: “No, I guess you don’t.” He laughed. He rolled over in the mud and laughed some more.

     

        “I guess you’re the ‘white sheep’ of the family,” he said with a squeal, and laughed some more.

 

        Pascal stood there sheepishly.

 

        “Come ‘ere, bud.” The pig snorted, beckoning with his hoof.

 

        Pascal stepped gingerly up to the stone wall.

 

        “No, kid, closer. Hop on over here.”

 

        Pascal jumped over the wall into the pen, landing in the mud with a splash.

 

        “There!” The pig said and pushed Pascal over into the mud.

 

        “Hey!” Pascal yelled, kicking and flailing around.

 

        “That’s good!” the pig laughed and splashed more mud on him. “Good. Good. That’s real good! Feels real good, don’t it?”

 

        Pascal struggled to his feet covered all over in thick, dark mud. The pig squealed and snorted. “Real good! You look great now, pal! Go say ‘Hi’ to the family!” And with a little push, the pig helped Pascal up and over the wall. “And come back and see me to tell me how things are going.” He squealed and waved goodbye.

       

        Pascal slowly hobbled over toward the edge of the flock. None of them looked up strangely at him. They all kept nibbling at the grass, not bothering to look up. He walked a little ways into the flock and bent down and started to nibble on the grass himself. Occasionally the other sheep would look up and smile at him, but they didn’t seem to notice that he looked weird.

 

        After a while, one of the sheep came a little closer to bite off a big, thick clump of grass. It was cousin Abigail.  Pascal looked up from grazing and asked her: “Excuse me, but do you think I look weird or anything?”

Abigail looked up, surprised by the question: “No.” She paused a moment. “But you smell kinda funny.”

 

        She did a double take. 

 

        “Wait, why are you covered in mud?” she asked, mouth agape.

 

        Pascal shrugged, and could feel his ears burn with embarrassment.

 

        “I got splashed by the mud, and I was hoping it would cover my white curls,” he mumbled, not meeting her eye. 

 

        “Don’t do that!” Abigail yelled angrily. “You shouldn’t hide your true self just because of what other sheep say!” 

 

        Pascal dropped his head and headed back over the wall to meet the big pig, who was snoring in his mud puddle, body caked in dried mud.

 

        “Oh, hey, bud,” the pig said groggily upon catching a whiff of Pascal’s scent in the breeze. “So, how d'ya feel?”

 

        Pascal could feel a painful lump forming in his throat, and tears stung his eyes. 

       

        “I hate that I’m the only sheep that looks different!” he bleated. “Even when you changed me into a brown sheep, I still felt uncomfortable with myself.” 

 

        The pig sat up and smiled kindly, his eyes crinkling. He pointed his hoof in the far distance, near a big mud pile.

 

        “Alright-y son, what d’ya see there?” the big pig asked. Pascal squinted his eyes. It was a group of pigs, and they all were different colors! Black, brown, and yellow! Pascal looked back at the big pig in front of him and noticed his ear, which was the only part of his body not caked in dried mud. 

 

        It was pink.

 

        “I’m just like you — the only pig in my family that’s pink. But do you think I let that fact bother me?” Pascal shook his head gingerly.

 

        “Exactly, son! Sometimes in life there’ll be times when you are the only sheep that’s different. And that’s okay! All that matters is that you’re content with yourself.”

 

        Pascal nodded. Now he understood. It didn’t matter what the black lamb, or any other sheep said to him; as long as he was happy with himself, no one could affect his happiness.