The Sheep Man's Christmas

by MURAKAMI Haruki

Translated by Christophor Allison

While it was yet high summer, the Sheep Man was asked to compose some music for Christmas. The Sheep Man and his sheep visitor, who had come to ask him to undertake the composition, sweated profusely under their summer sheep suits. As long as summer lasted, the Sheep Man was quite miserable, because he was but a poor sheep man and could not afford an air conditioner. As the fan slapped around and around in circles, the sheep ears of the two sheep fellows fluttered softly in the breeze.
gWe, the Sheep Menfs Council,h began the Sheep Manfs visitor, unloosening the fastener at his collar so as to allow the wind from the fan to blow in, gevery year select one sheep, blessed with prodigious musical talent, to compose music in honour of our Most Holy Patron, the Sheep Saint. This music will thence be performed on Christmas Day. This year, happily, you have been chosen.h
gOh, I see,h said the Sheep Man.
gThis year especially, it being the 2500th anniversary of His passing, we desire particularly splendid music, befitting to this sacred event,h he concluded.
gI see, I see,h said the Sheep Man, scratching his ears.
gChristmas is still four and a half months away,h he thought to himself. gWith that much time, I can certainly compose some magnificent sheep music.h
gIfll be happy to do it. You can count on me,h he replied, his chest swelling with pride. gIfll certainly do my best to write excellent sheep music.

September passed, and then October and November, but the Sheep Man hadnft been able to begin the music requested by the Sheep Menfs Council. Because the Sheep Man worked in the neighborhood donut shop, he had very little time to devote to the composition. Moreover, whenever he began to play his ramshackle old piano, the wife of the boarding housefs landlord would invariably come up the steps and pound on his door.
gCut that racket out! I can barely here the television.h
gIfm terribly sorry. But since I have to have this music done by Christmas, might I beg of you to bear with me a little while?h the Sheep Man said meekly.
gWhat a idiotic thing to say,h erupted the landlordfs wife. gIf you donft like it, you can just leave right now. Just because we let weirdoes like you live here doesnft mean that you can make a laughing stock out of us. If this is a problem for you, well, too bad.h

The Sheep Man gazed at the calendar with a feeling of dread. Even though Christmas was just four short weeks away, he hadnft been able to write a single bar of the promised music, since he couldnft play the piano.
One day, the Sheep Man was sitting in the park, eating donuts with something of a disturbed countenance, when he was approached by the Sheep Professor. gWhatfs wrong, my dear Sheep lad?h the Sheep Professor enquired.
gIfm not feeling very well. Even though Christmas is coming, something is really bothering me. That is to say, Christmas is part of the problem,h the Sheep Man began, and then confessed the whole story to the Sheep Professor.
gHmmm...h said the Sheep Professor, stroking his beard. gIf thatfs the case, I think I can help you.h
gReally?h the Sheep Man replied skeptically. Because the Sheep Professor had only studied sheep-related matters all his life, there had developed among the people in the neighborhood the suspicion that he was a little bit queer in the head.
gYes, really,h the Sheep Professor said. gCome to my house tonight at 6:00. Ifll teach you excellent methods and techniques of composition. By the way, can I have one of those cinnamon donuts?h
gYes, of course,h the Sheep Man said, resenting it inwardly. gHere you go.h And they sat together on the bench and munched donuts.

That evening, bearing a package of six cinnamon donuts as a gift, the Sheep Man visited the Sheep Professorfs house. It was an old brick affair, and all the shrubberies had been pruned into the shape of sheep. The doorbell, too, as well as the gateposts and the flagstones, were all sheep. gHoly cow!h thought the Sheep Man to himself.
Of the six donuts, the Sheep Professor devoured four without so much as stopping for a breath. The remaining two he put in a cupboard as if they were very important. Finally, wetting his fingers with his tongue, he mopped up the scattered crumbs on the tabletop and licked his fingers clean.
gThis fellow certainly likes his donuts,h thought the Sheep Man, rather impressed.
Once his fingers were thoroughly clean, the Sheep Professor retrieved a huge book from a bookcase. The History of Sheep Men was printed on the cover.
gSo, master Sheep,h the Professor began heavily. gIn this book is written everything conceivable concerning sheep men. Here we will find the reason why you havenft been able to write the sheep music.h
gBut Professor, I already know the reason. Itfs because the landlady wonft let me play the piano,h said the Sheep Man. gIf only I could play the piano...h
gNonsense,h the Sheep Professor said, shaking his head. gEven if you could play that piano, you still wouldnft write the music. The deeper reason is in here.h
gWhatfs that?h asked the Sheep Man.
gYou have been curse,h the Sheep Professor said with a grimace.
gQuite so,h said the Sheep Professor nodding several times. gBecause you have been cursed, you can neither play the piano nor compose music.h
gOh,h the Sheep Man groaned. gBut why have I been cursed, do you suppose? I havenft done anything bad to anybody.h
The Sheep Professor flipped through the pages of the book dexterously. gPerhaps you looked up at the moon on June 15th?h
gNo. I havenft seen the moon in the last five years.h
gWell, then maybe you ate something with a hole in it on Christmas Eve last year?h
gI eat donuts for lunch everyday. I canft remember exactly what kind of donuts I ate on Christmas Eve last year, but...umm... Ifm pretty certain I had donuts.h
gDonuts with holes in them?h
gYes, I imagine so. I mean, almost all donuts have hole in them.h
gThatfs it!h the Sheep Professor said, nodding vigorously. gYou have been cursed as a result of this. Surely some sheep teacher must have taught you not to eat food with holes in it on Christmas Eve?h
gIfve never heard that before,h said the Sheep Man, surprised. Is that true all over?h
gNot knowing about the Feast of the Sheep Saint...thatfs startling,h replied the Sheep Professor, even more surprised. gKids today...they donft know anything! When you were becoming a sheep man, didnft they teach you this stuff in Sheep Manfs School?h
gYeah, I guess so. But I didnft do so well with my studies,h the Sheep Man said, scratching his head.
gLook here, this misfortune has befallen you because you are a very careless sheep man. You have brought this upon yourself. Nevertheless,h the Sheep Professor continued, gbecause you have brought donuts to me, I will instruct you. While December 24th is Christmas Eve, it is also the Feast of the Sheep Saint. On this day, as the Most Holy Sheep Saint was walking along a road in the middle of the night, he fell into a hole and died. For this reason, it is a very sacred day. Consequently, the eating of foods with holes in them on this day has been ex-pli-cit-ly prohibited since ancient times. Such foods as macaroni, Swiss cheese, donuts, onion rings, and of course bagels, can cause severe problems.h
gI beg your pardon, but what was the Most Holy Sheep Saint doing walking along a road in the middle of the night? And why was there a hole in the road?h
gI donft know the answer to these questions. These events happened 2500 years ago, so the causes cannot be known. But anyway, it was decided then. It is a law inviolable. Whether you know it or not, the breaking of the law will result in a curse being placed upon you. When you were cursed, you ceased to be a sheep man. You cannot compose the Sheep Music for this reason. Yes.h
gIfm such an idiot,h the Sheep Man said weakly. gIs there any way of removing this curse?h
gHmm,h said the Sheep Professor. gTherefs a way, but Ifm afraid that itfs not very easy. But thatfs OK, isnft it?h
gI donft care. Ifll do whatever it takes. Please tell me.h
gThe way is for you yourself to fall into a hole.h
gHole?h said the Sheep Man. gThis hole, what kind of hole is it exactly? Is any hole OK?h
gDonft be stupid. Not just any hole will do. The size and depth of the hole necessary to remove the curse are very clearly defined. Luckily, itfs fairly small. Ifll try to find it for you now.h
The Sheep Professor retrieved a tattered book entitled The Legend of the Most Holy Sheep Saint and poured over itfs pages.
gWell...hmm...ah, here it is. It says that the Most Holy Sheep Saint fell into a hole two meters in diameter and 203 meters deep, whereupon he passed away. Therefore, a hole of the same dimensions will suffice.h
gBut I canft dig a hole that deep by myself. And anyway, if I fall into a hole like that, wonft I be killed before the curse is broken?h
gWait, wait; therefs more: eWhen attempting to break the curse, it shall not matter if the depth of the hole be reduced by the scale of 100 parts to one. Thus, a hole of two meters and three centimeters shall be sufficientf.h
gOh, good. If thatfs all, I can dig it. No problem,h the Sheep Man said, relieved.
The Sheep Man borrowed the book from the Sheep Professor and returned home. In the book were spelled out countless regulations that had to be followed in order to break the spell. The Sheep Man tried to write them down, one by one.
1) The hole must be dug with a shovel having a handle made of tuneriko wood. (Because the Sheep Saint had carried a staff made of this wood.)
2) The Hole-Falling must occur at 1:16 in the morning, on Christmas Eve. (Because the Sheep Saint fell at this time.)
3) At the time of the Hole-Falling, a sack lunch bearing no hole-containing foods must be brought.
Regulations (1) and (2) were fine, and even the rule concerning the height of the drop made some sense, but the Sheep Man really couldnft understand the necessity of the sack lunch.
gHow strange,h the Sheep Man thought to himself. gBut I guess I had better do it the way it says here.h
Christmas Eve was only three days off. In three short days, he had to make a shovel with a handle of tuneriko wood, and dig a hole with a circumference of two meters and a depth of 203 centimeters.
gBoy, this is a very strange thing thatfs happening,h the Sheep Man sighed.
He found a tuneriko tree in the forest, and cut off a small branch. In one day, he managed to whittle it into the handle of a shovel. The next day, he commenced to dig the hole in the back yard of his house.
While he was digging, the landlady spotted him.
gYou there! What are you digging that hole for?h she demanded.
gIfm digging a hole to dump garbage in,h the Sheep Man replied. gI thought maybe it would be handy.h
gOh. Is that it? Well, if you try anything funny, Ifm gonna call the cops,h the landlady said scornfully. With that, she turned and walked away.
Using a measuring tape, the Sheep Man carefully insured that his hole was dug exactly to the specifications for diameter and depth.
gThat ought to do it,h the Sheep Man said to himself, covering the hole with a wooden lid.

At last Christmas Eve arrived. The Sheep Man got a dozen donuts of the twisty variety, without holes, from the donut shop, and packed them in a knapsack. This was the extent of his sack lunch. Finally, he put his wallet and a small flashlight in the breast pocket of his sheep suit, and closed the fastener. At 1:00, he snuck around the house and was engulfed in total darkness. There was no moon and the stars werenft out, so he could not even see his hand in front of his face.
gIt must have been this dark the night the Most Holy Sheep Saint fell into that hole,h the Sheep Man murmured, as he searched for the hole with his flashlight. gItfll be 1:16 soon. What if I canft find the hole, and have to wait until Christmas Eve next year? That would be awfuuuu...h Just as he said this, the ground beneath his feet suddenly wasnft there. The Sheep Man had fallen into the hole.
gSomeone must have removed the cover during the day,h the Sheep Man thought as he fell. gIfll bet is was that nasty landlady. She always hates everything I do.h But when the Sheep Man finished thinking this thought, he realized something very strange was happening. gThe hole I dug was only 203 centimeters deep. Surely, after falling for so long, I should have hit the bottom by now.h
Then suddenly, with quite a thud, the Sheep Man hit the bottom of the hole. And, although the hole was fearfully deep, he was peculiarly unhurt.
After shaking his head a little, the Sheep Man tried to shine the flashlight at his surroundings, only to find that the flashlight wasnft there. He surmised that he must have dropped it when he fell into the hole.
gWhatfs this, goddamit?h came a voice out of the darkness. gItfs only 1:14. Youfre 2 minutes early, goddamit. Youfll have to climb back up to the top and do it again from the beginning.h
gIfm sorry. I couldnft see very well because it was dark, and I fell into the hole by accident,h the Sheep Man said. gBut Ifm afraid therefs no way I could climb to the top of a hole that deep.h
gYou got to, goddamit. Jeez, a little bit earlier and you could have flattened me. I thought you were coming at 1:16, goddamit.h
There was the sound of a match and a candle was lit. The figure that held the candle was very tall. But though he was very tall, his shoulders were no higher than the Sheep Manfs. His head was very long and twisted around like a twisty donut.
gBy the way, goddamit, you better have brought a sack lunch with you when you fell,h the Twist said, gbecause, if you didnft, youfre in big trouble, goddamit.h
gOf course I brought it,h the Sheep Man said, nervously.
gWell, give it here, goddamit. Ifm starved.h
The Sheep Man opened the knapsack and, retrieving the twisty donuts one by one, handed them over to the Twist.
gWhat the hellfs this?h the Twist said, seeing the donuts. gYou must be an idiot to bring me food that looks like my own goddam head.h
gNo, it was a mistake,h the Sheep Man said, wiping the sweat from his brow. gI work at a donut shop, you see, and these twisty donuts were the only things that didnft have holes in them.h
gAhh! You said etwistyf, goddamit!h the Twist said, falling to his knees. Tears began to flow from his twisty eyes. gItfs because of this goddam face that I have to stay at the bottom of this goddam hole and be the goddam gate-keeper, goddamit.h
gOh, Ifm such a clod. I mad a mistake. I meant to say etwistedf.h
gWell, itfs too late now, goddamit.h the Twist said, still crying.
Lacking any course of action, the Sheep Man retrieved one of the twisted donuts, and after untangling the twist and stretching it out straight, handed it to the Twist.
gLook, therefs no problem. See, itfs straight. Why donft you eat it? Itfs delicious.h
The Twist took the donut and ate it with relish, although he didnft stop crying.

While the Twist ate donuts and wept, the Sheep Man borrowed his candle and investigated the bottom of the hole. It was a bare, broad chamber, containing only the Twistfs bed and desk. gSince he called himself ethe gatekeeperf, there must certainly be a gate around here somewhere that hefs protecting,h the Sheep Man reasoned. gIf therefs not a gate, you certainly donft need a gatekeeper.h
Speculating thus, the Sheep Man found a small passageway which opened from beside the bed. Taking the candle with him, he climbed into the tunnel.
gIf only I hadnft ate those donuts on Christmas Eve last year, I wouldnft be up this creek now,h the Sheep Man said to himself.
After about ten more minutes, it slowly began to grow light in the tunnel. Soon, the mouth of the passage was in view. From outside the hole, bright sunlight spilled in.
gHow very strange. When I fell into the hole, it was just past one in the morning. It canft be dawn yet,h the Sheep Man thought, craning his neck.
When he came out of the tunnel, he found a broad, empty clearing before him. Tall trees such as he had never seen before surrounded this clearing. Puffy, white clouds floated in the sky, and he could hear the song of birds.
gHuh. I wonder what I should do now. In that book, it said that if I fell down the hole then the curse would be broken, but it didnft mention anything about this.h
Having grown rather hungry, the Sheep Man decided to eat one of the remaining donuts from his knapsack, but while he was nibbling on it, he heard a voice from behind him.
gGood afternoon, Mr. Sheep Man.h
When he turned around to look, he saw twin girls standing there. One wore a shirt bearing the number e208f, and the other similarly wore e209f.

Aside from the numbers, the two girls were alike in every detail.
gHey guys,h the Sheep Man said. gWould you like to come over here and eat donuts with me?h
gWow, great!h 208 said.
gThey look really good,h 209 said.
gThey are. I made them myself,h the Sheep Man replied.
So the three of them sat in a row on the ground and ate donuts.
gThanks for the food,h 209 said.
gThatfs the first time Ifve ever had such delicious donuts,h 208 said.
gThatfs good,h the Sheep Man said. gBy the way, Ifve had this curse put on me, and I was wondering if you know what Ifm supposed to do now. I came here to try to break the spell.h
gHow terrible!h 208 said.
gBeing cursed must be tough,h 209 said.
gReally tough,h the Sheep Man confirmed with a sigh.
gI wonder if he should try visiting the Seagullfs wife,h 209 said to 208.
gThatfs a good idea. The seagullfs wife will know what to do, Ifll bet,h 208 said to 209.
gShe knows all about curses, after all,h 209 said to 208.
gHey, can you take me to see the Gullfs wife?h the Sheep Man asked excitedly.
gUmm, not the Gull,h said 208.
gThe Seagull,h said 209.
gThe Gull and the Seagull are totally different, after all,h said 208.
gThatfs right,h said 209.
gSorry, sorry,h the Sheep Man apologized to 208 and 209. gCan you take me to see the Seagullfs wife?h

gAt your service,h said 208.
gWith pleasure,h said 209.
So the twins and the Sheep Man walked along the road through the forest together. As they walked, the twins sang a little song:

Always with the twins,
Even if the wind blows east and west.
Always with the twins,
Even if the wind blows right and left.

After walking for 10 or 15 minutes, the forest ended and the sea spread out before them for as far as the eye could see.
gCan you see the little shack on top of that big rock over there? Thatfs the Seagullfs house,h 209 said, pointing.
gWe canft go outside the forest,h 208 said.
gWell, thank you very much. You have really helped me out,h the Sheep Man replied. He then reached into his knapsack, retrieved two donuts, and handed one to each of the twins.
gThank you, Mr. Sheep Man,h 208 said.
gGood luck breaking your curse,h 209 said.

Getting to the Seagullfs wifefs house was quite a death-defying endeavor. The rock was rugged and steep, and there was no path to speak of. In addition, a sharp sea breeze threatened to blow the Sheep Man off at any time.
gI guess this is OK for the Seagullfs wife, since she can fly. But itfs no fun for those of us who have to climb,h the Sheep Man complained.
Somehow, he eventually found his way to the top of the rock and knocked on the door of the Seagullfs wifefs house.
gWhofs there? You collecting for the newspaper?h he heard a loud, rattling voice from within the house say.
gUmm, no...Ifm known as the Sheep Man...h he began.
gI donft want any,h said the voice curtly.
gIfm not a weirdo or anything. Please open the door.h
gYoufre really not collecting for the newspaper?h
Suddenly, the door burst open, and the Seagullfs wifefs face popped out. She was very tall and her beak was pointed like a pick-axe.
gThe twins told me that you know everything there is to know about curses,h said the Sheep Man, nervously. That beak could have split his head open and killed him. The Seagullfs wife looked him over doubtfully.
gYoufll hafta come inside. I canft hear a word youfre saying.h
The inside of the house was terribly messy. The floor was covered with dust, a bottle of catsup had spilled all over the table, and the trashcan was overflowing.
The Sheep Man explained all of the preceding events, one by one.
gBoy, thatfs tough,h the Seagullfs wife said. gYoufll have to find another way back to your world.h
gBut canft I just go back the way I came?h
gNo. Once youfve come, therefs no going back,h the Seagullfs wife said, shaking her beak from left to right. gI can take you to a place on my back, though, where you can get rid of this curse.h
gThat would make me awfully happy.h
gBut you look pretty heavy,h the Seagullfs wife said, dubiously.
gIfm not heavy at all. Ifm barely 75 pounds,h the Sheep Man said, cheating by about 10 pounds.
gAll right. Letfs make a deal,h the Seagullfs wife said. gYou clean this room, and Ifll take you to the place where you can break your curse.h
But the Seagullfs wifefs house took quite a long time to clean. It hadnft been cleaned in literally months. He scrubbed the plates and tea cups, caked with filth; wiped down the table-top; vacuumed the floor; polished the tiles; and picked up all the trash and threw it out. When he was finished with all of this, the Sheep Man was exhausted.
gI have this blasted curse to thank for all this misery,h he complained silently to himself.
gIt looks pretty good,h the Seagullfs wife said, looking satisfied. gA home should always be this neat.h
gSo now youfll take me to the place where the curse can broken?h
gYeah, Ifll keep my promise. Here, climb on my back.h

Once the Sheep Man had gotten on, the Seagullfs wife quickly took off into the sky. Since this was the first time the Sheep Man had ever flown anywhere, he gripped her neck very tightly.
gHey! Youfre hurting me. Donft pull so hard. I canft breathe,h the Seagullfs wife growled.
gOh, Ifm really sorry,h the Sheep Man said sheepishly.
From the air, the sea and the forest and the hill were all visible. The green of the forest and the dark blue of the sea stretched out endlessly, with the sandy, white beach like a belt between them. It was an incredibly beautiful view.
gItfs really beautiful, isnft it,h the Sheep Man said.
gMaybe to you, but I see it everyday, and Ifm sick of it,h the Seagullfs wife replied with evident boredom.
In order to stretch her wings a little, she flew around and around in circles over her house, and then set down on a prairie not even a hundred yards away.
gWhatfs wrong, mafam? Arenft you feeling well?h the Sheep Man asked with concern.
gNo, I feel fine,h the Seagullfs wife said shaking her head. gWhy would you ask such a stupid question? Ifm famous in these parts for my vigour.h
gBut why did you set down here, then?h
gBecause this is the place,h the Seagullfs wife said.
gBut this canft be more than a hundred yards from your house,h said the Sheep Man with surprise. gIf itfs this close, there was no point in riding on your back. I could just as easily have walked.h
gBut then you wouldnft have cleaned my house for me, would you?h
gWell, no, I guess not, but...h
gWell then, I donft want to hear another word about the distance. I took you on my back just like I promised.h
gUmm, yes...certainly,h the Sheep Man said, unconvinced.
The Seagullfs wife, still laughing heartily to herself, took off into the air and flew back in the direction of her house.

When the Sheep Man looked around him, he saw a large tree standing in the middle of the prairie. There was a rope ladder attached to the trunk of the tree. Since there was nothing else in sight, the Sheep Man decided to try to climb to the top of the ladder.
The rope ladder swung back and forth, making it difficult to climb. Sweating heavily, the Sheep Man climbed all the way to the top, 30 or 40 rungs when, from the midst of the limbs, he heard a bright voice say:
gHey there, what are you doing up here?h
gOh, excuse me. Ifve come on account of a curse. You canft help me by any chance, can you?h the Sheep Man replied in the direction of the voice.
gA curse, you say? Ah, I see. By all means, come on up,h the voice said.

The Sheep Man, doing his best to keep from slipping, elbowed his way through the branches. Once inside, he saw a hole in the tree that had been fashioned into a small cabin, and in front of the cabin, the Twist squatted, shaving himself with a giant razor.,h the Sheep Man stammered. Werenft you just at the bottom of the hole?h
gHa, ha. No, that wasnft me,h the Twist said with a laugh. gThatfs my big brother. See, I twist to the right. Big Brother twists to the left. He cries easily and is always saying mean things about people.h
Right Twist, with his eyes turned to the right and his chin pointing left, was carefully shaving with the razor and giggling all the while.
gFrom the same family, but your personalities couldnft be more different,h the Sheep Man said, impressed.
gWell, you know, right and left are opposites,h Right Twist said, shaving behind his ears. gHa ha ha ha ha.h
gNow, about this curse...h the Sheep Man began.
gDonft tell me anything about it, hee hee hee,h Right Twist said. gThatfs worse than being cursed, ha ha ha ha ha.h
The Sheep Man descended, furious.
gI really hate this place,h he said. gRight Twist or Left Twist, theyfre twisted just the same. And that Seagullfs wife was so selfish.h
Thinking that he couldnft take much more, the Sheep Man trudged slowly down the road. After walking a little while longer, he spied a beautiful spring, and decided to stop there and drink some water and eat another donut. When he had finished the donut he began to grow sleepy, and stretching out on the grass beside the spring, had a nice nap.

When he awoke, it had grown dark and stars shone whitely in the sky. The wind rose with a groaning voice, and sometimes it was mixed with the baying of a wolf.
gIfm exhausted. And on top of that, Ifm lost in a strange land. And I still havenft even broken this confounded curse,h the Sheep Man said to himself.
gUmm, I couldnft help over-hearing you. Being cursed must be a great annoyance,h a timid voice suddenly came out of the darkness.
gWhofs there? Where in the world are you?h the Sheep Man asked, surprised.

gUhh, Ifm nobody, really,h the voice said, sounding embarrassed.
The Sheep Man looked around frantically, but he couldnft see anything for the darkness.
gPlease donft bother looking for me. Ifm not worth the time.h
gWill you come out and eat donuts with me?h the Sheep Man tried to tempt him. gItfs lonely sitting here by myself.h
gIfm not really worthy of your donuts,h the invisible Nobody said. gAlthough that does sound awfully nice.h
gItfs OK. I have lots. But if youfre shy, I can leave one here for you and then turn around, and then you can come here and eat it. How about that?h
gOK,h nobody said. gBut Ifm really small, so a half will be plenty.h
The Sheep Man put a donut on the grass and turned around. Before long, there was the sound of someone approaching stealthily and then eating a donut.
gOh, this is delicious. Really delicious,h Nobody said. gDonft turn around.h
gI wonft turn around, but will you please tell me what you know about this curse?h the Sheep Man enquired.
gOh yes, the curse. Oh, I see. Munch munch. Yes I know something about it,h Nobody said. gReally delicious. Munch munch.h
gWhere can I go to get rid of it?h the Sheep Man asked.
gJust dive into that spring. Munch munch. Itfs really easy,h Nobody said.
gBut I donft know how to swim.h
gYou donft need to worry about whether you know how to swim. Itfs OK. These are great. Munch munch munch.h
With great trepidation, the Sheep Man walked to the edge of the spring and jumped into the middle, head first. As soon as he dove, however, all of the water vanished, so he landed on his head on the bottom of the hole with a heavy thud. His head swam.

gOh dear! Ifm sorry,h someone said. gI didnft mean for you to dive in head first.h
When the Sheep Man opened his eyes, there stood before him a little old man about five feet tall.
gAh! That hurt,h the Sheep Man said. gAnd just who the heck are you?h
gI am the Most Holy Sheep Saint,h the old man said with a kindly smile.
gYou! Why did you put this curse on me? Why did I have to do all that awful stuff? I never did anything bad to anybody, and yet I have to put up with all of this! I mean, really! My body is sore all over and look, Ifve got this welt on my head,h the Sheep Man said, showing the Most Holy Sheep Saint his welt.
gYes, I agree. It was terrible. Terrible, indeed. But for this I had my reasons,h the Sheep Saint said.
gWell, Ifd really like to hear them,h the Sheep Man said angrily.
gAnon, anon,h the Sheep Saint said. gBut first come over here. Therefs something Ifd like to show you.h
The Sheep Saint turned and walked briskly toward the interior of the hole. The Sheep Man, still shaking his head, followed hesitantly after him. Before long, the Sheep Saint came to stand in front of a door, and promptly opened it.

gMerry Christmas!h everyone shouted. Everybody was in the room: Right Twist and Left Twist, 208 and 209, the Seagullfs wife, and even Nobody. Nobody still had crumbs from the donut around his mouth. He could also see a figure that looked like the Sheep Professor.
Inside the room, there was a large decorated Christmas tree. Underneath the tree, wrapped presents tied up with ribbons had been piled.
gWhat in the world is this? What are all of you doing here?h the Sheep Man said, stunned.
gWefre all waiting for you,h 208 said.
gWefve been waiting all this time,h 209 said.
gYoufve been invited to a Christmas party, donft you see,h the Sheep Saint said.
gBut Ifve been cursed, so I...h stammered the Sheep Man.
gI put this curse on you so that you would come here,h the Sheep Saint replied. gThis way was exciting, and everyone had fun doing it.h
gIt certainly was fun. Caw caw,h said the Seagullfs wife.
gAnd interesting, goddammit,h added Left Twist.
gA pleasure, ha ha hee hee,h giggled Right Twist.
gIt was delicious,h mumbled Nobody.
Although the Sheep Man was really quite upset about the deception, he soon began to enjoy himself. It was hard to stay mad when everyone around him was having such a good time.
gIf that was the reason, I guess itfs OK then,h the Sheep Man said, nodding agreeably.
gMr. Sheep Man, you ought to play the piano for us,h 208 said.
gYou must be very good,h 209 said.
gIs there a piano here?h asked the Sheep Man.
gThere is, there is,h the Sheep Saint said, pulling aside a giant cloth. Beneath this cover was a white, sheep-shaped piano.
gThis piano was made especially for you. Play it to your heartfs content.h

That night, the Sheep Man was boundlessly happy. The sheep piano made a splendid sound, and beautiful and delightful melodies danced through his head, one after another.
Right Twist and Left Twist sang, 208 and 209 danced, the Seagullfs wife flew around the room cawing, and the Sheep Professor and the Most Holy Sheep Saint faced off in a beer-drinking contest. Nobody rolled over and over on the ground looking happy. Soon, Christmas cake was distributed to everyone.
gMmm...delicious. Munch munch,h Nobody said, helping himself to a third piece.
gMay there be peace and happiness in the sheep man world forever,h the Sheep Saint prayed.

When the Sheep Man awoke, he found himself in his own room, in his own bed. Although it seemed as if he was waking up from a dream, he knew this was no mere dream. There was still a very distinct bump on his head, there was a grease stain on the back of his sheepfs clothing, and the ramshackle old piano had disappeared from his room, and in itfs place stood the white sheep piano.
This is really what happened when he woke up.
Outside the window, snow had fallen. On the branches of the trees, on the mail boxes, and on the fence posts, white snow was piled high.
In the afternoon of that day, the Sheep Man went into the suburbs of the town to pay a visit to the Sheep Professor, but the Sheep Professorfs house wasnft there. There was nothing but a vacant lot. The sheep-shaped shrubs and gateposts and paving stones had all disappeared.
gI wonft be able to meet any of those people ever again,h the Sheep Man thought to himself. gThe Twists, and the 208 and 209 twins, and the Seagullfs wife, and Nobody, and the Sheep Professor and the Sheep Saint.h Overcome with these thoughts, tears streamed from his eyes. He had really grown to like them all a lot.
When he returned to the boardinghouse, a Christmas card with a picture of a sheep on it had come in the mail. Inside was printed:
May there be peace and happiness in the sheep man world forever...

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