Precious Lamb


Finn carried the baby back to her little house. It didn't cry while she was carrying it, but it started again as soon as she put it down on the step while she fiddled in her dress pocket for her key. The lady who had come by to check on her after Da went into the ground had talked a lot about making sure she locked the door when she went out, so she made sure she always did. Finn always did as she was told. She was a good girl. She opened the door and picked up the baby, who quietened down again, and looked up at her with its dark blue eyes.

     She sat down with the baby on her lap, and unwrapped the blanket. There was a folded sheet of paper on the baby's chest, and she opened it up, even though she knew she would not be able to understand whatever symbols were there. Her Da wasn't here or he would have been able to tell her what it said, just as he had been able to tell her what all the words were in the big Bible he read to her every night at going-to-bed time, just before he kissed her with his scratchy mouth and tickled her chin with his beard. Once, she had asked him when she would be able to look at the Bible and understand what it said, herself, but he told her that she didn't need to fret about that. Finn had always expected that one day, it would happen. She would open up the Bible and be able to understand all those little squiggles and things, and know what they meant. But it had never happened, no matter how many times she had opened up the book. She hadn't tried for a long while, but she didn't think it would work now. She couldn't understand what was on this sheet of paper, either.

     She looked at the baby. It was still staring up at her, with its fingers in its mouth. Was it hungry? She didn't know what babies had to eat. She had some bread, and some sausages the farmer had given her yesterday, and she had a few carrots and potatoes too. When the baby had been crying, she'd seen only two little teeth above its lower lip. Probably, two teeth weren't enough, to eat sausages.

     ''Whatchoo want, little thing? You want something to eat?'' Finn asked the baby, who just carried on staring up at her. She wondered if the note was instructions on how to feed it. When Da had bought the chainsaw, a few weeks before he went in the ground, it had little book with it – not as big as the Bible – just a little, thin book. He said it was the instructions, and he read it, to find out  how to use the chainsaw and look after it.

      She took the baby into her bedroom, and tucked it up in her bed, then sat with it, stroking its soft, fair hair while it stared up at her. ''Finn will go to the farm, little thing. You go to sleep till Finn comes back.'' She stroked the baby's hair and said, ''Go to sleep, go to sleep.'' over and over, until the baby's blinks became longer and longer. When its eyes had stayed closed for a long time, she carefully stood, and went out.

     Milly was sitting on the gate when Finn arrived at the farm.

      ''Hello Finn,'' she said. ''Back so soon?''

     Finn took the piece of paper out of her pocket, and handed it to Milly. ''Milly read it?''

     Milly opened up the paper, and her forehead crinkled, as she scanned it. ''Please take care of this precious lamb?'' she said, frowning, and looked up at Finn. ''Someone's given you a lamb, Finn?''

     Finn hesitated, then nodded. ''It's hungry,'' she said.

     ''Well, if you like, you can bring it to us. We'll take care of it for you, Finn.''

     Finn shook her head, and snatched the paper back from Milly. That wasn't what she'd wanted at all. ''No.'' she said, firmly. ''Finn keep it.''

     Milly jumped off the gate, and put her hand on Finn's arm. ''Oh no, don't worry, Finn. We won't take it off you. Not if you're happy to look after it yourself. Are you?''

     Finn nodded vigorously. ''Finn look after the lamb. Myself'''

     ''I wonder why they didn't bring it here, though. It would make more sense to bring it to a farm,'' said Milly. ''All right, Finn. You'll need some things though, to feed it. Come with me.''

     She took Finn's hand, and led her to the house, and into the large kitchen. She opened a cupboard, and took a tin from a stack of similar ones, and put it down on the kitchen counter, then took a small, curved glass bottle, and a couple of rubber teats, out of another cupboard. She held up the tin.

     ''This is formula, Finn. It's the same as they give to babies, but you can feed it to your lamb.''

      Finn nodded, and Milly continued.

     ''You need to wash the bottle, and the teats, carefully each time, to keep the germs away, so your lamb won't get sick. Understand, Finn?'' Finn nodded again. ''And wash your hands before you make up the formula, too. I'll make some up now, so you can take it with you, and you can watch, so you know how to do it yourself.''

     Milly boiled water, and used some to rinse out the inside of the bottle, tipped some more into a cup, into which she put one of the teats. Then she took the lid off the tin, and put two scoops of the cream-coloured powder into the bottle, after levelling them off with the back of a knife. Then she filled the bottle half full with the rest of the boiled water, put the teat on the rim, and shook it to mix the formula. She filled a jug with cold water from the tap, and plunged the bottle into it.

     ''You have to cool it down before you feed it to your lamb.'' She took a linen bag from a drawer and put the tin of formula in it, then stood with her finger on her chin, thinking. ''I'll give you a couple more, Finn. Dad won't mind.'' She opened the cupboard again, and added two more tins of formula to the bag, and then put the spare teat in. Then she took the bottle out of the jug of cold water, upended it, and shook a couple of drops onto the skin on the inside of her wrist. ''Ah. It's just about right.'' She took Finn's hand, turned it palm upwards, and shook some formula onto Finn's wrist too. ''That's how warm it should be, Finn, all right?'' Finn smiled, and nodded.

     ''Not hot.  Not cold.'' she said. ''Thank you, Milly.''

     ''Hurry home, now, Finn, before it gets cold. Then you can give it to your lamb.'' She put the bottle into the bag and handed it to Finn, who turned to go.

     ''Oh, Finn. What are you going to call it? Your lamb?''

     Finn turned to look at Milly. She remembered what the note had said.

     ''Precious.'' she said, then turned and ran all the way home.

The End

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