TITLE: All Us Good Little Soldiers
GENRE: YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy
I was elbow-deep in sheep's milk and squeezing a mass of curd when the door slammed against the wall. Henryk loomed in the entryway, a cutout of shadow from the low, golden sun. As he stepped closer, I could see his eyes had swelled like overripe tomatoes. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve, and I curled away from him in case he was gonna toss up. He didn't, though; he had to go and do something worse.
He said, "Again, it happened again."
I didn't need to ask. The cheese slipped out of my fingers and plopped into the vat under my knees. Hot curd splashed up and clung to my cheek, but I followed Henryk out of the hut without cleaning it off. Henryk and I ran across the pasture, dogs clipping our heels and sheep bleating from all around.
"Oh, Nie, nie, nie," my mouth was going, and I couldn't stop it.
Henryk slowed. He ducked under the boughs of a gnarled, old spruce tree and flung aside the white capes we'd hung there that morning when the sun began to bake.
That's where I saw her. One of our ewes lay curled on dead spruce needles, her once-white fleece yellowed and bare in patches. Her open eyes saw somewhere I couldn't find, all filmed over and greyish blue. I covered my mouth.
Henryk didn't quit shaking. He was crying, but I didn't do anything to comfort him. I just stood there, my eyes fixed on that dead sheep.