by LindaMarie

Liam washed his hands in his grandfather's stream.

The red would not go away, no matter how hard he scrubbed. It was under his nails, in the lines of his palms. It made his skin swell and numb guiltily in the icy water.

He'd come here because he didn't want them to see him cry. Father would yell. He'd say men didn't cry even if they were little and spoiled and spent too much time indoors drawing. Drawing was womanly, and he couldn't add crying on top of it. Grandmother would tell Father he's only a boy, don't be so hard on him. You were a boy once too, you know.

But Liam was big. He wasn't a boy, and he wasn't a woman. Maybe they'd see it now.

They went to Grandfather's farm in the country every spring. The city was sinful; no place to stay for Lent. Even Uncle Thomas came back home then. He had to sleep close to the church with the other priests, though, not at the farmhouse with everyone else. Mother said it was called a rectory, where he stayed.

Today was Good Friday. Liam didn't see what was so good about having to sit in church for three hours in the best part of the day, but he knew he shouldn't ask about such things. He would need to go inside soon and get ready.

This morning Grandfather had let him help with the culling of the lambs. Liam was eight years old next month, after all. He was grown up enough to help provide.

Liam thought maybe they ate lamb on Easter because Christ was the Lamb of God. The lambs cried when they killed them, and if he'd been Jesus he would have cried too.

The had done it out in the field, where the women couldn't hear. Grandfather said women were delicate and you had to keep them safe. Mother was delicate. She yelped if you walked too loud. Aye, but Liam was quiet. He could protect her.

Grandfather said it was easy to choose which ones to keep, and which to slaughter. If they were weak, or sick, or if an ewe had two and one was smaller, then they weren't any good anyway. Even the mother sheep wouldn't want them. But to Liam they all looked the same: all small, all fuzzy and sad and afraid. Only big men like he and Grandfather could kill them, because they were the strongest.

The lambs cried. They knew what was going to happen, they saw the axe, and they cried like babies. Like people. Liam held them still while Grandfather did it. The blood seeped on his fingers, up his arms, and he knew why he'd been told to wear black pants today. The cries got louder, like screams, and then slowly died away.

Liam crouched by the stream, washing his hands. The tears fell as he thought about being the lamb. He thought about Jesus, and how he knew he was going to die. Liam knew, because Father told him, that everyone dies someday. He said some people die young because they're unrighteous. And he thought about the Lord, and the lamb, and wondered when his time would come.


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