Posted by: Abe's Blog | April 4, 2010

The Bent Staff of Justice


I thought I might have a story in me. I thought I might be able to express my feelings and frustrations in the form of a parable. I wrote a line. I erased it. It was about sheep–a flock of them. It was going to be a story about how they had a shepherd who was good. Then he left and after a time a new shepherd came. All but one of the sheep thought the new shepherd was very cool. He wore a flashy robe and had a shiny staff. Only the black sheep thought that the new shepherd was not so great. The black sheep did not care for the shepherds flashy robe and shiny staff. He thought there was something a bit insincere about this shepherd.

I was going to write all of that, and more. I was going to write about how the new shepherd gathered all of the sheep around and told them that things were going to be new and hip and cool now. No longer would the sheep have to listen to a boring old one-stringed lute. No! Lutes were passe’. All of the cool sheep on the other hills were now listening to banjo music, the new shepherd explained. Baaaa! BAAaa! All of the sheep were enthused…except for Blackie. He rolled his sheepy eyes and turned back to his tufts of grass.

I planned to tell this tale. I sat and typed, but did not like the words that I saw. When I tried to explain how the new shepherd had a meeting with a few of the more “important” sheep, I just got angry. I found that I could not finish telling about how these “important” sheep made the others feel left out, especially when the shepherd called a meeting in which he explained that by unanimous decree, they would now be giving their flock a hip new name. No longer would they be known as just another flock of sheep. They would now be called “New Flock Sheepfold”. Blackie was not impressed and noticed that some of the older sheep seem disturbed.

I attempted to pen the tale of how the elder sheep spoke with the shepherd and addressed their concerns in respectful bleets. But the shepherd told them they were trouble-makers and made them feel that all of the other sheep felt the same way. He gave specific instances to each of them to back this up and the elder sheep felt sheepish and wandered back to the edge of the flock. Later, Blackie noticed them slipping off one by one to wander across the fruited plains in search of peace.

As I strove to tell this tale, the wounds were re-opened and my heart ached. I could go no further, I felt. I could not continue to tell about how the shepherd picked one of the sheep to lead the rest in sheep-dancing. He assured them that this was a practice that was well and good and was essential for proper sheep health. The sheep he chose to lead the dance was shrill and bossy and mean-spirited. And as the New Flock Sheepfold attempted to dance to her rhythm, a few more sheep slipped away. As the leader of the dance pranced on her hind legs and ba-a-a-ahd for all she was worth, Blackie began to feel a deep disturbance in his soul. Something was wrong…

I was going to write about Blackie’s great stand–how he faced the shepherd and called him out and stated his viewpoint. I was going to tell about how the shepherd made Blackie feel–that he himself was to blame and that he was a problem-causing outcast–a bad sheep–but that if only he would change and become like the other sheep, he would be welcomed back into the fold with opened arms–perhaps he too could lead the flock in a jumping, leaping sheep dance. Blackie hung his head in shame and confusion. This part of the tale would not come. I could not write it as it pained me so.

But as I struggled to describe what I could not, I began to feel a glimmer of a hope–a shimmer of a song on the horizon. I began to see a possible ending to this tale, though the ending was shrouded in a misty fog. Shapes and movement were visible, though color and sound were strangely missing. I peered deeper into this cloud and thought that I could make out…another shepherd? He was greater than the first. He carried a large staff–though it was not shiny with glitter and glam. It was dark and hard and made of the trunk of an oak. He swung the staff and smote the bad shepherd with a resounding blow. Through the swirling mist, I could see the miscreant flying end over end. I could see his fabulous robe, torn and drifting, fluttering through a silent wind to catch briefly in a briar bush before tumbling out across the plain. The bad shepherd stood, naked and bruised and humiliated and could not meet the eyes of his antagonist. The new shepherd raised a burly arm to point his gnarled staff towards the bad. “Be gone with ye!” He cried. “Ye shall have no further time with this flock!” His voice like thunder and a light like lightning from his eyes. “Take thy twisted works away with ye and begone!”
I could not see what happened to the flock. But I felt that everything would be right. I felt that this new shepherd, of strength and resolve and character, would clean out the dross and set things right.

Frankly, I tried to write about this, but nothing would come out.



  1. What a great way to “not tell” a story!!!

    Keep up the good “not work.” 8)

  2. Thanks, Roger! I won’t.

  3. Too bad you couldn’t write about this. It would have been good.

    It also sounds vaguely familiar. Like this story has had made the rounds in the western world especially, with a few variations.

    My own variation ends up with a recogniztion that the sheeps’ pasture is a heck of a lot larger than we – I mean they – first thought. And that the fences weren’t as solid as the shepperds initially intended.

    But that’s another story.

    • Yeah, I think Blackie learned the same thing. Blackie is now getting very fat off of all the greener grass and will soon have to go on a sheep diet–no clover for a month.

  4. *recognition* Don’t know where that wayward “z” came from.

    • ‘S’al good, dude. The “z” came from “rekonize” which is gangster slang for “you had better look at me and understand that I am serious”. So I knew all along what you meant, Z. I mean G.

  5. This is the second time I’ve read this non-story, and my mind landed with
    a thud in the same place again. I think I know these sheep, or at least they sound hauntingly familiar. And not to change the non- ending of this non-story, in my version, the flock had indeed scattered, but the shepherd still mains.

    • That is so. The tale hasn’t ended yet. In fact, I think it’s becoming a story that is repeated in more and more flocks!

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