Susan Tepper

Little Peebles

On a hillside not far from a mountain I found a goat and a sheep living as man and wife in a small cave. I had gone there to pick berries for my grandmama who has a penchant for scullberry pie. I have a penchant for scullberry pie she said over the hum from the steam kettle.

Where does one find the scullberries I asked the old woman.

At the mouth of a cave at the base of the mountain.

But, I said, here there are two mountains. One to the east and one to the north.

Well dearest girl, use your common sense. Where do you think the scullberries would most likely grow? In the fair east or the cold north?

She made a good point.

The next day I set out traveling toward the east mountain with my basket and my hiking shoes. A cool day with high clouds. Just enough blue to make the sky radiant. I walked through short grass and tall grass. Along a creek and over another and skipping across the rocks to keep dry.

At lunchtime I opened the towel on my basket and ate the sandwich of pickle and eggs Grandmama packed for me. I crouched and drank from the stream with the flat rocks. Then rested a while with the sun on my face and my back against a half down wall.

After a bit I started to walk feeling brisk from the lunch and soon was upon a cave. And just as Grandmama said there were the scullberries. Flocks and flocks of them. All shades of purple. The ripest of a deep purple down to the baby scullberries that were rosy in hue. As I bent to fill my basket, I heard the sounds. First the baaah, then the bleat. They rang out harmonically in a way that was startling. The baaah tripping over the bleat, the bleat smoothing out the baaah. It made my own breath ache. It made me tired.

I straightened my spine and ventured into the cave. It was set up like a little rugged kitchen. The sheep in a frilled apron tied around its curly middle. The goat on a stump filling its pipe.

Who are you I said.

We are the Little Peebles said the goat. We are the Little Peebles said the sheep.

Are you happy I asked them.

Susan Tepper is the author of three published books of fiction and a poetry chapbook. Her current title "From the Umberplatzen" is a quirky love story set in Germany and told in linked-flash. Tepper has been nominated nine times for the Pushcart. Her novel "What May Have Been" (with Gary Percesepe) was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2011.

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