"You have something else to say, don't you?"

How does she know?

I stand up and say, "I'm not Jewish."

I can't look at her. If I do, I might see she's upset because a non-Jewish girl is her granddaughter. I don't know how Israelis feel about non-Jews. For some reason I don't want to know if she resents me. 'Cause I like Safta. A lot.

"Look at me, my sweet Amy."

Me? Sweet? I raise my eyes and look straight at her.

She's smiling, the wrinkles around her eyes making deep creases as she takes my hand in hers, the one still holding the necklace with the small Jewish star pendant.

"Being Jewish is more in your heart than in your mind. For some, being Jewish is strictly following the laws and customs of our ancestors. For others, it's being part of a community. Religion is very personal. It will always be there for you if you want or need it. You can choose to embrace it or decide your life doesn't need it. Nobody can force religion on you or it's not real."

Looking down at the necklace in my hand, I say, "Can I keep it? Just for a little while. I'll give it back, I promise."

She pats the top of my head. "I used to wonder why my son stayed away from Israel for so long, but I see the way he looks at you. He wants to protect you, keep you from hurt or harm while trying to respect that inner fire you possess. It is genuine and pure. Take the necklace," she says, then hesitates before adding, "for as long as you want it."

Staring at this woman, who has eyes that mirror mine and who says words that turn my world upside down, disturbs my inner being. I clutch the necklace in my hand. Then I turn around and head for the refrigerator, looking for some water. Even though it's right in front of my face as I open the door, my limbs feel paralyzed.

I close the fridge and turn to Safta as I walk toward the door.

"I think I'll take a walk," I say.

I take one more look at the necklace before gently placing it in my back pocket.

I find myself walking toward the sheep. When I get close to the pens, the

Ferragamo-stealing mutt bounds toward me. Its filthy tail is wagging furiously, fanning his behind. Remembering my toes filled with snake-guts, I walk right past the dog and ignore its pathetic attempts at making up with me.


I look down at the thing. "Arg, yourself. Where's my sandal?"

"Arg!" Wag. "Arg!" Wag.

He trots off toward a hilly area beyond the pens and I think of how lucky that dog is to be free to do as he pleases. Even steal other people's shoes without repercussions.

I walk farther into the pens, the sound of baying sheep and electric razors leading me in the right direction. Spotting Ron, I head toward him. I convince myself that as long as I just hang out here, there's no reason Ron will think I'm incompetent and regret I'm his daughter.

"Amy, honey, over here!"

My eyes wander to the direction of Ron's voice. He's never called me honey before and it kind of startles me. What does that mean, anyway? Honey. It's sweet, but it's also sticky and doesn't come off your hands easily. Annoy-ingly sweet. Is that me? Not on your life.

He's leaning down, and his knees are locking a sheep down while he's shearing its wooly hair off. The sheep doesn't seem to mind, but I do.

"Ron, that's inhumane," I say.

He finishes running the razor through the sheep's fur while the fluff falls beside him. He finally releases the poor, naked animal and looks up at me.

"You have a better way?" he asks.

It's then I realize Ron isn't the only one shearing the sheep. O'dead is next to Ron,

Doo-Doo is next to O'dead, Uncle Chime is next to Doo-Doo, and Avi is next to my uncle. They're all exhausted, I can tell by the way they're breathing heavily and their shirts are wet with sweat. Not just their armpits and chests, their entire shirts are soaked through.

And they're all staring at me. Except O'dead. He's staring at Snotty, across in another pen. Hmmm.

The razor sounds stop and I feel like the world has, too. I think of something quick to say.

It comes to me like lightning and I blurt out, "Why don't you just leave the fur on?"

Duh. It sounds so simple I give a short laugh.

Chuckles from my right side alert me to my cousin and Ofra. Snotty's wearing a tight black shirt and her dark makeup is running down her cheeks while feeding a lamb with a bottle. Hasn't she ever heard of waterproof mascara? Or the term less is more?

"They'll be too hot during summer months," Ron explains.

I sit down on one of the metal railings and watch. There are dogs in the middle of the pens, eating something red and gooey on the ground. My lips curl.

"What are the dogs eating?" I ask. Maybe I don't want to know, but my curiosity gets the best of me.

"One of the female sheep had a baby this morning."

"They're eating a lamb?"

"No, the placenta. It's very nutritious."

I gag. "Eww!" I say.

I shouldn't have asked. If I hadn't asked, I wouldn't know. GROSS! Baby sheep placenta. Blech! Stop thinking about it. Stop thinking about it.

But the more I will myself to stop thinking about it the more I can't look away. Kind of like those bloody crime scenes they show on television. You don't want to watch, but can't help it.

Out of the corner of my eye I see Mutt coming into the enclosure. He's small enough to go under the metal railings. When he looks at me, I squint at him.

"Do NOT eat sheep placenta," I tell him.

He nods at me, as if he understands what I just said. Then he tromps over to the placenta, starts to lick it, takes a part of the gooey, bloody thing in his mouth and tugs at it. I can't look any more.

If only Jessica were here, we could have a huge laugh at the whole grody situation. But she's not.

I walk over to where the newborn sheep are. A baby lamb stumbles over to me and I pet it with my hand.

"Hey sweetheart," I say.

"Baa," it whines back, which makes me smile.

I think it's the first time I've smiled since Matan put the flowers in my hair.

"Don't get too attached, he's going to be killed soon."

My heart sinks and my smile fades as quickly as it appeared. I turn to Snotty while I pick up the baby lamb.

"What?" I say.

"We have them slaughtered at three months old. That one's a boy so he'll be one of the first to go."

I look into the eyes of the small, helpless newborn and pull it closer to me protectively.

I'm a carnivore. Although meeting the animal I'm going to eat up close and personal makes me sick to my stomach. He's so cute. How can I even think about the poor guy being slaughtered? Maybe I won't cut out carbs after all.

Matan comes trotting up the lane with Doda Yucky behind him. He's naked, as usual. What's funny is I'm getting so used to seeing the kid naked that it doesn't even faze me.

He comes into the pen and runs around with the lambs. He's screeching in delight as he runs and tries to catch them.

After a minute the lambs start running after him. But it's not to play, I realize they think his little pee-wee is another baby bottle nipple. He's laughing and running away from the lambs that are trying to get milk out of his thingy like it's a game. Looking around, I notice Doda Yucky is laughing, as well as the rest of the people who have now stopped shearing the sheep.

I run over to Matan and pick his naked little body up to protect him from the perverted lambs.

After I carry him back to safety, I say very loudly to anyone who can hear me, "That. Is. Not. Okay."

Matan isn't fazed, neither is anyone else. They're still laughing. Doda Yucky talks to Uncle Chime before she and Matan trot happily back to the house, thank goodness.

The razors start up again, all the men except for Ron bending over the poor sheep. He says something to Uncle Chime in Hebrew before coming over to me.

"I have a job for you," he says.


Determination and skill is half of the job. Dumb luck is the other half.

I follow him to the other end of the enclosure, which is thankfully in the shade.

"When the sheeps are done being sheared, herd them into this pen."

I look over at the skinny, bare-assed animal. Man, they looked so fat, puffy, and large with all that fuzzy hair, it's unbelievable how much smaller and vulnerable they look after a shave. I can just sense their self-consciousness as a shiver runs through my bones.

But I'm determined to help. I think. Don't screw this up, Amy. My eyes wander to Snotty, feeding the baby animals with bottles of milk. That looks like fun. Why do I get stuck with herding the bare-assed ones into a pen?

What if they start getting frisky with me? Worse, what if they start getting frisky with each other? Blech!

"You able to do it?" Ron asks.

"Of course," I say with more conviction than I feel. "Piece of cake," I add.

If I do this, maybe he'll be proud of me.

Uncle Chime lets one of the sheep go and it struggles to its feet. It's a male one, I can tell by the dangling thing in between its legs. And he's staring at me from the corner of the pen.

"Go on," I say.

But above the buzzing of the shearing I bet he can't hear me.

The sheep stares at me with his big, spooky, gray eyes. I wonder if he'll charge me. I move a step closer. He doesn't move.

"Go on," I say a bit louder this time.

Sincerely hoping nobody is watching me, I take another step toward the animal.

He backs up.

"This way, dummy," I say.

The thing won't listen to me. Damn. I look over at Ron, but thankfully he's not paying attention.

It's me against the sheep. Did I say the thing looked small and vulnerable after being shaved? I take that back. Before I step toward the menacing four-legged, bare-assed sheep with a dangling thing between its legs, out of the corner of my eye I see another sheep stand up. It heads next to the first one. Now I have two to deal with.

Avi stands up and heads over to get another fuzzy, fur-filled sheep to shear. As he does, our eyes meet. I still haven't forgiven him for the snake-guts incident. It's unbelievable he won't apologize for watching me while I was as naked as the sheep he's shearing. Kind of ironic, isn't it? I plead to him with my eyes, Help me.

He looks back at me with contempt. Not on your life, Amy. You're on your own. Jerk. Not that he actually voiced those words, but I know he was thinking it.

Screw him. I take another step toward the two sheep. Maybe if I channel their psyche they'll do what I want. I open my eyes wide and look at the bigger one intently. Go inside the pen, I urge with my mind. Focus, Amy, I tell myself. I put my fingertips on my temples in order to channel my thoughts to the damn four-legged creature who's looking at me like I'm a nutcase.

I feel a presence standing beside me. Turning abruptly, I almost knock into Avi. The confused expression on his face, with furrowed eyebrows and chocolate irises, tells me he thinks I'm a mashed potato (which, just in case you aren't familiar with the slang term, means a brainless human being).

"Yah!" he yells while stomping his foot on the ground. This coming from a guy who thinks I'm a mashed potato.

I turn back to the sheep, who have now just run into the adjacent pen at his command/stomp routine.

Avi's got this arrogant smirk on his face like he's done some massive accomplishment.

"I bet your boyfriend can't do that," he says.