I heard deep sighs as I walked to the barn. There sat all the goofballs with their little goat faces looking glum.
“What is wrong?” I asked.
Pickles pushed something towards me. It was the farm calendar that had just arrived from the printer. I think I know where this is going, I thought.
“Harry always gets picked for everything,” Pickles said, as she pointed at the calendar cover.
“Well, I am quite handsome,” Harry said, strolling by.
“But I’m so stinkin’ cute!” said Pancakes, the baby of the group.
“We didn’t even get to vote,” said Puddles the goat.
“The chickens didn’t get any coverage!” said one of the hens, and then the entire flock broke into loud clucks.
“The Goose made it in, twice!” said another hen.
Earnest the pig happened in on the discussion.
“Mrs. Dunn, I think you did a fine job. I especially like the October spread,” the pig said, beaming.
Everyone turned to October and there was Earnest and his pumpkin.
They let out another collective sigh.
Harry the llama returned to the conversation. “The calendar sales help all of us. You should be thankful, not jealous, especially as we are entering the season of thanks and giving,” said the llama. “Just the other day, I was visiting the elder home and so many of our friends there wish they could just be in their own homes, but they can’t. And here are all of you, safe and happy, in your home.”
Everyone grew silent.
Hannah raised her hand, “Harry, why do the old people leave their homes then?”
“They can’t care for themselves anymore. They don’t want to leave their homes,” said Harry.
“I feel their sadness when I’m there, they carry their old homes inside and I can feel their sadness.”
Hannah started to cry. Earnest the pig put his arm around her.
“We have to bring the old people here, to live in our barn!” Hannah cried.
“Hannah, they can’t live here, they would fall and trip and they would be cold in your barn,” said Earnest the pig.
“It’s not fair,” she said.
“Life is not for sissies, Hannah,” said Poetry, the stoic old goat. “And neither is getting old.”
Hannah raised her hand again and asked Harry, “What do you do when you are with the old people?”
“I stand honorably by them, and listen,” said the llama.
“Do they talk to you?” asked Pickles.
“Yes, some do, some just pet me or watch me.” Harry said. “My job is to make them feel noticed. They are not invisible to me as they are too many people.”
“This is why Harry’s on the cover – he understands that sitting with an old person and listening is often more helpful than all the medicine in the world,” I said.
“I hope to play Bingo with them soon,” said Harry.
And everyone, including me, yelled, “Bingo!”
(The 2024 Apifera Farm calendar is now available and all sales help the nonprofit katherinedunnapiferafarm.bigcartel.com. Katherine Dunn, of Apifera Farm in Bremen, is an artist and writer. Apifera, a nonprofit, takes in elderly and special-needs animals and shares them with elder people. Learn more at katherinedunn.us.)