What do I owe the 99?

I wandered far, slipping heedlessly over sliding gravel, jumping doe-like over crevices, imagining my own grace. Maybe it wasn’t wandering so much as running away. Panic obscures my memory and my motives. I descend through the canyons until abysses stretch too wide to cross, rock buttresses too narrow to sqeeze through. Weakened, I can’t retrace my steps.

Just as I surrender to despair, there you are. You sought me and found me and carried me home.

detail, Christ the Good Shepherd, Murillo, 1660

Here’s my question. What do I now owe the other 99? The ones waiting patiently, staying obediently with the flock?  Did you see their looks of envy and reproach? How do you get to nuzzle against his shoulder, carried on his sweet back? You don’t deserve it! We were faithful, we stayed with the flock and look at you carried shoulder high like a triumphant athlete, a laurel wreath for your lies and selfishness! Like the prodigal’s older brother, they refuse to come to the angelic party given in my honor.

What do I owe them?  I’d drink to their happiness – if I hadn’t given up drinking. They reject the gift of my sincere gratitude. The 99 banish me to the solitude I sought in the first place. They scorn me as a fool. But I am a fool!  A fool for love. And wiser than I was.

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