The lamb is still alive. Twice daily we walk down to the manger without talking, self-consciously not-looking, expecting a dead thing we’d have to carry by its leg and throw in the furnace, and each time the lamb has its head high, bleating softly. We’ve been feeding it morning and night, after letting the flock out and before bringing it in. The lamb is almost nothing at all, half the weight it should be, puffy-cheeked and hair matted and thin. Since Riccio took off for Christmas, I’ve taken over the duty of holding down the mother, and Becky holds the just-too-short lamb up to the udder. Today I made a splint from a stick I cut and sanded, an elastic gauze bandage and tape from the first aid kit. At first, the splint was too big and straight for the lamb, but on our last visit we saw it hobbling to and fro, using its bound leg like a crutch. Still, it cannot reach the udder and the nights get colder and colder.
Apart from the early morning frosts, we’ve had great weather for the past couple days. It’s been warm and sunny, with an amber tint in the late afternoon that caramelizes the drifting stacks of hilltops and the terracotta shingles. I’ve even had time to practice my capoeira some. The other night, before the heat had come in, me and Becky chose the coldest night and drove down the endless, winding road up to the highway and through a couple of small hamlets, each with its own circolo archi bar, where the old communists came to drink grappa and forget about the machineries of the Bayer plant, over three bridges but making only one turn, and down to a sulphurous hotspring carved into the granitic banks of a river. In the darkness, I couldn’t see much past the high arch of the aquaduct overhead, but the water was hotter than sin and all the Italians were gone having Christmas. Becky tells me that on most days at the springs, the Italians crowd in so thick you have sit in someone’s lap. I was glad it was Christmas and the stars were out clear and in-focus as they always are here and I noticed that all of the winter stars were out now, as far down as Sirius and Procyon and very nearly canopus and the crow. The stars and the hard work and the cooking and in general the buoyant diligence here have all reminded me of sailing on the Cramer, getting to know people by how they work and when they sleep, filling time but not with too much speaking, and looking around more than down or at anything in particular. Of course, at sea we didn’t drink a bottle of wine a day.