A Scapegoat Among the Goats

As far as goatherders went, Olivia wasn’t your average. For a start, she had a tendency to dress as though she was going to a red-carpet event rather than into the muddy abyss of a field. Where that field was depended on the month, for she traveled throughout the country with her herd, offering “grass-cutting services” like no lawnmower could. People were charmed by the “quaint” quality of the assistance. It was especially appreciated in California, where the various types of overgrown grasses could lead to the dreaded spread of a wildfire. 

Obviously, Olivia probably wouldn’t have gotten into the business were it not for her father, who passed on the herd to her when he died. As the youngest child, she was the one who stuck with him through most of the “second career” he had started after Olivia’s mother abandoned them. Her other two siblings, John and Barrett, had already left the fold (to use a pun) by the time Olivia was eight and just learning how to manage the flock as an “assistant” to her father. Although her siblings were boys, therefore more theoretically “suited” to the profession (per the sexist worldview that infects most), Vincent saw something in his daughter that his sons simply didn’t have: the inherent lone wolf nature required to be a goatherder. One had to be comfortable being alone for most of the time if they wanted to succeed in this kind of work. 

And oh, how comfortable Olivia was. So long as she had her wonderful clothes to keep her entertained while she played dress-up in her trailer. A goatherder’s salary might be fairly modest, but since Olivia had no major expenses—being a nomad and all—she splurged on garments that pleased her. Plus, she could navigate the vintage stores of every small town she went to like the back of her hand by now. The store owners always remembered her, and were glad to see her again. Many were absolutely floored when she told them what she did for a living. They had all assumed she was in fashion. “No,” she would reply. “I just really appreciate it.”

The way she dressed—in vibrant pinks, shimmering aquamarines, sequined numbers, “fuck me pumps,” short skirts, crop tops, “Selena hats”—caught so much attention after a while that she even ended up being featured on the cover of The Progressive Farmer. Having inherited a number of Great Pyrenees guard dogs from her father (he could never bring himself to sell the “excess” ones), she was instructed to pose with all of them for the photo. It wasn’t long after that the editor told her the issue was the highest-selling of the twenty-first century. And Olivia fast became one of the most well-known herders around. But that didn’t make her act any differently. She could have easily parlayed a totally different career out of that cover. She could have gotten a reality show (some sendup of the premise of The Simple Life, because that’s still how people wanted to see women who were actually adept), she could have gotten an endorsement deal. But she chose to continue as she was. Not just to honor her father, but because of that loner’s spirit that made this the perfect job for her. 

About a year after the magazine came out, and people started to forget about “The Glamorous Goatherd” (that had been the title of the article), she received an assignment in a small Northern California town, a region that had become her bread and butter. Lately, when she had been getting offers to go to other beautiful locales like Montana or New Mexico, she turned them down. She was growing less and less fond of bothering to leave California. It was the place she grew up, and the place where she felt most at one with her dearly departed father. The town was called Colson, perhaps named after some long-dead white man who had settled it back in the 1800s or what have you. She didn’t care to look too deeply into it. The company who contracted her told her that the job would probably take a whole month, the land being quite overrun with wild grass. The only lament for her was that the town was so rural that there was no thrift store to be found. She would have to commute if she really wanted to unearth one, and that was out of the question if she was to perform her job with precision and grace—as she had been taught to. 

Thus, she felt herself dip into a depression she had never really allowed herself to before. Thrifting was her release, the way she could express herself in a world that still utterly repressed her. And most women, for that matter. Especially such a “dichotomy” as her. For yes, on the one hand, she enjoyed dressing “like a slut,” as males and females alike had decided to reduce her style to. On the other, she hated attention… most of all, attention from men. The attire she chose to don was purely for her own joy, no one else’s. So when she caught the gawking stares that inevitably came whenever some lecherous man saw her herding or she walked into town dressed as she did, it would detract something of that joy. But still, she reasoned no one should be allowed to take it away from her. Which is why she continued to delight in her sartorial sensations. Until, one night, a predator was unleashed. And while she would never wish any kind of horror on her flock, she did so wish the predator in question was after them instead.

But no, alas, it turned out this boy, a twenty-something named Rob (a fitting name, as he would rob her of all dignity), had been stalking her for the past couple of weeks. He had gotten so brazen with his obsession that he had even pulled it out right there in broad daylight while spying on her from behind a tree, fiercely stroking it until he came as he watched her work. Flexing in those tight tops, bending in those short skirts. What the hell did she expect to happen? he thought as he penetrated her against her will underneath the dark night sky. 

He had lured her out of her trailer by making a series of noises that alerted the head Great Pyrenees to something untoward. Concerned about his barking, Olivia opened the door to her trailer to check what the commotion was about. And it was precisely at that moment when Rob lurched at her, tackling her onto the grass and ripping off her black satin panties (the only thing she was wearing apart from a lacy night shirt). She stared at the stars until it was over, not bothering to fight it after processing what was happening. She was like one of the goats being sacrificed to a ravenous bobcat so that the others could live. Just who she was trying to keep alive in this case was a mystery to her though. But, in any event, she was satiating an appetite so that perhaps the predator’s carnality could remain dormant again for a spell. 

The following morning, when Olivia informed the town (by showing up to the police station) of the rape she had suffered at the penis of Rob, no one believed her. In fact, they were all quite quick to call her some kind of Circe, a Jezebel. She had been the one to lure him into the fields in that “getup,” they decided. News of “the goatherd who cried wolf” (another cover story title) spread like the wildfire her goats were meant to prevent throughout the region. She became a cautionary tale for men who would seek to give in to temptation. And since this was a very religious territory, the lore was quick to be bought into. It didn’t take long for her business to suffer as well. The gigs still came, sure, but not nearly as many as she needed. Any “big cities” that might have embraced her didn’t actually require any of her agricultural services. She had alienated a certain type of person who lived in a certain type of environment. 

Gradually, she found herself being cast out of California, like the proverbial scapegoat meant to take all the sins and impurities away from the land with her on the Day of Atonement. She would carry the sins of their narrow-mindedness—their inability to look at their true nature in the mirror—until the next town turned on her, too, she supposed. Because to give up the trade she had learned from her father was not an option… and being a scapegoat (otherwise known as a “demon woman” or “devil bitch”) among the goats was, evidently, her new destiny.

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