The hawks were the first to find the ewe. They circled the body, the flies a black buzzing cloud. Mere found the lamb half wedged under the fence. Mere’s father picked it up by its hind legs, ready to throw it on the trailer. The lamb made a noise like a crying cat.
‘Better take it home then,’ said Mere’s father.
At home, Mere’s mother was pulling burnt pieces of Vogels from the toaster. A cake sat on the table.
‘We’ll feed the lamb and then you can take the cake to the Tangi,’ she said.
‘Can’t you do it?’ Mere asked her mother thinking of the old man lying in the open coffin inside the meeting house. Jack had told her he’d been in with his mother and the old man’s face was covered in hairy moles and his skin was like candlewax.
The lamb was asleep on the warm floor by the oven when Mere left the house. Mere wore her parka. It smelt like wet wool and sheep poo. She reached the boundary between the farm and the Marae. Cars lined the sides of the road, she could hear a baby crying.
‘Hey,’ one of the children stood on the fence watching her ‘that your lamb?’
Mere looked over her shoulder. The lamb was behind her, tail wagging. She mouthed at it, go home. It trotted through the open gate, past the carved poles and the rows of shoes lined up outside the meeting house. Mere pulled off her gumboots and followed it inside.
One hundred faces turned and looked at her. The lamb stood by the coffin, she could see the tip of the man’s nose.
An elderly lady smiled at her, the lines of her moko deep in her chin. ‘Come to say goodbye?’