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by Melodie Corrigall

The moment the crown was placed on her head, Matilda acknowledged that even the acclaim that came with winning the regional Pickle Eating Contest—second year in a row—was as naught. Matilda’s passion was sheep; her goal was to be a shepherdess.

She had joined the swaying group of people who were successes in the world’s eyes but who were in their own, more discerning estimations, failures. Matilda had known of these people for years: whenever she saw stories about them she’d get out the scissors. She had a scrapbook ready to go.

But that day it had been revealed to her that her mission was to write a book outlining their frustrations. Who better? Her personal experience would be the final chapter.  She’d call it:  “Joining the Successes.” Celebrities like Sibelius who had written tunes so catchy that even she recognized them to Sullivan, of Gilbert and Sullivan, who wrote those upbeat melodies but wanted to compose symphonies. 

Even as a toddler Matilda only liked stories like Noah’s Ark and Jesus’ birth, which involved sheep. Mary and her little lamb had been a favorite, although Matilda had insisted that Mary’s lamb would have preferred to wander the hills rather than go to school. “Even if he were academically inclined how can even a little lamb fit comfortably in such tiny seats?”

Over the years, she had tried every avenue to reach her shepherdess goal. To succeed, she required sheep and to this end had consulted the owner of the local feed store about lambs in the area. “More a cattle district,” Bobbin had said, staring out the window at the open range.

When Matilda advertised her aspirations on-line she discovered that local shepherdess opportunities were limited. “Send me a photo, I’d like a little shepherding,” said one cocky responder who was immediately filed in the trash.

Not easily discouraged, the image of herself with her little herd moving across the hills persisted. Under a bright night sky, they’d hunker down as she—staff in hand—kept a sharp eye out for wolves. But here again Matilda was thwarted; the local park ranger insisted that there were no wolves for two hundred miles. And what wolf would go that far for supper?

So the day after the Pickle award, Matilda, with help from her librarian friend, put together a query letter linking her experience to the others to be featured in the book: “As one who shares their angst, I can describe the pain of aspirants (14 examples) who end up celebrated among the many but frustrated professionally,” she wrote.

 Satisfied, she was on the right track at last, that night, as Matilda drifted off to sleep, counting sheep, she speculated whether the book cover should have a photo of her in her Pickle crown or a line drawing of her on a hillside, in an appropriate bonnet, with her beloved sheep.