The Bluetooth speaker glowed a rainbow of colors as a 90s dance tune came on and filled the livestock arena with its infectious rhythm. Laurent snapped to attention and turned his ears to the music. It was his favorite song. He squared his shoulders, arched his back, his head held high on his long, graceful neck. He strutted to the song beneath the overhead lights, making eye contact with his enraptured audience. “I’m sexy and I know it,” crooned the speaker.
The audience cheered and applauded. Laurent swished his tail.
“Look at him, nose in the air, looking down on us like he’s superior,” spat the alpaca with a side-eye at the black llama. “His coat is NOT better than mine.”
It was the end of judging at the county fair for “Fiber-bearing Livestock.” The blue-ribbon winners of each category—llama, alpaca, sheep, and goat, with goats further separated into mohair and cashmere—were on display for the public to admire before the Best of Fiber Class that evening.
“Who does he think he is?” The alpaca’s coat was nearly iridescent in the glow of the halogen lights. Her owner had taken great care to remove every grass stain, every urine-tainted, brittle hair, and now she glowed like an angel from heaven. The other animals continued grazing, ignoring her.
Laurent laughed at the alpaca. He knew he was beautiful. His coat had produced the most phenomenal fiber every year, ever since his first competition as a young ‘tuis’. One judge had said Laurent’s coat created the softest yarn he’d ever felt, softer than any wool he had ever worked with, softer than a newly hatched chick. Or a marshmallow. And every year the judges had commented on the variety of hair from Laurent: the softest fibers perfect for swaddling a babe, and the coarser fibers ideal for a rustic chic rug. Laurent knew no one else could provide the variety that he could. And he looked good doing it.
He was accustomed to the adoration and the envy. His large, languid eyes, framed by long, lustrous eyelashes, focused on a distant tree. He knew how to pose for the fans.
Laurent took a deep breath and turned his handsome rectangular head to give the onlookers a different view. The crowd grew in front of his stall, and people in the back raised their cell phones, hoping to get a shot of his luxurious black hair.
The glowing alpaca watched from her pen, mouth twisted, bottom lip stuck out, nose wrinkled like a snarling dog. Or maybe a cat. It was hard to look mean with a round, fluffy face, and a goofy, long neck.
“Humph!” She snorted, and stomped a foot.
The crowd moved on as the song came to an end. Laurent gave a last pose to the stragglers and got a drink from his bucket. He winked at the alpaca.
A new batch of admirers entered the livestock arena. The alpaca tossed her head and pranced toward the front of her stall with her chest puffed out. Her hair floated about her, like a puffy white cloud lit by the sun from behind.
The people stopped in front of the glowing alpaca. She posed, and gave them her best profile, batting her eyelashes, turning coyly to the cameras.
“Ooh, sweetie, look at the shiny llama!” That fickle audience soon turned their gaze to the next animal in the lineup: Laurent the llama, the winner for the last six years. The alpaca gritted her teeth. The merino sheep glanced furtively at her and moved a little further away.
The music started back up, and the llama worked his audience. He sashayed toward the front of his pen, getting close enough that the most daring people reached out, hoping to touch that glorious coat. With his head raised, he was taller than the people gawking at him. His hair fell in silken waves along his neck and back, forming a neat fringe along his belly. The light reflected off his deep, perfectly black color, the highlights sometimes blue, sometimes burgundy, always gorgeous. He glanced over his shoulder at the fluffy white alpaca, giving her a smirk as he turned to walk a slow circuit around his stall.
The alpaca fumed. She decided to rear a little, jump and swish her tail. A few people looked her way and laughed. “Aw, how cute! The little alpaca wants to play!”
This infuriated the alpaca. She was not cute. She was glorious, the best of her breed, stunning. The judges had said so.
The merino sheep glanced her way. “Why get worked up about this? The title doesn’t mean a thing.” He stayed on the far side of his pen, away from the angry alpaca.
Laurent struck a pose on his catwalk, his graceful long ears curved up and forward, making him appear taller, regal. The reigning king of fiber.
The alpaca kicked her stall. One clear note chimed from the rail: gong!
Chewing through a mouthful of hay, the cashmere goat raised her head at the sound. “We all get shorn at the end of the day, baobei.”
The alpaca ignored being called a ‘treasure.’ “Every year,” she screeched through clenched teeth, “I have to put up with that llama acting like his coat is the only one the people want. Well, I know the people want me.” High-pitched and shrill, the alpaca stunned the onlookers, who jumped at the loud noise and turned to find its source.
“Did that fluffy white animal make that noise?” someone asked.
The alpaca had been lost in her own world of envy, and did not expect the sudden attention. She snorted and took a few steps back. The crowd followed.
“Make her make that sound again, Mommy,” demanded a kid with a blue sno-cone dripping down his arm. He tugged on a woman near the front of the pen wearing cut-offs and a tank top that said ‘I’m just here for the food.’
“Screee!” The woman leaned toward the alpaca, trying to mimic her sound. “Screeeeee!”
The alpaca did a double-take, her head swiveling on her neck like a bobblehead toy.
The woman and her child put their hands on the bars of the alpaca’s stall. “Do it again, Mommy!” More children, in every shade of fair food, gathered next to the sno-cone-blue child. Their sweating parents stood behind them.
“C’mon, little alpaca! Whatchu wanna say? SCREEEEEE!” laughed the woman. The other people laughed with her.
The glowing alpaca turned and hurried into the back corner of her stall. The sheep and goats kept their heads down, watching the crowd focus on the alpaca.
“Scree!” shouted someone from the back. “Scree! Scree!” As each person joined in mimicking the alpaca, their sounds became less alpaca-like. The disagreeable din of humans doing poor impersonations of the alpaca caused the fainting goats across the aisle to topple. The glowing alpaca pressed into the back panel of her stall. The whites of her eyes showed as she stared at the bawling horde.
Laurent watched from his stall. He looked at his handler and then at the Bluetooth speaker. His favorite song came on. His handler turned up the volume. “I’m too sexy…”
The audience reacted to the song like the notes from the pied piper’s flute. They turned toward the llama.
Laurent tossed his head, and winked at the crowd. “You know I’m a model…” came from the speaker as Laurent swaggered around his stall, gliding to the music, his lovely coat glimmering under the harsh arena lights.
“His coat is NOT better than MINE,” seethed the alpaca.