Creative Writing Wednesday: “Talk to Me, Goose”: Part 1 of 4

Posted: May 16, 2012 in Creative Writing Wednesday
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Because I’m running out of things to put on my lame blog for Creative Writing Wednesday, here’s an abandoned rough draft of a short story I wrote last summer.

It’s about a goose who falls in love with a human girl. For reasons that I don’t entirely understand, I decided to call it “Talk to Me, Goose”.

Look– I don’t make fun of you for your terrible titles.

In any case, this story is entirely unfinished, and probably will remain that way. I might rework it as a poem sometime, or something like that. Or I’ll turn it into a screenplay for a blockbuster animated film.

Or I’ll just forget about it, and it’ll languish on my hard drive, never more than an aborted first draft.

Or something.

~ Ian


Talk to Me, Goose: Part 1 of 4

The gander didn’t have a name. Geese don’t bother with them. Theirs is a simple life: one of wind under the wings, of murky water, bugs, weeds and sex. Until recently, the gander hadn’t realized there was any such thing as a name. But then his flock had landed in an office park behind an animal research lab during its annual migration southward, and the gander ate a sandwich crust left abandoned on the ground. The gander noticed a funny taste as he chewed, but paid it no mind (after all, there was no sense in wasting anything edible). Later on, when he looked into the pond as his flock prepared to take off again, he noticed his reflection. Something shifted in his head.

That’s me, the gander thought.

He had never really noticed his reflection before. But now, suddenly he did. That particular black speckle on his left wing– no other goose had that speckle but him. He noticed his beak– was it really that big and ungainly?

Then, the gander thought, Why am I thinking about this?

Why am I thinking at all?

From that day forward, the gander was changed. He had an awareness of himself as separate from the rest of the world, something that lived behind his eyes. He became aware of abstract concepts– of not just geese or ponds or bugs, but the concept of goosehood as distinct from other things, such as pondness or bugosity. And then there were the related behaviors: goosehood came with goosely behavior, the actions that all geese performed. These seemed to be: eat all you can, avoid getting eaten, and make sure to have sex and make little goslings while you’re at it. This left the gander with a funny taste on his tongue. Not that it wasn’t nice to eat and have sex, but somehow he needed more.

Observing goosely behavior led the gander to looking at other things’ behavior. He noticed that everything had its proper behavior– from rockly behavior (mostly to act as an impediment and to sink into ponds) and carly behavior (being loud and fast and hard and frightening geese), to squirrely and duckly behavior.

The gander slowly began to understand that ducks and geese were the same in a lot of ways. Once the gander understood this, he looked closely at squirrels, and made a shocking breakthrough: the squirrels would gather and eat nuts. This revelation made the gander rethink his questions of what food was (originally, just bugs and plants, as well as crumbs and various scavenged trash). It dawned on the gander that, if squirrels ate nuts, then squirrely behavior was essentially the same as goosely behavior!

The gander began to look at the other animals again. He noticed that the other birds that flew in the sky with the birds, from the seagulls near the coast to the pigeons in the cities, all acted according to the goosely laws of eating, avoiding being eaten, and having sex. As time went on, the goose made it his mission to classify all animals, and find any evidence of non-goosely behavior among them.

So began the gander’s tenure as the first goose taxonomist.

The gander’s first self-imposed assignment was to create a nomenclature that would be easily remembered, and easy to communicate to other geese. He decided to label things with vocal utterances, various honks and squawks and other noises that he could communicate easily to his fellow geese. So one day, at a pond in a foggy coastal town, he named everything around him and committed it to memory: an avian Adam in a foggy Eden. Soon, the goose realized that, though his system worked, it was a little lacking in subtlety. So he hit upon the idea of modifying his new taxonomic terms only slightly, to create new meanings.

“Goose,” he said. Then, changing the pitch of the honk a tiny amount, he said, “Geese.”

The gander realized that he couldn’t just use this new nomenclature for animals and things: he had to use it to describe the abstract concepts that he’d invented. He continued to ponder, and knew he needed terms for actions like flying and eating, and terms to tell where and when things happen, and terms for things like colors and sizes and shapes, which weren’t exactly animals or things but were connected to things, like feathers were connected to geese. And on and on and on…

Finally, after a long day of work, the gander said, “The gray geese fly in the blue sky.”

And thus it was that goosekind discovered language.

He tried to teach his new nomenclature to the other geese. They listened attentively and politely for a while, then went back to practicing the normal goosely behaviors. After all, what did they care for language? They were geese.


As time went on, the gander realized that there was a certain kind of animal that didn’t fit into the typical pattern of goosely behavior: humans.

The first time that the gander realized that humans were different was in a park in a sprawling mega-city in the south. He saw several human children throwing and catching a plastic disk. The gander tried to figure out how this behavior fit into goosely behavior patterns, but couldn’t. It had nothing to do with eating, or avoiding being eaten, or having sex. In fact, the children were throwing the disk around for no discernable reason. So why did they even bother?

The gander pondered this for a while, eventually coming to the conclusion that these human children were throwing the disk because it had no purpose; that in its purposenessless the action of throwing the disk around became something special, something other.

Finally the gander had a concept of humanly behavior, so different from goosely behavior or anything that other animals did. He realized that humans did useless, pointless things, and in doing them made the action itself the point. Once the gander realized this, he noticed pointlessness in nearly every human behavior. A group of human females in bright, stretchy clothing would run by with nothing chasing them, seemingly just for the joy of running. A human man would sit at the observatory, painting a picture of the city below him as the sun rose over the horizon. Two human youths would sit on a blanket and kiss. The gander continued to ponder this, and realized that humanity was essentially a species of animal that made things for the sheer joy in making, who did things for the pleasure of doing.

The gander experimented with humanly behaviors. After seeing the human man watching the sunrise and painting, he tried to make a picture himself, taking a stick in his beak and making images in the thick mud next to the pond, pictures of himself and his fellow geese, of people and trees and landscapes.

When the visual arts bored him, he turned to music, inspired by the example of a concert he’d seen in the park. He listened voraciously to every kind of human music he could. For some reason, he enjoyed the energy and viscerality of eighties and nineties hip hop, and started to rap in his own private goose language. His spontaneous performances attracted attention from humans, who would gather to watch him. Some of them filmed him, and the gander quickly became a YouTube celebrity, dubbed “the Rapping Goose” by the internet community.

Eventually, he even tired of music. As the winter months wore on, the goose followed humans around, trying even harder to decipher their fascinating behavior. As he listened to the funny-sounding vocalizations that humans made, he hit upon something shocking: the humans had their own language. Once he discovered this, the goose decided to learn and catalogue the human tongue. He started with the basics, phonetics and phonology, and moved through the disciplines of morphology and syntax, culminating in semantics and slang. He stored a huge database of human words in his head. The gander even tried to pronounce human words, but every attempt he made failed. He came to the conclusion that human mouths were very different on the inside than beaks.

As spring approached, the gander spent most of his time following humans around and listening to their conversations. He listened to the conversation of two teenage girls, and tied to understand their obsession with one “Robert Pattinson”, a human male who the girls believed to be “super cute”. He eavesdropped on a conversation between two music industry executives, and discovered the concept of “money”, which he had never known about before. He decided that it was basically food or sex in a different form, proving that goosely behavior existed in humans, even though they still did things just because they could. He listened to men complain about their wives, and women complain about their boyfriends, and came to a conclusion about human sexual behavior from the conversations (it mainly involved a complicated mating ritual called “romance”, and seemed far more intricate and interesting than goose sex).

With every attempt at studying humanly behavior, the gander became more and more interested in them. And as his interest grew, he felt his goosely identity slowly slipping away. As his goosely side became less and less normal, he found himself being ignored more and more by his goosely flock. The flock took off for their migration back north, and the goose decided that he’d have to create a new word to describe how he felt.



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