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

Posted: June 6, 2012 in Creative Writing Wednesday
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THE EPIC CONCLUDINATION

IS CONCLUDINATING NOW

…Hi, everybody. Still busy. But next week is finals week, and therefore I will be posting more regularly after that.

But I didn’t want to miss a Creative Writing Wednesday!

Also, just a fair warning: you should probably brace yourselves for next week’s Creative Writing Wednesday.

Just a heads-up…

~ Ian

 

One day in early autumn when the sky was the color of rain, the woman came to the park. She wasn’t alone.

The gander realized something was wrong when he heard the woman’s voice. She wasn’t talking– she was yelling. And she was angry.

“–Connor, you son of a bitch, why the hell are you following me?”

“You think I don’t know?” yelled an unfamiliar voice. The gander’s feathers prickled, and he looked in the direction of the woman’s voice. There was a man with her, a big human male, with close-cropped brown hair and hard muscles under a tight t-shirt. He was chasing after the woman. She was walking fast, trying to ignore him, but he was right behind her. “You’ve been meeting a man here,” said Connor. “Don’t think I don’t know. You’ve been going to the park for weeks, always at the same time. Are you gonna tell me who it is?”

“Connor, please–”

“Katie, I swear this is it. If you don’t tell me who you’re meeting right now, then I’ll dump your skinny ass. I’ll kick you out of my apartment. You’ll go onto the street. How do you like that, huh?”

Your apartment? Connor, I pay the rent for both of us! I pay all the bills! If anyone’s getting thrown out, it’s you!

“I’m not moving,” Connor said. “And once this guy shows his face, I’ll beat the shit out of him. Nobody screws around with my girl–”

Your girl? You’re sleeping with Bryan’s girlfriend!”

“Who?”

“That blonde bitch with implants. You think I don’t know about it? You think I’m stupid? Of course you do– all those times you called me a dumb bitch, all that abuse–”

“Well, if you put out more maybe I wouldn’t sleep around!”

The woman slapped Connor across the face. It wasn’t a hard slap, but it was a slap designed to sting. Connor blinked, startled, then he punched the woman in the face. It was a full-blown punch. It was a drunkard’s punch, a punch designed to break noses and split skin.

The gander’s world went blood-red.

# # #

There was an English playwright named William Congreve. The goose had never read his plays, but in one of them he’d written, “Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d, / Nor Hell a Fury, like a woman scorn’d.

William Congreve was, of course, wrong.

The fury of a woman scorned is a pittance to the wrath of a sentient nine-pound male Canada Goose who has just seen the woman he loves get punched in the face.

# # #

After a moment, the gander realized that he had flown at Connor, wings flapping like clubs, angry beak snapping as he swarmed over him. The gander could feel rage coursing through him, but somewhere deep within his mind, he watched himself fighting a human twenty times his weight with something akin to mild interest, as if he was watching through the eyes of another goose.

Connor cursed as the gander attacked, grabbing out and trying to get ahold of the gander. His clutching fingers grabbed only feathers, though. The gander dodged and weaved. Huge clumps of his feathers came out with every blow as he pecked Connor in the face and neck and chest, leaving sharp bloody marks. At least he was putting that huge beak of his to some use for once.

Finally, Connor yelled, a deep-throated hoarse shout, and grabbed the gander by the tailfeathers. The gander snapped at his hand, leaving a deep gash. Connor spun around like a hammer thrower, and pain screamed through the gander’s body from his tail up. The gander screamed wordlessly. Connor released him, and he went flying. He flapped his wings instinctively to steady his landing, and landed unceremoniously in the pond. He was dazed, confused, unable to think straight.

When he was finally able to clear his head, both Connor and the woman had gone.

# # #

The gander didn’t see the woman again that year.

After the gander had attacked Connor, the woman didn’t come back to the park. The gander missed her, of course, and still thought about her all the time, but her absence was present at all times to him. Without her there, it felt like there was something missing. There was a permanent gap in the universe, as if something as elemental as the sun, or water, or flying had gone, leaving nothing but a dry numbness.

The gander spent time with his flock. Their goosely behaviors comforted him. He didn’t want to be cursed with this strange intelligence. He wanted to sink into the state he was before, into a world of food and flight and sex and sleep. But it was impossible. He was irrevocably changed. He was different from the rest of the geese now, and there was no going back.

Still, there was still an underpinning of gooseliness underneath his humanly behaviors. And as fall continued, and rain and leaves fell over the city, the goose felt the magnetic pull of the south, the land of eternal summer. When the time felt right, he and the rest of his flock took to the sky, flying south to where it was forever warm.

They soared above suburbs and highways, over farmland and forests. Every goose took its turn as the apex of their flock’s formation. They kept the sunrise on their left and the ocean on the right. As the flock flew south, farther and farther from the magnetic tug of the north pole, the weather grew warmer and warmer. They left the rains far behind, and flew over parched blond hills of yellow grass. The air grew hot and dry, and they soared in a blue autumn sky, over pastures of cows and wild brown scrubland. Eventually they passed over a range of chocolate-brown mountains and into an urban jungle of cars and lawns, palm trees and strip malls, parking lots and swimming pools.

The gander spent the winter with his flock in the urban sprawl, living in a duck pond in a massive hilltop park. The flock would hunt in the pond, and rely on the kindness of passing humans, who would sit on benches– like the woman– and feed the birds.

The gander spent a lot of time away from his flock. He would watch the pretty girls sitting in the sun, but he didn’t feel for them what he felt for the woman. He tried to keep himself occupied with intellectual pursuits. He had been neglecting his work– after all, he was still a taxonomist, and there was always something to classify.

He took time to study human writing. It was hard, because humans never read aloud to him, so he couldn’t compare it to actual spoken language. Eventually he managed to puzzle out enough of the writing to understand which letters made which sounds, but he was tripped up on full words, mostly because words were never spelled the way they sounded. And, to be perfectly frank, his heart simply wasn’t in it.

He tried creating a writing system for his goose language. But he slowly realized that there was no point. His language had one speaker only. That was all. It made no sense to create a writing system for him alone. Besides, he had no medium more permanent than mud and rocks. Eventually he gave up on creating an alphabet.

He went for flights around the city, looking down at people from above, observing their behavior and studying it. But he tired of observation. Eventually he just wasted long hours at the observatory on the hilltop, watching the sun go down and the lights go on in the patchwork matrix of the city, until the sky was alight withthe purple-brown urban glow and darkness shrouded the world.

Winter slowly turned to spring, and the gander’s flock felt the pull of the north again, the urge to leave the baking heat of the southern summer and travel back to where it was green and cool. The gander’s flock left the city behind, flying again over the chocolate mountains and blonde hills back to the pine forests and cool rivers, keeping the ocean on their left and the sunrise on their right.

# # #

It was a cloudy day in late spring. It had rained the night before, and the ground was dark and slick with rainwater. The gander was in the pond in the park where he’d met the woman, lazily swimming around and feeling the cool, slimy water against his feathers. He occasionally looked over at the bench where he and the woman used to sit, where she would talk and he would listen. The gander was tired: his flock had just completed its flight from the south the previous night. The gander didn’t know whether they would stay here or keep flying northward, over the deep old-growth forests and snowy mountains, towards the tundra at the top of the world. The geese never really thought about the decisions they made. They would either do something, or they wouldn’t. There was no voting, no debate. If they wanted to go north, they’d do it, as one body and one mind.

The gander wasn’t sure if he wanted to stay. The park was a pleasant place, with grass and weeds and bugs and friendly people with bread. But there were too many memories here. He still remembered the woman, her smooth skin, her sunset hair, her sweet smell. Sometimes it hurt to remember.

As he swam, feeling the slime between his toes and remembering the woman, he caught a glimpse of red-gold hair. And in the time it took to think, there she was.

The gander’s heart pounded. He flapped his wings, propelling himself quickly across the pond. His feet barely skimmed the surface of the water as he ran, his mind racing, filled with thoughts of her, her, her. The pond ended, and he ran over concrete. She came to meet him. Her face was covered in a smile. They came together, and her arms were around him. She laughed, a pure laugh of joy.

“Hey, you!” she exclaimed, stroking the goose on the head. “You’re here! I’ve been coming to this park for weeks now, hoping to see you. You were gone for so long.”

“I missed you too,” the gander said.

“And I have to thank you,” said the woman. “Because of you, I broke up with Connor. You somehow showed me what a jerk he really was. And I have a new boyfriend. Someone much better.”

The gander looked over the woman’s shoulder, and saw for the first time that she was with another person. A male person. He was tall and muscular, with a tight long-sleeved T-shirt and skinny jeans. He had close-cropped black hair and a beard. As he looked at the man, the gander’s heart felt like it turned to stone, closing up and becoming small and hard. There was something in this new man’s eyes that made him seem like Connor. It was obvious to the gander that the woman’s new boyfriend was basically the same as her old one.

“Goose,” said the woman, “this is my boyfriend, Skyler.”

“Um, hi,” said Skyler. “Katie, why’d you drag me out here? I know you love animals, but this is more than your usual amount of crazy…”

And the gander could feel his stone heart slowly breaking.

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