James Babbs

THE GEESE

The geese were gathered on the lawn.  I stood there watching them through the living room window as they meandered around cluttering up the grass.

There was a pond behind the house that attracted the geese but often times they strayed from the water and its surroundings and flocked into the front yard the way they were doing now.

–Things aren’t the same, I heard Madeline speaking from somewhere behind me.

–You’ve changed, she said.  –Maybe I’ve changed, too.

It was late autumn and most of the leaves had fallen from the trees and the wind had turned cold.

–Why don’t they fly away?  I asked.

–What?

I turned away from the window and looked at Madeline.

–The geese, I said.  –Why don’t they fly south for the winter?  Aren’t they supposed to fly south?

–Some geese don’t do that, said Madeline.  –Some of them just stay around here for the winter.

 –Oh, I said.

I turned back to the window and watched as one of the geese started chasing after some of the other ones.  The goose rushed at the other geese in a menacing manner with its wings spread out and flapping wildly.

–You’re not even listening to me, said Madeline.

This time I didn’t turn away from the window but just kept watching the geese.

–What do you want me to say?

 –I don’t know, said Madeline.  –Something.  I guess act like you care.

I slowly let my breath out into the room and turned toward her again.

–Is this because we never got married?

–No, she said.  –I don’t know.

–Hey, I said.  –Did I ever tell you the goose story?

–Only about a million times, she said.

–Oh, I said.

–Yes, said Madeline.  –You worked with this guy named Gary several years ago.

–Steve, I said.

–What?

–The guy’s name was Steve not Gary.

–Who was Gary?  Madeline asked.

–I don’t know, I said.  –I don’t know any Garys.

Madeline bit her lip and slowly shook her head.

–The guy I worked with was named Steve, I said.

–Alright.  Steve then.

–It was a paint store, I said.

–What was?

–The place where Steve and I worked.

–Oh, said Madeline.

I ran my hand through my hair and then rubbed the side of my face.

–So, Steve, said Madeline.  –And some of his buddies were camping.

–Golfing, I said.

–What?

–They weren’t camping.  Steve and his buddies were golfing.

–Oh, that’s right, said Madeline.  –But wasn’t there something about camping?     

I laughed.

–That’s a different story, I said.

–Oh, said Madeline.

–That’s when I got drunk and thought I saw a bear.

–Oh, yeah, said Madeline. –That’s right.

–Steve and his buddies were golfing.

–Yes, yes, said Madeline.  –They were out golfing and they got too close to a goose’s nest near a water hazard or something.

–That’s right, I said.

–And the goose came at them all angry, said Madeline.  –Afraid they were going to disturb its nest.

–Yeah, I said.  –So, Steve took his golf club and swung it at the goose just to try and drive it away but he ended up hitting the goose in the neck and cutting its head off.

I laughed.

–I don’t find it very funny, said Madeline.  –It’s horrible.

–Well, I said.  –He didn’t mean to kill the goose.  It just happened.

Madeline turned and glanced at something on the table behind her before turning back around and facing me again.

–So, what about us?  Madeline asked.

–What do you mean?

–I mean, she said.  –How do you feel about us?

I stepped away from the window and moved farther into the room.

–Hey, let’s go out for breakfast, I said.

 –Are you listening to me or not?

–Yes, I said.  –I’m just not sure what you want me to say.

Madeline opened her mouth as if she was going to speak but no words came out.  She closed her mouth and touched the side of her face with just the tip of one of her fingers.

–Let’s go have breakfast, I said.  –Come on.  Let’s go get ready.

–Where are we going?

–That little diner that we like, I said.  –The one over on Grove street.

We went into the bedroom and got ready without doing anymore talking.  A few minutes later we were sitting in the car and I was backing out of the garage.

The geese were still out there in the yard and there were a few of them mingling on the drive blocking our exit.  I approached them slowly and started honking the horn when I got close and some of the geese flapped their wings angrily and honked back but we managed to get through without hurting any of them.

–Are swans a type of geese?  I asked.

–What?

–I was just wondering, I said.  –If swans are a type of geese.  They kind of look alike.

–I don’t know, said Madeline.  –Do I look like some kind of bird expert?

–I was just wondering, I said.

We reached the end of the drive and I turned left onto the road.

–I think I’m going to have biscuits and gravy, I said.  –Doesn’t that sound good?

Madeline was looking out the passenger-side window with her face turned away from me.

–Fine, she said.  –You can have whatever you want.

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