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Goldy's Last Goose
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Goldy's Last Goose
Bill Seeger sliced the home made bread carefully cutting two very even slices while leaving a thick heel for his dog. Goldy, his longtime friend and hunting companion, lay expectantly at his feet but lifted her head from his foot and fixed her cataract clouding but still soft and beseeching eyes on Bill, confident he would supply all her needs. Her graying and ragged coat no longer would inspire anyone to name her Goldy but sixteen years earlier, she had been pick of the litter with lustrous golden hair and flashing hazel eyes.
When Bill dropped the crusty heel slice to Goldy, he noticed the back of his left hand had two large new liver spots. Yes, he too, was getting old. Bill carefully placed his two slices in the toaster warily setting the knob to well short of dark. This was the last remnants of his favorite seven grain butter-crust bread Madge had baked for him six months ago, after learning her detested but necessary chemotherapy needed to be resumed.
Accustomed to Madge's home baking during the forty-eight, almost perfect years of marriage, Bill did not care for store bread nor wish to bake his own. Not that he couldn't but that might desecrate her memory. Bill quickly rinsed the coffee pot, his cup and his cereal bowl, noting that Goldy had slurped up every drop of the usual remainder of milk and bran flakes he always left for her, and the kitchen remained spotless. The cereal treat for Goldy became their ritual once Billís son Dean married and left home. Dean had an unshakeable mental block about eating from dishes dogs had ever used and would wipe each clean bowl that might have been used to feed Goldie sometimes on his dirty jeans or tee shirt. Nancy was far less squeamish about dogs but shuddered when anyone touched her silverware. Bill hoped both his children would understand why he chose today.
The late October clouds were already snow-gray, creating somberness that neither he nor Goldy felt. He had hinted at his reason for todayís resolution in letters to both children casually pinned to the bulletin board, stamped and ready for mailing. Bill had wrote that he and Goldy were no longer capable of the rigors of their long cherished goose hunt expeditions and this outing would be their last. He did not mention this day was exactly two months since Marge had gone, painfully aware their last days together had passed too quickly.
It was taking far longer for their "hunter's breakfast" than on their last outing two years ago when they were both younger and far less crippled with arthritis. Bill ate alone on hunting mornings as Madge, protesting against killing of animals, or avoiding intrusion into his and Goldy's favorite activity, slept late. It was only those mornings she had not prepared breakfast for everyone before waking the rest of the family.
Bill wondered what magical alarm clock she used to quietly wake without rousing her loved ones and hoped he would remember to ask her when he re-joined his beloved. Groping in his old worn hunting jacket Bill found his old pickupís keys and the one inch diameter cork that would just squeeze in the hole he had already shot in the bottom of his duck boat, three days ago during the distracting thunder and lightning of a sudden fall storm. He was ready for this goose hunt.
Standing slowly, his arthritic knees stiff and slow to loosen, he unobtrusively pulled on Goldy's collar helping her to stand. Goldy accepted help, although reluctant to surrender her role as the householdís dedicated aid provider. Without speaking, but with mutual accord, they went to the driveway where his meticulously restored 1949 Dodge pickup, promised to Nancy's fourteen-year-old son Jason, waited to be loaded. The punctured duck boat, already loaded and ready for its final float, was equally old but unlike its pair of passengers, still serviceable and would float while the cork was plugged in the bottom. Bill had filled the truck's gas tank, so there was more than enough for the trip to Hanson's Great Swamp, and for its eventual delivery to Nancy's house in Fargo.
Bill remembered the unnecessary shells for the old reliable Remington twelve gauge shotgun intended to go to Dean, who didn't hunt but would probably display it in his den. Hopefully, Dean would see the gun as symbol of joy and happiness, and not a macabre reminder.
Too bad, Dean's wife didn't tolerate dogs in their fancy home, Bill thought, wistfully forgetting that any days left to Goldy would be increasingly plagued with pain. Bill opened the passenger door, and as gently as possible, helped his beloved retriever into the cab knowing this would be the last time she would suffer the ignominy of being boosted.
Bill could drive the road to Hansonís swamp in his sleep, but saw the familiar traveled streets and roads differently, noting for the first time, beauty of nature contrasted with ugliness of careless or greedy man. Mankato had always been a friendly town to both Bill and Marge and he passed many spots they had mutually enjoyed. Madge loved the old river road that meandered north to Nicollet, where she taught school the first four years of their marriage, while he was still working part time at the Free Press and attending Mankato State.
They had enjoyed many spontaneous picnics at Riverbend Park, when they both lacked money for more expensive dining. Bill slowed to see if the now condemned band pavilion was still there, a decrepit but marvelous monument to their first kiss. Bill somewhat relished the realization that both he and Madge would be gone before the old pavilion was finally down.
On hunting trips to the Swamp, Goldy insisted on having the window on her side of the cab down, no matter how frosty. Her marvelous nose traced their route, enabling her to start stretching before they turned down Orchard Road, to their launching spot. Today, she lay on the seat with her head lightly on his lap, not caring to taste the crisp fall air.
Bill worried why and then realized he had not loaded the usual gunny sack and cooler for the birds. Goldy must have realized that he was not planning to bring any geese and their detritus home. It did not seem to bother her for she seemed to be comforting him with her chin on his lap.
Another hour later, they were afloat in the boat, the new dawn signaling the opening of the season. Bill checked and found the cork still securely placed in the hole that could quickly sink their boat. They heard one impatient hunterís premature shot, triggering Goldy's heart to pump enough adrenalin to lessen
pain of her crippling rheumatism. She carefully moved rearward against the stern, eager to fulfill again her instinctive destiny as her master's aide.
They were in the very middle of the swamp, where the waters were cold and deep with the shoreline three hundred yards away. Bill took his right-hand glove off with his teeth and then pulled at the cork set in the twelve-gauge hole in the bottom of the boat while stroking Goldyís head with his other hand. Impossible! The loosely fit cork would not come free, probably snagged by the rough edges of the hole, or maybe caused by his subliminal fear of being judged a quitter. Just because Madge had not taken a short cut away from her suffering, did not make his decision wrong. It was the right solution for he and Goldy yet the cork resisted his efforts to pull it free and flood the boat.
Almost striking him, a giant snow goose took to the air from nowhere. Bill watched in awe as the beautiful bird circled. Where was its flock? Geese never travel singly, and yet, it flew alone, boldly daring him to shoot while it completed a full circle around the boat, always easily within gun range.
Bill remembered stories of newly widowed geese, always mated for life, repeatedly buzzing hunters until they too, drew fire and were mortally wounded. The pure white goose buzzed him again, lower and lower. Was it, like him, seeking respite from the heartache of a lost mate? Bill puzzled over similarities that made this beautiful goose seem familiar. Goldy too, excitedly jumped onto the seat by him, she too identifying with the goose. Bill did not want to shoot the dazzling trophy but destiny declared he must.
The solitary albino goose, radiantly gold in the new dawn, wheeled and
deliberately flew straight toward him. Bill stood, pointed the gun and fired. The magnificent bird seemed to stop in mid air, then plummet to the water beside them. Goldy, miraculously energized, sprang over the side while Bill clumsily rose to stabilize the boat. The duck boat turned over, with the cork secure, still fighting scuttling and suicide.
They were together in the icy water and Goldy, always infallible, did not have the bird nor could Bill see it anywhere in the water. He was treading water, aware that he could not stay afloat in his hunting gear and had not brought the required preserver seat cushions as he had not planned to want them.
Bill felt Goldy struggling to pull him to shore by his sleeve but the numbing cold was dulling even his concern for her suffering. Bill willed Goldy to understand the true purpose of their quest and abandon her heroic effort. The great white goose had made the decision for both of them, absolving him from guilt, especially that of unfairly making the decision for Goldy.
When hunters found them, dog and master lay together on the muddy bank
with Bill's right hand clutching Goldy's collar and her jaws still locked on his sleeve. Four large and carefully placed large pure white goose pinion feathers covered their staring eyes. Bill and Goldy were smiling, and at peace.

[1,681 words]
Gerald L Bosacker
I am author, Gerald Bosacker, a prolific poet and short story writer who is woefully undiscovered by the paying public, but lavishly displayed world-wide, pro bono. I exist by charging a "tasting fee" for groceries submitted to my home, by Supermarkets seeking recognition.
[September 2002]
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© 2000 Gerald L Bosacker
September 2002

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