The woman and her husband have been thinking of adopting a goat. He’s uncertain, worries the goat will make a mess, eat things that aren’t disposable, get into things, or leave droppings that they’ll step in.
I won’t abide ruined shoes, Sal says.
But look how cute, she says. Look how small and furry. Look how smart it is.
He sighs and looks away and the goat she’s pointing at jumps a little and clicks its hooves together. She points at it, shaking her finger, pointing and pointing again, but Sal won’t look. The goat winks and waggles its tail.
At home, she shows him pictures of goats in magazines, glossy show goats, their fur brushed to a sheen. She reads to him from the goat entry on Wikipedia. Related to the sheep, the goat is lighter of build, has horns that arch backward, a short tail, and straighter hair. Male goats, called bucks or billys, usually have a beard. Females are called does or nannys, and immature goats are called kids. He listens, but is unconvinced. Suggests a puppy or a kitten. She tries to tell him it’s not the same. Goats are a tier above puppies and kittens. Goats are the dolphins of the land—clever, adaptable creatures, almost human.
Dolphins, she tells him. But he leaves without commenting, goes to work and she has lunch while she thinks about what she’ll make for dinner. Maybe a casserole. Maybe something with the lentils before they get too old and shed their skins as they boil. She hates when that happens. They stick between her teeth, wedge themselves down against her gums. She worries bacteria will fester and there’ll be an infection. She won’t be able to talk because always her mouth will be full of pus and blood. It’ll be impossible to eat and lately eating has become so important to her.
Goats are a tier above puppies and kittens. Goats are the dolphins of the land—clever, adaptable creatures, almost human.
She hears a knock, leaves her sandwich half-eaten and answers the door.
Hello, a goat says.
Yes? she says, hoping this goat needs a home. Hoping this will be the goat. A goat that shows up on the doorstep will have to be kept. Her husband won’t be able to argue. He couldn’t throw this goat out, not a goat in need, couldn’t turn it away to be hungry and homeless. Not a goat that so needs a home and someone to take care of it. Sal wouldn’t be so cruel as to expect such a thing. She can keep the goat in the back sewing room, at the far end of the house. It’ll sleep on the quilts she made last summer. All those practice quilts with the sloppy stitching. Goats don’t care about a few missed stiches, a few missteps. She’ll take the goat for a few walks a day, strapped in a harness of course. She’ll take it way out across the yard, so the droppings won’t be seen, won’t be a bother, couldn’t possibly be noticed, wouldn’t ruin a single shoe.
I’m planning to host a dinner party, the goat says, cocking its head to one side. This goat’s a sassy goat. She can tell. About six miles from here, the goat continues. I was wondering if I could borrow a few cups of flour?
Flour? she asks. She wonders if it would knock the goat out if she hits it in the head with a five-pound bag of flour. Will that be enough to knock the goat out?How hard will she have to hit it? How many times? Maybe it’d just make the goat angry. Maybe it would run her through with its horns. Could she dodge the goat? She stands on her toes and imagines herself nimbly jumping away. Aha! she would say to the goat, as she jumped from couch to chair to coffee table. Would it catch her? Would it just run away?
Yes, the goat says. And some yeast, olive oil, salt, sugar, tomato paste, garlic, oregano, basil, rosemary, and some shredded mozzarella?
Shredded mozzarella? she asks. Maybe she can hit the goat with the handle of the broom. It’s a sturdy broom. It’s just across the room. Only a few steps to grab it. She doesn’t think it’d break. She thinks she could knock the goat out or at least disable it.
Well, yes, the goat says. It would be hard to shred the mozzarella with hooves. Many things are difficult for me.
She looks behind her and wonders if she has time to grab the iron. She’s sure she can do it with the iron. She could just say, hold on a minute, and slip back to the laundry room. She’d carry it behind her back. The goat wouldn’t see. Wouldn’t suspect. She tries to smile.
Are the things back there? the goat asks. I can’t pay, but if you can give me these things you are invited to a formal dinner party with about 200 goats. You’ll be the only human there, but you may bring a guest.
She wonders if she can get this goat to bring the other goats back. She thinks she can house at least three goats. And they can build a little fence in the backyard. Sal’s so good with his hands. They’d keep the goats penned up. Forty square feet would be enough. They’d eat all the grass and it’d look bad. But maybe not if she could keep them well stocked with goat food. It probably wouldn’t be expensive. A goat will eat anything. And if not, a small bare patch of ground doesn’t seem so bad.
If you want, you can bring a couple guests, the goat says. How many pieces of pizza do you think you can eat?
She wonders if she can pick this goat up. It’s a bit oddly shaped, but it doesn’t look too heavy. She could just wrap her arms around its middle and haul it in. Keep her face away from its face and drag it back to where she keeps the iron.
Then suddenly the goat sighs and ambles away. She wants to chase it. Bash it in the head. Drag it inside. But it’s already put a good distance between them and she’s not sure she could drag it far if it struggles.
Have a good day, the goat says over its shoulder.
I can’t pay, but if you can give me these things you are invited to a formal dinner party with about 200 goats.
She doesn’t run after the goat and bash it in the head, but she follows it. Stays a ways behind the goat and walks quietly, though she doesn’t think it matters. She doesn’t think the goat would hear her, even if she were being loud. It sort of brays and squeals as it walks. It’s hard to follow the goat with all the noise, but she wants to find the other goats, so she follows, cringing, but quiet. They walk a long time, but eventually get to a clearing where the rest of the herd is. The little goat stands and watches the herd. They leap and saunter. Fine goats. Strong muscles. Lean creatures. She’d like a few as pets, but it couldn’t hurt to down some of the larger ones. Her husband could butcher them and they have an extra freezer behind the house where the carcasses might be kept until they use them. They’d be good in a stew or a curry. Maybe grilled. She bets they could make sausages. She loves spicy sausages in the late summer, eaten just after the sun sets.
Yeah. She’ll just down a few goats.
She wonders if her little goat would make a better companion or a sandwich. It’s a scrawny goat, but still young looking. Still tender. Probably folds of fat hidden along the hind legs. A fine gut. A sumptuous rear.
She creeps closer and readies herself, draws up her skirts and pulls out her gun.
Brandi Wells is the managing editor of The Black Warrior Review and web editor at Hobart. She is the author of Please Don’t Be Upset (Tiny Hardcore Press) and Poisonhorse (Nephew, an imprint of Mudluscious Press). Her fiction can be found in Salamander, Mid-American Review, 14 Hills, and many other journals.
Illustrated by Meghan Murphy.