THE BLUE GOOSE
by Nedra L. Culp
It was late at night and the moon was shining brilliant white through the large window and across her bed. She wakened fretfully and moaned a little, and then she opened her eyes. Her gaze wandered fitfully about the room and to the window and then she saw it. It perched there on the white fence post and regarded her, and it was blue, a startling blue, like the blue of the mountain skies, only much deeper. She closed her eyes involuntarily and then restlessly opened them again, and it was true, for there it sat, its head cocked pertly to one side, bright, beady eyes staring in at her.
Sarah had never seen a blue goose before; she had never even heard of a blue goose. In the long ago she had seen many geese, winging their way through the autumn sky, their number in V-shaped formation, making a cloud overhead as they passed. Frank used to hunt them, too. There was the time when they had been on the old homestead with the lake, sparkling and crystal clear, and the marshes stretching as far as the eye could see. When the cat tail were high, their heads brown and plump and fuzzy, he would take his gun, the old, spotted dog following close at his heels, and off he would go into the reeds. She could almost see him now when he returned, walking briskly, so tall and proud, his game slung over his shoulder. She would have a fire going in the old wood range and there would be roast goose soon, tender and with that indefinable wild flavor that could be compared with none other. Frank always said that no one could cook goose like his Sarah.
A blue goose? Perhaps it only appeared blue in the moonlight. She would sleep and if he had not gone when daylight came, his true color would most likely appear.
She was wakened by Mary her only living daughter, fussing in her room. It wasn’t enough that she couldn’t sleep at night, but they had to come in at the break of dawn to feed her.
“Good morning Mother. My, but you had a nice sleep. It’s nearly 9:30. Here’s your breakfast. Now help me like a good girl.” She brought pillows and placed them at Sarah’s back.
It couldn’t be that late. Mary was lying to her again; treating her like she was a child, as if she didn’t know anything. And why did she have to talk so loud? Everyone either screamed at her or they turned their backs and whispered so she couldn’t hear what they were saying.
She fussed peevishly as Mary fed her from a spoon, cereal that was thin and tasteless and toast, soaked in milk until it was soft and mushy. She couldn’t bear to take another mouthful.
“No,” she protested loudly, and with her good hand she thrust the bowl aside, spilling the thin gruel which spread over the comforter making an ugly gray stain. Now, she thought triumphantly, she’ll get angry. She didn’t though. She took a towel from the chair and wiped it up, all the while humming a little tune.
She tried to feed Sarah the toast again. “Now, Mother,” she said, like she was talking to a child. “You must cooperate with me.”
“My teeth. My teeth. I could eat the toast all right if you’d give me my teeth. I can’t eat it all mush like that.”
“Mother, you know you can’t have your teeth. You couldn’t chew with them if you did have them. They don’t fit you anymore.”
They had taken her teeth and now they said they didn’t fit. Of course they didn’t fit. Leaving them out like that all these months her mouth had shrunken all up, but if she had them for a while she would be able to work them back in place.
They had taken her teeth away just like they had taken her house. They came early one morning and removed her bodily, Mary and Lawrence, her husband. They took her away from the house where she had borne three children and buried two of them and a husband. They said she would have to live with them where they could care for her. She knew what they wanted; it was her house, because it was nicer than their own. It was not so large as the brick home they lived in, but it was pleasant and homey, something their house could never be. She did not want to come and she had tried to fight them, only it seemed she was so weary and her arms would not move very well and after awhile one of them wouldn’t move at all. She was put on a long board and carried from her home. She looked back and saw the stone pathway and the friendliness of the white paint and green shutters, and she tried desperately to get off the board and go back, but it was no use. And then they stuck her with a needle and the next thing she knew she was in this ugly house. They made her stay in this room all the time, with its stark, modern furniture, the bed so low and shapeless and no color to any of it, like it had never been varnished or even painted. The few things of her own they let her have were the only good pieces in this room.
In her irritation with Mary she had forgotten the goose, but she waited for her to leave the room before she looked. It wasn’t the night that had made it seem so sparkling blue. Such a blue she had never seen before. It never took its eyes off her as it perched on the post, bright and saucy. She wouldn’t tell Mary about it. If her daughter found out there was something she enjoyed, surely she would have it removed. She would just lie there and look at it and never tell a soul about it, except maybe Jimmie.
The day wore on and now and then someone would come in and exclaim over her solicitously in a loud voice. They must think she was deaf. But she wasn’t the deaf one; something must be wrong with all their ears. She had to strain her voice and shout at them until her heat hurt.
“What time is it?” she asked Mary.
“Mary put the pitcher of water down. “Why, other, the clock is right by your bed, can’t you see it?”
“Yes, I can see it,” Sarah replied irritably, “but it’s stopped. No one ever winds it for me. It’s said two o’clock for the last three hours.”
“And that’s just what time it is,” Mary told her.
“Well, when will Jimmie be home? I want to talk to him.”
“Jimmie doesn’t get out of school until four, Mother. Here, let me put another pillow under you so you can sit up higher.”
She let Mary fix her so she sat up quite high and then she could see the goose much better. It was a large goose, twice the size of the ones Frank had brought home. Maybe they were growing them larger now. It had been a long time.
She dozed and in her dreams she could see Frank. Only he didn’t seem old like he was when he died ten years ago in December. He was like he was when they were first married; so tall and handsome. She didn’t seem old either. They walked together, hand in hand, Frank smiling down at her his slow, warm smile and she looking up at him, worshipping him. It seemed they walked and walked and they were never tired. They followed an endless pathway and the sun shone warm and it was spring. The birds sang and the perfume of apple blossoms was in the air. The petals fell upon her golden hair and Frank said that they were rain, a special rain for his beloved.
She knew with annoyance that Mary was shaking her gently, taking her away from her beautiful dream. She pretended sleep. She would not see any more of those gabby people who exclaimed over her and shouted at her.
“All right,” Mary said, “if you don’t want to freshen up before Jimmie comes, I don’t mind.”
She roused quickly then and let Mary comb out her hair and didn’t even complain when she pulled and hurt her head. Her hair was her pride and joy and Mary combed it for her once each morning and again in the afternoon before Jimmie came home. She could sit on her hair it was so long. Frank said it was indecent for a woman to cut her hair and she never had. It coiled about her head in a heavy white braid.
It was the high point of the day for her, getting ready for her grandson, Jimmie to arrive home from school. Jimmie was fourteen and already a fine, handsome boy. He was such a good boy too. He was patient and loving with her. In the evening he read the newspaper or a story to her and he told her about school and his friends.
“How’s my favorite girl friend?” Jimmie kissed her lightly on the forehead. She didn’t mid when he kissed her, but anyone else tried it, she pushed them away in short order with her good hand, the one that wasn’t tied to her side so she couldn’t use it.
“Come closer,” she whispered, “I’ve got a secret Jimmie. Between you and me, Jimmie. Promise not to tell. Word of honor.”
“I promised, Gran, what is it?”
She motioned for his mother to leave the room. “See,” she pointed, “you’ve never seen one, nor have i. Never heard tell of a blue goose, but there he is, big as life, perched there on the post.”
“Where Gran? I don’t – oh, yes, I see it now.”
“You do, Jimmie boy? You do?”
“Why sure I do, Gran. Sure,” he replied heartily, but not shouting. Jimmie never shouted at her. “He sure is a beat. I never knew there was such a thing.”
“No one does, just you and I; our secret.”
Mary fed her then, something tasteless and all mashed up. She ate listlessly, too tired to protest. When Jimmie came in later to read, she couldn’t concentrate on his words.
She must have slept along time for when she woke it was dark and the house was silent. The moonlight fell across her bed and shone on her face. She looked at the blue goose and at first she did not know what it was doing and then it seemed to be beckoning her, saying with its wing, come. The wing went out, like a hand, motioning, slowly. But of course, she could not come. How could she leave this bed? This was where they had put her and she had been there so long that she could not move. She tried to let the blue goose know that, shaking her head no, but it seemed so insistent, beckoning, beckoning to her. Finally she closed her eyes, impatiently, and then she drifted off to sleep.
When she looked out the next morning, it was as though it had never ceased motioning to her. Its wing curved out to her, asking, begging her to come. It made her suddenly angry. That blue goose sat there teasing, coaxing and tantalizing her. It made her head hurt. She would not look at it again and if she ignored it maybe it would go away.
She slept fitfully most of the day and in every dream she was with Frank again. They were eating at the long, polished table in the dining room of their home. In the center of the table was a roast goose, done to perfection and surrounded by small baked apples. There were all the things on the table she liked most, hot rolls and butter, corn on the cob, and for dessert, huge wedges of blackberry pie. Frank carved the goose and passed the plates. All three of the children were there, Mary and the two who had died in childhood, little Joey and Susan. They ate long and heartily. Frank told her that no one in the world could cook like she. They were both so young.
And when she looked out the window there was the blue goose, tirelessly beckoning to her. She shook her head violently, but it just stared back intently with its sharp, beady eyes, its wing motioning, motioning. She had to close her eyes; she could not bear to watch it any more.
Mary combed her hair and when the comb pulled her head it made it ache so. She felt very tired.
Jimmie came then and she felt better. He told her a funny story about something that had happened at school and her head did not hurt so much.
“Mother, here’s some nice fish, all mashed up so you can eat it.” Mary said.
“What kind is it?” Sarah demanded peevishly.
“It’s perch. Perch just like Dad used to catch,” Mary answered.
“Where did you get it?” Sarah asked suspiciously.
“At the grocery store, Mother. We couldn’t go and catch them, you know. They’re not in season.”
Sarah knew they were not in season. Why did Mary always have to explain everything in that simpering, humoring voice?
“I don’t want any,” she said flatly.
“Mother, you know you like perch, and you have to eat something. You’ve scarcely had a mouthful all day.”
“I don’t like store-bought perch and I don’t like them cooked that way. I never mashed them up like that. You’re getting to be an awful sloven, Mary. Take them away,” she ordered.
Lawrence came into her room. “What’s the matter, Grandma?” he boomed cheerfully, “Aren’t you hungry?”
She didn’t like Lawrence and she didn’t want him in her room. He knew that and seldom came, but there he was blustering and pretending to be concerned about her. He always acted like he liked her, trying to make everyone think he was a good, generous man.
“I don’t like to be fed scraps, Lawrence,” she said, her voice quivering. “Mary says she mashed the fish for me, but I know what she did. She gave the little bits broken off the ones you had, to me. I won’t eat leavings. I have money and can afford to eat good food like the rest of you.” She was crying weakly when she finished.
“There now, Grandma.” He patted her hand and she jerked it swiftly away. “Mary mashed up the fish so you could eat it better. You couldn’t chew it very well if she didn’t.”
“I could if I had my teeth. If you hadn’t taken my teeth like you took everything else I own. You’re both alike. Trying to grab everything - selfish and greedy. The only one cares about me is Jimmie. I want Jimmie.”
“You’re a naughty girl, Grand,” Jimmie reproved her. “You’ve got Mother crying and Dad all upset. They do try so hard to be good to you.”
“No, they don’t. The only one who cares is you. You wouldn’t give me scraps to eat when I’m so hungry.”
“What would you like, Grand? I’ll get you anything,” he told her.
She thought of what she would like to eat and then she looked out the window and there the blue goose sat, and it had never stopped motioning, slowly, beckoning her to come. She couldn’t stand to lie there and watch it any more. She’d get rid of it. She’d have Jimmie….
“I know what I’d like, Jimmie. Come closer and I’ll tell you. Get your gun and go out and shoot that blue goose and have Mary roast it for me. That’s what I want. Have her roast it good and brown and bring me a great big piece.”
“But Gran,” he protested, “you wouldn’t want to kill the goose. It’s probably the only blue goose there is.”
“I hate it,” she said hotly. “It’s got to go. It sits there begging, pleading for me to come and I can’t, so you’ve to kill it.
She saw the goose in the late afternoon sunshine, motioning, motioning with its wing, and then she heard the shot, and for a moment it gazed at her and then it fell over and she could not see it any more. Jimmie ran by the window and grinned at her.
It didn’t take long to roast the goose, but then Mary had every new-fangled appliance known in her kitchen, and she soon carried in a plate with bits of goose cut up fine and mashed potatoes. Sarah ate the pieces Mary held out to her slowly, working them against her gums to chew them. It was very good, even though it tasted slightly like fish. Just like Mary to roast it in the same pan in which she had done the fish. She even ate all the mashed potatoes. Her stomach was full to bursting and she settled back contentedly and slept.
She could hear a pounding beating sound that began and rose and rose to a sudden crescendo and she wakened and tried to sit up. She felt her head spinning wildly and there was a loud, buzzing noise somewhere nearby. It reverberated inside her until it seemed her head would burst wide open. In her memory she could recall having felt like this before, and the next morning Mary and Lawrence had come and taken her to their home. She had lain on the bathroom floor all night when they found her. The clamor got louder and louder and then gradually, gently subsided.
She was aware of people in the room, but when she tried to open her eyes they were stuck shut and she could not see. She moved her mouth to speak but heard no sound. Maybe she was deaf like they thought, but she could hear them talking. At first their voices were whispers and then they came closer and closer. A hand held her wrist for what seemed a long time. When someone spoke she knew the voice.
“She will likely go tonight,” he said.
“Go? Go where? You know they won’t let me out of this room. They keep me here all the time; like a prisoner,” she moved her lips but no sound came forth.
“Oh no! No!” Mary cried.
“Gran, Gran,” it was Jimmie speaking.
“Poor Mother,” Lawrence said, “She was a wonderful woman.”
There was a strange noise now, like someone crying.
“You must remember, Mary, that your mother is eighty-six years of age. It was to be expected and though it’s hard to bear, she will be so much happier,” Doctor Dugan said.
“I tried to be so good to her, but she hated me and Lawrence. She thought that Lawrence wanted her money and that we were trying to steal everything she owned. How I wish she could have been happy with us.”
“You mustn’t blame yourself. She didn’t know.”
“Oh, Mother, Mother,” Mary cried.
Sarah tried desperately to raise her good hand and then someone took it and she knew her daughter’s firm fingers encircled it.
“You’re a good girl, Mary, a good girl.” She moved her lips but could not hear the words she spoke.
When she wakened again everything was still. The noise was gone and her eyes were open and she could see. A light burned dimly in the hallway and she could hear low voices. It was night but the moon shown brightly and when she looked out the window, there on the post sat the blue goose. The same blue goose that Jimmie had shot and she had ate. He was different somehow, though, for she could see right through him; he was a sparkling, transparent blue. And he motioned to her again, slowly. She’d have to show him she couldn’t go with him; that she couldn’t leave her bed. She tried to raise herself with her good arm and then she knew that the arm that had lain by her side helplessly for so long was alive. She left the bed effortlessly. She passed through the window and then she turned and looked back. There in the bed lay an old woman, wrinkled and wasted by months of illness, but there was a peaceful expression on her face. Sarah’s body was not old like that, not any more; she was light, so light and free.
She heard the rustle of the feathers of the blue goose and it was leading the way, and she ran after it, lightly, gaily skipping through the air. They traveled down a long road and everything was soft and green and lovely, and then somewhere in the distance she could see a man, tall and straight, and she could hear him calling, Sarah, Sarah Darling…….
This was submitted to Woman’s Day Magazine
Thanks for reading my mother's fictional stories. It has been a delight to get to know her a little better through her writings!
I will be posting with
Pink Saturday - Anything Goes
Thanks for reading my mother's fictional stories. It has been a delight to get to know her a little better through her writings!
I will be posting with
Pink Saturday - Anything Goes