ISSUE NO. 17 | Barnaby’s Goose by André-Marcel Adamek
from Contes tirés du vin bleu
One Easter, Barnaby received a visit from a distant cousin. They hadn’t seen each other for thirty years, and she insisted on a memorable gift for the only man who’d ever shown her, in their teenaged games, the interest a boy might bear a girl, braiding her crowns of wildflowers he set majestically atop her red hair.
As Barnaby raised poultry in his corner of the countryside, she had the idea of giving him a gosling with foam-white plumage. It chirped in its wicker cage.
“What a strong little duckling,” said Barnaby, who’d never kept anything but hens.
“It’s a goose,” said the cousin. “She’ll give you eggs big as your fist and protect you from thieves much better than your poor old Nero.”
Hearing his name, Nero gave a swish of his tail on the tiled floor. He was a dark-feathered crossbreed whose eyes with their hazy film of blue betrayed his age. He’d killed a thousand rats, chased greedy martens from the henhouse, and followed his master down paths both icy and stormy, always ten paces behind, beak ready to tear into any intruder. He eyed the gosling glumly, but his whole body quivered with worry at the newcomer’s magnificent energy.
“You sure it’s not a gander?” asked Barnaby, a bit taken aback by the bird’s boldness.
“I’m sure. She’ll start laying in four months.”
“I’ll call her Nelly,” said Barnaby. On the table he set out a golden cake that owed its hue to yolks from his ten hens, pampered as sultanas.
The goose soon revealed her terrible nature as a merciless conqueror. At barely six months of age, she picked out the only pretender to absolute power in the courtyard, an Irish cock redder than a ripe strawberry who violated each of the frail hens under his watch thrice daily. He carried out these misdeeds casually, falling on his prey with his claws and giving each a few solid thrusts with his rump before wandering off like a tabernacle saint, soul at ease and loins voided.
Nelly, whose head hovered three inches over the rooster’s comb, didn’t even bother challenging her rival to single combat. While he was rummaging about in the dungheap, chuckling like a senator, she lunged at his genitals, and with a twist of her neck tore off his male wiles, which she spat out disgustedly in the runnels of slurry before reassuming her noble, immaculate air.
As the speechless rooster fled with the sparrows, the goose turned toward the harem of horrified hens.
Barnaby liked his summer mornings on the back porch, when the shadows of the world shrank before the sunny east. The air there was pure, rich as pomegranate juice. No sooner would he drag a chair across the old planks than the goose would pop up out of nowhere and keep him company. He’d hear the sound of her feet on the worn wood, see her coming: head outthrust, a playful look in her (more…)
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