The long-awaited first day of school started out kind of drizzly. Henry couldn’t find his new blue Quicksilver™ shirt or his contacts. Lindsey complained about her hair frizzing up.Everyone was tired. It being the first day and all Awesomez and I both went along for the ride.
The drive went smoothly and by the time Awesomez and I got home, the sun was shinning. She went in to have some eggs while I stood on the porch with Irish. I closed my eyes and listened. I could hear the sound of cows munching on grass in the pasture. I could actually hear their teeth grinding the grass. The methodical chewing was hypnotizing so I just stood there with the sun on my face listening as Irish bat my leg with his shaggy tail. One of my best friends was having emergency heart surgery because of rip in the first layer of her aorta. As I watched and listened to the animals peacefully in the yard grazing, wandering and snorting I felt calm and full of hope.
During the day, I puttered around doing things that needed to be done to keep Henry’s Sweet Miracle Honey moving forward. We’d gotten our first online orders and I had to pack some boxes and get them out after school and before gymnastics. I waited for word about the surgery, but no call came.
I opened a letter that began, “We love your clip!” It was from Kevin Macdonald about some film I shot, “summerday” being accepted for consideration in the movie “Life In A Day”, a Ridley Scott film. Ridley Scott and Kevin Macdonald are you kidding me? The only thing better would be if it was Caleb Deschanel but then again I’m biased. I was so excited I couldn’t believe it. Norton, Midge, Franklin and Lloyd could be at Sundance? Enclosed were releases and instructions on how and where to send the film. Thrilled beyond words I decided to send it immediately. Don’t put off ‘til tomorrow and all of that. Pulling up the rough cut I couldn’t believe my eyes. The footage wasn’t there. Gone. “source code missing” Frantically, I began searching the entire computer. Looking for hours until I finally realized it had been “replaced” due to a problem I had encountered when I putting together Henry’s 2nd Sweet Miracle Honey infomercial. Deflated, despondent and still worried about the surgery, I ate a multi-grain pancake to settle down. I was slurping down some coffee when I heard the geese go crazy just outside the front door. I have coyote hysteria so I slammed my “farm girl” cup on the stone counter and went running outside just in time to see the three remaining girls: Mabel, Linda and LuAnn coming around the porch from the garden to join Lloyd and Cleveland who were standing in front of the living room windows on the hill overlooking the pasture. I breathed a sigh. They were only playing their version of Marco Polo.
The rest of day had slipped away and I unbelievably was already behind my own schedule on the first day of school. I had several errands to run before picking up the kids and as I glanced at the clock I wondered if I’d have enough time. Hurriedly, I packed up the car with Henry’s second lunch, a snack and his first dinner. Plus a peanut butter and Nutella™ sandwich for Lindsey, the honey, addresses, shipping labels etc as well as everything else I might need for the next seven hours or so. “Lisa, will you put the barn animals away?”
“I guess so, sure.” She called from upstairs.
“If you don’t it’s ok, I just am worried it’s getting darker earlier”.
“No I think I can do it.” Awesomez assured me.
I checked my messages again. No word.
In a rush I pulled the car back careful not to hit the geese who were all standing on the driveway blocking my van. I always worry since the time I ran Lloyd over accidently. That was a harrowing experience and I remain grateful he’s got such a forgiving body and limber neck. I honked for the geese to move their tail feathers and Lloyd accommodated me by waddling up toward the house.
Collecting the kids from their various schools I explained,, “Look, I feel I should warn you before I snap. I am very fragile today so don’t mess with me. I’m waiting for word on my friend's surgery and I’m worried. Really worried. She means the world to me."
“She’s going to be OK mom with as many “Hail Marys as you’ve been saying,” Henry reassured me.
“When you say a prayer, you don’t always get the answer You want,” I pointed out. Moments later, he and Lindsey were taking their mid-afternoon naps and I was alone again with my thoughts.
Dropping Henry at gymnastics Lindsey and I headed over to see our friend Aaron at the FedEx. We chatted about how his 3 month-old, Owen Thomas was doing and how Ray, the Mayor of Bubble Blvd. still thought Tom was married to Awesomez.
“That’s Ray,” Aaron snickered to himself as he calculated the cost of each package. Eager to ship my first parcel I stood with Lindsey carefully filling in our customer’s name and addresses on the carbon forms. We about fell over when Aaron called across the store that “Instead of $9.00 for shipping it’s going to cost $75.00 to send the honey to Alaska”.
"75.00 - that blows my mind!" Lindsey yelped.
“Um we’re going to have to rethink this,” I said and Aaron nodded in agreement. We rushed off and made it to the bank just after they closed. Perfect.
On the way home, the skies opened up and it began to feel like the Pacific Northwest again. I checked my messages about 18 more times and left 3 messages before we got home.
The barn was closed which meant Awesomez had done her job. I was impressed. We walked in the house and I looked to see if there were any messages about the surgery. There was. “I just wanted to let you know I just found out the surgery went well. The stint is in and working.” Relief swept over me like a wave.
“Hello?” Awesomez called as she made her way down the stairs.
“We’re in the kitchen,” Lindsey hollered.
“Where’s Henry?” She asked emphatically.
“Why?” I asked. “Henry! Henry! Henry!” I yelled.
“What?” came a muffled reply.
“Where are you?”
“Um Mom, I’m in the bathroom.” I looked over at Awesomez and raised my eyebrows.
"He's in the bathroom."
"With his computer," Lindsey added snidely.
"I need to talk to EVERYONE together," Awesomez said in a somber tone.
“Hurry up!” I called to Henry.
“I don’t know how to hurry,” he cried out.
“Oh my gosh Mom,” Henry said incredulously.
“Forget him,” I said. “What is it?”
“I want to talk to you. All of you.” She looked around nervously. I noticed for the first time there were tears in her eyes. Just then the phone rang. Lindsey, always at the ready grabbed it on the first ring.
“Oh, hello Lisa,” Lindsey responded in her chirpy teenage voice. Almost as the words came out of Lindsey’s mouth, Awesomez who was striding across the floor grabbed the phone out of Lindsey’s hand, and said “hey Lis-,” as she walked out the back door closing it behind her leaving Lindsey and me staring at each other completely confused.
When Awesomez emerged from the porch I couldn’t help but ask, “Who died? Someone died didn’t they?” She didn’t say a thing. I looked around the room, first for Vivian then Luther. “Where’s Luther?”
“He’s right here,” Lindsey confirmed.
“And finally Rat-bat?” Henry pointed to a pile of blankets. I knew Irish was on the porch. By this time Henry had joined us in the family room.
There are moments in your life when you can just feel everything is going to change. This was one of those moments.
Awesomez took a deep breath “Just tell us,” I said quietly. She nodded and began.
“I went out to put the barn animals away around oh I’d say about 6:00, right after I ate. I didn’t want to wait for dark because I knew it would take me awhile and I knew too they might be uncomfortable with me since they don’t really know me. Well, when I went outside I saw the geese by the barbecue and Lloyd wasn’t there.”
“What?” I asked.
“Lloyd! Not Lloyd!” Henry said distraught.
“Oh my gosh, Momma are you sure? Do you know which one he is?” Lindsey said in disbelief.
She went on, “Lloyd wasn’t there. He’s the one with the pink band around his leg right?” I closed my eyes. Awesomez hadn't stopped crying since she'd begun to speak. "I didn’t want to tell you this. I know how special he was to you. He wasn’t a goose he was a pet. So I went looking for him. I went down by the apple trees and the pasture. It was pouring rain. I walked out by the creek and the pond. I didn’t find anything.”
“Not feathers? Or a body,” I asked as stoically as I could muster. I didn’t’ want to fall apart. I knew how hard this must be for her to tell me. After all I’ve delivered enough bad news in my time.
“No, nothing. I must have looked for more than forty-five minutes. I figure he must have just been snatched by coyote in broad daylight.”
“In broad daylight, that’s really bad.” I said the realization bubbling up. I couldn’t believe it. “He was here when I left this afternoon,” I said thinking of his fluffiness. His soft feathers and how he used to nibble at my neck.
“Are you sure?” She questioned. "Was he here when you left?"
“I’m sure, he crossed in front of the van. I saw all of them.” I could barely grieve for my friend, Lloyd, because even though he was gone now I had a barn full of animals I had to worry about. The coyote have now gotten three birds. They’re going to keep coming back picking them off one by one. Unless we do something,” I said as tears welled up in my eyes. Was he really gone? I hoped against hope he was just hiding. I thought of the time when he had lured Irish away from the rest of the gaggle. “I’m sure he lured the coyote away from his girls. He sacrificed himself for his family.”
“Poor Lloyd,” Lindsey said quietly. "Momma, I can't believe you're crying more than anyone. You don't even like the geese."
"I know, but Lloyd was a huge personality on the farm. I don't even know the damn goats names still. Of course, I know Norton and Midge and Miracle, but Lloyd was special. He didn't bite, he was always friendly. And I was there when Denise ran over him. I could tell then she loved him. I've been crying since I realized he was gone. I can't stop."
Funny thing was, I didn’t cry, nor did Henry. This surprised Awesomez who hugged me. “I didn’t want to have to tell you this. I didn’t want to call you and have you have to drive home knowing. I know how much you loved him. I really looked everywhere I could think of, but eventually I knew I had to put the rest of the barn away.”
Henry just sat there saying nothing. “You’re in shock,” she said softly. Henry replied,
“I’ve experienced a lot of death” and just continued to sit there emotionless. The room seemed to close in on me. I moved into the mudroom grabbed a jacket off a hook and stuffed my arms through the sleeves. It wasn’t until I was almost to the barn door that I realized I had a phone in my pocket and called Tom.
“Lloyd, my sweet Lloyd was taken by coyote.”
“Not Lloyd,” he gasped.
“I know it’s silly to love a goose this way. He was just a dumb bird, but I really, really am so sad he’s gone. I can’t believe it. I guess that’s why I’m on my way to the barn. He was so soft and full of kisses for me.”
“It’s not silly. He’s always been attached to you. He followed you everywhere. He’s always cuddled in your arms, knocked on the door when he wanted you to come outside. He’s always been special.”
“Maybe he got away,” I hoped. “I mean I know he’s dead, but I can’t help but hope. First Clara and now him. I don't think it's any accident the parents are gone.”
“And that chicken,” Tom tallied. “I’m really disappointed in Miracle.”
“Me too, but you know she’s changed. She foundered which means her legs are different. She’s wearing that muzzle which makes her more vulnerable. She’s outside at night fending off predators and not sleeping. And she has a huge amount of land to cover. She can’t do it all.”
“I guess,” he conceded reluctantly. “We’ve just never lost animals like this before.”
“I know. Things have changed. It’s the end of Camelot. I feel like the coyote are a blood-thirsty gang bringing a reign of terror over the farm. It may sound dramatic, but I mean it. I can’t let anyone out, of the barn. Frank might be next. The coyotes know they can get a meal here and it’ll be like we’re running a lunch buffet.”
“You’re right. They’ll start with the birds, but that won’t feed a pack for long and the goats are just as vulnerable,’ he reminded me.
“I know.” I said putting my hand on the door to the barn. I didn’t want to go inside, but I had to. “I’ll call you later, I have to go in the barn now,” I practically whispered as I stepped inside.
The barn was dark. Running my fingers along the weathered plywood wall I flipped on light after light. Tonight darkness was not my friend. Peering in the first pen I saw Frank and Silence huddled together. They were safe. The ducks were resting in a cluster. Safe. I took a double take. 1-2-3-4-5. One was missing. Looking up I saw some chickens fluttering about in the rafters.
(the ducks with some rogue chickens)
Finally, I walked over to the goat and sheep pen where the remaining geese were. Sitting in pairs Christina & Rachel and Riley & Alexander looked up at me wide-eyed. The sheep looked like glowing cotton balls in the far corner of the enclosure. I made myself look over at the geese. There was only one white goose now. I choked back a sob. Mabel, Cleveland, Linda, and LuAnn started honking at me. Cleveland stood up tall the way Lloyd always did. Tears started dripping. I hoped for a moment Awesomez had been wrong and that it was Lloyd in the pen. Fumbling with the chain to the pen I undid it and went in. Sitting on the ground I looked and my heart fell. It was Cleveland.
I missed my friend. I missed the way he looked at me - he touched my heart that silly goose. I knew the barn wouldn't ever feel the same. I had thought he'd be around for so many years to come. I felt I'd let him down somehow. Selfishly, I was so relieved I'd followed my instincts and asked Awesomez to put the barn away before dark. If I hadn't and I'd come home I'd have always wondered if I could have prevented it. I knew I had to push past the loss. Lloyd had died to save his family and I needed to protect them now. All of the animals were depending on me. What I needed was a fence. Good I thought, now at least I had a plan. I would build a fence and protect my charges. A plan makes you feel in control. I needed to feel in control, especially as I heard the yips of the pack somewhere in the hills.
I locked up the barn and called Tom, “ There's a duck missing too. I think I know what we can do. We need a fence. If we had a fence down to the pasture then Miracle and Edward could be made to stay up close again and protect the remaining animals.”
“True.” I could hear him thinking it through.
“I’m sure Alexis would help me if I can get the wood,” I said confidently. “Now I just have to figure out how to get the wood.”
I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking I heard Lloyd outside. I wondered if maybe he’d gotten away and was hiding. My sister said, “Maybe like in so many other sayings, there’s truth in ‘wild goose chase’ and maybe just maybe he got away.”
The coyotes hooted and yipped and terrorized the pasture all night. Determined not to lose any more animals tonight, Irish and I hopped in the van with a flashlight and patrolled the pasture. I was worried about Lucky sitting lame in the field so vulnerable.Miracle was apparently on sabbatical. With Irish to keep me warm and completely exhausted, I fell asleep on the sofa around 3:00AM.
Awesomez woke me with sad eyes and cup of hot coffee. This was a new day. I looked outside by the barn doors - just in case. But sometimes prayers aren't answered the way you want.