Saturday, March 28, 2009

There's More Than One Way Home

As a sophomore in high school, I used to hang out at a friend's house nearly every night, eating dinner there most nights, and then I would walk home to my house just a few hours before bedtime. On weekend nights, I would hang out with my friends at the same house, and I would walk home in time for my 12:30am curfew.

On one Friday night, just before school let out for the summer, I was walking home from my friend's house, and I found a small wheel that had fallen off of a wheelbarrow. I thought it might make a good go-cart wheel, so I picked it up and carried it home with me.  (This is despite the fact that I did not own a go-cart. I figured, sometimes all you need is a good reason to buy a go-cart, and this may have been mine.) The night was beautiful and clear and hot, and the street lights and porch lights lit up the roads for me. 

While I walking along Gillaspie, a road that ran alongside two large, empty soccer fields, I heard the strangest noise, like someone on my heels snoring lightly. It was wet and glottal, and it made the hair on my neck stand up. I spun around and saw nothing. I looked for bats or birds in the air above me, but there were none. I started walking again, a little faster.

After a moment, I heard the sound of tiny hooves behind me: "clip, clop, clip," and a little bleat. I whipped around again and saw nothing to the side or behind me. I spun the other way and saw a tiny, white baby goat prancing around the side of my feet. He looked up at me inquisitively with his bright blue eyes and bleated again. It was all I could do not to scream loudly. 

My skin crawled. I looked around, searching for someone else who might also be seeing this, or perhaps something that would indicate I was dreaming. The world appeared normal. No shifts in the light and every familiar house in its place. Strangely, I was holding a small, rusty wheel, but I could explain that. I surmised that this was really happening.

I bent down and laid my hand on the goat's head. I looked at his eyes, which were beautiful and blankly staring at me. A hairy little bump under his chin was forming. His tiny pink nose sniffed at me. His hair was a little bit course and bristly. His ears flopped around, listening.

I sat there for several minutes, just soaking it in, trying to decide what to do next.

Just two blocks away from where I was lived a friend of my mom's, a woman named Joan. I had grown up with her kids, and I thought about her every time I passed her house. I thought she might be home, but there were no lights on. I walked up the front lawn with my tire and the baby goat behind me. I knocked. Nothing. I knocked again. I heard some shuffling inside, and I stood back a ways from the door so she could see me through the window.

"Who is it?" I couldn't see her. She was standing behind the door.

"Hi, Joan. It's me, Ross. I need your help. I have a baby goat out here."

"A what? You what?"

"A goat. It's following me. Can you call Animal Control?"

She opened the door slowly, peaking through. When she saw my face, she opened the door wide, bringing her face close the the screen door to look at me closely. "Ross, what's going on?"

I turned sideways and pointed to the goat, who now had his front hooves up on her stoop.

"OH MY GOD!" she said. "Ross, I thought you were on drugs! That's a real live goat!"

"I'm glad you see it, too. Can you call Animal Control?"

She brought me into the house and we put the goat in her garage while we waited. At one point, I asked her if I could call home to explain why I would be late for my curfew. She said yes. When I told my mom what happened, she didn't believe me, so I had to put Joan on the phone with her. She said, "I know! I thought he was on drugs! And then when I saw it, I thought I was on drugs!" She handed me the phone again, and, feeling vindicated, I asked my mom to come pick me up. She said, "Sweety, I know that this has been a strange night, so you are excused for being late. But that doesn't mean I have to get out of bed to come get you." 

"So no ride?"

"See you in the morning."

Animal Control came to pick up the little one, and I headed home with my tire.

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