The Canadian Goose
A misty rain splattered the windshield as our speed increased after passing through Middleton, a dying gray town littered with dumpy taverns and liquor stores. Gene was driving us to the lake for his wife’s annual office retreat. My wife, Gene’s daughter Lacey, sat in back with her mother. Gene was a retired biology teacher, which occasionally had its benefits during most of the conversations we had while driving. Every now and then, his bony index finger would suddenly be inches in front of my eyes as he directed my attention to a deer, a hawk, or a particularly rare type of tree. For the final category, I was also informed that I don’t see those around much anymore.
“See that, Ryan?” he asked.
“That goose back there beside the road,” he said.
“Well, it’ll be there when we come back.”
And the conversation soon turned to something else. Sports, most likely.
By the evening return ride home, the rain had subsided, but I was prepped for the goose this time. “It’ll be on your left. Just past this bridge.”
I didn’t have time to respond before I saw it.
“How does it just stand there?” I asked. The goose was beside the road, probably no more than eight feet from any car or truck that passed by. Any other living thing would have flown or scampered away at the ominous threat of a passing vehicle.
“It’s a Canadian goose,” Gene said. “It’s lost its mate, I’d imagine.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’ll stay there almost indefinitely.” He rubbed his chin. “Its nature is to stand stone still until it’s found its lost mate. I’d imagine the mate was hit back there, seeing how that one’s facing the road.”
A crisp silence fell between us in his white sedan for the next mile, and I saw that Lacey and her mom were asleep in back, but Gene was notorious for changing the mood of the car with a corny joke, an anecdote, or a question. “So, you goin’ to any games this summer?” Gene loved baseball and our shared obsession with the Cubbies superseded over any flaws he might have seen in me.