It is a gorgeous, sunny day a bit chilly, but a perfect day nevertheless to take a bike ride out to see our friends, the goats. At first, the kids drag feet a bit. The ride involves some work and some serious hills, but as the cycling momentum builds, so does my son's enthusiasm.
"You know, mom," he says as we pedal, "now they have got chickens, too." He's seen them from the school-bus window. This reminds his sister, Sophia, of the egg her friend (whose father is a farmer) gave to her last spring. "I don't know where it is," Sophia says. "I think it's lost."
"I think we scrambled it," I say. Sophia ponders this as we ride on.
Josh powers himself halfway up two hills. Sophia and I get off of our tandem bike and push. Once we have reached both peaks, we're almost there. First visit of the season and we're rusty -- we've forgotten to bring food. The goats enjoy banana peels -- we've learned this from a note left by their owners on the fence.
Undaunted, we recall the goats eat almost anything -- pine needles, flowers, weeds. The brown goat is over by the chicken coop. He sees us park our bikes and ambles over with his entourage. "Sorry," we say, "no special foods today." The goat declines our pine needles. He seems preoccupied with a white chicken -- trailing her around the pen, licking and sniffing her as if hoping to learn from her how to lay eggs.
It hits all three of us at once. Something is wrong. The other goat isn't here. Inside the fence lie several uneaten banana peels. Josh, standing on the stone wall bordering the pen, looks down at me and says, "I hate to think this, but maybe the other goat has passed away."
I think maybe he's right, but we come up with some alternatives. Maybe the goat is just sleeping in the barn. Maybe it's visiting the vet. Sophia and I climb onto the wall and we all walk along it, bearing leaves to tempt the brown goat to come back to us and eat.
This leads us to a new note lying on the wall. It's laminated, weighed down with flat stones. On it, a child's drawing depicts the goat pen, two goats, and the child itself holding a pail with a goat's nose close up to the rim. The note says: "Our beloved Eddie died of natural causes on December 28th, 2010. He will be greatly missed by all."
Sophia has a lot of questions about death: Why did he die? Did he get sick like her friend Brian's dad? When will the chickens and the brown goat die? When will she die? And what would happen if she did various hurtful things, like bump a chicken in the head with her bicycle helmet on? We also wonder what the brown goat's name is?
Josh has no questions. He just wants things to go back the way they were before the brown goat was preoccupied with chickens and the pen still housed two young, ravenous goats. He stands there with his sneakers in the mud and says, three times, as if his words could make it so, "I really wish it didn't die."
Amanda Geffner is a writer and psychotherapist living in Weston. Email her at Amamike123@aol.com.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.