A Few Goats by Julia Strayer

A Few Goats

I say it’s best to find a man who can sew on a button. A man who is kind to animals. A man who will hold your hand watching television. That kind of man. To be sure. I didn’t get that man. I got the one who’s allergic to any fur, doesn’t watch television, and left one fair spring day with my sister, leaving me with a lawn that needed mowing and not much else.

It’s after one in the morning and I’m wide awake watching some ridiculous thing on television, holding my own hand. I’m reliable. Torn between wanting to get a few goats to nibble at the lawn, or two cats, three dogs, and a lawn service.

The next day, I ask the neighbor boy to cut my lawn. Offer forty dollars and half a package of Hostess cupcakes. He’s nodding, but he doesn’t hear me because he’s got headphones on and nodding to the beat. He sees me talking, but never pulls the wires from his ears. I take my cupcake home.

The lawn was the only thing my husband did well. Seeded, fertilized, edged. All in the spring. Used to say, “A good looking lawn is like giving the neighbors the finger.”

It’s not like he ever took out the trash without being asked a million times first. I’d sack it up and put it on the step to the garage, but he stepped over it on his way to meet my sister, I suppose.

I have nothing new to say about my sister.

A small garage fire would bring firemen. Maybe one of them could cut my lawn, but I don’t know if he paid the insurance bill so I put the matches back in the kitchen junk drawer.

A Girl Scout knocks on the door. It’s cookie season. By the time I get to the door, she’s craning her neck to survey the lawn, says, “It’s a jungle out here.” I buy ten boxes to shut her up.

I order a pizza so I can ask the delivery guy if he’ll mow the lawn, but the guy’s a hundred years old with dentures that roll around in his mouth and I don’t think he’s got it in him to work the business end of a push mower. I take my pizza, tip him five bucks and offer him the cupcake, but he says he’s off sugar.

The phone rings. Screeches like a bird caught in a wind tunnel. I hear it through the open door, but have no intention of answering.

I spy the neighbor boy from my front porch. Hold the pizza box up where he can see, and point at him to see if that motivates him, but nothing.

By the time I get inside, the message light is blinking. I don’t care. My husband would never call, but he would drive by sometime when he thinks I’m not home. I want to make sure he gets the right message.

I call the police, say the neighbor boy is making lewd gestures at me. Then I brew coffee, and put out a plate of Thin Mints.

My husband left three weeks ago. I haven’t told anyone. The lawn’s a tick haven by now.

 

A Few Goats

 

Julia Strayer’s writing appears, or is forthcoming, in Glimmer TrainSmokeLong QuarterlyPost Road MagazineMid-American ReviewSouth Dakota Review, Fiction SoutheastJournal of Compressed Creative ArtsWigleaf and others. She placed first in the Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers, was a finalist in the 2016 Indiana Review 1/2K Prize, and has been anthologized in The Best Small Fictions 2015 and named a finalist for The Best Small Fictions 2017. She earned an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, and teaches creative writing at New York University.

 

(Next story: Checking Out by John Meyers)

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