Help a Hungry Goat by Madeline Gobbo

Help a Hungry Goat

Elliott doesn’t ride the bus. You can never fit your cart up front where they’re supposed to make space for it. Nobody likes to make space for Elliott. Elliott knows it’s mostly because of the bags and bags of leaking bottles, but sometimes, when Elliott is feeling down on themself, they think it’s actually because of Elliott’s body. There comes a point in the life of the adult human where it has to decide whether it owns its own body or someone else does. By the time Elliott understood this, it was too late. Elliott’s body had settled into womanhood, and Los Angeles owned that womanhood. Tits and ass and belly. Chopped up smoothened fleshy female bits on billboards, on the sides of buses. Like but not enough like Elliott’s own. These image bodies are always turned sideways so you can see how thin they are, how wispy. Elliott has no waist to speak of, which is the only thing about the body they consistently like, the bulldozer that cleaves through the sunny sea of taut tummies. It’s hard to love your body every second of the day, but that’s what you have to do. It’s mandatory, they tell you, or you’ll die. It’s hard to remember pronouns, even your own. People will make any excuse not to use them, including Elliott. Sometimes Elliott thinks in shes. Sometimes Elliott includes themself in addresses to the women of the world. Sisters, let us rise up!

Elliott is for the overthrow of cisheteropatriarchy. Elliott imagines a world governed by care and healing as they slog the long blocks from Fairfax to Highland, Highland to Vine. Elliott sets up their cart at the corner just beyond Psychiatry: an Industry of Death! Elliott has obtained a large quantity of liquid CBD from an unlicensed dealer, along with sixteen gallons of lemonade and ten cases of pamplemousse LaCroix. Elliott sells the drinks for $6 a pop. Fizzy chillers. They’re still working out the recipe for dogs, Elliott’s big ticket idea. Rich people want their pets as drugged as they are. But the people who buy the drinks from Elliott are not rich. The people who buy the drinks from Elliott are not tourists. Elliott’s best customers come in costume. They pay with sweaty bills produced from pockets hidden under matted Wookie fur, from Jansport backpacks concealed with capes. It’s hard work, bringing dreams to life.

Today Elliott’s customers are all talking about the lottery, which is up to three billion. Tomorrow it goes up to six. There seems to be no limit to how high the lottery can go, as long as no one wins, as long as everyone keeps buying tickets. A zaftig Harley Quinn asks Elliott what they’d do with their winnings. Elliott hasn’t thought about it.

“You have to be careful. Conceal your identity. They could figure out who your siblings are, your friends, and blackmail you, or worse,” Harley warns, though Elliott is only listening to the swish of her blue and red sequined cheeks. “Money attracts bad people.”

“No money attracts bad people too,” says Elliott. “It’s not like they need an excuse.” Still, they give Harley a complimentary squeeze of the CBD dropper. Her tongue is acrid pink. The liquid drips and spreads among the papillae. Harley’s eyes slit shut.

Elliott is setting out a plastic bin filled with ice to chill a fresh batch of chillers when the Hungry Goat steps up. The Hungry Goat is, in fact, a man, old and trampish. He wears filthy cargo shorts, a windbreaker that was once white, blue ankle socks, the only clean thing he has on, and trainers with worn-down heels. He carries a cardboard sign that reads, “HELP A HUNGRY GOAT?”

“Can you spare a morsel?” he says. “Also, can you charge my phone?”

Elliott looks at him for a minute before responding. His pockets are stuffed with orange Mega Millions tickets he’s scrounged from the trash.

“Young lady,” he says, lordly, “I am speaking to you.”

“Not a lady,” Elliott grumbles.

“Then what are you?”

“I’m an entrepreneur,” says Elliott.

“And I’m a billionaire, you know,” says the Hungry Goat.

“In that case,” says Elliott, “try this.” Elliott offers the dropper, loaded with the experimental formula, the one for dogs. The Hungry Goat sticks out his goaty tongue. When the liquid hits, he wrinkles his nose.

“I can’t feel my face,” he says.

“That’s normal,” says Elliott.

“I can feel my money,” he says. “Stacks and stacks of it. I can feel it wriggling. It’s in my pockets. It’s in my stomach. It wants to be spent. It’s crawling up my gullet. It wants to trade itself for things. It’s leaking out everywhere. I’m drowning in it!”

“Then hurry up and swallow!” Elliott says, and the Hungry Goat gulps like a duck horking bread. Elliott can’t stand the sound of it, so they give him a free fizzy chiller.

“I’m no old man,” says the Hungry Goat, when he’s drained the cup. “Can’t you read?”

The Hungry Goat pats his pockets until he finds what he’s looking for, a Mega Millions ticket exactly like all the others, crumpled and out of date.

“You’ll need it more than I do,” he says.

“Fuck you, old goat,” says Elliott.

Elliott throws the ticket away. They don’t bother to see if it’s a winner.


Help a Hungry Goat


Madeline Gobbo is a writer, illustrator, and bookseller living in Los Angeles. Her fiction has been published in Black Candies, Wolfman New Life Quarterly, Foglifter, Cosmonauts Avenue and Queen Mob’s Teahouse. Her collaborative fiction with Miles Klee has been published in Territory, Joyland, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Wigleaf, Arcturus, and Funhouse. She co-produced season 3 of SFMOMA’s podcast Raw Material with KQED reporter Jessica Placzek.


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