On Memorial Day, the goat was given a styrofoam hot dog and bun. Election week: a mock ballot, and Number Two pencil. For Halloween, the goat dressed up as Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver, a speech bubble taped to his ears. Are you talking to me? Are you talking to me?
The goat was Mrs. Ogelville’s preferred means of communication with the outside world, a lone window into the mystery of her personality. Before trick-or-treaters descended each year, she would emerge from the house to hammer a sign into the lawn, next to the goat. ONE CANDY PER CHILD. Each Christmas, a single light flickered inside the house. Maybe a candle in a bedroom, maybe a ritual, maybe a distress signal. I never bothered to find out.
When the arborist came to buzzsaw and remove the collapsing tree from her front yard one spring, she stood arm’s length from him, shouting: too loud, too loud, you’re being much too loud! She never had visitors. No family. When I lay out front, bikinied and soaking up the sun with Tara, my high school best friend, Tara squinted in the direction of Mrs. Ogelville’s. Is that a goat in a sombrero? she asked.
That August, I left for college Upstate, returning for Thanksgiving, for the summers; one year surprising my parents on their silver wedding anniversary. The goat remained: dressed attractively in a string of pearls, a matching knit cardigan set; wearing imitation leather; once: a red t-shirt with white lettering: SOMEONE IN TAMPA LOVES ME. I’d walk my parents’ aging terripoo around Mrs. Ogelville’s, lingering by the goat, noticing the fresh coat of paint; the way someone had cleared the weeds at the base of its pole. The goat’s fashion sense was bold, evolving. Who was responsible for all this? Surely, it couldn’t be Mrs. Ogelville.
My final winter at State, before leaving for home, I purchased a wool beanie from the campus bookstore’s discount bin. Back home, I slipped the beanie on the goat secretly, one night before Christmas. By the following morning, it was gone.
When I graduated, I moved to the City and found a job in finance. One morning, I locked eyes with a woman across a crowded cafe in Fort Greene. We moved in together, eventually started talking family. Before I brought her home for the first time, I told her about Mrs. Ogelville’s goat. Sometimes the goat will be in a cabana outfit, I said. A tankini. Aerobics wear. That goat has more personality than its crotchety old owner.
But when we arrived, the goat was missing, the lawn bare; the house a different color, a bright red tricycle sitting in the driveway. I was told the smell of Mrs. Ogelville, in a state of decomposition, is what had given her away in the end. The day the new family moved in, they had broken the goat into parts: wooden legs, torso, stiff painted beard, and a little rectangle tail, stuffing each of the pieces into a bin meant for yard waste.
Hilal Isler edits the Hennepin Review, a multimedia journal where all work is by women and non-binary artists of color.
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