Story for the Day: Goose for a Gander
Lochan has a new friend, and while everyone is disposed to be enchanted by the animals he rears, Martje is always somewhat at odds with a pet that could be placed in the pot.
A Goose for a Gander
A few strange ululations emanated from the servants’ hall, and when the party entered the kitchen, they were met with the sight of Beryn and Lochan sitting at the kitchen table, Beryn smirking to himself over his tea and wheaten scones, Lochan holding to the goose nestling against him, and Martje looming over her brother with a most displeased expression, her sleeves rolled high, her rasied hand over her head and furnished with a large rolling pin.
“Don’t stand over her, Martje,” said Lochan, in a plaintive tone. “You’re scarin’ her, wavin’ your pin around.”
“Loch,” said Martje, in a heated tone, her eyes ablaze with furious anger, “you’re my family and I love you and all, but if you don’t get that bird outta my kitchen, I’m gonna clobber it and cook it.”
Lochan held the goose against his chest and away from his sister. “That’s not nice, Martje. Don’t say things like that in front of her. You’re bein’ unfeelin’. She just lost her flock.”
“And if that bird stays another second in my kitchen, she’s gonna lose her head. Out,” stabbing her rolling pin at the window, “or that bird’s the centerpiece for the evenin’s celebration. Next time you see that goose, it’ll be stuffed and roasted with rosemary and orange.”
“Careful, Loch,” said Beryn, all mirthful complacence. “We got a butcher in the room,” eyeing Sheamas, who was standing in the doorway, “and roasted goose with orange might sound right well to such a big hungry party of folks.”
“Uncle Beryn!” cried the children, spilling over the threshold and attacking his legs with ardent embraces.
“Afternoon, boys,” said Beryn, putting down his teacup and assailing their stomachs with tickling fingers. “Careful around the chairs and table, boys. The Beryn monster doesn’t want you to get hurt.”
“You’re the one doin’ the ticklin’, Uncle Beryn!” Little Adaoire cried, giggling as he crumbled to the ground under the ascendance of Beryn’s flurrying fingers.
“Aye, I’m ticklin’, but that’s what monsters and uncles are supposed to do.” Beryn relented and allowed the children to breathe while taking up his cup once more. “Heard you had a bit o’ craic outside with a pyre.”
“We burned a banner,” said Soledhan, panting and still under the influence of oppressive mirth.
“Burned a banner? That ain’t Alineighdaeth tradition I ever heard of—hold a minute.” Beryn’s eyes narrowed. “We don’t got the whole brood here. Where’s the little and big?”
“Little and Grandfather Jaicobh went to see Bilar,” said Dorrin.
“Aye, I see how it was. You boys try to roast your cousin in that pyre?”
“No, Uncle Beryn,” the children sang.
“Just a bit of a cold,” said Shayne, coming forward to shake Beryn’s hand. “Nothin’ more than a sniffle.”
“Sniffles are dangerous when there are so many Mas around.”
“Aye, Uncle Beryn,” the children moped.
“Ma used to make me eat the coneflowers that grew on the hedge when I had a cold. Wasn’t too terrible.” Beryn shrugged and smiled. “At least I didn’t get the bogbean.”
The twins wrenched, Dobhin grimaced, and Alasdair still maintained that he should rather take bogbean than endure all the agonizing horrors of gorse tonic.
“Oh, Aye,” Beryn eagerly nodded. “Gorse tonic’ll strip the paint off a fence. Just the scent of it sent me runnin’ to my room. Ma brewed it the once and never again. I got a whiff—“ he shook his head. “Made all the hair in my nose melt off. Dannig’s got no hair in his nose ‘cause o’ how much gorse tonic he’s had. A man’ll lose his eyebrows over that.”
“Will cousin Jaicobh lose his eyebrows, Uncle Beryn?” said Little Aiden.
“We’ll see, boys. Might come back lookin’ like a Karnwyl seal, all hairless and polished.”
The children laughed and turned toward Lochan, who was turning away from Martje and holding his friend close to him, looking about for Khaasta and hoping she could provide a distraction for the dissatisfied cook.
“Who’s your new friend, Uncle Lochan?” said Soledhan.
“This here is Jannidhe,” Lochan announced, stroking the gallineasian’s neck. “She lost her way when she was flyin’ north and the storm hit. Don’t tell her,” whispering behind a raised hand,”but she thinks I’m her gander. Jannidhe don’t know I don’t got feathers and wings and a beak and all.”
“Don’t be namin’ it, Loch,” Martje insisted. “When you name somethin’, it stays, and this here goose is leavin’ this kitchen and it’s goin’ right now.”
Martje raised her rolling pin over her head, but before Lochan could disclaim or anyone could interfere, the goose let out a formidable honk and thrashed its beak at Martje’s apron.“No bird what enters this kitchen and snaps at me lives more than a minute after,” Martje seethed, her eyes flaring. “That’s that, Loch. That bird’s goin’ into the pot--” but the goose squawked and gnashed as Martje drew near, and the cook tapped her pin against her palm in a threatening and slow cadence. The goose would have to go, but how to get it outor even how to get it away from her brother was a matter of growing concern. Animals alive and uncured had never been her greatest friends, and while she could tolerate a rather immense cat, she could not abide something that might otherwise provide an excellent meal for her family waddling about uncooked and unseasoned.