Three of McKinnon’s foreign cows were at the fence when Eli turned off the highway and into McKinnon’s lane. Great red beasts, shambling and shaggy, they looked like ruined carpets. They looked like buffaloes. But they weren’t buffaloes. McKinnon’s buffaloes were in one of his other pastures.
The animals stared through their fence at Eli as he passed. He waved at them. Eli waved at everyone. Up the rise to the house and barns, into the yard. The doctor’s car parked there. Eli pulled in beside it, stopped. Everywhere, McKinnon’s poultry: McKinnon’s barred rocks, McKinnon’s guinea fowl, McKinnon’s huge gray geese striding about like lords, with a lord’s height, a lord’s pride, a lord’s brains.
Eli parked his truck and stepped down into the yard. A goose whose head was level with his waist advanced menacingly on him, but Eli made a feint toward it, and the goose sheared off and let him be.
Wesley came out of the barn. He was wearing rubber boots knee-high and carrying a bucket of green mud. He nodded at Eli, joined him, and put his bucket down.
“What have you got there?” Eli asked.
“Goose shit,” said Wesley. “Swamping goose shit all morning. Worst job on the place, you know it? Worse than cows.”
Castle Freeman Jr. is a longtime contributor of short fiction to NER, most recently with “Squirrel Trouble at Uplands” (NER 35.4). He lives in southeastern Vermont.