THE GOOSE MOTHER
by Pat Godwin
Gently, the plump white goose sat on her eggs. Patiently, she sat on her eggs. Lovingly, she sat on her eggs. She had no mate. He had disappeared one moonlit night. Perhaps a raccoon had claimed him.
The white goose was hungry and on her own it was hard to scare off predators and get some sleep. The other geese in the park, the Canada geese, all had partners to help guard their eggs.
Now and then the white goose stood up to change her position and check her two eggs. How much longer would it be before they hatched?
Finally she heard it. Tap, tap. Tap, tap. Like little miners, the babies chipped at their walls until they broke free into their new world. They lay outside their shells for a while, resting after their hard work. The spring sunshine gently dried their feathers until, finally, they were able to stand up.
The goslings were small and nervous. They followed their mother like two miniature yellow shadows.
The mother goose showed her goslings how to pick up grain that the neighborhood children threw beside the lake. She showed them the sweetest blades of grass. She stuck out her neck and hissed at passing dogs to warn them away from her children.
She led them into the water to explore the lakeside reeds and bushes of their home. She cuddled them under her wings to rest. She was a good mother.
Several days passed. The white goose was content. Her goslings were growing, and learning quickly.
One night the family was sleeping on shore, near the water. The silence was interrupted by the noisy grrumf of a giant bullfrog. One of the goslings woke up. He heard a crackle in the bush and went to investigate. His mother did not know he had gone. The gosling did not see the yellow eyes of the rat that was waiting for him.
The white goose looked for the gosling early in the morning. She looked on the water. She looked on the shoreline trail. She looked in the thick clumps of reeds. She knew something was terribly wrong, but she didn't know what to do.
The mother goose stood guard over her remaining baby. She arched her neck and hissed at passing people. She watched the baby gosling as it napped. She stayed by the baby's side as it nibbled grass and paddled through the wind-rippled water.
But one morning, the shadow of an eagle passed over the white goose and her gosling. In an instant, the gosling was gone. The white goose looked on the water. She looked on the shoreline trail. She looked in the thick clumps of reeds. Now she had no goslings to take care of.
The cherry blossoms fluttered to the ground like a mist of tiny pink butterflies. The leaves grew and greened, and then flamed gold. Rain soaked the thirsty earth. The white goose did not fly south like most of the Canada geese in the park.
She was a common domestic goose and could not fly. She stayed by her lake eating grass and water plants. Sometimes she slept on a tiny island in the middle of the lake. She felt safe there.
Snow came. Tendrils of frost coated fallen leaves. Delicate ice pans floated on the lake and then melted. The breeze began to warm and the rhododendrons burst forth in a cloud of violet and purple. The white goose did not have a mate or any goslings.
One day the white goose heard a noisy honking overhead. She looked up to see the Canada geese returning to the park. Feet forward, they water-skied to a stop. The white goose watched them swim in formation around the lake, holding high their black heads with the white chinstraps.
In time, three of the Canada geese females laid their eggs. Tenderly, they sat on them while their mates fiercely chased away intruders. When the females were tired or hungry, their mates took a turn on the nests.
The white goose walked past them. A memory stirred. She felt something was missing.
One bright spring morning one of the mama Canada geese felt a clicking underneath her body. Sure enough, her babies were clamouring to get into the world. It was a long, tiring process, but finally, wet and exhausted, three new Canada goslings emerged.
The white goose happened to be paddling by that shoreline patch of reeds just then. She stopped and watched the newborns struggle to stand up and fluff dry in the sun.
She looked at the tiny babies and she knew that this was what she had been missing. She needed to finish her job as a mother.
Quietly, she waddled onto the shore and sat near the Canada geese parents. They knew that she was not a threat and they continued tending to their babies. The white goose understood that she could stay.
For the next few weeks the white goose helped to show the babies how to pick up grain. She showed them which blades of grass were the sweetest. She stretched out her neck and hissed to protect them from passing joggers and dog walkers.
When the goslings were swimming behind their mother and father, she paddled last to keep them all in view. She watched the skies. She knew there was danger there. And she slept near the babies. She was a good mother.
The babies grew quickly and changed from soft yellow to gangly grey, to miniatures of their parents with the beautiful black, white and brown feather markings. The white goose was satisfied. This time her task had been completed. The babies were full grown and able to take care of themselves.
The brisk winds of fall blew the leaves into whirlwinds of orange and gold. The white goose said good-bye to her adopted family. In a thunder of flapping wings the flock of Canada geese took to the sky. The white goose was left all alone on the lakeshore. She watched the empty lake for a very long time.
Mists hung over the water and shimmering skims of ice floated on the surface. Snow settled on the grass like a lace tablecloth. Then, gentle rains and the warming sun welcomed the royal colors of the crocuses.
One day, when the warming air was filled with the sweet scent of blossoms, the white goose heard a familiar honking. She watched as the visitor geese splashed and skidded to a landing.
A young Canada goose mother gently covered her eggs. Looking around, she saw a plump white goose watching her. A memory stirred in her of a white goose that had protected her as a mother would. She knew that this was a good thing, that this meant safety. The young goose relaxed and continued warming her eggs.
The white goose was content. She could see that, once again, she had a job to do.
Illustration by Diane Yee
UBC's Journal of Children's Literature
Mail: Chameleon C/O UBC Creative Writing
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