by Catherine Underhill Fitzpatrick
(Mequon, Wisconsin, USA)
A. J. Meier was eighty when he shot his last goose. By then his eyesight was indistinct, and his aim susceptible to inadvertent dips.
The goose was no spring chicken, either. That December afternoon, it followed a low trajectory over the fallow cornfield where my grandfather stood scanning the cloud-tattered sky. A.J. raised the stock to his shoulder, fired, and missed by a country mile. Subsequent fusillades peppered swathes of Missouri sky and thus managed to dispatch the bird.
Later, A.J. stopped by. He indicated Mom should roast the goose on Christmas. It had been a while since her father ended a hunt with a full bag. She knew that.
As soon as the gifts were opened, Mom plucked the goose clean of feathers, packed the cavity with stuffing, stucco’d the pimpled carcass with swirls of oleo, and slid her blue roasting pan into the oven. Perspiration beaded her forehead.
That night our dining room glowed with candle light glinting off Mom’s good crystal. Dad raked his carving knife against a sharpening rod and lowered slices of goose like flapjacks onto Mom’s Lenox. A.J. looked on with pride. We tucked in.
With the first bite, we each crunched on something hard, something that electrified the fillings in our teeth. Startled adults raised their napkins. Howling kids commenced a buckshot spitting war.
A.J. lowered his fork. Steely-eyed, he accused Mom of ruining, ruining, a perfectly good goose.
A tear trickled down Mom’s cheek. In the thundering silence, candle flames rose unwavering.
Dad took a slow walk around his table. When he got to Mom, he bent to kiss her upturned face. Then everybody piped up and said the goose was the best darn goose they'd ever tasted. And Mom bucked up and said pass the stuffing, girls.