I geese always flew overhead this time
I had just divorced my third wife, Cherie. She was a plain woman with almost no outstanding characteristics about her at all. I married her because she was quite different from my first two wives and because I didnt want to grow old alone. Also, I couldnt cook. Cherie could cook, however, all of her dishes were very plain. This should not have surprised me.
I stood along the riverbank behind my house and reflected on my marriages. It was early November, 1985. The Canada geese always flew overhead this time of year, and this evening was no different. They flew low to the ground at 5:36 p.m. – coming in to a landing in their misshapen V. I watched them settle in for the evening. There was irony in the fact that each of my wives had been fascinated by the geese, and I was by no means oblivious to this. I knew they would be gone by tomorrow afternoon. My river was one of their favorite motels; a guaranteed stop on the long trip south. I turned my back to the riverbank (much like I had turned my back on Cherie) and walked back up the hill to my house.
The following afternoon, as I looked out the kitchen window, I was surprised to see one of the geese remained. It was flying in a circle, alone, above the river. I was curious, but the day was a dreary one, and I opted against exploring. Instead, I sat at the table and watched the bird through the window. Something about its solitude struck me and made me sad. I poured myself a whiskey and tried not to think about Cherie.
A few hours later I sat in front of the television. Growing Pains was on channel five, and I tried to pay attention. That family made me sick. No one on the television ever got divorced back then. I clicked off the set and went upstairs for a nap.
When I awoke, something made me go down to the kitchen. It was dark outside, and I couldnt see the goose. I looked around for the Maglight in my messy pantry, and when I found it, I slipped my feet into the boots by the door. I remember that making my way down to the riverbank was treacherous because the grass was slick with rain. As I approached, I heard a sound coming from a bush near the bank. I shone my flashlight in the direction of the noise. It was the goose. I was certain I had frightened her, but she didnt even appear to notice me. She looked past me dully, and then hung her head and continued mourning. When I got closer, I could see that she was standing over the body of another goose. I remembered reading somewhere that geese mate for life.
Leave us alone, she said. She said it with such force and certainty that I had no choice to turn on my heels and return to the house.
I got out of my boots, threw the flashlight on the couch, and went up to the attic. My grandfather had given me an old set of encyclopedias a few years before, and I was fairly certain they were stuffed away somewhere. I needed to find out more about the goose.
Almost half an hour later, I found what I had been looking for. I took the dusty book downstairs to the den and settled in. What I learned was disturbing. Geese do indeed mate for life. Typically, when one dies, the other remains with the body. The saddened goose will not eat, often flying in a circle above its lovers body until overcome with exhaustion. The goose will die in a matter of days, usually only a few yards from its mate. I was not oblivious to the distinct difference between the gooses loyalty to its mate and my lack of it. I could not help myself, I had to see the goose again.
I went back to the riverbank. It must have been 2:30 a.m. It didnt matter, I couldnt have slept if I tried. When the goose saw me, she unleashed her grief on me. I felt the pain of her voice and the sorrow was felt deep down.
Why are you bothering me? Cant you see that I am mourning? she screeched at me.
I just want to understand. How can you love someone so much? Youll die here, move on!
You are all the same! she replied. You marry and then divorce. Your love is only surface love! You dont know the meaning of the word! We are one and I am already dead.
Her words struck me and I walked back to the house slowly. I have not had a decent nights rest since. I toss on the mattress and bang at the pillow. I had three chances at happiness, and kicked dust at them all. Maybe the geese are right after all. My wives had loved the geese, and I had barely given a thought to them. Maybe they saw something I didnt. Now I must learn how to cook, but for some reason my dishes are always plain.