Whisper of the Heart This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.


   Thegoose, which had been sitting so quietly on its straw nest, was seized by animpulse to run off honking at some invisible foe. And inside that feather-littered nest, I saw a lone golden egg. Of course, I was at a loss, butnot simply because in the natural order of things geese are not meant to begoldmines. No, my dilemma was bigger than wondering what had caused my homelygoose to lay such a precious egg.

I let the moment slip by, telling myselfthat I needed to anticipate every possibility and choose the best one, but Ialready knew the few options before me. I could sell the egg, profit from thegoose and wait for another golden egg each day. Soon I would become rich, Ithought, dreaming of crystal chandeliers and high-arched windows. But what if itwas a fluke? What if my goose refused to work as a moneymaking machine? What ifthis was the first and last golden egg?

So perhaps marketing the goose,not the egg, would be wiser. Then someone else could worry about the goose'shealth and egg production. And I wouldn't have to give up all claims to futureprofits, I could always ask for 20 percent of each egg laid. But who would buy agolden-egg-laying goose on faith? Who would believe in the goose's egg-layingcapability if they saw that I was willing to sell?

Maybe keeping the eggas a souvenir would be best. I could save the egg, never hoping to go beyond thissuccess. I could hoard it forever, an untouched proof on my mantlepiece, a symbolof something that had reached beyond its own expectations: how a simple farmgoose had produced a treasure worthy of a king.

With all these optionsfacing me, there was only one thing of which I was sure. Killing the goose wasnot the answer - that had already been tried.

Days and weeks passed as mymind continually capsized in its voyage from one plan of action to another. Andbecause of my procrastination, something occurred that I had not anticipated. Thegoose went back to the egg, sat on it, and eventually a little golden gosling washatched, the shards of its shell gleaming like pieces of shattered goldenglass.

Now, I was sure that there must be something more to my goosethan its gold-plated appearance. The golden goose was magical; I'd known that theegg was touched with mystery when I first saw it glinting among the dull straw. Iwatched the development of that glowing gosling eagerly.

Yet, as thegosling matured, I noticed that the golden goose was rather at a disadvantage.Instead of being a magical young goose, it was an inept outcast. I watched,unbelieving, as the gosling struggled in the shallow end of the pond, its goldenwebbed feet unable to keep it afloat. It could neither swim nor fly because itsstiff feathers were unsuited to both goosely pastimes.

I was leftwondering what exactly made this goose special. It had to be something more thanthe delicately etched golden feathers that I constantly found glittering in theyard. Since the goose had not produced magic in the form of rubies falling fromits mouth or weather patterns shifting because of a decisive movement of itswing, I began to wonder if the magic in the goose lay in its intelligence. Withthis in mind, I decided to teach the golden goose to read.

I was provedcorrect; the goose was quite an apt learner. Being an attentive pupil, in amatter of months the goose progressed from simple children's literature to thegreat classics. Not only could it read, but soon it learned to speak in ahonking, guttural voice.

Often, late at night, I would come across thegoose comfortably huddled in its nest, a book propped against the barn wall,reading by the light of its own golden radiance and muttering absent-mindedly. Attimes the goose would read aloud unconsciously, its harsh, inhuman voicerendering Hamlet in an entirely new light: "We know what we are, but knownot what we may be." Upon noting my presence, the goose closed the book withan "Amen. So be it!" and promptly began discussing intricacies ofHamlet's characterization.

Although the goose was a connoisseur of allmanner of literature, I discovered its passion for James Joyce exceeded all itsother literary infatuations. The goose could see itself in A Portrait of anArtist as a Young Man. As it confided to me one day, Portrait was one of the fewbooks written by a man who it could relate to as an earthbound goose. Thededicated goose had even compiled a speech of sorts, composed of confluent andslightly altered passages from Joyce, which it would recite each dawn. With itsglittering beak turned toward the rising sun and its eyes focused on the sparrowswheeling in the pearly sky, the goose would begin, "This race and thiscountry and this life produced me. I shall express myself as I am ..." Aftera slight pause, it would continue. "When the soul of a goose is born in thisworld, there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. I shall try to flyby those nets ... and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art asfreely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms Iallow myself to use - silence, exile, and cunning ... I am not afraid to make amistake, even a great mistake, a lifelong mistake and perhaps as long as eternitytoo ... "

And with its wings outspread to embrace the dawn, wouldfinish triumphantly, "Welcome, O Life!" It was a solemn oath to itselfthat the goose renewed each day, a promise to become the great artificer whowould fashion for itself a pair of wings.

Practically speaking, I knewsimple daydreaming would not accomplish the ends the goose had in view. And yet,I knew I could not simply hand the answer to the goose - for the accomplishmentto mean anything, the goose would have to struggle for the answer. But I couldhelp the goose along, providing it with the tools to succeed. Thus, I contrivedto introduce the goose to the mechanical sciences, beginning with the works ofLeonardo da Vinci. The goose and I examined paintings, sketches of flyingmachines, and biographies of the Renaissance Man, and although we ultimatelydecided that da Vinci's machinery was not quite what was desired, it set us onthe right path.

We experimented with the Wright Brothers' airplanedesign, but once more agreed that the flight we had in mind was not the buzzinghorizontal flight of the Wright Brothers' contraption. No, we desired somethingthat would rise, float, and reach for the dome of the sky.

On a lazysummer afternoon as it watched dandelion seeds drift away from the ballooningstem, the goose had a breakthrough. "A balloon!" it squawked to me,running eagerly to the house. "A hot-air balloon! It shall be the verything! To rise and rise and rise and rise into the sky! We shall becomeaeronauts!"

Unlike our other blueprints and ideas, the balloonconcept held up even after thorough examination. The cost, construction details,relative simplicity in design, as well as the aesthetic compatibility, all madethe balloon the very means for the goose and me to fly.

The shards of thegoose's egg, as well as the piles of golden feathers it had shed over time (whichI had prudently saved for two years) provided for all the materials necessary forconstructing the balloon. For the color, we choose a rich green to representhope, growth, and life, our ideas of beautiful colors differing from Joyce's. Weordered meter upon meter of that vibrant green silk, and patiently cut and hemmedthe balloon for several months, the goose being more adept with a needle than I.Proudly, we attached the roomy wicker basket to our completed balloon and lightedthe brazier to fill the deflated floppy green silk with the hot air that wouldcause it to rise.

Although our first flight was to be merely a test run,the goose and I eagerly boarded the wicker basket, forgetting such practicalitiesas sandbags to weigh down the balloon and a first-aid kit in case of emergencies.This forgetfulness proved disastrous; as it happened, the goose and I narrowlyescaped with our lives and our precious balloon from the ensuing accident.Without sandbags to help balance the weight of the balloon, the basket wobbledcontinually. We had not even checked the weather patterns, and rushed into astrong wind which blew us meters into the air. There, we discovered that the fuelin the brazier was not enough to keep us afloat and soon began descending.Although gentle at first, a slight sinking sensation as the air in the ballooncooled, turned our descent into a plummet as we tumbled through the sky, thewicker basket hitting the ground with a thump that shattered its sides.

Istruggled to pull myself together, and wondered if all my bones were stillconnected as they had been before the glorious flight and the ungracious thud. AsI heaved myself out of the balloon debris, I saw the golden goose which lay likea piece fallen out of the sun, and what looked to be a gigantic green raisinlying deflated in the grass.

Upon seeing the wreck of our balloon, thegoose honked sadly, "'I had rather owner be/ Of thee one hour, than all elseever.'"

"Now, now," I comforted the goose. "There's noneed to go around quoting Donne. The damage is only superficial. We need to buy anew basket, perhaps, but the balloon itself escaped unharmed. There is enoughgold in your feathers to supply us with ten such wicker baskets!"

Oursecond take-off would be better planned. Now that the idiocy had been knocked outof us rather forcefully, we began thinking earnestly of practicalities. We wouldlive on the balloon, circling the world, only stopping to gather supplies and incases of inclement weather. We would see the world that lay beyond my patch offarmland, living as we desired and paying for it with the goose's gold, ourmeteorological observations, and our own scribbled novels. We would see theglacial castles of the arctic and the steaming jungles of the equator.

Forour prolonged flight, we assembled a good supply of food, water and instrumentsfor measuring weather patterns. We ordered an even larger basket, and equip-pedit with a compass, maps of every nook and cranny of the world, first-aid kits,stacks of books, all manners of writing paper and pens, sandbags, barometers,thermometers, an abundant supply of fuel, and a warm quilt patterned with red andyellow starbursts.

To start off our flight opportunely, we decided tochristen our balloon. This caused the greatest delay in our flight plans becausewe both knew the name must be perfect: it must embody every ideal, every fear offailure, and then come to stand for every success we wouldaccomplish.

"I have it!" squawked the goose one morning, wakingme with its raspy yell. "The Icarus! Our balloon shall be the Icarus! Theson who flew too close to the sun!"

"But that foreshadowsfailure,'' I replied groggily. "How can we start a journey by doomingourselves to failure?"

"Ahhh ... " honked the goosedelightedly. "Icarus doesn't always have to fail, now does he? We can takeIcarus's failure and ambition and redefine it to our triumph!"

Thevery backward hope in the name appealed to us both. We solemnly held the namingceremony for our repaired balloon at dusk, and prepared to take off at twilight,having determined that the winds at that time would be most gentle. This time wewould be lifted gently into the air rather than thrown tumultuously toward theclouds as in our first flight.

The goose raised its right wing and intoned"I, the Golden Goose, dub thee Hot-Air Balloon Icarus. Your mission shall beto find the hidden places of the world and to shine your green silk like a beaconfor all who have the courage of their convictions to follow."

As weboarded our balloon, leaving behind the world we knew, I asked the gooseuncertainly, "What about us? Icarus is well enough, but what about ourmission?"

"Oh," replied the goose, "that is the simplepart. 'To search, to seek, to find, and not to yield!"




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the October 2001 Teen Ink Fiction Contest.






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