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The Goose King and His Queen
In the late spring-summer, the foggy green pond pulsed with re-awakened life that bloomed fresh and full of verve from the damp muddy banks.
When the warm breeze blew, the long slender reeds that dotted the edges of the pond danced like gypsies, clutching pussywillow headscarves and flirting with the straw colored grass that grew in hushed clumps.
Dragonflies glittered in the hazy midday sun, like royal trumpeteers. They announced the arrival of the Goose King and his Queen, as they strolled gallantly upon the banks of the pond.
A majestic prince in high-glossed feathers, the Goose King sauntered past the gypsy reeds, ruler of the pond, watching contentedly as their bodies bent in a graceful arch of a bow.
His Queen followed, a soft white princess, the guppy fish nibbling respectfully at her mango-colored feet, as she lifted her wings and glided gracefully into the pond, like a lady attending to her petticoats before she entered a carriage.
The Goose King pursued her, sliding regally into the smooth green glass pond, nodding aristocratically at the fly-stuffed bullfrogs that rested upon their lily pad apartments, croaking their expected greetings.
Then, suddenly, the ground trembled anxiously with the sound of one hundred fast footsteps, reverberating from the banks and spreading across the pond, in the form of bumping ripples.
Three young boys stood on the waterfront, winded and trampling the gypsy reeds as they assembled on the earth. Clad in starched white shirts and creased black pants, they bore the rumpled-hair, grass-stained look of ten-year old boys who had escaped from the clutches of an afternoon barbeque, filled with grown-ups.
The Goose King honked at the juvenile intruders, flapping and beating his powerful wings, his Queen watching dolefully with wide scooping eyes.
The three boys on the bank laughed; the middle one, with hair the color of a dusty marigold, poked the boy next to him in the ribs. “James, look at that stupid goose flap about,” he said.
“Oi, goose!” James called out across the pond. “What â€˜chu got your knickers in a twist for?” The boys chortled once more at the sight of this proud pompous prince, defending his castle with great clamoring honks.
The trumpeteer dragonflies flitted in the sun, bodies glistening gem-color bright, as the mosquitoes flew forward, the knights of the pond, attacking the boys with their blood- sucking stingers.
They shouted and swatted, and the mosquitoes fell dead, the trumpeteers mourning as the broken bodies collected in the hush of the straw-green grass.
The largest boy ducked away from the knights, and then spotted a small caché of smooth gray stones.
“Wotcher, Ben,” James called to him. “You’ve found something, then?”
Ben grinned and waved the others over. “Yeah,” he said.
He aimed at the Goose King and missed, the stone whizzing through the air and sinking underwater, disturbing the guppy fish that were beginning to rest.
All three snickered, and the rocks rained down upon His Royal Highness, a slow heavy shower of large rough bullets.
The Goose King honked louder and beat at the murky green water, levitating from the surface and snapping at the air with his waxy orange beak, staying in his own stubborn spot as the stones plopped in the water around him.
And then, there came a small sick thud, and the three boys dropped their rocks and ran; a crimson circle of blood seeping out from the slender white neck of the Goose King’s Queen.
The pond fell silent, but for the bullfrogs’ lament, croaking raw raspy hymns until the golden glow of twilight glimmered off their dampened backs.
The Goose King stayed beside his Queen, nibbling at her downy feathers with his resinous beak, turning his face skyward on occasion to honk at the moon, a brash sharp stab of bereavement.
And then, without warning, the most majestic of all kings tilted his wings and was gone, flapping up and away like a feathery ghost, straight into the moon.
The next morning, when the pond was re-animated and forgetful, the Goose King returned, alone, preceded by his trumpeteers, the jewel-tone dragonflies zigzagging through the air.
The remaining gypsy reeds fluttered coquettishly, bowing as the great gander waddled past, the righteous and diplomatic aura that once surrounded him, gone.
The next day, and all the days after that, the Goose King returned to the pond every morning as he always did, with only half a soul. For the blow from the stone that killed his beloved killed a sizeable part of the Goose King, too.
La Vergne, Tennessee
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