This was not unusual. Parents of small children must keep to a strict schedule of Ruining Everything to prepare their brood for the challenges of life. It is important to get all your tantrumming out of the way as a child when you get the wrong colour cup, so that as an adult you can cope when your favourite movie is remade, or people like a new fad that you don’t like.
Up until this point, my parents’ preferred method of Ruining Everything was letting my sister sit in my chair and stopping us from watching Jurassic Park on endless repeat. The goose came as a surprise.
If you have ever met a goose, you know where this is going. You probably have your own Goose Story. In fact, you are probably cowering behind the couch right now because if you’ve met a goose and aren’t afraid of geese, either your name is Chuck Norris or you’re lying. And even if you are Chuck Norris, I’m sceptical.
Geese are objectively terrifying.
If you haven’t met a goose and think I’m exaggerating for the sake of humour, enjoy it while it lasts. Your Goose Story will come for you. Maybe it will happen on a picnic. Maybe when you stop your car on a road trip for a quick pee a goose will catch you with your pants around your ankles. Maybe it will happen inside your own house. One day, you’ll learn.
Just like I did.
Before this all unfolded, I thought I knew about geese. We had a large yard with a utopia of poultry—chooks, ducks and two geese. The geese were sisters. They had been my parents’ pets longer than I had been their child. They were lovely and gentle and shy. And, perhaps, this is the more noteworthy Goose Story. We called them the Grey Geese.
Maybe the Grey Geese are why my dad—who had been around longer than me, had met more geese, and really should have known better—thought a new goose would be just the thing.
The new goose was beautiful. He was sleek and pristine white with a submarine yellow beak and cornflower eyes. If he were human, he would not need Instagram filters. He was the Miss Universe of geese.
We called him White Goose.
He came for my brother first.
That first attack crossed a line that could not be uncrossed. White Goose got a taste for violence, and nothing would stop him.
My Goose Story was not a single event. It was not an afternoon of alarm followed by a good night’s sleep and amused retellings, the way my Emu Story was. My Goose Story was a nightmare cycle, an abusive relationship, a siege. My Goose Story was like camping in Jurassic Park. In fact, if you ever meet anyone who doubts that birds evolved from dinosaurs, introduce them to a goose.
Dad, the instigator of the madness, insisted that it wasn’t so bad.
It was that bad.
Our yard was no longer our yard, it was White Goose’s. I could not come and go as I pleased. I could not play where I liked. It was like getting the pink cup when I really wanted the green one. White Goose was, figuratively speaking, sitting in my chair. And my parents were allowing it.
(You have to get your tantrumming out of the way young.)
So instead of trying to avoid White Goose, I decided I would outsmart him. I would go where I wished. I would play where and how I wanted. No goose would stop me.
I tried being tall.
I tried being fierce.
And in one memorably innovative and stupid attempt I tried wearing armour.
Although actually I’m the eldest sibling, children under ten are basically tiny Bond villains minus the funding, and memories are a bit vague after two decades, so for the sake of honesty I should mention that there’s a chance that last one went a little differently.
In the end, I had to admit defeat. I could not outsmart a goose. White Goose had won. He reigned supreme over out yard for several long years, until one night he met with a large marauding dog.
We were free.
For a while.
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