“You know what? If’n it wus me tellin’ you that Zachary Goose is plannin’ to kill his pa, I wouldn’ heed neither, but I heard ‘em plannin’ it. I didn’ see who Zachary wus tellin’. He wus a tall fella, all trussed up in a suit. But I sure heard ‘em, I sure did.”
His dog sat with his head on Jake’s knee, lifting an encouraging eyebrow as the young boy poured out his story.
“I gotta warn Old Goose. Sure he’s old an’ all, an’ hoverin’ over his grave anyways – but yer gotta do what yer thinks is right, an’ murderin yer pa jus’ ain’t right.”
The moon floated above the trees at the end of the field. The world was silver and grey. Jake took down his coat from the hook on the back of the door. He was careful where he stepped on the staircase on his way to the back door.
Old Goose lived at the edge of town. A river bordered three sides of his property, like a moat around a castle. There was a muddle of buildings, including a large old barn. The brown stone house crept along the ground as each generation added another room. Old Goose planted a garden, not of vegetables like most of the townsfolk, but roses. Deep green leaves hid sharp thorns and the deep red and yellow blooms cast a heavy fragrance into the air.
Jake, with his dog at his heels, tumbled from one hiding place to another – once with his back straight against the wall of the town store, next curled around a tree on the village square, then lying beside the water butt beside the post office. His eyes skimmed the moonlit path ahead.
Jake had never been out of the house that early. Places that were familiar took on a hostile and unfriendly air. Things fluttered and shuffled around him. Had his mission not been so urgent, Jake knew he would be too scared to go on. He was worried that he would be too late.
“Jus’ gotta get there ‘fore Zach does,” he whispered to the dog.
Goose Farm came into view. A light in one of the windows cast a dull yellow glow over the rose garden. The front door opened and Old Goose stepped out. A second man, Zachary, stepped out behind him.
“Shoot…we’re jus’ in time!”
He ducked and palmed up a stone, round and cold. Marshalling his strength he hurled the stone on Zachary’s direction. David couldn’t have done a better job felling Goliath. There was a muffled thud, a thin shriek and Zachary’s legs folded beneath him.
“You OK, mister?” Old Goose had turned around to witness his son fall backwards through the doorway. A small trail of blood wound its way along his forehead.
“Jake? Jake Henry? What in the blazers huv yer done?”
“Saved yer life…that’s what. Yer son wus plannin’ to murder yer! I got wind of it’n’came ter warn yer.”
Jake ran through the events of the previous week. He had been collecting snails from the gravestones that stood against the church wall. Jake waited just that little bit too long to make his presence known as Zachary and the tall stranger strolled along the path through the graveyard.
“So, young Zachary…you are going to bury your old man at last! It is going to be a truly wonderful day. The Lord will be smiling. Smiling!” The stranger spoke.
“Those were his exact words? Bury his old man?” Old Goose’s shoulders shook, and a tear escaped and slid down his lined face.
“It’s OK, mister, he ain’t gonna do nuffin. Not now. Yer safe!”
The dog slid between Jake’s legs as Old Goose let out a howl of laughter, wiping his eyes and his nose with the back of his hand. His laughter, like waves on the sea shore, flooded and receded. Old Goose could barely stand shaking as violently as he was. He tried to pull his features into a more serious face.
“Jake, Zachary’s gettin’ baptised on Sunday. Stuff done t’him as a babbie seemingly ain’t good nuff. Buryin’ his old man? ’S preacher talk. That old man? ‘S the bit o’ him that heeds the devil. That’s what he’s burying. S’posin’ yer ain’t killed him already.”
Later that day, Jake watched as Zachary Goose was baptised in the river, burying his old man under the water. He bore a small red wound on his forehead.
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