Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Gossip/Rumors (either or both) (10/28/10)
TITLE: Delusions of Ganders
By Timothy Klingerman
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The sun had just cleared the tops of the trees, and he knew he was the only one on the wing since dawn had painted the sky a soothing yellow.
Spying a group of familiar geese near a pond, he swooped down, skimmed the top of the water and burst through the cattails shouting, “Hey, fellers! There’s a late flock come down last night in the winter wheat ‘cross the lake.”
He was met on the bank by a dozen ganders wagging their heads, hissing and scolding him for interrupting their meeting.
Tango, the smart aleck of the group, razzed at him and honked, “Yeah, Crooky, we know all about it. Where you been? Buildin’ a nest?”
Crookbill shrunk down and turned his head back while the others laughed. He wondered how they could have spotted the gaggle across the water before he did.
Marshall, their leader, broke in, “Shut your beak, Tango! I wanna hear what Crooky has to say. So far, all I’ve got to go on’s a rumor in Radar’s ears.”
Crookbill had his answer now. Radar could hear a fox tiptoeing in a rustling corn field from two miles out. In the still of the morning, he easily would have picked up the flock waking up across the lake.
The others began to chatter.
“Come on, Crooky, spit it out. What’d ya see over there?”
“It ain’t a bunch of them Graylags is it?”
Radar jumped up into a defensive posture. “Y’all tryin’ to say my ears don’t know a Graylag from a Canada? I’ll peck the ears outta your feathery heads…”
“Shut up and let Crooky talk!” Marshall repeated.
The group became quieter than geese are known to be—lonely ganders, each focused on finding an eligible goose.
“Here’s what I seen, fellers. There was dozens of ‘em…”
“Told ya there was dozens!” Radar cackled.
“…Still as the mornin’ air,” Crookbill continued. “They was nestled down in the wheat—Canada geese fer sure. I flew close enough to tell that.”
“Reckon they’s from French Canada, boys? Ooh la la!” Tango quipped.
“Shut it, Tango!” Marshall did not want to miss a single detail due to Tango’s jokes. “Now, Crooky, tell me anything you saw that was outta the ordinary.”
“Nothin’. They was all restin’ from a long flight, best I could tell.”
“Forget the geese. What else?”
“Jus’ the winter wheat and the mist off the lake playin’ games with my eyes a bit.”
“How’s that?” Marshall quizzed. He turned his head to the left and focused his right eye straight at the spot between Crookbill’s eyes where the beak meets with feathers. “What games?”
“Oh, it weren’t nothin’. Thought I seen a dog tuck down in the wheat, follered by a tail whip. Musta been the mist risin’. ‘Magine a dog midst all them geese . . . they’d scatter t’ the wind.”
Radar erupted, “I’ve heard enough—and hearin’s what I do best. Crooky’s done said what I already knew. There’s females over there jus’ waitin’ for us ganders to come a-callin’, and I ain’t gonna lollygag and let some northerner beat me to ‘em. Let’s go, boys!”
Marshall jumped in front of the group and spread his wings wide. “Hold up, Radar! I’m pullin’ rank on them orders. You may have good hearing, but you lack my good sense, and that sense is tellin’ me to go with hard evidence over hearsay. There’s no accountin’ for a dog among geese.”
“You goin’ with Crooky’s eyes over my ears? If there was a dog yonder, I woulda heard it. I’ve follered you ‘round my whole life, and it ain’t got me nothin’. Now I’m gonna use my southern charms to woo me a sophisticated goose, and you and your wings ain’t gonna stop me. Who’s with me?”
Tango and most of the group flew off in formation behind Radar. Marshall, Crookbill and a few others stayed behind. As they watched their friends descend on the field across the lake, the sky exploded in a cloud of feathers. A second later, muffled thunder rolled over them and echoed softly off the hills beyond.
“Hunters,” Marshall said quietly. “Good eyes, Crooky. I knew that tail whip was a warnin’. No matter how well you can hear, not all the news that tickles your ears is true—even if you wish it was. Radar learnt that too late.”
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