LENORA MATTINGLY WEBER
THIS darksome, chill and snowy March morning seemed made to order for a man who has to catch up on sleep after his late shift at a broadcasting station. But Paul Gary was not catching up on his this morning. An odd and irritating sound probed through his slumber.
His arm groped drowsily for his wife. But Emmy’s side of the bed was empty. He focused a half-open eye on the crib in the corner. But the baby—the youngest of their four—was sleeping soundlessly, a blanketed cocoon of hurnped-up behind and wispy blond hair. Then it wasn’t the baby who had wakened him.
He heard it again. It was the querulous bleat of a goat—and Paul swore fullheartedly into his pillow. Couldn’t a man even get his well-earned sleep without his enemy disturbing him? . . . And then his sleep-fogged mind remembered his conversation with the policeman last evening.
He smiled in secret smugness . . .
Paul on a sudden inspiration had asked him, “Officer, isn’t it against the law to keep a goat inside the city limits?”
“Oh yes, there’s laws about such things. That comes under the Zoning Board and the Health and Sanitation department. Trouble is, they can’t keep track of people that keep livestock in town unless someone turns in a complaint.”
“Well, I’m turning one in and you see that they send an investigator out. These |>eople live on the corner of Thirty-first and Linden—it’s a big, grey house. They have a goat and it’s a nuisance and a menace.”
Paul watched the address go down in the policeman’s notebook. The law enforcer need never know that he, the complainant, was also the head of the house on the corner of Thirty-first and Linden and that he had to prod the law into issuing the edict which the head of the house himself wasn’t hardboiled enough to issue to his wife, Emmy, and his four children.
EMMY, the gullible, the warm-hearted, the impractical, the unpredictable Other couples made monthly payments on tidy, white-painted houses with untroublesome plumbing and heating systems, while the Paul Garys squeezed out payments on this forty-two-year-old house away out on Linden Street. It’s shabby grey exterior begged for a coat of paint, its furnace needed an asbestos overcoat, and since moving in the Garys knew all the plumbers in town by their first names.
Other couples had pedigreed cocker spaniels to grace their house and yard -and what did the Paul Garys have? A pale-eyed whiskered goat named Rachel that was heavy with kid.
Three days ago when Paul had driven home from work he found in their back yard a great wad of children completely surrounding some object of interest. Little Sissy, who was almost four now, had come running out to the curb to meet him and to ride, like a clinging caterpillar, on his leg.
Emmy left the small mob and met him at the gate. Her face was rosy with the March chill and highlighted with the contagious excitement that Paul always had to stiffen himself against. It struck him with wonder, as it always did, that Emmy could be the mother of four children, the oldest eight and the baby eleven months, that she could l>e wearing an old green sweater with every button otf but two, and still be so alarmingly pretty and desirable.
“Paul, guess what! We’ve bought a goat.”
“We've bought a goat?” he had flung back at her. “But, Paul, you know it just didn’t seem right to have to pay forty-two cents every day for the baby’s quart of milk.”
No, it hadn’t seemed right—that extra twelve
dollars and sixty cents monthly to the Supreme Goat Dairy added to their already staggering list, of monthly payments. For they had no sooner bought and moved into this run-down, two-story house than they were faced with so many musts. Repairing the roof, putting up a fence to keep little Sissy out of the street, replacing the cracked toilet with a new one. It hadn’t seemed right that Donnie, the baby, should develop an allergy to cow’s milk so that the doctor prescribed a quart of goat milk daily.
“We named her Rachel,” Paul’s oldest son, Vincent, contributed.
And six-year-old Put said gravely, “We don’t want to get her excited because she’s going to have a little goat any day now.”
Paul looked into the pale and inimical eyes of the grey-white, whiskered and misshapen goat. “Who unloaded this Rachel onto you, Emmy?” “The man from the Supreme Goat Dairy. He said if we took her now she’d be used to us by the time she came fresh. She’s a four-quart goat., he said. The only reason he sold her was because— well, he said she wasn’t a good herd goat.”
“A rugged individual, I suppose.”
“Look, Paul,” Emmy said fervently, “don’t you see how perfect it is? She’ll eat the garbage and
fertilize the roses. She’ll graze the lawn so you won’t ever need to cut it. And we won’t have to pay out twelve dollars and sixty cents every month for Donnie’s milk—”
“I’d rather pay for his milk than for Rachel.” “But she’ll pay for herself. Look—four quarts a day. We can sell goat milk to neighbors. There’s nothing better than goat milk for ulcers. When she has her little kid we can sell it. And we’ll still have Rachel.”
“Think of that. I can give up my radio job and we’ll live on our income from Rachel.”
Emmy giggled. “Not income—output«.”
Vincent, the literal, said, “Sometimes they have twins.”
Paul groaned. “Emmy,” he said helplessly, “we’ve just moved into this neighborhood. It’s what is known as a good neighborhood even though our house is a two-story rattrap. Do you want everybody to refer to us as ‘the people that keep a goat’? Do you want all the neighbors to hate us?” “But we’re on a corner, Paul. The only neighbor we have to worry about is Mrs. Elliott next door.” “We’d better worry about her,” Paul said vehemently. “That’s all we need—to get in hot water with Mrs. Elliott.”
At the very mention of her name Paul frowned.
We’ll Still Have Rachel
Life with Emmy and her four youngsters was full of surprises. When Rachel showed up with her three kids it was just too much for a man to stand
They had bought this house with such eager and undue haste in order to move out of the two rooms in Emmy’s Aunt Lou’s basement. It wasn’t until after they had moved in that a minute examination of the abstract proved that what they thought was their lot line extended four feet onto Mrs. Elliott’s property. Which meant that if she wanted to be drastic she could claim part of the Gary driveway, as well as a slice of the brick barn which some tenant had halfheartedly converted into a garage.
“But she’s so nice,” Emmy said.
Paul said, “I can’t imagine Mrs. Owen P. Elliott with her three different fur coats and her teas for celebrities and her committee meetings living
happily ever after alongside us if we go in for goats.” “She seems real neighborly and nice,” Emmy repeated.
. . . Oh, Emmy, Paul had thought, you and your farm-girl friendliness, you and your being sure the world is made up of neighborly people . . .
NOW, on this snowy March morning, Paul remembered the policeman writing their address in his book, and he burrowed into his pillow. Let the Zoning Board and Health and Sanitation Department hurry and send out the burliest policeman on the force to tell Emmy she had to get rid of Rachel.
But he couldn’t sleep. Doors were slammed. Someone came bolting up the stairs; that would be Vincent, whose tiptoe was as loud as a horse’s trot. He came into the room where his father was supposed to be sleeping. A dresser drawer rasped as he yanked it out. He took something—-it. must be the electric heat pad because the plug at the end of the cord clackety-clacked after him as he galloped down the hall and stairs.
Little Sissy was yelling shrilly from the head of the stairs, “Couldn’t I use this old pink coat of mine?” Next Emmy came scurrying in to their bedroom and grabbed some extra bedding from the foot of the baby’s
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crib. He reached out a hand to check her, but she was gone without even noticing it. She didn’t even look back at the baby, who was working himself into an upright position.
Paul could hear a loud, whispered conference at the foot of the stairs, “Let’s bring Donnie down and let him see, too.’’
Emmy returned. She took the baby in her arms, wrapping a blanket about him. Paul said, “If the place is on fire you might let me know.”
Emmy’s voice shrilled with excitement. “Get up and pull on your robe nnd come on down to the kitchen and see what we got.”
PAUL stood in the doorway of the kitchen, which had been heated to incubator temperature. The gas oven was going full blast with the door open. His eyes took in the scrambling mass on the floor. His three children were sitting or kneeling there and, though their faces had a shining brightness, they were not so bright or pert, as the faces of three newborn goats.
On one Sissy’s pink coat was buttoned. Another had Paul’s plaid flannel hunting shirt wrapped about it. Another lay on the electric heat pad while Vincent rubbed its damp silken hide and crooned softly to it. “This or^p was the last one,” he said. “It’s so little and weak.”
Even as he said it, the last-born leaped to its feet with cocky agility, cavorted stiff-leggedly about the kitchen. It backed up and butted the chair on which Paul had left his best camera. He rescued it as the chair toppled.
“We're going to call them Faith, Hope and Charity,” Emmy said.
Sissy announced, “Vince can have Faith and Put can have Hob Hope and I can have what is the name of mine?” “Charity,” Emmy said. She was stirring some rolled barley in a pan in the oven. “I’m warming Rachel’s breakfast. The poor thing had such a hard night.”
Paul said, “You didn’t, by any chance, think to make any coffee for your husband? He had a hard night,
“Coffee?" Emmy said blankly. I’he little goat, dragging a sleeve of Paul’s hunting shirt, rubbed its head chummily against Emmy’s overalled leg. “Aren’t they cute, Paul? 1 just wonder why they put lambs on tombstones.”
KACHEL did not graze the front lawn so that Paul need never get out the lawn mower. Instead, when they staked her out, she disdained the grass and ate the roses down to the roots (for which she w'as supposed to supply fertilizer) and the tulips and the bridal-wrenth bushes as well.
She ate the garbage just once. On a busy afternoon at the radio station Paul receiver! a telephone call from Emmy. “Paul, Rachel isn’t feeling very well.”
“Really! Well, I trust it’s nothing trivial.”
“Paul,” reprovingly, “she’s real sick. She got colic from all the apple peelings and the shriveled-up apples in the garbage. You know I cleaned out that bushel of apples in the basement. I had to get a vet for her. 1 asked the man at the Supreme Goat Dairy and he told me about this one that was good with goats—”
“The perfect bedside manner, you mean.”
Emmy didn’t appreciate his wit. The veterinarian’s fee was three dollars, and the prescription, which
Paul called for, was a dollar sixty cents. This white powder, mixed with warm water, Emmy administered to a bloated Rachel at two-hour intervals. All the neighbor children gathered to watch Emmy straddle Rachel, gripping her neck tight with her knees, tipping her head back and pouring down her protesting throat the liquid out of a ginger-ale bottle.
KACHEL was her old self in two days but her milk output never came back to her four-quart classification.
So there was no extra milk to sell to neighbors with ulcers because Faith, Hope and Charity devoured every drop that wasn’t saved out. for Donnie. In fact, many days Vincent or Put was sent hurrying to the neighborhood grocery for extra cow’s milk for which the little goats, unlike Donnie, had no allergy.
They had no allergy to anything edible.
For blocks they would follow any boy who was eating an apple or stalk any man or woman who carried a sack. Sissy delightedly regaled Paul with a story of how she was sitting at the table with a ginger snap and how she dropped her hand to her side, and then she looked and the ginger snap was gone. And there was Charity chewing on it.
“Emmy—goats running through the house! How do they get in?”
How didn’t they? That one loose corner on the screen, which Paul meant to fix, had become a bulging hole by the time he found the hammer and tacks to repair it. let. anyone leave a door open a crack and the little goats found it.
They had a passion for heights. "Their father must have been a mountain goat,” Paul said, watching with both reluctant admiration and ready irritation as one leaped onto the wheelbarrow, poised gracefully for the higher
and more precarious footing on the top rail of the fence. The picket fence built to keep Sissy within bounds did not fence in the triplets.
WHY didn’t a representative of the law come from the Zoning Board or the Health and Sanitation department. now? Four assorted goats on one city lot! When ten days passed Paul surreptitiously telephoned in a second complaint. When Zoning asked his name, he evaded, “I’m just, a property owner in that neighborhood.” The little goats were three weeks old before Paul came home one blowy April evening and heard that an investigator had called regarding their livestock.
“Was it a policeman? Did he tell you you had to get rid of them?” he asked Emmy hopefully.
“At first he was kind of hard-boiled,” Emmy admitted. “We were just eating lunch and I gave him some coffee and a piece of pie. He said he wouldn’t have bothered us if some old sourpuss of a neighbor hadn’t reported them twice. But when I told him about Donnie needing the milk and how, as soon as the little goats were weaned, we’d find homes for them—he was just awfully nice, really.”
“You do like our goats, don’t you?” Sissy queried anxiously of her father.
“No, funny face, I don’t like goats and I don’t like four-legged kids.” He picked her up in his arms. “Two-legged ones I can take if I have to.”
He raised his voice to ask, “Emmy, have your goats—big or little—been trespassing on Mrs. Elliott’s property? This morning when I backed the car out of the garage and spoke to her I got a very clabbered good morning from her.”
Immediately there was a silent and shared conspiracy between Emmy and the children. It made him feel an outsider. Emmy became very¡ busy retying a bow on the end of Sissy’s braid.
THE session of Legislature had just closed. As a good-will gesture the legislators were giving a banquet to all the Press and Radio men who had covered it.
It was a gala occasion for the Paul Garys. Last year when the banquet was held Emmy had not been able to go because Donniehe who developed hives from cow’s milk—was just putting in an appearance.
This year Emmy's Aunt Lou had been prevailed upon to stay the evening with the children while Emmy and Paul attended it. Emmy was to go resplendent in a new dress. Paul had made an extra twenty-five dollars, broadcasting a prize fight, and he had pressed the two tens and the five in Emmy’s hand and said, “Here, Toots, you take this and get you a dress as voluptuous as you can find on the twenty-five dollar rack.”
Paul was just sliding his feet into his black shoes that smelled festively of shoe polish when Emmy, after lastminute instructions to Aunt Lou, came hurrying in. Paul said, “I’m waiting to be startled by your new dress. Let’s see it.”
Emmy turned from the shoe-bag on the closet door and rubbed one pump diligently with her apron. “You know, Paul, yesterday an insurance man parked his car across the street. I guess it was while he was in collecting or something that Faith and Bob Hope —Charity stayed home—jumped up on his fenders and then they jumped clear up on top his car. And—well, he had just had his car polished and they —I didn’t think they scratched it up very much—but he said they ruined his polish job ”
“Yeh?” he prodded ominously.
“He said it cost him twelve dollars —it was a big car—but he said he thought if he took it back to the same place they would redo it for ten—” “I know where he could get a whole new job for eight . . . So you gave him ten. Okay, let’s see what you got with the fifteen you had left.”
“I guess I told you, didn’t I, about the vet saying that it was a fallacy that a goat could live on garbage— especially a milk goat. He said to feed her rolled barley and alfalfa. The rolled barley was two ninety-five, and you can’t get less than a bale of alfalfa and it’s gone upit used to be a dollar —but now it’s a dollar fifteen.” “Anything else?”
Emmy put down the pump and began working bobby pins out of her hair with troubled fingers. “Last week Vincent staked Rachel out— but somehow the stake pulled up. She ate Mrs. Elliott’s two little Japanese crabapple trees. She felt pretty bad about it.”
“Surprising. What did she say?” “She said they were very rare ...” “And I suppose Japanese crabapple trees have gone up, too?” “Yes, they have. They were only five dollars for two when she got them two years ago, but the nursery man said if he came out and put them in and guaranteed them they’d be seven fifty . . . But I had enough left to buy a shirtwaist—a Gibson girl shirtwaist they call them, and they wear them for evening with long black skirts.” 1 Paul looked at the lace and insertion trimmed waist which Emmy handed out of the closet. He felt its starched sleaziness between his fingers. “I’d say they still made tw’o dollars profit on it,” he said shortly.
Emmy said miserably, “Maybe you’d rather I wouldn’t go—Paul, I know we can’t go on keeping Faith and Bob Hope and Charity. But if we could just find someone who would give them a home. The vegetable man offered
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to buy them—-he’d give us five dollars apiece for them. He wants to roast them. For Easter. He wants to invite all his relatives in.”
He felt the shudder go through her. He said, “Get into your two ninetyeight Gibson girl and let’s go.”
ON THE Thursday before Easter Emmy again donned her Gibson girl shirtwaist, and Paul again polished his black shoes. Their neighbor, Mrs. Owen P. Elliott, was giving a small and select tea for a visiting Polish pianist who was to play at the Easter symphony.
The Paul Garys were among those invited. It might be, Paul reasoned, because he had interviewed the pianist on the air. But at any rate the invitation eased his worrying tension. Surely a neighbor wouldn’t ask them to break bread (spread with caviar) with her if she were nursing a grudge over her chewed-to-the-ground Japanese crabapple trees.
As Paul and Emmy walked the short distance between their grey-painted house and the well-groomed Elliott one, Emmy had to turn back. One of the little goats had vaulted over the picket fence and was acting as escort. “Every place that Emmy went the goat was sure to go,” Paul recited as Emmy caught it.
She carried it back and put it in the barn.
Mrs. Owen P. Elliott’s tea was just what Paul had feared a tea would be. Little self-conscious groups and surface conversation. An urging of the pianist, to play. The Paderewski concerto tinkling and thundering through the high-ceilinged rooms and out through the open French windows into the late afternoon of the May day.
Paul envied Emmy her God-given ease. The hushed cathedral tone of it all kept him tongue-tied. He was overly conscious of Mrs. Elliott; she was such an imposing virago of a woman in her grey lace and silver pearls.
The musician was still sitting on the piano stool. He had been served there, and he was holding a wisp of curled celery in his long fingers while he discussed Bach with his hostess.
Paul stood at the dining table. He was just reaching for a sandwich, a little less decorative than the others, when he felt the light chatter suddenly cease. A startled unnatural silence fell.
He turned and looked in the direction of the pianist. The pianist was staring unbelievably at his empty fingers in which a piece of celery had dangled. The celery was now being chewed noisily and happily by Faith or was it. Hope?
In the silence Paul heard the staccato clink of hoofs crossing the tile of the sunroom with its open French windows.
He felt, the swish of Emmy as she went bv him. She tried, with her wide black skirt, to shoo them out of the door which someone hurried to open hopefully. But the three wouldn’t shoo. They skittered in all directions. One leaped onto the piano stool which had been nervously vacated. . There was the crash of keys as the keyboard served as a springboard for the higher leap onto the back of the grand piano.
Whatever there was to jump upon a little goat jumped on it. The window seat, the low bookshelves, the coffee tables, the ottomans. The house seemed suddenly alive with prancing, dodging, vaulting white goats. They were as elusive as moths.
Emmy finally cornered one on the divan and grabbed it. up and thrust it into Paul’s arms. The musician caught one by a hind leg. He seemed happily proud of himself “Always grab by the hind leg,” he beamed. “You have the
firm hold—so?” he asked Emmy, as Emmy fastened desperate fingers into the silken hide of its neck. The third was pushed out the door by some guest who closed it swiftly.
Paul didn’t dare speak or even glance at Mrs. Elliott.
They left the party—Paul carrying the suddenly docile Hope under his arm and a disheveled Emmy dragging the recalcitrant Faith along with her. Charity followed.
AT HOME they thrust them into the barn-garage. They probably wouldn’t have this building much longer, Paul thought grimly, as he blockaded the door with a sawhorse. Just as soon as Mrs. Elliott could take time off from her teas she would consult her lawyer about extending the lot line her legal four feet.
Wordlessly Paul and Emmy entered the house. Emmy’s bargain blouse had been rent by a flailing hoof. She was breathing hard but her face was white and stricken. She explained to the children.
Vincent and Put were voluble in contrite explanation. They had just let the little goats out of the barn to show them to a boy who walked clear over from the boulevard to see them— and then they came in the house to get a tail for their kites—
Emmy said flatly, “We’ve got to get rid of them. We can’t keep them after this.”
They only gazed at her in silent despair. Paul wished they would make a fuss, so he could enlarge on the repeated iniquities of Rachel’s three. But even when Emmy said, “We’ll have to tell the vegetable man he can take them,” there was neither outcry nor argument. Just a stunned acceptance.
Emmy found a pencil and sheet of paper and, holding young Donnie on her lap, wrote the note to the vegetable man. She gave it to Vincent to deliver. He went off on his bicycle like a bowed old man. He returned, like a still older one, and reported hollowly, “He said he’d stop on his route tomorrow—and get them. He said—he’d—he said they ought to hang a day or two before —before—”
Paul walked over to the radio and turned it on full blast.
WOEBEGONE household ate supper.
But, lying in bed, Emmy spoke through the darkness, “It won’t be so so bad if all of us are away tomorrow when the vegetable man comes for them. I’ll take the boys and Sissy with me when I take Donnie to the doctor’s. They can watch the goldfish in the pool there in Courthouse Square while the doctor gives him his checkup.”
Paul tried to make his tone casual and conversational. “His skin breaking out is all cleared up now, isn’t it?” “Yes—it’s all cleared up. When I gave him his bath this morning, 1 noticed it . . . You don’t want us to keep Rachel either, do you?”
“There’s no use keeping her, is there, if the doctor says Donnie doesn’t need goat milk?”
She didn’t answer that. But after a minute she said thinly, “If only you and Rachel weren’t so unsympathetic toward each other. I think if you both tried harder—”
THE next afternoon, which was Paul’s afternoon off from the radio station, he was left alone at the Gary residence. Alone, except for Rachel staked out securely in the back yard, and the triplets, thumping about and bleating dolefully in their garage prison.
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Emmy and the tour subdued children — for even Donnie had looked sober in his faded sweater and cap had departed in the car. Paul watched them drive away. How gentle and protective the boys had been in keeping the ugliest facts from Sissy. They had ridden off with their arms protectively around her.
He might as well do something while he was waiting. What could he do for the children that would ease this inchoate stirring of guilt in him? Two more days until Easter. He would boil some eggs and, as soon as the family returned, they could dye them. Dipping eggs in purple and red and blue dye would surely take their minds off the emptiness of the barn-garage.
He put the eggs on to boil; he hunted up cups and bowls for the dye.
The doorbell rang. He opened it on Mrs. Elliott . She said accusingly as she came in, “Those goats, shut up out there in the barn, have nearly driven me crazy. They haven’t let up once this whole day.’’
“I know,’’ he said coldly. “But their bleating is almost over. “We’re getting rid of them.” He thought viciously, There now, you old harpy, 1 hope you’re satisfied. If we weren’t worried to death about keeping your good will “Rid of them!” said Mrs. Elliott. “Yes —I—” He broke off as the familiar horn of the vegetable man sounded. He looked out of the window to see the battered blue truck with its tarpaulin curtains.
The vegetable man got out, stood listening with happy anticipation to the bleats that came from young and tender milk-fed goats.
And seeing him standing there, smiling and smacking his lips, Paul turned desperately to his visitor. “Ix>ok, Mrs. Elliott 1 just can’t stay here to see those —them go into that man’s roasting pan. It’s too much “Roasting pan ! What does he intend to do with them—”
“I’ve got eggs on boiling for our kids to dye when they come home— I’ve got to go to the store—I mean, would you mind telling him just to go out to the barn and get the little goats himself/ And tell him to make it
snappy because Emmy and all of them will be home any time now ”
“Why I’ve never heard of such Unheeding her protests, he dashed from the house. It took him a long time to get the dye—a long time to walk the four blocks home.
The truck was gone. Faith, Bob Hope and Charity were not gone.
His four children were crowded onto the back step feeding them what remained of a box of crackerjack.
“Well!” Paul said feebly. “Well!”
A volley of explanation came from the children. Mrs. Elliott was sure nice. The vegetable man was sure mad, too. But Mrs. Elliott had a cousin no, it was a nephew, one of them corrected—and he had a place out in the country—and it had an orchard, this place—and they could send the little goats out there. And all of them could go out. on Sundays and visit them.
“Well!” Paul said again. “Well—imagine.”
Emmy came to the back door and the boys moved over to make room for her to descend the step.
“What’s this—what’s this?” Paul said.
“She won’t eat any,” Put said.
“Not even hot dogs,” Sissy said. “Hold on.” Paul turned to Emmy. “What do they mean—”
“It seems,” explained Emmy, “that we live next door to the second vicepresident of the—”
“Liver, even,” Sissy finished up for Put.
you just asked this town’s most orthodox vegetarian to hand over Faith, Hope and Charity to the roasting pan.”
“Did I now?” said Paul.
“And —oh. Paul the doctor says Donnie may possibly need goat’s milk again. We can’t be sure. So—”
“We’ll still have Rachel, huh?” But suddenly it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter a bit. As long as a man had a wife like Emmy at this moment standing close to him, and children who were half Emmy, at this moment feeding little goats crackerjack instead of eating it themselves, there would always be Rachels—and surprises. Vr