by Randy Schroeder
I phone a moving company. The crew arrives a week early. It is composed entirely of children who are much stronger than you'd think. I watch: nothing they're moving was ever in my house. For a time they are seen but not heard. Their attitude is not irony or pastiche or genuine Victorian obedience, but rather some kind of aggressive posture I have no word for, and understand only in my shoulder joints as a coruscating desire to have the blades pressed back together and tightened with some kind of cinching shoulder compressor. Whose house am I in? One mover is a Grandfather Child the likes of which you see wandering the malls. He seems very old, but strong. He is scented with rosemary chicken. The crew chief is a baby. I expect him to talk, but he doesn't. He has a single tooth, a molar where the incisor should be. His tongue is thatched with blue, as if he has recently eaten popsicle fragments. I instantly crave slush though I have not had a cold drink in decades. I have no teeth.
"What do you want us to do with the teeth?" says a Tom Sawyer boy with twine encircling his waist.
He waves his paint brush and grins. "Too chill on the gums? That box there."
"That box. Take it to the basement."
"I don't have a basement."
I crouch on fat stub legs and lift with wee arms. They are much stronger than I expect. The chub at the wrist is creased, as if pinched by tight rubber bands. I look up at the Tom Sawyer boy. "Why downstairs?"
"We're moving everything upstairs to downstairs, then back up again."
"Not my call. Instructions arrive through High Frequency Trading algorithms dished from a server on the moon."
"Not any more."
"Where's my mom?" I say quite unexpectedly.
I begin to cry.
"Now in Nepal," says the baby crew chief. "Sorry. Bhutan." He waits a beat. "Now in some place called Canada." He shrugs dirt lump shoulders.
"Wha—" I retrieve myself. "Where?"
"Pakistan," says the Grandfather Child. He is Caucasian only from the waist down, and should really put some pants on.
"Where do I bring the goat's eyes?" someone calls in a chilly soprano. He screams. "Hey! These pupils are rectangular!"
We all laugh at his infantile distress. Then I begin to cry again.
* * *
My sweater vest begins to prickle. I have no shirt beneath.
"Lordy, it is hot in here," says a goat.
My shoulders unkink.
"Hells bells, a right furnace," continues the goat.
My knees, choked by arthritis and old injuries, relax and stabilize.
"Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego take me. Heavens below and Kit Marlowe, I am sweating to beat the band itself."
My thoracic vertebrae drain their aches and crackles.
"First and Second Great Fires of Amsterdam and Heavens to Betsy, I could drink a glass of your fine lemonade, and perhaps sample a tot of that delicious used Kleenex, the Ultra Soft… "
I can suddenly see up close without my reading glasses.
The goat stares eyeless, with great compassion. "Sirrah, child. Tut. No need. No need."
I am so collapsed with relief that it feels like my cells and even my atoms drift away from each other while space rushes between in cooling rivers of pure nothing.
I cry out. "Consider the lilies—"
"How they grow!" finishes the goat.
I seize and hug her. I smell the garbage on her breath. By some serendipity her broken horns are perfectly spaced to dig gently into my armpits.
Here at last. Here at last. I did have a goat. This is my home.
Randy Schroeder is the author of many short stories and of Crooked Timber: Seven Suburban Faerie Tales, almost all under the pseudonym A.M. Arruin. He currently lives in the Porcupine Hills of Southern Alberta, where the water is sometimes potable. His story, "Baby Bakes Valhalla" appeared in Issue #3 of The Cafe Irreal and "Mart of Darkness" in Issue #36.