Monday, August 29, 2016

Roast Goat

Photo by Michael Palmer - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Roast Goat
by Larry Heyl

Mikhael ran swiftly through the dawn, knees lifted high, feet barely
tapping the ground. He swerved quickly avoiding rocks and sticks
without thinking or looking. The cold air cut his lungs as he gasped

He entered the house running through the kitchen door and was brought
up short by the table. He leaned on it unable to catch his breath or
speak. His wife, Elena, brought him some water. The children ran down
the stairs sleepybugs still in their eyes. One look at their mother
told them they’d best be still.

“I saw them. The soldiers. Over the hill.” he panted out. “We’ve got
to hide the goats. They’ll be here soon.”

Elena spoke sharply to the eldest boy. “Jackson, you and Kelly take
the dogs and herd the goats into the back woods. You know where to
hide them in that thicket.”

“Leave the old billy,” said Mikhael. “If the soldiers find him they
might not look for the others. I’ll tell them we had to eat the others
because of the hard winter.”

Jackson and Kelly flew out the door and were gone in a flurry of
waving hands, barking dogs, and running goats. Elena set the younger
children down at the table and pulled out her largest pot quickly
filling it with water, turnips, and potatos. Mikhael went out to the
barn where he hurriedly hit the feed bags and his newer tools under
the hay. He took the billy into a stall and fed him from the remaining
bag of feed what he feared would be his last meal. The winter had been
hard and the soldiers would be hungry.

Back in the house the water was barely boiling when the soldiers came
over the top of the hill. They weren’t marching smartly and looking
sharp like they had a few years back. Before the battles they bristled
with pride and spit and polish. Now they looked a ragged bunch with
hunger in their eyes.

There were less then a dozen men led by a Sargeant. No officers. That
worried Mikhael.

He met them in the yard. “It’s been a hard winter.”, he said to the Sargeant.

The Sargeant didn’t respond ignoring Mikhael and signaling his troops
to check the barn. He walked to the house and into the kitchen.
Mikhael followed.

Elena met them at the door. “You must be hungry.” she said. “I am
fixing soup for my family but you are welcome to it.”

The Sargeant snapped his bayonet off his rifle and stabbed a potato.
It was still raw but he ate it anyway. “Don’t you have any real food.”
he said. “We need to camp and recuperate.”

Mikhael thought fast. “The other soldiers wiped us clean. You know the
ones.”, he said and he spat on the floor.

“When were they here?” asked the Sargeant glancing out through the door.

“Just last week. They said they’d be back. I wish you would stay and
protect us.”, Mikhael answered. The sargeant gave them a worried look.

Out in the yard a soldier shouted, “We found this old goat. Should we
start a fire and roast him?”

“We can’t stay long enough for that.”, ordered the sargeant. “You!”,
he pointed at Elena, “Take that soup out to the men.”

“Can I feed my children?” asked Elena.

The Sargeant snapped his bayonet back onto his rifle. “Your children
can eat after we’ve gone.”, he said.

Mikhael stood by his wife in front of the children. “You’d best do as
he asks.”, he said.

Elena took the half cooked soup out into the yard and then retreated
back into the kitchen scared by the ravenous soldiers. The sargeant
went out to eat with the men.

Mikhael went and stood by the Sargeant. “Can you stay then. I’m afraid
those other soldiers will be coming back. If you want me to I’ll kill
this goat.”

The Sargeant ignored him. After the last potato was gone he led his
men out of there.

“Let’s make some time.” he shouted. “They are expecting us in
Springfield in the morning.”

Mikhael watched them leave scratching the old billy’s ears. He
whispered to the goat, “I’m glad you can’t understand what I just said
old boy or you wouldn’t be so trusting.”

Elena sent the younger children off to the back woods for Jackson and
Kelly. Then she came and stood beside Mikhael watching the soldiers
trudge off in the distance.