Weaver, Sue (Storey Publishing, LLC, 2011, ISBN 978-1603427906)
Years ago, in the intolerable heat of late December, I found myself stuck in the checkout queue at Coles. Somebody had told the man in front of me that if he drove in from Rosebud, Coles would sell him a whole goat. The preposterousness of the incident gave the employees some much needed respite from the toil of the Christmas season, so in spite of the rush, four of them ministered to him. It made tough going for the caprinophage. However plausible his accusations, four employees stood on hand to deny them.
“But I confirmed it,” he said.
“No, sir,” said the manager, “you must’ve misheard whomever you talked to.”
“We can’t sell whole animals,” said the woman from the delicatessen.
“So why did you tell me you could on the phone?” he said.
“You must’ve misheard,” repeated the manager.
“No,” he said, “to make sure I hadn’t misheard, after you said you had them I said, ‘do you know I want a whole goat, with four legs and a body and a head with horns?’ and you said, ‘yes’.”
“You wanted goat horns?” said the salesgirl.
“Goats have horns,” he said.
“We wouldn’t have confirmed it once you made it clear like that,” said the manager.
“You did confirm it,” he said, “Then I said, ‘do you have the goat there in the store now?’ and you said ‘yes’. So I said, ‘ok, I will drive in now from Rosebud to buy it’.”
“She-goats don’t have horns,” said the woman from produce.
“Both goats have horns,” he replied.
“Not the she-goat,” she said.
“Maybe you called a different store,” said the manager.
They kept this up for ten minutes. I think some Coles regulation forbade the manager from just pointing out the obvious realities of working in retail. At no point did she point out that, in all likelihood, for the sake of his or her sanity, the person he talked to had paid no attention to his question and then just confirmed whatever he wanted to confirm as a matter of reflex. That, to stay sane, the employees isolated their conscious minds from the drudgery of working there and just operated on reflex. You want us to spend all day bagging your groceries? How can you blame us if we can only shrink our souls down small enough to do it by becoming sleepwalkers?
A week later, I heard the bleating.
At first, I supposed that one of my neighbours owned something that sounded like a goat. A novelty doorbell struck me as the most probable culprit, but when I went out to vandalise it, the sound led me, instead, to the yard beside unit 3. Through the fence, I could hear the sounds of a goat or sheep bleating and moving around.
Over the coming week, I made a few attempts to visit the animal, but I could never catch its owner at home. I wonder if he may’ve gone away for the week, given its ceaseless bleating. I tried to imagine real estate agents in the area trying to explain the noise to prospective house buyers.