I hurt my left ankle three days after the Bearded One got the flu, twisting it on the stairs or something, I don’t really know. I managed okay until today, Sunday, when I just can’t walk another step. I’ve been sitting in my rocker with my ankle raised and iced, reading.
The weakened Bearded One is in charge. He stands at the window, having just returned from his first trip to the barn and aviary this week. He has been so sick, he doesn’t really seem to care that we don’t get the Super Bowl channel. This will be the first Super Bowl he’s missed. Ever. But he is slowly getting better. The only lingering symptom besides seemingly bottomless fatigue is a cough.
“Do the goats and chickens miss us?” I ask. I feel like talking. It’s been pretty quiet.
“They prefer their own kind,” the Bearded One replies. He whispers lest he start coughing his brains out.
I see all three goats at the top of the hill. They are looking back at us, just as they’ve been doing all week. “Hmm,” I say, intrigued. I want to pursue this thinking, get philosophical, but it’s not to be. Yet.
“The rats are back,” the Bearded One says. “They tunneled under the storage cans behind the coop. I put the hose down the hole.”
I acknowledge the rat relapse with a groan, and then ask about the chickens. ”Are Stevie and Spot still broody?”
“I didn’t check.” He starts a coughing jag, moves away from the window, then shuffles away to the kitchen to get a Coke.
And then I see a flash of movement from up on the hill. Pearl stands on Goat Mountain, Sage is reared up on the ramp, and LaLa is racing figure 8s around both of them. “Yeeee hawww!” I sing out. “The goats!”
The Bearded One comes from way back in the kitchen to watch.
LaLa’s fluffy black tush comes into view, and then he streaks back around Sage and I notice how low to the ground he runs.
“His head is down!” the Bearded One says, gripping the edge of the window frame. “He’s going for it!”
Sage rears up and LaLa charges the ramp. They smash horns, and LaLa is forced back down. Then LaLa circles around the back, out of our view, and appears beside Goat Mountain. The Bearded One hoots.
Pearl slams her head down and clops LaLa’s side a good one, but he’s okay. LaLa rears up and even through the plate-glass window we can hear the clack of his and Pearl’s horns before he whirls away light as a quarterback who’s just thrown a perfect Hail Mary.
“They were happy to see you,” I say.
“Hm,” says the Bearded One. “Maybe.” He is grinning.
There’s something life-giving to us humans about animals in our lives, even if we might prefer our own kind. Why wouldn’t it work both ways? Why couldn’t our presence be something of a boon to the animals, too? Even if just for amusement.
Later that night just before I fall asleep, I hear the coyotes start howling and screaming from the forest. Winter is their mating season. “AAAyyyyyyyyyy—EEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!” Their cries can wake the dead. “Coyotes!” I call to the Bearded One, who is downstairs watching TV with earphones. Even in his sick state he gets up, thanks me for alerting him, and opens the back door.
He stands there for a very long time, listening to the coyotes howl.