Snow Goose!


Part 2

– his nose pointed towards the cold Northern sky: “Buhrrd!” he growled, warningly. The children stopped their game – and their eyes followed his nose, his hard stare. They finally spotted – long after Doggo – against the dirty washing lines of threatening clouds – a ducking and swerving object. Clumsily riding the knifey breeze that seemed to always blow down from those eternally frozen regions, a large object came slanting onwards, weaving and swooping, heading wobbly-crazy ground-wards, canting and wallowing and barrelling from one side to the other, obviously in much more trouble than it felt happy about.

It looked to be a very large bird, powerful looking – but obviously in strife from its beak to its tail. They all – including the pets – watched breathlessly as it lurched and sloughed about, losing height fast, flapping and slapping its wide wings, clearly not going to remain a graceful denizen of the high places for much longer.

Then the children now started waving their arms and cheering it on, as if to give it courage, thinking it might react like a tired hurler, and put a last effort in – and also showing the creature that it was welcome. These assumptions, of course, were probably way out, as birds seldom succeed in mind-reading – and in the current situation – the flyer was only interested in getting its feet safely on terra firma – rather than its chest, belly, and beak all at the same time. The dog growled a loud welcome, the cat mewed excitedly – those two craythurs with slightly different welcoming motives than the chidren. Whether all this commotion worked or not, with a final mighty effort the flighty one cleared the high ditch on Walsh’s side of the lane, scraped over the lane and the garden hedge, and slapped down, with a meaty thud onto the frozen grass. There it continued its progress, skidding along until it crashed headlong into a heap of bushes and rushes – luckily not seeming to wreck itself completely.

They all looked at it with open mouths – except the cat, who had slightly different feelings about winged creatures – seeing them mainly as flying dinners. It was snow white, and looked like a swan. The two children rushed over, and pulled the bushes and thorns away. They then dragged it – gently – back onto the grass, where it lay, exhausted and almost senseless. “Quick, Billy, go in and get the hairy pair’s sack’ – i.e – the pets mattress. Billy shot into the house, and was back in a flash. They rolled the dounced and dazed bird onto it, then dragged it up to the back door, where they backed straight into their Mammy, who was coming out to see what all the ructions were about.

A cool customer, all the Mammy said was “Ah, a Snow Goose, begor” – as if they’d only bagged a pigeon. At this sudden strange news/statement/ the twins let go the corners of the sack, nearly collapsing with the shock of it! “A Snow Goose, Mammy?” gulped Mary – “Are you sure?” A withering look was all that doubting query received. “Was I in Eccles Street College for nothing, was I? I might’ve became poor – but I’ve not lost my brains; now bring the poor creature into the kitchen near the fire, and we’ll warm the cockles of her little heart.” {Mammy always called birds ‘her’, and animals ‘him.’ And she was right too – at least half the time – which isn’t a bad average.

Her orders were obeyed – they always were; well, mostly… She ran a fair good home, poverty-plagued, but as happy as the feral gods of hunger and cold allowed. ‘No slouchers, grouchers, or moochers in this house,” she’d quietly growl, at any complaint.

The old cast iron kettle was filled from the bucket, and hung on the crane, kippens shoved under it, and the fire revved up with an ancient bellows. When the water was warm enough, they all got old bits of sacking and used carbolic soap to rub down the still-unmoving bird. They’d noticed it sneaking open a beady yellow eye a few times, so they knew their attentions were being checked on – and – they felt – rather haughtily approved of. After the trio got all the bits of briers and nettles removed, and the lovely feathers cleaned and smoothed back into place, it was getting dark, and the oil lamp was lit. They had their frugal little supper – a few cuts of bread and butter, and a mug of tea each. And lucky to have it.

Now they all sat round the Snow Goose, who was still lying quietly, clearly exhausted, and now having a well-earned restful snooze. The tarrier had tried to help, licking away at the feathers – but a chilly stare from a suddenly-opened yellow eye prompted a halt to his well-intentioned work. The cat sat on the hob, washing her face, observing all – and calculating how many handy feeds lay under the comely feathers – if things should turn out badly for the ex-flier. A scenario, to be honest, that the moggy hoped would ensue…

Just as the grooming session ended, there was a bit of a commotion at the door, and in rushed a small pig, closely followed by a big turkey. The curly tailed one skidded up to the front of the small fire, giving a few squeaks and handy buckjumps – as was, apparently, his usual habit. The turkey just stalked in and sat down on her ‘groog’ as we used to say. A silent meditative sort of bird.

“Well, becripes, yer all honoured by the presence of the Bonniv Branigan” go the pigling, snuffling happily, and giving small squeals “and how are all ye second-class craythurs goin’, atall atall, bejapers?” Then, noticing the new arrival, with a start, he squealed “Jaysus! A bloomin’ oul duck! Cripes – wotya let that oul quacker in here for, Mary? Janey Mac – it’s a woeful looking yoke altogether! Getteroutahere! Jaykers, ye’re keepin’ quare company these days, so ye are” – natter, squeal, squeak, etc etc! Quite out of breath with his hopping and spakes, he noticed a steady beady yellow eye fixed on him, a relentless sort of hard look, unwavering. After a few minutes, he squealed up again, rather peevishly: “And what are you staring at, Feathers, ay? Never seen a Royal Porcine member before, havya? Spake up there, ducksie!” he go, giving a few fancy little skips around the hearth, and nearly spilling the porridge cooked for the morning – for which he got a nice show of teeth from the Spotto – of whom he was secretly rather afraid.

Ned E


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