The bleating of goats. Ych. Every damn morning with them, calling for my dimwit brother to feed them, love them…love them! I mean they’re goats! Don’t get me wrong, it’s part of the job, but he’s the one who ends up crying when they’re gone.
I pull the sheets off and thump the bed above mine.
A high pitched yawn. I feel the bunk sway slightly before he rolls off the end, and as always, right onto his feet with a light thud. Another yawn between constant bleats from the window. Finally, he stretches and looks down at me.
“Good morning, Al.”
“Fuck you. Go feed the damn goats.”
He slips his shoes on and opens the wooden window panels wide. Sun assaults the room, bearing no leniency on any one spot. Primarily my eyes.
“URGHHHHH.” Frankie holds them open, leaning by the tips of his toes, out the window.
“Hey there, my goaties. Miss daddy?”
“CLOSE THE WINDOW. GO OUTSIDE.” He closes the panels and does so. I sit for a moment before they are forced open again, a bleat calling loud and obnoxious. I trudge up, curse unmentionable phrases at it and slam them shut once more.
My brother is already at the store counter by the time I finish getting ready.
“The goats all rallied?”
He pulls a rope lever by the register and the front door slides by wooden mechanism up the wall. I flip a sign up on the counter to read: Open. I sit back in my chair and read Goat Business Monthly. I like the articles.
Got it yet? We run a Goat Rental. People be needing goats these days like a goat needs feeding, which is all the fucking time, apparently. Can’t say I enjoy it, but a poor mountain boy like me needs the funds. Nourishment and all that shit. And of course for much needed occasional pleasures out on the town down the valley. I switch the magazine down to pull up a newspaper—let’s see what’s going on this week in Ghranite Town…local pub to host mayor’s birthday. Boring. Weekly avocado sale in the town’s famous market. Yuck. And then there’s the annual goat race across the mountainside. As asinine as that is, I can’t complain. Business is best this time of year.
“This woman wants to talk to you.”
I rise to see Frankie standing alongside a woman shrouded in purple robes, like some kind of funky-ass witch. My brother looks tiny alongside her. She moves up towards me, a box in her hands.
“The time to rise has come.” She puts it in my hands.
“Open it, Al.”
“Shut up, Frankie.” I hold it firm and for some reason I feel my heartbeat racing like rising drums in an orchestra. Yeah, I like that simile. Anyway I open the box.
Inside is a book, weathered and ancient. . By the time I look up, she is gone. I look to Frankie.
“Where the hell did she go?”
“She kinda just poofed out of nowhere.”
“Poofed?” He shrugs and I open the book.
Blank. Fucking waste of time.
“Look Al, a note!” I turn the book over—barely sticking out the pages near the end is a slip of paper. I take it out and read it.
“From the sacred prophets of Azlagore: Great grump of times never seen, race the goat of prophecy, and by your hand champion you’ll make, and kill the king, as is cruel fate.”
“What do you think it means, Al?”
“Probably nothing. Just the hallucinatory ramblings of some woman who thinks her conniving are worth a damn.”
And worth a damn they were. By utter misfortune and stubborn reluctance, I entered into the races. Frankie was adamant about participating. He coached the goat. Fed it. Trained it. God knows what else. It was a good goat though—and the fastest damn mammal I’ve ever seen run. Fucker broke 95mph in two seconds flat. Pretty sure I saw several hats fly off the immediate audience in the venue, and possibly even a hairpiece or two were caught looming overhead. We swept them off their feet—it was only a matter of time before we gained sponsorship and stormed the regional cups one by one. Then the national. By then we had attracted the disconcerted curiosity of Grand King Jonesy of the Southern Continent. He was cross beyond known levels of crossness. A common mountain bumpkin taking his 24th consecutive cover story on Regal Magazine—the nerve! “You clod! You hick! You oaf!” he called by payphone (as the royal phone had been confiscated by the Grand Queen Reena herself), “Couldn’t handle the simple life? Had to interfere with the livelihood of a king? All the well, then! A jousting at midnight’s strike this Saturday!”
“Midnight as in Saturday morning or Saturday night into Sunday morning?”
“Midnight as in early morning.”
“Saturday you dope! Saturday in the early hours!” he said, hanging up.
The seats were packed, the stadium ornate and regal as fuck. Frankie sat by Grand Queen Reena, a personal goal I’m sure, checked off his bucket list. The King rose behind a vast curtain to match his wide build. His steed adorned with gold and deathly-looking spiky things. Devilish horns rising off its fitted helmet. My goat had a leather saddle.
The audience went silent. The offset pistol shot loud. We rode. Death inched closer in mind as our lances aimed onto our respective hearts. But my goat was faster. By a lot. He died quick.
They say luck is left to the fools for the hard-working to pick up the pieces and make luck themselves. I don’t know what that means, but since that day I’ve lived life in the best way possible. Ol’ Queenie and my brother went and eloped. I sold that damn goat shack. Didn’t want to be a king. Now I’m a librarian. Good times, good times. You know, for a librarian.