The Canadian Geese are starting. Sergeant Guillaume, in charge of the Uxbridge Chapter of the Fifty-Six-Trillionth Brigade of Wildly Annoying Canadian Geese, or, WACG, is rousting younger prospects, feathered Branta Canadensis with leadership potential for the coming migration south. This morning, I overheard the sergeant talking with a squadron of three hopefuls as they flew over my roof this morning.
"Okay men, necks out, feet up. Look sharp."
"I'm not a man," the starboard flier said.
"I beg your pardon?" Guillaume yelled.
Louder this time from starboard, "I SAID THAT I'M NOT A MAN. I'M A FEMALE. I'M A GOOSE. NOT A GANDER."
Guillaume looked over to her. "Ah. Right." He turned and looked to the two other geese on his port side. "What about you two?"
The private closest to him responded with, "About what sir?"
"About what I was just talking about," Guillaume said, irritated.
"Aaa, we couldn't really hear you. You know when someone's talking but they're facing AWAY from you and the sound is all garbaldy?" the private whined.
"Garbaldy? What is your name private? " Guillaume demanded.
"Salieri, sir," he stated.
"First name?" Guillaume snipped.
"Antonio, sir," the private offered, as quick as he could.
Guillaume faced front and they continued flying for a moment. Then, he turned and asked the name of the third private, in formation behind Salieri.
The private did his best to force his head even further forward, almost wishing it to move ahead off of his neck in order to deliver the information. "Frederick, sir," he said, just this side of yelling.
"Last name please," Guillaume asked, pissed that he decided to give up drinking when he did.
"Banting, sir. Frederick Banting."
Guillaume coughed, though geese don't normally cough. He shook his small, bulbous head and furrowed his imaginary eyebrows. He reached into his B-3 flight jacket and popped a cigarette into his beak, then patted his pockets for a lighter. A flame appeared in front of his face, held by the starboard goose. He extended his head toward it and pulled on his cigarette like you would a straw. The end caught. There was smoke. Guillaume nodded to the goose. She closed her lighter and put it in her pocket.
"Thank you private," he said, keeping his seed-shaped eyes looking ahead. "May I ask YOUR name?"
"Of course, sir. It's Arc," she said.
"Arc, eh? Arc. Arc." he repeated, then looked over at her. "Oh God," he spluttered.
"What is it sir?" she asked, slightly unsettled buy the look on her sergeant's face.
"You're first name, private–it wouldn't be Joan, by any chance, would it?" he asked.
"No sir," she replied.
"Oh thank the lord," he said, almost singing.
"No, it's Joan-of, sir."
"Fuck me and the pond I was born on," Guillaume said, out loud, but as a prayer to himself.
"Oh no. What did I do?" Arc asked. "How is it that you know who I am?"
"Oh, now, don't worry. It was just a hunch," he said and raised his shoulders and tilted his head in a nuthin'-to-see-here kind of flourish.
"A hunch sir?" she asked.
"You have an unusual name," he offered, more seriously this time.
"Do I sir?" she asked, her voice rising in question, then, "Yes, I suppose it is odd," in agreement and almost to herself. She paused. "IS it odd sir?"
Guillaume squinted because he had smoke in his eyes. He drew hard on the cigarette, pulled the smoke into his beak and then inhaled it through his nose, er, the little nose-holes on his beak. "Arc? –may I call you Arc?"
"Yes sir. Of course sir," she replied, crisp and shiny.
"We're geese, right?" he said, like it's no big deal.
"Yes sir. We are sir. Most definitely," she affirmed.
"Well, why ...STEADY FELLAS," he yelled. "GOLF COURSE AHEAD. WATCH FOR BALLS. AND HONK JUST BEFORE ANYONE FOLLOWS THROUGH ON A SHOT."
The squadron increased altitude and continued on course.
"Well, did someone put something in my coffee this morning? I've got Antonio Salieri and Frederick Banting on my port side, and Joan of Arc on starboard. Seem odd to you?" he asked.
"Sir?" Arc said.
"Those aren't regular Canadian Geese names," Guillaume said with a bit of in-case-you-didn't-get-the-memo dusted on top.
"Funny, sir," Arc answered. "I was just talking about that with Ella this morning at breakfast."