Lewis woke up a goat.
Not an innocent dupe or the fall guy to a doomed enterprise. Not a straw man fronting a sinister evil who consummated a scheme.
Lewis awoke as a real goat. Horns, overbite and stinking of urine.
Lewis wasn’t the most attractive squire when he was a man. He tried to tame a flyaway head of brown hair that attracted static no matter how much Sir Horatio’s Magic Hair Tonic he slopped on his scalp. He opened his maw a little too wide to talk and when he did his teeth appeared jutted and upended as if a box of Chiclets gum spilled into a shirt pocket.
But he never smelled of urine. Mrs. Grink would never allow it.
“Mother!” he thought, scampering about on the straw. “She must be worried sick for not finding me in my bed!”
Every morning before Lewis left for the real estate office, Mrs. Grink would serve him peanut butter on raisin bread toast with a glass of Tang.
She didn’t let Lewis drink coffee. Nor was he allowed to chew tobacco or frequent Johnny's. She refused to let him eat eggs on account of losing Mr. Grink to high cholesterol. (Mr. Grink ran off with the buxom secretary from his cardiologist’s office.)
“What’s today?” bleated Lewis. “Tuesday? I’m going to miss the office meeting and caravan. I have a new listing--”
Lewis stopped. He looked above the wire gate of the stall and perused the barn. He squinted to read a sign over the entrance on the other side of the building.
Although he couldn’t see above his pen, Lewis heard other goats scratching at the dirt floor and bleating incessantly. He guessed twenty goats occupied identical stalls.
Lewis remembered. He drove out yesterday afternoon to pitch Old Man Sorley about listing the place. Sorley’s wife died years ago. He had no heirs. The Sorley spread was coveted by every moneyman and cityslicker, offering fifty of the last buildable acres in Montrose County.
Lewis hoped to land the deal and prove to the other agents in the office he was more than a thirty-nine year old ham radio hobbyist living in his mother’s basement. Everyone knew that Teddy the broker kept Lewis on because Lewis could squeeze up into the rafters and reset the attic fan during the humid summers when the circuit breaker tripped.
Lewis wondered if he could still shimmy up Teddy's trap door as a goat. Goats were known to be good climbers.
He heard a latch on the barn door and then the shuffling of feet. A shadow of a stooped figure made its way toward the goat pen. Old Man Sorley dragged his right foot.
Sorley wasn’t more than five feet tall fully stretched. Frail and skinny, he wore a men’s size small that accentuated a physique similar to a teenage girl. Yet he possessed a Herculean strength.
One story told that Sorley lifted a lame mule out of a drainage ditch only to find the animal drowned the night before in a flash flood.
That stirred the coffee clutch down at Johnny’s Diner with Buckles Hefflahan joking, “How many Sorley’s does it take to save a mule? None. The dumb ass up and drowned while the other ass gave it mouth-to-mouth!”
Lewis remembered how he belly laughed at that one while sipping his black coffee. He always drank coffee down at Johnny’s. Lewis was, after all, a Grink and Grink men struggled with independence. Grinks were known to be good followers.
“Think you were going to hijack my land?” asked Sorley as he leaned over the goat pen.
Lewis tried to speak but the only sound that came out of his hairy snoot was a throaty bleat, “Hraaaaaaa.”
Sorley possessed unusual features. His dark-ringed eyes protruded at least a full two inches from each other, spread far apart from his triangular nose. If Sorley was an animal, he’d resemble a sloth. A demonic looking sloth.
“My family been tied to this dirt for a hundred years, Lewis Grink,” boasted the old man.
“Hraaaaaaa,” bleated Lewis.
“I got the spirit in my blood. I make old magic,” Sorley hissed. “You think you the first suit to drive out here and try to get me to sign that paper.”
Sorley smiled. “Listen Lewis Grink. Listen to all the other fancy Nancy’s from Main Street who came out to try and grab my farm. I got me thirty two goats who used to be real estate brokers. There’s a drawer in the house filled with pens and flag lapel pins.”
Lewis stopped bleating. He wasn’t going to see his mother again. He wasn’t going to finish the Lego model of the Golden Gate Bridge. He wasn’t going to wear his Batman pajamas late at night to watch kung fu movies with English sub-titles.
He was going to die on Sorley’s farm a goat.
His eyes watered. Hot tears trickled down Lewis' hairy cheeks, tiny drops that fell softy into the dirty hay. The grin on Sorley’s face faded. The old man stifled a pang of sorrow for the little spotted goat that stood before him.
“Awww, don’t be doing that now Lewis Grink,” he said. “There’s worse things to being a goat.”
Yet Lewis continued to cry in silence.
The old man shuffled back and forth and grew anxious.
“Now you stop crying Lewis Grink. I oughtn’t feel bad for turning you into a goat. You’re just about the worst real estate agent that ever come up here anyway. My sister used to babysit for your Papa. She told me the Grinks were just about the most foolish dunwoodies in these parts. You’ll live longer as a goat. It’s safer.”
And still Lewis cried.
Sorley dragged his right foot to the left and back again. He uttered strange words to himself like “scragdangit” and “beesmidget.” He chewed on his thumb and kneaded his knobby fingers.
“Aright, aright,” howled the old man, “I’ll turn yer back. But promise me Lewis Grink that you’re going to quit this real estate nonsense and move out of your Mama’s house. And don’t ever let me find you drinking coffee and assembling with those fools down at Johnny’s!”
Just then a tremendous bell went off in his head and Lewis slumped to the dirt floor unconscious.
He awoke in his bed. Mrs. Grink prodded him.
“Lewis, sweetie, get up. You’re going to be late for work.”
Lewis looked up at his mother, a simple woman with dimpled cheeks and a head shaped like a dented cantalopue. He felt his face. Smooth and clean shaven. He wasn’t a goat.
“I’m not going to sell real estate anymore, Mama. I want to work in a toy store.”
Mrs. Grink smiled wide, her pale blue eyes lit with excitement.
“I think that’s a lovely idea, son,” she said as she pulled the sheets down and helped Lewis get out of bed.
A stench rose up from the covers and Mrs. Grink pinched her nose.
“Goodness, Lewis! What did you do! Did you pee the bed?”
~ ~ ~
Andrew J. Lenza (c), Copyright 2011.
Lewis woke up a goat.