Goat was in her trunk, dying but still kicking. Every so often his hooves thumped against the seat backs then for agonizing minutes he’d lay still again. During the silences Anna was sure he had died. Then he’d kick again.
Punching the gas, Anna took the final sip from her paper cup and tossed it on the floor with the others. She drove fast with the windows open to clear the gamey barnyard smell. Wind whipped through and tossed her hair all over. If she could make it to the vet fast enough there still might be a chance to save him.
If Goat died, Zane would go ballistic. He trusted her to goat-sit for him while his band was touring. It wasn’t much of a tour, a couple small venues in Pittsburgh and a short trip through some of the surrounding mill towns on the banks of the Monongahela and the Ohio. If they were lucky they’d sell enough CD’s to pay for the gas.
Honestly, this shit with Goat wasn’t her fault. Goat had a mind of his own. Still, she knew to tread carefully when Zane was upset with his bad temper and all. He had the tendency to fly off the handle, throw stuff around, and punch holes in the walls. He did that a month ago after she had told him she went on that camping trip with C.C. and Tommy while his band was off recording in Tennessee. It wasn’t like anything even happened; they were all just friends. But if Zane had made that much of a scene about a stupid little camping trip, thank God he never found out about the hipster boy who worked at the antique camera shop downtown. She had actually slept with him. If Zane ever learned about that incident she would end up stuffed in a trunk like Goat was now.
In her rear-view mirror, lights flashed and a siren squawked. She braked the car and pulled over on the soft shoulder. A coldness settled in the pit of her stomach just below her heart. It was like something asphyxiated in there. Hopefully, the dying goat would stay still. Otherwise she’d have to explain this ridiculous mess. A cop would never believe such an unlikely true story. Cops always believed dumb shit, but they never believed the truth.
This all started after Goat’s daily walk. She had left him for a moment out back tethered to the deck’s railing. While she was inside pouring herself a glass of gin he must have spooked and jumped because when she returned he was dangling there, sort of swinging back and forth, twisting slowly round its noose, mouth agape. He was too heavy to pull back up so she cut the leash with a butcher’s knife and watched his body crumple to the ground. When she descended the stairs and knelt beside him, she waited for any sign that Goat was still alive. She nestled her hand behind his ear and gave a hopeful scratch. Finally, he exhaled a tiny bleat, followed by a few shallow breaths. He opened his mouth slightly and licked her fingers. It wasn’t much, but it was a sign. There was still hope.
The officer approached, went though his spiel in monotone, told her how she was speeding, 14 MPH over the limit in fact, and that if he could just see her license and registration he would have her on her way shortly.
She fumbled with her wallet and handed over her license. Then she reached over and pulled the registration from the glove box. Two spoons fell from the box to the floor. The officer stood silent for a moment looking down at the spoons. Cars whooshed down the highway and the 18-wheelers shook the world as they rumbled past. The officer frowned.
“Miss Hollins,” he read from her license. His voice was sterner this time. “Why are there spoons in your vehicle?”
“Oh my God. It’s not what you think,” she explained, gesturing wildly.
“Are you a junky?” the cop asked. He was frowning now.
“No, no I promise I’m not,” she pleaded.
“Then what are the spoons for? Picnics? Ice-cream?”
“I know it looks bad,” she explained. “But I sometimes play the spoons for my boyfriend’s band.”
Surprisingly his face softened a bit and Anna flashed a big smile of her own. “This boyfriend of yours; is he a junky?”
“No sir, he’s not either.” This, in fact, was not entirely the truth. For a good part of five years he’d been on and off. Junk, then rehab, junk, rehab again, then junk followed by no rehab because rehab, he decided, was for the weak minded.
The officer considered this; Anna figured he’d probably heard all sorts of excuses from junkies before. But maybe this one was so absurd he’d actually believe it.
“You seem like a nice girl,” he said. “I’m going to let you go this time with a warning. Just watch your speed from now on.”
As he stepped away from the window there was a tiny thump from the trunk. It was barely audible, but just loud enough for the officer to stop and listen. Another thump followed, louder this time. Then came a bleat that sounded just like a screaming child. Who knows what the officer thought was locked in her trunk, but his smile disappeared and his eyes grew wide.
“Miss Hollins, what is making that sound?” The duty had returned to his voice.
“You’ll never believe—” Anna began.
“Open the trunk,” he cut her off. Another squad car pulled up, lights twirling.
Her hand trembled as she popped the back. The officer looked in, then reached with his hand and nudged its body. His stare returned to her. “Is this thing dead?”
“I can explain. I was goat-sitting and I hung it. Wait—I didn’t hang him. He hung himself, but he is still alive. I’m trying to get him to the vet.”
“So the goat attempted suicide?” he asked. He whispered into the two-way radio near his shoulder. A second officer joined him at Anna’s car. “Step out of the car please and keep her hands at your side. Go over there and have a seat at the side of the road.”
Anna cried: “I know this all looks bad, but please just let me explain. If you bring me the spoons I can play a song for you. I’ll prove I’m not lying.” She made a shaking motion with her wrists as if playing castanets and quietly began moaning a gypsy-like song to accompany.
“Put your palms on the pavement and leave them there where I can see them,” all the niceness had left his voice.
She wanted to obey, but she couldn’t. She pulled herself from the hot asphalt and stared at the puzzled cops staring down at a dying goat and a couple of spoons. She began twirling, round and round, like the way she danced when at one of Zane’s shows. A semi-truck raced by and a gust of wind puffed out the hems of her patchwork dress like a giant psychedelic mushroom. If only I were a mushroom, she thought, I’d eat myself and check out of this world and on to one better. A world with no Zane, no Goat, and no cops.
“Sit down!” the officers screamed.
But she didn’t care; she only spun faster and faster, singing Zane’s band’s favorite song. The screaming cops, the bleating goat, the roar of the engines on the highway—they all became one. And in that chaos, for a moment she felt powerful.