He spots me alone at the party and hands me a beer and tells me the story of the cement goose.
The goose resided on his next-door neighbor’s front porch. It dawned outfits to match occasions. The obvious being a red Santa coat and hat for Christmas and bunny ears for Easter. But it also celebrated obscure milestones: a yellow rain slicker for April Showers and a tuxedo for the local high school prom.
Actually, he remembers, the tux had only just been removed a few days before his abduction. This detail was highlighted in the neighbor woman’s letter to the local editor. She pleaded that the goose served as the family’s only pet and cherished heirloom. She titled the letter, “Who would do such a thing” with an exclamation point instead of a question mark.
I actually still have the clipping at my parents’ house in Ohio, he adds.
I do not question this.
He says he wrapped his arms around the goose and pushed it from their porch. He struggled the bird into the car and drove to a friend’s—after slipping a pillowcase over its head. When they arrived, he ripped it off. Two guys wrestled the bird from the car. The gander crashed to the drive with such force that its head cracked clean from the body.
He says he scooped the head from the pavement and drew Xs over the eyes.
He says he decided they couldn’t afford to keep the body.
You need to dispose of the body, he reminds me. No body, no crime.
They loaded the goose’s body back into the car. They drove to a bridge. They dragged it out and dumped the flightless, faceless bird into the river.
You know the river? The Cuyahoga. He says Burned through Cleveland.
I imagine him then: pulling a crisp, white pillowcase over the cement goose’s head and driving, serenely, to his friend’s house—the
He sets down his beer. I move up the stairs. He follows. He’s not talking about the goose anymore.
mounting hysteria in the backseat: the flapping of wings, desperate hissing, shitting and struggling—his throwing open the door and fighting the body from the seat with his weight in his heels;
I step into an empty bedroom. I don’t know how I know. No, I’m sure I’ll find it.
the head freed from the body, black blood pooling on the pavement; the new silence of the gone bird; motionless cement wings shoved and cajoled back into the car.
He takes the tuxedo. He changes quickly. He grins. I lead, pull him back down the stairs by the hand. I open the front door. He follows me through.
I study him: sleeves too long, pants dragging beneath his sneakers, and the limp, dangling bowtie. But I put my arms around him. (He gasps at my pressure.)
And I push.
Molly Gabriel is a writer and poet from Cleveland, Ohio. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Queen Mobs Tea House, After Alexei, and Jellyfish Review. She is the recipient of the Robert Fox Award for Young Writers. She has been selected for flash readings with Bridge Eight Literary Magazine and the Jax by Jax Literary Festival. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband and toddler.