I see it almost every day. That is not surprising in that it is at the intersection where I cross the road to get to my bank, my pharmacy, and my favourite pub. It is a sad sight. Once it graced the corner with its lifelike beauty. Now it is a rusty wreck, like it had been constructed hap-hazard fashion from the twisted remains of a Ford pinto from the early 1970s. It stands in a small grassy area (too small to even be called a ‘parkette’), accompanied by a few trees that have seen better days.
In a way the two of us are alike. I used to stand straight and tall, could walk boldly with no fear of falling, had sleek black hair, and eyes that shone. Now I am bent over, walk carefully so as not to trip, have no hair on top, the rest is gray, and I am pretty sure that my eyes give off no light all.
The iron sculpture I am talking about is formed in the image of a Canada goose, wings upright as if it were about to take off, its two feet solidly placed on a black metal stand. It is much the same as I am now. It was once freshly painted, with very distinctive white and black markings that had often caught my eye and earned my appreciation when I was much younger. You would not be able to tell whether it was a real live goose or a beautiful work of human art until you stood right beside it. When the two of us were much younger, I was sometimes fooled from a distance. And my vision was good then.
Now I wonder whether some minor town official will declare it an eyesore, and it will be gone, and soon forgotten by everyone but me. Or maybe some kid, bent on destruction will take a hammer to it, and laugh when pieces fall off.
Even I am starting to forget its existence. I’ve walked past it a few times in the last few months, and never even noticed it or put any thought to it. If someone had told me shortly thereafter that the goose statue was gone, I might have believed the lie. I wonder how much I would have cared.
Then One Day
Then one day the unbelievable happened. Now real, live geese are a common sight in my town. They waddle down open fields, sidewalks, sometimes side roads even main street now and again – cars stopping when they see the parents on the road, leading the little ones. It is good that the adults are so big, so easily spotted. So as I was crossing the road with the numbers fast flashing under the green light -10 9 - 8 in front of my anxious eyes, I saw a small pack of goslings approaching the main street. I looked for the parents that were leading them. And saw none. And the little guys were getting nearer and nearer to the road in a bit of what I would call a frantic frenzy. Without adult leaders, and being hard to see from the driver’s seat of a car, they were destined for danger. I was still too far away to save them 7 – 6 - 5 -, and the cars would soon be speeding across their path as they usually do when the light changes, without much thought to what might be on the road. Poor little birds – they are surely doomed.
Then they stopped – Why? The answer came quickly. The goslings were clustered around the iron goose like it was a live bird, a guardian parent. I moved as fast as I could – 3 – 2 – 1, and stopped in front of them, blocking any exit to main street they might be inclined to follow. They did not seem threatened by my sudden presence. Then I heard two young voices cry out behind me “The old man saved the little birds. The old man saved the little birds.”
I told them, “I was not the one to save them, it was Gus here (the name came quickly to me, I don’t know why). So saying, I patted the iron bird on the head as if it were the family dog. The children followed suit, patting, and saying “Good Gus. Good Gus.”.
Their mother was a fast thinker. She had the animal shelter on the phone. She gave out a few ah-hunhs in reply to what they were saying. When she hung up, or whatever it is you do with a cell phone, she walked over to me, and told me that the folks from the shelter would be coming over to pick up the goslings. This wasn’t the first time they had to take care of parentless goslings, so they knew what to do to take care of them. Then she spoke softly so her children would not hear, “And they know that these little guys are parentless. They had looked for them yesterday, with no luck.”
The van from the animal shelter soon showed up, and the two women who burst out of its doors expertly retrieved the goslings, loaded them into the van, and took them away to a new, much safer life.
While walking homewards, I came up with an idea. When I got back home, I called the town, and asked whether it would be okay for me to give Gus (I did not mention his new name right away) his first fresh coat of paint in many years. I asked for their permission, as I didn’t want to get busted for breaking some obscure town by-law of ‘painting with criminal intent’ or something similar. I was told that it would be alright as long as I put a ‘wet paint’ sign in front of it when I was done. Just after that, I mentioned the name I had given it, and how the children had repeated the name.
Now, I’m no artist, but I had painted the fence around my house white, and living in the town that I do, I am quite familiar with where a Canada goose is white and where it is black. I have seen many in my long years. And Gus has given me a sense of purpose like I haven’t had in a long, long while. We will both be made fresh.