[Braille Face flash fiction 5. This one is extremely unlike Braille Face, and yet the inspiration is very direct – the first track on DO. reminds me of geese.]
The geese were all talking over each other excitedly, or at least the important ones were, the ones who took turns at the front and knew the route. The annual trip to Ireland! You have to watch out for the Giant’s Causeway, as you fly over – it’s a must-see. And the green fields! You think you know green, but the tundra is nothing. Real green is in Ireland. And so many houses, low white ones and then grey ones all squashed together – the humans have peculiar tastes there, and they’re always building. Anyway, it’s a packed itinerary: hit the main sites across the north and east (the Mournes are nothing like real mountains – wait till you see the ones in Iceland when we go there – but they’re worth a glance from the air) then down to Dublin Bay and eat, eat, eat. The local cuisine is eel grass, delicately flavoured with diesel oil from the boats. And it’s a great chance to socialise. Who knows, you might make a good connection ready for – nudge, wink – the breeding season.
Martin listened quietly but he was deeply thrilled. It was his first migration and he wanted to relish everything. So he strained to look downwards as he flew and notice as many details as he could. Unfortunately his neighbours couldn’t answer many of his questions. Who cared what that circular mound thing with the white wall was? It wasn’t on the official tour, so it couldn’t be any good. Anyway, there was so much else to get to.
Once they reached Dublin Bay the flock took up residence in a sheltered tidal lagoon behind a sand bar. Martin thought he’d get his chance now to look around in a more leisurely way. However, the head birds kept the hours packed. They organised a healthy eating initiative and also a programme of quizzes, step classes and games evenings to keep everyone busy and having fun. Martin didn’t want to be unfriendly, so of course he took part.
Only a few days before the flock were due to leave again the leader of Martin’s eel grass dining club swallowed a plastic ring-pull and did not feel equal to the day’s proposed schedule. Martin quietly wandered off on his own. On his own, he flew over Howth Head. He landed on the roof of a building and heard curious, melodic sounds faintly coming through the chimney. He visited Ireland’s Eye and tried to make friends with some terns, but they were shy and avoided him. Then he went back to the bay, but he stopped on the sandbar and in the middle of the dunes he met a pair of larks.
“Isn’t this a beautiful place to live?” he said to them. “What is it like in the summer?”
“Ah, it’s alright, I suppose,” said one of the larks. “I wouldn’t be calling it beautiful. We’ve a terrible problem with the humans dropping shite. But it’s alright.”
“Oh, right,” said Martin. There was a pause. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he added politely, and flew off again to rejoin the flock. It was an uncomfortable moment, but he felt that his solitary afternoon had been a precious experience, that he had at last been really present in this place in a way he had never managed in all the preceding weeks. He was a natural contemplative, not truly suited to the relentlessly active and social life of a goose.
“What a nice accent,” said the female lark. “Canadian, I think.”
“Foreigners are all gobshites,” said the male lark, and ascended, displeased.