Branta Canadensis

She’d been there long enough that nobody remembered her name anymore, if anyone had known it in the first place. People called her the goose lady, if they called her anything at all. She didn’t talk, not to anybody, just sat sewing in the park, surrounded by her bags, every day, rain or shine. When the Canada geese stopped over on their way north or south, she’d sometimes wade out into the middle of them and let them climb into her lap, but not always. Only sometimes. She wasn’t scary enough that there were any legends about her. They left her alone, and if they happened to see her when they were walking down the street they kept their eyes carefully unaware of it.

She’d been beautiful when she was younger, and it was still there if you looked past her filth and stink and poverty, gone green with age like copper. Her fingers, where they peeped out of her burn-scarred gloves, were long and fine, though chapped from living out of doors and callused from sewing. She walked with her head high and her back straight. She would have been captivating if she’d had a bath and wore nice clothes, if there’d been anyone to look past what she was to what she had been, but of course there wasn’t. There’d been someone, once, a couple of years ago, who’d caught a glimpse and wanted her to marry him, but when she wouldn’t talk to him he went away. He’d guessed, somehow, the same way he’d seen through her disguise, that it wasn’t that she couldn’t speak, just that she wouldn’t. There was a whole life in his face when he said goodbye.

They left her alone and she worked in peace, picking her slow and silent way through the seven shirts, untroubled by human jealousy or attention, slowly ravelling the thread together year by year, and at last she was done, just in time for the spring migration. She was waiting on the grass by the pond when they came back, seven moss-green shirts over her arm, and was gone even before the water had settled behind the last goose, gone home at last, home again, with the seven brothers she hardly remembered after so many years, to a life no less alien than the one she was leaving behind.