Charley was a goose who lived with his family in the Canadian wilderness north of the Arctic Circle. Every year, about this time, there was a feeling of excitement in the air because all the flock was preparing to fly south to Mexico for the winter.
Every day, Charley's mother and father kept after him to get up and exercise, but Charley wouldn't listen. He just lay around his nest all day long. He couldn't be bothered to exercise his wings or clean his feathers like all the other geese. After all, he'd made the trip to Mexico last fall and he had made it there and back again. Charley thought he knew everything and he didn't need to be told what to do anymore! He was all grown up!
Day in and day out, Charley's friends and family would urge him to get out of his nest and come exercise with them, but he just wouldn't listen. They called him stubborn and some even called him lazy, but even that didn't ruffle his feathers. Charley just got more stubborn and lazy as the days went by.
Charley lay in his nest and laughed at the strange and silly antics of all the other geese as they exercised to gain strength for the long trip. All his friends and family were constantly practicing their flying, take offs and landings. For hours each day, they'd fold and unfold their wings until they felt that their wings were nice and strong and that they had everything just right.
Charley would turn to his mother and ask her what was for dinner and then he'd lie back in his nice soft nest and fall asleep. His father spoke to him each day about three things that he considered very important in life. They were anticipation, participation and awareness. His father warned Charley that if he did not start exercising right away, he would not be strong enough to make the long trip to Mexico and they would have to leave without him.
The more they scolded, the more Charley turned a deaf ear. Finally, tired of all their warnings, Charley decided that he wasn't going with them. He would stay right where he was. When he announced his decision, it brought gasps of shock to all his friends and family. No one had ever stayed behind in the cold, dark north when the flock had flown south for the winter! "What is Charley thinking?" they asked. "What is he going to eat? How is he going to find water that isn't frozen? How is he going to keep warm when the fierce arctic winds begin to blow and deep snow covers everything?"
But Charley wasn't concerned. He just smiled his smug little smile and paid no attention to anyone. He just settled himself more comfortably in his nest and waited for them to depart so that he could get on with living his own life. After all, he was grown up now and he could take care of himself.
The very next morning all the flock came to Charley's nest to tell him goodbye. Some even gave him bits of their nests and left over food. As he accepted their gifts with his smug little smile, he thought that he saw looks of pity in some of their eyes and he wondered how that could be. After all, he knew what he was doing, didn't he?
Amidst great hustle and bustle, the flocks began to take off and then it was time for Charley to say goodbye to his family. His mother waddled over to where Charley was lying in his nest and he saw that she had tears in her brown eyes. His father stood and looked at him for the longest moment and then he said goodbye and they both flew away. All his brothers and sisters wished him a tearful farewell and then quite suddenly, Charley was all alone.
After all the noise of saying goodbye the first thing Charley noticed was the silence. It was deafening! It was the first time that Charley had ever been totally alone in his entire life. He looked around the desolate landscape and then he did what he always did, he settled down in his nice warm nest and took a long nap.
Over the next few days, Charley thoroughly enjoyed himself. He loved being his own boss and not being told what to do all the time. He slept when he wanted, he ate when he wanted and he did exactly what he wanted, when he wanted. He ate a whole basket of apples and he ate cookies and ice cream and best of all, he didn't take a bath or brush his teeth. He was a very lazy goose indeed!
As the days passed, Charley began noticing things taking place that he'd never noticed before. The whole flock had usually flown south long before the deep snow and frigid cold arrived. Charley had never been there to feel the bite of the wind and the chill that hung in the air long after the weak sun came up. He didn't even notice that the days were getting shorter all the time.
One evening, as the weak sun was sliding below the horizon and Charley was getting settled for the night, he noticed that his food supply was running low. He decided that first thing in the morning he'd better begin looking for more food and fresh water. Charley spent a most uncomfortable night because the wind kept blowing off his blankets and he had quite a bit of trouble keeping his head warm.
When he opened his eyes the next morning, Charley was astounded to see that everything was covered with snow. The wind was gusting and it blew the snow around his head in little swirls. It was then that Charley knew that he was in a great deal of trouble. "How am I ever going to find food and water?" he thought to himself. He decided to stay in his nest until it stopped snowing and then he'd think what to do.
But the snow didn't stop; it kept falling all day and throughout the night and covered everything in sight. Charley huddled in his nest and he kept trying to brush the snow off his blankets. He was beginning to feel faint from hunger and his feet were beginning to cramp from the cold.
Finally, he couldn't stand it any longer; he thrust the blankets aside and staggered out of his nest. He stumbled through the deep snow, flapping his wings and trying to keep warm. Charley knew that if he didn't try to fly south, he would not survive the terrible winter. He practiced all day and when night came, he fell into an exhausted sleep in his cold, snow covered nest.
Bright and early the next morning when the first rays of sun came streaking across the frozen land, Charley crawled out of his nest and tried to fly. But he was too hungry and his wings were too weak. He tried to run into the wind to take off and he flapped his wings with all his might but nothing happened. Charley could not fly! He lay down on his snow covered blankets and a big blue tear rolled down his tired cheeks. "Maybe I should have listened to my parents after all," thought a very tired and hungry Charley.
Charley lay where he was for a little while and then he noticed that the wind had changed direction and that it was coming in strong gusts from the south. It was the perfect direction for him to take off. Gathering all of his strength and courage, Charley gave it his best. He ran as fast as he could into the wind and flapped his wings as hard as he could. His heart was beating wildly as he strained to become airborne.
Just was he was about to give up, a huge gust of wind came and lifted Charley up and away. He flapped his tired wings harder and suddenly, he was flying! He looked down to see the ground disappearing beneath him. He was flying! He was finally flying!
"I made it!" thought Charley. "Now if only I can find my family in Mexico." And he winged his way south as fast as his tired wings could take him. He flew on and on and he was growing more and more tired. Finally, he realized that he could not go on any longer and he looked down at the landscape that lay far beneath him. Off in the distance, Charley saw a large dark shape and he used what little strength he had left to fly in that direction.
As he got closer, Charley realized that the shape was a large barn and he stumbled to a landing just outside the barn doors. Charley lay there in the snow too tired to go on. He gathered his wings beneath him and fell into an exhausted sleep.
When Farmer Cook came out to feed his cows that evening, he was surprised to find the huge white bird lying on the ground in front of his barn. The farmer knelt and picked Charley up and carefully carried him into the warm barn. He made a nest for Charley in the soft, clean hay and gently laid him down. Then he went and got some water and corn for Charley and left him there for the night.
The next morning when farmer Cook went to milk his cows, he was pleased to see that Charley was awake. He picked up the pan of water and offered some to Charley. Charley was able to take a little sip and then he lay back in the hay. He was still too tired to move. The farmer patted Charley on the head and went to milk his cows.
It wasn't too long before Charley was feeling better and he began following the farmer around whenever he came out to the barn to do his chores and care for his animals.
As the days and the months slid by, Charley became quite famous and all of Farmer Cook's friends came by to have a look at Charley. Charley felt like he was king of the barnyard and he strutted around the farm like he owned it.
Then one day, Charley noticed that there was something different in the air. He felt his blood stirring and he felt quite restless. There was a feeling of newness all around and for some reason; Charley began flapping his wings and exercising like never before. He found himself constantly stopping and listening but he didn't know what it was that he was listening for.
Many days later, as he was watching the snow melt into little puddles, he suddenly realized what was happening. It was spring! And spring was the time when all the flocks returned from their winter in Mexico.
Charley lifted his head and looked carefully up at the soft blue sky. He looked and looked, but he couldn't see anything. Then, he heard the honking of a flock of ducks as they flew over far to the west. Then, day after day he watched and waited and he saw the flocks of snowbirds and robins arrive and he kept watching and listening.
Finally, the day arrived and he heard them. He heard their wonderful honking long before he saw them and he felt the pull in his heart. His family was coming! He had to go to meet his family! It was time for him to go!
Charley ran through the farmyard for the last time and as he flapped his wings to take off, he noticed his friend the farmer standing on his porch watching him. Charley flapped his wings with all his might and suddenly he was in the air. He flew in a large circle over the farm and looked down for the last time at the place that had been his home and had saved his life. He saw the farmer lift his hand in the air and he waved goodbye. Charley lifted his head and off in the distance, he saw a large flock of geese heading his way and he knew he'd found his family again. And Charley made himself a promise then and there. "When I get home, I'll be very, very good and I'll do everything my parents tell me to do and I'll never disobey my parents again!"
Autobiography of a Simple Soul
Memories, Another Place - Another Time
Recently Published Articles include:
Diary of Death
Ashland High School Graduation - 1963
Mr. Bunners & the Snowman
The Fishing Pole
M. Stevens-David Review: A Twist of Lyme:Battling a Disease That "Doesn't Exist" By Andrea Caesar
Childrens Stories include:
See also Vengeance is Mine a short mystery novel published at Magic City over 4 days.
All works by Martha Stevens-David published at Magic City Morning Star News are her copyright property and may not be reproduced without her permission.