Connie Buchanan

Roadside Goat

There are some roadside goats, tethered to lonely triangles of tin, who used to be loved. Handpicked just after birth by a girl and a boy clinging onto a wire fence. Pointing and shouting We want that one! and then Oh no, that one’s bum hole is crusty, we want that one! The love was hard and immediate but would run a course of six months, maximum.

These are the roadside goats who logged hours of intense attention in their kid-hood. Brushed daily. Overfed by hand from a bottle with a long red rubber teat. Exercised around an obstacle course and patiently manipulated into a delicate prance along a wooden beam. All in preparation to be examined by serious grown men and women with clipboards. A judge wearing a stiff white coat over the top of her normal clothes saying, now, we didn’t shampoo Blair Jordan, did we, Joanna? We haven’t stripped the natural oils from the coat, have we? This really quite lovely lustre is purely the result of the daily brushing, is it? Excellent. Well done, Joanna. Blair Jordan is a credit, a real credit. He’s a lovely example of the Nubian.

The girl had wanted to call the wee tan goat just Blair. She had strategically landed on the name over her first choice Toffee in order to compete with her hateful best friend. This friend, Fiona, trotted out glossy little beasts every year upon whom she bestowed cool sophisticated names like Rhys and Damian so she could shame all of the other girls for being babyish with their Twinkles and Fluffys and Prancers.

The little girl’s brother wanted to call the same goat Air Jordan. It was an attempt at a sort of transubstantiation from living goat flesh to shoe leather. Christopher’s theory was that if Air Jordan was shouted out enough around the place his parents might finally cave and buy him the coveted white sneakers for the ridiculous you’ve-got-to-be-ruddy-joking sum of a hundred and ten dollars.

At the time of the Blair vs Air Jordan dispute, their mother had porridge and honey on her face and was trying to read about the ice cube blow-job technique in Marie Claire. She pointed to the magazine title and said, work it out you kids, lots of things have two first names. Even your name, Joanna, is sort of two names. Jo. Anna. Yours too, at a push, she said vaguely at the boy, who said As if, Mum, who do you know called Topher? The children knew they were being tricked into a solution. But they could also see how Blair Jordan already fit together and so they decided to let her think she had won.

Blair Jordan’s bum, clean from the beginning, became cleaner than any goat could ever have conceived possible. The little girl ran a wet wipe down the secret groove on the underside of his tail and then swirled a twist of towelette directly into his pink drainpipe. And this only after she had finished wiping out his little snub nose and dangly velvet ears, clipping and oiling his dark wee hooves, and dabbing Vaseline onto his twin baby horn buds to bring out a bit of shine.

Surprising, then, that it was Christopher more so than Joanna who was tortured by the sight of the teenaged Blair Jordan, red ribbon days behind him and now chained to a corrugated triangle of tin on the roadside. Blair Jordan had grown very long in the face. His ears were huge veined flaps of meat. His silky caramel-coloured coat had matured into a dusty brown mat. His eyes were no longer a sweet grassy green but a mean old-piss colour. All day long Blair Jordan reached and nibbled and reached and nibbled.

His anger, which came in random bursts, was a great hot bucking fury of flailing hoof and thrashing horn. He plunged against his chain and called out in a strangulated maa until he was hoarse. He was explicit in his intention to rip and gore any person who came within the perimeter arc of the chain, which during his rages seemed to stretch like elastic to give him a couple of extra feet of reach. The child who might very well have meticulously cleaned Blair Jordan’s anus with a moist towelette nonetheless now needed to cross the road to avoid him.

Christopher was so upset and confused by this change in Blair Jordan’s fortunes that he wrote a song for the school talent quest called Roadside Goats. It was partly a play for laughs from his mates and partly a venting mechanism for his real feelings about Blair Jordan’s plight. The tune was syncopated and clever with a chorus of mournful lyrics written from the perspective of his sister.

 

Roadside goat

So, it’s true

I used to love you

And now

I just don’t.

 

There was laughter from the audience in response, but it was more tentative and shocked than the kind Christopher was hoping for. He had miscalculated the reverb off his guitar. He failed to account for the acoustics of the room. He did not appreciate the distorting impact of the nasal accent, heavily influenced by Eddie Vedder, that he had recently started applying to his singing voice. A combination of all of these things meant that everyone in the room misheard his lyrics. The audience was convinced that he was not singing about roadside goats but instead about Rosa Coates.

Poor Rosa Coates was easily the prettiest girl in the class before her mother failed to indicate correctly at the dangerous Chun’s Bakery intersection. The windscreen shards glinted and flew at Rosa with face-slicing precision. Nothing Christopher said to Rosa, to Rosa’s guilt-ridden and still limping mother, to the deeply disappointed headmaster, to the calm school counsellor, could convince them that his song was really about a goat. When he was forced to recite the lyrics in humiliated spoken word Christopher knew there was nothing in them that would help his cause, just the incrimination of repeated references to past cuteness and current ugliness. He had not used the name Blair Jordan in the song because it was clearly a boy’s name and he didn’t want his mates to think he was gay for animals.

Now Christopher too crossed the road to avoid Blair Jordan. He went to the 599 section of the Dewey Decimal system in the library and learned that the robust Nubian goat lives for 15 - 18 years. Christopher’s parents liked their square yellow house and they ignored their son’s polite request to sell up and move away. Christopher thought briefly of needing to undertake the messy business of murdering Blair Jordan then disposing of his tough muscular body.

At one point in the next decade, Christopher went out with Fiona, the mega bitch ex-best-friend of his sister. Former owner of Rhys, also now a roadside goat, and Damian, long dead from a datura plant poisoning, her cool cruelty that had embarrassed his sister into abandoning the name Toffee was now applied to the young man who thought he deserved it. But when Fiona pranced across the perimeter of his inner life to mock his increasingly obscure songwriting Christopher felt a surge of hot anger and ended it with her.

Over the course of his adult life Christopher lived out an apology to Rosa Coates. He strove for clarity and unambiguity in his relationships with women. And he never once retold the story of the song debacle. Not even long after the hot wash of shame had gone did he turn it into a humorous anecdote. Not even when he was a tall musician called Topher who was invited to intimate guitar plucking parties where a self-deprecatory version of the tale would have played out like a can-you-believe-it charm to the circles of languid females.

Topher was at a gig in Düsseldorf and his sister Jo was power-walking with hand weights in a London park when Blair Jordan delivered his final bleat and died. An old goat-shaped husk still attached to his triangle of tin, he had been loved hard at the beginning and then never again.





Connie Buchanan

Connie Buchanan lives in Hamilton, where she works as a writer, producer, and communications consultant.