“You know, I am in a good mood,” Goose began. “That trot of mine really got my mood sparked with jovialness. Let this mug be on me, my good Mr Peccary!”
Buffalo was humbled. “Thank you,” he said softly.
“It’s no matter, my friend. Without you, how could our village be built? The roads? The bridges? Your mill has done nothing but good for this village for generations! This next cheer will be for your father, also!”
“You’re drunk already,” Buffalo said with a meek smile, infected by Goose’s persona.
“By no means!” Goose said. “I’ve but had a sip. You must place the blame on Peccary for any carousing I may perform later. I asked for a strong drink, not a preemptive painkiller for an amputation!”
The group laughed as Peccary trotted and hopped over with another mug for Buffalo. The new and old mug exchange was made. Goose raised his greyhound: “To the Buffalo clan! Their labour has built this village! Cheers!”
“Aye, aye!” Sips were had. “You’re alright, Goose,” Buffalo said through gasped air after he imbibed a large gulp. “Despite your strange walk, you’re alright.”
Goose shrugged, humbled. “A compliment from Buffalo is worth a nugget of gold in my book! Thank you, you burlish nut you.”
“It’s a shame no other patrons are here to lay ears on it, Mr Goose,” Peccary added behind a guzzle of his ale. “Not a soul will believe you!”
“Pishaw!” Goose honked. “They’ll believe me.” He took another drink; his second sip was easier.
Goose, Buffalo, and Peccary exchanged pleasantries, largely discussing the results of a local sporting match. Buffalo was a strong supporter of the local team, and the current conversation thus detracted his mind from the larger issue at hand.
From outside the hall, a clattering of voices grew louder, approaching the front door rapidly. The mysterious discussion from outside was spoken at a feverish pace.
“Oh my,” Goose said. “What a ruckus that is! The night is about to begin, it seems.”
Peccary nodded, knowing precisely who were about to barge in. “You’re right, Mr Goose.”
The cacophony of chatter slowly became more distinct. “How dare they!” “Can you believe it?” “Well, I never thought I’d see the day!” These sentences were heard by the three inside. Then, the door opened.
“Good evening!” It was the Goats: Billy and Nanny, Buck and Doe, and Wether, the youngest. The first pairings were married, leaving Wether, the brother of Billy and Doe, the stag of the group. The Goats flocked together at all times and opined freely on every subject.
“A beautiful evening,” said Billy.
“Gorgeous,” added Nanny.
“Such a warm evening. I am sticky with sweat,” lamented Doe.
“Always going on about the weather,” sighed Buck.
“I do not!” Doe shot back.
“Yes, you do,” chimed Wether softly.
“I would like an easier way for us to get up the hill,” said Buck.
“Yes! Where is my gold going to, anyway?” asked Billy.
“Hello, Goats,” Peccary impeded as he buffered Buffalo’s drunken mug, “what will it be for you? I have the cure for your over-heatedness, Misses Doe.”
The Goats sauntered towards a middle table, quickly taking their seats. Buffalo and Goose watched.
“Dear me, I am wrought with thirst,” said Doe. “A glass of your house chardonnay, if you don’t mind, darling.”
“Right away,” said Peccary. “And?”
“Make it two, please,” pleaded Nanny.
“A round of beer for the males,” charged Billy, the largest and grayest of them all.
Peccary flicked his head towards the row of draughts and barrels stamped with an array of fancy logos. “Which will it be? Speckled Hen? Piglet’s Stout Ale? Blonde Mane?”
Buck waved disapprovingly at these choices. “No, none of these fancy-smancy concoctions. We want a simple, tried and true beer created by real villagers: Trough Water Light!”
“That’ll have to come in bottles,” said Peccary.
“Right away,” Peccary jumped out of sight below the bar and into the cellar through a hole fit only for him. The clanging of glass bottles could be heard.
“Lovely to see you all again, Goats!” called Goose.
“Thank you, Mr Goose,” said Doe. With coordination, Billy and Nanny and Buck and Doe smiled and waved at Goose, then slowly turned their heads and dropped their frowns towards Buffalo. Wether carried a happier face.
“Hello, Mr Buffalo,” they choired joylessly. Wether brushed against the tune with a happier tone.
Buffalo nodded his head. “Goats,” he said gruffly.
“We haven’t seen you since the town hall meeting last week,” said Buck. “Been hanging out up here, have you?” They, except Wether, laughed.
“If I can keep away from all your babbling, then yes,” Buffalo said.
“My!” gasped Nanny and Doe.
“Ha! You’re a sour fellow,” Billy said. “You weren’t like this back when we were kids, you know?”
“You weren’t always so saintly as you feign,” Buffalo said, smirking out of his own amusement.
“Always a pleasure, isn’t he?” Doe said quietly amidst her own trip. Billy and Buck laughed, and Wether smiled.
“Feisty,” said Buck. “What a hoot!”
Goose was uneasy with the rough banter, “Now, come on! It’s a wonderful evening, indeed, just as you said Mr and Mrs Billy and Nanny. Will the Kids be joining?”
“They ought to,” said Billy. “I’m sure they will.”
“Great,” honked Goose. “I enjoy speaking with them. Sharp kids!”
Peccary returned from below the depths of the mountain with three bottles of shivering beer laid on his back. Balancing carefully atop the necks of those bottles were the two glasses of wine. Doe and Nanny laughed childishly.
“What show! Bravo, Peccary!” they cheered. Billy pulled out a satchel of coins and placed it on Peccary’s back after removing their drinks. Buffalo raised his fresh mug and waited, as did Goose with his drink.
“This ought to cover us for a second round,” Billy said moments later.
“But, please, count it again, just to make sure,” urged Nanny.
“You don’t trust my counting?” Billy questioned harshly.
“I didn’t say that!”
“She didn’t say that, brother,” said Doe.
“Always nagging, aren’t ya? Can’t go a nice evening out without being accusatory!”
“Stop it, honey,” Nanny said dismissively.
“I trust you, Bill,” said Buck.
“That makes one critter!” Billy wailed.
“You’re an inconsiderate a—-” A thunderous slam on the table interrupted the bickering Goats. Buffalo’s wilfully intended pounding on the stone table shook the hall and stunned the hearts of all.
“Shut your snouts and raise a toast already!” Goose slowly scooted to distance himself from his raging friend.
“Such violence,” muttered Nanny.
“Yes, fine,” said Billy irritably. He raised his bottle high, followed by the others. “To the evening.”
“Cheers!” said the Goats.
“Cheers,” closed Goose. Sips were had.
Goose finished his greyhound. “Mr Peccary, I desire another, if you don’t mind. Eh, not so strong this time, if you also don’t mind? I must admit that I feel the tingling numbness in my beak already!”
“You are drunk,” Buffalo teased.
Goose lowered his posture and hunched closer to his hairy friend, so he could harangue him more directly. “And you are a drunk,” he said hushedly. “An angry drunk! Calm yourself.”
Buffalo only bellowed another sigh and took another drink, ignoring Goose, who continued: “I understand you’re angry about the change in the village, but it’s no use taking out your anger with booze, hitting tables, or shouting at the Goats! Come now, talk to me; is there something more that is bothering you?” Buffalo drank again. “You can tell me, I’m a psychiatrist, you know.”
“Keep your work at work, Mr Goose,” said Peccary, arriving with a fresh greyhound. “I know Mr Buffalo quite well. He can handle himself. Just gets a bit a loud sometimes, isn’t that right? Here you are.”
“Thank you, Mr Peccary.” said Goose, taking the drink.
“Aye,” Buffalo gruffed. “I’ll be fine. This is soothing to my soul,” he drank again.
“Goodness me,” said Goose, taking his drink and sipping it lightly, testing the level of vodka sting on this round. He acquired the drink with a sober face. “Ah, perfect,” he said. “Now, that’s a balanced drink! Perhaps I was over-ambitious the first time ’round? What do you think, Buffalo?” Goose smiled and laughed. Buffalo only nodded in agreement while staring back over at his favourite painting in the hall. “Sheesh, only trying to break the tension in this place!” Goose said.
“Let’s talk about the yesterday’s game,” said Buffalo stuffily.
“A fine idea! As I was saying before, I really enjoy the athletic prowess of Dzik, that foreign fella! Mighty agile for a creature of his girth. What’s more, I am fascinated by the psychology behind each and every match. The mental discipline…”
“Keep work at work,” Buffalo interrupted with his own sheepish laugh. He took his mug and clinked Goose’s parked greyhound. “But, I agree with you, Dzik is a helluva sportman. Hails from my grandmothers neck of the woods far over east.”
“Is that so?” Goose said, supremely satisfied with a new tidbit of knowledge.
Before Goose could carry on, the chatter from the tide of Goats grew instantly louder, resuming their ado from before. “It ain’t right,” one bleated, “it ain’t right how they treat their own kin.”
“They’re a danger, I tell you,” said Billy distinctly. “Their ways of thinking don’t fit here. You’ve seen what has happened across the plains, right?”
“It’s just awful,” whined Doe. “And our mayor just lets them in!”
“Cow is a kook,” said Buck, slurping his beer.
“That she is,” said Billy.
“Next meeting, we must make a stand,” said Buck. He thought for a moment in the brevity of silence amongst the Goats. “Hey, I got it! We should put forth a petition – one that represents the voice of the villagers – and submit it before the next meeting! That’ll put an end to this resolution!”
The group sans Wether cheered. “Brilliant, honey,” smiled Doe, sipping wine.
“Now you’re talking, buddy,” Billy cheered, reaching to clink bottles with his brother-in-law.
Wether shook his head, “Not everyone in this village thinks like you, you know that?”
Buck shrugged, “Sure, they’re also kooks! They’re the ones warping this village all sort of strange ways. Ain’t that right, Buffalo?”
Buck, and the others, turned towards the back of the hall, where Buffalo and Goose were inconspicuously listening in. Buffalo nodded lightly.
“See, I knew we agreed on something,” laughed Billy.
“Your poor mill has had its struggles since the change, hasn’t it?” soothed Nanny.
Buffalo, this time, nodded with restraint. “Aye,” he said, took a sip, and added, “but I don’t need your sympathy.”
Nanny and Doe gasped together. “You’re just vile!” they said.
“Now, now, dears,” said Billy, “he’s just upset. And rightfully so! Here’s to you, Buffalo.” He raised his bottle towards Buffalo. “We know we’ve got your scribble!”
Goose grew irritable and meekly aped Buffalo’s drink-to-table slam. This startled only himself. “Hear this, my friends,” he began after collecting himself, “and I do sincerely call you friends! I truly believe that all of us are making too big of a fuss about this. Certainly there have been changes in our midsts. I do not dispute this, no sir! I sympathise for you, Buffalo, on the hardships of your work and your mill. My words from before remain steadfast and true.” He sipped again. “Ah, let me recap my verbiage for the Goats, here. Earlier, I had risen a toast to the Buffalo clan, praising our minatorial friend for building this village. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“Yes!” cheered the Goats, “but get on with it!” added Doe.
“Right. My point is this: times are changing, yes, but we are adaptable critters! Let’s embrace the change!”
Sips were had as Goose’s words were mulled over in the heads of the present.
“Easy for you to say, Mr Goose, with all do respect,” said Doe. “You’re different, too.”
“Doe!” Nanny shot.
“Easy, honey,” Buck said.
“Goose,” Doe continued, ignoring the advice around her, “it’s true, you’re different too.”
“Why, thank you!” Goose honked. “That is a mighty fine compliment. I enjoy being different. But, how do you mean, different, per se? Just for my own curiosity. This could be a nice research topic for me to pursue – heavens know I’m dying for a new topic. Is it for my gait of the day? Surely, it must be!”
Doe sat higher in her seat, an aura of highbrow-ness illuminated from her. “Well, there, you said it yourself. You said heavens. And, as far as we know, you don’t believe in no heaven because you are not a shrine goer. There is no secret about it.” Her table, minus Wether, nodded in agreement.
Goose was stunned. Buffalo raised a furry eyebrow and put down his drink before taking a sip – a wasted effort of lifting a mug.
“And?” Goose asked with a dramatic furrowing of his face.
“Don’t listen to those nuts,” Buffalo said. “It doesn’t mean a thing.”
Nanny took on the highbrow stature posed by her sister-in-law. “Says the one who comes to shrine reeking in booze.”
“Yes!” Doe sang.
“That’s right,” Billy said. “Just because you’re there, don’t mean you’re a good critter, either.”
Buffalo calmly looked over to Peccary, who was casually minding the bar. “You see what I mean, Peccary?” Buffalo asked. “The patron saints of the village! Here in our midst. Another, Peccary.”
“All I can say is I am an outstanding member of society,” Goose said. “Never once crossed the law; I pay my fees on time; recycle; why, I’ve never even so much as jaywalked!” He rose emphatically in his seat, his right wing pointing high in the air like a conquering king. But, his never-resting mind prompted a memory, and he slowly deflated into a slump. “Well, perhaps, I did once last year. I was late to my appointment!” he admitted, and wanted to confess more.
“Give it a rest,” said Buffalo, putting hoof to beak to muzzle his feathered cohort.
The Goats turned back into their own tide, uninterested in carrying on the conversation publicly but certainly eager to continue it privately.
Amongst themselves could be heard such utterances as “He ought to give drinking a rest,” and “His mother would not be pleased” to “I haven’t seen him tithe, either.”
“Do you listen to yourselves?” Wether exploded. The other Goats cowered. “Your piety is what drives people mad!”
The hall was silent, save for the pitter-patter of little Peccary’s trotting. He arrived to Buffalo with a fresh mug.
“Here you are,” he said, aloof of the tension.
Buffalo took the mug and raised it high in the air. “To piety!” he goosed. Hesitantly, everyone raised their glasses, but the Goats quickly dropped theirs down to the table after Buffalo made his cheeky toast.
“The sow,” Nanny spat.
There was a gasp. “Nanny! Watch your mouth; that kind of language doesn’t suit a critter like you.”
Buffalo, being more relaxed than he had been all night, laughed. “See what I mean?” he said, elbowing Goose in the ribs with force.
“Ouch!” Goose quacked. He gathered himself and said “You seem to be perking up?”
After a long swig of his beer, Buffalo said, “Like I told you before, I have something to soothe my soul.”
Goose shook his head. “Well, your soul should inquire if your liver is likewise soothed! Something tells me that it would say, ‘No!”‘
“Drink up,” ordered Buffalo.
“Goodness me,” Goose said, surrendering with a sip.
Peccary returned to his post and replenished his mug with ale. He paused for a moment and looked around his bar, observing his patrons. With a squeaky clearing of his throat, he raised his mug in the air.
“I believe it is my turn to make a toast,” he said over the light buzzing of conversations.
“Ah, good! Good,” said Buck, “let’s hear it!”
“Speech!” demanded the hall. Peccary laughed this off.
“No, no,” he said. “I think just a simple toast from me, the simple bartender. I wish to thank you all for making this home for me all these years. I’ve travelled the world over, and there is no where else I want to call my home with you, my friends.”
Nanny and Doe cooed, “So beautiful!”
“Well said, Mr Peccary!” said Goose.
“Goats,” added Peccary when the joyful noise subsided, “I can’t thank you enough for paying visits to my late mother on her death hay.”
“Of course, dear Peccary,” said Nanny. “May she rest in peace with the Good Keeper above.” This was met with a half-volumed round of ayes.