(a midnight dreary)
there was a young couple who owned a goose, and this goose, in turn, laid golden eggs.
I’m not sure exactly when the golden eggs came into the continuum. Had they just acquired the goose? Because the whole egg-laying thing can’t have gone on very long before the meat of the story happened; otherwise, the story makes even less sense. (Why did the goose lay golden eggs at all? Why, because sometimes, there’s magic in the world, and even when there isn’t, strange stuff exists. We’ll assume that this was unusual enough that the couple was extremely, extremely excited; but not quite so unusual that it led them to believe Armageddon was night, leaving them to flee, crying and wailing, out into the streets, wearing sack-cloth and screaming about the End of Days. We’ll file it under “super weird, but hey, gold is gold”.)
At any rate, this goose—let’s say that they acquired it from a guy who knew a guy, with a whole bunch of other geese, and these people were at least partially supported by agrarian pursuits and the cultivation of livestock. Seems logical to you? Seems logical to me. Good.
—this goose just ups and starts laying golden eggs. Well, the first time it happens, the couple is astonished. Let’s say it’s a husband-wife team, and the wife person was gathering eggs that day. Okay, cue astonishment, comical dropping of a basket of eggs (all of which broke, except, obvs, for the one that was solid gold); a certain amount of shock and surprise; some kind of testing (I guess there was a village alchemist? We’ll presume this took place at a time and place where you could get precious metals tested with reasonable accuracy, but the local government didn’t have a monopoly on the good stuff. I’m having trouble picturing the historical era here, but really, history goes out the window when you bring auric oviparity into the equation, right?)
Okay, so, the goose lays a golden egg, it’s real, the couple sells it, they’re very happy, got it? Well, it keeps doing this for a couple of days, and they’re real, real happy. So they wonder, “How’s a goose, being an animal, got all this gold inside it?—seeing as how gold isn’t an animal, it’s some kind of mineral or vegetable or something.” The conclusion they draw is, the goose must be full of gold on the inside, and it’s moving that gold to the outside one day at a time. Now, here’s the kicker: I don’t know how big the eggs were, or how much a gold egg was worth, but these kids are impatient, so they kill the golden goose and slice it open in order to get at all the gold inside. Jokes on them! Ain’t nothin’ in the goose except, you know, goose stuff. No gold. The magic was somewhere in the process. And old Aesop comes in and points out the moral:
“Don’t kill the goose that lays golden eggs, ya morons. Keep letting it lay eggs. Because it could maybe have done that forever and you’d have been rich, whereas now, you probably already spent your egg money on dumb stuff because first, you figured you were gonna have more gold, and second, you’re idiots.”
* * *
….and that’s the story they tell.
But you know what they’re like.
I wanted reality. So I interviewed the husband.
Here’s what he said.
“So my wife comes out of the goose coop, and damned if she doesn’t have another of those pieces of egg-shaped gold! They keep appearing on one of the nests, near this one real fat goose, my wife goes in every morning to get the eggs, and bam! another piece of gold. This has to have gone on four, maybe five days. Four days, five nights, maybe. Anyhow, fifth evening, I go to bed, I sleep, I wake up late at night, I’m hungry. We have a bunch of snacks, but nothing really satisfying. I feel ambitious, so I go into the coop, grab a goose, give it the axe, cook it, and eat it. Next day, my wife goes in to get the eggs and the gold, and the gold’s not there. What the hell? First I yell at my wife, because I figure she’s just not looking in the right place, and she yells right back, and then we both look, and yeah, somebody’s taken our gold.
“Now, I still had a piece left over that we hadn’t spent yet, so I go into town and I get some guys and they build a hella big fence around the outside of the coop, spikes and everything, and just to be sure, I go to the apothecary and get something nasty and I pour it on the spikes, and one of the guys working on the fence starts complaining that it gave him a rash so I know it works, and they go home, and we go to bed.
“And the next morning, we find out, it happened again: some jerk’s taken our gold.
“And it just keeps happening. I call the cops, and they come by, but they’re no good, they tell me there’s nothing they can do, that there’s no sign of forced entry, and also, they can put out an alert for any golden eggs that turn up on the black market, but they can’t arrest anyone in connection with the non-appearance of spontaneously-generated precious metals. Idjits!
“So fine, I gotta do this myself. It’s not comfy, but that evening, I sleep right in the goose coop. Well, I don’t really sleep; those pointy-beaked bastards peck me all night. But I watch real careful, and there’s not a sight nor sound nor hair (does gold have hair?) of that gold.
“So now I’m REALLY pissed! Some INVISIBLE jerk’s nibblin’ on MY gold.
“Maybe it’s the Dark Lord. I hear we have one, two kingdoms down.
“Maybe it’s the Bad Wolf, kicked out of the forest, making a predatory living.
“Maybe it’s my wife.
“I up the security on the coop. And I take a nest into our bedroom—me and the ol’ lady, we’re not intimate anymore—and painstakingly I make a nest. ‘Sit on it!’ I order my wife, and dutifully, there she sits. It’s very similar. Perhaps the original gold-givers will be deceived.
“Nothing’s happened yet, but I’m patient. And this is what we do: we don’t farm and we don’t raise animals, because we ain’t stupid. We wait. Because we got priorities.
We will find the givers-of-gold and take their gold, and find the takers-of-gold and take their lives, and in-between, there’s a lot of good eatin’ left on this bird here.
This story was originally much shorter; I had the idea of writing up the husband’s story in a sentence or two and making the rest into a recipe for roast goose.
But those recipes are really long, and also, this character just doesn’t strike me as the type to prepare, say, something like this. I believe he’s a bit more of a “pull feathers, make fire, burn self, curse, hold goose over fire, burn hand, pull goose off of fire, eat goose, burn mouth” kinda guy.
At any rate, as long as old Aesop’s rolling in his grave, I’m happy.
Story note: This tale was originally called “The Golden Goose and the Cargo Cultist”, but I think I’d like to give cargo cults a story all their own, later on down the line.