Shaking the Goose Egg

Mamawish, 2006, paper on paper 5 x 5 in

I love this city. Kiss the ground of it. Except for—well, jack hammers. Sirens. Honking fire engines. Shrieking children in riot helmets wielding selfie sticks on scooters. Not to mention the howling Shih-zui left alone all day in the apartment next door. So my husband Stephen and I buy a house in the country to embrace serenity—become one with Mother Nature.

Our first weekend, we wake up to—honking. I mean loud honking, a cacophony. We throw off the covers, run outside, look up and see a couple of geese overhead come swooshing down to land splash! in the middle of our pond. Ahhh. This is just how we imagined country life! It’s very picturesque. And they stay and build a nest, which is so—perfectly like a storybook. And we’re the “Gentlefolk in the Cottage”.

Then on Passover Stephen’s Uncle Dan makes it sound more like an Alfred Hitchcock movie. “Geese multiply like Catholics. Those birds will ruin your property. Damn near destroyed the golf course.” So I call the EPA, and the gal on the phone confirms our property does indeed sound like the kind of environment Geese appreciate. “Oh God. Oh no!” I say. “Look” she says, “Off the record–if you break their eggs, they’ll just lay more, but if you shake their eggs, they’ll go away. A plan is hatched.

We need to be prepared to move really fast the second we see them away from the nest. I’m on the look out. They’re off the nest. Nowhere in sight. “Stephen, hurry! Now’s the time!” Stephen grabs his umbrella—a ridiculously huge black umbrella to “use as a shield” he tells me. He hands me the kitchen broom, which I’m supposed to use to “run interference”. We set out on our mission. Stephen’s wearing the camouflage pants he wore in Viet Nam. We get to the nest.

A goose nest is basically a depression in the ground lined with feathers, leaves, grasses and moss. Stephen stands over the nest, opens out his big black umbrella and holds it over his head. He kneels on one knee. There are five large eggs, each roughly three times the size of a chicken egg. He picks up the first egg and holds it to his ear before shaking it. He shakes them one by one. I’m getting rapid heartbeat. What if goslings still hatch and they’re deformed? Webbed feet growing out of their eyeballs. Beaks where feet should be! “Maybe we should shake the twice” I say. “Just in case.”

Suddenly the geese shoot out from around the reeds like enraged deities! Geese are big birds. I never realized just how big until they were about to kill me. Giant Pterodactyls honing in to peck out my eyeballs like Suzanne Pleshette in “The Birds”.  I raise my broom and start swinging it around my head in circles as I jog around Stephen, who keeps shaking the eggs! The gander whacks into his umbrella, breaks a spoke. The goose attacks my broom. I drop it. “Stop! I surrender! Don’t eat me!”. She flicks out her lizard tongue, hissing like Satan in my face. Hiss! Hiss! Hiss! I run for my life.

You know how when you’re running so fast, your heart’s in your throat, your legs are burning, an eyebrow’s melting, but you keep going—blood pumping ocean pounding your ear drums.We make it back to the house on the brink of collapse. Dare to look behind us, and see—the goose settled back on her nest. Like nothing’s happened. The gander swimming back and forth in front of her like a sentinel, guarding their would-be—rather, never will be goslings which are now nothing but scrambled eggs.

This incubation ritual goes on for weeks. Day after day. We watch them hope. One morning the gander tosses his head and honks. The goose tosses her head and honks. They spread their wings, lift off, and fly up into the sky, leaving behind the Gentle Folk.

I run to the nest and discover the eggs broken into by a fox or raccoon, maybe. I gather up the shells, wash them off and paste them on a paint chart under the words “eggshell finish”. I stick on some band aids, draw and cut out a nun, and mount the works on cheese cloth, which I stretch over a thin old wood frame. I’m not proud of it.

forty eight seconds