The Geese and the Gift

“This story is about a high school aged boy in a rural town, who loses a friend to suicide and how his loss affects his life.”

By B (Anonymous)

I remember sitting on one of those rock-hard wooden benches at the Methodist Church in town on a crisp November morning. I was sandwiched tightly between two people I didn’t know. He sure had a good turnout, I thought to myself looking around at all these people squeezing together neighborly for my late friend, Thursten. Several gentlemen leaned against the wall in the back of the chapel, sacrificing their seats so that their wives and children could sit comfortably. I think that that, was the only lovely thing I’d seen since I’d arrived. Everyone whisper’s drew out into silence as Thursten’s father took the floor. He was holding an earthy looking ceramic vase near his heart with pain in his eyes.

“This morning, my family and I left our home with heavy hearts full of grief for our beautiful son Thursten. Thursten used to love geese. As a boy he’d chase them around the pond at my parent’s ranch in Jordan. In his teens they became his favorite game to hunt. The Canadian geese should be long gone at this time of year. However, this morning, my family and I were enlightened by the sight of a flock soaring over our house. We needed a sign that our boy was okay,”

It didn’t matter if this was a heavenly effort to show the family that Thursten was safe and at the end of all his suffering, or a mere coincidence. The story stuck with me. I listened, captivated. I wept, sniffled, and most of all, I believed.

It had been 10 months since the funeral. My last year of high school was supposed to spill over with drunken keggars in the mountains, epiphanies, good vibes, and ultimately the graceful finale to my boyhood. When Thursten died he took that rite of passage from me, or more so, enabled me to take it from myself. I decided being alone was better than forcing myself to smile or laugh with my friends. I didn’t want to hurt them during this time of reminiscence just because nothing was funny or worth my smile anymore. I created my own lonely existence. Now that life was plain and season less, and weekends came and went. I could blame no one but myself and I didn’t care enough to blame in the first place.

In the months following Thursten’s death, I spent most of my time at school in the welding shop. I had three bumpers and one sign to finish by myself after Thursten left. His designs were intricate and hard to understand. This made all our projects nearly impossible to finish without him. Then again, I never thought I’d have to. After school on week days, I continued to work at my uncle’s body shop as I did before Thursten’s passing. My mind was so clouded, I was shitty and slow at everything now. My uncle never said a thing about it but I know he wished he could fire my broke ass. On the weekends, I didn’t have Thursten’s expert blueprints to fuss over or any cars to climb under so I spent a lot of time on the back of my horse, Lucy. We never ran, or even trotted, we just walked for miles and miles until the stars and moon were all that lighted our way. It was then, when the darkness and emptiness of the night matched my insides, that I thought of Thursten the most.

I thought back on all the early mornings he’d drag me out of bed to go hunting.

“Get the fuck up Tuck, there’s a big ole flock of Canadian geese out by the south end of the lake! Let’s bring em’ home boy!” he’d yell, busting through my bedroom door at four in the morning.

“Come on, get the hell up you limp sac, I already saddled up Lucy and Ruger’s all ready to go.” Thursten only hunted on horseback. As a matter of fact, he only hunted on the back of his favorite horse, Ruger. Who according to him, was the best and fastest stud in the county. He was trim, dark, and pissed energy, just like Thursten.

I remembered all the times Thursten would sneak just enough of his dad’s Jack to fill this old, nasty canteen he carried everywhere. I remember him pulling me off Beau Harvey the quarterback, when I drank too much of the stuff one night at a keggar.

“He’s not worth the bloody knuckles Tuck. Fuck Baleigh too man, if she wants to be with that meat head over you, she’s just not fuckin’ right man.” Thursten swore a lot, but his words were never wasted, at least not to me.

Thursten never slept. He’d pick me up from the body shop after work most days and we’d drive late into the night. After so many nights like that our parents quit calling the cops. Thursten always wanted to talk about life, or some big idea he had. He always had something to say.

“Everyone should ride horses, hunt their own meat, work for every penny, and pick their woman up at the door! Don’t ya think Tuck? Hell, I’ll never conform to all these modern day, horse shit ideals. We’re pioneers man! We gotta go out and make our own destinies just like the men before us.” Thursten knew all about history, and math. Hell, he knew a lot about everything but he never did his homework. He said it was a waste of his limited time. He was right.

I sunk into the driver’s seat in a foggy trance. I fiddled with the keys for a moment before turning over the engine in my pickup and speeding out of my driveway. I was apprehensive heading down the long dirt road that connected Thursten’s place to mine.

I had so much time to anticipate the day I’d walk into that beautiful house and give my gift to the parents of my fallen friend. I couldn’t control my tears, even after so much time and training. I’d made them a memorial in the shop class that I used to share with Thursten. It was a cross made of Ruger’s horse shoes. It had three steel geese flying in a circle around it, with hand painted beaks. It took me three tries, three weeks, and three geese to perfect. I was proud of it at first, but I couldn’t bring myself to deliver it for a long time. After all, I didn’t expect a mere object to heal them, or make them cry less at night. I didn’t expect it to impress them either. It was just a piece of art and could never compare to the things Thursten made. I only hoped they could look at it and be reminded of how loved their son was. I wonder if it would make them cry more wishing their late son knew that.

Class was always less painful with Thursten. He was always goofing off, sporting that bright white smile and contagious high pitched giggle. Not even Mrs. G could get mad at him, even when she caught him chewing dip in the shop once. Boy he ran like hell, giggling the whole damn way. G gave up eventually. She always did with Thursten. I guess he was just too bright to be angry with.

I called before going there. His mother met me at the door with a smile that was noticeably forced, and tear drops hanging in her eyes. I stepped into their house with high ceilings. Thursten’s hunted animals were mounted elegantly on the walls. I’ll never forget shooting my first buck with him and packing it out on Lucy. He guided me to the perfect shot, made me be patient. I would’ve never hit it without his help. He was so good that way. I was forced to take a bite of the heart because according to Thursten, it was tradition and I couldn’t trample tradition. When I finally did he just laughed and laughed at the sour face I made and called me a girl.

It smelled crisp and warm inside, like fall in there though it was August. My house smelled like lawnmower gas at this time of year. His father slipped out from the kitchen. He stood emotionless, locked up, like a sealed safe. The rumor around town was, he hadn’t cried since the funeral when he told the story of the geese.

“This is for your family. It was the best way I knew to pay my respects. These are Thursten’s horseshoes. He left them at our ranch a few years ago when we went hunting,” I said nervously, with a lump in my throat for the tears that begged to follow.

“Thank you so much Tucker. It’s beautiful. We’ll put it right above the fireplace. It will be treasured forever, as will our Thursten,” His mom smiled at me with light and tears seen clearly in her eyes.

“Thank you son,” said Thursten’s father running his fingers across the geese. His face was still blank.

For a moment, I felt Thursten there with me, as I gazed at a picture of my handsome friend hung above the window in the kitchen. I felt his blue eyes staring directly into mine and then past them, into my heart and soul. That photo was alive for a moment. It broke me in two knowing someone so beautiful eliminated himself on purpose.