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Chapter 25: The Lost Goose

Saffron takes a new charge into her care
An image of a Canada goose is overlaid with the text "Saffron and Bear" and "Chapter 25: The Lost Goose"

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The winter was much milder than the previous one had been. Saffron was no longer fighting her way through ice and snow every time she left the house; this year the ground was only covered in a light layer of snow. It was just enough to coat the world in its white glow and to crunch pleasingly underfoot as she walked through the woods.

With the milder weather, her human charges had fewer demands on her, leaving her more time to care for the denizens of the forest.

One wintry morning she was making her rounds through the woods with Bear at her side. The forest was quiet in the soft winter morning; the only sound was her own footsteps and the occasional rustle of the wind through the branches. Bear walked lightly by her side without making a sound, his soft paws padding silently over the snow.

They had successfully completed their inspection and were on the way back to the cottage. Saffron hoped that Sage would be up and have the kettle on the fire by the time they got home. She was looking forward to a hot mug of tea to warm her chilly fingers.

Lost in her dreams of tea, she didn’t notice the rustle of bushes behind her until she was startled by a loud “HONK!”

She turned sharply to see a large goose waddling behind them.

“Hello,” Saffron said. “What are you doing out here at this time of year?”

“HONK!” honked the goose.

Bear’s hackles were up; his back was arched and he peered out at the goose from behind Saffron’s legs.

“What are we going to do with it, boy?” she asked. “We can’t just leave it out in the cold.”

His meow suggested they could.

“Do you want to come with us?” she asked the goose.


So the three of them carried on; Saffron leading the way with the goose waddling along behind her. Bear had jumped into her arms so he could look over her shoulder and keep a stern eye on the goose.

“What on Earth is this?” Sage exclaimed when they got home.

She did have the kettle on, and Saffron didn’t answer until she had a mug of hot tea in her hands.

“I think it’s lost. It was wandering around the woods.”

“Hmmm.” Sage sipped from her own mug. “And I suppose it’s going to stay with us?”

“Maybe not in the house,” Saffron conceded. “But we could let it stay in the shed for a bit?”

She spent the afternoon setting up a goose shelter in the outbuilding. A blanket for the goose to sleep on, some grain for it to eat, fresh water to drink. She knew that a wild goose did not actually need any of these things, even it was separated from its flock and a little bewildered. But caring for the lost things of the forest was what she did, so this goose would be spoiled for as long as it stayed.

When she led the goose into the shed, it looked around, looked at her, honked, then set to eating the grain as fast as it could.

“Don’t eat it all at once,” she warned it. “You’ll make yourself sick.”


It kept eating.

Saffron sighed and left the goose to its own devices.

It was still there the next morning. Alistair joined them for lunch and Saffron took him out to meet the goose.

“Honk!” the goose honked.

Bear, who was perched on Alistair’s shoulder, hissed back at it.

“Don’t like that, do you, little fellow?” Alistair rubbed Bear’s forehead. “Can’t say I blame you.”

“You don’t like geese?”

“Who likes geese? They’re nasty, vicious birds.”

“Well, this one is in my care and I think it’s lovely.” Saffron smiled at the goose. It honked back.

Alistair laughed. “You’re going to end up keeping it, aren’t you?”

“No no. It’s a wild creature and it belongs with its own kind. Besides, Bear wouldn’t let me keep it. This is just temporary.”

And it was. But a few days turned into a few weeks and the goose slowly became part of the household. Saffron got used to feeding it, changing its water, even cleaning up after the mess it left in the shed. It began following her around on her errands, and the townsfolk all knew the goose by name. Saffron hadn’t named it, but each of the townsfolk had picked their own name for it and exclaimed cheerfully when it drew near.

Only Bear remained upset by the goose’s presence, hissing any time it got too close to him, and glaring at it any time he thought Saffron wasn’t looking.

The goose just honked.

It was almost a month before a distant commotion arose one afternoon. Saffron stepped out of the cottage to see what was the matter. Above the meadow flew the largest vee of geese that she had ever seen; there must have been at least a hundred.

“Goose!” she called. “Goose, come quick! Is this your flock?”

“Honk!” The goose ran out of the shed. “Honk honk HONK!”

It was already flapping its wings and before Saffron had a chance to say goodbye, it was spiralling up into the sky. It took its place at the back of the vee, and by the time the geese disappeared from view, she had lost track of which one it was.

Bear meowed beside her.

“Ah, admit it,” she teased. “You’re going to miss that goose.”

Bear turned and walked into the cottage in disgust. Saffron laughed and followed him back inside.

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P.S. - If you enjoy my writing, my story “The Protector of the Forest” was recently published on Proton Reader. It’s one of my favourite pieces I’ve written: a sci-fantasy story about grief, community, and trees. You can read it for free on their website. Hit the button below to go check it out!

Katie Conrad is a speculative fiction writer living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. You can find her on twitter, instagram, and tumblr.