When I was little, we raised chickens for eggs and meat and they had a rather generous sized coop with a large run in the field behind our house. My best friend and I would spend hours back there in the summer playing with the chickens and bringing them all the tomato worms we found in my father’s garden. The problem with said coop, however, was that it lay on the other side of a stretch of woods from my backyard. The woods were filled with green briar and brush and formed two impenetrable walls lining a narrow path which, to me, might as well have been a mile long. During the day, this wasn’t an issue, but as soon as night fell, that short stretch of woods was filled with every dark creepy thing I could imagine.
My job, at 8 years old, was to bring the food scraps down to the chickens every afternoon when I got home from school. I didn’t get off the bus until close to 4 and by the time I walked down our dirt road and gravel driveway and goofed off enough to satisfy my need for general laziness and buffoonery, it was getting close to dark. The later we got into fall and winter, the sooner this happened. And so, at least once a week, despite pleading for mercy, I had to walk those chicken scraps down that path, in the dark, where quite frankly, anything could happen. What often happened, was that I would get halfway down, fling the scraps into the bushes, and run as fast as I could back to the house. I would hide out by the dog house long enought to trick my dad into thinking I’d gone all the way down and then return safely to the house where the bright lights kept all the scary things at bay.
Until this one night. Unfortunately, my dad had noticed some banana peels along the path a few days before so he told me he was going to stand on the back porch and keep an eye on the flashlight to make sure I went all the way down. Truth is, the woods were so thick, he wouldn’t have been able to see me, but I believed him and so trudged into the back yard, certain that I was going to get devoured by something awful and he’d be sorry . . .
And then something came.
It came down out of the sky, landing in a cacophony of hissing, screaming, and the impact of its body hitting the ground. It was much much bigger than me and extremely pertubed. I was certain I was about to die.
I don’t actually remember running for the porch, it felt more like I levitated there while screaming “DADDY ITS A MONSTER!!!” Any doubt my father had that I was imagining things disappeared when he realized our dog was barking furiously with fear and agitation.
Inside the back door, my heart was pounding, my head spinning, and my stomach was sick with my impending doom.
My dad was momentarily stunned, wondering if he had advised me poorly on the nature of monsters and their general existence. Was he wrong? Was there something out there in the dark as I’d been trying to tell him for years?
We calmed down for a moment and then my dad took a deep breath and went back outside with the flashlight to find my monster.
The chaos that descended out of the sky was simply a goose. A young Canadian goose. With its wings outstretched as it tried to ease its landing, it honked in surprise when it almost collided with me in the yard and then hissed its disapproval.
We had a small above ground pool in the backyard and in the moonlight, it probably looked like a pond where he thought it might be a good place to spend the night. He was just as confused and scared as I was. My dad wrapped him in a towel and we put him in the chicken coop to keep him safe for the night where he slept, head tucked under wing, oblivious to his new roommates.
The next morning, we took him out to a field where some other geese were congregating from their annual migration he settled right in.
My dad never made me go down to the chicken coop at night again. I think he realized that although there was a logical explanation for this particular monster, our momentary, and lingering fear made it clear that we both still believed that in those woods, there were things, natural or otherwise, that should not be confronted in darkness.