It is with the greatest reluctance, and no small embarrassment,
noted Mrs. Schiff,
that I must report a slight delay in the natural procession of events. It is only proper that you should find this disappointing, and I cannot expect that you shall look favorably upon me. It is nevertheless inevitable that such things should follow, when one suffers a visitation of headless goats.
“Ah!” you think. “I have no interest in these protestations and delays, but this mention of headless goats intrigues me. Please, Mrs. Schiff, tell me more.” You need not speak your thoughts; they stand emblazoned upon your face. I shall address them immediately, and with no further hesitation.
It is natural, and entirely expected,
continued Mrs. Schiff,
when I return home at night, that I should make certain mental preparations for the journey. I buckle into my car at thus-and-such a time. I drive, and progress inevitably through a series of intermediate states and places until I reach my natural abode. I plan things thus: I shall walk in through the door. I shall set my keys on the table and hang my coat. I shall proceed to the refrigerator and claim the last of the sodas, and take it forthwith to the couch, where I shall open and consume it while thinking upon my day.
Do not look so impatient, sirs and ladies! This prelude is a necessary formality, preparation for what is to follow; and I should not dream of including description that is in any wise beyond the natural scope of that this discourse requires. Have faith in me; I ask you this; and all shall proceed to the goats in due and proper course.
I did not notice a distinction, nor in any form a dissimilarity,
reflected Mrs. Schiff,
between the journey home and that which I had encountered heretofore. Certainly, one must expect events to distinguish themselves in some trivial fashion. I might spend a few seconds shorter than usual at one light. I might linger longer than informed speculation would anticipate at the next. If a tumbleweed or zeppelin blows past the road one night, one cannot rely upon it repeating the journey on subsequent trips. These are vicissitudes in circumstance of which I take no notice, for a certain variable random quality is intrinsic to the manner in which I live my life.
For this reason, I consider my journey home both typical and uneventful, despite a number of peculiar instances of which a lesser mind might have taken note. I drove. I parked. I walked in the door. I put my keys down. It is in that moment, as you have so perspicaciously anticipated, that first I set my eyes upon the goats.
I have a reputation,
insisted Mrs. Schiff,
as a keen observer and an insightful mind. Yet I did not at first process the goats for what they were. How could I? And, I must ask, how could any living soul?
They filled my home, from warp to weft, a seething sea of goats, and not a one of them had a head, and all of them were playing chess. They brayed and bleated through hollow throats and seemed, in the estimation of hindsight, quite pleased with themselves in every respect and fashion. These were not dying creatures, nor the dead. They were not monsters and they were not beasts. They were simply a phenomenon that visited itself upon me, though one of the stranger that I have yet experienced.
The delay and pause of which I spoke, at the beginning of this message,
explained Mrs. Schiff,
did not derive directly from the goats. They are companionable creatures, lacking all artifice and malice, and in truth I feel their presence is a blessing visited upon my life. No, it is not truly the goats who are at fault; but rather, the long and frozen pause that descended on my thoughts as I watched one goat sit upon my couch and drink my soda down.
I could not proceed. In claiming that soda, the headless goat cast all my plans tumbling aside; not by the common machinery of circumstance to which I have over time become accustomed, but through an agency I could not anticipate. I studied my reactions, but not a one made itself available for use. Should I ask the goat to return my soda? To reimburse me? Should I pour myself a glass of water from the seething goat-filled sink? Should I turn my back upon the siren call of chess and gaping necks and make a visit to the store? And should I ask the goats, before I go, if there is anything I should pick up for them?
These are the questions and the conundrums that faced me then,
concluded Mrs. Schiff,
and I must humbly ask for your forgiveness, that much time and sleep was lost to pondering them.