The Goat

by Tobiah Black

The goat came with the apartment. It wasn’t a big selling point or anything. It wasn’t as if they had said there was a washer-dryer tucked away in a closet (which, believe me, there wasn’t). To be honest, I didn’t want the goat at all. But when someone says, here’s a free tire rotation with your oil change, or a free keychain with your water bottle, or a free soda with your burger, it doesn’t really occur to you to turn it down. I wanted the apartment; it came with a goat.

It was the first of the month. We were moving in. The U-Haul was parked at the curb, and Emma and I were wrestling the futon up the stairs. We got it around that tricky switchback at the landing and through the door.

There he was. The goat. Smack in the middle of the room. (“I love these hardwood floors,” Emma had said when the building manager showed us the apartment.) The goat looked—I don’t know—defensive. Like he knew he was going to lose the battle for his territory, but he was going to stand his ground anyway because he was sure he was in the right. A Spartan at Thermopylae.

Later, after we had gotten all the boxes in and returned the van, Emma and I had collapsed on the futon, faces and fingers grimy with a paste made from sweat and dust. The goat had moved to the corner, vigilant as ever.

“I’ll get rid of him tomorrow,” I said.

“How?”

“Release him into the wild.”

“You can’t release a goat into the wild. They’re domesticated.”

“Not all of them. What about mountain goats?”

“He is not a mountain goat.”

“Fine,” I said. “Why don’t we eat him? There’s enough space in the back yard for a pit. You said you wanted to do a housewarming barbecue.” I took a sip of my beer. “The neighbors seem cool. They wouldn’t care.”

“I am not starting our life in this apartment by slaughtering a goat. The first week in a new apartment is important. Slaughtering a goat is majorly getting off on the wrong foot. Majorly.”

The goat looked at us with his shiny black eyes. He didn’t trust us. I could tell. To tell you the truth, I didn’t blame him. After all, we were plotting ways to get rid of him, and he had been there first.

We put off the decision that night, and kept on putting it off, and before we knew it Christmas had arrived. Sure, we had talked a few times about giving it to the ASPCA or a petting zoo, but we were both really busy that fall and every conversation about it seemed to end in an argument. Whether the ASPCA would gas it. Whether the ASPCA still used gas or had changed to some sort of lethal injection. Whether the ASPCA had ever used gas at all. Whether the petting zoo accepted animal donations. That kind of thing.

I told Emma that if we stopped feeding him he would probably move out on his own, but Emma said that while he was in our apartment, we should treat him respectfully, like a guest. She even started making him these elaborate meals. Ground turkey with steamed zucchini. Bacon-wrapped dates. Ceviche. I told her: goats eat grass. Not even the good grass. The tough stuff. The shit the cows don’t want. But our goat got organic everything from Whole Foods.

And by Christmas, it’s true, we had started referring to him as “our goat.” Once, when we were arguing over something stupid, I had called him “your goat.”

“What are we going to get him for Christmas?” Emma asked.

“I don’t know. A sweater?”

“Have you ever been excited about a sweater?”

“No, but I’m also not a goat.”

“I think we should get him a pool. Like a wading pool. I bet he’d like that.”

So we got him a wading pool, blue plastic and all that. Sure, he would stand in it, but I can’t say whether he really liked it. He would just give us that stare, like he still didn’t trust us, the only difference being that now he was standing in a wading pool. I don’t know if it made our goat any happier, but it seemed to make Emma happy so I didn’t say anything.

In the spring, Marcus brought his friend over, the guy who snorted coke off the back of the acoustic guitar he had brought with him for whatever reason. He made up a song about our goat, which, frankly, I thought was rude because he really didn’t know our goat and you shouldn’t go around making up songs about people or goats you don’t know very well.

Emma and I laughed at the acoustic guitar guy after he left. A month later, she moved into his loft.

She took the futon but left the goat, which I can understand, I guess, seeing as it came with the apartment. He still looks like he’s always on his guard, but I think he’s gotten used to me. He perks up during baseball season, stares his intense stare at the screen from his wading pool. I don’t cook him meals like Emma used to, but I give him a Guinness every once in a while. To be honest, I usually just buy him those big bags of dry dog food. I figure that’s got to be closer to what he normally eats than ground turkey with zucchini. Then again, what do I know? Like I told Emma, I’m not a goat.

Tobiah Black is a documentary producer living in Los Angeles.
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