Goats on a Roof

published by ASP Literary Journal

You get long sunsets in low cities, and Cordoba’s low, pushed down and rolled out like a piece of dough;

just sandy rooftops and the Mesquita belltower, which stands between two lemon trees from here, on an upturned barrel,

as I admire the efforts of dirt-crusted fingerprints – neat, but for tufts of long grass on the edges.

As a kid, I kept slugs in a wheelbarrow, let them creep over cupped palms, tracked their slime-trails all morning until called in for tomato soup.

I remember Mum’s voice well – high and clear, noticeable, like the tap of a teaspoon on a champagne flute.

She wrote books, one published – Goats on a Roof. Nothing to do with goats.

We’d go to the island every fall, drive from Nanaimo to Campbell River, and stop at Coombs,

a country market where lumberjacks carved life-size bears in the front yard. On the roof of the market were goats. Three or four goats.

On the drive, Dad would say, A loonie to whoever sees the goats first. Me and Adam would fight for the middle seat, stretch to look through the windscreen.

Adam would cover my mouth I see them Dad! I saw them first. Dad would give us both a dollar. For goat feed.

Adam visited him last week, called me with a voice like a brimming pipe, said it was snowing outside, that Dad didn’t have the heating on.

I rest elbows on muddy knees, watch the sun set behind a leaf, get out my phone, press home, never stop wanting to hear Mum’s voice on the other end.

Hello, slug, what a nice surprise.

Hey, Dad.

How’s that garden of yours?

I could tell him about the tomato vines; plump crimson marbles.

Or the sanguinelli, how they float in the fountains, peels full of air pockets.

Instead, I sigh, The grass is too long.

You want to get yourself some sheep. Maybe a goat or two.

Dad goes quiet. I imagine him alone at our kitchen table, watching the fall of a shadow on the wall, or staring at the magnets on the fridge.

You know, your mum wrote a book about goats once.