In the spring, unexpectedly, we get a backyard goat. So now I have goat chores. One chore is to ensure that Gloria doesn’t do bad things out back, especially bad things our neighbours might complain about.

As if we’re not weird enough, I tell Mom.

She informs me that Gloria is part of a new pilot project that allows people to have livestock in the city, and, since ours is one of the first, our actions will affect the project’s success. So, we have to be on our best behaviour.

I know better than to argue that most fifteen-year-olds in the city aren’t taking care of livestock. Gerbils, snakes, turtles, maybe. More often a dog or cat. But there’s no arguing with Mom. Once she’s onto a project she somehow pulls everyone in.

Letting Gloria out to munch on the lawn is another of my chores. Also making sure she doesn’t take bites out of the fence. Patrolling the perimeter, Mom calls it. After almost a month, I don’t know why but I still find Gloria as intimidating as all heck, especially since she started her milking cycle. Milk is only one side benefit of keeping a goat, Mom insists. Trimming the lawn is another. But I’m undecided. I don’t know if she’s worth all the trouble.

The air is warm and dry when I head out to her pen with a sweet carrot. Usually as soon as Gloria sees a treat, she smushes her face against the pen and starts braying, and when her teeth make contact, I let go of the treat and we both swiftly back away. This time, I hold the carrot on my flattened palm and I vibrate, waiting and praying that she won’t chomp off my hand. I’m afraid and I know it, which is humiliating since I’m five times older than her. Possibly she’s as skittish as me, but that doesn’t stop my heart from racing.

I steady myself, and she sniffs and slobbers over the carrot and gobbles it whole. And then she licks me. Nervously, I let her. And I feel sorry for her all at once, for the burn scars on her horn stumps and the wire fence between us. I stroke her head, hairs coarse and soft at the same time, and observe her white coat and brown ears, her pink nose and pale lashes. Miraculously, she doesn’t back off.

And some of the rancour that’s been hovering around me and Mom seems to fall away. I even imagine trying to learn to milk Gloria. Maybe someday everyone will have a backyard goat.

Explore the power of words...