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HONK!

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If there was one thing for sure, just because our latest tour had been going well didn't mean the entire tour was going to keep going in that direction. Right now, I was sitting on a rickety chair in a makeshift medical tent backstage, my left leg propped up on another just as rickety chair, watching as blood trickled down my ankle to plop onto the grass below. Grunting, I grabbed a handful of napkins from the table next to me and piled them on my ankle, watching as they soaked up the blood and began to turn scarlet.

Yeah, I should keep my big mouth shut when I told people that our tour had been great so far and that playing Canada, especially Montreal, was always a blast. The food was great, the people lovely...and now I was sitting here with a big chunk taken out of my left ankle, the pant leg of my jeans ripped halfway up my leg, and contemplating going from a vegetarian to a carnivore. I laid my head back on the chair back and sat back up in alarm as the wood creaked and popped. The last thing I needed was for the damn thing to come apart and spill me onto the sun-dried turf, adding bruises to my sluggishly bleeding ankle.

Shit!” I heard our lead singer bark from across the tent. “Damn, Christoph, I didn't think you'd gotten bitten that badly!” Till strode across the grass, snatching up a roll of paper towels as he crossed over to me. He pulled several towels from the roll and wrapped them around the mess of napkins already on my ankle, making a dismayed face as this latest addition began to turn red. “You're not a hemophiliac, I hope?” he asked, searching around the tables near us until he found a roll of gaffer tape. Pulling a good-sized piece off the roll, he added more paper towels, making my leg look like it belonged to the Michelin Man and taped the resulting bundle neatly before re-arranging my leg on the chair so it was elevated somewhat.

“You know I normally don't bleed like this, Till,” I sighed, trying to take my mind off my ankle and that I was bleeding like a stuck pig. “The damn thing went nearly to the bone before Ollie turned it into a feathered football. I hope nobody saw that, or we're going to have the Canadian version of the Society For Animal Protection on our heads before dinnertime.”

Just then the rest of the band arrived with Paul in the lead. He looked like he was trying not to start laughing at me, while Flake and Ollie hid smiles behind their hands. Richard looked at Till and I and said, “Hasn't anyone come to see about your ankle, Schenider?”

“Not yet,” I said, wincing as I tried to move my leg and finding out quickly that it wasn't a good idea. “If Till hadn't shown up I think I would have bled to death. Do those damn things have teeth?”

“Of a sort,” Till replied. “They pinch more than anything else. Just what did you do to get chomped on?”

“I didn't do shit!” I yelled. “Paul, you saw what happened! One second I'm throwing a Frisbee to Ollie and the next thing I know I'm being attacked by a psychotic Canadian goose!”

“Are you sure it wasn't a zombie goose?” Flake snickered. I'd made the mistake of telling everyone that I'd had a nightmare about being chased by zombified hamsters a few nights back, and Flake was having the time of his life taking the piss from me every chance he could. I glared at him and snapped, “Laugh it up, Lorenz, laugh it up. For all I know you pissed the damn thing off and pointed it my way.”

“I would do no such thing,” Flake said, biting his lower lip and forcing a grin away. “Maybe it had a nest nearby and you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“I don't care if it was the thing's wedding anniversary, I didn't deserve to for it to bite me!” I yelled, waving my hands at my ankle. “If anyone around here needs to be bitten for a reason it's Till because he hunts the fucking things!”

“Hey!” Till snapped. “It's a goose. A wild animal. I highly doubt it has some magical way to know I hunt. Look, Flake's probably right. It's spring, and geese are quite territorial. I haven't seen any goslings around here but that doesn't mean there's not a nest nearby.”

“Till, the damn duck…goose…whatever-the-fuck chased me halfway around the backstage area and that was with Ollie throwing the Frisbee at it, his sneakers and rocks at it!” I said. Paul lost his composure at that point and began cackling, running to hide behind Flake when I threw an empty soda can at him and missed by a mile. “No wonder you couldn’t defend yourself, you couldn’t hit the broad side of a building with a brick,” Paul said from his safe spot. I hissed several heavy-duty curses at him which didn’t diminish his grin one bit. He was saved from my struggling to my feet and beating him over the head with the first thing I could lay my hands on by a lanky guy who looked all of seventeen, dressed in the usual blue and black uniform paramedics wore. He set a large red and white duffel bag down on the table next to me, saying, “Someone here got bitten by a…goose?” His German wasn’t bad but you could definitely tell it wasn’t his first language. I nodded, pointed at my ankle and said, “That’s me. I got bitten an hour ago and I’m still bleeding quite a bit.”

The paramedic began gutting out his kit as he introduced himself as “James.” I looked up to see Paul and Till sneakily peeking at the group of passes hanging from a lanyard thrown over James’ back to keep them out of his way. When our eyes met they both nodded, letting me know that he’d had been vetted by our security staff and I wasn’t about to be mauled to death by a psychotic fan. That, on top of being chomped nearly to death by a goose would have been the last thing I needed. Richard and Ollie were casually seated near the doorway, looking as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths; a couple of security guards were just out of sight but I could see their shadows on the tent walls.

James had begun to remove the makeshift bandaging on my ankle while I was exchanging glances with the rest of my band. He made the occasional comment under his breath in what I thought was French but it was too quiet for me to make out. When he got to the bottom layer of paper towels and napkins, he pulled a bottle of water out of his kit and poured it over the mess so he could pull it free without disturbing what clotting had begun. As the paper came away, the pounding ache that had subsided a little came back, making me catch my breath and the room spin a little.

“You said a goose did this?” James asked, glancing up at me. I nodded, too woozy from blood loss and hurt to answer. Ollie came over and said in his soft voice, “We were playing Frisbee and this…goose…came out of nowhere and nailed Christoph on the ankle. It wouldn’t quit until I went over and…uh…kicked it. A little.”

“They usually leave a bad bruise but it looks like this thing had a grip on your leg,” James said, dabbing gently at my ankle with a wad of gauze and cotton. I bit back a yelp when he hit the biggest part of the bite. “It was like it was half pit bull or half bear trap and half goose,” I muttered. “Geese don’t get rabies, do they?”

“Nope, you’re lucky there,” James replied, applying a thick gauze pad with a sulfur-smelling, dark yellow ointment smeared on it to my ankle and re-taping everything neatly. “You’re not going to need stitches, but I’d advise trying to stay off it for the rest of the day.”

 “We’ve got a gig tonight,” Paul said. “And that’s our drummer right there you’ve just taped up.”

 “I don’t think playing will hurt anything,” James said as he packed up his kit and put everything he’d used into a small, red, plastic bag, sealing it and stowing it in his kit. “I’d keep your foot elevated till the show, then afterwards, even when you go to bed. Make sure whoever’s your medic looks at it during the show just to make sure the bandage is still in place and you’re not bleeding again.” He was gone before any of us had a chance to thank him. I looked down at the ruin of my jeans, the neat white bandages around my leg and said in my sweetest, cutest voice, “Does this mean I get carried to my kit and back tonight?”

 Richard snorted at me and shook his head as he stood up to leave. “You poor, poor baby,” he said, ruffling my hair as he left, Paul trailing along behind scolding him not to pick on me. Ollie and Till hoisted me up between them and we slowly hobbled to the red and white tent that was our dressing room for the evening. Flake stayed behind us in case we needed help, and once we were in the dressing room, Till and Ollie let me down on the first comfortable seat they could find, which was a heavily padded footstool. The short walk had taken a lot out of me; I’m normally in very good shape but bleeding half to death from a crazed goose bite took a lot out of me. The footstool was pushed up against a sofa that looked so soft and comfortable from where I sat, and with a bit of grunting and effort, I hauled my butt from the stool onto the couch, where I settled into its comfortable depths with a sigh. I managed to get my foot propped up before I fell asleep and hoped no one would come by any time soon and wake me up.

 The sound of someone very quietly rustling through the tent woke me up not long after I’d dropped off to sleep. I pried my eyes open, staring around me and confused as to where I was, when the intruder in the tent came into my line of vision.

 It wasn’t a person.

 It was a goose.

 A very big goose.

 Canadian Geese are big naturally but to my goose-predjudiced eyes, this thing was the size of Godzilla. I wedged myself down into the couch cushions, hoping the bird didn’t spot me or smell me, and tried to be as quiet as the grave as the goose nosed around the room, making quiet sounds to itself as it poked its beak into boxes and bags. It found a bag of pretzels and ripped the bag open much like my ankle had been torn open and happily scarfed down most of the bag before it found a bag of cookies and ate half of that. Its hunger finally taken care of, it waddled over to a large basket near the doorway that was full of pillows and made itself at home, tucking its wicked, black, beak into its wings and falling asleep.

This was my chance. I slowly, carefully, sat up, biting back a “huff” of pain from my ankle as I put my feet on the floor. Standing up took me about a minute because I was trying to keep quiet and not put more weight on my foot than I had to. Barefoot and not about to stop and look for my shoes, I crept towards the doorway, one eye on the sleeping bird and one on the floor so I wouldn’t trip over anything. I was almost to freedom when the goose woke up, saw me trying to make a run for it, and came awake, hissing and flogging at me with its huge wings. I conveniently forgot my injured ankle and took off at a run, heading anywhere as long as it was away from the goose.

I went crashing out of the tent, the pain in my ankle finally catching up to me and sending me sprawling across the dry, summertime grass. I remembered how to fall properly, which meant I only barked my elbows and shins as I went down. I tucked my head into my arms, hoping to protect my head in case the goose would attack me when I was down and curled into a ball. I devoutly hoped no one backstage was videoing all this; all I needed was the world and my mother to see me being flogged to death by an irate waterfowl. It was so close to me I swear I could feel its breath.

“Schneider, look out!” Flake’s yell came from behind me. His running footsteps grew louder as he came at me, hurdling over me at the last second. From the flapping and honking I heard, he was chasing the goose, and catching up. More voices around me told me there was an army coming to save me, and when I lifted my head up to see what was going on, I saw the rest of the band chasing Frankengoose around the lawn, trying to catch it and failing. There were feathers flying as once in a while someone would manage to grab onto the goose but it got away, and from the yells of disgust I knew Richard had been the unfortunate victim of the goose bombing him with poop. The sight of five Germans, all screaming and flailing at a goose that was obviously getting the best of them was more than I could take and I rolled onto my back and began hooting with laughter. I laughed till I cried; rolling over onto my stomach I pounded the turf weakly and tried to get myself under control. When I was finally able to sit up, I saw my bandmates trudging across the lawn towards me, all of them looking very bedraggled and done in. The goose was strutting away from them, honking in a way that I’d swear was laughter. It got to the edge of the property and took off, its honks fading as it rose into the warm, golden, evening light.

“Oh mein Gott,” I croaked, laughter bubbling back up in my throat. “You got your asses kicked by a goose!”

Ollie and Paul were limping slightly; the glare they shot at me as they stumbled by would have melted glass. Till and Flake followed them, not saying a word to me. Richard was last as he plucked something white and delicate from his hair; it took me a moment to realize it was pinfeathers. He dug a handful of bigger feathers from his pants pocket and tossed them at me as he stomped by, trying to wipe goose poop from his hair and failing. If they could have slammed the dressing room tent door, they would have. And locked it behind them.

I heaved myself to my feet, grunting at my injured ankle at the same time I started giggling again. I remembered something Till had told me once about dealing with angry geese, and it took all my willpower not to yell it as I walked into the dressing room. I’d have been killed where I stood!

“Be the bigger goose, guys! Be the bigger goose!”