The Last Goat

Jessica Macbeth

Once upon a time, there were three goats who lived on a tall mountain that overlooked the plain. Every morning, they watched the sun rise. Then, they meditated. Every evening, they walked around the mountain and watched the sun set. After that, they meditated.

They were very happy goats. They spent their days doing goatish things and thinking goatish thoughts. They spent their nights dreaming goatish dreams.

One day an airplane flew over their mountain. The three goats watched it as it circled once and flew away.

"I'll bet I can do that," the youngest goat said. He spread his forelegs and leaped from the crag. He went splat on the rocks below.

The other two goats peered over the edge at the scattered remains of their companion. Then they looked at each other and shrugged. What else could they do?

Months passed, and one bright day, about an hour after sunrise, another airplane flew over the mountain. Both goats watched it.

"I think I've figured out how it's done," the oldest goat muttered.

Before the other could say anything, he trotted back along the path, turned and galloped toward the crag. Running as fast as he could and with a look of utter determination on his face, he spread his forelegs and leaped over the edge.

He went splat on the rocks below.

The Last Goat shook his head sadly.

The days passed. The moon waxed and waned and the shadows cast by the sun grew taller and shorter with the seasons. Every day, the Last Goat watched the sun rise and the sun set. He meditated. He thought goatish thoughts and did goatish things and dreamed goatish dreams.

At last, another airplane flew over the mountain. The Last Goat looked at it. He looked at the crag and peered over at the rocks below. He peered thoughtfully at his feet. He sighed and rubbed his shoulder against a rock to ease an itch. He remembered that he'd found a patch of especially tasty grass in a hidden hollow the day before and went over to munch some of it for breakfast.

The years passed. The Last Goat was content. Younger goats lived lower down on the mountain now. He knew they were there, but he didn't feel any need for their companionship; he was accustomed to solitude and peace. The inner quiet of meditation had permeated his days and nights and sang in his blood. The other goats referred to him as "the Wise Old Goat" but he didn't know why they did that—he didn't seem especially wise in his own eyes. He just knew that each sunrise brought joy; each sunset brought peace.

Finally, when the Last Goat had noticed his legs were beginning to tremble with age, another airplane flew over the mountain. This one was quite high and glinted silver and almost silent in the sky. He raised his head and watched it until it disappeared into the sun. Again, he looked thoughtfully at his feet.

"It's the ground," he thought. "It's the ground that is important—the ground of being. You have to always keep your hooves on the ground of being." Carefully, he walked over to the crag, feeling the ground of being touching his hooves every step of the way. Cautiously, he put one foot out over the abyss, testing for the ground of being. When he felt it solid beneath that hoof, he moved himself out onto this transparent ground.

He looked between his feet, at the rocks far below, nodding, "Yes, I thought so." He began climbing up the invisible trail, seen only in his heart. Soon, he overtook the airplane, laboring through the thin air. "Poor souls, making such hard work of this," he thought. And he continued climbing clear into the sun. History does not relate what he did once he got there.

Copyright © 2003 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.

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