Once upon a time, there was a goat. His name was Flavian. He wasn’t named after anyone. His mother liked the name. His mother was, by any measure, insane. Even for a goat. Flavian was born with only one horn. It may seem trivial, but a goat needs two horns. One on each side. Without a left horn, Flavian was vulnerable. The other goats could goad with impunity. An approach on the left side was without recourse. Flavian could not defend himself. And, he paid a heavy price. They called him “Half.” But, goats have no silent letters, so it was pronounced “haaaaal-phhh.” Stupid goats. They cannot even insult properly.
Flavian was on vacation and met a girl. Actually, a female goat. He was instantly smitten. Her name was, coincidentally, also Flavian. It turns out, goat names are gender unspecific. Another thing about goats? They show affection by playfully butting heads. Flavian, the female, wanted to make a spectacular first impression. So, she caught Flavian, our hero, unawares and, stealthily approaching from the west, lowered her head, and rammed him where the sun shone. The resulting head-wound was catastrophic. As he lay on the ground, Flavian wondered why love hurt so much worse than hate.
For the next 5 years, as he recovered, Flavian did not see Flavian. She never took vacation. And, even if she had, she did not know where he lived. His wound healed but left a painful mark. If goats had not stared before the accident, the scar ensured that his deformity would never again escape attention.
Flavian was not amused that some humans describe Tom Brady as the Greatest Of All Time. He thought, how can being a GOAT possibly do justice to greatness?
One time, Flavian was watching Forrest Gump. He did not like the film. He could not understand any of the historical references but was outraged at Forrest. He spent his entire life chasing Jenny who, at every phase of her life, found contemporaneous ways to hurt him. Jenny was the villain, as far as Flavian was concerned. He hated her. And he hated Forrest for not hating her. But, Flavian did not understand that Jenny was damaged too. The nuance of her childhood scars – and their lasting impact on her personal relationships – was lost on the goat. Flavian’s father, no expert on the subject, found it ironic that Flavian’s disdain for another broken creature was sourced in his own childhood trauma.
But, here is what most troubled Flavian for all the days of his life. When humans would come to the farm and see the lambs grazing next to Flavian’s pen. Inevitably, some blowhard father would call them “sacrificial lambs,” and laugh until one of his children would take the bait and inquire. “A sacrificial lamb,” blowhard would explain, “comes from the bible. The high priest would place a sign on the lamb – – identifying him as a sacrifice for the sins of the community – – and then throw him off a cliff. In this way, human faults, sins, and crimes, were forgiven.” The children would react in horror and then it was usually time to leave. The goats were almost always the victims of the shortened visit.
But, the bible doesn’t talk about “sacrificial lambs.” They were sacrificial goats. Lambs had nothing to do with the story. Flavian did not know when in history this vernacular injustice was perpetrated. Or why. But his ancestors were sent to their most horrible deaths for the benefit of humankind, and it was the lambs who got all the credit. Flavian wanted to write a book about it and call it “The Silence of the Goats.” But, he did not know how to write. Also, beyond the clever title, he was not sure what he wanted to say. He was just angry. Always. And, he never ever spoke to a single lamb in his entire life. He did not even talk to any sheep because he was not 100% sure if they are the same animal.
I mention all of this because Flavian died on Christmas. They say it was natural causes. He was 17, after all, which is pretty old for a goat. His death was not tragic; his life was. His last thought was about Flavian. He was certain that he outlived her and then chuckled when he realized that she had left a far greater mark on him than he had on her.