Still whispering to himself, Alfred turned around to greet his visitors. He smiled when he saw Rosie, who, though finding his lunacy amusing, had been one of the few chickens to treat him kindly. Alfred looked at Sonny. The goose’s smile widened, but all joy vanished from his face. His eyes filled with terror and he began laughing hysterically. Sonny took a step back. Louder and louder the goose laughed, until his wild honking could be heard on the other side of the farm. Suddenly he turned and ran. As fast as his flat, orange feet could carry him, Alfred raced up the hill, through the chicken yard and off towards the barn. The hens laughed as he ran by honking and flapping.
“Good grief,” said Sonny. “I thought he was going to attack me! That goose is bonkers.”
Rosie laughed and gave Sonny a pat on the back. “You should’ve seen your face! Ha! I told you he was strange. You don’t need to worry though, he wouldn’t hurt you.”
It should be said in Alfred’s defence that he was not entirely crazy. Despite his peculiarity he was a smart and thoughtful bird. During his time of solitude Alfred had become somewhat of a philosopher, pondering matters most geese never do. He was the first (and only) animal on the farm to suggest the idea of the earth’s rotation. His theory did not have the earth rotating as a sphere upon its axis, but rather as a disc spinning, like a record on a turntable. According to Alfred, the earth completed a one hundred and eighty degree turn every night. This idea, coupled with his belief that the sun rose from the same spot it had set, like a ball bouncing, explained how the sun was able to rise every morning over the same side of the farm. He hypothesized about the nature of trees, water, death and tractors. The goose was fascinated with concepts like time and self and free will. He was also curious as to how milk became cheese. Compared to the ideas of the great human philosophers Alfred’s were by no means profound, but considering that geese, like most birds, have limited capacity for existential thought, he was pretty good. There was one way though in which Alfred was equal to the great philosophers, a way in which many modern philosophers are not: once in a while he came up with an idea that truly frightened him.
After that episode at the pond with Rosie and Sonny, Alfred disappeared for a while. It took three days for him to recover, and then he was back behind the henhouse, sharing his thoughts with any chicken willing to listen. From then on though, Alfred’s preaching was limited to a single, urgent and frequently asked question: “What if the old rooster didn’t crow?” The chickens found this question absurd. The old rooster always crowed; that was his job. Alfred might as well have asked, “What if the sun didn’t shine?” Nevertheless, he kept asking his question; and the more he asked it, the less interested the chickens became. To them he was just a crazy old goose.
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