"Oh yeah, looks like they'll be movin' today. Ain't gonna be no bluebird weather this week; nothin' to keep 'em out of the corn. Not much moon, you notice. No sir. They didn't feed last night. They'll be flyin' all right. Sure, I'll have a cup of coffee."
The ride out to the setup is spooky, with the flat, fog-ridden terrain broken here and there by the sudden irruption of an antebellum plantation caught in the headlights, like the South rising again to haunt the American conscience. Tall, gaunt houses set in the middle of nowhere, weathered by salt winds and history, a single yellow light glowing in the middle of that harsh darkness—Miss Rosemary recalling dead loves? Now and then a fox crosses the road, his eyes like tiny boils of swamp fire. One recalls the slaughters on the peninsula. Big Ben Butler, and so many dead, to no avail.
The walk to the blind is quiet with dew and dead grass. The air tastes sweet. The weight of the gun over the shoulder adds to the weight of early-morning legs. The gun barrel is oily, cold, beaded with the sweat of the chilly salt air, dead now in the end of the night, but the foresight catches against the edge of one's palm and the bite of it—and its promise, the big honker hung there sometime in the near future, fear in its eyes—eases the cold, indeed sends a shiver of heat clear down to those clammy toes that now are eager to rest in the mud of the goose blind.
Damned cold in the blind. Only the looming shapes of the decoys to lend hope to the day. Then, again, the first light. The rattle of the dry milkweed pods. The distant clamor of the waking, hungry geese. The beagle-pack rise of their voices, and Matt Walsh this time hunkered against the far end of the blind, his eyes sweeping the sky for a tolling flock. The bark of the swirling goose voices turns into a roar, and Matt tenses. He can hear individual wings.
"They're giving us a look," he whispers. A good look. Long seconds pass, as if time itself is frozen. Then....
Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!
Long live Branta canadensis.