I heard Ginny bleating my name. She trotted over, and playfully butted her head with mine.
“The new arrivals will be here soon. I can’t wait to make friends!”
She jumped two feet up in the air. That’s Ginny. Always excitable, with a head far too big for her small body.
I’m Will Shakespeare, an alpine buck, named after the world-famous playwright. I live at Angus Farms, up in the mountains. You must be wondering how a goat like me, gets a name like this. Our master, Angus, wanted to go to university, to study literature. He loved to read Shakespeare. His father who had other plans, entrusted him with the farm.
The barn gained precedence over the bard and Angus bid adieu to his literary career. However, he did find other ways to channel his aspirations. He named all the goats on the farm after famous writers or characters. Some of the bucks were named Macbeth, or Hamlet and some does, Rosalind, or Ophelia.
Angus read out plays to us in his spare time. Thanks to him, I’m familiar with the works of my esteemed namesake. Sometimes, I can hear his voice in my head, quoting from his plays.
Ginny’s real name is Ganymede. Or Genevieve. I can’t remember. She has been Ginny to me for so long. I hate it when people call me Billy or Billy-gruff. Not every goat is Billy and not every dog is Tommy. We do have a dog on our farm whose job is to round all the goats up. His name is Sir Thomas (named after Thomas Hardy). He takes his job very seriously and has excellent work ethics.
Nestled in the luscious green hills, where the air is fresh and pure, and the grass emerald-green, our farm is paradise. Angus Farms harvests and sells goat -milk. Ginny and I are still young, but when we are older, we will be housed with the dairy goats and have families of our own. It’s weird imagining Ginny as a mother. She is too much of an imp, and always landing in trouble.
Once, she got stuck under the fence. Her excuse had been that Angus had told her that the grass was greener on the other side. She tried sneaking out to seek this grass but had gotten stuck instead. Sir Thomas almost had a heart attack. A goat up to mischief reflected poorly on him. We freed her with great difficulty. Even more difficult, had been explaining to her the metaphorical significance of greener grass.
“Will! Come quick!”
Ginny’s voice cut through my train of thought. I followed her as she led the way.
Every year, Angus would buy goats from other farms to add to our herd. We were in time to watch him leading a doe and a buck, our age. The majestic black buck was a prize specimen, tall and imposing. I felt a little jealous. I read the name on his collar- Duke.
And then, my eyes fell on the doe. My heart skipped a beat. She was snow-white and radiant. She had a quiet elegance about her. I had never seen such a beautiful creature before. She turned around and looked at me.
Did my heart love till now? I never saw true beauty till this night!
Was this line written just for me and her? I had met the love of my life. Her name was Desdemona. Desi for short.
I was so enamoured with this alluring maiden, that I barely noticed Ginny tugging at my beard.
“Will, come on! Let’s go back into the shed before we get into trouble.”
I was in a daze. I heard violins and jingling bells. This was love at first sight. The kind of love that made one write sonnets and jump up in the air with unbridled joy. I dreamed of her all night. My heart beat for Desi.
I, Will Shakespeare, was in love.
The next day, Angus let us out to graze. Desi stood in a corner. The sunbeams illuminated her, rendering her supple form resplendent. I mustered the courage to saunter up to her. Ginny beat me and started talking nineteen to the dozen. I was tongue-tied. I couldn’t bleat a single word.
“This is my friend, Will. He knows all about Shakespeare!” Ginny exclaimed, jumping up and down in her animated fashion.
Desi looked bored. I saw her eyeing Duke, who was surrounded by admiring does. My ears flopped down in dejection, as I walked away. My first love and her heart belonged to someone else!
Ginny trailed behind me.
“What’s wrong, Will?”
I told her.
“Will and Desi! Sitting in a tree! They will marry! They will have cute babies!” sang Ginny, much to my embarrassment.
“Sorry, I was kidding, kid. Get it?”
“It’s futile. Desi likes Duke.”
“Meh! Will, you silly-billy! What would Shakespeare do?”
Ginny’s words were magical.
Our doubts are traitors and make us lose by fearing to attempt.
“You are right Ginny. Let me woo her.”
I was capable of romance. I knew all about Romeo and Juliet. Wait, that ended badly. Wrong example! I recollected happier tales and formulated a plan, with some assistance from Ginny.
Ginny kept Sir Thomas busy. If he knew that I was wandering off on my own, it would get his goat. I quietly slipped away.
I sniffed the bushes and made my way up the steep terrain. I had to return before it got dark. I wouldn’t want a big bird to swoop in and carry me away. At least, that was the horror story, that Sir Thomas kept scaring us with.
Ah, there it was. A patch of daisies, as radiant as my Desi. I plucked them with my teeth. They tasted delicious. My girl would relish them. I hoped my teeth hadn’t ruined them.
I made my way down. Ginny was still chatting away.
“Sir Thomas, tell me, what is your view on herd immunity?”
I made my way to Desi. She looked curiously at me as I deposited the daisies at her feet. The gentle toss of her head synced with the rhythm of my heart.
A shadow fell upon us. It was this season’s homme fatale, the swashbuckling Duke. Desi trod over my daisies, and effectively my heart, as she shifted closer to him and acted coy for good measure.
I returned, dejected.
The course of true love never did run smooth.
The next morning, we were in for a surprise. Angus had jumped onto the latest bandwagon, ‘Goat Yoga’. He had selected a group of young goats to interact with humans as they did Yoga poses on the farm premises. The humans could hug and pat us to calm them down. It felt weird. Ultimately, if humans wanted to cuddle us, they could do whatever floated their goat!
The group size was about ten, and each person was assigned two goats as cuddle-buddies. Guess who my partner was? Desi! I was over the moon. Duke, for some reason was not here for this session. Not that I was complaining. I hoped to win my lady’s affections, without the distraction of competition.
The session wasn’t great. For one, my human had forgotten to wear deodorant. And not even my hircine odour could mask his. He clutched Desi and patted her like a puppy. I felt sorry for her.
Suddenly, all hell broke loose.
“That goat is eating my Gucci bag!”
It was Ginny, gnawing merrily away, at her human’s bag. Gucci had become goat-feed. The woman’s screams frightened the rest of the herd. One of us, kicked one of them. Pandemonium ensued. My date with Desi was ruined, and ‘Goat Yoga’ stood permanently cancelled.
That night, I caught Ginny gazing at the moon wistfully. No one had been happy with her, not after her latest misadventure.
I nuzzled her affectionately.
“Hey, why the long face?”
“Will, I ruined everything.”
“Nah, just a Gucci bag. You have expensive tastes.”
She butted me back and we continued watching the moon. My thoughts were filled with Desi, and Ginny’s probably with Gucci.
As we followed Sir Thomas the next day, I noticed that Angus was with Duke, training him to jump over a series of obstacles. A lump formed in my throat. Duke was practicing for the annual Mayfair Goat Agility Challenge.
The Mayfair event was a prestigious competition, where one buck would be crowned winner. I had hoped to be selected but had been side-lined. I would not represent Angus Farms. No doubt I was handsome, with my brown hide and curvaceous horns. But I didn’t measure up to Duke. It stung!
As I wallowed in self-pity, I heard the honking of a truck. Angus’s cousin, Pierre had arrived. That one was a bad egg. He stayed on the opposite hill. He owned a goat farm too, and he had brought his goats over for the Mayfair. I knew that unlike Angus, Pierre raised goats for meat, and wasn’t kind to them. They didn’t even have proper names, only numbers.
Pierre’s presence always put Angus in a bad mood. I hoped his stay would be brief.
The men greeted each other with the warmth of an iceberg in the Antarctic.
“Is that your buck for the Mayfair?” inquired Pierre.
“What is it to you?” retorted Angus.
They engaged in a glaring match, as I made my way to the grazing field with the rest of the herd.
That night, Ginny woke me up.
“Wake up Will. I have bad news. I heard from Sir Thomas.”
“Angus and Pierre were drinking. They got into blows. Pierre mocked Angus and they made a silly bet.
Angus bet that Duke would win the Mayfair competition. Pierre said that if his buck G-168 won, Angus would have to hand over ten of his goats to him.
What if Duke loses? What if we are amongst the ones sent over? I’m a dairy goat. But you? You will be dead meat!” Ginny rambled on, incoherently.
“Calm down. Let’s hope Duke wins.”
I was perplexed. My future was dependent on my rival’s success. Duke was training hard. Perhaps, we were worrying for no reason.
It was the day of the competition. The sun shone brightly. Angus was up early, whistling a tune. He opened Duke’s enclosure. Duke had been staying here for the past few days and was being fed a special diet of grains and hay. Angus gasped. The enclosure was empty!
“Duke!” he called out aloud.
Sir Thomas went hysterical. He barked his head off, awakening the whole farm. Angus was beyond himself. It was obvious that this was Pierre’s doing, but there was no proof.
Sir Thomas tried sniffing out Duke.
“A goat missing? Not on my watch!” he growled, hot on the trail.
Duke was discovered in the neighbouring barn, drugged, but alive. He would sleep on for the next few hours, which meant that he would have to miss the fair.
“I will make Pierre pay!” vowed Angus.
He walked into our shed, distraught. We surrounded him, brushing our bodies against him to comfort him. He stroked my beard and said, “Will, I will teach that rascal a lesson. But first, let’s win the Mayfair. You will go in place of Duke.”
I could already see Ginny jumping up and down in delight. My heart worried for Duke, but I had a job to do. I had to win this, for Angus and us.
Angus let me jump through a few hoops. I wasn’t great because I lacked practice. I would have to make up for my lack of experience with intelligence.
The fair was in the nearby town. I rode with Angus, while the farmhand drove a truck with few other goats. They would be put on display for the farm’s showcase at the fair. I could make out Desi’s form from afar.
Ginny wasn’t amongst those selected, but I noticed that she crept surreptitiously into the back of the truck. She gave me a hoofs-up, as the shutter of the truck was pulled down, and we made our way down the winding roads to town.
I was nervous. Farmers from neighbouring towns had lined up their goats for the competition. The betting had begun. The odds were in favour of G-168, Pierre’s Alpine.
Pierre stood smirking. How I despised that man! Angus’s face looked like thunder. I was worried that they would start a fight. And then, I heard a low meh.
It was Ginny, who had crept out of the truck to cheer for me.
“Will, you can do this! What would Shakespeare do?”
Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.
I could do this.
The first round was an elimination round. Twenty goats racing against each other in an open, green field. Easy. I was nimble and quick-footed.
“Go, Will, Go!” Angus yelled.
I didn’t need any encouragement. I dashed as fast as I could. I came in second, after G-168.
The competition narrowed to the top five. The second round was to jump through hoops. The first goat stumbled. So did the second. I observed them closely. They had been too fast.
Go wisely and slowly. Those who rush, stumble and fall.
It was my turn. I gently trotted, and slowly increased pace as I approached the hoop. I leaped with determination and was airborne. I landed on my feet. I had cleared the hoop! There was loud cheering. My spot in the grand finale was secure.
“The finalists are Goatman, G-168, and William Shakespeare! Give them a big hand!” the announcement sounded.
We took a quick break. Angus fed me carrots and parsnip bits.
“I am so proud of you, Will. You can do this, boy!”
The other farm-goats gathered around me.
Desi fluttered her eyelashes at me. I blushed.
Ginny’s voice cut through my reverie.
“Will, channel your inner Shakespeare, and win!”
Angus led me back to the competition.
There were three identical obstacle courses located side by side. The organizers assured a concerned Angus that they had proofed the elaborately designed courses, and no goat would be harmed while participating.
We, the three finalists, would be doing our individual obstacle courses and wouldn’t be able to see what the competition was up to. The goat completing their course in the shortest time would be crowned the winner.
As the referee sounded the horn, I began my course. The first few obstacles were simple enough. Jump up, Jump down. Pick up the red ball and drop it into the pit. The air was loud with cheers, with supporters cheering for their favourites.
I could hear the commotion from the neighbouring course. Goatman had decided to chomp on the red ball instead and was disqualified. In his defence, the ball did look like a juicy apple.
The race was on between me and G-168. Between Angus and Pierre.
The last leg of the course was on a platform, located over a pool of water. The platform led up to two doors. I couldn’t see what was behind each door. One was labelled 2A and the other 2B. In front of 2A, was a nettle bush. And in front of 2B, was a bunch of carrots.
The carrots seemed to be the obvious choice. I took small strides towards 2B. I didn’t dare to unbalance the platform, lest I fell into the pool.
Shakespeare’s voice sounded in my head.
To be or not to be?
“2B or not 2B?”
For a split second I hesitated. And then, I saw it. Door 2B was a red herring. It wasn’t even attached to the rest of the platform. It was jutting out and would collapse if I opened it. Not 2B!
I swerved towards 2A in the nick of time. I pushed the offending nettle bush out of my way and head-butted the door. It swung open, to reveal a gleaming plaque.
At the same time, I heard a loud splash from the obstacle course next door, and a couple of muffled curses in goat-tongue. Confused by the carrots, G-168 had chosen his 2B door, lost balance, and fallen.
I was the winner!
Angus took photographs with me and hugged me. I was given a ‘Mayfair King’ sash to wear and a trophy. I strutted about, gleefully.
When I thought that the day couldn’t get any better, Angus punched Pierre in the face for what he did to Duke. It goes without saying that we would not be seeing him any time soon.
I rode back home in the truck, with the rest of my friends. Ginny rubbed her nose against mine and bleated, “Will, I’m so proud of you!” She then subjected me to ‘where there is a will, there is a way’ jokes.
Desi walked up to me with adoring eyes. For the first time, we struck a conversation. Ginny slunk away quietly to one corner of the truck, to give us some privacy.
What a day it had been!
Duke woke up and was upset at what had transpired, but he harboured no ill-will (now that’s a pun!) towards me. Desi ignored Duke and tried to chat with me at every opportunity. I hadn’t seen Ginny for most of the day and missed her.
It was nightfall. I found Ginny perched at her usual spot, glancing at the moon.
“Hey Romeo, shouldn’t you be with Desi?”
I shook my head.
I would not wish any companion in the world but you.
“Desi is a great girl, but not right for me. You are the one for me, Ginny. You have always stood beside me like a rock.”
For the first time, Ginny was rendered speechless.
I snuggled next to my best friend, and together, we gazed at the moon.
Here are the lines that inspired Will from Shakespeare’s works. Some of these lines were shortened in the story, to fit Will’s goat brain.
“Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.”
-Romeo and Juliet
“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”
-Measure for Measure
“The course of true love never did run smooth.”
-A Midsummer Night’s Dream
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.”
“Go wisely and slowly. Those who rush stumble and fall.”
-Romeo and Juliet
“To be, or not to be, that is the question.”
“I would not wish any companion in the world but you, nor can imagination form a shape besides yourself, to like of.”
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