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Believe Me

Jennifer Della'Zanna was very happy making a living as a freelance writer for several years before a story invaded her head and wouldn't leave her alone. She found National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) one year and thought she'd get the story out of her system. She did, but then another story occurred to her, and another, and another. After a few years, she sat her family down and broke the news that she wanted to go back to school to study Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University. She has never looked back since and, although her family remembers fondly the days when she used to cook and do laundry, they have been extremely supportive anyway. While she likes her novels long, she prefers flash for her short stories. This is her first fiction sale.
Just one more hill and I would be home. As I topped the rise, the county sheriff's car filled my vision, parked in my driveway. My 14-year-old was babysitting his sister for the first time. What happened?
I pulled onto the grass, jumped out of the car, and sprinted toward the house. The door opened as I approached.
"Mom! You have to see this!" John pulled me into the kitchen. The sheriff and his deputy parted to reveal my five-year-old daughter kneeling on a chair, huddled over something on the table.
"What is it? What's wrong?"
Her pink hooded sweatshirt covered something that moved.
She flashed a bright smile. "I was just telling the unicorn not to be afraid. He gets scared when anybody comes close."
I glanced at Roger, the town sheriff, whose daughter went to kindergarten with mine. He looked amused, for which I was grateful.
"Unicorn?" As I approached, a little pink nose peeked out from beneath the sweatshirt. I lifted the hood and, sure enough, a tiny horn poked from the white forehead of a small animal. The baby buried its nose under my daughter's arm. In the living room, Brooke had strewn craft items across her play table.
"Where did you find the unicorn, honey?"
"In the garden. He lost his horn, though, so I put a new one on for him." I stroked her hair as she sat with both hands clamped down on either side of the animal's body and snuggled it with her cheek.
"Why didn't you call me?" I faced John and struggled to keep the anger from my voice.
"I called animal control, but they didn't.... They said they'd be right out, but Sheriff Roger came instead. I didn't know Brooke put the horn on though, Mom. But there's still--"
"They, uh, they called it into us as a possible... well... hoax." The deputy fidgeted.
"I recognized the name, though, and I was coming out this way anyway," said the Sheriff. "I told them I'd take care of it. I don't think it's dangerous." He grinned.
"Look," I said. "I'm sorry that you came over for nothing, but as you've probably guessed by now, this is not a unicorn."
"But, Mom--"
I held up my hand and said, "John, you can get in big trouble for perpetrating a hoax."
"Mom, it wasn't just the--"
"This," I said, pulling back the hood again, "is a goat. It must have escaped from the barn down the road. This has all the markings of their Swiss Alpines." I patted the kid's head to soothe it while I pulled on its horn. With a gentle tug, I was able to detach the delicate seashell Brooke picked up in Florida last year and had always insisted was a baby unicorn's horn.
John tugged at my arm. "Mom."
I glared at him. I couldn't believe he had been this irresponsible--and I wasn't ready to forgive him yet.
Sheriff Roger cleared his throat. "You got this?"
"I do," I said. "Thank you for coming." He tipped his hat at me. I could tell he was trying not to laugh.
"First of all," I said after I shut the door and faced John with my hands on my hips, "don't ever pull that kind of stunt again." I looked over at the animal on the table. "Second, baby goats do not belong on the kitchen table!"
"But, Mom--"
I cut John off again with a slash of my hand and walked back to my daughter, who still whispered to her hornless unicorn.
"Brooke, let's try to find out where the baby goat came from." She resisted my attempts to pry her hands away, and the jacket made it difficult to maneuver the wriggling animal. I shouldered Brooke out of the way and untied the sleeves that were knotted around its middle to keep the jacket secure.
"Mom!" John became more insistent. He stepped toward me.
"John, I have it." My temper was at the breaking point.
I lifted the jacket away from the little body, and with a little bleat, the baby animal soared above the table, suspended by tiny wings on either side of its body. I sat down in shock as it tried to avoid getting tangled in the light fixture. Brooke squealed and clapped her hands.
"Mom," John said, "I really don't think it's a goat."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, March 9th, 2016


This story started with the prompt, "Write about something that doesn't belong on the kitchen table." The idea of a goat came from my childhood, when my family raised all kinds of animals, including rabbits, goats, and chickens. A goat was the silliest thing I could think of on a kitchen table. The rest comes from being a fantasy writer, I suppose. My children, John and Brooke, are beyond thrilled that this is my first published story. Now they think they're my good luck charms. I haven't told them I've known that all along.

- Jennifer Della'Zanna

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