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Negotiating a goats-for-oats deal

Abnegated on August 20, 2023.

Years ago I had been shocked to learn that negotiation involves no actual goats—in most cases. But yesterweek demonstrated that even the most sensible and ironclad rules have exceptions. Those goats had to be stowed away somewhere. So where—and how? I once dreamed that I was responsible for successfully negotiating a goats-for-oats deal with a foreign state. Could I do the same in “real” life, where the horrifying laws of physics, oppressive rules of logic, and edifying expectations of sanity subjugate me and dash my plans daily? We would find out.

In 2019, President Piggy-Man dubiously claimed that his excellent negotiating skills were what made him an excellent president-man. Indeed, we must give him credit for parleying that barley-for-wallabies deal with New Zealand; it prevented a trade war which would have sent the price for wallaby hides skyrocketing. But most of his artless dealing seemed to be nothing more than artful dodging—weaselry on par with my own success at bartering garters for trotters at the local farmer’s market back in 2016. (That is, I got away with both the trotters and the garters in that one.) Would studying this stable genius aid me in developing a plan to negotiate a goats-for-oats trade with some hapless ambassador? We would find out.

The answer was a resounding no. The goats remained ensconced in every room in my abode. No oats were forthcoming. No one wanted my goats. Except for some guy claiming to represent the emperor of Burkina Faso and a drunken Frenchman I had accidentally butt-dialed, not one of the 193 sovereign nation-states would deign to return my calls. I pondered attempting to negotiate a goats-for-groats deal instead: Perhaps those were more popular. Or even goats for stoats: I could assuredly use my finely-honed weaseling skills to weasel my way into each embassy—and weasel my way out if any of these goaty, groaty, or stoaty deals went sideways. I even considered a goats-for-Croats deal but then remembered that’s pronounced differently so I put it out of mind at once.

I resigned myself to disposing of these goats through more pedestrian means. Notably, a boatload of goats had recently been delivered to the goatburping park on Shoehorner Street (which also abuts Goading Road and the toad farm thereon, which also received a load of new toads aboard the same goat-ridden boat). This capriferous park was full to the brim with goats. The sounds of nonstop bleating filled the air from sunup to sundown, punctuated by the occasional vibrato eructation. And so, surreptitiously toting all my goats down to the goatburping park and unloading them there was a nonstarter—unless I were to stack them atop each other, goats two storeys high. Yet live goats do not stack well.

What to do with all these goats? What to do, what to do…

Exuberant from my success, I considered taking up a career in goatlending again. My brief stint as a goatlender in 1991 had been met with much confusion, derision, and ultimately a hockey puck to the mouth, but that was then and this was now. In the years since, I learned a good deal more about the lending business, how many goats were considered “usurious,” and why animal husbandry and ice hockey do not mix.

One of the goats in my parlor let out an urgent “Baa-aa-aa-aaa!” right then and eyed me with its curiously barred eyes. My train of thought derailed. The goat-laden caboose crashed into the back of my skull, almost knocking me flat on my face. (Fortunately, the goat would have broken my fall.) I returned the askance eyeing and contemplated kebabs for dinner. The goats continued milling about my palatial abode, popping out of the furniture, emerging from every faucet and drain, gnawing on anything edible and many things inedible, and generally making a bleating mess of things. But I had successfully grown my own goatee in a mere three days. So, I did indeed have something about which to exuberate.

More bleating erupted from my bed cushions. Growing disgusted with the whole ordeal, I looked about for something else to do before I went goat-eyed myself. I picked up a Bible, randomly turned to a psalm, and realized they have psalms about goats.

I picked up the nearest goat and tried to milk it. I do like goat cheese, as all my readers know, and one cannot make goat cheese without first acquiring goat milk. And one cannot acquire goat milk without getting kicked repeatedly in the head, I quickly learned.

I put the goat down and read some more Bible verses about goats. There were plenty to choose from—each goatier than the last. In Leviticus 17, the ancient Israelites made sacrifices to the Se’irim, goat-shaped demons. I wondered if these katsikomorphic beasties were still around, up there somewhere, listening for our prayers and punishing us for having moved on to bigger and better, less goaty gods. Were they responsible for plaguing my home with these goats? Were they responsible for my failures to offload my caprine foes on whichever hapless individual might finally pick up the phone when I called? Had Pan teamed up with Fate and the Mœræ to harry and torment me now?

I wondered if they had any goats in Goshen. Were any of them named Gosheven? Would they want my goats on the island of Capri? It is named for goats, after all. Perhaps fine drink-maker Capri-Sun could make goat juice from them? Concentrated goat juice sounds a lot better than the other saccharine, cloying slop that they squirt into bottle after bottle, day after day, in their endless factories.

I considered presenting a burnt offering to the Se’irim dogging (nay, goating) me now, as the Israelites presented to their gods. Again I contemplated kebabs. My flamethrower was out of flames, but just like there’s more than one way to skin a cat, there’s more than one way to roast a goat. (There are seven.) Roast goat-on-a-stick might be the solution to all my problems. Or perhaps only the problem of thousands of goats filling my house and eating my furniture. One can never know for sure—until one tries.

My offerings to the great Goat Gods would be my magnum opus of goatiness.

And one should ensure, when milking a goat, that it’s not a he-goat, I also learned.

I then started bleating myself, for no particular reason.

“Well… my pigs’ feet need something to hold up their stockings, don’t they!?” I justified my bamboozlery. Those trotters really did need those garters.

The porcupine in my dishwasher looked at me disapprovingly. He wasn’t buying my excuses. I was certain that his reemergence after that pangolin had vanished had been more than a coincidence. Alas, my fate in life is to have such judgmental critters living in my appliances. And much like the gnomes whirring and wheedling behind my wainscoting, they serve some purpose known only to the Owl Gods, the dread god Ka‘ū, and perhaps the Se’irim. I only wish it were possible to do my dishes without getting a faceful of quills.

I tried again. “Well… my Becasue’s feet need something to hold up their stockings, don’t they!?” I justified my obsessions. Her little piggies really needed those garters, too.

The goater has become the goated, I quipped. Or is it… the goator has become the goatee? I stroked my own goatee pretentiously.

My caprine crisis had been resolved. Becasue and I would be noshing heartily on goat kebabs for weeks if not months. Becasue would also have the finest goat-leather dresses, goat-pelt hats, and goat-suede shoes for years if not decades. The goats-for-oats deal I had finally struck with Ungabuganda would need to be renegotiated, of course. Or perhaps just regoatiated. All the goats were mine now, and all used up—all mine, all mine! Well, what was left of them after I had shoved them all into that industrial microwave I found in an abandoned factory on Zubenelgenubi Street and carted home in the dead of night. Dead as doornails they were. Roasted to a fine black char they were. “Burn it! Burn it allll!! wasn’t my most original solution to a problem—but it was a tasty one. My magnum opus had been supplanted with a rather artless deus ex machina, but that’s just how things turn out sometimes. At least the god who sprung out of that microwave wasn’t a goat-shaped demon.

I started bleating again. Nothing else started bleating. Because all the goats were dead and skinned and their carcasses cooked to a fine crisp. Becasue started bleating with me. This went on for hours.

All good things must come to an end. Soon we were both hoarse. My mind went to the horses parked in my six-car garage. Then I thought better of bringing those noisome beasties into this saga. I excused myself, picked up a copy of <m>Goats Illustrated</m>, and stepped into the bathroom for a few minutes…