There once was a rather large goose named Gustav.  He lived on a very sunny pond surrounded by little houses and bushes and trees.  The pond was full of ducks and geese to keep things lively, frogs and crickets to sing all night long, and fish that liked to jump high out of the water just so that the sun would shine off their backs.  It doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

Gustav’s life would have been quite perfect except for the fact that Gustav couldn’t fly, and so he was stuck on the pond forever.  You see, Gustav had been born with a bad wing.  It wouldn’t move like it was supposed to; it hung down almost to the ground, and it was a little ragged around the edges.

Gustav didn’t mind the wing terribly.  He liked the little pond and didn’t particularly want to leave and besides, if he turned just right, the loose wing blocked the wind and kept his feet warm.

The biggest problem with the wing was that it kept Gustav from really fitting in.  The other geese on the pond didn’t ever stay long.  They flew away before Gustav had even gotten to ask each member of the flock their name, and Gustav could never tag along on their winter vacations.  And to be quite honest, they weren’t very interested in Gustav either.  They kind of ignored him, all because of his silly old wing.

And Gustav didn’t quite fit in with the ducks, either.  At bathtime, they always looked like they were having so much fun and Gustav wanted to join in.  So, to get their attention and let them know what a fun-loving goose he was, Gustav would cannonball right into the middle of their bathtime party.  However, Gustav, as I said, was a rather large bird and the waves that his cannonball created half drowned most of the ducks and sent the rest of them sailing down to the other edge of the pond, where they would gather together in a tight knot and cluck at him suspiciously.

Winter time was the quietest time around the pond.  All the animals and fish and insects left or went into their burrows or deep under the water.  Each little family or flock could keep each other company, but Gustav was stuck on his own.

It wasn’t that he didn’t stay warm.  He had made himself a lovely little nest in the bushes on the far bank of the pond, and he could curl up in there amid discarded feathers and crunchy fall leaves, wrap his loose wing around his feet and sleep quite warmly and comfortably.

But he did get bored.  On a rather warm day one winter, while he was trying to amuse himself, he decided to see if he liked living in a burrow like some of the animals.  So, while his neighbor Barnaby the Badger was out collecting some extra padding for his hole, Gustav decided to crawl inside and see how he liked it.

Unfortunately, Gustav got quite stuck.  Poor Barnaby came back to goose tail feathers and wildly flapping webbed feet sticking out his front door and had to spend two hours digging Gustav out.  He didn’t get mad, but he didn’t share any of his soft moss with Gustav either.

Gustav limped his way back to his own nest and settled down to let his ruffled feathers relax.  He was feeling a little sad.  What would it take to be really, truly happy?

to be continued.