We were driving towards Grahamstown along a district road last Sunday afternoon. As we passed a rural village I commented that it had a feel of my neighbourhood when I was young, where nothing happened on a Sunday afternoon. No sooner had I said that than three snow-white goats, running in single file, streaked out of the open veld on our left - seemingly from nowhere - in front of our car. They appeared so suddenly that I had no chance to brake and I struck the middle one.
In shock I stopped and turned back so that we could check if it had died on impact or was still alive and in need of help. The goat lay prone in the road. There was no sign of the other two - they had simply vanished. Kazalette felt for a pulse on the goat and said she was still alive. She picked the goat up, carried it to the side of the road and held her. I stroked her head, looked in her beautiful pale brown eyes and said I was sorry. We trickled some water over her mouth and then her pupils dilated and she died in Kazalette's arms.
During this time some of the children from the village had gathered to observe, in silence. One adult inappropriately started begging for food and cool drink from us, as if nothing unusual had just happened. The scene was surreal.
I have been feeling troubled about the incident ever since it happened. There were at least four different 'clues', as Lyall Watson might have described them, that this was going to happen, but which I had no chance of understanding beforehand. I also can't imagine what happened to the other two goats. They were running in such close formation that I should have hit at least two, if not all of them, and yet they simply vanished into thin air.
I keep wondering if there was any symbolism in the incident.
The first thought I have is that there is never nothing happening. It is only in our unconscious states where nothing is happening. The goats woke me out of my unconscious state at the time and shocked me back to the here and now.
My second thought came during a walk through a labyrinth. Like Dickens' ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, I wondered whether perhaps these were the goats of past, present and future. What if the goat which died represented the present, the reality of now, of life and of death? And what if the others simply disappeared because the past and future aren't relevant when we are fully engaged in the now?
And then again, maybe I simply knocked down a goat.