Goat Man
Steve Rodriguez

“Peter, go fetch me a big apple fritter from Voodoo Donuts,” he yells, his scratchy voice coming from the living room couch.

I tell him. “Not tonight, Uncle Tomás.”

“Que tienes, cobarde?  Are you scared?”

I avoid his gaze. “No, I’m not scared.”

Unfortunately, his taunting tone pervades.  “Are you scared of Goat-Man?”

“It’s raining outside,” I say.

“It’s Portland,” he responds. “It’s always raining.”

He sighs. “What kind of man did my great-grand-niece marry?” 

It’s true.  There’s a serial killer roaming the streets.  Blurry surveillance camera footage shows a half man, half animal figure, complete with stubby horns.  Residents suspect a deranged homeless person.  They call him Goat-Man.

Uncle Tomás has long overstayed his welcome.

 It’s bad enough that he constantly complains about me.

And then there’s the smoke frequently emanating from his Cuban cigars. 

Furthermore, I’m forced to be his errand boy, which mainly involves running around downtown Portland each night to get him various odds and ends from drug stores and fast food joints (his diabetic feet severely limit his mobility). 

Yet, what has really worn me down is his penchant for bragging.

My wife’s great-grand uncle—a Cuban exile kicked out of his home country for insulting a powerful government official—was to spend the summer with us. A break from the Florida humidity.

It’s now November, and he remains ensconced in our condo.  I’ve since grown tired of hearing about his numerous contributions to the glorious Cuban revolution and the wars of liberation he participated in Angola, Mozambique and Bolivia.  I’m sick of hearing about his supposed special relationship with Castro and Guevara and other lesser known communist bigwigs.

But I’ve been willing to overlook his behavior for the good of my marriage.

“Did I ever mention being with Che in Bolivia?” he shouts. 

“Once or twice.”

“He’s considered as a saint there among the poor campesinos.”

“Very ironic,” I say.  “An atheist and a saint.” 

His voice booms.  “Che transcends all conventional notions of religion and sainthood.”

I visualize that iconic saint-like poster image from the 60’s.

“To this day,” he continues, “back in Bolivia, whenever a villager loses a goat, he merely chants the name ‘Che Guevara’ three times and the animal magically reappears.  If that is not the work of a saint...”

“Whatever,” I mumble.

“So, are you going to fetch me a donut?” he asks.


He smirks, then chants. “Che Guevara—Che Guevara—Che Guevara.” 

What a jerk.  I don’t think he has any intention of leaving.

I steady myself, gripping the doorknob. 

Yes, Goat Man is out there.  But the last thing this diabetic old man needs is another donut. “One apple fritter coming up, “I boldly declare.  

First published: November 2017
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