I Shall Call You, Butterscotch by Serena J. Bishop
One thousand dollars. That couldn’t be right.
Leela recalculated the figures from her first quarter at the Ever Green Grocer once more, then leaned back in her office chair with a self-satisfied smirk. “I love EGG.”
She knew that most business owners wouldn't be as ecstatic over that sum of money. But most business owners also didn’t find new vendors for their products while shopping for a bicycle. That was a unique chain of events. She saw her mountain bike leaning against the goat pen and smiled. Since she had her bike, moving around her farm was a breeze, and now with the extra money she could buy new milking stands.
As she began to make projections for the next quarter, her phone buzzed with an incoming call from Dr. Mom. Her mother didn’t find the name as amusing as she did, but that’s what the woman deserved for putting all things professional first. Leela slid the red button over to ignore the call and resumed her work. Of all the things she wanted to do, speaking to her mother was the last on the list.
Okay, that wasn’t entirely true. Speaking to her father would be the last thing.
She returned to her spreadsheet. With a few modifications, she bet Bakshi soaps and lotions could double their profit. She programmed in a formula, then answered the phone ringing on her desk. “Bakshi Farm, home to the happiest goats in Oregon. This is Leela. How can I help you?”
“You really should answer the phone more professionally.”
Leela rolled her eyes. “Hi, Mom. How are you?”
“Well, at first I was annoyed that my only child wouldn’t pick up her cell phone, but I’ve gotten over it, and I’m feeling better now.”
“I’m very glad to hear that,” Leela snickered as she said it. At least she received her trait of being an utter smart ass honestly. “Now, why are you calling?” But as soon as she asked, Leela knew. Her mother only showed an interest in one aspect of her life. The farm. “Wait, I know what you want to know. We did well enough to invest in new milk stations.”
“Is that really the wisest—”
“You’re a silent partner, Mom. Silent.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to step on your toes. But I did call to tell you about something else. I was asked if I had any interest in adopting a newborn goat.”
Leela sat up in her office chair. “What? Baby goat! Why didn’t you tell me that to begin with?”
“Had I done that I wouldn’t have learned about the financials.”
Her mother had a point. There were only a few things in life that caused Leela to drop everything she was doing: free food, cute women in skirts, and baby goats. “Okay, please tell me about the kid.”
Leela listened intently as her mother explained the circumstances surrounding the adoption. A couple bought two does but didn’t know one of the females was pregnant until a week before the birth. Not knowing any better, they consulted a traditional vet for the next steps. At the birth, steps were missed, and the runt of the litter developed an infection. Antibiotic treatment was delayed, and now the kid’s back leg was lame.
“I can’t believe they didn’t screen for Strep dysgalactiae.” It wasn’t often Leela’s present world of goat farming and past life of microbiology intersected, but when they did, she was a force to be reckoned.
Her mother sighed. “I love it when you talk about science.”
“Mom,” Leela drawled as a warning.
“I know. I know. I’m sorry. So, are you interested?”
“Of course, I am!”
“Good.” Her mother let a pregnant pause hang. “Although, adopting a needy kid would be a challenge on top of all the other aspects of the farm you have to manage.”
The farm may have been too much for her mother to handle, but it was cake for her. Of course, she also wasn’t running a cardiology practice. Leela held her tongue. “I can totally handle this. What’s their number?”
Before Leela left, she had calculated the drive time to reach the kid’s home; however, she hadn’t noted the actual directions. Her brow progressively became more furrowed as she journeyed from her farm in the dry desert to the suburbs.
She turned into a development of identical looking homes, professionally landscaped lawns, and passed many streets named after birds. A man getting his mail waved for her to slow down. A glance at her speedometer indicated she was traveling below the speed limit.
She would loathe living there.
Her final destination was at the end of a cul de sac. The front, side, and—she assumed—backyard were enclosed with a waist-high white fence. There was no possible way there was enough land for two goats to graze. She followed the instructions given, opened the frontmost gate and walked on the perfectly green, yet uneven, grass to the backyard.
Leela heard country music but saw no sign of the owner. Or goats. “Anybody out here?”
“Oh, hi!” a man stood from behind a large grill on the patio and took off his work gloves. “You must be Leela. I’m Carl.”
She shook his hand, and behind him she saw two goats. But not like her larger, floppy-eared Nubians. Before her were Nigerian dwarf goats, one a light brown the other black and white. They both made tiny bleats, then went back to eating the grass.
They were amazing.
“Look at those little girls,” she said in a higher pitched voice and kneeled down to pet both of the petite creatures. It had been ages since she had seen goats this small. And to think that there was an even smaller one somewhere was almost magical.
“They are equally as cute as they are efficient at eating my grass.”
She stood and observed the goats, the blonde’s utter was significantly larger. Leela pointed at her. “Let me guess, that’s mom.”
“You’d be correct.” A noise from inside the house briefly drew his attention away from her. “Thank you for coming out, but it may have been for nothing. My husband didn’t know I called someone, and I didn’t know he called someone…”
“And that someone is in the house now?”
He nodded with a grimace. “Yes, and I’m so sorry. The person who came has allergies and wanted to see Frederick inside.”
“The kid’s name is Frederick?” That was a weird name for a goat.
“In a way. Ms. Taylor, who’s inside, came up with it. Adam and I didn’t want to give him a name and get attached. But if you still want to see him, I understand.”
The way he said that was almost as if she had been entered into some kind of goat adoption competition and she had already lost. That wasn’t cool at all. “Where is Ms. Taylor from?”
Leela felt the blood drain from her face. She wasn’t up against any goat farm. She was up against the goat farm in all of Oregon. “How nice.”
“I guess,” he mumbled and tossed his work gloves on the patio table. “I’ll show you inside.”
Leela followed him into the house and was surprised by two facts. One, no tiny goat was being fawned over. Two, the representative from Capricornilicious wore a suit and a look of disgust.
No. It was a sneeze. An intense sneeze.
“Back to what I was saying,” Ms. Taylor said to the man in the room with a tissue in her hand. “I can assure you that our farm has the staff and experience to take care of Frederick.”
“Who calls a kid, Frederick?” Leela asked, but not in the internal voice she should have used.
Carl stepped beside her. “Adam, Ms. Taylor, this is Leela Bakshi from Bakshi Farm. She’s come to see Frederick too.”
“Pleasure to meet you,” Ms. Taylor said with a weak smile. “I haven’t heard of your farm. Is it near here?”
“It is. We’re small, but we’re growing,” Leela answered and rocked in her heels. All eyes were on her as an awkward silence filled the sparsely decorated sitting room. “So, I thought Freddie would be in here. I’m very excited to meet him.”
“He’s this way.” Carl led her down the hall and stairs to the finished basement. “We put him in this dog pen down here when we can’t watch him, so he doesn’t hurt himself. But he’s by the sliding door so he can still see outside.” He gestured to the other side of the room. “Well, meet Frederick.”
“Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” Leela rushed beside the pen and looked into his baby blue eyes. It was like gazing into pure innocence. His coat was an even golden-brown, and from hoof to ears, he wasn’t even a foot tall. “Hi, Freddie. I’m Leela. You are the cutest, most precious little goat I’ve ever seen.”
“You can open the pen if you want to. We have plenty of paper towels in case he piddles on the floor.”
Leela nodded enthusiastically and opened the door. She slid back to give him more space. “Come on, little man, I won’t hurt you.” Slowly, he came out of the pen, and she noticed the damage to his rear leg right away. He was essentially walking with three limbs since the one hung limp. To her surprise, he came right to her.
“He must like you. Do you want to feed him?”
“He’s not nursing?” she asked as she stroked his hair.
Carl shook his head. “He tried, but when his siblings were around they were so much stronger and pushed him out. Then, we had to mix his antibiotics in with formula. He’s used to this way now. Besides,” Carl whispered, “his mom pushes him away.”
“Poor little guy. I know what that’s like,” she said as she rubbed his ears. “I’d love to feed him. It’s been a while since I’ve fed a kid, but I’m sure it’s like riding a bike.”
“I’ll be right back.” Carl left for upstairs.
“Just you and me Freddie,” she said with a smile and watched him move about the basement.
The floor was covered by a worn, beige carpet, so the texture helped him with his footing, but even with that accommodation, the little goat could barely walk. She had no idea how he would survive her farm. Granted once he grew to adult height, at least he’d be visible, but she feared he’d be trampled by her larger Nubians. Of course, there was the option of keeping him in her home. But goats didn’t belong in houses. Not even the sweet, puppy-sized ones.
Who was she kidding? She didn’t have the facilities or the time to take on a kid that needed supervision. Capricornilicious Farms not only had personnel coming out of their ears, but they probably also had special orthotics for goats with mobility issues.
What did she have? Her farm had a barn, a miniature building for mixing and packing, a shack that functioned as an office, and Keith, her only other full-time employee. Compared to them, she had nothing.
Plus, she could barely take care of herself. She hadn’t had a haircut in a year. Her bra was held together with a safety pin. And the night before she ate her dinner directly out of a saucepan so she wouldn’t have to use a bowl. She was a mess.
“Sorry, I got caught up in the conversation they were having about Frederick,” Carl said as he came down the stairs. “Hopefully, you and he were able to get better acquainted.”
“Yeah, the two of us were trading war stories,” Leela commented dryly and took the bottle from Carl. “Is there a specific way you feed him? You know, other than putting the nipple in his mouth?”
“We hold him. Here, I’ll show you.” Carl picked Frederick up and settled him in his lap. Frederick was almost sitting up like a person, but Carl’s hand supporting his chest kept his upper body diagonal. “Because of his back leg, I think he’s more comfortable like this. Okay?”
Leela nodded, and Carl transferred the yellow kid to her lap. She barely noticed his weight, but she felt the moment. It disappointed her that she was going to have to walk away, but maybe someday she’d get a second chance.
“You are a complete natural with him,” Carl said. “Would you like a picture?
“Sure.” Leela pushed away any disappointment she felt. She was feeding an adorable baby goat, and that alone gave her a million reasons to smile. She looked into the camera as Carl took a few different photographs. “So, what were they talking about upstairs?” she asked as she watched the goat suckle like this was his last meal.
Carl rubbed the back of his neck. “Adam and I aren’t fans of Ms. Taylor’s plans for him.”
“What does she want to do?”
“Essentially, they’ll take care of him once he’s an adult and then they’ll sell him to the highest bidder.”
Leela looked down at his blue eyes once again. “But what if they sell him to the wrong people? To a family with a toddler who rides him like a pony and breaks his back?”
“I know. I don’t like it either, but we can’t keep him, and they’re willing to cover the vet expenses.”
“How much was that?”
Carl exhaled a long breath. “About a thousand bucks.”
“I have the money.” Leela heard herself say the words before she had a moment to think about what it meant. It meant no new milking stands. It meant extra cost for tending to an infant goat and time lost to feeding him for another few months. But all of that was worth knowing he would be safe. “Is a check okay?”
He smiled broadly. “A check would be great. But I’ll throw in the pen and formula for free.”
Carl folded the pen and took it up the stairs with Leela in tow. After Frederick finished his bottle, he was perfectly content to enjoy the warmth of Leela’s arms and began to shut his eyes to the world.
“What are you doing with the pen?” Adam asked.
“Ms. Bakshi here has agreed to take him and pay the same amount as Ms. Taylor.”
“Really?” both Adam and Ms. Taylor said simultaneously.
“You have the resources to take care of him?” Ms. Taylor asked with a patronizing tone.
Leela narrowed her eyes and walked towards her. “I have a heart and one thousand dollars, which is all I need.” She noticed Ms. Taylor inching away as she got closer. “And you know what else? His name isn’t Frederick. Frederick is the name of a bougie, white guy who golfs and drives a Lincoln. This little man here is nothing but yellowy sweetness. He’s like…” Her breath was stolen by her own epiphany. “I shall call you, Butterscotch.”
“Oh,” Adam drawled. “I like that name.”
Ms. Taylor uncrossed her legs and stood. “It appears as though you gentleman have made your decision about…Butterscotch,” she said as she rebuttoned her suit jacket then shook the hands of the two men.
“No hard feelings?” Leela asked as she maneuvered her arms to shake her hand.
“From you, none at all.” Ms. Taylor looked at her hand, which had a wet shine to it, then back to Leela.
Leela smiled nervously. “Butterscotch piddled.”
Carl stifled a laugh while Adam rushed over like she was an injured woman. “I’ll show you to the bathroom. Don’t want those allergies acting up.”
As Ms. Taylor departed for the washroom, then made a speedy exit, Adam and Carl gathered everything Leela needed, which included making an impromptu carrier from a cardboard box and towel.
“Do you have everything you need?” Carl asked Leela.
“I think so,” she replied as she made sure the passenger seat belt secured Butterscotch’s carrier. “Although, could you send me those pictures? They’re adorable.”
“Absolutely. And Leela,” he draped an arm around Adam’s waist, “we’re really glad you’re the one who’s going to take care of him.”
“Me too,” Leela said as she stroked Butterscotch’s head while he slept.
“Keith!” Leela shouted at her farmhand through the window. “Get your ass in here and look at this.”
“My boots are muddy!”
“Well, then take them off before you come into the office. Jeez.”
He did as instructed and padded over to the desk in his torn, dirt-stained socks. “Okay, I’m here. What?”
“How’s Butterscotch doing? Is he moving around okay? The ground isn’t even and—”
“Take a breath. He’s doing fine. In fact, when I was out there just now, he looked like he was having a good time watching a cricket or something jump around.”
Butterscotch’s cuteness knew no boundaries. “That’s so adorable! I can’t take it!”
“Yeah, it was real darling. Now, is that really why you called me in here?”
Leela waved her hand. “No, but it’s the first day he’s been out of my sight, and I was worried. But now I’m not. I’m totally fine.”
“Sure, you are.”
She felt like reminding him it wasn’t wise to patronize his boss except she knew she was acting ridiculous and she needed someone in her life to call her out on it. Leela turned the computer monitor in his direction. “I added something to our website that I’m hoping will boost interest.”
Keith’s brow arched as he looked at the photograph of Leela bottle-feeding Butterscotch. “Okay, that’s pretty damn cute. I’d say that’s bound to attract some attention.”
“I hope so.”
To read more about Leela and Butterscotch, check out a free sample of Dreams or buy it wherever books are sold: