Candida Strong called Encyclopedia one day to tell him that Christopher Columbus Day was missing. Already, she sounds a bit off. She eventually explained that Christopher Columbus Day was the name of a goose at her father’s nursery. The nursery kept geese around for protection from thieves. For reasons not explained, all of them were named after holidays.
As an odd coincidence, this was all taking place on Columbus Day weekend.
Adjacent to the nursery was a state park, which was filled with people camping for the long weekend. The two decided to split up and search separate halves of the park to cover more ground. The only thing that caught Encyclopedia’s attention was a gruff woman in a dark brown shirt and a red knapsack. She didn’t stop to talk to him.
As he was getting ready to head back to meet up with Candida, he came across a campsite with two men cooking what they said was chicken by a fire. When the two men saw Encyclopedia, they offered him some breast meat. Since Encyclopedia grew up in Idaville, a town that doesn’t bother teaching their children the dangers of accepting food from strangers, he happily accepted and enjoyed the dark meat.
He then asked about the missing goose. The first man said he didn’t notice anything, but the second one said that he noticed the geese at the nursery on the way to the park and that he saw the woman with the red knapsack feeding them.
Encyclopedia then met up with Candida and told her that he may have had a lead. When he described the woman, Candida said that she recognized her as well. Candida told him that the woman in the dark brown shirt was in such a rush, she had nearly knocked her over.
After hearing Candida say the word “dark,” a switch went off in Encyclopedia’s mind. Chicken breasts are white meat, but the meat that those men gave him was dark, like a goose. That meant they were actually cooking up Christopher Columbus Day.
I have a few problems with this. Why would the men lie and say it was chicken? When Encyclopedia approached their site, he hadn’t asked them about the goose yet, so they had no reason to believe the boy that wandered into their campsite was looking for the goose they were cooking. And by saying it was chicken, they risked Encyclopedia figuring out that it was all dark meat. It’s not that unlikely, because that’s exactly what ended up happening. They could have said it was duck, and Encyclopedia probably wouldn’t have thought twice about it.
In fact, if the men were accused of killing the goose and cooking it, there was nothing stopping them from saying, “You’re right. We lied. It wasn’t chicken, it was duck,” and they’d probably get away with it.
And why did the men try to pin it on the woman with the red knapsack? Her only crime seemed to have been being in a rush to get somewhere. Where was she even going? It seems like an odd coincidence that she passed Encyclopedia, the men’s campsite and Candida, who was supposedly in the other half of the park.
The one thing I especially enjoy about this story is the fact that Encyclopedia unwittingly ate some of the duck he was hired to find.
“Candida, the bad news is that Christopher Columbus Day is dead. The good is that he was delicious!”