It was only a few days before Christmas when the goose came running by our house, her wings outstretched, webbed feet slapping along on the unfamiliar asphalt as she took off honking for freedom.

A goose was pretty ordinary for a country boy to see, but our neighborhood was far away from country and farms, and this being our first live goose we took off after it.

She led us a wild, noisy chase as we closed the gap, following her into a vacant lot where I brought her down with a flying tackle, as she banged away at my arms and back with a bill that felt like a hammer.

Standing, I held her in my arms, feeling her heart beating wildly as the younger kids bringing up the rear gathered around asking, "What kind of bird is it?" "A goose," they were told, and were also asked not to tell anyone we had it.

It was a fast, silent procession that sneaked into my back yard, opened the cellar bulkhead and carried her into the dark interior.

There was a warm place by the furnace where we made her comfortable, providing water, bread crumbs and loving strokes to the back of her long neck.

In our eight-year-old minds we knew that we were aiding and abetting the escape of someone's christmas dinner. The goose remained quiet, seeming to know somehow that help had arrived.

A conspiracy between a group of kids and a goose can be preserved and kept from busy parents, but not for long as we locked her up and headed for dinner, hoping she wouldn't honk.

Dinner was a quiet, nervous meal, while listening for the honk and wondering what to do with our prize.

As soon as I was excused from the table I grabbed my coat and dashed out the back door and into the cellar.

Around eight o'clock I heard the doorbell and my mother's voice, saying, "My son does not have your goose, if there were a goose in this house I would know it."

The security in the voice of this strong Irish woman who raised 12 half-italian children floated down from above, my deceitfulness seconds away from being exposed.

Turkeys give up, I thought; around Thansgiving and Christmas they march like lemmings towards the chopping block, but our friend the goose was fighting against the oven and being someone's meal.

Then I knew some kid had squealed, given in to a parent as the footsteps moved toward the cellar stairs.

The door opened and my name was called, the ultimate confrontation with my mother' incredulous tone, asking, "Do you have a goose down there?"

"A goose?" I asked, playing for time that ran out when in some sort of wild suicidal honk our pet for a few hours exposed herself.

It was the man up the street who had the greenhouse and sold plants and now he was standing there followed by my mother who was protesting his intrusion.

But he had the air of the owner about him as he righteously scooped up the big-feathered bird and headed up the stairs.