Michael Tamm was tugged away from his daydreaming by a goat, nibbling determinedly at the sleeve of his dangling right arm.

“Betty, please don’t,” requested Michael.

The other goats were busy chomping away at the landscape, but Betty had acquired a taste for Michael Tamm’s right sleeve.

“Eh-eh-eh-eh,” countered Betty.

Michael removed the sleeve from Betty’s reach.

Betty seemed to sulk as she left to join the others.

These goats had been brought here by their previous owners, a couple who seemed to be half goat themselves, before their disappearance. The goats were brought to this ex-landfill site after the couple couldn’t afford to rent private land for grazing, and struck a deal with the local council in exchange for the goat’s landscaping services. This saw the local council no longer needing to pay humans to chomp through the brambles each year with their specialised equipment.

On a crisp spring morning, the goats first met Michael Tamm. He was on his routine morning walk. They were cautiously exploring their new habitat. Michael bleeted at them a few times, then walked on.

Since that first encounter, Michael’s walks became a regular event for the goats, and the goats became a source of continual interest for Michael. He got in contact with the owners, and began to take some responsibility for maintaining their welfare.

One day in mid-spring, after Michael had performed the daily head count, he found he was two goats short. Michael scoured the local area for hours, alongside several other concerned community members, until finally hearing the goats were rescued by a group of children from the side of the road, carrying them into a play park for safekeeping after finding them dumped by a white van. Michael ran back to greet the two abductees with such relief that day. He was supposed to be preparing for his interview, but this event forced a re-evaluation of his priorities.

He did end up doing ‘very well’ in that interview, and was ‘only just’ edged out by the candidate with two years experience for a trainee role.

Now, at the end of summer, things were different. Michael was soley responsible for the 9 goats who’d previously been only acquaintences. He still didn’t have a job, though.


Before they disappeared, the previous owners asked if any of the volunteer goatherds – Michael Tamm was one such voluntary goatherd – would be willing to take temporary ownership of the goats. The owners mentioned something about a move abroad to deal with a family member’s dying or death. Something about papers. And a house? Probably.

Considering that the only other voluntary goatherds were a geriatric man – who mostly came to the goats with threats of using them in a curry, and a pair of seven year old twins, Michael was really the only eligible candidate.

Michael Tamm did not rise up to accept responsibility at that meeting, but somewhere between the bleak forecast being painted by the couple, the tears of the twins, the expectant looks of their parents and the grinning, lip licking of the old man, Michael found himself signing papers declaring transfer of ownership.

“Don’t worry,” the owners assured him, “it will only be for a short while”.

Michael wondered then how long a ‘short while’ would be.

87 days and counting, as it turns out, since the couple was last sighted.


The summer months of Michael’s newfound ownership passed with relative ease, as he found there was very little intervention required from him.

Goats eat. And eat. Then sit. And chew. They also poo on occaision.

When its especially hot, they eat less, and sit more.

Most of Michael’s caring responsibility was as a sort of portable scarecrow for ‘the youth’, as the concerned OAPs would often warn him about through telephone calls.

He rather regretted posting his telephone number on the goat’s pen at times.

Now Michael and the goats were teetering on the edge of Autumn.

Michael Tamm was afraid to fall in.

The previous owners had shared with Michael what seemed to be every ounce of their goat related knowledge, all at once, in a 20 minute meeting that stretched to 3 hours.

It seemed some of the knowledge shared did stick to Michael Tamm, but he couldn’t recall a single thing said in that private lecture.

One of the topics covered in that meeting was what the goats would need from Michael in the different seasons. From somewhere in his brain, Michael retrieved information about goats going into heat in Autumn. And wet ground being bad for their feet. And their poo being harder to sweep as the temperature drops.

“You need to sweep it out of the shelter, or they’ll get worms,” he thought he heard one of the previous owners say.

It seemed everything about the oncoming months meant misery for the goats, and danger to their health.

“You might have to call the vet sometimes,” he heard again.

Michael Tamm, sole carer of nine other beings. And for this, he was paid not a penny. All this potential trouble with the goats meant Michael needed money, especially for costly vet visits.

Michael Tamm needed to land a job. He had, at present, three interviews in the next week, as well as five written applications awaiting reply.

Monday morning was the first interview of the three, at a supermarket he’d worked at previously, before moving cities to attend university. Now he was back for his old job, armed with a Mathematics degree.

In the suit he’d bought for his grandmother’s funeral, Michael Tamm stepped off the bus, and through the sliding doors of the supermarket entrance.

“Hello,” said Michael Tamm to the Customer Service Assistant, who lent on the counter of the Customer Services desk, “I have an interview at 10, I know I’m a little early…”

The Customer Service Asisstant had already begun dialing numbers on their pocket radio, and, bringing it to their face, told it, “Mary, someone here for interview”.

The radio’s response was a garbled noise.

“Go upstairs, and wait in the first room on the left,” were the instructions the Customer Service Asisstant lifelessly relayed to Michael Tamm.

Michael did as he was told.


As he sat upstairs, in the first room on the left, he adjusted his suit jacket. Then he opened his suit jacket. “Actually, better leave it closed,” he thought. But it bunched up like a muffin in a case, so once more he undid the two buttons to open his suit jacket.

As he swept the sides of his suit jacket apart, he noticed the fly area of his trousers was peaked. Like a tent.

He nervously looked at the door, then back to his fly-tent.

Michael did not feel the least bit aroused, and certainly didn’t want the interviewer thinking otherwise.

Another glance towards the door. Back to the fly.

He pushed the fly-apex down. But somehow, another peak appeared simultaneously, higher up.

And pressing that peak down caused the original tenting effect to occur once more.

He pulled on the lengths of his trousers, first away from him, then towards him.

But nothing could keep the fly down.

Michael heard footsteps outside the door. Without hesitation, he thrust his chair – and his lower half with it – as far under the table as he could.

At least no-one would see his fly now. Unless they looked under the table.

The sound of footsteps receded, and Michael found himself, while still squeezed between chair and table, finally ready for the interview.

All he needed was the interviewer.

He assumed, in the chair, as relaxed a pose as one could while being suffocated by a table. And there he waited.

Five minutes had passed on the clock of the office wall.

Well, he did arrive early, after all.

Ten minutes passed. He forgot about the reason he was in such an intimate position with the table and cast it away from him, regaining his full lung capacity in the process.

Twenty. Minutes. Gone.

Michael contemplated leaving to alert the Customer Service Assistant of his wait.

“But what if the interviewer comes while I’m gone?” Michael responded to himself in his mind.

For fear of appearing impatient, Michael decided to stay put.

At 37 minutes past 10, the door of the room swung open, and the visitor caught sight of Michael peering at the underside of a computer monitor. The squatting Michael, hands pushing up the front of the monitor, leapt back. The monitor returned to the desk with a thud.

The guest spoke, “Um, are you the IT person?”

“No, I’m Michael,” said Michael.

After several seconds of silence, he added, “the applicant for the Customer Service Assistant role.”

“Oh... Yes!” the guest replied, “That position has already been filled, I must have forgotten to tell you, sorry.”

Michael stood, bewildered. “Oh, no problem,” he replied.

The guest smiled and wished him a safe journey home.

“Thanks, you too,” Michael replied as he exited the room.

“That’s fine,” said Michael to himself as he left the building, “these things happen.”

He caught the first bus heading towards the goats. Seeing their faces would certainly cheer him up.

But it was certainly all fine.


Michael returned home from his impromptu goat visit with equal parts calm and concern. Another job opportunity down the drain. But maybe something better was around the corner, better pay than minimum wage, at least.

He booted up the family computer and visited his email. Two new messages awaited him.

The first email subject read: “RE: Application for Role ID 327…”. The second email concerned adjustments to the South West Goat Society membership structure. Michael Tamm chose to expand the first email. It read:

Dear Michael,

Many thanks for your application. We are delighted to offer you the role of Finance Assistant at Dyas & Co.

Please inform us of your availability for this role within the next 5 working days.

If we do not receive a reply from you within the next 5 working days, this offer will be invalidated.

Many thanks,

Cherie Stinnel

People Manager

Dyas & Co.

Michael Tamm, for the second time today, was bewildered.

His first action was to check the ‘email sent’ time. “14 minutes ago,” was printed on the email interface. Realising he had 119 hours to construct his reply calmed him slightly. Michael released the breath he was holding, and allowed himself a smile.

He did it. Finally.

It must have been a stellar application, because Michael wasn’t even interviewed. To tell the truth, he scarcely remembered applying. But it didn’t matter.

“Well done,” said Michael to himself.

Michael sent an email of acceptance after five minutes of careful proof-reading. It was only two lines, but you can never be too careful.

After ten minutes he received another email from Cherie Stinnel, this one containing his contract, asking him to print it, sign it, scan it, and send it back.

He looked through his new contract. At the section detailing his payment, his jaw dropped. Twice the minimum wage!

Bewildered. Again.

He ran to the local library, coins jangling in his pocket, to do as he was asked. Asked by that Saint, Cherie Stinnel of Dyas & Co.

He printed two copies of the contract at the local library, and with the help of a patient librarian, scanned the signed copy.

He wasn’t entirely sure why he had printed a second, unsigned copy of the contract. He supposed he thought he would be surrendering the signed copy to Dyas & Co. But that wasn’t how electronic scanners worked.

On a library computer, he sent off the scanned contract to Cherie Stinnel, People Manager.

“Maybe I should be Michael Tamm, Goat Manager,” he pondered.

It certainly sounded professional, Michael felt.


The first three weeks at the organisation seemed to fly by. Every day was different.

Yes, the office was smaller and more stuffy than expected, but clearly the company was investing in what mattered: the employees!

Michael was excited for payday.

He also couldn’t help but notice he was one of only two people to ever enter the office. The other was the Finance Manager. Michael thought his name was John, or Jones.

The Finance Manager signed off his emails with the name ‘Robert’, but when Michael had addressed him with the name, he was met with a, “Please don’t call me Robert, Michael.”

So Michael decided to pronounce John or Jones’ name ambiguously, so it came out like “Joan”. This is how he would avoid appearing not to know John or Jones’ name.

That was how Robert the Finance Manager became Joan.


In the middle of the fourth week of Michael Tamm’s working life, something eventful happened. A visitor came to the office.

The stranger appeared unexpectedly behind the frosted glass of the office door in the early afternoon.

Their hurried knock was swiftly met by Joan the Finance Manager, who opened the door.

The visitor seemed to be in their early forties, balding, wearing a creased suit and a pained expression on their face. Their hands pressed in on their left thigh, where the surrounding area of their suit trouser was stained a still-damp dark red.

Joan excused himself to Michael, and left the room with the visitor.

Michael heard their voices faintly outside, and tried to grab fragments of their conversation. There was either a payment mixup, or a change of account was being requested. The tone of the visitor suggested this was more of a command than a request.

Michael recalled the dark red blotch on the visitor’s suit trouser, and wondered if he needed medical attention. Surely a trip to A&E first, then visit the accountant. Or he could have called while waiting at the hospital.

Joan returned after five minutes with a rather vacant look on his face, and a dark red patch between his right shoulder and neck.

Michael didn’t get to say goodbye to the visitor. “Didn’t say hello, either,” he realised.

Joan told him not to worry, but – in a rather hurried tone – to set up a new account for B.T Bakeries, and transfer into it all the holdings from an organisation called Sharecore.

Michael Tamm did exactly that.


Michael visited the goats on the eve of the surprise visitor’s visit.

Poppy and Molly were headbutting each other as he approached the goats’ enclosure, and Lillian was busy chewing a Lillian-sized hole deep into a bramble-bush.

Michael’s paycheck would arrive at the end of the week. His worries of financing the goat’s wellbeing would be settled, his own wellbeing too.

He could buy them the experimental new waterproofing spray advertised in the last installment of the South West Goat Society’s newsletter. That could help protect their feet in the wet seasons.

With the beginning of October oncoming, Autumn was now in full swing.

Michael thought of the discomforted bakery owner who visited the office earlier that day. However strange the stranger’s desire to visit his account before a doctor, Michael was thankful to finally see one of the people whose livelihoods was intertwined with his own.

Betty nestled her way under Michael’s arm as he sat on the bench, looking out on his flock.

Michael Tamm offered his right sleeve to Betty.

Betty began to nibble approvingly.