Mon, 25th Nov 2019

Moose-in-Law

Text by: 

Abby Comey

Photo by: 
Richard Lee on Unsplash

Taking her time,
she looks the bus over,
grand, otherworldly.
Why, why do we feel
(we all feel) this sweet
sensation of joy?

- Lines from “The Moose” by Elizabeth Bishop

We walked in silence, but not too much silence. Every few minutes, one of us posed a question and the other answered. Afterwards, we left enough space for the words to marinate in empty air, stirred gently by boots on gravel.

The moose came out of nowhere. The road was deserted and then it wasn’t. I only stopped because Trevor did. I was thinking about his last question: Why do you listen to music? I told him it calmed me and he felt the aching weight of my light answer. After that, I had gotten into a nice rhythm, actually. Do you remember, my feet asked to the beat, the twenty-first night of September? I sang it in my head. I needed an inner dialogue, something of my own after four days in the Alaskan wilderness with Trevor. Love was changing the minds - and then I was cut short.

At first, I didn’t know what I was looking at. It was a she, so I found no horns. I glimpsed, instead, dark eyes and a wide belly that rose and fell to what seemed like the rhythm of Earth, Wind, and Fire. Trevor leaned down to whisper in my ear.

“Don’t fucking move.”
“Do moose attack people?” I asked.
“Do you want to find out?” He was still whispering.
“I really don’t think moose attack people.”
“Shut the fuck up!”

Perhaps out of curiosity or rebellion, or perhaps from some inexplicable force of nature, I reached my hand out to that moose.
“What are you doing? Stop,” said Trevor. His voice strained to convey authority at a whisper. I watched his neck veins splay outward like antlers.
“As your older brother I order you to stop it right now.”

“You’re my brother-in-law,” I said, my hand still outstretched.
I often forgot that tiny detail. I had known Trevor since I was ten, after all. For all intents and purposes, he was my brother. Heck, he knew more about me than my actual brother. Even so, there was still this barrier between us. There were those two little words I could throw up in front of myself like a shield against his authority, love, and affection. I regretted adding them to his title usually, but this time I was grateful. This time they gave me the strength to touch a wild moose.

“I’m touching a wild moose.” I was the one whispering now.
“Isn’t every moose a wild moose? Do they have domesticated moose?”
It was my turn to say: “Shut the fuck up!”

The moose placed its mouth in my palm and somehow the two fit together perfectly, mortar and pestle. And then, I swear to God, she bowed to me. She knelt her head to stare at my boots for a few moments, before leveling those dark, dark eyes again. And with that, she was gone. I didn’t hear the crunch of gravel beneath her hooves. I only heard rushing water, calling birds, Earth, Wind, and Fire.

“You’re a wizard,” said Trevor.
“Shut up.”
“No, you’re fucking Dr. Doolittle.”
“Eliza is more my taste,” I said.

I wished I was alone. I wished I could unironically treasure that moment for the rest of my life, but somehow Trevor had corrupted the scene. He had sprayed Old Spice-scented irony all over my Alaskan memory and I didn’t want to forgive him. When we continued on, I walked behind, not beside him. I watched his fishing line swing back and forth with each step like the hook was trying to hypnotize me. It wasn’t working.

“That was cool,” he said without turning around, and without a hint of a smug grin on his face.
“What?”
“You and that moose,” he said. “That was really cool. I’m glad I got to see it.”
“Thanks,” I said.

He slowed down to walk next to me. I let him. Our fishing hooks kept knocking together like tiny wind chimes, real high-pitched like the opening piano part to “Levon.” I started singing.
“Levon wears his war wound like a crown.” Trevor smiled.
“He calls his child Jesus,” he sang back.

As our pace decreased and our volume increased, it occured to me that we might be warding off other miraculous, natural encounters, but the thought left quickly. Trevor starting moonwalking along the trail, sending gravel flying with each drag of his oversized hiking boots. Watching him, I was overcome by the sweetest sensation of joy.