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The Bull Moose

by
 Down from the purple mist of trees on the mountain, 
lurching through forests of white spruce and cedar, 
stumbling through tamarack swamps,
came the bull moose
to be stopped at last by a pole-fenced pasture.
Too tired to turn or, perhaps, aware there was no place left to go, he stood with the cattle.
They, scenting the musk of death, seeing his great head like the ritual mask of a blood god, moved to the other end of the field, and waited.
The neighbours heard of it, and by afternoon cars lined the road.
The children teased him with alder switches and he gazed at them like an old, tolerant collie.
The woman asked if he could have escaped from a Fair.
The oldest man in the parish remembered seeing a gelded moose yoked with an ox for plowing.
The young men snickered and tried to pour beer down his throat, while their girl friends took their pictures.
And the bull moose let them stroke his tick-ravaged flanks, let them pry open his jaws with bottles, let a giggling girl plant a little purple cap of thistles on his head.
When the wardens came, everyone agreed it was a shame to shoot anything so shaggy and cuddlesome.
He looked like the kind of pet women put to bed with their sons.
So they held their fire.
But just as the sun dropped in the river the bull moose gathered his strength like a scaffolded king, straightened and lifted his horns so that even the wardens backed away as they raised their rifles.
When he roared, people ran to their cars.
All the young men leaned on their automobile horns as he toppled.

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