Read an excerpt from Tom Lang’s MOOSE:
She walked into my office, all 800 pounds of sweet lean Alaskan moose sashaying my way. A light rust tint sparkled off her golden brown hair. She bent over, stripped a willow branch with her mouth and ate slow, like I wasn’t there. She looked up at me. Water lilies danced in the swampy ponds of her eyes.
“I’m Cervida and I’m missing my male.”
“I’ll bet he’s missing you, too.”
“That’s not what I mean. He’s missing. Gone.”
“How long has he been gone?”
“That’s not long.”
“It is for one of my bulls. I tell my males when it’s time to be missing and when it’s time to be gone.”
She turned sideways to grab an alder leaf so I grabbed a look at her body. Her humped shoulder, pale long legs and big head with her overhanging snout sent shivers through the dewlap under my chin. She stepped next to me and looked me up and down.
I’m a hoof over seven feet at the shoulders and I’m a good 10 feet long.
“Bigger than average,” I said.
She nudged my antlers.
“Nice rack. How big is it?”
I flared out my chest and extended my neck so she could get a good look at my six foot wide antlers.
“Way bigger than average,” I said. “I’ve heard that before,” Cervida said,
turning to eat more leaves.
“Look, you beautiful cow, you’re not here to give me a physical and this ain’t no restaurant. So, what can I do for you?”
“I hear you’re the best.”
“Best at what?”
“I’m not bad.”
“No, you’re not.”
She chewed the leaf slowly as we stood staring at each other.
“Are you free to find my male?”
“I ain’t free and I ain’t cheap.”
“Neither am I,” she said.
I stripped a branch from above me and chewed and stared while she chewed and stared back.
“Sure, Ms. Cervida–”
“Call me Vida.”
“Okay, Vida, I’ll graze around and see what I can find.”
I’m Al Gigas, moose detective. I’ve roamed the mean riverbeds of the Chilkat Valley for ten years and I’ve seen things no creature should ever see and I’ve seen creatures that will never see again. A missing moose is a bad sign but I didn’t mention that to Vida. She wasn’t the first ungulate to walk into my office looking for a loved one. I’ve had brothers looking for brothers, calves for mothers, mothers for calves. I find things, Vida was right about that. But what I find this time of year would be better if it stayed lost.
October was almost here. The wind starts blowing out of the north, the kind of wind that raises the inch-long hair on your rump and sends a sick feeling down into your large rumen, the biggest of my four stomachs. When the fall wind blows any meadow can explode with a moose battle; a misunderstood bellow can end with a fight to the death. The north wind tells a moose that winter is coming and life is about to get tougher. And if you’re a moose in the Chilkat Valley you know that the wind is telling you the killings are about to begin.