The Moose


Verses of the Ballad

…It was pleasantly cool, and fat flakes of snow drifted softly from the darkened sky and covered the trail in a gentle blanket. The dogs were eager to run, and the only sound that they made with their passing was a steady panting of breath and jingle of snaps jostling against collar rings. They traveled through a shallow well of light thrown from a solitary headlamp beam atop The Boy’s brow, and the world all around was as still and thoughtlessly dreaming as a child’s snow globe. Middle Cousin dozed where he lay in the basket, hypnotized by the flurries, and The Boy lolled at the handlebars half drunk from second hand smoke and a shrunken belly too filled with rich fare. They climbed up to the Shulin Lake trail and the lights from The Old Man’s camp glittered in the distance and they moved that way as surely as if mounted on rails. The Boy was starting to doze off himself when they ran into the wall.

At first, the headlamp showed nothing but the blackness at the end of its meager reach; the dogs were the surest tell, because they stopped in their tracks and frantically fanned into the deep snow on either side of the trail. Then there was some immense silhouette in their midst, and Halo was shrieking in pain and The Boy was yelling and off the sled, and though he could scarcely believe it, Halo came flying through the air above his head and disappeared into the black, and the shape lowered its head nearly to the ground and hissed at him, eyes set impossibly wide apart and glowing against his light, yawning reach of its antlers sweeping and catching two more dogs and pile driving them into the bank.

He was fumbling with the pistol, but not fast enough, not nearly, and now it was he who was tumbling and down on his knees as a wall of bristling brown hair and muscle and rage swept past him and caught Middle Cousin as he was frantically clawing his way out of the sled. The little boy never made a sound, just crumpled in on himself and disappeared inside the wreckage of the sled as the beast spun and began to stomp and bellow. As if in a dream, The Boy was back on his feet and the ugly steel bulk of the .41 lay naked in his hand, and when he put it right up against the side of the beast’s head and squeezed the trigger, it barked like heavens own thunder and knocked the creature around as surely as if it had been hit by a semi. Twin steamers of blood spun from flared nostrils the size of coffee mugs, and the great creature staggered off of the trail into the deep snow and its life’s blood described a gory arc as it heaved and plunged and worked itself back onto firmer ground. It shook its body in a furious motion, and once again came at the sled, paying not one whit of attention to The Boy as it passed. He stuck the barrel of the pistol into its armpit, and in the moment before he fired, he realized that he could smell its rank musk; then he shot it twice through the lungs as fast as he could pull the hammer back and squeeze the trigger, and again the beast was staggered from its path. It stumbled back from the trail and sank down to its knees. Its eyes rolled madly and bubbles of pink froth exploded in steaming splatters from its mouth. It tried again to rise, and with a terrible effort made it back to its feet, and then gave it up and slowly settled back down and rolled over onto its side. It lay there staring into the dark with scarlet running from its ears and muzzle, and the sound of its panting was like the bellows in an ironworks….

Thanks for tuning in–more to follow…

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7 Responses to “The Moose”

  1. Wow…I hope to never see one of those up close…loved “the world all around was as still and thoughtlessly dreaming as a child’s snow globe”–moving that book from the Iditarod pile to the must read soon pile

    • Glad you liked that, Margie 🙂 Yes, you most definitely do not want to file “Ballad” away as an Iditarod story–there is much more to it than that.

      • Believe me, I know. I have started it. I know that it is going to be an emotional journey that will take readers deep into their souls.

  2. Jason,
    I finished Ballad this morning a changed person. Yesterday I sat crying on the floor when The Boy lost Halo. Then I read until I feel asleep with the light on as it appeared he was descending into madness on the trail of The Great Race. I wondered what I would do considering the outcome toward which the story seemed to be heading.
    I would like to post a review on my blog. I think that my upper middle school students as well as high school students would enjoy if not love this book.
    Would you give me permission to use some quotes and the cover picture with maybe one additional chapter illustration? I should have the review ready to post by later this week. I want to do the book justice so it is going to take me some quality time.
    Thanks.

    • Hi Margie–

      I’m really glad you liked the book, and of course you can use whatever you need in regards to excerpts/quotes/images from the story. Are you glad you moved it out of your “Iditarod” pile?

      Thanks for the positive comment 🙂

      Jason

      • Thank you, Jason for replying so quickly. And I am so very glad I moved it from my Iditarod pile. Ballad of the Northland is literature in the classic sense, timeless, IMHO.
        Have you ever been interviewed about this book? Or have you done a post where you speak about the word choices, themes, etc?

      • We’ve had a number of reviews/interviews, all quite positive, and I have managed to sprinkle my thoughts on the book throughout this blog, but I’ve found that the act of “getting the word out” is much much more difficult than writing a book in the first place 🙂

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