One dribbly day in the spring, I was helping my father to hammer galvanized nails into the side of the shed when he suddenly stopped dead in mid heft, dropping the heavy tool down upon the unprotected dome of my skull.
I responded to this unexpected and unwelcome turn by loudly pronouncing a series of unpleasant words concerning my father and his “grip,” by which I was referring both to his wholly equivocal virtues as not only a grasper of physical objects but as an apprehender of the articles of worksite propriety as well.
My father looked hurt and I immediately regretted my caviling denunciation of this, the latest of his eminently human frailties. With my apology, however, his cheer soon returned.
“I’ve been thinking,” he said, peering beyond me as if to some beacon on a distant horizon, unseen except by him alone. “Thinking,” he repeated. “Thinking…”
I waited patiently for the dregs of this sentence to finish draining from my father, but after several seconds, concluded that they had already done so, in spite of the fact that the unusual economy of what he’d uttered tended to forestall my understanding as much as the glad tone that he’d selected promised to reveal it.
I was about to try and forget the whole business and get back to my work of getting those nails in before mud season, when my attention was once again pulled back into the old man’s orbit.
“Been thinking we haven’t seen that old bitch moose much around the yard yet, and it’s already fast March.”
He was right, of course; it was unusual. But then again moose, like men, were mortal. I did not catch his meaning and said so, rather bluntly.
To this day, I rue the horrible clarity this provoked in his response; a clarity that haunts me, dry as I remain in California, far from the gothic damp of old New England, with its bent beasts and moist old houses, resplendent with ornate mildew.
“Until I see her snuffling around, I will swim in shoes and socks on the off chance she went through the ice and recommend you do so, too. You will not soon forget the feeling of your naked toes through the mooseflesh you thought was a curtain of algae, rippling just below the surface of the pond.”
Seth Blake is a writer from New Hampshire.