A fur trapper is deep in the woods with his grandfather’s gun. He sees a moose and fires his finest shot. The moose is quick. The bullet only takes the tail.

 

The fur trapper hangs the tail in his cave.

 

The fur trapper stares at the tail as he cleans his gun, certain to find the moose again.

 

The next day, with the tail stapled to his pants, the fur trapper finds the moose and again shoots his gun and again the moose is too fast. The bullet only removes an antler. The fur trapper calls his welder friend, turns the antler into a crown.

 

The next day, wearing the crown and the tail, the fur trapper hunts again. Stalks the moose. Assembles traps, follows tracks.

 

Day in and day out, the fur trapper takes a leg, takes a tongue. An ear, a tooth. He adds each item to his body. The fur trapper gazes at his reflection in the lake. He sees his enemy, the moose, looking back at him.

 

But the fur trapper isn’t satisfied, doesn’t like the way the moose stares. Like it has a secret, like it’s still winning. So the fur trapper returns again to the woods, hunting for the moose’s breath, the moose’s nightmares, the moose’s spirit. The ghost of the moose. Always a bit too quick.

 

The fur trapper refuses defeat. Has the phrase, “What makes a moose?” tattooed on his cheek.

 

No one talks to the fur trapper when he drinks at the tavern. When he weeps in the back of the church. When he cleans his gun by candlelight on his porch. No one ever asks him about the moose or why he’s covered in fur and blood. The rest of the town is terrified of guns.

***

Ben Niespodziany is a librarian at the University of Chicago. He runs the multimedia art blog [neonpajamas] and has had work published in Paper Darts, Fairy Tale Review (forthcoming), Cheap Pop, and various others. He has never fired a gun.