I MEET A MOOSE
DRIVING SOUTH ON THE AlCan HIGHWAY, I zippity-zipped up behind a double tanker full of liquid hydrogen peroxide. Not so crazy about trailing such a monster, I waited for a straight shot in the road to pass. No sooner had I cleared the truck and gotten myself back onto our side of the highway when another twist in the road took me around a bend, onto about a football field of straightaway. On the 75-yard line ahead, on the other side of the road, a moose. Walking away from me. Absolute clarity took over my mind.
TIME TICKED INTO SLOW MOTION, and I viewed the drama unfolding, seconds parsed into fractions, like a movie frame-by-frame:
1) Moose in the road.
2) Will he stay on his side?
3) Will he veer into mine?
4) Double-tanker hoves into view behind me.
5) Moose turns into our lane, directly ahead of me.
6) SLOW DOWN
7) Hit the hazards.
8) Steer onto shoulder so double tanker can pass me rather than plow into me.
9) Shoulder only 4’ wide. Oh no.
10) Moose, 50 yards ahead.
11) A puppeteer seems to be lift-dropping the moose’s heavy huge hooves as it lopes toward the shoulder in front of me
12) SLOW DOWN
13) Check the mirror.
14) Double tanker bearing down, coming up fast.
16) 40 yards away, Moose changes his mind at the shoulder and starts back for the dotted line, again crossing in front me to the other lane of traffic.
17) Wait, what? AGAIN he changes his mind and heads back for the shoulder, and, what?
18) Back he goes, in front of me a third time.
19) 30 yards away.
20) This Moose can’t make up his mind, I think.
21) SLOW DOWN
23) Another change of mind, back to the dotted line.
24) This Moose is so confused, I think.
25) SLOW DOWN
26) 20 yards away.
27) I can “see" his antlers come through the windshield.
28) They’ll decapitate me, I think.
29) What a terrible to die, I think.
30) What a beautiful, clumsy animal, I think.
31) What will be left of me? I wonder, moose whirling—again—a fifth time.
32) He and I are both half on the shoulder, half on the highway.
33) 15 yards away.
34) My car will knock him off his feet.
35) He’ll come through my window.
36) The double tanker on my tail (full of liquid hydrogen peroxide) will mow us both down.
37) Does hydrogen peroxide explode?
38) Halfway back to the shoulder, Moose again friggin' changes his mind.
39) Right friggin’ in front of me.
40) He turns, head swinging.
41) We face—eyeball to eyeball.
42) 10 yards between us.
43) I hear Cindy Godby’s impassioned prayer the night I leave to drive this road. “God! You must take care of Brenda! You must!”
44) Where will my head land when this moose flies into my window?
45) Moose finishes his whirl, clops into the oncoming traffic lane.
46) I fly by.
47) Moose hindquarters, plain as day, show up above my side mirror, the mirror itself filled with the double tanker's grill and headlights.
48) I hit the gas.
49) Car roars, plunges ahead.
50) Double tanker falls back.
51) Double-tanker grows smaller.
The surreal slow-mo snaps into real time. Lanscape races past. Odd, I think, I can’t hear or feel my heart. My breathing is steady. I should be shaking, I’m not. Why can’t I feel my heart? I replay the scene over and over, every detail—this back and forth of the North’s most irrational and crazy animal. It was as if I was out of body, existence reduced to thought. Still, I should have some kind of physical reaction to something that could have gone so badly wrong in so many ways!
Not until I TELL the story to someone does my heart pound.
"Next time you tell me your woes," says my daughter, "I'll say you could have been decapitated by a moose."
I don't know why I wasn't. Except for Cindy's prayer. How else do you explain it?