Zach didn’t want to shoot the moose.
April wanted revenge. She had named the moose Stew after he munched her broccoli and kale down to nubbins and trampled the rest of her garden. She wanted his head on the wall and his steaks on the grill.
The whir of April’s sewing machine faltered and stopped.“Zach!” Her voice echoed off the bathroom tile.
Zach joined two wires with a nut and dropped his hands to the top of his ladder. Bits of pink insulation sifted from the hole he’d cut in the brand-new ceiling. “What?”
“I know.” Zach also knew it would take the two of them days they didn’t have to spare to process one bull moose into five hundred pounds of meat in the freezer.
Zach closed his eyes and counted to ten. “I’m fixing the wires the squirrels chewed.”
“You can do that anytime.”
Zach’s eyes snapped open. “We’re losing fifteen minutes of sunlight a day and snow’s gonna fly any time. I’m doing it now.”
April’s chair scraped back as she stood. She stomped down the hallway.
Zach shifted his feet on the ladder and turned to look over his shoulder. Boxes of vinyl flooring waited in the corner.
April stood in the doorway holding the pillowcase she was embroidering with Alaska scenes in one hand. Her eyes were narrowed and her lips pressed together in a line. She wore yoga pants and an old v-neck t-shirt that showed a lot of cleavage.
Not that Zach had gotten more than a glimpse in the last two months.
“That moose is trashing my garden. Again.”
Zach counted to ten, keeping his eyes open this time. “I can only do one thing at a time. I’ve got to fix these wires if you want an outlet besides the one in the bathroom to work.”
April said, “I want that moose out of my garden.”
Birch and willow leaves skittered along the ground. Zach crept around the corner of the house. A gust of wind slapped him in the face. He slit his eyes and kept moving, stopping when he reached the cord of firewood he and April had hand-split and stacked.
Thirty yards away, Stew, framed by the bank of solar panels, dug a front hoof into the ruins of April’s garden. Next, he knelt and gouged his antlers into the sandy soil, enlarging the pit.
Zach felt a hand on his shoulder. April leaned in and whispered, “Why haven’t you shot him?”
“I’m not gonna blow a hole in the solar panel to kill the moose that ate your kale.”
April pressed her body against Zach’s. “He’s wrecking what’s left of my garden.”
Zach gritted his teeth and sidestepped away. “He’s making a rutting wallow. He’s gonna piss in it to attract a mate.”
“Tell me you’re kidding.”
“There’s a cow moose in the brush just a little ways off. She’s calling like she’s interested. Look, there he goes.”
Stew squatted. Urine splashed into the depression.
April clenched her fists. “I hate that moose.”
“Nitrogen,” Zach said. “Free fertilizer.”
April narrowed her eyes but didn’t say anything.
“Look,” Zach said. “Here she comes.” He rested his Ruger 300 WinMag on the edge of the wood pile and put his eye to the one-four Leopold scope. He set his feet and thumbed the safety off.
Light brown hair covered the cow’s head and shoulders, darkening to black on her legs and hindquarters. She approached slowly, her ears forward, sniffing the air and making soft grunting sounds.
Stew plopped down in the wallow and looked up at the cow. His nostrils flared as he breathed in her scent.
April whispered, “I’m going to call her Ginger.”
“That’s a stupid name. Nobody puts ginger in stew.”
“Her name is Ginger.”
Zach shifted his feet slightly, stretched his neck, and put his eye to the scope once more.
Ginger sniffed at the edges of the wallow and Stew’s hindquarters. Stew lurched upright and dribbled more urine.
“The panel,” Zach said. “How many times do I have to tell you?”
Ginger dug at the pit, tossing more garden soil, then plopped down. Stew nudged her with his nose. She rose to her feet. Stew stepped forward, grunting and sniffing.
Ginger pranced a few steps away from the pit then turned to face Stew, her ears forward.
Zach squeezed the trigger. The roar of the shot split the silence of the meadow, ricocheted off the mountains on either side, and careened back to the wood pile by the unfinished cabin.
April’s gaze shifted between Zach and the dead moose lying in the garden. “You, you…”
Zach smirked. “I got Stew out of the garden.”
“You shot Ginger.”
“I wasn’t going to wreck the panel.”
“But she’s, she’s…female.”
Zach shrugged. His eyes were on the broken spruce boughs that marked Stew’s exit route through the trees. “Some of the old-timers tell me that once folks get a taste for cow meat, they just keep shooting cows.” He worked the bolt, ejecting the spent shell and loading a fresh round into the chamber then looked at April. “I guess we’ll see.”
Prompted by Sustain Mat-Su (moose, garden, solar panel).
Leave me a prompt (a living thing, an inanimate object, and a location) and I will write a story and tag you when it’s published.