Wild Dogs

This morning I went outside and something had rattled the feathers off of one of our neighbor’s chickens. The deed was done in front of the tool shed. There was the rough circle of a struggle next to a rack of split wood. Someone ended right there.

It’s a full moon tonight so I took in the spectacle at the field out back. There’s a clear view up a forty five degree angle onto pasture and split by a wind row in the middle. The grass is silver.

I brought a shovel. I don’t know why—there’s nothing to bury. Maybe I brought it because they’re getting bolder and it sounds like there’s more this year. I planted the spade in the sod and stood still with a bramble covered fence as my backdrop. The handle is tall enough to rest my hands and chin. An angled shadow of a hat brim conceals my face from the moon. I can watch. They’ll come out.

I stood for the better part of an hour, listening, seeking out bustle and movement with my senses. Two calls half a mile out. Then a heron by the creek. Geese are making a red-eye over meadows to the southeast. All else is silent. The air has frozen sound in place and I can analyze it, turning tone on its axis and looking at its shape. The sound of geese is long, undulating, and curled at the edges. Frozen grass tinkles in paintbrush shapes. My breath is compressed loaves that expand into batter and drift outward in slow tumble. And in my ears, the ring starts—the faint pitch that builds in silent places. Or it’s always there, lurking, grinding and whirring from deep inside the earth, vibrating towards the moon. Out here among the crystal grasses of the meadow, pitch can build into a clanging. It peals.

Do they hear this also?

Shiver finds me. It flutters and I realize it’s too cold—even in the still air—to be motionless. The ground reaches up through my boots, winding in cords around my bones. The body is cooling. Without motion, the flesh and organs find a level that can be maintained, adjusting with a shiver. I’ve read that the temperature of a dog’s paws remain slightly above freezing in the winter; all the heat stays near the core. I practice getting colder. I imagine that I am a tree sleeping through the months of frost. I have always been here—planted and listening—my roots extend beneath the topsoil and into the warmth of earth.

Shiver comes again and I force my mouth closed; exhaling slowly through the nostrils. Show no breath. They’re watching, testing the darkness of the thicket and the moon is too bright. Walking on the pasture is too bold, unnatural, and all the senses hesitate. They are retreating. There is no calling, no gathering. They won’t come closer. Neither side has planned siege and no one is willing to wait. Warmth comes from motion. They are hungry and won’t stay.

I break my position and recede into the hedge, doubling back over the footbridge at the creek.

I listen to the moon, shining in crystal and stainless. It’s silver cold. It’s alone cold.

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