\"Some four years ago, the Survey sent me on a trip which included themapping of a portion of the foothills of the Mt. St. Elias Range. It isa rugged and barren part of the country, but although rough in theextreme, no obstacles had been encountered that hard labor and longhours could not overcome. It was a packing trip and everything hadprogressed favorably, there was plenty of forage, the streams had beenfairly passable, and we feasted twice a day on moose or mountain sheep.For days and weeks together we had hardly been out of sight of caribou.They had a curious way of approaching, either one at a time or else inquite large bands, coming close to the pack-train, then breaking awaysuddenly at full gallop and returning in large circles. Even the crackof a rifle could not scare them out of their curiosity, and we nevershot any except when we needed meat.
The axman brought down his blade with his full strength three times, andthe fibers of the tree cracked and began to give way. Back over theslowly moving tree came Magee, leaving Bulson alone on the jam. Suddenlythe tree parted with a sharp crack and as it did so there arose agrinding roar, and the blocks of ice which had been jammed behind thetree seemed to leap up and fling themselves over the rapid. It did notseem possible that any man could ride that furious clashing of the jam,but Roger noticed that Bulson, making his way to shore over the grindingice, yet had coolness to stop and give a shove here and a heave there,unlocking the jam, as it were, until, standing on the ice nearest theshore, he gave one last mighty shove and sprang to the bank just as witha seeming disappointed roar the whole jam broke and sped down thefoaming river.
Like a flash the thought shot through Roger's mind that if they oncestarted to run he would not be able to stalk them again that night, and[Pg 305]determining to risk a long shot, rather than none at all, he laid hisrifle across a boulder which he had been using as a cover, and taking acareful aim, fired. The distance seemed to him tremendous, and as therifle cracked the four leaped into full career, but the one at which theboy had fired gave a jump, which, to his excited idea, seemed to showthat he had been hit. Away started Roger at full tilt after them, butthey were speedily out of sight. Tearing along at topmost speed over theuneven ground, Roger's breath began to give out and little black spotsdanced before his eyes, but when he reached the trail of the fleeingcaribou and found a spot of blood in the tracks of one of them, he wouldnot have changed places with the Director of the Survey. On he went,following this track, and noting that the leaps were growing shorter andshorter, but his endurance was beginning to give out, when he saw beforehim, not more than half a mile away, a solitary caribou. Knowing thatthose which had not been hit were probably four or five miles distant atthis time, and that they would not stop under fifteen miles or so, theboy knew that this was his victim and he redoubled his energies.
So, you know, imagine this is one of your formative memories. Your dad takes you to soccer practice in Delaware Park in his maroon city-issue Crown Vic. And you, being you, hate it of course. You don't like the fact that you're so young they put girls and boys on the same team, that practice starts when you would otherwise be resting and thinking small you-thoughts and conversing with Matthias, the fictional mouse friend you made up one day while sitting in your seat on the 214 cheese bus because the bus aid Betty made you turn off your father's walkman and Queen cassette (both of which he lent you because, in his words, he loves you) because she said it was electronic paraphernalia, and for that reason and because so many shows mom lets you watch before bed and books from your father mention kids with imaginary friends and because you figure you're still young enough that it'd be mostly excusable to talk to yourself, you have made yourself an imaginary friend, and anyway you might be talking to Matthias the sword-carrying grey mouse and doing whatever else it is you do that so keeps your mind in such an endearing state of bluster and wonder, but the bottom line is all of this is made impossible by those strange and enigmatic hands that move the clouds above your curly head and the sun behind them and the perfect little hour-long blocks of time that comprise your unknowable little kid day. Your father takes you because your mother says loudly one night that you're fat. She sits you down the next day and takes out one of the Naugahyde-bound photo albums that line the lower shelves in the living room and she makes you sit there while she looks through the big book for every picture of you in which you made the mistake of showing a round flushed cheek or a pale section of your little uncooked dough belly and piles them on the table and you sit and think about your little things like kingdoms and people who can cast spells and swords and stuff and she says she's going to tear up these hideous pictures of you and ever true to her word she does right then and there. You're too young to lament her summary destruction of these little mementos but you cry nonetheless because you know this all signifies a big change in your life and you feel the first fledgling flutter of nostalgia's turbid and dark and feathered wing. By around age thirteen you will know the whole bird intimately. You never thought you were particularly fat, but then again you guess it all depends on who you're being compared to. A lot of your friends or more like classmates seem built almost identically to you, though there are of course those strange skinny ones who think it's fun to whip people with towels after gym and who have somehow had sculpted six-packs since they were restless and hyperactive toddlers with an interest in optics only insofar as it facilitated the ritual holocaust of ants and other exoskeletal miniatures that you, conversely, kept in a flat book-width terrarium that billed itself as a farm but which farm never proved fecund except olfactorily. And in any case who is your mother to say? What with her compulsive habits of yo-yo dieting and imposing seemingly absurd gastronomical restrictions on her couch-bound body (cf. the strange summer during which she was hell bent on eliminating all vitamin C from her system) and her ballooning and shrinking mercurial soma. And though you reproach yourself for it you think who knows fat better than she and you grin inside your head with Matthias because neither of you can find an answer to that question. So soccer's the sport because you find yourself unwilling to mill around shirtless as you would probably have to if you chose to join the swim team, but you're not exactly confident in your ability to run around all day and all that, which lack of confidence is probably due in part to your mother's again quite loud proclamation to your father that your weak bones will probably break under the flabby inertia of the roiling sea of lipidified disuse that is your torso and environs (though it's probably pretty clear that I augmented that a little bit). And that night, the night before your first practice, the whole traumatic process of insult and accusation having been carefully timed by your usually immobile mother to coincide with the immediate start of the fall soccer season in Delaware Park, which opening day your father discovered when he phoned his old friend, your new coach, to ask if you might receive a spot on his crack team of boys, which spot was immediately granted not by virtue of the ringing steel timbre of the bond between your father and your soon-to-be coach but because your father had recently performed a fine bit of lawyering the end result of which being that your soon-to-be coach somehow did not end up serving jailtime for his sixth DWI in the last year, on this night before joining the crack team of towel-whipping, six-pack-having, ADHD-diagnosed squirrelly boys you cannot for the life of you fall asleep. Matthias snores audibly, taunting you in his catatonia. Dim blue glow of twilight and cigarette smoke clouds through translucent linen curtains. The sad Doppler-affected crackle and ragtime of the Mr. Softee truck warbling its way pigeon-wheeled and barely dairy down the street. So you lie in bed and you don't recall falling asleep or rather you feel as if there was no border crossed between consciousness and sleep when you have a strange dream that you will still be able to recall years hence. You rise from your bed into the blurred blue and gray and you look around the room. Your feet feel distinctly the scratch of the blue clotted shag carpet that covers the floor of your room and you recall thinking within the half-dream that Stanley Steamer could do a useful number on the ragged rug, a continent of fabric that probably hadn't been given a well-deserved deep clean since it was trampled by the former owner and his friends and doused in thin lager beer and dip spit. You stand or so you think and you see the translucent overlay of a NASCAR racetrack as if from above and you use your half-dream eagle-eyed ability to magnify the situation and you zero in on a car, a sort of top-down cartoonish convertible in which you sit at the wheel and your father sits behind you cheering and waving his gangly arms. And then in a strange development that convinces you in retrospect that it all must have been a dream rather than a sort of lucid product of the same obviously quite extraordinary imagination that produced Matthias and the aforementioned snippet of conversation with that knighted mouse you find yourself whipping a yo-yo around the world, well around the racetrack, in the generally circular pattern flawed with crooked turns and hairpin bottlenecks, a yellow yo-yo with a thin string that makes your only slightly chubby middle finger purple. You feel suddenly that you have begun to cry out of your elbow. You clutch that elbow, your right elbow, to your heaving chest and you shiver with the violent sobs of your elbow's queer and unsurprising tear ducts. The tears travel up your arms and into your neck and with a sucking sound they crawl into the crusty corners of your eyeballs. You hear a pounding in the floorboards, the trotting canter of many rubber soled shoes, the meaty fists of the old owner and his friends in the floorboards armed with bent bottlecaps and pocket knives, the tools they used to carve P WAS HERE, J+M, DRINKING with HAHAHA written over it, TIMMY O into the banister of the creaky stairwell of your house. You think that they are the petrified loud voices of a youth now supplanted by old age. You are imaginative. You hear them scraping. Your mother slaps you in the face and you are in the warm light of the house's kitchen and you feel far more afraid than you were because of the dinner plate size of your mother's bloodshot eyeballs. She says often and loudly that you should reconsider your decision to shake and mumble and grip your right elbow like a quote palsied savant. She says you really should get a grip. She says get a grip.