Night 17 by Sam Martone

A new moon’s walk home. My flashlight’s flashing light. We spent the last few hours a pasture away from camp, sitting around a fire with other counselors daring enough to sneak out, drinking whiskey from paper cups and lukewarm beer someone had been keeping in the trunk of a car. Now, you and I are thinking of how the booze we sipped might have affected our sense of direction. We are thinking of how to slip into our separate cabins without the teenagers rising at the sound. We are thinking of how little space there is between us. You forgot your headlamp, and my flashlight flickers, dims to nothing, batteries dead, leaving us with only the night’s moonlessness. We do not see them at first, but then, the hum of heavy breath interrupts our worries. There they are in the dark, those hulking shadows that crater the meadow, new moons soft-spotting their skin, heads white-curved with waxing horns, each moo a moon sent spinning into orbit, grass blades bent into cud-chewn crescents. You want to pet one on the nose. I have visions of meteoric stampedes. Both of us stand still, still tingling from the electric fence our elbows grazed when we ducked under, a charge charging through us. I want to reach out to grab your hand, but someone loves you in some louder part of the world, where buildings scrape across the blackboard of the sky and the waning moon never looks bigger than his own thumbnail. The way our shoulders touch will tide me over. It will have to. Your hand moves out of reach of mine. The air is silent but for the cows’ devouring.

Untitled (image via Tumblr user murmurus)

Sam Martone lives in Tempe, Arizona, but has spent the past two summers among the dairy cows of Putney, Vermont. He knows each one by its moo.