Short Story Highlight: “Elegy for a Young Elk” by Hannu Rajaniemi

A new story from fast rising Finnish star Hannu Rajaniemi, over at Subterranean Magazine – Elegy for a Young Elk:

The night after Kosonen shot the young elk, he tried to write a poem by the campfire.

It was late April and there was still snow on the ground. He had already taken to sitting outside in the evening, on a log by the fire, in the small clearing where his cabin stood. Otso was more comfortable outside, and he preferred the bear’s company to being alone. It snored loudly atop its pile of fir branches.

A wet smell that had traces of elk shit drifted from its drying fur.

He dug a soft-cover notebook and a pencil stub from his pocket. He leafed through it: most of the pages were empty. Words had become slippery, harder to catch than elk. Although not this one: careless and young. An old elk would never had let a man and a bear so close.

He scattered words on the first empty page, gripping the pencil hard.

Antlers. Sapphire antlers. No good. Frozen flames. Tree roots. Forked destinies. There had to be words that captured the moment when the crossbow kicked against his shoulder, the meaty sound of the arrow’s impact. But it was like trying to catch snowflakes in his palm. He could barely glimpse the crystal structure, and then they melted.

He closed the notebook and almost threw it into the fire, but thought better of it and put it back into his pocket. No point in wasting good paper. Besides, his last toilet roll in the outhouse would run out soon.

“Kosonen is thinking about words again,” Otso growled. “Kosonen should drink more booze. Don’t need words then. Just sleep.”

Kosonen looked at the bear. “You think you are smart, huh?” He tapped his crossbow. “Maybe it’s you who should be shooting elk.”

“Otso good at smelling. Kosonen at shooting. Both good at drinking.” Otso yawned luxuriously, revealing rows of yellow teeth. Then it rolled to its side and let out a satisfied heavy sigh. “Otso will have more booze soon.”

Maybe the bear was right. Maybe a drink was all he needed. No point in being a poet: They had already written all the poems in the world, up there, in the sky. They probably had poetry gardens. Or places where you could become words. – read the rest of the story.


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