By John Thomas Tuft

Benjamin waited just inside the gate of the low white picket fence, hopping from one foot to the other as any eight-year-old would who was waiting for his Grandpa to hurry up and come. He had a question. A big question to ask him. The cerulean late autumn sky stretched across forever, with a promise of warmth and, yet, a vaguest hint of cold weather that inevitably lay ahead in his young days. Boys who are all of eight years are busy fighting dragons, divining mysteries of holographic robots, avoiding personal hygiene, and wondering why nobody has thought of their questions before. To say nothing of the answers. Finally, he spotted the big, blue ’69 Chevy Impala station wagon turning the corner, a slow boat parting the waves of piled leaves and coming to a stop in front of the gate with a dusty sigh.

Benjamin turned and yelled, “Grandpa’s here, bye MOMMM!” to the front door, and slammed the gate behind him.

He always enjoyed the warm drift of the scent of chocolate and coffee that enveloped him as he settled in for the ride. And he liked the way crinkles formed at the corners of Grandpa’s eyes when he smiled, and he smiled a lot. “How’s my topnotch, hopscotch, butterscotch, peppermint schnapp?” Grandpa gave the traditional greeting. Benjamin giggled and reached into the ever present bag of chocolate buttons on the seat between them. “Reaching high, preaching sky, tell you why, gotta fly, Grandpa!” They each popped two chocolate buttons into their cheeks and set course for the mountains, sails aflyin’. After a few minutes Benjamin turned from the passing scenery, put a finger on one cheek and asked, “Grandpa, who made God?” Grandpa gave a wave of his hand, “Oh, that’s an easy one.” Benjamin’s mouth dropped open. Mom had taken a pass, Dad hemmed and hawed, his Sunday School teacher shushed him, and even the Reverend Gerald MacGreeleryMcGuddy had feigned ignorance. This was unexpected. “So, who?” Grandpa displayed a very serious smile as he reached over and touched the boy on his nose. “Harry the Moose.”

“Grandpa, there’s no Harry the Moose!” Grandpa looked shocked and accidentally on purpose leaned on the horn, startling nearby drivers. “Well, that’s going to be news to Harry.” He let out a sigh. “And his mother, I would think!” Benjamin put one hand on his hip. “Grandpa, church says God made everything. So if God made everything, who made God?” Grandpa scratched his chin, deep in thought. “Well, the eschatological teleological phrenology of nth dimension physical quantum mechanics….” Benjamin invoked the mercy rule: “Grandpa!!!” An innocent look from the driver’s side. ‘Yes?” Benjamin popped in two more chocolate buttons, knowing it was perfectly okay to do so. Grandpa turned into a parking lot and stopped the car under the sign for Mirror Lake. They got out and walked hand in hand along the narrow path, underneath the towering trees, the air sharp with the scent of burning leaves, and rich with promise. And as they walked, they talked. Grandpa started:

“Harry was probably about your age, I would think. He lived in these woods with his mother and siblings. Harry always asked a lot of questions. Sometimes he got answers, sometimes he didn’t. ‘Momma, why do we live in the woods? Momma, why do we eat grass and fruit? Momma, where did mooses…moosi…moosenkind…come from? What happens to us?’” “Grandpa! Moosenkind?” Grandpa shrugged and continued,  “But the question he asked most was, ‘Momma, when do I get my question marks?’” Benjamin stopped cold. “What? Moose don’t have question marks.” Grandpa arched his eyebrows. “Don’t they? Anyway, who’s telling this story? One day Harry the Moose came upon Mirror Lake. And while he was bending down to take a drink,” Grandpa’s voice dropped to a whisper, “he saw them.” The two travelers broke free of the trees and stood on the shore of Mirror Lake. “Here, Grandpa? Harry was here? What did he see? His antlers?”

Grandpa led Benjamin down to the water’s edge. “You tell me, Benji.” Benjamin very slowly and very carefully stepped into the water and bent over. He looked and he looked. Finally he whispered, “Grandpa, I see Harry.  And I see his question marks. They’re beautiful, Grandpa. Harry found them.” He looked up with shiny eyes. “I’m so glad. Thank you, Grandpa.” Grandpa swiped at his eyes. “Don’t thank me child. Thank Harry the Moose.”

And that is why every year, on the fourth Thursday of November, children of all ages, from all places, and all sorts of families, get out of bed, wash their faces, brush their teeth and pull on their shirts. And every shirt has a picture on it. A big friendly face. Filled with love. And big question marks. It is a picture of Harry. Harry the Moose.

Blessings on you and yours as you keep on reaching high, preaching sky, tell you why, gotta fly.

Words are magic, and writers are wizards.