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Excerpt from The Animals by Christian Kiefer, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Animals

by Christian Kiefer

The Animals by Christian Kiefer X
The Animals by Christian Kiefer
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2015, 320 pages
    Jan 2016, 320 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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Print Excerpt

The moose quieted again and he stood slowly and stepped backward to the sheriff. Who ran into him?

Some mechanic from Sandpoint, the sheriff said.

He OK?

In the hospital. Broke his ribs up and slammed his face into the wheel. There anything you can do here? I'm supposed to call the new Fish and Game guy.

You haven't called them yet?

Not yet. You want me to?

Not very much.

Then it's slipped my mind.

Bill glanced back at the smashed truck and then to the moose again. A half hour ago it had come down from the mountains, perhaps following a line of fragrant moss in the trunks of trees that lined a muddy creek bottom, and now it stumbled along that scant black road among men and women and children gathered for no reason other than to watch it go to ground.

He breathed out, slowly. There was a tightness in his chest and a feeling that he was caught up in something of which he could not let go.

When he looked to the street beyond, he caught sight of her pickup as it trundled between the buildings and then came to a stop. She leaped down from the cab in her purple coat and came to the moose, kneeling directly before the animal much as he had a few moments before, her voice the same quiet hush as his own, the moose's head moving, the breath coming in bursts of hot steam.

He turned away now, returning to his pickup, opening the door to pull the canvas gun case toward him and unzipping its front pocket. Two or three loose shells spilled out onto the seat and he scooped them into his hand and then, from the pocket, extracted a small black box, inside of which rested a hypodermic needle and two vials of clear fluid, and a plastic tube containing a thin dart with a brilliant red tail. The shells he returned to the pocket, zipping it closed. Then he set to filling the dart, first sucking the fluid from one of the vials and then holding the syringe up to the light and squeezing a small quantity into the air before slipping the needle into the larger bore of the dart and pressing home the plunger.

When he looked up from his work, Grace was there, her eyes wide.

I was loading point eight carfentanil, he said. Is that what you want?

She sighed, her breath outspiraling into steam. He's got a broken hip.

You sure?

Well, yeah. Aren't you? When he did not respond, she put her hand on his shoulder. It would be better to just do it, she said. Get it over with.

Can we just check him first? Just to make sure there's nothing we can do?

Baby, he's not going to make it. He's in pain.

I know that, he said.

It's not humane.

I just need you to tell me that there's nothing we can do for him. I mean one hundred percent sure. Can you do that?

She stared at him. Shit. You really know how to put me over a barrel, you know that?

He said nothing, his hands hovering over the tranquilizer gun, hovering in the grim cold air.

Well, she said at last, you got anything else besides the carfentanil?

Ketamine, he said, but I don't think I have enough to put down a moose.

She exhaled. All right, so let's go a full milligram of the carfentanil and hope that knocks him out the first time.

He nodded and returned to the vial and then to the dart, the small bottle from which he had extracted the medication nearly empty now, and then unzipped the larger compartment on the case. He knew that she saw the rifle there but she did not comment and he shifted the firearm to the side and pulled the tranquilizer gun from the case, opened the bolt, and slid the dart into the breech.

The moose had started up its sound again, its sharp terrible bleating. Grace's forehead wrinkled as she glanced behind her and then returned to Bill. You want me to do it? she said.

No, I'll do it. He lifted the gun to his chest and pumped it, three times, four, five, and then wrapped the strap once around his forearm and stood by the door of the truck. You should ask Earl if he can get someone to bring a flatbed tow truck out here.

Excerpted from The Animals: A Novel by Christian Kiefer. Copyright © 2015 by Christian Kiefer. With permission of the publisher, Liveright Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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