Pennsylvania: A Natural History Volume I, Part Two: The Pond Moose and Other Fauna of Pennsylvania

THE POND MOOSE
The Pennsylvania pond moose is a filthy, awesome animal. When small flocks of dung robins spot the moose’s dark hump rising above the surface of a pond, they descend and perch on the hump or “rudiment” in order to crack and eat the barnacles, moss-crabs and aquatic nuts which adhere in the moose’s rich, briny coat. Although an internal swim-bladder allows the moose to regulate its buoyancy, a forced surface or “natural lesson” can be achieved through the use of a heavy dredge called a moose plow.
Natural habitat: Limeport; Philadelphia.
Diet: plankton; the live-otter.

THE SHRIMP
[See also Forest Prawn.]
Shrimp have thriven in moist areas of Pennsylvania known as seafood puddles.
They are medium-sized, toothed beasts with many thousands of tiny hands called grapplers, and are known to emit a gas. In winter, shrimp coat themselves with a whitish powder called a prawn lather. The giant, shell-less shrimp of Pine Glen is found beneath soft, rotting logs in the woods. When you pry up the log with a shrimp-spade, there it lies, embedded in the soil like an enormous, pale question mark.
Natural habitat: the Garden View and Julian areas; Faunce.
Diet: a natural salad of rape seeds and leaves.

THE HEN
The hen may be considered as a soft, carnivorous fungus which blooms in patches on Pennsylvania hillsides. The body or “ball” of the hen is coated with a clear mucous membrane which protects the hen from insects and frost. Cheerful elderly men and women roam the valleys of Gibbon Glade and Point Marion, laden with fowl-nets and hen switches. When the hen is plucked or “stunned,” the ball blushes a pale rose color (indicating fury in the hen). The spot from which the hen has been stunned is signified by an odor-print. Hen populations reproduce asexually: the hen emits a spore which, when it finds purchase on a mossy area, calcifies in the sunlight until it forms a birth-kernel (known variously, according to region, as the “dirty-clam” or “cupcake”), which over time resolves itself into a fresh, natural hen.
Natural habitat: (see above).
Diet: small nesting animals; mole sap.

THE WOLF
[See also Werewolf.]
The wolf has been extinct for many thousands of years. The earliest extant lupine fossils (discovered in the outskirts of Lurgan by Macy, 1936) suggest a primitive monocellular physiology whereby a fur-sack contained a homogenous, saline life-matrix, or prairie gel. Certain portions of this gel crystallized seasonally to form a claw, which, when it extruded from a temporary orifice or “birth muzzle,” functioned as a tool for digging, scratching and fighting.
Natural habitat: southern and central Pennsylvania (?).
Diet: oats and wild grasses (?).

THE ELK
Science is now in a position to clarify several persistent misconceptions regarding the physiology of the elk. What was formerly believed to be a fungal growth on the elk’s mouth is now understood to be a single unifang, an oral tusk centered within the lips of the elk, which is used for gnawing and burrowing. Furthermore, the antlers are no longer seen as moveable “feelers” with which the elk perceives danger or light—rather they are a structural deformity of the upper head preventing the congenitally nervous animal from retreating quickly and easily back into its burrow, or elk-hole, where it emits a silk. Elk silk, obtained with great difficulty, is the primary ingredient in a traditional Pennsylvania jelly. Hostility toward the elk, a natural racism, remains an acute problem in some parts of Robinson.
Natural habitat: Freysville; St. Boniface; Yoe.
Diet: a complex, transparent lettuce.

[Continued...]

User Fiction Cover 6

First published in Shenandoah.