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When eight-year-old Katherine walked into class, the teacher looked at the clock. It was almost noon. Few students came to school that late without a good reason.

“Well, Katherine,” the teacher said, “would you like to tell us why you’re so late?”

“A moose?” Katherine replied.

“A moose?” the teacher asked, skeptically. “I can’t just write ‘a moose’ as a reason on the late slip. The secretary will think I’m crazy. What about a moose?”

“Well, a moose wandered into our yard this morning,” Katherine said. “The dogs decided to chase her. They chased her a distance down the road, but then she decided she had had enough. She turned around and chased them back to the shed that was just past the house.”

“Okay,” the teacher said. “But I don’t see why that made you late.”

“That was only the beginning,” Katherine said. “When the moose turned to walk away, the dogs chased her again. Then, after they had gone a short distance, the moose turned and chased them back. The dogs hid in the shed, so the moose turned to walk away. But the dogs took off after her again. They went back and forth that way all morning. We watched it all through our window as we ate breakfast.”

The teacher sighed, feeling that this story wasn’t getting anywhere. “But what does that have to do with you being late for school?”

“Each time the dogs chased the moose, and the moose chased them back, the moose appeared to get a little bit madder. She ran after the dogs a little bit faster, and each time, she was closer on the dogs’ tails by the time they reached the shed.

“After quite a bit of this, it was time for the bus to come, so we carefully checked outside to see if the coast was clear. We hadn’t seen the dogs or the moose for about ten minutes. The last we time we saw them, the dogs were hot in pursuit of the moose as she headed over the hill across from our house.

“So we made our way out to stand by the mailbox and wait for the bus. We had only been there a minute or two when the dogs came running back over the hill, with the moose almost on top of them. The dogs were whining as they ran. They seemed to know they weren’t going to make it to the shed before the moose stomped them into compost.

“But then the dogs saw us, and they must have thought we could save them. They headed right for us. We didn’t know what to do except to run, so we ran back to the house, screaming for Mom. Mom came out and saw us all heading for the front door, and she started screaming to scare the moose away, but it kept coming.

“We all ran into the house with the moose not too far behind. We ran into the bedroom, and Mom slammed the door behind us. We all made it in, the dogs, us, and Mom. After we caught our breath, Mom said she was sure a moose wouldn’t follow us into the house, so she slowly opened the door to peek out. But the moose was right there in our living room.

“The moose snorted as if daring us to come out of the bedroom, so Mom quickly slammed the door again. Just about then, the bus started honking, and one of the dogs started barking. Then he bayed at the moose as if challenging her. Mom took a pillow and hit the dog across the face. But the barking apparently made the moose mad because she started stomping our living room floor, rocking the whole trailer house.

“Mom said if we could keep the dogs quiet for a while, the moose would probably leave. So we all grabbed a pillow, and the dogs seemed to sense it was better to stay quiet. Over the next few hours, Mom peeked out a few times, and the moose was still there. My brother said he thought maybe she planned to stay all winter and take control of the tv remote. But finally, when Mom peeked out, the moose was gone. Mom carefully went into the living room, looked through the window, and saw the moose in the yard. We stayed in the house and kept the dogs locked up and quiet in the bedroom until the moose left. Then mom drove us to school.”

The teacher looked at the line on the tardy paper that said, “reason for tardy,” paused momentarily, then simply wrote, “a moose.”