The Sadness of Tycho Brahe's Moose

moose_purple_image

The following story has been drawn from August issue of the American Reader, available in our Shoppe.

1. TRUE STORY

    So first of all not a moose exactly.
    An elk.
    But what an elk.
    Moose-like in its magnificence. Nine tines to the antler. Sixteen hands tall at the withers. Bugling voice bright as a trumpet.
    The finest elk in all of Denmark.
    Loyal as a dog, it followed the astronomer almost everywhere he went. 

2. AB OVO
    Morning in Denmark.
    Pale blue sky, clouds like raw wool, bees hovering in the breeze. There amongst the acres of farmland, above a tiny village, sits a brick castle on top of a hill.
    Inside the castle, Otte Brahe wakes up next to his wife, Beate Bille.
    He smells the air around him.
    Rosemary, flowering wheat.
    Otte Brahe looks at his wife. He admires her long flaxen hair. The way she’s wrapped seductively in the sheets.  
    He leans over and kisses the mole on her neck.
    Beate Bille sighs.
    Otte Brahe sighs.
    They sigh.
    Far above, Mars moves in trine with Jupiter. Five planets in the eastern hemisphere signify a boy.

3. KIDNAPPED
    Two years pass.
    Tycho Brahe sits in the grass with a tabor drum between his legs. He beats the drum with a single drumstick and harasses an old cow.
    The cow stands in a strip of shadow beneath the castle’s walls.
    Cow looks at Tycho.
    Chews grass.
    While Tycho beats his drum, Uncle Jørgen storms out of the castle. Uncle Jørgen is Otte Brahe’s older brother. He’s visiting from southern Denmark, where he’s ruler of Vordingborg Castle and sheriff to the king.
    Uncle Jørgen slams the door.
    He mutters something about a promise.
    Otte’s promise.
    Marches past Tycho and towards the stable and his horse.
    Then he stops.
    Turns around and looks at his nephew.
    Says: “Ach!”
    Uncle Jørgen picks up Tycho and throws him on his saddle.
    They gallop away.

4. LATER
    Later, Otte Brahe and Beate Bille find the drum and the drumstick. There’s the same old cow standing in the castle’s shadows, still chewing grass.
    It’s not hard to piece together what must have happened. Otte Brahe tells his wife that they’ll let Uncle Jørgen keep Tycho. After all, Uncle Jørgen and his wife are childless; Otte Brahe and Beate Bille, on the other hand, have plenty of children. With the recent arrival of Steen, they have four in all.
    And Otte Brahe did promise Tycho to Uncle Jørgen eventually, once another son was born. So all things considered, says Otte Brahe, it’s not like Uncle Jørgen stole the boy. Not exactly.
    “Still,” says Otte Brahe.
    He rubs his beard and looks at the sky. There are honey buzzards circling the castle, cirrus clouds.
    He tells Beate Bille that he feels foolish. He says that he really shouldn’t have gotten drunk and promised Uncle Jørgen their firstborn son.

5. TYCHO’S MOOSE
    Ten years later.
    Tycho Brahe is home from the University of Copenhagen.
    Winter break.
    Since the kidnapping—the transfer is what Otte Brahe and Uncle Jørgen now call it—home is with Uncle Jørgen and Aunt Inger on the island of Zealand.
    Tycho sits on the back of a horse.
    Cold wind blows off the water.
    Waves ice the sea.
    Tycho lifts his face and feels the stinging pellets of snow blast through the pine trees. In the distance, he sees Goose Tower. Its golden goose weathervane glints under the dull gray sky.
    “Papa,” says Tycho.
    He points to a cow elk grazing in a nearby copse.
    Uncle Jørgen exhales a cloud of breath.
    He raises his musket.
    Cocks the flintlock.
    Shoots.
    The cow elk staggers and falls into a shrub.
    While Uncle Jørgen dresses the elk, Tycho wanders further into the grove. He hears bleating from nearby bog-rosemary bushes. He pulls back the branches and finds a small shivering calf.
    Big watery calf-eyes.
    Ribs showing through its coat.
    Tycho removes his jacket and wraps it around the small animal. He returns with it to his uncle. “Moose,” he says.
    Uncle Jørgen looks from the baby elk to his nephew and back again. Doting and permissive, he doesn’t correct. 

6. THE WONDERS OF THE UNIVERSE
 
 Everywhere he goes, Tycho talks about his moose. At school he talks to anyone who’ll listen. He tells his teachers and classmates that the moose is kept in the stables with the horses but that during the winter it’s allowed to sleep inside next to the fire. He tells them that even Aunt Inger is fond of the animal. She decorates it with bows.  
    He’s telling this to his law professor. He has the professor pinned against a column in the courtyard. Long columnar shadows are splayed across the ground.
    Tycho tells his professor that the moose prefers apples to gooseberries; it likes redcurrants best of all.
    The professor interrupts. He cranes his neck to look at the sundial in the center of the plaza. He tells Tycho that he must go.
    But before the professor can hurry away, the courtyard is cast into sudden darkness. Like a curtain at a playhouse, the moon slides in front of the sun.
    The professor stops.
    Tycho stops.
    Everyone stops.
    Where there was once sun, now there is no sun.
    A big blacked-out O.
    Some fall to their knees.
    Others run for shelter.
    The professor swoons.
    A solar corona blooms behind the moon’s shadow.
    Stars appear, thick and white as pennycress.
    Tycho gazes at the sky above him.
    Most wonderful thing he’s seen.

7. FREDERICK II OF DENMARK SAVED FROM DROWNING
    Five more years pass, not without significance.
    The solar eclipse indicates new beginnings, the sun’s steadiness overruled by lunar passions.
    Tycho buys an ephemeris based on Copernicus’s theories. He buys books by Johannes de Sacrobosco, Petrus Apianus, and Regiomontanus. He learns that his eclipse had been predicted by Ptolemy, that it was part of the same eclipse cycle that blacked out the sun when Christ was on the cross.
    But he keeps all this information a secret. He doesn’t tell anyone that he’s been studying astronomy, not even his tutor. He only whispers it to the moose.
    Because science is a fine course of study for alchemists and apothecaries, for middle-class barbers’ sons. But Otte Brahe is a member of the Rigsraad. Uncle Jørgen is Vice Admiral of the Danish fleet.
    During summer, Tycho smuggles a small celestial globe back home to Vordingborg. He stays up until dawn memorizing the shapes of the constellations.
Orion’s belt, the bend of Sagittarius’s bow.
    When Uncle Jørgen asks him why he’s so tired looking, Tycho lies and tells him that he was up late studying the Edict of Amboise. When Otte Brahe writes and asks how he likes studying court politics, Tycho writes back: I like them fine.
    But for Tycho, meals with Uncle Jørgen and Aunt Inger are the hardest things to endure. Uncle Jørgen only talks about the latest naval skirmishes with Sweden. Aunt Inger still wants to know more about the latest fashions in Copenhagen.
    Tycho forks squab into her mouth and tells her: All of the ladies are wearing sable pelts. Rich ladies dip the paws in silver. Jewels replace the eyes.
    What Tycho really wants to talk about are the problems with the universe. Lately he’s noticed that none of his ephemerides match any of the others. Copernicus’s date for the conjunction of Jupiter is a whole month off from that in the Alfonsine Tables. Apianus and Regiomontanus have completely different ideas about the location of Mars.
    More than anything else, Tycho wants to return to the university and spend long hours in the library poring over star charts, correcting the universe and resetting the stars.
    The only thing that makes summer at Vordingborg tolerable is the moose. Much has changed since Tycho found the moose in the bog-rosemary bushes. Now the moose is a large moose, a bull. It has thick velvet on its antlers; its head is the size of a firkin; it follows Tycho everywhere like a schoolgirl in love.
    While Uncle Jørgen and King Frederick plot and strategize against the Swedes, Tycho and his moose go for long walks in the woods surrounding the castle. Sometimes they walk as far as the ocean. Even on the beach the air still smells of pine trees. There are white flowers on the dogwoods. A warm breeze blows from the east.
    As they walk along the beach, Tycho talks loudly over the waves. He tells the moose about his plans for the universe. He wants to make his own ephemeris, but he needs a larger allowance. He needs better instruments, a radius that’s large enough to measure the angles between the stars.
    Normally attentive, the moose gazes distractedly down the beach, its ears turned towards some faraway sound.
    Tycho hears it too.
    Down the beach, people call for help.
    Tycho and his moose hurry towards the noise.
    They round the bend and see a party of bathers.
    The livery is King Frederick’s: carmine on white.
    Everyone is on the shore except for the king.
    Tycho sees him in the water, caught in a riptide, drifting out to sea. Uncle Jørgen sprints into the ocean.
    Tycho follows.
    Moose gallops in as well.
    But Tycho is a poor swimmer. He’s unable to swim past the wave line. The surf returns him to the beach.
    Uncle Jørgen reaches King Frederick but also gets caught in the riptide. Both men cling to each other, recede towards the horizon, drift away.
    Steady as a boat, the moose paddles through the waves and reaches Uncle Jørgen and King Frederick. The men drape themselves over the moose’s body and are transported back to shore. 

8. DEARTH
    That night the king orders a feast at the castle. There are torches, buglers, attendants in white gloves. Oxen, calves, and muffed cocks are slaughtered for the guests.
    When dinner is served, the moose stands next to King Frederick. Eats a plate of spinach and summer greens.
    After the feast, King Frederick lifts his goblet and toasts Uncle Jørgen and the hero moose. He gives them medals. He talks about the majestic though unpredictable and deadly nature of the sea. “Like a Dane,” he says. “Like my mother,” he says.
    Everyone but the old queen laughs.
    At the end of the ceremony, Uncle Jørgen, pale-looking, gold medal bright around his neck, excuses himself. He complains about a chill.
    He pats the moose on its head.
    Says goodnight to King Frederick.
    Goodnight to Aunt Inger.
    Goodnight to Tycho.
    Goes to bed, dies.   

9. THE END
    End of the longest summer.
    Tycho packs away his belongings. He fills his trunks with books, clothing, the new ephemerides that he bought with Uncle Jørgen’s inheritance. He loads it all onto a coach and says goodbye to Aunt Inger.
    Aunt Inger, who is still wearing black.
    Tycho says goodbye to King Frederick.
    Goodbye to all the servants.
    Goodbye.
    But from Vordingborg, he doesn’t return to school in Copenhagen. Why should he pretend to study the law if Uncle Jørgen isn’t alive to care? Why spend all of his time bent over books, reading about the universe, when all he really needs to do is look up?
    Instead, Tycho and his moose travel to northern Denmark, to Knudstrup Castle, one of his real parents’ homes.
    Knudstrup is isolated from everything. Its village has only two dozen cottages, five grain mills, and farmland that’s flat and expansive as the sky above.  
    The castle is so far north that during the summer the sun barely sets. During the winter, white stars fill the daytime sky.
    Tycho and his moose spend that autumn wandering through endless yellow fields of wheat and rapeseed. Tycho tells the moose that he misses Uncle Jørgen. He misses things that he didn’t expect to miss about him. The sound of his uncle’s laughter, the particular roughness of his beard.
    Throughout the fall, Aunt Inger sends Tycho letters. She tells him how empty Vordingborg is without him. She misses the moose.
    But instead of moose, Aunt Inger keeps calling the animal an elk. A common elk, as if there’s anything common about it.
    Tycho tosses her letters in the fire. At night there’s no sound in the castle except for wood and paper burning, no sound at all except for Tycho and the moose’s footsteps echoing off limestone as they pace outside on the castle’s parapets, gazing at the sky.
    There’s the nebular spray of stars above them.
    Warm lamplight from the village below.  
    Tycho presses the radius to his cheekbone. He lines up Jupiter in the first sight and finds Saturn with the second. He measures the angle, checks it against Ptolemy’s measurement, and scowls.
    According to Ptolemy’s Almagest, the planets should be moving towards a conjunction, signaling expansion, social interaction, and material well-being.
    But if Tycho’s measurements are correct, the planets are actually moving away from each, approaching their square.
    Bad energy, problems, frustration.
    “All wrong,” says Tycho. “Everything is wrong,” he says.
    The moose blinks open its eyes. A cold breeze rattles through the ephemeris. The moose yawns.
    Tycho shoves his radius back into its case.
    He walks down to the village.
    The tavern.
    Beer.

10. ASTRAL LOVE
    Winter comes to Knudstrup.
    Heavy clouds settle in and blank out the sky.
    Tycho and the moose spend much of their time alone in the castle. Sometimes Tycho reads books in front of the fire. He reads astronomy books, astrology books, chivalric romances: Robert the Devil, Amadis of Gaul, Havelok the Dane.
    But most of the time he doesn’t read.
    He drinks.
    To pass the time.
    Tycho sits in front of the fire, empty wine glass between his knees, a journal open on his lap. On each page are sky measurements that he’d made during the previous summer and fall. There are coordinates for the traveling planets, lists of all the fixed objects in the ethereal sphere.
    One at a time, Tycho rips out the pages and throws them into the fire. He rips out a sketch of Virgo and crumples it. But before he can toss it in the fire, he’s interrupted by a knock at the door.
    Tycho looks at the moose.
    The moose looks back at Tycho. If a moose can shrug then that’s what it does.
    Shrugs.
    There’s another knock, and Tycho stumbles out of his chair. He knocks over an empty wine bottle on his way to open the door.
    Behind the door is a gust of wind and a girl. The girl’s eyes are deep and blue as the firmament; her hair is wheat.
    She tells Tycho that she’s there to deliver the firewood. She apologizes that the delivery is late. “My father,” she says. “Sick.”
    Tycho squints beyond her. There are snowflakes in the moonlight, a horse attached to a cart. Tycho tells the girl to wait inside while he unloads the firewood. After he’s finished, he offers her redcurrant wine.
    The girl tells Tycho that her name is Kirsten Jørgensdatter; she’s fourteen years old and lives in the village with her father. But Tycho already knows. He’s seen her in church. He likes the way she wears her laced collars and cuffs, the way she braids her fingers when she prays. Her pale moon-shaped face.
    He asks about her father, Jørgen Hansen, and she tells Tycho that he has a fever.
    Tycho raises his glass and watches the fire through it, the smoke and logs rinsed red by the wine. He tells her that he once had an uncle named Jørgen. Then he tips back his glass and drains it, drinking to her Jørgen’s health.
    By the time they’ve finished the bottle, the fire has burned down to its embers. The moose leans against the wall, snoring.
    Kirsten yawns and says that she should be going. She says that she shouldn’t have left her father at home for so long.
    Outside the castle, clouds swirl above them. The world is silent, a held breath.
    Kirsten pulls up her hood and touches Tycho’s hand. She thanks him and tells him that she had a nice night.
    After she’s gone, Tycho remains in the courtyard. There’s the warm tingle on his hand where her hand touched him. The wall of clouds has split and for the first time all winter the stars are showing.
    Venus in ascension.
    Naked sky.

11. IN RUT
    Tycho and Kirsten continue to make love all winter.
    But it’s love without kissing, love without hugging or handholding, love between a nobleman and a peasant girl. Chaste, forbidden, sixteenth-century love.
    Even after her father has recovered, Kirsten delivers wood to Tycho’s castle. They drink mulberry wine and Kirsten listens to Tycho talk about the universe. He tells her that the planets and the stars are forever isolated from one another, that they’re locked in separate crystalline spheres.
    He tells her that that’s what their love is. He is a planet, and she is a star.
    Who could understand it?
    No one, says Tycho. Not Otte Brahe, not Beate Bille, not Aunt Inger, not Jørgen Hansen, not Aristotle or Ptolemy.
    Tycho tells Kirsten that the universe has an order to it. He tells her that their love breaks every law.
    Then in March comes news that seems to affirm this.
    Tycho receives a letter from Germany, from the University of Rostock, three hundred kilometers south of Kirsten. He’s been accepted to study with the great astronomer Heinrich Brucaeus.
    Brucaeus’s Du motu prima libri tres is one of Tycho’s favorites.
    There was no one he wanted to study with more.

12. THE HEAVENS PROVIDE
    Tycho consults his books. He rereads The Almagest, The Tetrabiblos, The Handy Tables, The Metaphysics. Should he choose love or the university? Kirsten or the stars?
    In a rare concurrence, the books say the same thing. They agree that when Jupiter is in Sagittarius, the heavens signify optimism about the future and foreign travel. But in late-spring, when the king of planets is traveling between Sagittarius and Aries, the stars also signal innovation, new ventures, and expansion.
    Tycho’s decision is not to make a decision. The books seem to tell him that he doesn’t need to choose between one love and the other. Because Jupiter is traveling, he can go to Germany and expand his family. He’s allowed to innovate; the old laws need not apply.
    Tycho marries Kirsten a month before school starts. He hires a chaplain from Gothenburg, who performs the ceremony in the castle’s chapel. It’s not a proper marriage, not exactly; rather, it’s a morganatic marriage. Marriage without dowry, without verbum, without Jørgen Hansen’s consent. It’s the only kind of marriage that the state will allow between a nobleman and a peasant. When Tycho dies, Kirsten won’t be able to inherit his property. Her children won’t be recognized as his heirs.
    Still it’s a love marriage. After Tycho says “I do” and Kirsten says “I do,” he carries his bride up to their bedroom. Kirsten’s gown trails on the steps behind them. Tycho smells the bundles of rosemary she’s tied to her sleeves.
    In the bedroom, Tycho unties her corset. He lifts her dress.
    There’s starry whiteness.
    A fourteen-year-old’s chest.

13. MY MOON, MY MAN
    Tycho leaves for Rostock the next day.
    He kisses his bride without waking her, pushes her hair behind her ears, and leaves an envelope next to her head.
    Next, Tycho says goodbye to his moose. He strokes the moose’s antlers and feeds it redcurrants. He tells the moose to mind Kirsten while he’s gone.
    Moose bugles sadly.
    Then Tycho rides a horse to Gothenburg. He boards a boat and sails to Copenhagen. He boards another boat and sails away.
    Back at Knudstrup, Kirsten wakes up and hears the moose bugling in the courtyard. She finds the envelope, opens it, and reads the poem that Tycho’s written for her.
    She rereads the part about how when they look at the stars at night they’ll be looking at the same stars and so will always be together.
               We live so far apart, and yet the beams
               of radiant Olympus join our eyes at last.
    She stands at the window and searches the sky for some object to fix her eyes upon. She finds the white crescent of the moon hanging above the horizon and stares at it.
    She wonders what good it is being married to Tycho if he could just as happily be married to moonbeams instead.

14. THE FAMOUS STORY OF TYCHO’S NOSE
    At last the boat arrives at Rostock. Tycho watches the city’s skyline appear on the horizon. As it draws closer, the roofs, like sharp teeth, chew into the sky.
    Above the skyline is the vestige of last night’s moon. He traces its crescent with his eyes and imagines Kirsten doing the same.
    When the boat finally docks, Tycho hires a coach to drive him to Brucaeus’s castle, where Brucaeus is throwing a feast for his newest student. At the feast there’s eel, olla podrida, and half a kid.
    Tycho is introduced to another Danish student who’s come to the university to learn from the great astronomer. His name is Manderup Parsbjerg; he has hair like a storm cloud and eyes that match.
    Tycho and Parsbjerg sit across from each other at the feast table. They talk about the universe. “What about Copernicus?” asks Parsbjerg.
    “Please,” says Tycho. He leans across the table and pours Parsbjerg more wine. Tycho says that Copernicus may have had some good ideas, but that he really couldn’t believe the theory that the Earth revolves around the sun.
    Tycho tops off his wine. He watches it dribble over the top of his cup. “And what about the crystalline spheres?” he says.  He asks what about the birds. What about the clouds? He asks Parsbjerg to explain to him how humans and other animals could stand on an Earth that’s spinning through the universe like a top.
    He pours himself more wine.
    “I’ll tell you what I think,” says Tycho.
    Tycho tells Parsbjerg that he thinks that the sun rotates around the Earth and that everything else rotates around the sun. He places his cup in the center of the table and tells Parsbjerg that the cup is the Earth. Then he sets the wine bottle next to it. The wine bottle is the sun.
    Tycho pushes the wine bottle around the cup.
    Then he takes Parsbjerg’s cup and places it next to the wine bottle. The cup, he says, is everything else.
    Tycho pushes the wine bottle around his cup and Parsbjerg’s cup around the wine bottle. He tells Parsbjerg that his model of the universe is the only one that makes complete mathematical sense. Soon, he says, it will explain all of the cosmic mysteries. Parallax, retrograde motion, planetary drift.
    “The mechanics of the universe explained,” he says. He pounds the table to emphasize his point. His cup, Parsbjerg’s cup, and the wine bottle all tumble over. A tide of red wine crashes into Parsbjerg’s lap.
    When Parsbjerg returns to the table, he removes his gloves, leans forwards, and slaps Tycho’s cheek.
    “A duel,” he says. He slaps the other cheek. “The harbor,” he says.

15. THE FAMOUS STORY, CONTINUED
    
Dark rain hisses down on the cobblestones. There are seagulls asleep in the water, the swaying outlines of ships.
    Parsbjerg drinks wine straight from the bottle. “Ready?” he says.
    Tycho nods.
    The two men touch swords. Then Parsbjerg cuts the nose off Tycho’s face.
    He swings his sword and smashes it through skin and cartilage. The sword slices a chunk off the bridge and cleaves through the entire tip.
    Tycho’s nose falls to the ground. His sword clatters down next to it.
    Tycho’s not far behind.

16. UNCLE JØRGEN
   
Tycho groans. He opens his eyes and sees that he’s still on the boat, that he’s still sailing back home to Knudstrup. The ghost of Uncle Jørgen is still hovering above his bed.
    Tycho squeezes his eyes closed. He feels the boat plunge underneath him and smells the dung-smelling poultice covering his face.
    Clodpole, says the ghost.
    Tycho’s physician enters the cabin, and the ghost blinks out of existence. The physician checks Tycho’s wound and replaces his poultice. He feeds Tycho a spoonful of camphor and ground elk hoof.  
   After the physician leaves, the ghost comes back.
    Dunderhead, says the ghost.
   Idiot.
   Beef for brains.

17. KNUDSTRUP REVISITED
   Moron.
   Wretch.
   The ghost floats at the foot of Tycho’s bed. Outside the sun is rising above the wheat fields. Orange light creeps into the room.
   Tycho covers his ears. “You’re not here,” he says.
   No, says the ghost. Your nose is the only thing that’s not here.
   There’s a knock on the door, and the ghost drifts towards it. He tells Tycho to open the door. He tells Tycho to let Kirsten in. So she can finally see what you’ve done to your face, he says.
   Since Tycho’s returned to Knudstrup, he hasn’t seen Kirsten. Except for his physician, he hasn’t seen anyone at all. He won’t even look at himself in a mirror. He just probes the wound with his fingers, feeling the strangeness of his face.
   Kirsten knocks again.
   The ghost begins phasing through the door, passing in and out. Coward, says the ghost.
   “Go away,” says Tycho. “Leave me alone,” he says.
   Outside, Kirsten sets the tray of food on the floor and collects the old one. It’s still full of Tycho’s favorite things: smoked ox tongue, dogfish, Corbeil peaches. Tycho’s barely taken a bite. After she delivers the tray to the kitchen, she tells Tycho’s visitors that his condition hasn’t changed.
   Aunt Inger, Otte Brahe, Beate Bille, even King Frederick. They’ve come to the castle to see Tycho. But Tycho won’t see them. He’s told Kirsten to turn them all away.
   “I’m a monster,” he yelled through the door, when Kirsten told him that the king had arrived. “I’ll never see a living person again,” he said.
   The ghost did not dispute it.

18. THE MOOSE
   Kirsten tells the king that Tycho won’t see him.
   “A shame,” says the king. He tells Kirsten that he’s already contacted his best surgeon.  Tycho’s not the first person to have lost his nose in a duel. He tells her to tell Tycho that there are things the surgeon can do.
   On his way out, the king stops by the stables to visit the moose. It’s been more than two years since he’s seen the animal that saved his life. He has to squint into the shadows to find it. The moose is standing deep in the barn, beneath the hayloft. It’s mangy, gaunt, and surrounded by flies.
   The king extends an apple, and the moose steps forward.
   Moose grunts and bares its teeth.
   The king drops the apple. He recalls the once majestic animal, how it pushed through the waves. It was the finest moose in all of Denmark.
   Now it’s this. 

19. MORE OF THE SAME
   Time passes.
   How much? For Tycho it doesn’t matter. It could be a week; it could be a month. Tycho doesn’t leave his bedroom. He drinks until unconscious, wakes up, pours himself another cup.
   Outside his window, he watches Kirsten and her father working in the garden. They’ve planted tulips, hyacinths, and tomato plants. The sky is big and orange above them.    There are towering cumulous clouds.
   Tycho checks his wine bottle. Is it chardonnay? Chablis? Since the accident, everything tastes different. All of the flavors are muted, more diffuse.
   The ghost hovers next to him. Accident, says the ghost. Give me a break, the ghost says. He asks Tycho if his decision to duel Parsbjerg was an accident. Was it an accident when he decided to draw his sword?
   Tycho tips the rest of the wine into his cup. He sees Kirsten looking up at his window. She smiles and waves.
   In his hurry to close the curtains, Tycho knocks over his cup. Wine spreads across his table. It soaks through his ephemerides, his astronomy books and notebooks, everything that Tycho has been checking and double-checking to see which of the universe’s signs he must have misread. Does it matter that Kirsten is a Virgo? What do The Handy Tables say about marrying in May?
   Wine drips into Tycho’s lap.
   Look at you, says the ghost. How could you hope to correct the universe?
   For Tycho the ghost has a point. A father who’s not a father. A wife who’s not a wife. A nose that’s not a nose. A moose that’s not a moose. How do you correct something like that? 

20. THE TYCHONIC SYSTEM
   
The king’s surgeon arrives to fix Tycho’s nose. He offers to make Tycho a prosthetic. In exchange, the king wants Tycho’s moose. The king writes in a letter that he wants to honor the noble animal. He has a spot for it in his stables. He feels that he owes much to the moose and that he hasn’t given it enough. In the letter, the king says that he wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to give Tycho counsel, but he confides that even a king knows what it’s like to experience loss. He urges Tycho to take care of Kirsten. He reminds Tycho that, in many ways, she’s all that he has.
   And even Tycho is able to understand the king’s implication: That Kirsten is all that he has left. That even she won’t continue forever to suffer his neglect.
   But instead of leaving his room and joining her in the garden to plant tulips, Tycho remains in his chair.
   After the surgeon measures him for his prosthetic nose, he pours himself another glass of wine, ignores the ghost, and massages his past.
   For Tycho the past is his moose: the heroic moose, the compassionate moose, the moose that slept by the fire and let itself be decorated with bows. On the day the moose rescued King Frederick, Tycho was regaling the moose once again with stories of the eclipse. While they walked beneath the evergreens, Tycho was telling the moose about the blackness of the moon’s umbra, about how the moon had overpowered the sun.
   He told the moose that during the eclipse the stars shined with full intensity and that even the birds refused to take flight.
   He told the moose about how he gazed up at the sky as the moon sliced across the face of the sun and turned day into night, proving to everyone who saw it that everything was reversible and that nothing was fixed.
   He told the moose to think about what this meant for a moose that had been so violently taken away from its parents.
   Then he recalled how the moon continued on its trajectory, sliding past the sun. The stars disappeared, the sunlight returned, and the birds took flight again, the reversal reversed.
   Their wings clapped as they lifted off and drifted away.