The timer beeps. My dad and I slow to a walk. "Whew," he says. "That one seemed long."
“I know,” I reply, panting.
We are silent for the rest of the minute we have to catch our breath before we will make ourselves run again.
My parents' neighborhood has no streetlights. In the early January dark of our run, my father carries a flashlight - but he uses it mainly to highlight our presence to passing cars, so most of our run is lit by porch lights and the full moon.
And, next to the moon, the great hunter.
Orion is an old friend of mine. In the winter, the only thing better than a snowy night is a clear night when snow is on the ground, when the stars in Orion glitter like they would like to fall from the sky and join their crystalline bretheren on the ground. And on a too-warm winter night like the night of our run, the beauty of his shape in the sky almost makes up for the dreary brown of the earth, which won't awaken for several months yet.
I look at his shape and think about what I might have named him, had I been in charge of such things: the Hourglass, the Great Bowtie. I look at his sword, tipped with the Pleiades, and imagine a new myth that is less a tragedy than a bawdy tale: seven sisters, one by one, impaled by the great "sword" of the hunter.
I think about Orion and Artemis of the moon, hunting together. (Were they lovers or merely companions? Did he deflower the chaste goddess? The myths I read and eventually learned by heart, intended for children, were fuzzy on these sorts of details.)
I think about fiery Apollo, the jealous twin brother of the moon goddess, in a rage because his other half had found another companion. (A human companion, no less.) In his fury he sent a scorpion to hunt the hunter, and the beast pursued Orion across the known world (which is less impressive than it sounds today).
Finally, Orion did battle with the scorpion, and each died locked in the other's embrace. A grieving Artemis hung her friend's image - as well as that of the scorpion, which I like to imagine she couldn't tear away from Orion's dead hands - in the sky as constellations. (My children's myths again become fuzzy. Did Artemis do this alone, or did Apollo, as an act of contrition for his rash deed, help her?)
Thus, Orion and the scorpion continue their endless pursuit. Every winter, Orion arrives in the night sky, protecting us through the dead months. And every summer, Scorpio creeps up over the horizon, and the hunter must flee again.
The timer beeps.
As I start to run again, I look at the shape of Orion next to the moon and imagine myself as Artemis, pursuing my quarry in the night sky with my old friend by my side.