Wolves

Dan Sanders

We live in a brown and shabby house set just far enough into the woods to catch the shade. It is secluded, quiet, hard to find, and far enough away from where we lived before. There is a long dirt path leading from the road to our front door, which we painted wide-open sky blue on a warm Sunday morning.

 

By that afternoon, we had second thoughts about the paint. It was beautiful but could catch unwanted eyes from the road. Yet we needed something to suggest that we lived here on purpose, that we weren’t hiding, that everything was bright blue and fine.

 

The first wolf arrived that evening, like the paint was some spell cast, some summoning force. He sat at a distance and resisted our shooing, then settled himself in our field. We locked the door and held hands while we looked out the kitchen window to watch his ears flick away flies. We knew he would never leave but felt certain that we still could, if we wanted.

 

He circled our house at night, quietly and invisibly on a new moon, quietly and brightly on a full. He held his head low and walked with purpose on an even tempo, calm and persistent. If we woke in the middle of the night and looked out the window, we only had to wait a few moments to see him pass. He never bothered us, never came closer than his circle. We avoided each other, but he considered us carefully when we got the mail in the morning, before he disappeared to hunt in the afternoon.

 

There were three of us then. Three counting the wolf. Then it was four counting the wolves, then five counting the wolves.

 

The two new wolves followed the first. They hunted when he hunted, circled when he circled. Our mailbox was now too far, too risky. We’d never liked the mail anyway, an intrusion on our lives. We still felt comfortable in the garden but started worrying over it. What if we couldn’t leave and they ate the garden? What then? So we left offerings when we could, thrown from the window on the other side of the house. Leftovers. Bribes. Despite our worry, they left the garden alone. They offered exchanges. Most of a deer was left on our anniversary. We didn’t think they knew, but maybe they did. We forced ourselves to cook it, to learn how, to be polite. We held hands and went outside and bowed to them, became terrified and retreated. They never moved, may not have noticed. We threw the bones at them from the window. Go away, we shouted. We locked the windows. We tried not to make a sound.

 

Six counting the wolves.

 

The four of them slept fifty feet from the house, one at each of the corners of our property, and something about the symmetry of it made us think that this would be the end. We began to feel relief at the order of it, that somehow things had finally fallen into place. Finally settled. Something we could see that we understood. One, two, three, four. We believed, however briefly, they would patrol on our behalf and ensure that everything we were hiding from would remain beyond their perimeter. There would be no more wolves. There would be no more anything. Only this. We could adapt, finally relax. 

 

But another wolf came, then another, dozens of them, then one night a hundred all at once. A swirling mass filling the space between the edge of their circle and the walls of our home, brushing the siding with their fur, the blue paint flaking from the door in flecks, leaving iridescence in their fur.

 

That night we watched our sparkling blue moat and tried to tamp our panic with the beauty of it. What a gift this must be.

 

Panic won out by morning, and we packed our things and planned to fight our way through to somewhere else again.

 

By that evening, we’d lost our courage over another deer steak dinner. It took us a week before we realized the wolves had disappeared completely, vanished. We had already locked the door from the inside, boarded it up against the spiraling pressure. What a relief it was to lock ourselves away, so we went from room to room and painted over the windows with a wide-open sky blue. Giddy, we found ourselves dancing, without music, each of us turning the other.

(pp. 115-116, The Hong Kong Review, Vol. II, No. 1)

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