From a stranger in Roanoke, Virginia
I am delighted to share with you one of the most clever pieces of artwork that I have received. This artist has taken the idea of mailing a wolf one step further and has actually drawn a picture of a wolf mysteriously placed inside a package; this displays an inventive mind and a unique intellect that I think should be applauded. As I studied this picture more and more, I began to ponder the idea of the containment of the noble savage and the impact that it can have on both man and beast. As a result, I am trying something new with this post and am sharing with you a piece of short fiction. I don’t claim it to be great, but it will certainly be different, and I hope that it is well-received.
Note: this piece of fiction was inspired by concepts brought to mind by this picture but is not necessarily “about” this picture.
The creature radiated energy of an otherworldly sort. Vibrations pulsated from its quivering body like the sonic boom of a jet engine unexpectedly soaring across a clear, springtime sky, over and over again.
Kneeling a short distance away, the man surveyed the drama warily, his eyes wide and breath shaky and visible in the cold.
As the struggle of life and death played out before him, his heart pounded in his chest like a prisoner rattling the bones of his ribcage, stirring his insides into an oily mess. He saw the spray of blood lying gently upon the delicate white surface of the snow outside of the wolf’s radius like a covering of dark red lace. The creature’s forepaw had been caught in the bear trap only hours before. While its resolve was iron, the frenzied eyes filled with rage spoke of a desperation that the man knew would win out in the end. Ultimately, when the wolf had gnawed through its own flesh, grinding the rubbery ligaments in its very jaws, it would be free. But it would die.
Then, he knew, the pup would also die that worriedly trembled near to its mother’s side, offsetting her deep growls with a strained whimper, creating a poignant symphony of pain, fear and anxiety.
The man thought silently. He bit down upon the inside of his cheek and swallowed hard. Then he raised himself from his haunches, lifted the barrel of his rifle and fired. The shot seemed to echo for a long while and the man listened as it died out. Then, pinching the young creature by the nape and cradling it gingerly in his arms as it yelped, he turned and walked away.
In the months and years that followed he questioned his judgment more than most would imagine, crying as he lay awake and whispering his prayers aloud. The murder of the mother was irrelevant. He had known that she would perish. What he punished himself for was not the execution, but the rescue.
Most mornings he would awake in the cold half-light of his cabin to the coarse sensation of the creature’s tongue sandpapering his hand. Often he would simply open his eyes and try with all his might to absorb the beauty of the animal, but no matter how he tried, he just couldn’t seem to drink it in fully. In short, he felt unworthy. The thing was of a godly nature to him. Each claw that clicked upon his battered hardwood floor anchored his guilt and solidified the knowledge that he had no right to contain this creature, to house this embodiment of everything wild and fierce in the natural world. He didn’t know if the wildness of the animal could actually be tamed, but he feared that he done more damage than good, that he had tainted the purity of the creature.
Sometimes, when the days were warm, he would leave the front door open and secretly hope that the wolf would simply trot through it and head back into the wilderness and never return. He would imagine seeing a wisp of the tail cut across his periphery and then all his guilt would wash away like the oil on the highway during a hard rain…
But on these occasions the creature would only stare at the man inquisitively and lie down in the splay of sunshine as it beamed onto the cabin floor. In time the wolf would yawn and lick himself, and the man would walk over to the creature and crouch to pet him. In that moment, as the animal thumped his tail against the floor in approval, the man would wonder if this was the communion with nature that so many had seemed to hope for throughout history or, he questioned, was it still out there floating along on some swampy breeze, buried underneath the needles of some ancient pine, intangible and unattainable?