by Andy Hollis
©1999 Andy Hollis -- all rights reserved
Sometimes summer vacations just don't turn out the way you expect.
"This really stinks," I said as I jumped off the last step of the bus. "I haven't seen my dad in four years so why does he have to mess up my whole summer vacation now?"
There were no other passengers on the bus, only the driver and he made no answer to my ranting. He opened the luggage compartment and pulled out my suitcase. "There you are, son. Are you sure I can't drop you down the road? There's a restaurant a few miles down with a phone."
"No," I said and held out a paper. "Dad said he'd meet me here, and this is here, right?"
He checked the paper again and nodded his head. "This is it," he said glancing around the bus stop. Look, kid, if you're still here when I head back I'm picking you up, okay?'
"Deal. He was supposed to be here by now. This really stinks."
The bus pulled off with a cloud of exhaust that left me coughing in the parking lot. I dragged my suitcase over to the covered kiosk and plopped myself down on the bench to wait. From my spot I could see about a hundred yards of Route 28 as it wound its way through the Adirondack Mountains. The road passed sharply cut granite walls and whole forests of pine, maple and birch trees. The woods were filled with deer, raccoons, foxes and the occasional bear. I listened to the variety of birdcalls as the bus pulled away and wondered if I could ever identify them all.
Dad chose a bus stop in the middle of a mountain. Someone had placed a covered bench in the parking lot of a hiking path. I could see maybe fifty yards either way on the road before it twisted away on the mountain. After that were the woods -- nothing but woods, birds and mosquitoes. Hundreds of mosquitoes as big as robins and flies. I hardly noticed the little black flies until they bit me. I slapped my arm and dug in my suitcase for more bug repellant.
After bathing in the Off, I sat down to wait. Mom had packed a book on the history of the Adirondacks that Dad had sent and several books on my summer reading list, but she had grabbed my stash of comics. I took out Dad's book and started to read. By the time I finished the book I was getting worried.
Two hours, I thought and checked my watch again. Dad had a lot of problems, even Mom gave him that, but he wouldn't do this to me. Pacing, I pulled out my last candy bar, ate half and re-wrapped the rest.
I stretched out on the bench, and I must have dozed off. When I woke up the sky was getting dark. Rubbing my eyes and shaking my head, I wandered into the woods to take care of another matter. I couldn't believe that dad would do this to me. His instructions were clear enough in his letter, but where was he?
Not having anything else to do, I picked up the book and flipped back through it. On the last page I read:
"Tales are still told of travelers in the remote reaches of the Adirondacks that have called on the Spirits of Power in times of need or emergency. These spirits, as legends have it, can grant aid and or wishes to those in need of help."
That was crazy, I thought with my cheeks burning. There weren't any spirits of power and yet I wanted to try the chant in the book to call them. This had to be the remotest reach of the mountains and I hadn't seen or heard a car in hours.
After I cleared my throat, stood up and I read out: "Spirits of the Powers I summon thee. I am a traveler in need..."
A large ball of glowing blue light appeared about an inch from my nose. "We, the spirits of power have acquiesced to your summons. How do you wish us to proceed?"
The ball spun around as the light changed from dark blue to silver to green. "He means, my man, you rang?'
Voices from all over the globe began to chatter. "What's up Doc?"
"Hey, dude, what's happening?"
"Greetings and salutations."
"What are you guys?" I asked in a squeak.
"We are the spirits of power. You called us -- we heard you too -- and out of the goodness of our hearts we came to give you aid and succor in your hour of need. So, boyo, here we are. What can we do for you?"
"I've been sitting here in the wilderness for hours and hours. My dad was supposed to pick me up at eleven this morning. He may be hurt..." I glanced around and back into the woods. "Dad? Okay, Dad the joke's over. You can come out now."
The ball spun again. "Subject Harold R. Adamson, father of David M. Adamson is -- otherwise occupied. He is not on his way here."
"I'll kill him. Mom will kill him. He just left me out here without anything to eat or drink? Can you take me to his place?"
"Subject action telekinesis is beyond the range of our powers..."
"What?" I asked.
"He means, sorry, no can do. We are spirits and not a taxicab. You are twelve years old, in good health and weigh approximately ninety pounds. You have two legs so use them."
"But I don't know where my dad lives," I countered. "Can you get me something to eat with all that aid and stuff you promised?"
"That is on the way, boyo. Food and drink and more. Is there anything else you wish?"
"I wish I was a famous TV star with a cell phone and a limo waiting."
The ball spun around. "Subject action is impossible until account is paid in full."
I sighed. "This is really stupid. How many spirits are in there? Can't you just begin in English?"
"Well, golly gee whiz, Batman, we're doing the best we can. There are over a hundred spirits residing in this entity now addressing you. The spirit that knows the answer first gives the answer, and we work out the meaning later. Okay, kid? We have like -- power, dig? And we have -- like rules..."
"Very funny Mr. Spirit of Power, sir. What are you, really?" I reached out and touched the ball only to get a nasty electric shock. I shook my hand, and I heard hundreds of voices inside my head. I started to back away. This wasn't one of Dad's jokes.
The ball floated around me. "Not much to look at, but that will change. Okay. Your account is maxed out. Until you make a payment we can't grant any more wishes."
"But you've never granted me a wish so how can I have an account?"
"Opened by you or someone authorized to use your name." A beam of yellow light shot from the ball and touched me on the chest. It moved up to my forehead, and I felt something warm. My whole body trembled with the light. "Account is now paid down by sixty percent. Balance due in five years."
"See you later, dude."
"We're out of here." With that the ball vanished.
"But what happened?" I shouted after the ball. No answer. I picked up the book, shoved it into my suitcase, and sat down.
A street light blinked on over the kiosk. I hadn't even noticed the lamp was there. Crickets started singing, and a saw hundreds of moths fly for the lamp. This day was getting better and better. The bus driver said there was a restaurant down the road a few miles, but then the driver had promised to come back. I tried scratching my back on the bench and froze as a dog stepped out of the woods into the light.
"Nice doggy?" I said. The closer it got the larger it looked. It had to be a Husky or Shepherd mix of some sort... Or wolf, I thought as it walked closer to the bench. No, wolves didn't live in the Adirondacks. In Canada, maybe, or in Russia, but there were no wolves in New York. Yet there it was and I wasn't about to go through the guidebook again to check that out.
The animal growled low in its throat as it walked up to me. I backed away on the bench as far as I could get, but this monster was the same size as a pony. There was no where to go to get away from it. Her, I thought, when I noticed the swollen teats on the wolf's belly. She must have just had a litter, but I hadn't seen any puppies around.
She growled again as she pressed her nose into my chest. I could hear her sniffing at me. Her breath was rather unpleasant, but not as bad as I expected. I screamed as she opened her massive jaws and brought her fangs inches away from my face. I screamed again until she licked my nose. I sputtered and laughed with relief as she washed my face. I tried to push her away, but that was impossible.
Using her nose and a forepaw the wolf pushed me down on the bench until I lay flat out on my back. She kept licking my face pressing into my chest with her paw. I tired to move the paw, but she growled and pressed down on my stomach.
"Hey, what's that for..." I started to say.
As I opened my mouth again, the wolf threw up. I half swallowed and half gagged on the mess trying to catch my breath. She growled again, pressed harder on my stomach and repeated the process. It dawned on me that she was feeding me -- like a cub, and she wasn't taking no for an answer. I was hungry, but not that hungry, and yet I opened my mouth and ate anyway. Half of me wanted to throw up and the rest of me wanted to eat. This was crazy. I tried to struggle but just couldn't fend off the wolf.
When she finished feeding me from her stomach, she lay down on her side and offered to let me nurse. When I didn't follow her down right away she grabbed my jeans with her teeth and pulled. I settled in next to her and drank. I didn't know why I nursed like that, but it felt natural as if I had been doing that for my entire life. At least it washed the taste of my last "meal" out of my mouth.
With my stomach full, I drifted off to sleep still cuddled against the wolf. I stirred once when she licked my face again. I woke again with the roar of an approaching car. The wolf had left me alone. I checked around the area to make sure, then ran out to the side of the road. I was going to flag that car down and get a ride -- anywhere.
I saw the headlights coming around the curve to my left. The car swerved toward me; just missed the bus stop and crashed into a tree. I ran over to the car.
The driver's window was open, and I found my dad slumped against the steering wheel. My nose wrinkled at the reek of beer and sweat and my mouth started to hurt.
"Dad?" I shook his shoulder a couple of times. "Dad?"
He blinked at me. "Davey? You're here." He opened his door and stumbled out of the car. "You've grown a bit since the divorce. And what is this?" he asked pulling at my hair. "Trying to look like a girl?"
"Lay off, Dad. Where have you been for the last twelve hours? You left me out here without anything to eat or drink, and then you drive in here drunk?"
"Told you to be here at eleven..."
"A.M., Dad. You said eleven A.M. Just wait until I tell Mom about this."
He belched. "Oops. Looks like I goofed again. Oh, well, get your stuff and I'll get the car backed up.
I put my suitcase in the trunk and climbed into the front seat. "There's a restaurant down the road. I could really use a hamburger or three." I licked my lips at the thought.
"Too late for that, Davey. I need to get some more beer..." He paused and frowned at me. "Open your mouth... Look at those teeth. You need to see a dentist and of course your mother left that to me."
In spite of the huge dent in the car's hood and grill, Dad backed up and skidded back onto the road. He tore around the curves until I was sure we were both dead. I screamed at one point and braced myself against the seat.
Dad laughed at me. "What a little wimp you turned out to be. Screaming like a girl." He giggled again and burped. "Does your mom put your hair up in ribbons?"
My cheeks burned and my stomach felt sour at his insults. "I want to go home, Dad. You haven't been around for four years, and you don't have to start on me now. Call Mom, take me back to Utica and get me on the first bus home."
"Nothing doing. You're still my son, and tomorrow we are going to the barber's in Old Forge and get you a crew cut. Or would you prefer a stylist?" he asked. "After that I'm going to teach you to act like a man. I'm not going to let Helen make a sissy out of you without a fight..." He swerved the car again, and skidded into a parking lot. "You stay here. I've got to get some beer, and I'll get you a snack."
This really stinks, I thought as I watched him stagger into the store. I saw a pay phone and made a dash for it. The operator placed the collect call. "Hi, Mom, it's me. I've got to get out of here."
"David, do you know what time it is?"
"Yes, I do, Mom. He just picked me up from the bus stop a few minutes ago. I had to wait out in the middle of nowhere for twelve hours. Then he almost ran me over because he's too drunk to see straight. He's gonna make me get a crew cut and everything. It's really bad here, Mom and I have to come home -- now."
"Sorry, Davey, but you're going to have to work things out with your dad. I'm not going to be here this summer either, and I can't change my plans now. I certainly know your father's faults, but he is your father and it's up to you to get to know him -- crew cut and everything."
"But he's trying to kill me, Mom."
"What do you expect me to do about it?" she asked and gently. "I could call the police department there, but you will probably get to his place before they can respond. Is there anyone else there that could drive?'
"We're outside a liquor store."
"Then I'll call the police there and be prepared to spend the night in a foster home."
"Never mind, Mom. There's dad. I've got to go." I hung up and ran for the car.
Dad had the nerve to stand in the parking lot to chug down a beer before he walked back to the car. I just hoped we didn't have far to go. He put a couple of six packs in the back seat before he fell into the drivers seat. "Here," he said and handed me a long biscuit. "This'll put hair on your chest," he said with another burp.
I could barely see the snack, but it smelled great. I started chewing on it, and went so far as to curl up on the seat to eat.
Adamson Lake had belonged to my family for generations. Right in the middle of the Adirondack State Park, the lake and surrounding property covered at least five square miles. The trip from the main road to the house took forever even at Dad's breakneck pace.
"There it is, the family lodge," he said as we pulled up. There was a sliver of moon out, and I could barely see the building. Talk about log cabins, the lodge was barely more than one. There was a path down to the lake, and another leading into the woods.
"Go on in while I check the generator," Dad said.
I opened the door and tumbled out of the seat. I landed on all fours and stood that way for a moment drinking in the scents from the lake and the woods before I stood up. After a long stretch I called out, "Dad? What about my stuff?"
"Get it in the morning. Go on, the door's unlocked."
The generator buzzed and hummed as Dad messed with it. I found the light switch and took a good look at my home for the summer. The cabin boasted bare, hardwood floors and walls. I saw one easy chair in the living room, with a small throw rug, and no TV or stereo. There was a door on either side of the living room for bedrooms and a kitchen, but... I checked the entire cabin.
"Where's the bathroom?" I asked as Dad stumbled into the room.
"Out back," he said with a shrug. "You bathe in the lake and use the outhouse for everything else."
I ran outside, but didn't make it to the woods. In seconds my pants were soaked through. I pulled them down and finished what I had to do.
"What is the matter with you?" Dad almost bellowed as I walked back inside carrying my pants.
"It was a long drive and I really had to go."
"Here," he said and tossed a towel at me. "Go clean up, and get to bed. Your room is that one."
The next morning I woke up feeling stiff. The mattress made of lumps didn't help either, but my arms and legs were hurting as well as my back. I rolled out of bed and walked over to the mirror. I looked horrible. My hair hung in greasy strings over my face, and I swore that my arms had grown few inches over night. With my back so stiff I had to walk hunched over.
"It's about time you got up," Dad said from the doorway. "It's time for you to join the club, the Polar Bear Club and you're certainly dressed for it." He pulled my T-shirt up over my head.
"Dad, it's okay. Just get my suitcase from the car and I'll get dressed. "What's for breakfast?"
"Club first, then I'll have to go into town to get some groceries -- unless you want beer this morning. Didn't think so." He picked me up and started for the door.
"Dad? What are you doing?"
"Going to let you join the club. After we get something to eat I'm going to take you to Mt. Marcy for a climb." He opened the door and carried me down to the lake.
"Dad, wait..." I shouted in his ear as he carried me to the end of the dock. "I can't swim. I never learned how. Don't..."
"It's about time you learned." He swung me out over the water a couple of times before he let go.
I went flying into the lake. After swallowing gulps of water, I made it to the surface. "Help! Dad!" I didn't see him on the dock, but a moment later I heard the car engine turn over. "Dad. Help. I can't swim." I paddled as hard as I could but I wasn't getting anywhere. Finally, I stopped thrashing, cursed, and let my legs tread water for a while. "Dad?" So much for a rescue. I started swimming for shore. In spite of what I told Dad I loved the water.
Over the sound of the car engine I heard something that sounded like barking. I turned to see a wolf running along the shore of the lake. She barked again, then jumped into the water. I stayed still as I watched the tip of her nose slice through the water toward me. This was crazy. She couldn't have followed me to the lake, but that had to be the same one.
The wolf swam up to me, and took a gentle grip on the back of my neck with her teeth. I let myself go limp as she managed to move me back toward land. The best I could manage was to keep my nose out of the water, and I didn't want to think about how she was managing. But, we made it. I could have swum the distance from the end of the dock to shore myself, but again I found I had little control over my actions.
She dragged me onto the ground. As soon as she let go I rolled over onto my hands and knees and crawled the rest of the way. A spray met me as the wolf shook herself dry. She nudged me a couple of times with her nose until I followed her example. It was easy to start shaking from my head back to my legs. Every time I started to stand up, however, she growled at me.
As I settled on standing on my hands and feet I felt a sharp crack from my hips. My back straightened out and the awful ache I had all morning eased away. I took a step shocked that I could walk on all fours. I felt my arm and leg muscles stretch. Half of me wanted to bolt for the cabin to lock the door against the wolf. Instead, the rest of me quickly followed her into the woods.
After a while, I started playing as we walked. I ran ahead and waited for her to catch up. She led me to a small clearing in the woods and she stood for a moment. For the life of me I couldn't understand why I started to bounce around her like a wolf cub. I went so far as to lick her jaws until she fed me.
This time I didn't hesitate for a moment to eat jaw to jaw. I even lapped up everything that had spilled. I followed the wolf deeper into the woods to a den she had dug into a large mount of earth. She nudged me in first, then curled up around me. The fit was tight, and I fell asleep nursing. I woke a little while later to nurse again. The wolf -- Momwolf -- I thought naming her, bathed me from head to toes with her tongue. Bored and feeling lazy, I napped off and on for the rest of the morning.
I woke up sometime in the afternoon. Standing up on all fours in the den and found the space much larger than I remembered. I stumbled out of the den and but as hard as I tried I couldn't stand up on my hind legs for very long. After I shook myself off, I trotted down to the lake to get a drink, but froze at the sight of my reflection.
My nose and mouth had pushed out into a very short muzzle. I opened my mouth to see fangs and lots of them. The rest of my face still looked like me, but my ears had sharp points. The water tasted the same, at least, although I had to lap it.
A werewolf? I thought watching my hands and feet change the rest of the way to paws. I'm turning into a wolf and it isn't even a full moon. This had to stop now. The car -- there across the lake I realized what sound woke me from the den. I ran through the woods following the curve of the shoreline.
Scrambling up the step to the front cabin, I nudged the door open with my nose. "Dad?" My voice sounded horse almost a bark. "Dad?" I saw him slumped over in the chair with an empty bottle of Bourbon in his hand. So much for mountain climbing this afternoon. I padded over to the chair, pulled myself up on two legs and barked right in his face.
Dad opened his eyes. "What?" He gasped as he saw me.
"Dad. It's me. I've got to get some help. I'm turning into a wolf."
"Don't be stupid. That's impossible, Davey. You did a nice job with those teeth and claws," he said moving my hands away from his chest. "But I don't buy it for a minute."
"Is there a library in town? Maybe I could find a book or something there, or what about the Spirits of Power? They were weird, but if I call them would you make a wish?"
"Just go outside and play..." He dropped the empty bottle and picked up another. Two minutes later he dropped back off to sleep with his mouth open and his tongue hanging out.
What a waste of time he was. Some fatherly concern. I had to do something but with all my clothes locked in the trunk of his car I couldn't even get dressed. I was getting hungry again, but the last thing I wanted to do was eat like a wolf again. I still couldn't understand why that didn't gross me out. I looked down at myself. Last night and this morning I had been eating like a wolf and changing a lot right afterwards. The more I ate from Momwolf, the more I turned into one? Maybe if I ate like a human again...
I trotted into the kitchen and started using my nose. Besides dad's beer and bottles of booze I couldn't find anything in the kitchen to eat. I pulled a chair over to the cabinets and jumped up to the counter to check the top shelves. Nothing except for an empty potato chip wrapper and a box of dog biscuits... I sniffed again as I realized that I had gobbled a couple of them down last night. But why would dad buy me dog biscuits? He said that they would put hair on my chest, but could he have meant fur?
That was crazy. Dad was too drunk to see what was going on, but he did buy the dog biscuits -- probably his idea of a joke.
I hadn't turned furry yet, but from the looks of things I didn't have much time before I did. Dad wasn't any help so I would have to do this on my own, but what could I do? I couldn't go to town like this even if I could get some clothes from the car. Feeling desperate, I thought to check out the trash cans outside for leftovers.
Shoving my way out the screen door I sniffed at the cans for a moment before I headed deeper into the woods to take care of another matter. I yelped in unexpected pain as I squatted down. My back caught fire as my tail grew out pulling my shoulders much closer to my hips. When I could stand up again I looked over my shoulder. I could wave the tail, but it would take me a while to get control over it.
"Dad?" I called several times when I returned to the living room but the only response I had was a snore or two. I curled up on the throw rug beside the chair and went to sleep. Maybe he'd wake up sober enough to help me.
Several hours later I woke to sound of his yawn. I bounced up to my feet. "Dad, check this out," I said waving my tail at him. "Now will you help me?"
"Neat trick, Davey, but what is this supposed to prove?"
"Dad, I told you, I'm turning into a wolf. Look at me!" I snarled at him and displayed my fangs. "Don't you care at all? I have paws now and I can't even stand up anymore."
"So, you brought some props with you. Funny, very funny, but get out of that outfit now."
"I can't, Dad." In spite of myself I started to whine. "My suitcase is locked in the trunk of your car so how could I have brought this stuff with me?"
"It doesn't matter." He walked into the kitchen and came back gulping down another bottle.
"What about breakfast? Lunch? Is there anything to eat here?"
"You're the wolf so go and catch it." He slumped down in the chair and finished the booze.
I ran out the front door and skidded to a stop before I crashed into Momwolf. One look from her made me feel guilty about leaving the den earlier. I hung my head for a moment, then started bouncing around her yapping as if nothing had happened while I followed her back into the woods to have lunch.
Why was I doing this? I knew I was going to change again, but I couldn't stop myself from nursing. I tried to force my jaws from moving, but it wouldn't work. I looked up at Momwolf. She stared back at me with love in her eyes, but how big they were. My body tingled and I shrank again. As I watched a fine golden down started growing along my arms and legs. Instead of fighting it, I cuddled in next to the wolf and slept.
When I woke, I found the down had changed to fur. And yet, the worst part about this was that I didn't care. I was changing into an animal and it felt like just another day at school. I now felt comfortable as a wolf -- as if I had been born a cub.
'Davey!" I heard my father's voice bellow through the woods. He called several times as I scrambled to my feet. Momwolf had left the clearing, but I felt she wasn't far. I did a quick check of myself to make sure I still looked a little human. I did, but not by much. The fur covered me from nose to tail, but it was thin enough to see pink skin underneath.
"Dad," I said in a low bark. "What's the matter?"
He stared at me, weaving back and forth on his legs. "What in the world are you? Where's my son?"
"I told you I was turning into a wolf, but you didn't believe me. Go back to your bottle, Dad. I'll be fine out here. I don't know what you'll tell Mom when you can't send me home, but you'll think of something. Just don't tell her I drowned because she would never believe it... Oh, you might as well. It's as good an excuse as anything else."
"What are you talking about?"
"Don't worry about it, Dad. You're too drunk to be out here. You might fall and hurt yourself. Now there's no one who could get help. In fact, I'm not the only wolf here. There are others and we just might make a meal out of you. Serve you right as far as I'm concerned you drunken rat."
"How dare you say that to me? I'm your father."
"I'm turning into a wolf so it doesn't matter any more. You couldn't be bothered to help me."
"Don't give me that. People can't change into wolves for real. This has to be some sort of... Oh -- my -- God. That's a wolf."
"That's Momwolf. She's the one that's been taking care of me since you wouldn't. I'm going to be her cub. See? I'm still shrinking." I sat down to scratch my ear.
"This can't be happening. Get away from the wolf and I'll get my gun."
"No!" I barked. "She isn't hurting anyone. I need your help to stop turning into a wolf before it's too late. You don't need to hurt her."
"You aren't turning into anything except a first class sissy. I knew your Mom would make a girl out of you without me. I'm going to get my gun and end this right now."
"What can I say that will convince you I'm changing? Can't you see the way I look now?"
"Don't be so stupid... Okay, tell you what... Howl. I want to hear a real wolf's howl out of you and then maybe I'll believe it."
I shook my head and the rest of my body with it. "I can't. That would just make the change worse. I need to get food -- people food. I want to stop changing."
"No dice. I said howl, and I meant it, or I get the gun."
I stood still, raised my head and opened my jaws. I let out a wail, not much of a howl -- more of a puppy's squeak, but I did it. As soon as I finished my nose and face stretched the rest of the way into a muzzle. Fur flowed over my legs, chest and back down to the tip of my tail. I howled again, but this time I had answers from the other side of the lake. Momwolf joined in the chorus. Then she walked over to stand way over me.
"Looks like you really did change. Go, take him and get out of my sight. Go!" he half bellowed at the wolf. She picked me up by the scruff of the neck and ran. "Don't you ever come back here, Davey. I'll kill you if you do. In fact, why don't I do both of us a favor and get my gun." He took one step toward the cabin then fell flat on his face.
I hung completely limp from my mother's mouth as I accepted my new form, and the new life I would lead.
Fall came, and I felt the chill in my fur. I had grown considerably over the summer and now stood about half the size of my mother -- all long legs. I lowered my head to the water to drink and looked up when I heard a loud buzzing behind me. I spotted the glowing, multi-colored sphere of the Spirits of Power, but I couldn't remember what it was. Instead, I growled and pounced.
"Easy, there, easy. Nice wolf."
I jumped and bit at the sphere but it managed to hover out of range.
"Davey, we need you to remember yourself."
"What?" I blinked and shook my head. For the first time in months I remembered my human self. "I'm still a wolf? What happened to me?"
"Easy, boy. Easy -- don't bite the nice spirits. Good wolf."
"Okay," I said judging the distance again. "Why are you here and why am I a wolf?"
"Subject questions answered by drawing on your account. Account holder paid the credit established in his name and is now in immediate danger because of it."
"He means, boyo, that your changing into a wolf fulfilled your obligation to us and you are about to meet your maker. Understood?"
The sphere grew larger and flattened out into a screen. "Perhaps it would help if you saw how your account was opened. Take a look."
On the screen, I had to squint to focus my eyes on the image. The picture continued to grow until I could view comfortably.
I saw my father crawling through a forest I didn't recognize. He moved slowly, pushing aside brush carefully, and I saw the rifle he carried with him. My ears pricked as I heard a rustle close to Dad in the brush, and my stomach churned as I saw him reach for the gun. He aimed and fired, then pushed through the bushes to find a dead wolf cub. He shook his head, and swore, but he didn't see Momwolf until she jumped for his throat.
"Spirits of the Powers." He shouted out and time seemed to freeze for him. I saw the same sphere appear before my father. "Help me. I didn't mean to kill her cub but she's about to kill me."
"Yes, she is. Did you not check to see what you were shooting at? Suppose you killed a human child playing in the woods. Could we or would we save you from the death sentence?"
"It was an accident."
The sphere glowed for a moment. "The wolf demands a life for her lost cub. She is in the right, since she will fail her duty to her pack for this. Wolves mate for life, and she lost her mate last spring to another hunter. This will be her last cub, and the pack is low in members."
"But what can I do?"
"Pay with your life or replace the cub."
Dad shook his head and stared at the wolf still frozen in mid jump. "Where am I going to get another cub?"
"You will become the cub. You will give up your human life and take over the cub's. It was male, and you are such a mighty hunter."
"I can't do that. I'm not an animal. I'd rather die." He paused for a moment and I expected to see smoke coming out of his ears. At length, he said," I have a son. I haven't seen the little twerp for a while, but would he do? My son to replace hers?"
The sphere glowed for a while. "The wolf finds this acceptable. Where is your son?"
"He lives with his Mom, but I can have him here in three or four weeks when school lets out. I have visitation rights and I can use them for once."
A beam of yellow light surrounded the cub, and I swore I saw a wolf cub float from the body to be absorbed by the sphere.
"You will bring your child to a place of our choosing. We and his new mother will take care of the rest. While he stays with you make sure he has nothing to eat. Junk food will slow the process. The change will take a day or so, and he will need to stay with you part of the time..."
The scene changed to show the sphere in the bus stop with me. I watched as the beam of light bathed my chest and head, and this time I saw the wolf cub float down from the sphere to be absorbed inside me.
"What a rip," I said as the picture ended. "You mean I'm a wolf because my dad had to save his own neck?"
"In a word, yes. The boy takes the cigar."
"Will I ever be a human again?"
"No," the spirits said quietly. "You now have the obligation to your pack that the original cub had. You will make a brilliant leader, Davey. You will give the pack many fine cubs of your own, but you must hurry."
"Dad knew all along this was going to happen. But why couldn't I do anything about it?"
"As the soul of the wolf cub merged with your own you had to find the change as completely natural. You were used to being a wolf from before and were just changing back. You now have a wolf's spirit somewhat cluttered up by human memories. In essence, you are as much a wolf as if you had been born one. Now," the spirit said and spun again.
"Your father," the spirit went on, "is planning a wolf hunt with his friends. He spent considerable money to have the lake dredged for your body last summer and now has convinced his friends, at least, that the wolves ate you. They are gathering at his lodge house even now, and will start the hunt early tomorrow morning."
I glanced across the lake at the house, and I did notice the extra cars. "But why?"
"We do not concern ourselves with motives, boyo. They are humans and you are a wolf -- in New York state of all places. Canada is that way. Get the hint?" With that the spirits vanished again.
I ran back to the den calling for Mom. She came right away, and I found it easy enough to make myself understood. I now had a much larger vocabulary than the average wolf, but I couldn't tell her that humans were coming with guns. I just whined danger and nodded my head in the direction of the lodge. She got the message, and started a howl to summon the rest of the pack.
We ran the rest of the day and long into the night. Although I didn't lead the pack I did give the directions. We headed north toward the High Peaks and Mt. Marcy. I wanted to get the pack as far away from people as I could, but we did need to eat and rest from time to time.
I was not allowed to hunt with the pack the next day. I followed along with the rest of the cubs and watched as the pack leaders brought down a huge buck. Dad would have been green over all the points.
My heart had raced to watch the wolves hunt the deer. They were a well drilled team with every move perfectly timed. Once the buck was down the pack leaders ate first, while the cubs ate last. I took my turn ravenous at the sight of the bloody meat, and yet thoughts of "Bambi" slipped in. I knew the buck was old and I could try to make myself believe that our hunting strengthened the herd, but... I was now a wolf and I would spend my life as a wolf, and that meant eating as a wolf.
The next day I had to urge Mom to get the pack to move away from the kill. We kept running following the roads. I couldn't explain to the pack that I was getting my directions from the trail signs just as I could not figure out from the pack what had brought them to New York in the first place.
The pack numbered eight adults, two yearling females and five first year cubs including me. With all of us moving through the park at high speed, I figured people would find traces of our passage. I wanted to take the pack all the way to Canada before Dad or any other hunter could catch up with us, but the pack had other ideas. As long as game was to be had, and stomachs were full, wolves did not see the need to run far from an unseen threat.
I managed to take them inside what looked to be a small wildlife preserve. It had a gate and a ranger station, and "No Hunting" signs all over the place. We crossed into the preserve at night when I told them it was a safe place, but the pack members now wanted to go separate ways until winter. We had left the place of danger and this was a safe place and that was all that mattered.
I spent the first three days helping Mom with a den. The preserve did cover a huge area in the mountains and all of it looked wild. It took another four days before I could check out the ranger station. I hoped to find an area map. I knew Canada was north, but I wanted to see the best route. When the seasons changed again I thought to get the pack on the road again.
The Ranger's building was huge, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get in while it was closed. Business hours were posted but since I no longer had access to a clock I didn't care and I could just see the reaction I would get if I wandered in during the day to look at the maps.
I started to head away from the building when I spotted a newspaper on one of the picnic tables. I jumped up on the bench to look at it only to find a picture of me as a human on the front page.
"Missing Boy Attacked by Wolves?"
"Twelve year old David Adamson, reported missing last June, may have been the victim of a wolf attack according to his father, Mr. Howard Adamson... Although some evidence of wolves have been found at Mr. Adamson's lake, no trace of a body or bones have been found to substantiate the claim..."
I kept reading ignoring the warnings from my nose. I had to use my nose to turn the pages, but I found out how extensive the search for me had been, and I read about various wolf sightings that had occurred over the last few days.
I heard a camera shutter click. I looked over my shoulder at a group of tourists standing behind a uniformed ranger. "Do you mind? I'm trying to read here." I heard several more cameras go off, but no one seemed to understand my growls. I shrugged and went back to the paper.
"Please keep your distance. This is a very young wolf, but as you can see from the size of his teeth and claws he can still do a lot of damage. And, since he seems to be reading about the wolf attack last summer let's not give him ideas."
I finished the story, folded the paper back up, and then hopped down from the bench. I pulled the paper off the table and carried it back into the woods to read the comics. Sure enough, the next morning I found another paper on the table. I looked around but didn't see anyone either in or near the building. This time I took the paper with me rather than reading it there.
The papers kept appearing on the table. I wondered what the rangers made of me until I found a picture of me as a wolf in the paper. I made a handsome animal, I thought, as I read the story.
"...Far be it from me," I read the ranger's quote, 'to keep a young wolf from furthering his education. Since he always places the papers in a recycling bin near the station I don't see anything wrong with letting him read the news. I just hope he will understand that the station closes for the winter next month and paper delivery will stop..."
The ranger took this as a joke, but I wondered if I could convince anyone I really was smarter than the average wolf.
A few days later I found a new box planted in the ground a few yards from the trash bin. I dropped the paper then went over to check it out. I scratched open the door and gave the camera a wide grin. I backed up, shook my head no as hard as I could, then walked back to the box. "No contract, no pictures," I growled before shutting the camera off. I closed the door then, in spite of myself, I marked the box. Let them chew on that for a while.
A few minutes later I spotted a pair of men running to the box. They both stood there looking at the camera. "This is impossible. How could he have known what that was?'
"A wolf that reads the paper and drops it into the trash isn't impossible?"
"There must be hundreds of reasons he's doing that -- hundreds."
"Name one," the other said with a wide grin.
"Well, just because I can't think of any right now doesn't mean that there aren't any... But he seemed to know right what the camera was and how to turn it off."
I circled around the back of the station, then tried the front door. I couldn't smell anyone in the building so I went in and checked the walls. I stood up on my hind legs to study a large map of the state. If I took the pack northwest of the park...
"May I help you, young man?"
I looked over my shoulder at the ranger. I reached up with my right paw and tapped the Canadian portion of the map.
"Ah, of course, -- directions to Canada. I take it your pack got lost and you need to get home?'
I nodded my head -- hard.
"From here there isn't an easy route. You know, of course, that you are welcome to stay. There must be thousands of naturalists out there drooling over the chance to study you."
I shrugged, then walked over to the man very slowly. I reached out, patted his holster, then fell down on the floor playing dead.
"Afraid of hunters? There is no hunting allowed in the preserve... I see you aren't impressed. You're right, though. We could not keep a determined hunter out. They would pay a huge fine, if we caught them, but you would still be dead."
With another nod, I stood back up. I slowly tapped my paw fifteen times on the floor, then patted my chest.
"I see, you have fifteen wolves in your pack?"
This time I nodded wagged my tail.
"I might be able to arrange transportation."
"No," I barked and shook my head.
"What are you doing, Jim?"
"Trying to figure out the best way to get a pack of fifteen wolves to Canada. He says they got lost and are trying to get home. Go head, son, show Chet here the map.
With a slight grin, I shook my head.
"That's not fair. Chet, really, when I came in this one was reading the map over there and he wants to go to Canada. I'm not making this up."
I relented and stood up by the map to point.
"See. He's the one that counted the pack for me, too. Any ideas? He's refused transportation."
"What's the matter? Aren't our trucks good enough for you?"
I sighed and shook my head. Everyone turned at the sound of a loud growl outside. Mom.
"Uh oh," Jim said. "That would be your mother wouldn't it? And I bet she doesn't approve of your playing with humans."
I nodded my head.
"You'd better go now, but come back anytime and we will work on your problem." I ran outside with and gave the men a wide grin before Mom called me back into the forest.
"Did you see that?" Jim said. "There's something wrong here..."
"Don't read too much into this. The cub seems friendly enough but he probably had no idea what we were saying -- but then he reads the paper -- but then he's just a wolf." Chet paused for a second scratching his head. "Let's leave this to the experts. In fact, let's not tell them about this either. Let them figure it out on their own."
"But how do we get the wolves back to Canada?"
"We don't," Chet said. "If you want to draw out a route on the map and leave it where they can find it I won't stop you, but don't tell me about it."
Something was wrong. The next morning when I went to collect the paper I smelled deer, and quite close, but I had never known any to graze near the station. I sniffed around a few times, then walked over to the table surprised that the deer hadn't run from my scent.
The woods exploded with the sound of a gunshot. I felt something zing over my head and I dove for cover under the table as a second shot rang out. A second later I bolted for the ranger station and hid behind the building as a third bullet grazed my tail.
Humans, I thought, as I smelled my two rangers approaching. I didn't dare peek around the building to see if the hunter was following me or not.
"Freeze," Chet's voice sang out. "Drop your weapon and get your sorry ass out here now before we open fire. One... Fire!" Several shots cracked through the woods before I heard my dad's voice.
"Don't shoot. There's the gun. Don't shoot."
"Come out here with your hands over your head -- high over your head."
I peered around the building to see Dad stumble and trip out of the woods. Figures he would be drunk.
"That wolf killed my son. I was just evening the score. What are you doing?" he asked as Jim put on the handcuffs.
"That wolf is an endangered species, and you are under arrest," Chet said. "That wolf is hardly more than a cub and is not a threat to anyone, but you, mister, are. I'd look for real jail time for this."
I walked up beside Chet, and nuzzled his free hand. He sighed as he petted my head for a moment. "This is a big, bad wolf all right."
Dad glared at me, and I returned the stare. I growled out, "Yeah, get your sorry ass in jail, Dad. You deserve it."
"You can't talk to me like that," he said glancing at me and then the rangers. "You stupid brat. One of these days you're going to be a rug on my wall. You hear me?"
"Oh, please, mister," Jim said. "Don't try to cop an insanity plea with us."
"But you heard him. He..."
"Get moving," Chet said. "It's a long drive to the police station."
I made one contribution over the winter: I taught the pack to run for the trees at the first sound of a helicopter. Humans on foot were easy to avoid, and with the closing of the park very few naturalists stayed to track us over the winter. But, no matter what I tried, I could not get the pack to move again. Someday, I hoped I would be the pack leader, and then I could use the map to Canada.
As the seasons changed again, I found myself drifting away from Mom. I stayed away from the ranger station as well as I concentrated on being a wolf and nothing more. It would have worked except for an accident.
One morning, in early May, I woke very early with the feeling that something was wrong. I couldn't smell anything out of place like the last time, but I left my den anyway to look around.
A ground squirrel served for breakfast. Once I finished my meal, I followed the rodent's scent back to its den. I started to dig up the nest when I heard a human cry for help. I looked up and when the cry sounded again I followed it.
I rounded a boulder cautiously and found two kids, a boy and a very young girl. Both looked disheveled from spending the night in the woods, but the girl had been hurt.
The boy spotted me, and I watched his mouth drop open. He picked up a large branch and stood there ready to defend the girl. My heart went out for him even as his bladder gave out.
I couldn't help myself. "That is the bravest thing I have ever seen."
Again his mouth dropped open. He frowned but kept the branch up. "I'm not that brave."
"Yes, you are. Get real. I could take that branch from you in no time flat, but you are going to protect your sister no matter what. What happened here?"
"It was an accident, and I've never met a talking wolf before."
"Neither have I for that matter. You can understand me? Why? No one else can."
"How should I know? I'm just a kid. You started talking to me so you figure it out... Figure what out? I've gone completely nuts. Wolves don't talk. I can't understand you. Shoo."
"You can put down that stick now. My name's Davey."
"Davey?" he asked throwing the branch away. "If I'm going to be nuts, I might as well be nuts. What kind of name is that for a wolf?"
"You want to take that up with my Mom? I'm not full grown yet but she is and she doesn't like humans."
"Uh, no, that's okay with me, Davey. I'm Tommy. And that's Becky, my sister."
For the first time, I checked out the little girl. She had her right foot wedged underneath a fallen tree trunk. I could smell the old blood from her foot, and shook my head. "Her foot's broken and probably crushed. Where are your folks?"
"Good question. I don't know, but that's like them. Becky took off after dinner last night and I tried to catch her before something like this happened. She was too fast for me, and she took a tumble down that hill," he said and pointed. I tried everything I could to get her out, and I've been yelling all night. I didn't want to leave her alone."
"My pack wouldn't bother her, but there are bears here."
Becky opened her eyes and stared at me. "Where'd you find the doggie?"
"He's a wolf and he lives here in the park. You know, he's one of the wolves that Mom and Dad wanted to study."
"Are they here yet?" Becky asked.
"Nope, but now that Davey's here, he can protect you while I go get help."
"Better yet," I cut in, "see that log over there? You could use that as a lever. You place it, and get ready to pull her away from there while I put weight on it."
"I tried that, but... I bet you are a lot stronger than me."
"Tell Becky that this is going to hurt, and get her ready. How old is she?"
"Four and she won't think it's odd that I'm talking to you." Tommy brought over the second log and shoved it as far as he could under the tree near Becky's foot.
"Okay," I said getting into position. "Get ready -- now!"
I shoved down as hard as I could but couldn't budge the trunk. I tried again, and a third time before I felt a slight shift. Becky screamed with the release of pressure. I pushed again, Tommy pulled and dragged his sister away from the log.
"We did it," he shouted as Becky wailed in pain.
"You'd better get something to tie that foot up. You need to get out of those wet pants anyway."
"Not a chance. You don't need pants, but I do." Tommy pulled off his T-shirt and used that to bind Becky's foot. "Now what?"
"Help her up on my back, face down, and have her grab hold of my fur. It isn't that far to the top of the hill. You hold onto her to keep her steady."
How we managed the climb I'll never know, but we made it. Becky wasn't heavy but she was awkward to carry, and when she pulled on fur, she really pulled.
"That's even better," Tommy said when we reached the road. "Mom and Dad have already left."
"Are you sure this is the spot?"
"Yeah, the camper was parked right there last night. There's my cap," he said walking over to pick up a baseball cap. "They're probably still in the park, but I wanted to change clothes now."
"Do they always leave you like this?"
"That's my folks for you," he said and kicked a rock. "They're both alike. Once they get busy studying something that's it. They forget everything else."
"The ranger station isn't that far. We'd better get her there."
We walked in the middle of the road hoping to flag down a car, but it was still too early for traffic. Tommy offered to carry Becky for a while, but I didn't need a break.
"Davey, I saw this fox on TV a while ago. They said she was the world's smartest fox and now she's a big star and everything."
"So? Wolves eat foxes."
"Yeah, but this one can read and write."
I stopped still. "She can read and write?"
"Yeah, I saw her myself. She wrote her name on a blackboard and she even did math."
"So, there are others like me. I wondered about that."
"But she's a fox."
"And we were both human once. I've been a wolf for about a year. My dad did this to me, and I'm stuck in fur forever. I bet something like that happened to your fox."
"I guess, but since I can understand you and no one else can, I bet we could make a great act."
I shook my head. "It's different for wolves. I mean once you're a wolf your pack is everything to you, and I know I couldn't leave mine. Car's coming from up ahead. I'll move aside, but get ready."
A park ranger's car drove up making rounds. Tommy waved the car down and pointed at me. "...My sister's hurt really bad, and that wolf saved both of us."
Jim got out of the car first. Chet turned on the car's emergency lights then stepped down from the car with a pistol drawn.
"Chet, what the hell are you doing?" Jim demanded. "Call an ambulance. Look, it's Silver. You know he wouldn't hurt anyone."
Tommy ran over and threw his arms around my neck. "He saved my sister's life. You can't shoot him, and his name's Davey, not Silver."
"Davey?" Jim demanded.
"You want to take that up with his Mom?"
"No," Jim said with a laugh. "Met his Mom last fall and I wouldn't want to do that again. Chet?"
The ranger holstered his pistol. "You're right about the wolf, but he has grown so much since last fall, and he hasn't been collecting the papers you leave out for him."
"Tommy, tell them this..."
Tommy listened to me and said. "Davey says that he did get that map of Canada you left out for him and he has it safe in his den. He's going to use it when he gets to be pack leader. He's been too busy lately to keep up with the news but thanks anyway. Now can we get help for my sister? She's really hurt."
Jim took the girl from my back although she kept screaming for the "nice doggy".
Tommy let go of my neck, and I gave his nose a quick lick. "I'd better be getting back," I said. "Good luck with your folks and with your sister."
"Please don't go... Maybe you'd better. My folks would spend all their time trying to study you, and they have those transmitting collars and everything. Davey, I'll send help as soon as I can. Thanks for everything."
I gave a nod to the rangers and took off. I didn't know what Tommy meant by help and at that point I didn't care. He was the one that needed help.
As the first chill of fall hit the air, I again tried to move the pack north. No takers. Even Mom was content with out new location and the hunting was good. At least, I thought the string of naturalists would soon be gone with the first snows. I came within inches of biting one that tried to shoot me with a tranquilizer.
For that reason, I wasn't thrilled to find a human waiting for me outside my den. I had just had breakfast, and this guy was between me and home. I snarled at him.
"Hello, Davey. I'm Dr. Conley -- a veterinarian..."
I didn't want a check up. This time I snarled and snapped my teeth at him to give him the message a little more firmly. He backed up.
A fox vixen trotted out of my den. "I found a map and some newspaper clippings, and..." She took one look at me and said, "By the moon and all her sisters that's a beautiful wolf. Is this the right one?"
"I don't know," the vet said and took another step away from the den. "I don't think he wants visitors."
"Doc, haven't you learned anything yet? Hey, wolf boy, don't look at me like I'm lunch. I can get you a Big Mac. Think about it, two all beef patties, special sauce and everything. What do you say to super size fries with that?"
I tried to snarl at her, but my mouth was too busy watering. "Make it three Big Macs and I'm there, Miss Fox. But that wasn't fair, you know. How can I be the big bad wolf here when you bribe me like that? I mean I love hunting and eating raw meat, but -- how soon can we get them?"
"We have a supply back in our camper," Dr. Conley said. "Paula here is addicted to junk food. Your friend Tommy sent us, and I talked to your mother -- your human mother."
"That's great! How is she? What did she say? Did you tell her about me?"
"Come back with us, and we'll talk."
"Thanks, Doc. I didn't mean to be so rude before, but I wanted to make sure you weren't going to collar me or something."
So, I pigged out on hamburgers. The taste of that special sauce, even nuked, was incredible.
"There's more where that came from, Davey," Paula said as she finished her fried chicken. "I'm a star."
"That's right. Tommy said something about a fox, but what about my Mom?"
"She's fine. She's moved since you were home, but we tracked her down. Apparently she forced part of the story out of your dad, and she wants to see you. She never bought the story that you had drowned or that you were eaten by wolves."
"No," I admitted. "I just ate like a wolf."
"What did happen?" Paula asked. "I grew up in a witch's family* and I was a cat until my sister cast a spell to make me a fox. You?"
"My dad traded my life for his," I said and told them the story. "The pack is staying here, and I can't leave them for long, but I'd love to go see Mom."
"You could join our act," she said with a wide grin. "We ought to start a collection, Doc. Kids that have been turned into canines. The canine club."
"Too bland," I said. "What about 'New Curs on the Block'? 'Boyz2Dogz'? 'Uandiah Pooch'?"
"Well aren't you the laugh riot," Paula said with a low growl.
"I wouldn't mind being a TV star, although this isn't my idea of a limousine."
"Yes, but you still ride in style with all the junk food you can eat."
"How long have you been a fox?"
"Over a year now. I didn't have kits the last time, but not for lack of trying."
"Oh," I said with a wide grin. "You have a boy friend?"
"Long story, and don't you get any ideas, either, wolf boy."
I laughed. "Aren't you the sweetest little vixen? Took one look at me and fell in love. I know, I've always had that effect on girls."
This time the fox really did laugh. "We made the right choice with this one, Doc."
"Can we go now? I really do want to see my mother and Momwolf wouldn't understand a good bye."
"Not yet. I had clearance from the rangers over this, but I promised to call your mother as soon as we found you." He dialed the phone, and set it on the speaker.
For the first time in a year and a half I heard my mother's voice and I felt my throat tighten.
"Hello, Mrs. Adamson. This is Dr. Conley again. We found David. He seems to be fine, but I haven't given him a good check up yet. He's right here."
"Hi, Mom," I said in a whine.
"Davey? Oh, sweetheart I thought I'd never hear your voice again. I thought you were dead. I never forgave myself for ignoring your last call. I mean you always did exaggerate things when you wanted to get your own way, but when your father called to say that you were drowned... I knew he was lying. From what you said about his drinking I thought he had cracked up the car and stashed your body someplace. I couldn't prove anything... But where have you been all this time?"
"With my pack," I said.
"What was that? I couldn't hear you very well."
"I'm a wolf now, and I've been living with my pack here in the park."
"Are you all right? You sound very hoarse. I can't make out anything your saying."
"It's okay, Mrs. Adamson. The problem is that Davey's a wolf now."
"I beg your pardon?"
Dr. Conley sighed. "Your ex-husband arranged to have your son turned into a wolf by something called the Spirits of Power."
"Ask her if she remembers the book that Dad sent me before I came up here."
"Davey asked if you remember the book that his father sent?"
"Well, yes," Mom said but she sounded distant. "Is my ex there with you?"
"No, I can assure you of that."
"He's in jail," I said.
"Davey said that he's in jail."
"I heard about that and Davey, he didn't go to jail after all. He was just given probation."
"He wants to know what for?"
"Because," Mom said quietly, "I have no idea who you are and what sort of game you might be playing trying to pass off a wolf as my son. I know it sounds so bizarre that it has to be true, but Davey's middle name has always been his deepest and darkest secret."
"Okay, okay," I said hanging my head down. "It's Marion."
"Marion?" Paula cut in. "Marion the librarian?"
"He said it was 'Marion'."
"Thank God for that. Oh, Davey, I'm so sorry." I could hear the crack in her voice as well.
"Our schedule will bring us to the Washington DC area within the next couple of weeks. I know he would love to see you again."
"Never mind that, Dr. Conley. Tell me your schedule and I'll meet you on the way."
Once Dr. Conley hung up, I asked him," Doc? Why is that some people can understand me, but others can't? Tommy could, and so can you and my Dad, but the rangers didn't and neither can Mom."
"I don't have an answer for that. I've always thought it a talent, or sometimes a curse after listening to Paula for hours on end. I can't talk to any other animal only the members of the Canine Club as it were." Paula scowled.
After two shows, I was a hit. The first night rocked. Dr. Conley had a routine worked out with the fox that made me laugh. She clowned around with everything that the man said. Of course, when she went to the blackboard and wrote out her name the audience went crazy. Paula bowed, then looked up to the doctor.
"Thanks, Paula. We will have questions from the audience later, but first I wanted to introduce a new friend of ours. Ladies and gentlemen, this is David. Davey, come out now. This is Davey's first time on stage so he may be a little shy."
I walked on and felt the entire theater freeze. I gave them a "big bad wolf' glare and several kids whimpered. Dr. Conley walked over, placed his hand on my head, and I sat down wagging my tail. I felt some of the tension ease.
"As you may have noticed, Davey is a timber wolf..."
"Isn't it dangerous to bring that animal out here without restraints?" a man shouted.
I gave the audience my best hurt puppy expression and hung my head. I heard some laughter.
"In this case, no," Dr. Conley answered. "Now you've hurt his feelings. It's okay, boy. He didn't mean to insult you. But it does bring up a good point. Wolves are magnificent hunters, and they are designed for killing, but they do not attack people. In fact, Davey, stand up and show these nice people your teeth. There, what big teeth you have. Teeth like these can bring down a full grown elk."
I shook my head and made a face. I trotted over the blackboard, picked up the chalk holder and wrote, "Hi, my name is David and I would rather eat a Big Mac than a kariboo."
"That's very well, David and I know Paula has been a spokes-person? -- Spokes-girl? -- Spokes-beast for a fast food chain, but I think the job you're looking for is filled. They have a clown not a wolf." Again, everyone laughed. "But you misspelled caribou. It's c-a-r-i-b-o-u."
I gave the audience a wide grin before I wrote out, "I don't take spelling tests."
That did it. Every kid in the house cheered and I felt that I had arrived.
"But, Davey, you don't want to set a bad example for the children. They have to work hard to learn to spell properly. You don't want them to think you aren't smart, do you?"
"Okay," I wrote, "Caribou." I stuck out my tongue.
"That's it, wolf boy, it's my turn again," Paula growled, "I'm the star here."
"And I'm getting all the laughs."
"I see Paula is getting a little jealous of our wolf. Okay, my dear, it's your turn."
With another grin, I wrote out, "Girls!"
"Does the wolf boy have to go on tonight?" Paula grumbled as she paced the RV.
"Yes, he does. The kids will be expecting him, now."
"But it's no fair. I'm the star and he gets all the press and the attention."
"It was your idea that I join the act, fox girl. And I'm new. I'm sure after the novelty wears off they will go back to worshiping your pretty self."
"Very funny, kid. You're just a stray we picked up in the woods and don't forget it."
"Wolves eat foxes, and don't forget it either. After years of rodent I could do with a new taste sensation."
She hissed at me. Dr. Conley opened his mouth, but someone knocked on the door.
"It's my dad," I said, shocked. "He's drunk as always and he's got a gun. Mom's with him."
The door crashed open before Doc had a chance to answer it. Dad stood swaying in the doorway. He glared at me, then at Dr. Conley and down to the fox.
I pushed my way passed him to jump up and lick Mom on her face. She laughed, and pushed me down. "Okay, Harry. This is it. What did you do to him?"
"Go ahead, Dad. Tell her, and then tell us why you wanted me dead? Isn't it bad enough that I'm a wolf?"
"You shut up," he said and pointed at me. He turned to glare at Dr. Conley. "You've got my boy on stage and I want the money he's making."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Harry, this isn't the time for that." Mom said firmly.
"You heard me. That wolf's my son and I get the money for him. You tell him, Davey."
"What, you traded my life away for yours -- you spineless rat? Mom had sole custody of me when you guys split up so she gets the money. And..." I saw his hand reach for his coat pocket and I jumped for his throat. I landed throwing him backwards onto the pavement. I snapped my jaws closed on his hand until he screamed with the pain and the blood. I used my teeth to rip his jacket open and grab the pistol. I tossed the pistol toward Dr. Conley.
"You bit me," he said staring at the blood streaming down his arm.
"Yes, I did and you know what that means, don't you? Look the bite marks are healing already."
"What are you talking about?" he said peering down at his hand.
"You made me a werewolf. I got the spirit of that wolf cub you killed so I'm a full time wolf, but you -- guess what you'll be doing during the next full moon." I watched his face turn pale.
"I don't believe it."
"You're too far away from other people at the lake to pose a threat, dad, so you, too, can learn to love the taste of fresh mouse."
He screamed. "I'll kill you for that..."
"I'm not the little sissy wimp you thought I was anymore, Dad. Try killing animals with your teeth for a while. It broadens your outlook on things. Make one move and I'll tear out your throat without a second thought."
"Stop," Dr. Conley shouted and for the first time I noticed the crowd that had gathered. "It's not what you think. Officers, this man came to my camper and threatened me with that pistol. The wolf is very protective."
"Spirits of Power I summon thee. I am a traveler in need..." Dad yelled out.
Everything froze as the Spirit's sphere appeared over dad's head. "Oh, brother, now what?"
"Help me, Spirits, my son bit me to make me a werewolf."
"Way to go, Davey."
"Ugh, how did he taste?"
"Watch out you don't get liver problems like his. He must have a blood alcohol level over one hundred."
Dad staggered a bit as he said, "Spirits, you must remove this curse from me. I can't turn into an animal. I can't."
The sphere glowed brighter. "What about an insect? You'd make a great dung beetle, man."
"Subject request is inappropriate at this time. No account is open in subject's name."
"That means what do you have to offer us for removing the curse? You cannot use your son again to get you out of this."
"But I've got nothing else now."
"Then we will use you to clear Davey's duty to the pack. Instead of a werewolf you will be a wolf cub just like Davey was. But you will never remember your human self."
Dad looked around at the frozen people and made a dash to pull the pistol from Dr. Conley's hand. He froze in place for a moment before the sphere lowered over his head. A second later he vanished -- absorbed into the sphere by the Spirits.
"There, couldn't let him go to waste after all."
"Was he really a werewolf? I thought I just made that up."
"Yes you did, Batman, but who's going to argue with someone with such big teeth?"
"Great poker face, kid. We believed you, too."
"Subject account is marked paid in full. You may return to your pack or not. The choice is now yours."
"But as a TV star you can have it all, and we won't even charge you for the wish."
"Oh, that is so nice of you." I said. "Okay, take care of Dad, and thanks -- thanks for everything, Robin. I will be going back to my pack -- someday. But Hollywood is just waiting for a wolf like me. Oh, I have a question for you."
"Why is it that some people can understand me and others can't?"
The ball spun for a while. "Subject question is beyond the scope of this entity."
"Good question, Davey, but we don't have an answer either. Think of it as a talent or a curse if you have to listen to Paula for hours on end."
"Can you make it so that my Mom could understand me?"
"Done. Here's looking at you, wolfie."
The Spirits left and time resumed. Everyone blinked, as I'm sure they just saw Dad vanish. "It's okay, he just made one wish too many and it backfired."
"Good boy," Dr. Conley said petting me for the crowd. "When the papers get through with you we may just have a new star. Paula could step down a peg or two."
"I heard that, Doc. Okay, wolf boy, it's you and me. Let the better canine win."
"Sure, let's talk about that over lunch -- red fox on a bun? Look, Miss Fox, we're in this together and if you can't live with that -- too bad for you. My adoring public is arriving. You'd better get lost before they trample you." I gave her my best wolf grin.
"That wasn't a nice thing to say to her, David," Mom said quickly. "She is a girl."
"But, Mom, she's also a pest."
"Better listen to her, Marion. She is your Mother."
"I spoke too soon, Spirits. Way too soon. Come back, please?"
Paula retreated to the trailer with a growl. She stood just behind Mom.
"This is going to be a real fun trip," I said as Dr. Conley and Mom walked out to greet the press. "Real fun, and I asked for it myself."
About the Author
Andy Hollis has been writing fantasy and transformation stories since grade school. He is married, forty something and working on several novels as well as short stories. He is into Russian Music, English Literature and is learning the balalaika.
If you liked this story, check out The Lady's Choice a related story by Andy.