Wolf at the Fence

wolf at fence copyThe condition of her roof, for example, had become a source of mild panic. Other items on the list of irreconcilable disturbances included her fifteen year old car, her weight, and the accumulation of leaves along the outside of her fence. Over a foot thick and growing. At what point would they  rot into ever higher dirt and the outside world could merely step over the bit of wire still showing?

It’s not the roof, she reminded herself tiredly. The dull crush in her chest, centered between her shoulders and lying just above her breasts, came from other more endemic sources. Genes? Diet?

She could no longer wear jeans. That was cause enough.

There was no cause. It was always there, waiting like a hungry wolf to eat her days and haunt her nights. Sometimes the wolf’s teeth gleamed at her, the only thing she could see.

Oh, she gathered her jewels to her, gripped them in her hands. Shining emeralds the color of spring grass, azure clumps of lapis gleaming like the midday sky. Was it greed that drove the wolf? More, always more?

Once she had a love. They lay among the stars. They nestled in deep warm grass, his arms the bed she always wanted, a bed of comfort and promise. He lay over her with silken skin. His eyes took her into the far universe where all answers were given.

All answers. The only bed she wanted. Silken skin that whispered in her ear and spread her thighs with the most rapturous adventure.

So much more. Years flying past, faster until the end waited just around the corner. So much to do that would never be done—the Gobi not seen, the yacht on the Mediterranean, the long sunny days on a beach somewhere with waves crashing and receding, crashing and receding.

A man who wanted her. Who was what he promised. Who held his power in his hands and lightning bolts sparked from his fist. That man. The man that never was.

Tears. The roof, the weight. The thin edge maneuvered each day between what she had and what she needed. Worry. Wait.

There will be no end to it. If he came back, she wouldn’t want him. He’s broken. He’s what he always was that she never knew. He’s the dream made flesh and discarded. He’s a promise that could never come true.

It’s not him.

It’s the wolf inside her. Long, lean, gray. Skulking around the fenceline, waiting for the dirt to rise.

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November

Cold rain dripping from the eaves. Dead calm woods shrouded in winter hues, dull rust carpet of fallen leaves, bare gray trunks marching off in silent columns into the distance. A thin vapor of mist rises in the valleys as the temperature drops. Waiting now, settled into its long rest, the woods stir only with busy squirrels and occasional passing straggles of deer.

She wrapped her arms tightly across her chest and turned away from the cabin window. The rising shriek of the teapot came to full scream by the time she crossed into the kitchen. Bubbling boiling water steamed into the mug, temporarily floating the tea leaves in the strainer before their gray tendrils softened, relaxed, and drifted to the bottom, releasing their tannins and flavors as they fell. Absently, she jostled the strainer, coaxing more from the leaves, thinking of where he might be at this time of the afternoon, this day.

There had been days like this when they were together, days his truck barreled up the long driveway and he crashed into the house with a wide grin. Rained out, he would say, sweeping her up, kissing her with his face still cold. His Levis littered with sawdust, finish nails clumped in his pockets, he would lead her by the hand to the bedside, where he tugged at her buttons with rough fingers, his cock straining the front of his jeans.

“Mmm, it’s nice and warm in here,” he would say, shoving his hands down the back of her pants, squeezing her buttocks, lifting her against him. And he didn’t mean the room.

Time shifted in segments in those delicious afternoons. Quilts drifted off the bed and piled on the floor, pulled back on the bed and warmed them, sated, as they lay against the mound of pillows. The fire died down. He would go, naked, and crouch before the big cast iron stove to peer in at the coals, stir them around, pile in more wood. He would detour through the kitchen, ask about the pot of soup or chili, or the chicken or roast in the oven, all the while stirring and forcing off a bit to taste.

He’d return with wine and a sheepish grin, a telltale smear of chili at the corner of his mouth. They’d talk about their lives, what they remembered, how they felt, what they wanted, hoped for. Evening would drift across the land, deepening in the woods with the thickening mist.

In the last traces of daylight, he’d dress, venture out to carry firewood, to check on weather, inhale the scent of sizzling beef fat as it escaped into the night air. It pleased him to face the cold then return inside to savor the nest he had made for himself, for her, this tidy cottage in the woods where they could live their lives together.

The strainer dripped tea on the counter as she stood again at the window. The place where he had parked his truck had long since sprouted thickets of grass, undergrowth. Only her tire marks kept the drive marked, cleared, to the place her car sat now. Her old gray cat rubbed against her legs, a reminder that time had marched on, moved, escaped in afternoons like this one, until a whole new year, a new decade had arrived without her noticing exactly how. When.

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