Meeting a wolf
“Hello.” A wolf fell into step with me as I wandered down Brierly Lane. “Mind if I accompany you for a short distance?”
He walked on his hind legs so his head was on a level with mine. As wolves go he was definitely at the top end of handsome – flowing mane, bright eyes, shiny coat. And young.
Wolves in this part of the country seldom wear jackets, shirts or even collars, although they do go to the wolf equivalent of a hairdresser’s for a trim of their entire coat now and again.
“Walk alongside me by all means,” I said, glancing nervously in his direction. “But I am rather slow.”
His eyes twinkled when they met mine. He licked his lips with his long healthy-pink tongue. This was not a sign of hunger, it’s just what wolves do when they feel relaxed.
“I can do slow walking, no problem at all,” said the wolf. He started moving forward with an exaggeratedly slow gait, flipping out each hind leg before placing it on the path.
“No need to take the piss,” I reprimanded him. “We’re not all as young and fit as you.”
He shrugged and brushed a paw over his upstanding ears. “Young and fit, young and fit,” he sang, “I’m a young fit wolf and I’m young and fit. Fit for a penny, fit for a pound…”
I laughed, more to humour him than because I found his song amusing. I was wondering why he wanted to walk beside me.
“You’re wondering why I want to walk with you,” he said suddenly. “Yes, I know you are.”
“Is telepathy one of your talents or was that coincidence, us thinking the same thing at the same time?” I knew I sounded nervous. In fact, I was almost stuttering.
He raised his eyebrows and shook his head. “Neither.” He smiled, showing beautifully healthy fangs, rounded at the ends and not a bit sharp. “You think I want to intimidate you, whereas…” he paused and cocked his head to one side, “What I want is to ask you to do me a giant favour, which is why I’m unashamedly sucking up to you.”
“Oh,” I murmured, worried that the favour was something I couldn’t do or didn’t want to do.
“Shall I tell you what it is?” He stopped walking in that silly showing-off way and stood in front of me. “You see, I’m a wolf. That you know. And these days we live quite amicably with other species, providing our basic demands are met and we don’t feel threatened.” He cleared his throat and smoothed the fur over his hips. “But what you don’t know is that we still retain a few basic…let us say, longings.”
“What would that be?” I asked, probably far too quickly.
He sighed. “I’ve – er - never tasted human flesh and – er - I’d like to.”
“So you do want to eat me?” I knew it! A wolf is a wolf is a wolf.
“Oh noooo!” He looked horrified at the thought. “Good heavens no! I’d just like to have a little taste. Yes, yes, I know it’s forbidden and I could lose all my rights and privileges, but surely just a little taste wouldn’t count?”
I was getting worried. “And what would a ‘little taste’ comprise? My head? My foot?”
The wolf laughed. “Of course not! Just a finger. A small one, or a piece of one.” He gazed longingly at my hands. “Just one finger, seeing as you have so many. And some of them you hardly use.”
I looked down at my fingers and saw them as I’d never seen them before: eight assorted digits and two very useful thumbs. “I suppose I could miss a bit of one of these middle ones,” I told him. “They don’t really do much.”
The wolf giggled. “Oh, if I could just have one or two, um, phlanges…”
I waggled the last two joints of the third finger of my left hand. I’d often seen people with bits of their fingers missing, from accidents, frostbite, wagers, that sort of thing. They managed perfectly well, so why wouldn’t I? I really didn’t think I’d be able to avoid losing something with my furry friend here almost literally breathing down my neck.
He suddenly bent down and with his teeth nipped off the two joints I’d been deliberating about. It was so painlessly and neatly done I hardly felt it.
“Thought I’d better do it before you changed your mind,” he said as he chewed and sucked with relish. “I did it well, didn’t I?”
“\Yes you did,” I admitted. “Very well.”
He smirked and continued chewing.
Just then an artist hove into view, his easel on his back and a sketchbook under his arm. “Mind if I make a drawing of that?” he asked, pulling out a pen and opening his sketchbook.
The wolf assumed a suitable pose, his teeth bared over my hand.
The artist was very quick and finished the sketch in no time. “It’ll be in my exhibition at the Gallery next week,” he told us. “You can see it there.” He put away his pen, closed his sketchbook and walked on his way.
Almost immediately a woman appeared with an accordion strapped to her chest. “I’d like to write a song about that,” she said. “I’ll sing it now so you can hear it.” She tuned up her instrument and started to sing a lovely song about my missing fingertop and the wolf’s longing.
We listened to all six verses, the wolf looking contented as he leaned on a gate post, while I stood on the path, my wound wrapped in a large handkerchief to staunch the blood.
The woman left eventually and a group of mime artists ran up to us. Without a single word they gave us to understand they wanted to tell our story, so we nodded our consent and they flashed around us striking exaggerated poses, their heavily made-up eyes huge with fake wonder.
When they’d tripped off, silently laughing, a doctor arrived on a bicycle, her white coat flying out behind her.
She examined my wound and shook her head. “It’s much too late to reaffix the fingertop,” she said gravely.
“Much too late indeed,” said the wolf. “It is somewhere in my digestive system, after being crunched, sucked, mashed and swallowed.”
The doctor shrugged and shook her head. “You should have come to me sooner.”
“Before or after it was chewed up?” I asked.
She laughed. “Before is preferable. After would take too much work.”
Suddenly the unexpected happened. The wolf made a lunge at the doctor, his teeth bared, but she fended him off deftly with her stethoscope, almost as if she was used to fighting off wolves.
The wolf wasn’t hurt but he looked ashamed and dejected. “You see what happens when you taste human flesh,” he said, leaning on the gate and looking at me. “You let me do it. You made no attempt to stop me.”
I hung my head. Yes, I was guilty. I had lost two finger joints but I was still more at fault than he was. We both watched the doctor mount her bicycle and pedal away.
The wolf eventually yawned before dropping down on all fours and, without a backward glance he loped down the road and disappeared from sight.
I dabbed at my finger and found the blood had dried. Stuffing the handkerchief in my pocket I set off in the same direction as the wolf but making sure not to catch up with him. There was a man I knew who happened to live near here and I planned on paying him a visit. And what was even more important, he had a gun.