Our maple tree came to rest on our roof a few days ago, and I still wrote a story this week. Here it is:
Pretty Soon I’ll Have to Tell Him
By Laura McHale Holland
My Bernie, he’s a real good man, you know, except sometimes he gets these harebrained ideas, and I try my darnedest to put the kibosh on them—ideas like befriending Jake the Wolf-man. We always called him that around town ‘cause he kept wolves, well, not really wolves, but wolf dogs, you know, half wolf, half dog, which some folks say are worse even than keeping real bona fide wolves because these here wolf dogs have instincts pointing them every which way, so they’re real unstable.
So I didn’t think too much of Jake the Wolf-man and I didn’t take to the idea of Bernie and him bein’ friends, but Bernie, being Bernie, the most curious guy in all of North Bend, and the friendliest, too—just about anybody would tell you what a standup guy my Bernie is—so Bernie, he’s a mail carrier and he got this route a few years ago that included Jake the Wolf-man’s spread, and he started by sayin’ hi, and then it was a few friendly remarks, you know, how’s the wife doin’ or those sure are pretty critters you have there, and one thing led to another and pretty soon Bernie was saving Jake the Wolf-man’s mail ‘til last stop and then sittin’ on his front porch to shoot the breeze for an hour or so before comin’ home on many an afternoon, which I didn’t appreciate, and I told Bernie so.
But, you know, I couldn’t stick to being mad about it or anything else when it comes to my Bernie because he has this sheepish sort of grin that gets to me, so he can get away with anything—but don’t you ever go tell him that or nothin’ otherwise my goose is gonna be cooked—so, see, I guess I started to look forward to his little stories about what’s new with Jake the Wolf-man and all because, let’s face it, things are pretty boring here in North Bend, lots of us sittin’ around with nothin’ to do and nothin’ but dreams left of jobs that went south of the border or to Asia or wherever.
So I started lookin’ forward to hearing about Jake the Wolf-man and that pack of his. He had about a dozen of ‘em in a big enclosure, must have been about four acres. And he went in there and ran around with them and stuff, said the wolf dogs were his brothers. He tried to get Bernie to go in with him, and Bernie swears he never did because he thought a dozen of them crazy wolf dogs was just too much for him. But my Bernie, he said, one-on-one them wolf dogs were as sweet as can be and a little mysterious, too, like something out of a myth. That’s just what he said, a myth. And I told him right then and there that was a big bunch of hooey. Oh, but Bernie, he looked so stricken by my words. I wished I could take ‘em back. It broke my heart seeing how I’d hurt him. I felt bad about that for days.
Then Bernie came home early one day real down in the dumps, you know, long faced and just draggin’ himself in. He flopped on his recliner and sat starin’ at the TV, which wasn’t even on, mind you. And I said Bernie, what in the dickens has gotten into you and he grunted a little but couldn’t get a word out for a long time, but I kept askin’ and finally pulled it out of him that those wolf dogs up and killed Jake the Wolf-man.
Bernie had a vet bill and a Rolling Stone magazine to deliver to his buddy that day. But when he pulled up in the mail van, an ambulance was driving away, and police and animal control officers and even North Bend’s fire captain Big Bill were swarming around the property. Dead wolf dogs were stacked in a pile just inside the enclosure, and Bernie saw what he thought was a pool of blood right near the gate. There were a lot of tears that night, I’ll tell you, between the two of us. Bernie was sobbing, and I was cryin’ for Bernie losin’ a friend like that, and then I was cryin’ for Jake the Wolf-man, too, even though I didn’t even know him. And I was cryin’ about maybe having to let go of a fantasy Bernie had, and I was starting to have, too, about things being different than they really are between people and wild animals.
We were still down in the dumps the next morning when Bernie went off to work, and I expected we’d be pretty glum at the end of the day, too. But when he came home, he walked in with that sheepish grin of his and a big bulge in his jacket. I asked, Bernie, what’s in there, but he kept mum. He sat in his chair, unzipped the jacket, and there were two little pups, couldn’t have been more than eight weeks old. He’d gone to Jake the Wolf-man’s house, sat on the front porch to just think about his pal, and he heard squealing coming from the direction of the enclosure. He went inside and found the pups huddled way back in a corner behind a pile of bricks.
Bernie asked me if he could keep them, and he looked so hopeful, and the pups looked so cute just snuggled there in the chair, I melted and said okay. I said it real cool like so as not to let on how adorable I though the little critters were. And I said they have to live out back in the yard; there’s no way they’re gonna set foot in the house. And, Bernie, being Bernie, said he was okay with that.
When we built the dog house for them out back we told the neighbors they’re some kind of sled-dog mutts, so everything is cool with them. And each day Bernie feeds the pups their breakfast kibble before he goes off to work, and I wave goodbye from the front door. Then I bring the babies inside. I can’t explain it. I never expected to turn into a wolf-person. No way. But when I look into their blue eyes, I feel like they understand me in ways not even Bernie does. My Bernie. Pretty soon I’ll have to tell him about the pups and me; they’re growing bigger by the minute.