“There are wolves in my backyard,” I told my uncle this morning. “Some of them are my enemies.” He seemed to find my statement humorous, so I said nothing more about it. After all, some people just don’t understand.
When I finished the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich he gave me, I headed out to the little dip in the property behind the house. It was my uncle’s property, but he didn’t seem to know much about it. He didn’t know about the rabbit warren beneath the root of the third biggest tree, he didn’t know about the abandoned fox hole in the hill, and he didn’t know about the fallen tree limb that was big enough to build a fort behind.
It was while I was building the fort that I met Andrew my wolf friend. He is gray and silver with a streak of brown on his back and he liked my fort. “I will help you build it,” he told me. “We must make it strong enough to keep out your enemies.” When we finished the fort, it was bigger than a castle and surrounded by a twelve foot moat. I tried to show uncle, but he was busy working, and he couldn’t see the tall spires around the warehouse that jutted into the peninsula of his property. “I’ll see it later.” He handed me his oily rag that he rubbed all over the tractor spokes. “Put this in the shed and then get ready for bed.”
I think the night is a little scary and a little exciting. Mom says it’s the same world only more magical, but dad says it’s God’s way of reminding us everything must end. When uncle came to put me to bed, I asked him what he thought the night was, and he said it was when the earth turned around so the sun was on the other side. I don’t think he understood my question. Uncle sat on the bed with me and read from The Blue Fairy Book, but he doesn’t do it like mom. He doesn’t give them voices. He listened to me say my prayers, and when I asked what he wanted to pray for he said, “Nothing. Just say your prayers.”
“Do you want the nightlight on tonight?” he asked from the doorway.
I said no.
“Do you want the door open?”
He closed it so that I was completely enfolded in the cold darkness. I lay staring at the varied shadows on my ceiling and thought about mom. Finally, I dropped my stockinged feet onto the carpet and padding across the room, stretched up on my tiptoes and flicked the nightlight switch. It was an orange light with a revolving shade casting shadows of animals onto the walls. One of them was a wolf.
I opened my door a crack and then went to my chair by the window. When you go to your window when it’s dark outside, at first all you see is darkness, but if you stare long enough, you start seeing things. Usually, I see the tree line behind my uncle’s property with the white lights of the city casting a haze above them. Sometimes the moon is out and makes it so I can see other things, but tonight it was dark and black, and even the city seemed asleep. The only thing I saw were two bright lights staring at me through my window. I stared back until they blinked at me to show they were eyes, and I jumped a bit. I opened the window, but they were gone.
Although I should have thought it was Andrew, I didn’t. I knew it was a different wolf, and my spine prickled. Maybe my enemies were coming for me.
My uncle’s slow, sad voice drifted from the kitchen and around the crack in my door. “…makes up something new every day. It’s still two months until school starts and he has no friends. I don’t have time for him. He plays all alone all day behind the back lot.”
The back lot. That was where I played. I tiptoed along the wall until I stood just outside the kitchen door, then brought my chin down to my knees and listened.
“I don’t know what’s good for him, Diane. I don’t know what to do with him. Sure, yes, he’s a good kid. He never does anything wrong. That’s not what I mean, that’s not the problem. He never,” he paused, like there was a half-hiccough in his throat. “He never talks about them. Instead, he talks about wolves and enemies and castles. No, don’t say that. Yeah, well, I don’t want to hear about it. If he is stunting his psychological development, then so be it. He’ll grow up demented and insecure, but what can I do about that? Don’t go there: we’re not talking about me, we’re talking about him.”
He kept talking but I wasn’t interested. He was talking to Diane about somebody, and getting upset about it. I liked Diane. She was uncle’s friend who came by every day, and sometimes she brought us food. She had long legs and long hair, and I always thought about the word tight when I saw her. She had tight riding jeans and boots, and a tight pony tail. I asked her to live with us yesterday, but she laughed at me. I didn’t mind; sometimes you don’t mind when adults laugh at you.
“Between you and me, David, I wouldn’t mind that. But your uncle’s a bachelor and used to it, and it’ll always be that way.”
Even though I wasn’t sure what she meant, I nodded. I was too busy that day searching for a place to build my fort to listen to adults explain things. It was that afternoon that I found the fallen tree limb behind the warehouse.
“David.” I looked up at my uncle standing tall above me. “David, why are you out of bed?”
His face was haggard and his large hands hung limp by his sides. I knew he was too tired to punish me. I stood up to save him the trouble. “I’ll go to bed now.”
His voice paused me half way down the hall. “Wait, did you hear what I was saying to Diane?”
“What do you think about it?”
“About the good kid?”
His mouth twitched beneath his short beard. “Yeah.”
“Is he your friend?”
His shoulders dropped even further. “No, he’s not my friend.”
“I think he needs a friend then or he’ll be lonely. I was lonely until I met Andrew.”
“Ok, go to bed David, and stay in this time. I’ll see you in the morning.”