The noise of their galloping feet reached us a few seconds before they emerged from the evergreens. First came Wa, running stretched out, head high and ears forward, that well-know grin on his lips; Matta was close behind her brother, holding a similar pose but smiling more demurely. Tundra went to meet them. So did my wife.
Joan ran ahead of me, and when she was within ten feet of the trio, she squatted and opened her arms wide, as had been her habit of greeting the wolves when they were younger and was still her habit when welcoming Tundra. Moments later she was the center of a melee of excited canines, but Tundra, perhaps feeling left out of things as Joan petted first Matta and then Wa, moved away from the crush and trotted back toward me as I strolled toward the scene of activity.
I was watching with considerable interest, a smile on my lips, pleased that the wolves were back, when I noticed that Wa edged into his sister, moving her to one side; as though impatient with the gentle shoving, he suddenly pushed hard against Matta’s shoulder. The bitch wolf seemed to understand the portent of her brother’s behavior, for she moved around Joan, pressing against her back while my wife looked at Wa with beaming face, holding both wide-open hands in front of her and about to reach out to pull him closer. Wa retreated half a step, arched his spine, and gave a small cough, more like a muffled hiccup. Too late I opened my mouth to call out a warning!
Before Joan could realize what the wolf was intending, Wa opened wide his mouth and dumped into her hands and lap a great load of partly digested meat; red beaver meat, warm and steaming from his stomach; slimy meat, smelling of gore and stomach acid. What a pity that Wa’s unselfish act, intended to show his affection for Joan and to prove to her that he was so pleased to see her that he was willing to share the kill with her, had such a shocking effect on my wife! What a pity that I can never seem to control my mirth at moments when discretion is more recommended than levity.
I felt for my wife, of course; I sympathized with her a lot, for I had often been at the receiving end of just such devotional kindness. But to see her face as she stared down in unbelieving horror at the gory red lumps and the slimy juices that had come to rest in her hands and over her stretched skirt (of course, this had to be one of those days when she had a skirt rather than the usual jeans because, as she had explained, she wanted to get her legs tanned!) was just too much for my sense of humor. I laughed until my sides ached and the tears came into my eyes. But when the tears appeared in Joan’s eyes, the affair ceased to be funny, and I became the contrite and helpful husband, even to the point of removing my shirt, dashing to the beaver pond, soaking it, and running back to mop up.
By the time we returned to the house and Joan had plunged herself into a bath reeking of scented salts, I was more or less forgiven. When she emerged garbed in a shocking-pink terry towel robe and saw the deerfly bites on my back and chest and neck, which caused me to look as though I had contracted a sudden and severe case of smallpox, she actually thawed enough to anoint me with her pet concoction for bites, which never did a damned bit of good, but which I endured because it was politic to do so. Wa wasn’t so easily forgiven, but by then he was ensconced under the floor of the evaporator house, no doubt sleeping the sleep of the just. Removing my shirt in order to clean Joan up with it, thus exposing myself to the flies, had earned for me an early pardon!
“Secret Go the Wolves” (c) 1980 By R.D. Lawerence ISBN 0-345-33200-8