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The Wolf

My mom died when I was a baby. No one ever told me she died because of me, but a kid figures something like that out, you know? I didn’t think my dad blamed me. Anyway, I’m getting off track. My point is I only had my dad, and then he was killed. An accident. Not like a baby being born and accidentally destroying its mother, though. A drunk. A stupid drunk teenager. I’m glad he died too, and I don’t just mean that vindictively. I know how it feels, knowing your actions caused someone else to die. I know how it kills you in a different way, slowly. It isn’t just because of my mom. It’s also the wolf.
My dad had this old hunting cabin and a few acres in the middle of nowhere. I hadn’t been there since I was a kid, but after my dad died, I had to go there. I packed enough food to last my little dog, Grainley, and me a few weeks. We drove out as far as we could and hiked the last seven miles in, using a map I found in my dad’s desk. We made it to the cabin after nightfall and I collapsed into bed.
Around 5 in the morning, something woke me up. I figured it was Grainley wanting to go out, so I got up. He was sleeping soundly right next to the bed. I was up, though, needing to go out myself, so I headed outside. As I stepped through the doorway, I saw him. The wolf. He was just standing there, staring at me. The door was still open and Grainley came out behind me and starting barking, lunging at the wolf. I freaked out, sure the wolf would kill him. I started screaming like a banshee and ran forward to grab Grainley. By the time I got him in my arms, the wolf was gone. Here’s the crazy part, though. Before he took off, the wolf spoke to me. He said, “I won’t hurt you.”
When I woke up later in the morning, I was sure it was a dream. Then I saw the scratches on my arms from Grainley scrambling to get down and run after the wolf. My precious little dog was yet again sleeping soundly by the bed as if nothing had happened. Had the wolf really spoken to me? I thought maybe I had dreamed that part. I got up to pee and this time I closed the door behind me. And there he was again.
This time I was sure I was the one who would die. That this wolf must be starving or sick, desperate enough to come so close to a human. Desperate enough to attack me. I pulled the banshee act again and starting waving my arms around, trying to scare the wolf away. I could hear Grainley barking inside the cabin and hoped he didn’t break a window trying to get out. The wolf just backed away and I heard it again. “I won’t hurt you.”
I stopped flailing my arms and screaming. I felt like an idiot, but I said, “What?”
“You heard me. I said I won’t hurt you.”
His mouth never moved, but he was right. I heard him.
“How is this possible? Am I going crazy? Are you really here?”
I turned my head to tell Grainley to shut up and when I looked back, the wolf was gone. This confirmed my suspicion that I was going crazy, but I’d take crazy over a talking wolf. It was understandable, after all. My dad had just died, leaving me an orphan at 20. I was emotionally distraught. I could make some sense out of imagining a wolf.
I walked a couple dozen feet from the cabin and squatted to relieve myself, then went back and let Grainley out. Of course, he took off into the woods. I ran inside and pulled on my boots and went after him. I lost sight of him pretty quickly, but continued following the sounds of something moving through the brush. I hoped it was him I was hearing. I kept calling him, too, but Grainley has never responded very well to his name. Maybe it’s because I named him Grainley and he’s really Fido. But I’m getting distracted again. The further the story gets, the more I don’t want to tell it.
Eventually I came to a small clearing filled with bluebells. I felt like I’d been running for hours and I was tired, thirsty, hungry, and annoyed as hell at my dog. I sat in the flowers and rested. I closed my eyes for a moment and when I opened them, he was there. He was standing in front of me, his face inches from my own. He came closer and started licking my face. I closed my eyes and tried not to move. I had to breathe, though. I let the air out slowly and opened my eyes. He stopped licking me and sat in front of me.
“You’ve grown up,” the wolf said.
“What? What are you talking about?”
“I knew your father. I knew you. I’ve been waiting for you.”
I reached my hand out to touch the wolf’s face. He didn’t move. He was so beautiful. I couldn’t believe I was petting a wolf. Then it dawned on me, what the wolf was saying. This was too weird. I got up and ran as fast as I could back to the cabin, where my little darling of a dog was sleeping soundly next to the bed.
Several days passed and I didn’t see the wolf. I stayed inside the cabin as much as possible, reading the hunting magazines my father had there, imagining his hands holding them, his eyes reading them. I took Grainley outside on a leash. I didn’t allow myself to think about the wolf. There was no wolf.
One night I couldn’t sleep for the light pouring in the windows. It was a full moon. I left Grainley in the cabin and went back to the clearing. Was I sleepwalking? No. I knew what I was doing, and I knew he would be there. The ground was damp, but I sat in the flowers anyway. I closed my eyes and opened them. Still alone. I stood up and looked all around me, but there was nothing.
“Are you there?” I called out.
I heard a rustling behind a tree and turned to it.
“Please come out. I want to talk to you. I won’t run away this time.”
His voice sounded different when it came. Raspy, uncertain.
“I can’t let you see me like this.”
“Please. I promise I won’t run.”
Instead of a wolf, a man stepped out from behind the tree. I almost broke my promise, I was so startled. To think I was more afraid of another human than of a wild animal, but I felt like I knew the wolf. This man was a stranger. And he was naked.
“Who are you?” I said.
“I won’t hurt you.”
The voice was different, but the words were familiar. It was the wolf.
“What happened to you?” I said.
He came closer. “Every full moon, I change into this. I don’t know why. It has always been this way.”
He was as beautiful a man as he was a wolf. He came into the clearing and I stepped closer to him, put my hands on his chest.
“How did you know my father? What did you mean, you’ve been waiting for me?”
He put his hands on my hips. His voice seemed to be gaining strength. “Your father saved my life. My foot was caught in a trap, and I’d been stuck for days. I was almost dead when he found me in this form, on the night of a full moon. He freed me and brought me back to his cabin, gave me food and water. In the morning I was wolf again, and he nearly shot me. I told him that I wouldn’t hurt him. He was kind and let me go.”
“You said you knew me, too.”
“Your father brought you here the next year. I watched you. You never saw me.”
“You said you’d been waiting for me. What did you mean?”
“Just that I knew you would come back.”
He kissed me then, and to my surprise, I kissed him back.
I woke up the next morning naked in the flowers, my arms wrapped around a wolf. When I turned onto my back and stretched, the wolf stood up and stretched as well, then licked my face. I almost licked him back. I sat up and pushed him away.
His voice rang out in my head, clear and strong. “I am the same as I was last night.”
“You’re a wolf,” I said.
“You still want me.”
I stood up and started putting my clothes back on. “I don’t know what I want. I have to go let Grainley out.”
“You will be back.”
I looked down at him and knew he was right about everything.
I took Grainley for a long walk in the opposite direction of the clearing. I couldn’t believe I had slept with him. I didn’t even know what he was. If my father had saved his life when I was a child, how old was he? He had looked…perfect. As if he were frozen in time. He said it had always been that way. What was he? I thought my father and I had been close, but he had never said anything about saving a wolf-man. I suppose he knew I would have a hard time believing him. I stopped walking at that moment, and Grainley looked up at me.
“Why did my father only bring me here that one year, Grainley? Why not before, and why not after?”
Something was off.
That night, I couldn’t not go to the clearing. And when I got there, I couldn’t not let him lick my face. I didn’t like it. I mean, I liked the licking, a lot. But I felt like there was a magnet inside me, pulling me to the wolf. I still feel it. He must still be alive, and it’s killing me. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I pushed him away again.
“Why did my father bring me here? Why did he never bring me back?”
“Your father made poor choices.”
“What are you talking about?”
“What I told you last night, that isn’t exactly what happened. It’s all right, though. Everything is working out the way it should.”
“What do you mean? What really happened?”
The wolf sat back on his haunches and said, “I saved your father’s life. His leg was caught in a trap and he was nearly dead. I had to wait until the full moon to release him and take him back to his cabin. I saved his life, but when he saw me as wolf the next day, he tried to kill me. He was too weak and his shot missed. That was how he would repay me. I could have ripped his throat out, but I told him I would not hurt him if he would bring me something.”
I sat back in horror. I knew what my father was supposed to bring the wolf. What he had brought the wolf.
“Me. He brought me to you.”
“Yes. I had seen your picture in his hand when I found him. He brought you, but then he took you back. Every year he returned and tried to convince me to release him from his promise. I couldn’t do that. I need you. I think I have always needed you.”
“My father is dead. Did you know that?”
“I suspected. I felt something change and knew you would come.”
“Is this because of the promise he made to you? Do I have any choice in this?”
“Do you really want a choice in this? You know this is right.”
He started licking my face again and I felt trapped inside myself as I watched myself removing my clothes. Something was happening to my body. I didn’t recognize it anymore. The wolf was prancing around the clearing like a puppy. It wasn’t right, what was happening to me. I didn’t want to become a wolf. I did want a choice.
“What did you do to me?” I tried to speak, but strangled sounds came out of my throat. He heard me, though, in the same way I heard him.
“You are mine now. Accept it.”
He stood over me, powerful. I lunged at his throat. He was quick and I missed. He snarled and gave me a low warning growl.
I ran. I was so fast and so strong. I heard him behind me and I ran faster. I would not accept this.
I heard him yelp and realized he wasn’t chasing me anymore. I turned and trotted back, following his scent. It was strong. There was blood. His foot was caught in an old trap. I stayed hidden and watched him struggle until the exhaustion of everything that had happened caught up to me.
When I woke up the next morning, I was myself again. He was still a wolf, stuck in a trap. I stepped into sight.
“Save me,” he said.
I left him there. Grainley and I hiked back to my car and we came home. It’s been days. I’m not sure how many, but I know he’s still alive. He’s pulling me to him.
I call a friend and ask her to take Grainley for a couple days. It shouldn’t take that long. I drive back and hike the now familiar route to the cabin. I get my father’s gun and go to the wolf. I can track his scent easily. That’s something new about me. He is weak and says nothing. Maybe he would die in a couple more days, but I will not be like the baby who accidentally kills her mother.

For the few who actually read this

Brendan and I are in Napa, California. We spent the day touring San Francisco with my aunt and uncle and I am in love with that city. There are several creative writing MFA programs there, so that will be a top pick once I start applying. I plan to apply next year for programs starting in 2011. I'm going to apply to schools all around the country. What's considered "good" writing is so subjective, I don't want to limit my choices in the beginning in case I don't get in to very many programs. The Creative Writing MFA Handbook recommends applying to 8-12 schools, or more if you can afford it.

Tomorrow we set out for Manila to visit our friend Silas. It's 263 miles from here, and we don't usually try to go that far of a distance in one day. But we're going to try and just camp somewhere if we don't make it there before dark. The fact that we're staying up this late isn't going to help us get an early start tomorrow, but eh. It's nice to have free and unlimited access to the internet here at my cousin's place, and we'll leave when we leave. That's not the most profound thing I've ever said.

Two or three nights in Manila (depending on if we get all the way there tomorrow), one night in Florence, OR, one night in Portland, OR (reminder to self: call Portland cousin and friend), and then we're in Seattle! We're getting so close now I feel like I can practically taste Seattle. I really love Seattle. I miss it. Not just Seattle, but all our friends, and my family. I miss my mama and daddy. I miss my sister and Katie. I can't wait to see everyone, and I can't wait to visit some of our favorite neighborhoods and restaurants and parks. I just wish we had a home of our own to come back to.

Boo!

I don't post here often enough, so I thought I would say hey. Hey! I'm alive and well in New Orleans, Louisiana, where Brendan and I are living until the end of February. We decided to stay to improve our busking skills and take advantage of the huge numbers of tourists that will be here for Marti Gras next month, not to mention to enjoy Marti Gras ourselves. When we leave here we will slowly be making our way (hitchhiking) to Seattle via southern California. We expect to arrive in the Seattle area mid-April.

This busking thing is interesting. Brendan and I keep asking ourselves all sorts of questions about what exactly we want to be doing and there doesn't seem to be one clear answer. It's hard for me to be perpetually excited about busking. Sometimes I would just as soon simply call myself a tourist and vacationer and travel with that mindset, and sometimes I want to go back to Seattle now and live and work there again and then just enjoy a vacation in Europe this summer (we already bought the plane tickets to Germany). And sometimes I'm really excited about busking and the people we inevitably meet when doing that and the great stories we acquire (both through making up stories to tell and because of the people we meet). For now, that sometimes excitement is enough to propel me to keep our trip as is (that is, stay in busking mindset and go out on weekends), but not enough to make me go "Yeah! Let's go out and busk every day for 4-8 hours! Whoooooooo!"

There's this problem of stasis. I feel like it haunts me in life. I claim to want change and to want to try new things, but my actions speak louder than my claims and they show that I like things to be comfortable and familiar. And since I claim to want something other than that, I feel sort of uncomfortable even in familiarity. So the overarching question of this trip seems to be: What do I really want? What do we (Brendan and I) really want? Should it be so hard to answer?

Haiku

My very good friend issued a challenge to write a haiku every day for the month, and I did not step up. But haikus seem to be everywhere. There is a geurilla art project in New Orleans on St. Claude where there are over 50 haikus silkscreened onto over 100 signs and posted all up and down that street and a few other streets. I haven't been fortunate enough to see it, but I heard about it and it reminded me of what my friend is doing. So here's a haiku, from me to you:

Snow surrounds us here
Enveloping us within
Warm house, cozy drinks

Go Wisconsin.

In New Orleans

Brendan and I are going to stay in New Orleans for a few months and try to get really good at busking. This seems to be a great place to learn and while the process will be hard and filled with unsuccess, we'll come out better at the end. We're thinking we'll stay through Marti Gras (brief interlude in Wisconsin for Christmas) and then somehow jet to the San Francisco area for a writing conference called Potlatch 18 where Ursula K. Le Guin is a featured guest.

This is good. We like it here and like feeling somewhat settled. Jocelyn's group of friends are good people with similar interests to ours, though they're all med students. I'm still offering to send postcards to anyone who sends me their address, whether in a comment or by emailing me at stina.pederson@gmail.com.

Have you been reading our blog? Shame on you if you haven't. Go to www.andjuggling.com to find the link. The website will be up...someday. I hope.

Love,
Stina

Check it:

http://buskingjourney.blogspot.com/

Our busking blog. We had a little taste of what our traveling experience will be like and we've done some blogging about it. Hitchhiking is awesome.

We are almost done with building our stilts and it is hard work but the payoff is totally going to be worth it.

Here's to a completely new lifestyle.

updately shmately

I haven't posted in awhile. I've been very busy with various part-time jobs. My regular credit union job, ASMing Charlotte's Web at YTN (which closes today), mowing a lawn twice a month, being an extra set of hands for a mom in West Seattle once or twice a week, and selling stuff on Ebay. Plus I've been trying to get appointments for my eyes and teeth while I still have a bit of coverage for those things. And I think I'm about to be successful at selling my disappointing Chevy Malibu.

And that is all I have time to say.
Your result for The Commonly Confused Words Test ...

English Genius
You scored 100% Beginner, 93% Intermediate, 100% Advanced, and 100% Expert!

You did so extremely well, even I can't find a word to describe your excellence! You have the uncommon intelligence necessary to understand things that most people don't. You have an extensive vocabulary, and you're not afraid to use it properly! Way to go!
Thank you so much for taking my test. I hope you enjoyed it!

For the complete Answer Key, visit my blog: http://shortredhead78.blogspot.com/.

Life in general

I haven't posted in rather a long while, and my last post was just an ad, so here's an actual blog.

I'm at work right now, at the credit union, and it's lovely slow here. Apparently this is what summers are like. Our members are either on vacation or too busy with their kids or maybe just enjoying the finally nice weather. I certainly don't mind. It gives me time to do this, check my email, play Mythos, test my vocab at freerice.com, and basically just putz around.

Brendan and I borrowed "Charmed" from my supervisor and we are trying to get through all 8 seasons before we leave in October. We just finished season 2. It's good, though not as insightful or clever as BtVS or other Joss Whedon shows. But it's not Joss Whedon, so I shouldn't be surprised. We've also been playing basketball a lot lately. I'm getting better the more we play, though Brendan still beats me by upwards of 40 points. Sometimes both courts at the park near our place are being used, but then we can usually join in with whomever is playing, thereby fostering positive relations with our neighbors. Go Beacon Hill!

I have a part-time nanny/househelper gig now. I go out to West Seattle a couple times a week or so to either watch a 7 and 9 year old, or help the mom with whatever tasks she assigns me. Last week this meant a morning filled with soup-making and gardening, so that was easy and fun. The nine year old makes the kid-watching part more of a challenge. She can be really fun but also very defiant and bratty and occasionally makes me not want to ever have children.

I learned how to knit! So far I've just made hats (oh, and a pair of leg-warmers), but I'm going to try and make socks next. Neal and Lena have both been very helpful in my knitting endeavors. I prefer knitting to crocheting, but I think that's partly because I have knitting buddies and good knitting patterns, and I never really followed patterns with crocheting. Also, knitting in public sparks conversations with strangers. An old woman several weeks ago stared ardently at my knitting and said she wished she knew how to knit and was it hard to learn? and oh how very nice that I know how to knit. A man named Tony on Mercer Island said he used to crochet and would like to learn how to knit and he told me I should read Dune because it's very good.

I'm getting better and better and juggling. I just need to remember to practice a little every day. I'm diligently trying to get rid of things. I have a posting for some doll outfits on Craigslist that finally got a response, so hopefully those will be gone soon. I have some still-in-the-box barbies I will probably trying selling on Craigslist too. And I'm mowing Trina and John's lawn every other week. I love making money by doing outdoor activities and tasks.

I just started reading "Changing Planes," a book of short stories by Ursula LeGuin. And I just finished reading "The Good Fairies of New York," a book Brendan's parents gave him for Christmas. It was very enjoyable. Oh, and this is to Meredith: if you are going to attempt a Jane Austen novel and have previously been unable to really get into them, I encourage you to try Northanger Abbey. It's by far the most comical of all her books and the main character is delightfully flawed.

I miss having a pet. Last night when Brendan and I were walking home from the park, there were two small dogs on the corner a street up from our apartment. They were so friendly and loveable and adorable and one of them had such thick curly fur it felt like petting a sheep. Speaking of farm animals, the Evergreen State Fair is once more coming up and everyone should come root for me at the Apple Pie Tasteoff. One of my previous pies is pictured on the Contests page of the fair website. I'm not sure what my pie will look like this year, but you can bet I will again attempt to win the "Best Presentation" ribbon. Have I ever mentioned I LOVE the fair? I think I will enter some other food categories this year. $$ prizes, for those, though the amount is trifling.

Last night I dreamt my brother was competing in the jumper class in a horse show and I was so surprised by this because he is a dirt-bike racer and I wondered how he and Naomi found the time for her to teach him to ride. And then there was a monkey going over the jumps with him. My whole night was filled with vivid dreams like that, which is unusual for me.

This weekend will be busy and fun. Nikki's birthday party on Friday, Alissa's housewarming on Saturday, and maybe Pride stuff on Sunday? I don't know yet. Tomorrow is laundry day at my parents' house, and good quality time with my mom. And maybe tonight Brendan and I will see an animation fest movie in the U-district. I hope we do.

Farewell for now.

Plug

I'm scrambling for ways to make additional moola, so here's a plug for one attempt:

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