matt pond PA

July 22, 2016

Fox and Wolf.

Or: A Grimm Evolution.

Me and Piper!

Two blurs appear at the edge of the woods, untended pastures of tall, tan grass make the indistinct shapes flicker in the fading sun like an old zoetrope. One gray, the other white-striped rust.

A mutual declaration — a gentle promise, a solid pact — had been made to not take the summer seriously and to do so as a duo.

The two beasts nodded from a safe distance. They didn’t get too close to one another: They knew the nature of themselves and other feral forest friends enough to avoid the sudden snarls and gnarls of wild teeth and tongue.

In the early morning hours, Fox and Wolf would lazily hunt mice and squirrels. But they mostly found themselves digging through the refuse of the permanent weekenders who seemed to intentionally set out lavish meals, day after day after day. Fine wilderness catering, with plates of food stacked high, uneaten potato salad and cheeseburgers perfectly perched beneath a trash can’s loosely fitting lid.

They slept on opposite sides of a cool mountain meadow, guzzling fermented berries, sleeping in the spotted shade and haze of pollen.

“You good, Wolf?” yelped the red tail.

“Fuck you, Fox.”

“Perfect. I could take that as another example of your coarse and mentally deficient comportment. But I would prefer to think of it as a fellow soldier’s unsentimental way of articulating small truths. Perhaps even a scrap of love to be shared between us, as we are soon to be swallowed by this mellifluous and magnificent eventide.”

“Fuck you, Fox.”

“And a million blessings to you, Wolf.” And Fox dozed off again, while the night sky snuck in and took its rightful place over his pointed head.

Their fur grew thin on their hides, they were scrawny and light. Blonde streaks sprouted along their spines, and as they poked their paws at the night sky, their simple wonder made them appear to smile upwards in the blue light.

There was no mythology, just the principle powers. The sun, the moon, the seasons, the weather and bears. Stars were irrelevant, distracting yet brilliant bits of pointless light. Fox and Wolf oriented themselves on scent and softly worn paths they pawed through under- and overgrowth. They were rippling with instinct.

They didn’t need poetry to understand reality; reality was already poetic. (A cardinal is bright red because it has to be. The beaver paddles quietly, building lumpy dams. Everyone mates. Newborns wrestle and roll. The wind speaks, the animals listen. Some die old, some are eaten. In eternal rest, all the same.)

Wolf growled softly through the corner of his mouth. As if the beauty of the night was worth trusting from his side of the meadow. Fireflies mimicking stars, the cicadas eternally commissioned to make their magical racket. “There are inescapable truths. Traps of the mind that’ll tear you apart before you’ve woken up.”

“What do I know? I have not understood a she-wolf enough to know truths beyond our grove of birch and pine. There seems to be a softness that is always beyond leg’s reach.” He stopped himself when his throat choked, a reflexive emergency escape from an endless thought.

The next day was incredibly hot. Too hot to hunt, too hot to scavenge. They rested their bellies in the shallow waters of the clear creek until cool evening air started to flow down the sides of the mountain. Wolf’s throat relaxed and opened again.

“So I guess now is all that matters. This night, these breaths, this breeze. You and me and our modest little meadow. You, you stupid, pretentious fox.”

Caught off guard, Fox sneered and then gave himself away by smiling broadly, unselfconsciously. Contentment coursed through his animal veins. Then fast and deep asleep.

Still, summer would someday end. Hunger was another truth. If it came down to it, they would try to rip each other apart. Wolf, with power. Fox, with guile. Wolf would win, but not without bloodied ankles and painful nips to the necks.

And he would lose his friend.