K. Mennem 6:15 p.m., May 21
Wolf Man in Love
Hey Fiction Fans,
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For whatever that's worth by way of "uh, okay." But I promise that, for any story I choose to draw for, I'll do at least a couple of illos, inspired by your own words or ideas. No saying what medium I'll use; all 'pends how your words whack me. It might look akin to Overheard in San Diego (bigfoot cartoon) or Famous Former Neighbors ("reality" comix), or perhaps be done in pencil, color, collage, or whatever. Note that most all my work is done on digital tablets and the like, so there's no "hard copy" artwork.
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Best in all endeavors, Jay Allen Sanford
Today’s story comes from Mindy1114: if you like, please feel free to hit the “share” tab, and let the folks over on Twitter/Facebook/etc have a looksee at what we’re doing over here --
Wolf Man in Love
Diva McCartney peered through the sparkling glass of her front-room window, as the neighbor passed by in his burgundy Lincoln Continental. In the darkness of the late summer evening, Buddy Wolf took on the appearance of a werewolf, with long, reddish hair brushing his shirt collar and hairy paws gripping the steering wheel as he headed for his mobile home next door. She stared, thinking it was impossible to be seeing what she was seeing. As uncivilized as men were, they still couldn’t transform themselves into hairy beasts. It was impossible; and yet, she knew what I saw!
Diva had gazed out the window because a car going by was rare. She and her neighbors lived near the back of the park, up by the club house, so no one would go there unless they lived on the block or had gotten lost. Sometimes, cars were vandalized. Large rocks were put on the hoods and circles were etched into the paint; or, mail was taken out of boxes and left scattered on the ground. But the biggest problem as far as animal lovers were concerned, was that once a cat or small dog went stray, no one was able to find that animal again—ever. The little buggers seemed to vanish in thin air as if they had a secret place to go.
For years, Diva considered Buddy to be nothing more than a cantankerous old bastard. He had called her landlady and yelled when her puppy barked on the back porch, waking him from a nap. Her landlady, a cantankerous old bitch in her old right, then called Diva to scream and yell; and, threatened to evict her even though the puppy’s actions were well within the law. The landlady had fed herself right into Buddy’s hands. His ultimate aim in life was to make everyone around him as miserable as he was and so far, he was doing a damn good job of it, not that Diva needed any help.
Two years earlier, her husband had left her for a frequent customer on his pizza delivery route. With the kids grown and gone, Diva now had no one to bitch at or complain about. Slowly, she’d gotten used to being alone but it still wasn’t a thrill. The payoff was that she didn’t have to put up with a lying, sniveling slug anymore who spent his days on the sofa picking his teeth and toenails and watching T.V. instead of looking for a better job. After Russ announced he’d found a woman who considered him to be the “Elvis Presley of her dreams,” Diva said, “What’s her phone number? As a woman, I feel obligated to warn her about what you’re really like.”
Buddy was not a slug like Russ. Sure, he had his idiosyncrasies—he sometimes panted heavily and howled when the moon was full--but he had his chivalrous side too. And after carrying the burden of a husband who considered her to be nothing more than his second mother, Diva certainly appreciated Buddy’s company. He made her feel cared for and protected.
Diva turned away from the window and went to the kitchen door to look for her hairy neighbor. She never had been able to figure him out. He was what her mother would have called “an odd duck.” And even though cops hadn’t surrounded his coach with guns drawn in quite some time, she was still intrigued by the mystery surrounding his nightly activities. He had admitted to going for walks late at night, and when she offered to loan him one of her dogs for protection, he’d only laughed her off.
Through the crack in the door, Diva saw Buddy in his normal, human form, albeit a bit rumpled, admiring her rose bushes. “Hi, Buddy!” she called out.
He looked up, startled, as if he’d been struck by a silver bullet. She’d apparently shaken him from a deep, riveting thought about a problem so enormous, his shoulders were sagging and deep creases furrowed his brow. Diva had never seen him so troubled before, but as soon as he looked up, he seemed to relax a little.
“Hey,” Buddy said, stuffing his hands in his pants pockets and then taking them out. “I noticed you haven’t been watering your roses. I was going to do it for you.”
“Thanks so much but you don’t have to do that.”
“I don’t mind.” Since tossing his drug-addicted kids out on the street, he and Gloria didn’t have much to do with their spare time. Diva decided to accept his gesture of good-will graciously, even though a part of her didn’t want to. She figured he was only trying to make up for the hell he’d caused her over the years and it would take a lot more than splashing water on a few flowers to do that.
Diva watched Buddy pick up the hoe. Why was he suddenly willing to do all of her work for her? She chuckled when he told her the reason.
“You’re pretty and I’m out here anyway. I might as well do yours as well as mine. I’ll go crazy if I’m in the house all day. For some reason, I have the urge to roam. What is wrong with me? Why do I sometimes feel as if I’m on the verge of going insane? I’ve had rushes come over me for years and nothing helped until I started taking Gloria’s antidepressants. I do feel a little better, but at times I shake and sweat. I’m just not myself.”
“I wouldn’t know, but at least you’re not trying to control Gloria anymore, just her antidepressants.”
“She gives them to me willingly.”
“The only thing the doctor can find is nodules on my throat from howling, I mean, yelling.”
“You’ve got to get that under control.”
Buddy was constantly complaining about something. If it wasn’t his health, his car, or the homeowners’ association, it was the property manager, kids that stole his flower pots, whatever president was in office at the time, the county government, the city government and the superior court. As far as he was concerned, no one was as smart as he. “At least your kids aren’t around to drive you nuts,” I said. “That’s one good thing.”
“Give them time, they’ll be back,” he said with a wary eye.
“Well, I’ll do whatever I can to help you. I know we’ve had our differences, but I appreciate the fact that you crawled through the dog door when I locked myself out of the house. It would have cost me a wad of money to pay a locksmith to open it.” At one time, Diva would have rather shot herself in the head than pay Buddy a compliment, but lately his animal magnetism had started to grow on her. She’d always been fascinated by men who were a little on the wild side.
“I’m going to f*ck you up!” Buddy later yelled. He was inside the house, and as Diva continued to trim her rose bushes, she heard a roar and then somebody hit the floor and the wall.
Glass broke, Gloria let out a piercing scream and Mitchell Wolf, Gloria’s grown son by her first marriage, appeared on the porch with his shirt torn open and a six-inch bloody gash across his chest. Diva was paralyzed, as rooted to the spot as one of her rose bushes. At that moment, a werewolf in one of Buddy’s shirts went galloping by. Diva was so frightened she dropped her pruning shears and made a run for the house. In all the years she had lived in the park, she had never been left speechless. In fact, she often went right on picking weeds as the S.W.A.T. team did whatever they needed to do. But now she had clear evidence that there was a werewolf running loose and she was terrified for the animals and children in the neighborhood.
It took four tries, but eventually Diva’s trembling hands punched 911 correctly and a dispatcher came on the line. Diva asked that help be sent immediately.
“We don’t handle those calls,” the dispatcher replied. “You’re going to have to call Animal Control.”
“My God, do you have the number? Something has to be done right away! There’s a werewolf running loose and God only knows what he’ll do.” Her voice trailed off.
“I can give you the number of the Escondido Humane Society.” After being put on hold for several minutes, Diva was on the verge of fainting.
Finally the dispatcher said, “I have another report here that says there’s a large coyote running in your neighborhood. Could that be the same animal?”
Diva had no idea, and really didn’t care. “No, couldn’t be. This one is half-man, half-beast. I think it’s my neighbor.”
If the dispatcher thought Diva had lost her marbles, she didn’t let on. She simply took the report and said, “I’m sending officers to the area, ma’m. They should be there shortly.”
“I certainly hope so,” Diva said. Then she put down the handset.
The wait seemed to take forever, although it actually spanned just a few minutes.
Diva knew that the police would be interested in hearing the details about the fight, so she hung around outdoors and picked a few weeds before the squad cars arrived. It didn’t take long for officers to interview Gloria and her son, and then an officer came to Diva’s house to take a witness statement. “He’s a monster,” she said when in fact Buddy was much worse than that. But she was afraid the officer might think she was pulling his leg if she told him the truth. “I think something needs to be done,” she added. “Lock him up! Get him off the street!”
The officer gave her a faint smile and explained there was nothing he could do. “We’ve known about his problem for quite some time,” he said, “but there’s no law against being a werewolf.”
“No one is safe!” Diva staggered forward, and then collapsed on the highest back-porch step. “He’s a danger to society!”
“He’s not that bad. And until he commits a crime, we can’t take him into custody.” The officer grinned as if pleased to be giving her the bad news.
“But the bloody gash!”
“It’s a clear case of self-defense. Buddy’s stepson has bipolar disorder.”
Diva’s attention was suddenly torn away. “Where is Gloria going? She looks as if she’s moving out.” Several suitcases were at Gloria’s feet and one-by-one, her daughter was loading them into the car.
“She’s leaving the old man. Says she can’t take it anymore. Someone’s got to give him notice.” He stared at Diva until she agreed to deliver the devastating news.
“Doris left you,” Diva said, looking around the visiting room. She had never been to the Vista Jail before and was still shuddering after hearing the big metal door clank shut behind her.
On the other side of the glass partition, wearing a bright-orange jumpsuit, Buddy lowered his gaze and struggled to fend off tears. “She threatened to do it for years,” he said, “But I really didn’t think she would.”
The room, built of brick and plaster, was dark and windowless. Several young women held babies on their laps while they visited their inmate husbands. It was cold in the room, and Diva hated to be there, but couldn’t leave. She had given the officer her word. The only thing she liked about it was that Buddy looked so small and helpless. He really needed her. No one else had in quite some time. “She couldn’t take anymore,” Diva finally said.
“I s’pose it was only a matter of time.” He fingered the long, course hairs on the back of his hands, and the bald spot that looked like mange on his head. “What will I do now?”
“Well, there are other fish in the sea,” Diva replied.
“That’s true. Whenever I get lonely, I don’t turn to her, I watch you out in the yard. You’re so pretty I love to look at you as much as the roses. Actually, some time ago, I realized I married the wrong woman.”
“You’re too nice. If only Tom had been as romantic as you.” She remembered back to the time when Tom had asked her for money to buy hot chocolate at the mall. He was nothing more than a little boy in a man’s body and she was grateful he was gone.
“I always thought Tom was a fool for treating you the way he did,” Buddy said, as if telepathic. Then he shook his head. “Boy, if you were mine, I’d put you on a pedestal. You’re a queen as far as I’m concerned.”
Diva was swept away by his compliments. Now that she was over fifty, they didn’t come often enough. “You’re not so bad yourself.”
The older man perked up and said, “Really? How can I be good enough for you? I’m in jail for animal cruelty. You know I’d never hurt a dog or cat, but once I’m in an altered state, I can’t seem to control myself. I’ve never had the urge to hurt a person, but the cops found a dead cat in the kitchen sink. They said I was about to fillet…”
“Nobody’s perfect, Buddy, certainly not you and certainly not me.” Diva shifted uneasily. Sadly, he had just explained what had happened to all of those missing dogs and cats.
“But you sure are beautiful,” he said. “A sight for sore eyes if I’ve ever seen one. That satin dress is majestic.”
Diva touched the bodice, the oversize cameo attached to her neck by a velvet ribbon and one of the half-dozen red roses stuck in her upswept hair. She realized for the first time that she’d fixed herself up just to please him. Could this really be happening? Was she actually falling in love with a wolf hybrid after so many of disappointments with other men? Oh, life with him wouldn’t be easy, not by a long shot. But she did want to be needed; that was what had attracted her to Tom. But after awhile, she realized he was nothing more than the third kid in the family. Buddy, for all his flaws, could stand on his own. He was retired from the truck driver’s union and had a pension. He could buy his own hot chocolate.
Buddy stared at her, about to say something, but seemed too tongue-tied. Instead, he shook his head and said, “I can take care of you, but that’s all I have to offer.”
“But you deserve even more.” He scratched a flea bite on his neck and licked his arm. After he looked around to see if anyone had noticed, he turned back to Diva, who sat patiently waiting for him. They fell silent, not needing words to express how they felt. At that point, they only needed each other.
“Oh my, it’s getting late,” Diva said, looking at her watch. “I’ve got to feed the dogs.”
“I hope you come back to see me. I don’t know how long I’ll be in here. I guess I won’t know until I talk to my lawyer. But if there’s anything you need, just say so.” He paused at the absurdity of his words. “If you need a car to drive, you can take the Lincoln.”
Diva almost told him that her car was working fine, but in order to save his pride, she said instead, “I appreciate the offer.”
His dirt-brown eyes glowed at her. He knew she was making light of his obvious faux pas and he loved her for it. “I know you don’t need to use my car. I’m not trying to be Mr. Big Shot. I just want to help you and I’m so embarrassed to be here, I can hardly stand it.”
A sympathetic look crossed Diva’s face. “How did you get this affliction anyway?”
She couldn’t imagine, not in her wildest dreams.
He said the first time he went through “the change,” he was only seventeen. He was on the small side and the other boys at school had picked on him unmercifully, but their tune had changed once they saw him as a werewolf. He laughed out loud as he told her how their eyes had widened, their jaws had dropped and they had all turned and ran. They knew it was he because of his familiar eyes and tattered clothes, and after that night, not of them ever bullied him again.
“I suppose being a werewolf can have its advantages.” She went on to say that in junior high, bullies had preyed on her too. “How lovely it would have been to become a monster to scare the crap out of them!”
“Yeah, it’s been quite a ride,” Buddy said.
“Well, I’ll rest assured that nobody will ever do that to me again. Not with a man who has four-inch fangs by my side.”
“Is that how big they are?”
Diva nodded her head.
Buddy tried to picture himself as a werewolf and then broke out laughing. “No wonder everyone is so afraid of me!”
He was enjoying the moment and she was happy for him. What was the point of getting all upset when there was nothing he could do about it anyway? According to him, “the change” was due to a family curse that affected all of the men on his father’s side of the family. He had moved to California from Europe years earlier to escape, but of course, it hadn’t worked. The nasty family curse followed him wherever he went.
“You’ve been to hell and back,” Diva observed, for she was sensitive about such matters. “Maybe we can help each other. I can tell you don’t really want to hurt anybody; in fact, as a werewolf you look scared. I know wolves typically are afraid of humans and that’s a good thing. It keeps them at a distance so that they won’t attack. And you’ve been ostracized because of it. I’d say you’re one friendly guy and the fact that you have to be out doggin’ around from time to time, isn’t much of a price to pay for true love. For the first time in a long time, I feel that someone wants me for who I am and not just a moola buddy.” Diva smiled at him, feeling unleashed from her demons.
“But if Gloria can’t live with it, how can you? She says when the moon is full, I drive her absolutely nuts!” Buddy twitched and bit his lip, looking anxious out of fear he’d scared her off.
But Diva only laughed. “Well, you’re not the first mutt I’ve rescued. As long as you don’t pee on the carpet, we’re cool.”
And they lived happily ever after.