the werewolf

the werewolf

Josephine Gawtry

it’s true that if we were in a storybook you’d be the werewolf. slouching around the kudzu on the perimeter of my yard at night, with the rabbits and groundhogs quivering in their viney coves, the deer still and wide-eyed across the old fence in the shady spruce knoll—illuminated only by distant headlights from the main road—i would look out my window and think i saw something moving out there. dismiss it as one of the mountain creatures, a fox, a black bear;

in the long farm grass we walk in springtime. ticks tickle our hairy girl legs. we find a stream with a sitting stump and a climbing tree and a bushel of wineberries. we stain our cut-up, nettle-stung hands purple and red, place the berries on each fingertip and suck them off, giggling. on our walk back we fiddle with sweetgrass and tuck eachother in our palms. i bring home wild onions and my dad puts them in the salad.

its winter and we wear jackets and go to the bakery. i choose an elephant ear and my dad asks why they are getting more expensive. looking outside at the freeway, i pant mist onto the window, spelling my name with the J backwards in fingersmudge. we go back to the house we can’t afford (the recession just happened) and my mom yells at me, in the harmless way that i am used to. i have my own room now and change my own clothes, still hesitantly. 

in summertime, i see the werewolf again. at the edge of the neighborhood, where the new houses are being built—among the concrete shells and loose nails, he stalks, blue eyes studying me. he is a mixture of tenderness, confusion, seduction. my dad calls from behind me, tossing a ball with my little brother, and i turn away, running back home. the sun will go down soon, and mom wants me back.

after my dad and i watch the fall thunderstorm on the equinox, i go to the new school with real snacks (not ice cubes) and a plastic playground painted all different colors. i am perpetually in trouble and when i am, my mom comes in sweating from the gym and grabs me by the wrist. i lie about being sick and read my chapter books so fast that i hate them for being so short. scholastic book fairs and swinging outside eat me alive, and my blood is so red and juicy i drink with them, gleefully smiling, my mouth full of baby teeth.

it’s true that if we were in a storybook you’d be the werewolf. i would walk out in the woods alone, sidestepping the boulders by the stream, my skinny child arms pushing mountain laurel branches aside and seeing you in the unfinished lot. i would run to you and feel your bristled mammal hair on my cheek. i’d bite off the honeysuckle tip and kiss your wolf mouth so you could taste the sweetness.

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