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The Way of the Wolf……finis

The Way of the Wolf……finis

The hunter slithered away from the rim of the rock outcrop, and, when he was far enough away, stood and walked back to where Dan, restless and alert, stared back at him. He stroked Dan’s long neck, whispering in his ear, “I know, I know, my friend, I shouldn’t have left you here stranded and alone, it isn’t fair. It will all be over soon, I promise.”

The hunter led Dan to a flat spot next to a large chiseled rock that jutted mysteriously out of the hard ground, as if by the unbending law of gravity it crashed into the unforgiving ground after its long fall from heaven. He pulled the saddle off Dan’s back, and laid it carefully on the ground. He took off his chaps, wide-brimmed hat, and his boots and spurs, and stacked them neatly on the saddle blanket. He put on the moccasins that had been tied to his saddle. He stood, danced a little jig, and whispered in Dan’s ear, “I’m free once again, my friend, free at last, free from the last of civilization’s encumbrances on me. I know that those boots are made for a special purpose, but believe me it sure feels good to be out of them. It feels real, my friend, real and right and…..but why should I be complaining to you, when every day I throw that heavy saddle up on your back? You are a good friend.” The hunter stroked Dan’s neck, and Dan nuzzled up under the hunter’s armpit, lifting the hunter off the ground.

On the wide, grassy plateau below the high snowcapped mountain peaks, the hunter had to search in a wide arc in order to gather enough wood for his fire, and he gathered with urgency because the mountains were gobbling up what little sunlight remained. Finally, the fire blazing in the cold dusk, he put the coffee on to boil and went to check on Dan, who he had hobbled in a grassy spot not too far from his fire. Darkness had descended on the wide plateau in the lap of the high snowcapped mountain peaks. The hunter looked out over the wide plain to the east where a sliver of moon had risen. It will be a good night for a hunt, he thought. In the glow of the fire, he leaned back against the rugged face of the rock, whose story, like his own, has yet to be written, and sipped the strong coffee, reflecting on how the night would proceed. He would wait another couple of hours before he slipped down the outcrop and move quietly into the close cover of pine trees. He would have to be deathly quiet because the wolf was vigilant. He had only one advantage, and that was his imagination: the wolf would never suspect his attack. The wolf had few enemies, man being his greatest threat, but the wolf never considered it in this way: the wolf feared only hunger, and was moved only by the grumbling in his belly. Since his belly wasn’t grumbling tonight, he slept without fear. The hunter watched the sliver of moon move higher up the sky. A few wispy clouds moved across the slice of moon, and darkness prevailed. The hunter studied the billions of stars that spread with such mystery across the night. It was a good night for star gazing, he thought. Dan rustled close by, and this slight noise was enough to bring the hunter solace.

He poured another cup of coffee and warmed his hands. He set the cup on a rock and turned his hands palms up, studying their deep crevices that, like the chasms in the earth’s crust, had been carved by erosion and agony. The stars had a certain destiny, as did the moon, a sliver tonight, but fuller tomorrow night, each night gaining perspective, until its brilliance would dominate the night. What was his destiny? Had destiny brought him here to warm his tortured hands by a fleeting fire under an infinite sky? What did the stars think of him? He listened for Dan.

He picked up the steaming coffee and sipped its bitterness slowly. He wanted to sleep, but duty pushed him in another direction. And what would happen in that final moment when he stared into the burning eyes of his prey? Would he find exhilaration – or sadness? He worried that he’d find sadness. And why had destiny brought him so far from his small one-room cabin, far from the city on the plain, bisected by the broad river that flowed with such inexorable determination to join an even broader river on its long journey to the sea. He was a traveler, too, but his purpose wasn’t so clear. His imagination had carried him here, but it had brought along doubt and questions. Why? He gazed into the brilliant sky filled with such mystery. The sliver of moon moved higher up the sky as his resolve began to fade away. Wasn’t this enough, to be a traveler under an infinite sky, to be here now to experience this one moment in the hundreds of thousands of moments of his unworthy life? The wolf was a fellow traveler. He might travel in a different orbit, but he slept under the same infinite sky, and he shared this same moment in the hundreds of thousands of moments of his life. To be here with him now meant something. At least, it meant something. The wolf would face his death with honor and dignity, it was the way of the wolf, but the world would be a sadder place without him, as the universe weeps with the death of every star, the universe will weep for the wolf. And the moon, only a sliver now, will stay on its course, and continue to smile down on its fellow travelers, each on his inexorable journey to find the solace of the sea.

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