|Jewelry by LTY Design, Placitas, NM|
Penumbral Eclipse (cont'd)
by Frances Madeson
After that I really didn’t think I’d ever mate again. But later that Spring someone new came bounding into my life. His coat was the darkest I’d ever seen. As if he’d rolled in a carpet of night sky, brushed off the moons and stars, and emerged cloaked in a glistening blackness.
Something else unusual about him, he’d been collared and tagged with a signal box. We soaked it in the river, I tried tearing it off with my teeth. We never gave up. When we weren’t hunting and eating we were soaking and gnawing. He kept thanking me over and over for trying, though it couldn’t have felt good, me tugging and gnashing, sawing away until my jaw ached and I was forced to rest.
When the thing finally fell with a thud to the earth, we nuzzled unimpeded neck to neck. He couldn’t get enough of that. More of a yipper than a howler, he yipped it up, while running around with it in his mouth looking for some deep dark hole down which to drop it. Finding none, we dug our own. From then on we were free, from then on we were inseparable.
It had been a year of heavy losses, not only my own but others we’d gotten wind of. Pain to go around many times over. We were hoping for a fat litter to replenish our spirits and ranks. When my heat came on, I lifted my tail for him, exposing my desire. He licked between my legs ardently, mounted me from behind, thrusting himself into the wetness. A dozen hungry eyes watched us, wanting to climb on, put it in, and lock on.
A few weeks later, we were out after dark scouting a place for a new den when we saw a human habitation in the distance, smoke coiling out its chimney. I instinctively turned away but my mate was curious, and stubborn.
You’re looking for trouble—I called after him. Calling down Orion.
I stayed up on the ridge, steeling myself for barking dogs, gunshots, mayhem. Just as he approached the human’s truck, the front door of the cabin flew open and a massive male lurched out. Unseen, my mate leapt into the flat bed, slipping under a tarp, and stayed down low until the two-legged was out of sight. With something heavy draped over his back, held fast in his teeth, he raced back, near flying across the arroyo. The thing he’d toted, he dropped at my feet.
One of many—he said, still panting.
A human garment, half cow hide, half wolf pelt (more gray than sand, rust, juniper bark brown and cumulous white).
We have to warn the others—he said, eating snow for sustenance.
Usually surefooted, I faltered several times on the way, careless missteps, my head working overtime about this discovery. By the time we returned I was persuaded of two things: that the pelt was my former mate’s, that this act would be answered.
Every able-bodied wolf in the Gila answered the rallying call. I'd never been in one place with so many alphas, males and females. I knew we’d have to make this quick.
An elder asked—What’s to stop us from tearing him apart? He wouldn’t stand a chance against us all.
Retribution—someone wiser answered. If a wolf is even thought to be involved we’ll all pay with our lives. They’ll wipe us out completely, no mercy.
Right—I said with my mate at my side. No evidence can be left behind when we destroy him.
We agreed to send our best scouts to observe the human’s behavior over three sunrises and sunsets; then we’d devise a plan.
In the interim we mourned our pack mate all over again, doubling down on our grief at what had become of this fine alpha dog. We all had our memories: mine were written on my body, on my senses, on my scent glands.
Together with our progeny, I traveled back to the old den. We buried the remnant of his fleeced life there, honoring him where we lost him.