Some wolves were driven from the forest where they lived and hunted. Their forest was destroyed and made into a mall with a J. Crew and an Apple Store, so the wolves found another forest.
But before too long, that forest was torn down too and made into a golf course. The wolves were completely out of forest. And the wolves didn’t golf.
For a time, they tried to survive in the suburbs, but there was nothing the wolves liked about the suburbs. They slept in moldy toolsheds or the backs of pickup trucks. They became gnarled and thin in the suburbs. There were no jobs there either. Even Animal Control refused to hire them to hunt raccoons and possums because the wolves were not qualified. Everyone else applying had a college education.
The wolves were forced to move towards the city. Housing was even worse for them in the city, though. Their entire pack could not find an economical way to split $3200 a month for a two bedroom. And besides, no one wanted a dog bigger than a French bulldog in any of the buildings. Each wolf was the size of fifteen French bulldogs sewn together. They applied for public housing but were denied.
Cops tried to shoot the wolves, but they were faster than the cops. The wolves darted into the subways, sprinting through the darkened tunnels. Sometimes startled by the illuminated eye of a godspeed train, they leapt over electrified rails onto tiled platforms, and bounded up new staircases, to a different block, only to repeat it all again. More cops. More shots.
It wasn’t easy on the city streets, but the wolves survived by attacking unsuspecting hot dog carts or halal trucks. Finding no natural water, the wolves developed a taste for kombucha and locally roasted organic shade-grown coffee. By Christmas Day, they were living without predators in the sewers. The quiet was worth the filth.
So they became sewer wolves, moving silently through the lowest shafts beneath the city. Each night around closing time, they would raid a dumpster outside Ray’s Famous Pizza. Or burst apart the trash cans of a McDonald’s. Still these wolves dreamt of blueberry skies and the ground stupid with leaves and moss. The taste of the air in the forests they had grown up in. They didn’t understand opera but they hoped to.
One day, having no happiness, the wolves howled amongst themselves about how they used to enjoy stealing toddlers that were left unattended on the edge of the forest or crawling through a field of flowers, back when fields with flowers had been a thing. They howled about how they used to raise these children as their own in the forest. It used to be fun.
Sometimes the toddlers would grow into fierce warriors and be two-legged comrades to the wolves, helping them hunt and sometimes coming back to the wolf pack after a scouting mission, to sing new rock ‘n’ roll songs of the day. Other times the toddlers grew up to be annoying, and the wolves could eat them for a few meals. It was a win-win.
The wolves didn’t have much trouble capturing a baby.
There was a park above the sewer lid and it was as easy as pushing the lid up and just nabbing a kid out of the stroller. Then, look at them all down there in the sewers, nine wolves just smiling down at a screaming baby girl covered in sewage.
They were all friends right away.
The child’s parents realized she was gone almost immediately but had no clue how. The police pretended they were without leads because it wasn’t in their job description to have to go down into the sewers. The department of sanitation told the police it wasn’t in their job description because they didn’t want to battle sewer wolves. So mum was the word.
The parents hung signs all over the city. The parents put up Facebook posts. Tweets. Local TV spots. Craigslist Missed Connection: You Were Our Beloved Baby Girl And You Vanished While We Took A Selfie In Front of the Fountain, Each Day Now Our Tears Could Fill That Fountain …
The wolves kept being wolves and life was pretty much the same for them except now they were listening to National Public Radio and were becoming increasingly liberal in their political beliefs.
Sewer Baby began to walk. Sewer Baby began to talk Wolf. In a way so alien to the human race, she flourished. Sewer Baby played with matches she found, and the wolves sang with happiness when her firelight flickered in their dense, shared darkness.
The girl’s parents, having lost all hope of her return, left the city.
A forest had been cleared and a new highway opened. Seeming to sprout overnight, a house popped up for them out of the dewy sod. The family wallpapered themselves in this new house. They plastered themselves in it too. They took out a loan for a Jacuzzi and, after much trouble, had another baby. The family loved the new baby. A girl. And they named the girl the same name as the baby that had been stolen by the wolves.
Each day was a puzzle briefly shining in whatever was the sunlight.
And each night was a maze lit by mostly nothing.
And so they all forgot.
They all forgot who they were and where they’d come from.
It was too painful to remember how beautiful things had been.
Notes from Guest Reader Daniel DiFranco
I picked “Wolves” because of its strong lyrical voice, sense of whimsy, and command of storytelling. The reader is instantly pulled into the journey with the wolves, and it’s not long before the deeper metaphors speaking to change, acceptance, assimilation, and forgetting, start hitting with graceful precision. It’s an Aesop fable for the modern day.