User:Erastus/Like Father, Like Son
Like Father, Like Son
It had been a long time since I had been inside this particular house. It was a rather moderate size house, not too different from its neighbors on a typical street in a small town. It was a pleasant and safe place to raise a family.
I had left it 18 years ago. I didn't like to remember why.
Moments after I rang the bell, my wife Malena opened the door. She held it open just enough that she filled the opening, leaning her right shoulder against the frame and holding the door against her left shoulder with her left hand still on the inside knob. I remembered fondly that she had done this while we had dated. She only said, "Hi," but in a way that said, "It's been too long and I don't know what to do with the years in between."
All I could say in response was, "Hi." I'm sure my tone was just as full of meaning, saying about the same thing.
We just stood there for a moment. She didn't open the door any wider. I didn't ask her to. I wanted to wrap my arms around her, but I didn't move. She didn't move either. I wasn't sure if it would be appropriate, considering what had happened, though I longed to hold her. We were still very much in love when I left.
She finally said, "I'm so glad you came. It is almost time and I don't know how I would have told him. You would be able to say it so much better."
"Jacob took Annie to the opera tonight," she said, getting right to the point. It would be safe for me to visit for the evening but I had better be gone before daybreak.
"How is he?"
Her eyes took on a weary look. She knew I wasn't referring to Jacob. "He's a teenager."
"That bad, huh?"
She smiled ruefully.
We were interrupted a moment later by a male voice. "Mom? Who is it?" She hadn't told him I was coming.
The door was gently pulled away from her. She let go of it. Once it was all the way open, I stared briefly into a pair of green eyes. I saw the flash of recognition, then the face flared in anger. He slammed the door.
Fortunately, Malena had guessed what would happen and had stepped out of the way. I hadn't been close enough to be hit, but I did feel the wind, quite strongly too, and heard the sound echo up and down the street. No doubt the neighbors would check out the guy on Malena's doorstep.
I just waited while listening to the voices through the door.
"Tyler! That was rude!"
"Mom, I can't see how you would even consider letting him into our house!"
The voices paused then resumed much more softly, though still audible. While I waited, I thought about the face I had seen. He was the same height, had the same red hair and green eyes, the same sharp-featured face, the same strong build. He hadn't yet decided that shaving was a violation of the universe, but that was the only difference.
"He's your father!" she said.
He looked exactly like I did when I was that age.
"Well, duh! After the way he abandoned us, you would let him in the house? Have some respect!"
A pause. I could almost hear her sigh. "That's not what happened. Let him in and we will explain."
The door opened slowly a moment later. When I could see his face, I could see the blend of sullen and I'd-like-to-rip-your-face-off that only teenage boys can achieve. Malena said, "Please come in." She then turned to glare at our son with an expression that said, you will behave!
I followed them on into the living room. The furnishings hadn't changed in 18 years, some of it looking worn. Malena said, "Have a seat," as she indicated the couch. She turned to Tyler. "Go up to my room and get the two photos off the dresser."
They both disappeared for a moment. Tyler returned first, holding two picture frames. I couldn't see what they held, but I had a very good idea which photos they were. He stood there a moment, glaring at me, then plopped into an armchair. He set the photos on the table beside him so he could see them and I couldn't.
I noticed Tyler's hair was pulled back in a short ponytail. It may be the era in which I grew up, but I didn't think ponytails looked good on guys. I hoped he wasn't trying to make a statement with it.
Malena returned with glasses of the lemonade I loved so much and gave one to each of us. Tyler took his and set it carefully on a coaster by the photos, then ignored it.
Tyler continued to glare at me.
I took a sip from my own glass, then said, "Tyler, please tell me about your Uncle Jacob."
"What does he have to do with you?" came the young buck challenge.
"Please, Tyler," said Malena. She took a chair that was close to me but so we didn't have to turn our heads too far to speak to one another.
He scowled, then his expression softened. "He's great! He's been the father you should have been!" His voice took on an edge. The glare and the scowl were back.
"Tyler!" said Malena.
He turned the glare and scowl towards her, then turned back to me. "He taught me to play baseball and basketball. He took me camping along with Andy." That was Jacob's son, about five months older than my own. "He taught me how to swim, took me on bike trips, and came to all my high school baseball and basketball games."
Malena said, "Jake has indeed been wonderful about the whole thing, including Tyler in just about everything he and Andrew did." The hardness in her eyes let me know that while her son thought highly of her brother, her opinion of him hadn't changed.
Tyler's description was not going to make things easy. Jake had stepped in to be a surrogate father. My estimation of the man went up a notch, in spite what he had done.
Malena turned to her son. "Your father did not abandon us. Uncle Jacob chased him away."
I saw Tyler's look of shock. "Uncle Jake wouldn't do that!"
"He actually had a good reason," said Malena.
"So this guy," he jerked a thumb in my direction, "must have deserved it!" There was a heavy dose of contempt as only a teenager can dish out.
"No, he didn't. Your father didn't deserve it at all."
"Actually," I interrupted, "if our roles had been reversed, I might have done the same thing."
She glanced at me. "I think you would have been even-handed enough to understand the situation before acting that rashly."
Tyler looked mighty confused now. "Could you guys explain all this?"
"While your father didn't deserve it, I understood Uncle Jacob's reasons. I also understood Uncle Jacob would take over the role of your father. I couldn't poison that relationship. Having Uncle Jacob do for you all the things a father would do was much better than not having any man in your life at all. I am pleased he did all he did, in spite of chasing your father away."
Tyler still looked confused. "But if this guy didn't deserve it,
what reasons could Uncle Jake have?"
"I'm a werewolf," I said.
Tyler looked stunned for a moment, then broke out into loud laughter. "Mom, you didn't tell me my father was crazy! It sounds like Uncle Jacob had a very good reason." He put on an expression of mock horror, complete with the back of one hand against his forehead. "My fate is sealed." He gave out a dramatic sigh. "You're here to tell me it is hereditary and I'll go crazy by the time I'm thirty."
"Alright. Fine. I'll nominate you for an Oscar," said Malena. "Sheesh." It had the sound of a long-running joke.
I ignored the barb, even though he wasn't that far off.
"Let me guess," I said, "that one of the photos now beside you is of your mother with her hand on a wolf's head and the other is of a wolf posing for the camera in the moonlight."
"So Mom likes wolves. So do I."
"That wolf is me."
"That's no proof!" The teenage contempt and sarcasm was ladled on thick.
"There is a more important reason why I am here," I said. "Since I am a werewolf, you are too. Your 18th birthday is in three weeks and the first full moon is two weeks after that. That will be the first time you will change."
"Mom, it's time to get this crazy man outta here," he said jerking his thumb at the door.
"He's completely serious," she said.
"Hold out your hand," I said. I demonstrated by holding my own out with the palm down. He did so, but kept a smirk on his face--sure, I'll play along with the crazy man. "I would bet you are good in gym class and excell in both baseball and basketball." He nodded. "But no one else in the locker room has as much body hair as you do." The smirk wavered a bit. "The only other person you've seen with that much hair on their fingers is me."
I had Tyler's attention now. But not his respect. "That only proves you're my biological father." I caught the distinction he was making--a crazy man like me could never claim the role of father.
I continued. "You've also had times when you have heard or smelled something that no one around you could hear or smell. Those are your wolf senses."
Tyler wasn't smirking now, though he wasn't convinced. "It could also mean that I have a good sense of smell and hearing."
"I bet that you more than like wolves. I bet your bedroom walls are covered with posters of them, much to the annoyance of Uncle Jake."
"Yeah," he said, quietly now, "Uncle Jake had a fit when he saw them. I couldn't figure out why and he wouldn't explain." But Tyler wasn't about to give in.
Malena took over. "While I dated your father I didn't know he was a werewolf. I only knew he was out of town on business a lot. I didn't realize those trips corresponded with the full moon. I found out he was a werewolf only when the full moon fell on Christmas Eve the first year we were married. A business trip then sounded like an excuse for something else. I was surprised when I found out what that something else was." She smiled warmly at me. "It wasn't what I expected."
"No kidding," said Tyler with a smirk.
"I surprised him by saying I loved him as a werewolf and I wanted to be one too." Tyler looked sharply at his mother. "Your father assured me that if he bit me while in wolf form, I would become a werewolf. Someday he can tell you how he learned that. He didn't want to chance it at the time since I was already pregnant with you. But before you were born, Uncle Jacob found out. Your father barely escaped alive."
She came and sat beside me and held my hand, then went on. "He and I had planned a life together, and even thought about contingencies in case my family found out. But in the heat of the moment, I failed him." I hugged her. When I pulled back, she gazed into my eyes. "I was torn between a life on the run with the man I loved, trying to raise a child, and a secure life with my family around me. Sad to say that security won out over love." She dropped her gaze, then face our son. "I've regretted that decision ever since."
"Couldn't you change your mind?" asked Tyler. Good. The kid still had thoughts of love winning out. I didn't want to destroy that, though it seldom worked out like that in real life.
"No, I couldn't. Uncle Jacob had vowed to track your father down, so his occasional letters rarely included a return address. Your father sent as much money as he could, but it was never enough to uproot us and settle somewhere else."
"Couldn't you sell the house?"
"No. Uncle Jake owns it. He took over payments when your father left. I had to add his name to the deed."
Tyler was getting a queasy expression. We were taking something preposterous and treating it with utmost seriousness, like it could have actually happened.
I took up the tale. "I don't know a lot about my family's history. I never knew my father and my mother died before my first change. She never said whether she knew whether I and my father were werewolves. I suspect she didn't know. She did remark about how much I resembled him. Needless to say, my first change was a big surprise." I paused for a sip of lemonade.
"From the little I have learned from fellow werewolves--yes, they can be found if you know where to look--producing offspring is a bit different from normal. If your mother had been a werewolf, my body would have sensed that and produced sperm as expected and your genetic makeup would have been a blend of both of ours. But since she wasn't, my sperm contained a full set of DNA, which replaced all of her DNA contribution. The result is that you are essentially a younger version of me."
It was now obvious that Tyler was scrambling to remain upright after the rug had been pulled out from under him. He was also desperately trying to keep his teenage cool.
"Um," he said, trying to stop the flood of information, "this is all pretty incredible. Can you prove it?" Before I could say anything, he stammered, "I mean, think of it from my point of view. I've never seen you before. You waltz in here and say that the reason why you missed my childhood wasn't because you couldn't stand the responsibility, but you are a werewolf. I would think you could come up with a better story than that. Sheesh!"
I ignored his frustration and went to the actual question. "No, I can't prove it, at least not now. We could each get a DNA test to show our identical makeup." I let him ponder that for a moment. "And during the full moon next week, you can watch me change."
"No, no, no, that won't be necessary." There was a look of panic in his eyes.
"Oh, come on, Tyler!" said his mother. "There's nothing to be afraid of."
"But he'll be a werewolf!"
"And you're being an idiot. Wolves don't blindly attack humans. And even werewolves are gentle. Just think about that picture beside you. Your father in wolf form was only dangerous to squirrels."
His face puckered up. "You eat squirrels?"
"And several other kinds of small animals." I smiled broadly, showing my teeth. He didn't get the joke. "To put your mind at ease, I don't become a ravening beast, free from civilization. I keep my human mind and can still recognize friends. And though I enjoy a night or two of freedom each month, I think that touch of wildness makes me better able to cope with the demands of being a civilized person."
He pondered that a while. I knew it was a lot to digest. I wished he could have learned about it while growing up so that it all felt natural, but even a five week warning was better than it had been for me. Discovering you are a werewolf in the midst of your first change was not something I would recommend.
"Does it hurt?" asked Tyler.
"Does what hurt?" asked Malena.
"The change! Does it hurt?"
I felt a very happy smile spread across my face. "It is a wonderful experience! I daresay, it is even better than sex."
Tyler smirked at that. To a healthy teenage boy, nothing is better than sex.
"So." I pulled out my palm-calendar. I had learned long ago to keep careful track of when the moon was full and an astronomy program connected to a date planner made sure the proper time was always blocked off. "The next full moon is May fifth, which is Thursday of next week. I would strongly suggest you visit me then to get used to the idea." I glanced at Tyler.
He grimaced. "I had better get my own calendar." He dashed out of the room and was back a moment later, poking at his own palm-gadget with the stylus. "School night, with a test in my English class on Friday."
"You almost sound relieved," I said in a mock-accusing voice. "One might think you are trying to get out of it. This is not something to take lightly. You will have to deal with this for the rest of your life."
"No, no. I really do have a test in English next week." He turned the palm around so I could see the screen--not that I could read it from where I sat.
"Can't you skip studying for one little test?"
He became defensive. "It's not a little test. And I have to ace it if I want to stay class valedictorian."
I nodded, "Congratulations! Well then. The first full moon after
your birthday is Friday, June third."
He poked at the palm for a second, then looked stricken. "That's the night of the Senior Prom!" He looked at me and said with a straight face. "Sorry. I can't join you then. I'm taking Lily to the Prom. We've been planning this for months."
"I don't think you quite understand yet." I held my gaze steady. "You are a werewolf. That is the first full moon after your eighteenth birthday. You will become a wolf that night as soon as the moon is above the horizon. It will happen whether you are at the Prom or not. There is nothing neither you nor I you can do about it. If it happens while you are at the Prom, the results will be disastrous. People will not treat you well. I'm sorry. I'll make sure you and Lily get another elegant evening. It just can't be that one."
Tyler looked like he was about to cry. "Mom?" If dad said no, try to appeal to a higher authority.
She spoke in a gentle voice. "I'm sorry, Tyler. He's right."
I watched as his crushing disappointment gave way to anger. "All right! That's it! I've had enough of your silly games. You talked about it so naturally, you almost had me convinced." He stood. "Well, I don't believe you. I'm outta here." He headed out of the room, muttering, "Werewolves! Ha! That's a good one!"
"Tyler!" Malena called out. He didn't slow down. Moments later I heard an upstairs bedroom door slam.
Uncle Jake was a pretty cool dude for an adult. He seemed to remember what being a teenager was like and didn't hassle me on a lot of things--things he said really didn't matter. Strange haircut? Didn't matter. Getting good grades? Did matter. A lot. I could also talk to him about anything without getting preached at. He didn't even flinch when Gordy, my friend at the time, showed up wearing lipstick.
So the day after my dad showed up--a Saturday--I went over to see him. I saw he was trimming the hedges, so stepped into the garage to get the second set of clippers before joining him.
"Hi, Tyler," he said, as I made the clippers snap. "You missed a good opera last night."
I chuckled as I worked. It was good to get the muscles going after the strange conversation yesterday and the restless night. "According to my definition of opera, there is no such thing as a good one."
"I bet you couldn't convince Andy to go either."
"Bingo. He was off with Joanne to some rock concert. I dunno." He waived a hand around before resuming his work. It had been obvious for a long time that he paid no more attention to our music than we did to his. But he had long assured us it was one of those things that didn't matter.
"So were you out with Lily last night?" he asked as he stepped back to check his work.
"Nah. She went with some friends to a chick-flick."
"One of those movies with a sign saying, "Men not Allowed," hmm?
"Don't tell me you stayed home and," he paused dramatically, "Studied?" I could hear the capital letter. "And on a Friday night. Aren't you taking this Valedictorian thing too far."
I took my time answering him, pretending to study my own work. "We had a visitor last night."
"My dad showed up."
There was just the sound of the clippers for long enough that I glanced at Uncle Jake. He was watching me. "Sure it was him?"
"Oooh yeah. Except for the beard and short hair, it was like staring at my face in the mirror."
I glanced at Uncle Jake. He had given up on working the clippers. He said, "What did he say?"
"He told me this goofy story about how you chased him away because he's a werewolf. Of all the reasons to give for skipping out on being a father, this has got to be the stupidest."
"Did he say anything else?" Uncle Jake set his clippers down. "Perhaps about you?"
There was a chill in his voice I had not heard before. I set my own clippers down. "He spouted off this nonsense that I'm his genetic double and that I'm a werewolf too." Uncle Jake was frowning. "He even said I can't take Lily to the Prom as that's the night of the first full moon after I turn 18. I mean, he hadn't even met Lily and out of the blue he tells me I can't go to the Prom with her.
His next action was a total surprise. He stepped forward and embraced me in a hug, something he hadn't done since I was 10. He then reached up and gave my ponytail a playful tug, an action that didn't make sense. "I've dreaded this moment," he muttered. Then he said. "You've been a son to me, a brother to Andy. I'm sorry I have to do this." He sighed heavily.
He backed away. "I'm sorry Tyler. I have to protect the rest of my family. You must leave now and you can't come back."
"Your father wasn't dreaming up wild stories; he really is a werewolf. And if he says you're one too, then for the safety of my family I must assume he is right. I won't allow you to harm Andy or, through some blood brother pact, turn him into a werewolf. Please leave now. Don't make it any harder on yourself or on me."
"But Uncle Jake, that's crazy!"
"No, it's not. If you can show me your ponytail at the end of summer, I'll let you return."
I hesitated, first wondering what my ponytail had to do with it, then thinking that if I left now, my love for him would be gone and I wouldn't want to come back at the end of summer, even if I wasn't a werewolf.
"Get out of here, Tyler, before I get the gun I wanted to use on your father!"
I turned and ran.
Along the way, I heard Uncle Jake shout. "I think I still have those silver bullets."
I got into my car, slammed the door, and collapsed, crying, against the steering wheel. It was several minutes before I could see clearly enough to attempt to drive the two miles home. Uncle Jake ignored me.
News travels fast in a small town. Uncle Jake wouldn't have said much, but he had to tell Andy. And that was enough.
Andy had been more than a friend and surrogate brother while I was growing up; he had been my best friend. We were evenly matched in many ways -- same height, same strength, same ability in sports (which made us a formidable pair in basketball) -- but quite different in appearance. Looking at his roundish face, brown hair and eyes, and minimal body hair, one would not know we were cousins. Since we were both about to graduate, our basketball coach was lamenting next year's chances.
"Hey, Andy," I greeted him when I saw him near the high school on Monday morning.
"Go away." Andy said it in such a way that I knew he was hurting from his father's decision as much as I was. I suspected he understood it even less. I didn't attempt to try to explain the situation; logic wasn't involved.
The other members of the basketball hanging around Andy snapped their heads in Andy's direction at that comment. Hearing Andy say that to me was going to draw questions.
By my third hour class, the desks around me would stay empty as the other students sat as far from me as they could. Students even sat in the front row rather than next to me.
After fourth hour, I seemed to have this force-shield bubble around me as I walked down the hall. The other students gave me plenty of space while trying to act cool in the face of the threat my mere existence conjured in their minds. Thankfully, no one tried to beat me or even say nasty things. I guess they were afraid I would come back for revenge during my first change.
After fifth hour, I found a note in my locker from Lily saying she was canceling our date to the Prom and ending our relationship. The note assured me that she would find someone to take her and the dress I had selected for her would not be wasted.
By Tuesday noon, I was considered to be such a disruption to the rest of the school that I was given a desk in the Assistant Principal's office where I could listen in on my classes through the PA system. Of course, the Assistant Principle avoided his office while I was there except to lock the system to the proper room each hour.
On Wednesday, I was encouraged to keep my grades up, even though there was no way I would be allowed to be the Valedictorian Speaker at Commencement. I guess my personal honor was the only thing that
prompted me to actually complete my classes rather than chuck the whole thing.
The fact that I hadn't done anything to deserve all that nasty treatment was ignored by everyone.
It was going to be a long seven weeks to graduation.
On the afternoon of June third, I stopped at Malena's house late in the afternoon shortly after Tyler would have gotten home from school. I was there to take my son out to my cabin in the woods for his first change. When I walked into the kitchen of Malena's house, he waived around the sandwich he was about to take another bite out of and practically shouted, "You've ruined my life!"
"What would ruin your life would be to be seen turning into a werewolf in public," I countered, "Because you would likely not survive the experience. As long as it is rumor, they won't kill you."
Tyler resumed eating. Between bites, he said, "Uncle Jake banished me." A bite. "Lily dumped me." A bite. "I now sit in the Assistant Principal's office because I"m considered a disruption." A bite. "My life is over and it is all your fault."
That sandwich was reminding me of my own hunger, but I had other things to do right then. "I see you haven't killed yourself from the depths of your despair." He glared at me between bites. "Your high school life is over in two weeks anyway. It is time to step into the adult world. You're just going to do it a bit differently than the rest of your classmates. Since you are free tonight, you have no excuse not to join me. I can be with you during your first change."
"Yeah, I do have an excuse." He took a chug of milk. "I don't trust you."
"How many sandwiches have you eaten since lunch?"
He looked confused at the change of topic. "Uh." He glanced at the nearly empty packages of ham and of cheese, the decimated loaf of bread, the smudges of mayonnaise all around the plate. "Five."
"And how many do you usually eat between lunch and dinner?"
"Are you still hungry?"
"Uh, yeah." He looked surprised at the realization that he could eat so much and still want more.
"Then we had better hurry. You're hungry because your body is gathering fuel for the change. If we leave within a half hour, we can get to my cabin before nightfall. It will be safe to be a werewolf there."
From his expression I could see he finally accepted what I was telling him. He finally saw it in his own body. "I had better make some more sandwiches," he said. 'What else do I need?"
"Forget the food. I've got plenty in my truck for both of us. Just grab your toothbrush and some clothes for tomorrow."
Tyler was ready in only six minutes.
After we had gone several miles in silence, Tyler asked, "So, what's it like?"
How I had longed to tell my son about me! Releasing all that longing at once would surely overwhelm the kid, so I worked to keep it all in check and answer what he asked. There would be time for the rest. There would finally be time.
I smiled--a huge grin--as I shifted my thoughts to the question at hand. "It is wonderful!" First, the change itself is a powerful experience, then it is followed by a night in which I feel connected with nature in ways that aren't possible in my human body."
"Does the change hurt?"
"Not that you'd notice." He gave me a quizzical look. "Your body is first filled with endorphins and that makes pain irrelevant."
"Then what happens?"
"Over the course of about ten minutes you turn into a wolf."
"Like the wolfman?"
"No, no. Like a real wolf. Four paws on the ground. Indistinguishable from the original model."
"That means there is a whole lot that has to change."
"That's right," I said, nodding.
"Which is why I'm so hungry." He reached into the cooler for more sandwiches and handed one to me.
The talking continued from there. I talked about how I found out I was a werewolf (the hard way), how I met his mother, what I've been doing since I was chased away. He talked about his childhood, what Uncle Jake had done for him, what he thought of the situation now.
After driving for a few hours and consuming a great deal of food, we arrived at my cabin. It was in a secluded area on land that bordered a state park. I felt lucky to have such a getaway that could shield me from a world that didn't understand me.
"Here we are," I announced as I turned off the key.
It was a tiny place. A bedroom and bathroom filled the north half and a common room took up the rest. The cabinets and table were now showing their age. Water came from a well and the stove, furnace, and lights used the canister of propane outside. A five foot wide porch with a railing extended out the south end. It allowed a view of the sunset on one side and moonrise on the other.
Tyler checked it out--which didn't take long--as I put my cooler on the conter (no need to start the refrigerator) and our minimal stuff in the bedroom. After Tyler was conceived, I had bought a cot, thinking my child would eventually share my cabin with me. I didn't think so much would happen in between. I set up the cot, even though we wouldn't sleep until morning. It barely fit between the bed and the closet.
Tyler returned from his quick tour. "Now what?"
"We wait for the change." I glanced at my watch. "Sunset in twenty minutes."
He looked surprised. 'That's it? There isn't anything we need to do to prepare?"
"Take your clothes off." I got an expression that said that I must be joking. "Once the change comes and the endorphins kick in, you will take your clothes off. The clothes will look nicer if you hang them up while you can think about it rather than leave them in a heap on the floor or in the mud." He smiled at that. "And don't forget to remove all jewelry, including studs in piercings. The change isn't kind to them."
He followed my lead, taking everything off but the briefs and hanging everything up on hangers or hooks.
The stud in his right ear was small enough that I hadn't noticed it before. As he took it out, I said, "In the morning, your ear won't be pierced anymore. I know they are fashionable, but you'll probably get tired of re-piercing your ears every month."
"Lily gave this to me as a Christmas present. What am I going to tell her when she sees I'm not wearing it?"
"Sorry," I said, trying to be as gentle as possible. "I didn't make the rules." I didn't dare remind him that Lily had dumped him.
He then followed my out to the deck to watch the sunset. We sat in the two towel-covered chairs I kept for this purpose.
As soon as the last bit of the sun dipped below the horizon, I slipped off my briefs, dropped them inside the door, and turned my attention to the east. Tyler did the same.
Tyler asked, "So what happens next?"
"Enough questions," I commanded. "Just enjoy it."
A tip of the moon peeked above the horizon. My body responded to the light with a flood of endorphins. I felt like I could float away as I heard Tyler giggle in delight.
"Put your hands on the rail," I said. "It makes the transition from biped to quadruped easier." He followed my lead.
I watched the change proceed through my son as I felt it in myself-- the emerging rhinarium and muzzle, the relocating ears, the growing fur, the shrinking fingers and reshaped limbs, the sprouting tail. It was so wonderful to finally have him beside me, able to share in the experience.
The moon stood well above the horizon now, big and fat and bright. If I didn't have wolf eyes, I would have marveled at the orange color. I greeted the moon with a howl as I always did once the change was complete. Tyler blended his howl with mine and soon figured out how to harmonize his with mine for the best song.
We pulled our forelegs off the rail and gazed into each other's eyes for a moment. No words were necessary to get across what we were both thinking--race ya!
The race didn't last long.
I darted from the porch, but instead of hearing Tyler's paws hit the ground behind me, I heard a thunk against the boards of the porch. I stopped and looked back to see him sprawled close to the steps and staring at me. He barked at me a couple times.
Oops. I had forgotten an important part of his first change. He didn't know how to walk as a wolf yet. I hurried back onto the porch and licked his muzzle to show I wasn't going to abandon him.
I couldn't exactly teach him how to walk as a wolf, but if he was the athlete his high school records indicated he was, it wouldn't take him long to figure it out. What I could do was walk the length of the porch as an example.
Tyler rose clumsily to his paws, then took a moment to watch my gait. He was soon trying it himself, first consciously moving one leg at a time, then mastering it well enough to negotiate turning around. I imitated his movements until he got the idea that perhaps he could imitate mine. I then led him through a variety of maneuvers to show him what his body was capable of. He was soon pacing me up and down the length of the porch and keeping up as I increased my speed.
Now it was time for that race.
I darted from the porch with my son right behind me and we ran into the woods. I led for a while, but soon my son passed me and chose the trail. We played. We followed scents. We marked trees and howled at the moon. We chased squirrels and rabbits and caught a few for a midnight snack. We had the kind of night in which whatever we did gave us a feeling of connection to each other, to the woods, to all of nature, and to the universe. We were a part of nature, accepting it on its own terms, not trying to force our will on it and subdue it.
As with all such nights, it was over too soon. I could see the moon was getting close to the western horizon and set my path back to the cabin. Tyler, of course, tried to divert me a few times, but soon gave in to the inevitable. We jumped onto the porch as I felt the second rush of endorphins.
With one final howl at the western moon, I stood on hind legs and rested paws on the porch's railing. Tyler did the same. I watched him as the change ran in reverse. As soon as I had hands and enough balance for two feet, I took up the brushes that hung beneath the rail and handed one to Tyler. We both began to brush away the fur that was now loose. It created quite a mess at our feet, as it always does. What the wind didn't blow away, the birds would gather up for nests.
"Wow!" said Tyler once he got his voice back, "That was incredible! We get to do this every month?"
"Yeah, we do." It felt like my grin matched his.
Tyler brushed the hair out of his forehead, but was puzzled that none came off his cheeks and chin. He then ran the brush over his scalp, "My ponytail is gone! What happened to it?"
"Your human hair has essentially been replaced with fur." The puzzled expression remained. "Come on, lest go inside. I'm sure you'll want a big breakfast before you go to bed. I can explain while I cook."
"I'm not sleepy," he protested.
"It will all catch up with you in about 30 minutes when the endorphins wear off. Then you won't be able to keep your eyes open."
We went inside, putting on our briefs by the door and not bothering with anything else. I pulled eggs and other supplies out of the cooler and set to work. "Scrambled?"
"Yeah. How'd you guess?"
"I like my eggs scrambled, too."
He saw that I would be busy with beating and cooking a dozen eggs so he manned the toaster.
I resumed my explanation. "Each hair follicle grows hair for a while, then lets the strand fall out as it rests before starting the cycle over. They all rest at different times so you don't go bald with each cycle. On the human head, the cycle is long enough that individual strands can get several feet long. The hair elsewhere on your body has a much shorter cycle, so only manages to grow an inch or so. That same short cycle is what keeps an animal from getting long fur and makes them shed a lot."
I stirred the pan of eggs. He popped bread in the toaster and set to buttering what had just come out. "Your body knows how much hair to grow to be appropriate for a wolf and how much to shed the next day so that you can pass for human. But the hair on your head--both scalp and beard--is another matter. The first change pushes out all the long hair inappropriate for a wolf and replaces it with fur. But now that it has done that once, it keeps that fur around while in human form."
"Why does it do it that way? My body knows how to grow hair quickly.""
"But it doesn't know how long to grow it so that it was the same as before." I could see he understood.
During a break in his buttering, Tyler looked in the cooler to see what else is there. He pulled out a bottle. "White grape juice? I've never tried that."
"I suspect this will become your new favorite."
After buttering more toast, he set out two place settings. He said, "I have two more weeks of school. Growing a beard overnight will just get me into more trouble than I'm in already."
"You're right. You'll have to shave until graduation. It means that until it grows out again, you'll have a naked face as a wolf." Tyler grimaced at that comment. "But two weeks to the next change should give you a fair beard in time." I paused to stir the pan.
"There are both good and bad aspects," I went on. Tyler eyed me. "The good is you will never go bald and never need a shaver or barber again. Shaving the morning of graduation will be the last time you ever shave."
He chuckled. "That sounds pretty good. And the bad?"
"It can be a hassle to brush it so that it doesn't look wild."
"I can handle that."
"One more disadvantage--no more experimenting with your looks. This is your hairstyle until you die."
He gave me a pained expression, then cracked a smile. "Hairstyle isn't all that important. I learned that from Uncle Jake."
"So why the radical ponytail?"
"I hate getting my hair cut. I only shaved because the school insisted on it."
"Then being a werewolf is an advantage," I said. He smiled.
The eggs were done, so I served them and Tyler and I set to eating. "You're right," he said after a moment, "I'll be asking Mom to get white grape juice from now on. How'd you know?"
"The same way I know a lot of your likes and dislikes--We have the same DNA."
"Oh." His grin was tinged with embarrassment.
I could tell when the endorphins wore off. We lapsed into silence an concentrated on eating. Tyler suddenly yelled, "My ponytail!" as one hand grabbed the air at the base of his neck. His face crumpled just before he buried it in his hands. A second later I could see his shoulders shake.
I was around the table in a flash gathering him in my arms. His hug was tight as he sobbed quietly against my neck. "Uncle Jake?" I asked.
I felt him nod against my shoulder. He didn't need to tell me anymore.
My son had just realized his known world had collapsed. His missing ponytail, I surmised, was a way for Jake to confirm that Tyler was a werewolf. Tyler could no longer see the man who had been his father and the boy who had been his brother. He had been yanked from childhood into adulthood too suddenly and needed to mourn what had been lost before embracing what he had gained. I felt the tears drip off my bare shoulder.
When the sobs subsided I said, "I'm sure you remember the story of Moses." I felt his head nod again. Of course, he would. Uncle Jake would have made sure of that. "Most people don't think much about Moses and his childhood, how he was raised in the family that would eventually be his enemies. It was quite a shock for him to find out he couldn't be both Egyptian and Hebrew, both a part of the family he had known and the family of his heritage. It's the same shock to find out you can't be both Uncle Jake's nephew and a werewolf."
His sobbing subsided, but I continued to hold him. "Uncle Jake is a fine man. I'm sure he and Andy are hurting as much as you are. It is too bad that fear makes humans do stupid things.
"You may have lost some people very dear to you today. But you have also gained me. I won't leave you, Tyler. I will guide you into the life of the werewolf. It isn't an easy life, but world needs our perspective. We can act like a regular member of society yet know what it's like to be a persecuted minority."
I felt a shuddering sigh and heard a sniffle. "Come now. To bed. We've been up all night. Your problems will look more manageable after some sleep." He raised his head. I handed him a tissue from the table. He blew his nose as I grabbed a second one to wipe my shoulder. He allowed a grin to pull at the corners of his mouth. Ii guided him to the bed and let him collapse onto it. He was asleep within moments. I made it onto the cot before sleep overtook me.
It was midafternoon when I awoke. I had more eggs prepared by the time Tyler stumbled from the bedroom in response to his hunger and the cooking smells. "I don't cook anything fancy on werewolf weekends," I said. He was soon helping with toast. I didn't talk much as he seemed too sleepy.
We were soon packed and on our way. The exertion of packing must have cleared Tyler's brain a bit, as he was willing to talk.
"Did you always spend your change alone at this cabin?"
"Hardly. I frequently join a pack about an hour from here."
His eyes got big. "A whole pack of werewolves?"
"You were thinking we were the only werewolves around?" I grinned at him. "Actually, there are thirty packs around the country with two right here in the state."
"How large is your pack?"
I grinned again. "Silly boy." He grinned in response. "Yeah, there are unattached females." His smile spread in response. "And you can meet them all the month after next after your beard grows in."
"Sounds good," he said.
He sat there for a while, deep in thought, then said, "Mom said she wanted to join you as werewolf, didn't she?"
"Um, yeah, she did."
"Don't you think it's about time she did?" I glanced at him. "I mean, with Uncle Jake not wanting to see me again, there's no reason not to do it, is there?"
The more I thought of it, the more I liked the idea. I nodded to Tyler. "Including her in our next trip sounds very good. Though I think you had better leave the biting to me."