It felt like 10° when I woke; customary for Pennsylvania. I had a long night prior. I went to the midnight mass at Church. That only happens once a year, you know. I mean the midnight mass, not my going to Church. I go each week. You see, it was Christmas morning.
It was seven in the morning, and my parents surprisingly were not home. The previous night, they mentioned something about going to a party with friends: a late, late party that teenagers were not invited to. It didn’t bother me, though, because I kind of liked being alone.
My parents didn’t understand that; what I just said, I mean. They are both outgoing individuals (maybe too much so), who always taught me to be that way, too, but I just couldn’t be that way. At least, not until I really knew somebody. Then, well…
You hear it all the time-the typical teenager who likes solitude, but I had a secret that I couldn’t share with just anybody. I keep a green journal, more like a diary, that I have told the secret to over and over. I don’t know what my parents would do if they ever read it.
Anyway, I woke, and I made myself some breakfast. Cinnamon waffles, bacon, and two hard-boiled eggs was what I always ate on Christmas morning. I don’t know why, it just was, since I was young. Reminding myself that I was almost 19 years old, I managed to not peek into my Christmas stocking, like a child might have done. I didn’t want to ruin whatever surprise my parents were hiding in there. They were so sentimental over the holidays.
As I made myself some hazel nut coffee, however, I noticed something strange while looking out the window into the backyard. Three slats in the fence had fallen, along with some Christmas decorations and lights we had facing the alley for passing onlookers.
It was nothing unusual for this time of year, the wind always blew hard on our tiny house, but that day it seemed odd to me. As I thought about the scene, I heard a rumbling noise. I shrugged it off as being the late December wind, howling in the distance. I set my food on the kitchen table, thinking maybe I should turn on the TV or some Christmas music-you know, to get more in character.
But then, as I cut into my dry waffles, I heard the noise again.
It sounded more like a wolf the second time. Our neighbors on either side of us had many dogs, but this truly sounded like a wolf. Putting the idea out of my mind, I sipped my coffee, doused my waffles in syrup, took a bite, and scolded myself for watching too many horror movies. Also, I wondered when my folks would get home; surely, they didn’t want to miss any of the day’s jubilation.
The house seemed very quiet without the folks, almost weird. All the stockings and decorations hung in silence; it just felt… However, for it being winter, the house was also very warm. I had to give a second of thanks at how fortunate I was to have what many didn’t. A third time I heard the noise, though, and I just had to check it out. That was just too strange.
I stood, walked slowly to the back door, unlocked and opened it. Forgetting I was still in my flannel pajamas, I felt the freezing air all through my body. At first, I winced, thinking I should have put on more clothes, but then, it kind of felt good.
Snow and ice covered the yard, but I walked through it with my bare feet as if it was merely damp grass. The howl continued, although a bit quieter, as if whatever it was knew it would soon have company, but I saw nothing. Is this beast hurt or angry? I thought. Is it tired, or is it me who is tired and simply imagining things, wishing my life was more interesting than it is?
All my life, I had to imagine. You see, I’m an only child, so I invented crazy things all the time to keep my parents and I occupied, but this somehow seemed real. I had to find that noise.
A few more feet into the yard, and my feet started to feel like frozen daggers were stabbing them. Maybe I should have at least put on socks, I thought, wondering if I could even continue forward in this state. But then I saw…blood? Lots of it, trailing from the alley gate into our shed. I put all thoughts of warming myself out of my head-something was terribly wrong, and I had to find out what!
Did a dog or some other animal get trapped in our shed? I wondered. That happened before. My dad isn’t known for locking doors too often, and one day, arriving home from a weekend trip, we were horrified to find a bloodied and dead German Shepherd in the shed. Looking for refuge, it must have knocked into the door on its way inside, closing it, and the poor thing couldn’t figure out how to get out. That was not going to happen a second time.
It didn’t even occur to me that this was possibly a dangerous situation as I quickly opened the old, white door. I wanted to jump back out of reflex, but I didn’t. At first, I didn’t see anything, so I reached for the light switch, but then a low howl-a whimper, really-emerged.
It sounded as if the creature was scared, so I thought it was hiding in the back. “I’m not going to hurt you,” I said, as if it could understand. I actually believe animals can understand that. “I only wanna help, okay?” I slowly continued.
An eerie silence fell only for a second. Then, as I heard heavy panting, a peppery looking beast took one step forward before falling. Unafraid, I crept closer, bent to touch it, and, surprisingly, it let me. It was hurt-badly. If nothing else, its breaths told me. I didn’t know what happened the night before, Christmas Eve, I didn’t hear any kind of ruckus, but this animal was near death.
“Look,” I assured, as I hated seeing an injured soul, “whatever happened, I’m gonna help you.” I stroked the hair on its head, and it opened its eyes and raised its head to look at me. It was a wolf, but its face had almost a human expression; the eyes, so blue and gentle. “It’s okay,” I said, slightly nervous as I stroked its body from head to tail. “I just want to see where the damage is.”
The beast was calm, until I found a sore spot. It yelped and squirmed as I guided my hand over its belly. I drew back my hand as I felt wet and saw it was covered in blood. “Okay,” I uttered, “found it. Now to turn you over.”
It looked, then, like the animal was finished letting me do anything else to it. I didn’t know what to do: wait for my parents, call a vet? No vet would be open on Christmas day. I had to help it. I had an idea. I rose. “Wait here,” I urged, as if the wolf was really going to leave. “I’ll be right back, okay.”
I ran in the house as quickly as I could. I actually did grab some socks, which I thought was a bit selfish, but I was getting really cold. I took a flash light from the kitchen drawer, the first-aid kit, and my breakfast plate, which I hardly touched. I took a sip of coffee, ran back outside, and found the animal exactly where I left it.
“Oh, good. This is for you,” I said, trying to entice the beast as I slowly came near. I noticed, only then, that the shed smelled like an animal lived there. I tried not to wrinkle my nose. Something told me, though, that it was more afraid of me than I was it. I gave it an egg, and I didn’t even notice it chew. “Okay, I didn’t think that was gonna disappear so fast. Here.” I held up the other. It seemed to sense my concern over the situation, so it waited until I put the egg close to the ground before taking it and showing me that its chew function worked.
“Good,” I nodded. “Now I need you to turn over while you eat this bacon. Do you understand?” I held up one piece of three, and it rolled over. “Wow.” This has to be a dream-I’m certainly no Cesar Millan.
Ignoring how odd this was or how cold the air that came into the shed was, I turned on the flash light to get a good view of the injured area. In doing so, I noticed this wolf was male, but, more importantly, his stomach was torn apart! No wonder there is blood everywhere, I noted. I couldn’t fathom how he was even still alive!
I gave him another strip of bacon. “Okay, Man,” I assured myself as well. “We’ll get this cleaned up.”
I don’t know how I did it. Did I do it? He was still alive, anyway. I cleaned, I bandaged, I must have pulled some miracle out of my ass because I had no idea how to do what I just did; literally, I could barely properly bandage myself. I sighed. What a Christmas morning this is.
The wolf laid his head in my lap. “You did real good.” I brushed my hand against him. Then, an awful thought came; how to hide him from my parents. They can’t see him-my dad’ll shoot him! What is a wolf doing in the city anyway? “You aren’t strong enough yet to move.” I knew he knew that, too. “Listen to me. I won’t let you get hurt anymore, but you have to trust me and do exactly as I say, okay?” I just said way too much, didn’t I? I’m not talking to a person.
But, oddly enough, he indicated he understood.
I sat there with my mouth open, thinking this was the weirdest thing that ever happened to anyone, when a nearby car door slammed. “Oh, shit, I mean, okay.” My parents. “I have to go. I’ll come back,” I calmed my tone, trying not to jump to my feet too quickly as anxiety freely flowed. Of course, they have to come home now. “Don’t worry, I’ll come back for you. Just rest here.” I finally stood, left the shed, and ran back into the house.
The second I closed the back door, I ran to the kitchen to wash my hands and arms. I didn’t even realize I got blood all over them. I hoped it wasn’t on my clothes, because, as soon as I turned on the hot water, the front door opened, and my parents walked in.
“Merry Christmas, Logan,” her voice echoing, my mom happily announced. She walked through the kitchen, and gave me a hug. “Damn, what a crazy night. How was Church?” I figured she’d smell like alcohol, but, oddly, she didn’t. She tossed her purse and coat on her purple loveseat in the other room. She rarely missed going to Mass, but, over the years, I’ve gotten the impression that she does it to look holy, not necessarily because she enjoys going.
“Merry Christmas, Son. You hold down the fort?” Dad joked and set down the car keys.
“Merry Christmas, guys. Um, actually, I’m gonna go out later and fix the fence; the wind blew it down again,” I pointed, with my head, behind me. “Church was nice. A lot of beautiful singing,” while answering my mom, I walked to the table. I forgot about my coffee. Oh, damn, I thought, I left all that stuff in the shed, too. I’ll get it later. “What happened at the party? Sounds juicy.” I was sure whatever she said wouldn’t top my morning.
“Oh, Babe, Logan’s present is in the car,” Mom reminded, and Dad left. “Well, first, we played “Truth or Dare”, and we found out just who is helping our country and who isn’t.” In other words, my folks are going to stop being friends with anyone who didn’t vote for the same government officials, taking office soon, as they did. Yeah, they’re kinda weird like that; my mom was upset that I didn’t vote on any political issue, since turning eighteen, but to be honest, I couldn’t tell you who’s running, or, for what cause.
“Well,” I started, in that unlucky friend’s defense. “Maybe they…” That’s all I knew to say, however.
“I think Patty and Sean are getting a divorce.” She sat at the kitchen table with me. Patty and her husband, Sean, are family friends who have been married, let’s see… At least since I was born. She is 37 years old and is a home-body, and he, a dentist. To be honest, I didn’t think they’d last this long.
“Why?” I had to know.
“Well, everybody was smashed last night, except your father-what a trooper,” she added as he reentered holding a big box wrapped in blue paper. “It sort of just came out that she had been cheating on him…”
“New baby’s not even Sean’s,” Dad added, disgusted.
So, she’s pregnant now, too? “Wow, I guess you never know about people,” I was shocked, even having admitted what I said earlier. But I knew Sean could do so much better than her.
“So, did you eat breakfast… Did you look in your stocking?” Mom tried to change the tone, I think, almost hoping I did look.
“Na, uh, to both. I was going to eat, but,” I thought up a lie and thought it up quick-sorry, too many Christmas shows. “I thought I’d…wait for you guys, so we could eat together.” That’ll do it.
“Aww, how thoughtful. I hope you weren’t up long then.” She seemed to buy it. “Hon, will you put some water to boil?” she asked Dad, as he was the only person standing.
“Guys?” I couldn’t help but occasionally look in the backyard, hoping they didn’t see what I saw. “I thought we weren’t doing presents this year.” Was I supposed to buy something and forgot? I wondered. I often do that-forget if I don’t consider it a priority.
“Yeah, well,” Dad answered first, “you need this one. Go ahead and open it.” He instinctively nodded to the box.