Reaching the final turn on my trail that’s just before the downed maple tree where I plan to take another rest and try some of Walter’s fresh Local 88 I lift my eyes to see something I’ve only seen twice in all my time living out here in Jacobs Pass and never as close as it is to me right now.
Standing no more than twenty-five yards in front of me and frozen as stiff as I have quickly become is a pitch black timber wolf. A full grown male, he must stand just over three feet tall at the shoulders and weigh close to one hundred pounds. I’m not aware of another word in the English language that can best describe both utter terror and infinite beauty simultaneously other than simply awe. I was trapped by this awe. A complex labyrinth that I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to find my way out of, not quite yet anyway. Turning through the mazes winding path, I find myself being lured and pulled faster around each turn.: not hoping to find my way out and overcame with a stillness that can only be known by one looking for something they don’t intend to find. Without consciously doing so my right hand slowly reached inside my left coat panel, and my fingers brushed against the cold wooden handle of my revolver.
Opposite me, as my hand was moving, the wolf’s head lowered a little as if to reply his moves were quicker than any that I may have; a dare from him to take my best shot. There we are, both of us still frozen in the middle of the path, it no longer felt like just my path at this moment, I lowered my hand and just stared at the animal reflection before me. As my hand came out of my jacket empty the wolf’s head rose once again. Knowing I wasn’t going to turn around and head the other way I decided to slip to my right a good four feet or so off the trail and lean against a small poplar tree while keeping my eyes locked on the beauty and potential beast that still remained motionless on the trail with his eyes burning, not with fear, not with anger, but with a strange cunning that comes only from knowing more than your opponent. The eyes are pouring out confidence and calm. So unlike mine, I’m sure mine appear to be at least the confidence part.
Two or three minutes had passed when, just my luck, the sound of those damn dogs came into my ears from a distance that was still a good way away and beyond the distance to my cabin. Still the black beauty never moved. Finally, I decided that now was as good time as ever to take my first taste of Walters’s new batch. Not that I ever felt that my life was in danger but how often will I get a chance to drink with a creature as magnificent as a wolf, a black beauty that seemed to be soaked with confidence and serenity. I quietly slid my bag off my shoulder and pulled one jug from it. Removing the cork with expert silence, I pulled the opening of the jug to my mouth and felt the gentle sting of the warm substance on my lips and the slow warmth it left as it traveled down. With warm confidence flowing through my veins and my mind asking for more I take another pull from the bottle. With the jug back in my lap and a feeling of comfort washing over me the wolf suddenly took a few steps forward, remaining on the trail, and stopped again.
Another sip from my jug and a few more steps forward.
One more sip and this fantastic creature was only four feet from me; me against my tree and it on the trail. The blackness of its coat was the blackness of seclusion and comfort that I often feel when the night has regained its rule over the land.
I wondered at that very moment if that was what this wolf felt constantly, solitude and comfort, forever embodied in its blackness and forever satisfied with its lot in life.
The wolf stopped after a few more steps, and I will swear to any man that it sniffed the air between us and nodded its head as if to say I understand.
An open mind and a willing soul, maybe the wolf had them as well. Maybe he could see a mirrored image before him, a glass portal that few of us get to witness. The world stood still if only for a moment; a moment etched in time so deep that it would never be erased.
After that, he trotted off with a relaxed gallop and all I could do was stand there and watch him as he disappeared around the bend in the trail and out of sight. Pulling another swig from the jug and corking it I placed it back into my sack and stepped onto, what will from now on be called our trail, and headed for home never once looking back and never once thinking the wolf did either.
With the gaze of an eagle, he watched as Joseph and the magnificent creature departed ways. He had almost wished the wolf would have sprung onto its neighbor and finished the whole plan right then and there. But, what fun would there lay in that? He felt it was his duty, his purpose in life to strike the final blow. How could he relinquish that task to any other living creature? The time was coming closer and closer. A few more night falls, and all would come to completion. Let Joseph have his limited days of wondering, his few more days of loneliness.