From Every Wolf’s Howl:Every Wolf's Howl cover

Preface

Most of what follows is true. A little of it is invention. I believe we construct the narrative of our lives out of an amalgam of fact and fiction; memory manipulates events to fit the pattern of our perceptions, and the objective truth of the things that happen to us is filtered through our subjective interpretations. We or­der our lives like stories to give them form and allow ourselves to make some kind of sense out of them.

Most of the events in this book happened the way they’re described. A few of them probably didn’t. I have taken some liberties with omissions or shortcuts. There was an actual Lupus, an actual Mingus. There are and were the people who appear so anonymously in this book. And all of us continue to live within the same ambiguous society, a society negotiating various ideological detours on the way towards some kind of purposeful civilization.

Our lives ramble much more than stories. And this is just a story.

Pretty much all of it happened, though. A little of it prob­ably didn’t.

 

April 1996

It’s April — the nineteenth, I think. A calendar is pinned to the wall above my desk: wolves in various poses and wilder­ness settings, a Christmas gift. I look at the pictures frequently, the grid of numbered days hardly at all. My days have struc­ture even if they aren’t named or numbered. They still happen. When they’re anonymous, I prefer them. This is something I’ve learned to appreciate relatively late in life.

These days Lupus is the main reason I live by any kind of schedule at all. It’s ironic, really: I used to have little else but rou­tine, Lupus was responsible for breaking me of it; and now his routine is the one that remains, the one we share. His first walk of the day is around nine in the morning, therefore so is mine.

His second is shortly after seven p.m. So is mine. During the day we find other activities to occupy our time, going to town, perhaps, or locating a trail in the woods. Exploring, discovering.

I’ve been told that we’re attached at the hip. His choice; he’s trained me very well. In our early days together, I tried on several occasions to leave him at home alone for a few hours, but he so thoroughly punished me for it I soon gave up. He gnawed on doorjambs, turned over small tables, moved vari­ous items around, and generally created a terrible mess. Once he jumped onto my bed and, calibrating an area exactly in the centre, urinated on it. I discovered his objections as I was re­tiring for the night. Now, for those infrequent circumstances when I cannot take him with me, I have a friend come by to sit with him. He does no damage as long as someone is around, although he conveys his discontent by refusing to remain in the same room as his sitter. As soon as his sitter enters a room, he leaves to find another spot in which to sulk. I’m told he is inconsolable in my absence.

When we go to the city, he’ll wait for me in the car, but his time limit is two hours. Any longer than this and there will be reprisals. One February afternoon a couple of years ago, I got held up at a meeting, and he tried to eat my car. He shredded the padding around the windows and doors, the steering wheel, and the knob on the gearshift between the two front seats. He pried the doorjamb apart on the driver’s side. Once I got over my initial shock at the extent of the damage, I realized I was more annoyed at the lengthy nonproductivity of the meeting than I was with Lupus. And the duct tape I used to repair what I could of the damage matched the colour of the car’s interior. This made it easier to forgive him.

We were boarding in Kingston at the time. When I pulled up in the car to my parking space behind the house, my landlord approached to inspect the damage; he seemed more disgusted with what Lupus had done than I could ever have been. “I wouldn’t have a dog like that,” he’d said. “If I had a dog that did that . . .”

“I’ll live with it,” I said.

“. . . I’d put him down for it.”

I gazed at him for a moment, his true nature passing in critical review before my eyes. “It’s just a fucking car,” I said and turned away.

I no longer live in Kingston. Now Lupus and I live half an hour north of there. We have new rituals, new habits, new free­doms. I now believe I know what in life to ignore. Lupus taught me what is important; he teaches me still.

It’s morning and I’m standing at the sliding glass doors that face the backyard, sipping coffee and trying to get a fix on the weather. It’s been raining. The chill and dampness have found their way inside. Outdoors, I know, I’ll see my breath, a more modest version of the mist drifting off the lawn and weaving itself through the barren, arthritic fingers of the maples at the end of the garden. Spring is a little late arriving; today’s col­ours are various forlorn hues of brown and grey against a sky so impenetrable with cloud I feel crushed beneath it.

“Not a nice day, Loop,” I observe. Most days begin with a remark about the weather.

He lifts his head to glance at me from his place on the car­peted floor by my bed. At least, without looking at him, this is what I assume he does. After three and a half years together, certain responses have become habitual, but perhaps on this particular morning Lupus doesn’t budge, preferring to remain by my bed in a ball, his nose covered by his bushy tail, in a pos­ition I call his husky curl.

I sip my coffee, gazing out at the back garden. Waiting, I suppose.

Waiting, Lupus dozes.

Copyright © Barry Grills, 2012.