Can two misfits find redemption, love and happiness naturally?.
"What is this place?" Little Bit, a female grey wolf asked her mate, Frank, as she slowly and cautiously walked about the abandoned ranch house. Most of the furniture remained, but it was dirtier than the bigger wolf could remember. Somebody left the front door open or maybe somebody kicked it open, Frank didn't know.
"It's the people den where I grew up," Frank barked back. "I wanted to show you this place...It be good to whelp here..."
"Well it is close to that time," Little Bit smiled. "How did you grow up in a people den? People hate wolves...They shoot us, poison us and hit us with Winnebago moving things..."
"Hey let's go to my old room and I'll tell you," Frank smiled and then licked her ear. "I wonder if my old bed is here..."
"What's a bed?" she grinned.
John Stone wondered exactly how this happened while laying in bed staring into a black void, more like a cloud, between him and the ceiling. To his left, snoring loudly is a one-hundred-pound wolf named Frank, and snoring louder yet next to the mass of fur is Erica. He looked over at the wolf, who seemed to be blissfully happy by the expression on his face and then at the back of Erica's sleeping bonnet. He carefully reached past the wolf and poked her.
"What?" she groggily muttered. "I told you...Is it time to get up?"
"Babe, there's a wolf sleeping with us..." John quietly whispered.
"And?" she replied smacking her lips and turning over. "You know Frank's scared of the dark..."
"He's only seven in people years," Erica answered groggily.
John bit his tongue and counted to ten. "He's a wolf...The others don't get scared of the dark."
"Well Frank's taking his time growing up," she replied. "Besides you're the one that shot their mother..."
"Okay you win," John grumbled and steadied himself as Frank rolled over onto his back, still snoring.
"Just as it should be..." Erica whispered. "Go to sleep...Once I give the children their morning schooling I'll do something for you...Go to sleep."
'I should've left her in Iowa...' John thought to himself. He was ready too, they had been on the road for about four months when the cash ran low at the Sputnik Motel along a lonely highway in corn country. No work around and their only hope was to pick something up in the next town over or steal something. Well the second one happened, sort of. He had just checked out of the motel, Erica was throwing out garbage and he was checking the oil in his nearly dead car. She came back from the dumpster, with a suitcase, orders him in the car and then as they drive off she tells him about the luggage.
The brown refugee from a pawn shop had three million in cash in it. She also threw away several kilos of cocaine on principle. Principally, avoiding a felony. That didn't surprise him as Erica was the one with the criminal record...All four feet eleven inches of her. He never could get her to tell him what she spent twenty-years in Leavenworth for. Anyhow, that was Erica's checkered past.
They met in Steelville, Missouri by accident. John for his part spent the better part of two years drifting about running from himself, then he met Bonnie Parker's stand in and it wasn't love at first sight, it was boredom and desperation. Same for her. They grew on each other anyway, and after her family issues were resolved both left Missouri and floated about.
Then she found the multi-million-dollar stash at the Sputnik.
Once they scrapped the car, they lived in a Winnebago until they landed at Three Forks, Wyoming. Well he picked up work as a night watchman at a feed lot, she found a ranch house for sale, spent a mint on it but the view was incredible and then lived in solitude away from the world. Until about a year ago.
John was walking back from the stables where he had been winterizing the Winnebago when he heard, if not outright sensed it, paws behind him. He stopped walking toward the ranch house, turned around and about twenty-five paces behind him is a she-wolf, ears back fur bristling. After a brief half-second of thought, he drew his .45 Long Colt caliber revolver and shot.
What impressed him is that he hit her between the eyes, what didn't impress him was digging a grave for her out back where a cattle range used to be god knows how many years ago. Then Erica returned with the supplies for winter and as they were talking, he leaning on a long-handled spade, she leaning against the pick-up truck, several wolf puppies, about three weeks old appeared meandering about between them and the stables.
Only a handful at first, half blind and stumbling about whimpering, seemingly following their former mother's path.
Then two more.
Six in total, four males and two females.
He saw problems, Erica saw the children she missed out on. At first bottle feeding was a chore until John got the idea of making a horizontal rack out of wood and covering the bottles under an old grey rug. Then Erica got an idea that convinced him she had lost her mind someplace. She knitted a vest with eight internal pockets for the aforementioned bottles and laid on the floor and handled all six at once.
The puppies of course grew up thinking Erica was their mother. The locals called her the crazy wolf lady. She of course, though John wasn't sure it was an act, dressed the part. Wearing all black full-length dresses and bonnets and veils. Erica could sew together anything. In any case, that's how he ended up in bed with a munchkin and a wolf.
John had just finished doing dishes as it was his chore for Saturday mornings, his dishes, her dishes, and a half dozen stainless bowls. Erica thought it important to cut their normal meals into thirds for family time. She entertained herself by training the wolves sort of. She sat in the living room with all six of them holding up a small chalkboard with a vowel on it. The pack had learned to howl in different tones according to the letter. Erica also claimed that Frank could almost read. Afterward she gave them singing lessons, naturally Erica played the piano by the hearth as she did it. Then she hit John with her most recent ludicrous notion. Take the boys fishing for quality time while she had the 'girl talk' with Amanda and Stephanie.
"They're wolves," John sputtered as they stood in the dining room. "This has gone too far! First it was your nursing vest and now this? Where do you get these notions? And what makes you think you can become a wolf mother?"
"Why not a wolf mother? I was also a physician's assistant in the pen, and before I got locked up I was a psychologist in the Army..."
"I was in the Army too! And that there, Army psychology is called medical malpractice in civilian life...Really Erica! I love you to death plus ten years but come on!"
"They're smart," she insisted staring up at him. Around her the wolves seemed to huddle and just stare up too. "I'll prove it!"
She then walked into the living room, placed a red ball on the floor, a book and a stuffed rabbit. Returning with a chalk board she wrote the word 'ball' on it, showed it to John and then showed it to the wolves and said, "Frank! Get it!"
Frank trotted off and returned with the ball.
She then wrote 'plushie' and showed it to the wolves which seemed to as a group be brimming over with anticipation and said "John Jr. Get it!"
"Okay you got trick wolves..." John replied. "Proves nothing."
"Well suit yourself," she laughed. "Tell one of them to get the book..."
The pack stared at him with the same expression Erica did.
"Okay...Stephanie...You know what to do," he chuckled.
Stephanie and Amanda nipped at each other's neck as both went for the book and brought it back to him.
"See?" Erica chirped both eyebrows raising as joy beamed from her face. "Daddy's little girls love him! Now take your sons fishing..."
"John Wayne Stone! You're drunk!" Erica yelled as he stood in the living room covered in mud, wet and holding a brown bag filled with a greasy fish sandwich. She then looked the wolves over, pointed and screamed, "And they're smashed too! What did you do to them? You corrupted the morals of four underage Canis lupis! What kind of example is that!"
John shrugged as John Jr. fell over.
"You drove drunk in a pick-up truck with your boys!" she hissed, fire shooting out her eyes and smoke from her ears. "How did you get so filthy? You're all muddy and smell like cheap liquor and cigarettes! Oh, Praise the Lord Jesus!" She then turned to the other wolves who were watching everything intently, while sitting pretty and wearing colored bandannas. One had a bat of yarn in her mouth while the other had a string of yarn from a paw leading to a yarn ball. "See? That's the Big Bad wolf I was telling you about! Fall in love with that and this could happen to you!"
Stephanie, looked over at her sister and howled the phrase, "See? I told you we should've gone fishing! Looks like fun!"
Amanda barked back, "What? I can't get over the fact we're adopted! And I look so much like mom!"
"See!" Erica continued unabated. "They agree! And what do you have to say for yourself?"
"Have a fish sandwich," John belched and shoved the package at her.
"And what happened to the real fish!" Erica yelled standing up on her toes trying to get into John's face. "Please tell me you didn't take them to that den of villainy and treachery known as Zelda's Gentlemen's Club?"
"Frank ate them," John hiccupped. "Pulled in a palomino and couldn't get it off the hook fast enough..."
"Well I was talking to the rest of them and Frank fell into the river and got swept away...He can't swim well enough so I went in after him. Yeah we talked honest...I was showing them how to bait a hook and talked to them about their mother and me and how to deal with things like that when Frank fell in and I went for a swim too...Then we left and on the way home we stopped in Butte Shoals at Carol's Cafand got the sandwich...Well sitting at the bar Frank and the boys came in so I figured I needed a beer and might as well show them how to tie one on. I felt stupid sitting there with the boys sitting next to me...Caused a bit of a stir at first...Especially when they began singing along with the jukebox."
"Okay...Fair enough," Erica replied calming down slightly. "Now who drove?"
"Frank did," John smiled.
"Frank drove the truck? His feet wouldn't reach the floor. How much did you drink?"
"Well we just cruised at idle," John hiccupped again while grinning. "You're right he can read...He even looked both ways at the rail road crossing..."
"Go to bed while I pray for your eternal soul..." Erica replied sternly.
"So, what did dad tell you?" Stephanie asked Frank as they lounged in their bedroom. Each had their own 'wolf' bed, John made the wooden frames. Erica naturally, knitted and stuffed the mattresses and made matching blankets.
"We were adopted..." Frank shrugged.
"And I look so much like mom too," Amanda whimpered.
"He was a police officer once...Like Sheriff Josey," Frank yawned. "He comes from a place called Pennsylvania That's Back East...He said he had to shoot a man named Crackhead With A Knife. He said it tore him up for years...."
"He said he had to shoot our real mother," Mike interjected. "You know those wild wolves we met last time at the Mountain of the Big Stone Faces? Maybe he ain't all that.... Remember what they said?"
"The ones that talked to us through the moving house door? They said people hated wolves," Stephanie gawked. "That's what they said."
"Then why'd they adopt us?" Amanda asked blankly. "I look so much like mom! I can't believe I'm not going to evolve into a female like her...And we look so much alike!"
"He feels bad about it like he did when he shot Crackhead With A Knife..." Frank answered.
"Wow," Stephanie whispered in astonishment.
"What did mom tell you?" Frank asked after a long pause.
"She came from another place than here," Amanda answered. "She said she fell in with the wrong pack and how fun it was at first...How she partied allot and had fun but the men she was with were like the Big Bad Wolf...They had fast moving houses with wheels and had plenty of food and the stuff that knocked Mike out...They were real bad and she got thrown into the stockade..."
"Stockade? What's a stockade?" Mike asked.
"It's like the pens at the veterinarians..." Amanda explained. "And she was there as many winters as we have paw nails...In a cage..."
"She shot somebody like Crackhead With A Knife?" Frank exclaimed. "I didn't think she had that in her!"
"No, she said she sold stolen goods from a PX to somebody named The Rush Ins..." Amanda shrugged. "I look so much like mom! I can't believe we're adopted..."
"John Jr." Frank said as he pawed his brother. "You okay?"
"My head hurts..." he mumbled.
"You were born first...What do you think?" Stephanie asked him.
"They're lucky they found us..." he observed. "Imagine traveling all over from Pennsylvania That's Back East and not having a pack to be in."
"Yeah that would really be a bummer..." Amanda yawned. "I guess being adopted means my tail isn't going to drop off when I get older..."
"Well that's my story..." Frank finished as Little Bit refused to get on the creaky bed.
"What do you think happened to them," she asked stretching out on the carpet.
"Don't know," Frank replied. "After a while they told us to go and start our own wolf pack because we were old enough. After meeting you I got caught up with wolf stuff...Dad said get a job and my job is being a wolf. Haven't seen them in a few winters. I stopped back every once and a while and they just left. Mom disappeared first and a few seasons later dad was gone. Don't know where...He left all the people things here just about..."
"Hmmm," Little Bit grunted thoughtfully. "Think they went to Pennsylvania That's Back East?"
"I don't know, but I think he went to the same place mom did...Living without your own pack I can't imagine it...." Frank smiled while reminiscing and dreaming about their future.