The Werewolf and the Boy in the Picture – part 1

(I’d originally intended to run this short story during October, with my Halloween-themed posts. Obviously, that didn’t happen; I was lucky to churn out the posts that I did. So, here it is. For more short stories featuring my werewolf cop, check out 5 Cannibals, 1 Werewolf – part one (with other parts!) and Wolf Cop Meets Lizard Man – 1 (also with other parts!). )

This is how my mornings go now:

Up at six, to the smell of coffee coming from the kitchen. I trudge into the kitchen naked, because I can’t sleep comfortably in pajamas now. I sit on the couch and drink the coffee while I check email from the laptop balanced on my lap. The TV’s tuned to CNN. I finish the coffee, rinse out the mug, and eat breakfast: two raw rib eye steaks, three scrambled eggs, two pieces of wheat toast, and a glass of milk (whole milk, because werewolves do not get fat).

I then change into my workout clothes, even though I haven’t worked out in almost two years (because werewolves stay in perfect shape; I have six-pack abs and I can’t remember the last time I did a sit-up) and go out the front door. I take a quick jog to the end of my street, to the edge of the woods that lay between my neighborhood and the highway. Quick glance around for witnesses.

None, and I dive into the woods. I breathe in the smells of rot and small wild animals and pine needles while I strip off the clothes.

Five seconds after the clothes hit the dirt, I’m on all fours, my teeth moving out, revealing their true length while my bones crack and reshape. Hairs shoot up from the surface of my skin–dark red, matching the hair on my head–while the skeletal tips of my fingers and toes shoot out and become claws. The whole process is fast–four and a half seconds, usually–and I’m on my rear legs as soon as my muscles stop twitching.

And then I roam the piney woods, sometimes for half an hour, but lately it’s been longer. Lately I find it hard to force myself back to my clothes, back to civilization. Lately, being human seems wrong.

So I was annoyed when my cell phone rang at seven-fifteen that Monday, right when I reached the treeline. I cursed under my breath while I fumbled the stupid thing from the inner pocket of my track pants. Why oh why had I brought the phone out with me? It was an iBallandChain.

My mood did not improve when I saw who the call was from: my patrol sergeant. “Anderson,” I said, pacing in a tight circle near the pine trees.

One minute later, I was running back to my house, my earlier annoyance forgotten.

 = = = = = = = = = =

This is how my mornings go now:

Up at five, to the smell of no coffee, which means that the timer’s still broken. I turn it on manually, and while it’s brewing, I cut through the living room, avoiding the usual minefield of toy cars and whatever off-brand version of Legos I bought Charlie last week. Charlie’s room is at the end of a short hallway that also contains the one bathroom and a small closet that lately he’s been terrified of. Something about a monster lurking among the extra toilet paper rolls and the broom with the bent handle.

I knock on his door, shave-and-a-haircut style, and open it to reveal my six-year-old son sound asleep on his stomach, the covers kicked all the way to the floor. The floor’s also a minefield of toys and clothes and crayons, and I pick my way around it to his bed. I tug on his foot, he kicks my hand, and then he rolls onto his back.

“Awake,” he mumbles.

“I can so tell,” I reply. “C’mon, cereal’s getting hot.”

I make my way back to the kitchen without stepping on anything breakable and start breakfast. Cereal and orange juice for Charlie, coffee and an English muffin for me. Once he’s eaten and dressed, I’ll walk him to the end of our street, to the school bus stop. I’ll wait with him until the bus comes, and then I’ll head to our rented two-bedroom palace and get dressed for my job.

So I was annoyed when my cell phone rang at five-twenty that Monday. I cursed under my breath as I picked it up from its usual spot by the microwave. There was only one person who would call me so early: my manager at the Red Ball Diner. I checked the cracked screen. Yep, it was Gale.

Fifteen minutes later, I emerged from my bedroom dressed in my waitress uniform, to find Charlie kind of dressed and spoon-deep in his cereal, an off-brand version of Cheerios. Toasted Oat Wheels, or something like that. I felt the usual stab of guilt: I hadn’t eaten off-brand cereal when I was a kid.

“I got called in early,” I said. I needed to be there by six. Carri’s youngest was sick. Again.

“Okay.” He munched his cereal.

This had happened before. Charlie knew what to do: at six, wait at the door, inside the house, until he saw the Robinson twin boys walk by. Join them, walk with them to the bus stop. They were twelve, but they had younger siblings. They didn’t mind Charlie hanging out with them.

I kissed him good-bye at the door and managed to get that shitty Chevy Corsica started. He waved to me. I waved back. And that’s the last time I saw my son. Alive, anyway.

The Robinson twins didn’t go to school that day. Stomach virus. I can see Charlie waiting at the door with his red backpack slung over his shoulders, his nose pressed to the door’s glass. When it was ten after (the bus always came at six-fifteen), he decided to go out alone. He wasn’t the type to skip school. He liked school.

So out he went, my six-year-old son, dressed in blue jeans and white tennis shoes and the striped sweatshirt that my mom had bought him last month. It had a bright green silhouette of a T-rex on its chest, a welcome break from all those thick purple and blue and yellow stripes. He got halfway down the cracked sidewalk when the white van cut in front of him, its front wheels on the sidewalk. What had he thought, in those moments when whoever it was came scuttling around the front of the idling van and grabbed him, picked him up while he kicked and screamed and then opened the side door and tossed him inside? What had he thought while he lay on that floor, with the wind maybe knocked out of him and his abductor climbing inside and sliding the door shut and taking off, taking him away?

I don’t know. I don’t ever want to know.

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