Back for a visit, oh it’ll be like old times.
In front of our mother, the children, the grandchildren, you start. Remember the time…
Your wife, she might have seen me tense, my breath tightening, maybe saw my hands raise slightly, involuntarily. Did that happen? Did she see it if it did?
What you want me to remember with you, did that even happen?
Remember the time, you say, when we were walking at the bottom of Crow’s Field…
A common path; which time? Reels are cuing.
…and we saw the wolf.
Oh, that memory of yours. That time. You claim to have seen a wolf. That I do not remember.
I remember exactly where we were when you saw it. Not far from the seasons-strewn stonewall that marked the blurring boundary of overgrown field and damp softwoods, right at the spot where the trail leaves the sunlight and twists into the dark of thickening hemlock and balsam where we might have paused to let our eyes adjust.
Notice that even now, I do not contradict your sighting even though it would have been, would still be, unusual. But you have always known the woods and its animals well. I do not contradict that part of your memory. But now, in front of our mother, the children, the grandchildren, I will not agree to having seen your wolf too. It is not for you, but for them that I do not tell why I wouldn’t have seen your wolf even if one was there.
Did your wolf make you defensive? Did you become instantly alert, did your vision narrow and focus, that you might read the wolf’s face, its body language, its mood? Were you anticipating its moves, ready to minimize the damage it might inflict upon you? Notice I didn’t say ready to fight or even suggest fleeing, for what chance, with either tactic, would you have against a wolf?
I don’t know what you saw. I know well what I saw. You were stepping further into the dark woods. I, expected to follow, stood still at the edge of sunlight, the field at my back. Alert as always, my vision narrowed and focused, watchful, my eyes on you, wondering if you might lope off or if you would attack.
Ask me again if I remember the time we saw a wolf. I did. And I think your wives and children have seen it too.