Monday, 25 August 2008
~*~The Grey Wolf~*~
"Two packs of cigarettes a day,
The strongest whiskey Kentucky could make,
That's a recipe to put a vagabond on his knees;
I watched it all up close, I knew him more than most
I saw a side of him he never showed, full of sympathy
for a world that wouldn't let 'im be.
That's the man he was; have you heard enough?"
That catch of song reverberated around inside Iz's head as she sat indian style at the foot of her Uncle Franky's grave. Silent tears rolled down her cheeks as she absently stroked the silky black fur on the back of Steve's neck. His head was resting on her right leg and his muzzle was catching her tears on his whiskers. His golden eyes watched her every tear roll off her face as she mourned the death of her most beloved family member. After a while the tears ceased, but the pain never stopped rampaging through her heart.
"I don't know how he could have done it..." She said between sobs that wracked her whole frame.
I'm sure he never meant to hurt you, Iz... Steve tried to be consoling, but telling a person that their uncle whom committed suicide never meant to hurt them was hard convincing. Iz only sobbed harder, burying her face in her palms. Steve sat up on his haunches and nudged her arm repeatedly with his nose until she lowered her hands.
I know he never meant to hurt you; he loved you, but maybe there was a reason for what he did, maybe there was actually a good reason for it. I know, that sounds bad, but you know what he was now, and maybe that had something to do with it....maybe that has something to do with you, He added as an afterthought.
Iz stopped crying momentarily as that thought clanged through her head. "You think that his being a werewolf might have some bearing on my special skill?" She inquired, tipping her head sideways slightly as he usually did in his wolf form.
Maybe...and maybe thats why you know me... The sheepish look on his face caught Iz's attention.
"You're hiding something? I thought you said you'd never lied to me."
Her accusation wounded him. I-I...I never lied to you...I just didn't, well, I hadn't finished my story...
Iz was staring at him, go on.
Well...he stumbled, he didn't seem capable of spitting it out. Haven't you ever wondered why I suddenly started talking to you and following you around?
"I just figured you were like every other stalker," Iz replied shrugging, then offered him a grin.
Ha-ha, very funny. But seriously.
"Yeah, I wondered at first, then I kinda forgot about it in the wake of everything."
Its similiar to your dream of the person - or rather your uncle - with the golden eyes.
"You dreamt about me?" Iz inquired curiously, deepening the tilt of her head, the grin widening the corners of her mouth.
Sort of...Steve replied sheepishly, and if he'd been human he'd have turned a delicate shade of maroon. Actually, I dreamt of a voice telling me "take care of Iz...take care of my Izabell...;" I think it was your uncle.
Iz was momentarily stunned and Steve had to nudge her to bring her back to reality.
"That's the sweetest most romantic thing anyone's ever told me," she crooned and Steve groaned. Iz chuckled.
Iz was sitting indian style on the left side of her queen sized bed as #2 graphite pencils zoomed in a circle around her head. Her eyes were lightly closed and her head titled back, her face pointed to the ceiling. She held her arms up at her sides, bent at the elbow, her fingers spread and pointed to the ceiling. Her jaw was hanging slack slightly. The instant she opened her eyes the pencils fell undramatically onto the mattress around her and Steve barked excitedly.
And I thought I was the weird one, he thought playfully.
"Shut it," she told him, picking up the pencils and throwing them helter-skelter into the drawer on her nightstand. She laid her head back on the pillow and clicked off the light. Her big, black wolf companion crawled from the end of the bed over to the other side of her where he nestled down for the night, his head taking up the entire pillow on the right side of the bed.
"You're huge," she said, yawning.
Thanks, he replied tipping her a wink.
She punched him lazily on the shoulder.
Get some sleep.
"I'm trying but you won't shutup," she mumbled.
Steve grinned, sleep well and sweet dreams. Then he licked her forehead. She responded by wrapping her arms around his furry neck and inhaling the scent of his skin. It was a natural smell she associated with the outdoors and it was calming.
Iz was standing atop the highest hill in the Forest Cemetary and staring down at her uncle Franky's grave perplexed. The epitaph read:
Iz spun on her heels just as a large, grey wolf came over the ridge. It stopped just shy of where she stood and stared at her. For a moment Iz was lost in the grey wolf's golden eyes, then the transformation began. She watched as the wolf began to shrink and deform, it's large body collapsing in upon itself as the fur was shed and dropped in a heap on the ground. One second there was a wolf standing before her and the next a man who was naked from the waist up was kneeling before her. He raised his head and she stared into her Unca Ranky's lukewarm, gold rimmed brown eyes. She was running before she knew what she was doing. She leapt into his arms like she had when she was a toddler taking her first steps and he caught her in his warm embrace. He pulled her feet off the ground and squeezed her in a bear hug as she covered his face in kisses.
"Oh Franky, I've missed you so much." She sighed as he let her down and placed his palms on her shoulders. He was a foot taller than she was and she had to tilt her head back to look into his face as he had to glance down to see her.
"I've missed you to, babe." He replied in his rough, gravelly voice and the sound of it filled her with such elation she thought she might float away like a balloon. She stared into those eyes which were lined with crows feet. He wasn't the same man as in the picture, this was a much older version of him, a version he'd never lived to be. He had flyaway grey hair to match his fur and it was krinkly and loose around his head. He looked like a shaggy mutt. The lines in his face were deep like grooves to show his age; she'd have guessed him to be around 50. She grasped a strand of his grey hair between her fingertips and felt it's smooth texture. It came loose in her hand and she let it flutter away on the wind.
"I'm older than you expected, I know." He responded in his deep voice, it was the voice of a long-time smoker.
Iz was lost for words, she could only stare at him and eat him up with her eyes. She kept waiting for him to vanish in a puff of smoke. He seemed to read her thoughts with his next statement.
"I'm not going anywhere, not just yet anyway. You want to talk to me, remember?" He said gesturing over to a red and white checkered blanket lying on the grass at the foot of his grave. He led her over there and they sat down next to a whicker picnic basket. He opened the lid on one side and pulled out two cans of soda and handed one to Iz. They cracked them open identically and drank deep. When the thirst was quenched they both wiped their mouths on their sleeves and laughed.
"Nothing's changed," Franky remarked.
Iz disagreed by shaking her head. "Lots of things have changed, Franky."
His eyes tightened and the golden halo around his corneas was enhanced. "I suppose that's so. I suppose that's why you've finally come back to me. I've been waiting seventeen long years, Izzy."
"You've been waiting for me?" Iz asked curiously.
"That I have, Busy Izzy, been waitin' a long time. I knew you'd figure it out soon enough, knew it was on'y a matter of time 'fore you put two 'n two together." He replied solemnly.
"Why didn't you ever tell me?" She blurted out and blushed lightly. Franky brushed her cheek with his thumb and chuckled.
"S'alright, I always told you to 'come out with it,' no need to be ashamed now." He responded, stopping there.
She cleared her throat to prompt him after a moment of silence and with a heavy sigh he began to explain.
"I loved you Izzy, god knows that, but sometimes love isn't enough to make up for a man's past." He began slowly, his gaze falling to the red and white checkers of the blanket. Iz lifted his chin with her fingertips and locked her eyes on his.
"I loved you too, Franky, more than anyone or anything. No matter what you did, I always loved you and still do."
Tears leaked from the corners of Franky's strange eyes and Iz wrapped her arms about his neck, choking him in a vicious hug. She pulled back and climbed in his lap and he held her like he used to when she was just a kid.
"Izzy, you're more than I deserve. More than anyone deserves, and don't you ever forget that." He whispered into her ear and she buried her face in his neck. "I wanted to tell you kiddo, really, I did but you were only a child and I wasn't sure I could trust you then. You know how kids are. Rick already didn't like me telling you all those stories, and Lisa absolutely detesed it, but you were so eager to hear 'em and I loved telling. Never was there a kid like you, Izzy. You were so enthusiastic about the world around you, inquisitive too." He said beaming at her and she smiled as she had when she was a kid and he offered praise.
"I knew from the day you were born that you could end up just like me, and I don't mean dead either. I mean I knew you could be special and I was afraid of that. I wanted so much for you to have a normal life, but I didn't see anyway around it. You were such a smart kid, grasping concepts so easily from day one in preschool. I knew there was on'y one explanation for it and it scared the bejeezus outta me. I didn't want you to be like me...I didn't want you to be a werewolf and I thought that if I took myself out of the picture I could spare you that, but I think I was wrong."
Iz was staring at him with wide, unbelieving eyes.
"You killed yourself to keep me from becoming a werewolf? That was your reason?" She demanded, anger rising in her voice and coloring her cheeks. Franky leaned away from her.
"I was on'y thinkin' about you-"
"THE HELL YOU WERE! FRANKLIN MENDEZ YOU'RE AN IDIOT!" She screamed shrilly, her eyes bulging. Frank gripped her shoulder tightly.
"Calm down, Izzy, I'm sorry...and I know I'm an idiot." He replied pleadingly.
Iz sat fuming and crossed her arms in front of her chest. She was sitting on the checkered blanket now and glowering at him. Franky pulled her back into his lap and cradled her like a child until her defenses collapsed.
"Don't be like that, Izzy. Time is so short and I'm on'y goin' to get this one chance to 'pologize for hurtin' you so bad and I want to make it right."
Tears were trickling down her cheeks now and she hurriedly wiped them away with the heel of her hand. "How can this ever be made right, Franky? How!?" She moaned desperately. He hugged her closer and whispered:
"I don't know, babe, I don't know, but I'm sure as hell gunna try. Is that good enough for you?"
"Yes," mumbled Iz in reply.
They sat like that a while, Frank rocking them back and forth until Iz's tears subsided. Then she tilted her head back to look at his face.
"I forgive you, Franky. One-hundred-percent. I hold no grudge, is that good enough for you?"
A small smile curved his lips. "It's more than I could ask for, I love you Izzy."
"I love you, Franky." she whispered back.
They sat another moment in silence, relishing in the comfort of one another's company knowing their time was short, too short, and it would leave them both empty when it was up.
"There's so much about this world that's hidden, Izzy, and it's scary. I learned that the hard way and the on'y way I could stay sane was to drink. It kept my emotions in check when I couldn't. I know that's a poor excuse, but its the on'y one I got. Yet when you was born I couldn't bear to keep falling to the bottle, 'cause I knew you was goin' to be special, more so than your parents would ever understand, and I knew you'd need someone there to help you through it. So I quit the bottle that night and I swear it I was sober up until the day I...died." He finished lamely, shame crawling across his face. Iz brushed her fingers along his cheek.
"I believe you, Franky, I don't think even daddy would disbelieve that. He always told me he couldn't understand why I sobered you, but he believed it cause he saw it."
Franky considered this a moment then nodded. "Rick often asked me about it, but I could never explain it to him. There's nothing like feelin' alone in this world, Izzy."
Iz nodded in grim agreement, she knew that all right.
"I'm sorry I left you all alone, Izzy, that was unfair of me but I was a fuckup and I know it. I never could've gotten you through anything, least not like your Steve is doing. He's a good man, Izzy, and I wouldn't norm'lly say that about any guy, 'specially not one that's into you."
Iz smiled, but it faultered and vanished from her face just as quickly. "I wish I could have the both of you still..."
Frank hugged her tightly. "I'll always be looking out for you Izzy, that's my job, and I had to find someone else to help me with it."
She looked at her uncle long and hard, remembering him the way she saw him when she was a child. All the stories he told, and the scrapes he cured, and all the bear hugs he'd given. He'd been both her mother and her father in one person and yet he'd been gone the last seventeen years. But no, that wasn't true. He lived on with her in spirit, always guiding and helping her along. She smiled thinking about all the catches of song and phrases that ran errantly through her mind when she thought of him; all the things he'd said and taught her, all the stories he'd told that had enchanted her so. Her uncle was with her always, he lived on in her memories, in her heart, in the love she had to give.
They sat on the red and white checkered blanket smiling at each other. Frank's arms were lovingly wrapped around her and warming her from the cold breeze blowing through the cemetary. She stared into his lukewarm, gold rimmed eyes and saw the face that had so long haunted her dreams. This time it wasn't just the eyes she saw, but the entire face and it was her uncle before he had died. His young face was glorious and the smile that parted his lips to reveal perfect pearly whites made him even more beautiful. His face wasn't grooved with age, but smooth and shining with youth. She could sit and stare at that face all day and never worry about a single thing.
The image of her uncle's younger face dissapated and she was left with the grey haired, lined face of her fifty year old uncle, if on'y he'd lived that long. He was still smiling at her, however, and she was smiling back, tears once more streaming down her cheeks. He was fading around the edges and she could see it now. It was like he was bleeding through the fabric of reality and her fingers instinctively reached for his face and caressed the lined skin there.
"I've got to go now, Izzy." Franky said and reactively she clung to him tighter, burying her face in his neck as the tears came harder.
"I don't want you to leave me again," she sobbed.
He calmly rubbed her back. "Shhh, don't worry babydoll, I'll always be here for you. I'm always watching over you, its the on'y way I can make up for what I did."
He pryed her fingers loose from around his neck and helped her to her feet as he stood up himself. He held her at bay by her shoulders and gazed steadily into her eyes.
"I love you, Izzy, always remember that."
"I love you too, Franky." She returned feebly, choked by tears.
He picked her up in a bear hug one last time and she wrapped her arms around his neck again, freely crying into his hair. Then he set her down on her feet, pulled back and offered one last beautiful smile before stepping back and vanishing with the breeze. The wind blew and he exploded in vapors and smoke. Iz collapsed on her knees as tears ran like rivers down her cheeks. She turned her gaze to the left to look at his grave.
1975 - 1991
"I love you, forever and always, Izzybell."
Iz woke from her dream with her face tear stained and pain ripping through hear heart sharper than knives. Her arms tightened around Steve's neck and he turned his face into hers where she hid her tears in his mane. They laid like that until sunrise as Iz mourned the loss of her Unca Ranky, the image of his lined face painted behind her eyelids.