My Bernie's a real good man, except he gets these harebrained ideas. I try my darnedest to put the kibosh on them—like befriending Jake the Wolfman. We called him that 'cause he kept wolves, well, not really wolves, but wolf dogs—half wolf, half dog—which some folks say are worse than wolves because they have instincts pointing them every which way.
I didn't take to the idea of the Wolfman, but my Bernie's the most curious guy in all of North Bend, and the friendliest, too. He's a mail carrier, and he got this route a few years back that included Jake the Wolfman's spread. They started by sayin' hi, and then a few friendly words, you know, how's the wife doin' or those sure are pretty critters you have there. Pretty soon Bernie was savin' Jake the Wolfman's mail till last and then shootin' the breeze on his front porch for an hour or so before comin' home, which I didn't appreciate, and I told Bernie so.
But, you know, I couldn't stay mad about it because Bernie has this sheepish grin that gets to me, so he can get away with anything, darn it. And after a while I guess I started to look forward to his stories about what was new with Jake the Wolfman because, let's face it, things are pretty boring here in North Bend—just lots of us sittin' around with nothin' to do and nothin' but dreams left of jobs that went south of the border or to Asia or wherever.
So Jake the Wolfman had about a dozen of 'em in a big enclosure, about four acres. And he went in there and ran around with them, said the wolf dogs were his brothers. He tried to get Bernie to go in with him. Bernie swears he never did because a dozen of them crazy wolf dogs was just too much for him. But he did say one-on-one those wolf dogs were as sweet as can be and a little mysterious, too, like something out of a myth. I told him right then and there that was a big bunch of hooey. Oh, but Bernie looked so stricken by my words, I wished I could have taken 'em back.
Then Bernie came home one day real down in the dumps. He flopped on his recliner and sat starin' at the TV, which wasn't even on, mind you. And I said, Bernie, what in the dickens has gotten into you, and he grunted a little but couldn't get a word out for a long time, but I kept askin', and finally he said those wolf dogs had up and killed Jake the Wolfman.
Bernie said an ambulance was driving away when he pulled up in the mail van, and police and animal control officers and even North Bend's fire captain were swarming around the property. Dead wolf dogs were stacked in a pile just inside the enclosure, and Bernie saw a pool of blood at the gate. There were a lot of tears that night between the two of us, I'll tell you. Bernie was sobbing, and I was cryin' for Bernie, and then I was wailin' for Jake the Wolfman, even though I didn't even know him. And I was cryin' about maybe having to let go of a fantasy Bernie had, and I was starting to have, too, about things being different than they really are between people and wild animals.
We were still weepy the next morning when Bernie went off to work. I expected we'd be glum at the end of the day, too. But Bernie returned at suppertime with that sheepish grin of his and a big bulge in his jacket. I asked, what's in there, but he kept mum. He sat in his chair, unzipped the jacket, and there were two little pups, couldn't have been more than eight weeks old. He'd gone to Jake the Wolfman's house, sat on the front porch to just think about his pal, and he heard squealing coming from the direction of the enclosure. He went inside and found the pups huddled way back in a corner behind a pile of bricks.
Bernie asked me if he could keep them. He looked so hopeful, and the pups looked so cute snuggled there in the chair. I said okay. I said it real stern, like a cop, so as not to let on how adorable I thought the little critters were. I insisted these half-wild animals live out back in the yard, though, for our own peace of mind. Bernie said he was okay with that.
We built a doghouse out back and told the neighbors our pups are sled-dog mutts, so everything is cool with them. Each day Bernie feeds them their breakfast kibble before he goes off to work. When he leaves, I wave goodbye from the front door. Then I bring the babies inside. I never expected to turn into a wolf-person. But when I look into their blue eyes, I know they understand me in ways not even Bernie does. My Bernie. Pretty soon I'll have to tell him about the pups and me because, well, two of them babies just isn't enough.
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