The Wolf

The community theater production of Into the Woods was going well, said my wife. She said the director had said today that they were the best group of actors he’d had in six years of directing in our town. She was playing the wolf, a role not usually given to a woman, apparently. In fact the entire thing had been cast gender neutrally. I said that’s good the director could be so progressive. She said in order to really embody her role, she liked to think of every predator she’d ever known.

“Like those deer,” I said from my stool at the kitchen counter. “Always coming and preying on the garden.” Lately I’d been trying to grow sweet potatoes, something new for us, and they seemed to like those especially. Besides the deer, I enjoyed gardening, and cooking with things I could grow myself.

“Not like the silly deer,” she said. “The human predators, I mean. The wolf, he’s more human than animal. That’s the point.”

I knew what she was talking about. She meant her ex-boyfriends, who’d taken advantage of her in every way one can. That was all before we even met. We’d each been through a lot before we came together, which I think made us value what we had between us even more.

These kinds of conversations could be hard, but I went for it. “You mean like Max,” I said, and I made it sound a little like a question, to signal that if she didn’t want to talk about him now, she didn’t have to. We’d been over all this before, of course.

“I mean all of them,” she said. “The director, he said anything we can bring from our own lives, our pasts, to our role is going to help. But it can be confusing too. Sometimes, the flaws in our acting might be the flaws in how we understand our own soul.”

I didn’t know this director, didn’t even know his name, actually. My wife and I were both from around here, but somehow it didn’t seem likely that he was. Not that we would have run in the same circles, anyway.

“Isn’t Into the Woods a musical?” I said. “You’re really saying all this goes into singing some songs?”

She just ignored me. I was pushing her buttons. We did this sometimes, but we both knew I’d be there opening night.

I took a sip from my beer and thought about the stability we had together. There were those dark moments when I wondered if stability didn’t mean sacrificing something else, something like excitement. But we had our ways of getting away from each other, keeping things fresh. She had her theater, I had my garden and those aggravating deer.

The other night, when she was at rehearsal, I’d spotted another one sneaking into the yard from the woods behind our house. This one was the last straw, I decided. I crept out to our shed, the deer nibbling away at the sweet potatoes, found our .22, came up behind the animal and put three bullets in it. I got it in the leg and the rump, but it was still making noises on the ground, so I had to put one more in the head at close range to finish it. By the time my wife returned home from rehearsal, I’d driven the body far away and dumped it.

“These beets you grew look delicious,” she said opening the fridge, as if she’d been reading my thoughts. “Promise me you’ll make a salad with them tomorrow.”

“Hell,” I said, pleased. “I’ll make a salad right now. Why not?”

“I’m not hungry right now,” she said. “I’m tired. I think I’m going to bed, actually.”

I glanced at the clock. It was past 10 at night. The director them late at these rehearsals.

“Goodnight,” I said, standing up, and I went up behind her, wrapped my arms around her, and gave her a big kiss on the top of the head. Then I went for one on the neck, for good measure.

“Eek!” she said, wriggling. “That tickles.” I let go, and she turned around and pecked me on the cheek. “Goodnight, Patrick,” she said, and went upstairs. I leaned against the counter and wondered if a salad would keep well for tomorrow night. It wouldn’t be so fresh, but I couldn’t be sure I’d have the mood to make it the next day. I started getting out the ingredients. Sometimes I liked being alone at night, and this gave me something to do.

– Story Ponvert

Published Spring 2018.

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