What a relief to see your bag.
No, not your tiresome shirts and socks
and your paperback novels;
I mean your black bag, filled with the shining apparatus of life.
Follow me up the stairs, if you would be so kind.
Do you like the dark oak?
We find it somber, like a casket.
This is why we need you so desperately, Doctor.
We have nearly given in.
So used, are we, to the predations and the despair,
That we women wear black, even at Easter time,
and the men drink, and are sick on the front lawn.
I apologize, Doctor.
You've only just arrived, and I haven't asked you about your trip.
Did you have a nice seat on the train?
Were there blankets for the chill,
and windows you could slide closed against the smoke of the engine?
Were there porters and cooks,
A woman across the aisle, saying her rosary and weeping?
Monsters and archangels in your fitful dreams,
shooting it out like they do in the flickers?
I'm teasing, Doctor.
Forgive me for my familiarity.
Forgive me for trampling upon your necessary reserve.
Do you know why I was the one chosen to meet you?
It is because I am the sanest one here.
I am the limb that can, perhaps, be saved above the knee.
I have a nice singing voice,
but can no longer afford the risk to indulge it.
Are you good with severe injuries, Doctor?
You're not just some kindly old hand-holder, are you?
Here, one has to have eyes in the back of one's head.
We form fierce attachments all in a single afternoon;
a glance becomes a kiss becomes a fevered coming together,
and all before the dinner bell.
Don't look so disapproving, Doctor.
In this place, life isn't a game of whist in the stuffy parlor.
We must rip at it, and at each other, as one would a carcass,
or we starve,
gnawing on fear as if it were a rib.
Have you seen our Wolf yet, Doctor?
Were you uneasy, sitting on the box seat on the way in?
As a physician, you know how the organs and sinews are knit together...
did a tremor run through yours, like doomed babies holding each other?
Let me tell you about our Wolf.
After you've unpacked and taken tea,
I'll take you to the graveyard,
where the earth is always freshly turned.
Our Wolf is large, the same off-white as the doilies on the table downstairs.
The hired man we keep insists that there are no wolves here,
the last one having been shot years ago.
He swears it was a bear, or a cougar,
that gave him that ugly scar across his face.
He admits he didn't really see it, though, Doctor,
and that was when he could still see, at all.
Now he sits polishing the silver, like an Irish servant girl,
fuming under his breath.
I saw our Wolf myself, Doctor.
I was out gathering tomatoes from our vines,
just feet from the main house,
when there he was, standing as still as January,
staring at me from next to the smokehouse.
Something in me shriveled, like a frost-struck bloom,
and I thought, Cook will have to improvise her sauce tonight.
The fresh red pickings rolled out of my apron and onto the ground;
so many drops of blood.
It let me walk away, Doctor.
I've been distracted and unpredictable since.
Some wolves eat the organs first, did you know that, Doctor?
The heart, the liver, what have you.
Tell me, what is it, in them, that makes us animate?
Are we just some accident of chemistry, when we hope, dream,
fall in love?
Are we nothing but green vines with red eyes,
Once again, I apologize, Doctor.
You're tired and want to unpack.
Will you think of your wife and children,
or does your head fill like a well bucket with the stuff of achievement,
Come down to dinner when you're ready.
We eat on the veranda,
because we have to keep the big table clear
to lay the injured on.
After dinner, relax a while, enjoy a cigar, read your journals.
Then, take a walk in the evening air, just at sunset.
Watch for our Wolf, though,
and I'll watch for you, from behind the curtain.
I meant, for now, of course,
but I wouldn't unpack everything, if I were you.
Don't tax yourself the way our previous doctor did.
I don't think he really understood the things that come upon us here,
sudden and hard,
and always from an oblique angle.
Rest now, Doctor.
I'll let everyone know you've arrived,
except for our Wolf
who already knows.
A little over a year ago, I was walking to the grocery store on a Sunday morning, along a street devoted to small independent businesses, which were all closed. There was no one around. I heard a strange sound and looked up from my thoughts. Across the street and ahead of me a little ways, was a closed gas station, and standing next to the dumpster was a large off-white animal, clearly wild, vocalizing again and again. It wasn't a dog. Its fur was matted, and though it looked well fed, it had "wild" all over it. There are no wolves here, but it looked like one. What it had to have been is a very large coyote. It scared me. I was all alone, and there was nothing between me and this animal. But it seemed to be intent on something inside the dumpster. It stopped to give me a stare, then let me walk away, my heart pounding. The way it kept calling was eerie. I've never seen anything more remarkable than a poodle or a stray cat, any time before or since, and I've walked there for years.
for Susan's "Hello and Goodbye" prompt at Real Toads.