Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "The Strength of the Wolf: Howling"

This poem came out of the January 19, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] dialecticdreamer and [personal profile] redsixwing. It also fills the "left brain / right brain" square in my 10-2-15 card for the [community profile] ladiesbingo fest, and the "amnesia" square in my 9-4-15 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by book_worm5 andng_moonmoth. It belongs to The Moon Door series.


"The Strength of the Wolf: Howling"


It still took time for Everett
to refine his designs and start
renovating the basement into
a werewolf den, and also for
Alexandria to decide that
yes, this was something
she really wanted to do.

When the moon waxed full,
they arranged for the bite, which
was unpleasant but effective.

As had happened with Hilla before,
Alexandria was sick for weeks
while her body adapted
to the lycanthropy.

Hilla knew what that was like,
and she knew that Everett was
overwhelmed trying to take care of
his daughter and his wife, so
Hilla showed up and offered
to babysit Lily for them.

Everett eagerly accepted.
Lily was a lot less eager, but
she came around eventually
since Hilla provided a bottle.

With some of the weight taken off,
Everett managed to finish the den
in the basement with time to spare.

At the end of the month,
Alexandria locked herself
into the den and waited
for the first change.

It was exactly as bad
as Hilla and Randie had
advertised, and then
it got even worse.

The racking pain threw
Alexandria into flashbacks
from the traumatic childbirth,
then shredded what was
left of her awareness.

For Everett, it was
almost as bad, watching
his wife flail around before
turning into a wolf.

Eventually the wolf
staggered to her feet
and devoured the bowl
of beef stew wolf chow.

She drank from the pool
in long, leisurely slurps.

She wandered around the room,
sniffing at the logs and boulders,
exploring her new territory.

Pawing in the nooks and crannies,
she soon found several of
the hidden jerky treats.

Then she investigated
the cave, but soon emerged,
pacing restlessly back and forth.

Suddenly the wolf began
digging urgently at the front
of the room and gnawing
at the sturdy iron bars.

"Hey, quit that," Everett said.
"You could break your teeth.
I know they'd grow back, but it
would still hurt in the meantime."

The wolf ignored him
and kept trying to break out,
whining as she scrabbled up
the green indoor-outdoor carpet
from the concrete floor.

"I can't watch this any longer,"
Everett said heavily. "I need
to go check the baby. I'll
come back later tonight."

When he went upstairs,
he found Lily fussing, so he
changed her diaper and fed her
and rocked her to sleep before
laying her back in the crib.

More reluctantly, Everett
went back downstairs.

He found the wolf still pawing
at the front of the room, although
she paused when he came in.
Then she redoubled her efforts.

It hurt to watch, but Everett stayed
with her until she wore herself out
and slunk into the cave to curl up
on the heavy-duty dog bed that
he had stuffed into the back.

He went back and forth a few times,
trying to keep an eye on both his wife
and his daughter, but after that
the night was relatively quiet.

In the morning, Alexandria
woke up hungover and bitchy.

"Well, it almost worked," he said.
"Your wolf seemed to like the den
at first, but then she kind of freaked out.
Can you remember what went wrong?"

"Baby baby baby," said Alexandria.
"That's all she -- I -- could think of.
My whole left brain / right brain bridge
went out of commission under the stress."

"Oh," said Everett. "That makes sense.
Wolves have really strong family ties."

"You can't bring Lily down here!"
Alexandria protested. "It's not safe."

"Certainly not yet," Everett said.
"I have another idea though."

He helped her out of the den
and into the bathroom next door,
got her washed and dressed,
then moved her upstairs
to their bedroom.

"I should probably spruce up
that second room in the basement,"
Everett mused. "If I did that, then you
wouldn't have to hike all the way up
to our bedroom the morning after
the full moon. I know that you're
feeling pretty awful from that."

"I like climbing the stairs,"
Alexandria said firmly,
"now that I can do it again."

"Okay, it's up to you," he agreed.

"I'm still having trouble getting
my logic to come back online, though,"
Alexandria said. "It's like I'm just
a giant ball of feelings."

"Don't worry about it,"
Everett said. "Get some rest.
I'll bring you some company."

After tucking Alexandria into bed,
and Lily alongside her, Everett
went to pore over his catalogs
of toys for zoo animals.

There had been a section of
stuffies in one of them, he recalled,
for the comfort of mother animals
who had lost their offspring.

Sure enough, they had a wolf cub
made from soft but durable materials.
Everett grinned and placed the order.

When the stuffed cub arrived
a few days later, Everett gave it
to Lily to cuddle with so that
it would smell like her.

At the end of the month,
when Alexandria was pacing and
moaning around the house with
symptoms like increasingly bad PMS,
Everett restocked the wolf den.

He scrubbed out the empty pool
and filled it with fresh water.
He stashed the cub stuffie
in the back of the cave.

He hid a few jerky treats
and one beef bone, just in case
his wife rethought her position on
what was and was not edible
on the night of a full moon.

Right before Alexandria was
ready to enter the den, Everett
put the chicken casserole into
the ceramic dish and secured
that in the tall, sturdy stand.

"Do you think the new ideas
will help?" she asked as
she went into the den.

"I hope so," Everett said,
locking the iron door.

The transformation seemed
to go a little smoother this time.

It was still miserable, but
at least it was familiar.
She could cope.

The wolf moved better too,
and she remembered where
to find her food dish.

She gobbled up the chicken,
then went looking for treats.

The bone got dragged back
to the front of the cave, and
she gnawed on it for
a good ten minutes.

"I thought that you might
like that," Everett said, and
she flicked an ear at him.

Soon the wolf started
walking around the den,
then went into the cave.

A happy little yap announced
the discovery of the stuffed cub.

On the whole, that night
went much better than before.
The toys were a definite success.
There was no frantic pacing or
digging or chewing on the bars.

Neither was there any of
the outright violence that
Randie and Hilla predicted.

Maybe the family ties made more
of a difference than expected.

When the sun rose and
Alexandria returned to
human form, Everett
asked her how it went.

"Better this time," she said,
confirming his own impressions.
"The stuffed cub was a great idea,
I remember cuddling it and -- wait!
Did you feed me raw meat?"

"I hid a bone with bits of meat on it,
to see if your wolf would like that,"
Everett said. "She definitely did,
or she wouldn't have picked it up."

"I need to brush my teeth,"
Alexandria said, shuddering.

"Of course," Everett said, and
helped her into the bathroom.

"I can remember a little more
this time," Alexandria said.
"The amnesia ... that is
one of the hard parts."

"If it's already getting better, then
it should keep improving," he said.

"I hope so," Alexandria said.

In the months that followed,
Everett and Alexandria made
further explorations and changes,
finding out what foods and toys
her wolf enjoyed the most.

Puzzle balls and treat dispensers
offered a fun challenge. Everett
hoped that over time, these would
help Alexandria develop more of
her self-awareness in wolf form.

He also introduced tug toys as
a way for them to interact safely
during full moon nights. She liked
the knotted rope and the rubber twist,
but her favorite was the kong-on-a-thong
that he had spiked with deer scent.

When she could woof answers
to his questions and look at him
as if he was being stupid, Everett
figured that it was time to bring
Lily downstairs for a visit.

Instantly the wolf came to the front
of the den, sticking her nose between
the iron bars and whimpering.

"Mama!" said Lily, holding out
her chubby little hands.

"How does she even know that?"
Everett wondered, staring at her.

Alexandria gave him her patented
"you are being stupid" look.

Lily squirmed and fussed and
tried to get to her mother, but
fortunately Everett was prepared.

"Mommy's not feeling quite herself
tonight, so let's read a story together,"
he said. "Here is Wolfie the Bunny!"

Just like magic, the baby and the wolf
both settled down to listen to him read.

Even when Lily got fussy again,
it wasn't a disaster. She howled,
the wolf howled, and Everett
joined in just for the fun of it.

They sounded almost like a pack of
natural wolves announcing their territory.

The next month, Everett got so absorbed
in reading I Love You Because You're You
that he didn't notice Lily sneaking out of
his lap until he heard the squelchy sound
and realized that she had latched onto
one of the wolf's teats through the bars.

Remembering the rule about never
taking anything away from a wolf,
he decided to leave them alone.

After he finished the book, Everett
fetched his copy of The Jungle Book.

He watched the furry ears perk as he read,
"As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk,
the law runneth forward and back;
For the strength of the pack is the wolf,
and the strength of the wolf is the pack."


For the next meeting, Everett and
Lily tagged along with Alexandria
to share their feelings about
coping with her lycanthropy.

"It's been quite an adjustment,"
Everett said. "It took us a while
to get the den right and adapt
our family dynamics -- but I think
that belonging to a family has helped
Alexandria develop control and memory
faster. I've been keeping track of her."

"Mama," Lily commented,
then stuffed her fist in her mouth.

"I agree," said Alexandria. "I still
wouldn't trust myself out of the den,
and I'm not fully mindful all night yet,
but I can recognize my family. Plus
I love being mobile again. I'd love
to take the wolf out for a run someday."

"So you'd say the tradeoff has proven
worthwhile for you?" asked Randie,
who was keeping score of that.

"I do," Everett said firmly.
"What do you think, honey?"

"I think I want the wall put back
between the foyer and the living room,
so we're not trying to climate-control
the whole outside every time we
open the door," Alexandria said.

"Okay," Everett said,
hugging his wife close.
"I'll get right on that."

* * *

Notes:

Wolf families are very close. See the stuffed cub.

Raw Meaty Bones are readily available and good for many canines. The proportion of meat to bone is a matter of taste. Some lose interest after the flesh is gone. Others will gnaw it off to get at the bone. Most like both.

An elevated bowl makes it easier for tall pets to eat. This one comes with a ceramic insert for easier washing.

Dog toys offer many opportunities to play games. See the plain rope, bumi stick, and kong toys.

Most babies learn to talk on a predictable timeline.

Family reading has many benefits. It can help make separations less stressful. Explore Wolfie the Bunny and I Love You Because You're You.

"The Law for the Wolves" comes from The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, which you can read online. If you like my writing, you have him to thank for much of it.

Universal design isn't. Because, obviously, people aren't all the same. This much is painfully obvious to anyone with an unusual body/mind. Less obviously, accommodations for some disabilities hurt others, like when curb cuts had bumpers added to help blind people -- which makes them difficult or impossible to use by the original target audience, wheelchair users. A fraction of an inch will stop a motorized chair, it's a hard trip for a manual, and falling on that surface is like landing on a cheese grater. I couldn't find an analysis of the flaws, but a few articles touched lightly on things like wasted space and hideous fixtures. There is no excuse for making an original build customized for the disabled look that ugly; it's because society doesn't give a fuck about disabled people. And if you need accommodations different than what the law mandates, you're fucked, it's illegal to have a home you can use. 0_o So naturally Alexandria wants to rip out some of the accommodations because the disadvantages are no longer justified.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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