where the writers are
The wolf in the collar


  My dog woke me up at 2:30 a.m. today  

   He’s not usually an insomniac, but he’s been having skin issues lately -- little red patches that erupt on his skin and that he licks until they are hairless and bleeding. So we’ve outfitted him with one of those white plastic cones that makes him look like he’s wearing a cheerleader’s megaphone on his head and we’ve loaded him up with antibiotics and steroids, like the veterinarian said.

   The antibiotics do the same thing to him that they do to humans. So when he scratched at the door at 2:30 a.m., I laid in bed and seriously considered whether it was worth having to clean the carpet tomorrow morning in order to stay in bed until, at least, the sun came up. My husband slept peacefully beside me.  The dog scratched again. I decided I’d better get up.

   I threw on some clothes and went into the night, the dog, Griff, loping toward the beach at the end of our street and me following behind.  Griff has got thick, dark fur and long legs and he’s part Akita so he looks like a wolf when he moves.

   When he stopped to sniff something in the gutter, I heard a shuffling sound and looked up  to see a man coming out of the dusky light of a street lamp toward me. I couldn’t see his face, but the man looked big and kind of tattered.  I thought he was probably drunk, but he walked enough like a character in a zombie movie that my heart gave a quick little start.  I’m the kind of person that hates zombie movies because of the way people always hide in their houses, instead of just getting in their cars and driving away.  So if this was a zombie, I thought I could easily outrun him. But then my brain did a quick substitution of the words serial killer for zombie and that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. 

  I’d been a reporter long enough to have covered stories like this:  women who left a bar after their friends and ended up being strangled, woman who were in places they shouldn’t be and wound up dead.

   Or women who were walking toward the beach at 2:30 a.m. and got stabbed in the heart, I thought. With their husband lying peacefully in bed a few hundred feet away.

     The newspaper story that would be written about my death flashed through my mind -- like it does for all newspaper reporters.  The story would note I was out by myself and that my body hadn’t been discovered until 6 a.m. by someone coming to check out the surf. It would say I was wearing a Harvard sweatshirt and a pair of Life is Good pajamas.  Someone would be sure to comment on the irony of that.

   The man shuffled toward me and then my dog looked up from where he had been sniffing.

   The man stopped. Then he seemed to stagger sideways and then go the other way.

    I wondered what had just happened until I looked down at Griff staring after the man with the white plastic cone shining around his big furry  head. And I thought that whenever or wherever that drunk woke up, he would think of how he was just walking down the street and how a dark timberwolf with a glowing white halo around his face had risen up from the ground in front of him. 

   Griff ending up doing what he came out to the beach to do and then we both climbed back into our beds.  I was glad I was in the middle of this NaNoWriMo thing because it took me an hour to fall back to sleep and so I spent that time thinking of what I would write.

   And whether a wolf in a glowing collar would be enough to cause a man to take a look at his life -- and maybe give up his drinking.