All is quiet. He pours himself a glass of pinot and sinks into the wicker armchair on the back porch to watch the sunset.
His wife hovers. “Are you all right?” It is clear she has waited all day for him. It’s not clear to either of them why she does this. It’s always the same anymore: he comes home, pours himself a glass of wine, sits.
He doesn’t answer. She leans awkwardly on the arm of his chair.
They used to make love every day. They used to go hunting and fishing and running together. They used to be playful. There is static in the air between them. It is the potential energy of all of the things they used to do and don’t anymore.
“Am I a bad wolf?”
“You’re a big, bad wolf,” she says in her sultriest voice.
The last bit of gold is about to be engulfed by darkness. “That’s not what I meant.”
There is a constant chirrup, which could be a transformer, or insects, or a transformer. It is insects. Electronically steady crickets. Cicadas? Crickets. With the sun gone he sips his wine and a gnat washes up on his tongue. He splays it on the tip of his claw and considers its tiny broken body.
“Do you want other animals to like you?” she asks later over dinner. “Is that it?”
“No,” he lies.
“Why do you care whether you’re bad? Which you are.”
“How bad am I?” he asks, and she has to stop herself from cooing, Verrry bad. A bad, bad wolf who needs to be punished.
Each night she parades herself past him, presenting, presenting. Her posture is improving.
Finally: “This is about those pigs, isn’t it?”
“Fuck ‘em,” she growls. “We’ll go on a rampage. We’ll murder those little porkers. We’ll roast them in their own home and feast on their sizzled corpses.”
She wiggles herself into his lap and he positions her for continued access to his plate.
“It’s not that,” he says.
“No?” Smother the wriggling impatience. “What is it?”
“You know? I can’t quite say.”
“You’re afraid to get back in the saddle, is that it? You don’t know if you’re up for the job. Well, I’ll tell you, Mister—”
“Does every meal have to be so meat-centric?” he asks.
She stands up. Consciously relaxes her jaw as she notices herself grinding. Her dentist has been lecturing her. “I’m going to my mother’s,” she says.
She gets her purse from upstairs, and when the front door slams, there’s a waft of the perfume she bought in Paris. For her mother?
He forgets his resolution not to feel bad about the things he doesn’t care about. Instead of trying to want Maxine back, he gets high in the garden shed and then, full of hope and confusion, reads the novel he bought after googling “how to be good.” It begins promisingly. Ends in quiet desperation disguised as a dull moral. Deadline, he figures.
When Maxine saw the book she had to remind herself to unclench. “You’re depressed because you’ve changed,” she said to him. “You just need to get your bloodlust back.”
It all began three weeks ago, around the time of his final encounter with the swine siblings. “What exactly happened that night?” she asked.
In bed with Papa Bear, she reassesses herself. She’s always leaned domestic as far as wolves go, but the violence rising inside her lately, an answer to George’s apathy, is like sunlight breaking through a hangover. But this is not the end. She stands up, gets dressed. My house is under a spell. Nips Papa Bear firmly in thanks. I must slay the enemy and save my prince-gone-soft. Throaty moan “Goodbye” follows her out the door.
The big, bad wolf was never one to feel particularly tragic about personal failures. Whenever he thinks about those pigs, something stirs in him, something he hasn’t felt since his father took him into the woods on the day he helped bring down an elk and said “today you are no longer a pup,” and they howled at the scattered seed in the sky.
It’s not anger or hunger or desire or wildness. It’s something different. The pigs outsmarted him. This, prey is capable of. This is something that happens in the world, and it washes him in wonder.
Has he felt this with his wife? Sometimes. Used to.
On the way home, she considers pups. Solution? Maybe they still could. Whether she could do that for him? No. He doesn’t want pups.
Now comes the remorse he didn’t feel earlier, the jealousy. Where did Maxine go? He should give her more credit. It’s not as if he tried to explain to her. It’s not as if he tried to share the experience. It’s not as though, either, he has missed her recent attempts to get his attention. What’s gotten into him (or out of him?) Just the thought of making her howl used to ridge his hackles. Now he smells his own desire, thinking of her lithe muscled form.
Maxine, he will say, Do you know what a Jainist is?
I can no longer dissociate myself from the consciousness of my victims, he will say. You’d be surprised what you can do with vegetables, he will say.
Suppose it’s not too late for little ones?
Across town, his wife kicks down the door. All her lust has transformed to the blood variety. Fuck that “Let me come in” business. The pigs look up in surprise from their dinner.
“Excuse me,” says the smallest swine, devastatingly cool. “May we help you?”
Where are the thrilling twitches, where the intoxicating smell of adrenaline? The pigs are as limp as her husband. She snarls. For a moment she pants at the threshold, cupping the rage like water draining from her paws.
They turn their attention to their supper. Little porcine grunts of contentment fill the air.
You have stolen my contentment.
When she arrives home, Maxine longs for a shower, for oblivion, but the shadows of candlelight flicker down the hall. She steps on something soft and sees the path of rose petals leading to the bathroom. Velvet licks of red break the tension of the candlelit water. Her husband is perched on the lip. It is unclear from his expression whether his twitching nose caught the scent of ursa patrem. Neither does he react to the blood and debris matting her fur.
Rather than remind him how she dislikes submersion, she climbs into the tub. Envisions extinction. The big, conscientious wolf speaks of things he wants and does not want to be.
Rachel Adams is based out of the Bay Area, where she writes, plays, and burns with her dog, her fiancé, and her family of awesome friends.