--by Mike Murray
Chapter 5: Hard Choices
As Grant spoke he intently observed Sue, trying to discern a reaction. She appeared to be listening carefully. But she gave few clues as to how she was taking it all. As his explanation droned on, Sue worked on her scotch. At one point during Grant's lengthy dissertation, she interrupted him and retreated to the kitchen for a refill.
She seemed progressively calmer. Grant didn't know if his words or the sips of alcohol were having the more sedative effect. Maybe it was a little of both. In any case, he didn't begrudge Sue her need to salve her pain. He had dropped a bomb on her. She probably thought he was crazy. He wondered himself.
As he reached the end of his story, he observed that Sue's eyes were glassy. Subdued. "Well, he said. Do you understand?"
"Please," Sue interrupted him, "don't ask me to understand. It's not okay what you've done. You've ruined everything."
"I know..." he started.
Again, she stopped him. "No, you don't know! You don't know anything!"
"All right, Sue. Where do we go from here?"
She slumped into her chair. "I don't know. But you can't stay here. Even if I wanted you to -- and I don't know that I do -- you can't stay here. They'll look for you here. You've got to go."
Grant paused. He looked at Kelly. His faithful canine companion was lying at his feet, softly whimpering. He only now became aware of it, and he wondered how long she'd been carrying on like that.
He thought, really thought for the first time, what all of this could mean. In his rush to answer an irresistible urge he had failed to fully consider the magnitude of the misery he was heaping on those he loved most.
Sue's tone changed. It shifted from an expression of anger to one of cultivation, of persuasion. "Honey," she offered soothingly," maybe if you just took the wolf back. Maybe if you said you were only taking it out for a long walk or something."
Grant knew that explanation wouldn't fly. "Suze, I don't think they'd buy it. There was an 'Adopted' sign on Kisha's cage; they'd know I was lying."
"All right then, how about if you just gave the animal back. Said you were really sorry. What's the worst they'd do? Fire you from your volunteer job there? If they got the wolf back, maybe they wouldn't press charges."
Sue had him hemmed in. She had hit on the core issue. The one Grant had hoped desperately to avoid facing. It was one thing to have angst. To lament the course of one's life. It was even understandable to some that a person might flip out and do something impulsive and wrong.
But how could Grant explain that even now, in a calm, collected moment, he still needed Kisha? That he needed to go with her to a place far away? A place that was cold and snowy and primitive?
As he sat there, trying to find the words, he saw it in Sue's face. She was beginning to understand. Her expression returned to one of anger. "Say it!" she demanded. "You don't want to give the wolf back, do you?"
"I can't," was all that Grant could offer.
"All right then," Sue demanded. "I've had it. Pack up your things and go."
Grant's heart sank. He knew she was right. He knew he had to leave. To stay meant he'd be arrested. It would only be a matter of time.
Leaving meant walking away from the woman he loved. The person he cared more for than anyone in the world -- the person he cared for more than anyone, ever. Why did this wolf-dog have such a strong hold on him? He didn't know. He only know that this wild creature -- and all that she represented -- gripped him tightly.
It was clear: he had to go.
Grant got out several suitcases and filled them with essentials. Clothes, toiletries, sundries. There was precious little space, and very little time to decide what to bring with him. He went from room to room, looking for absolute necessities.
He gathered up the luggage along with a few boxes he'd filled, and piled them by the kitchen door. "Suze," he said, "I need you to keep Kelly in the bedroom with you for a few minutes. I have to take Kisha to the yard so she can relieve herself."
"Kisha," Sue repeated. "You're leaving us for Kisha..."
Grant let the comment hang in the air. After a few seconds, Sue grabbed Kelly's collar and led her to the bedroom. Grant went out to the garage and retrieved the wolf-dog. She had relieved herself in the backseat. Ordinarily, Sue cleaned up such messes. But it was safe to say that Grant would have to deal with this one.
He took Kisha around the garage to the backyard, opened the gate, entered, closed it behind them, and removed the leash. The wolf-dog inspected the perimeter of the yard. Grant remembered how every canine he'd introduced to the yard had done likewise.
Kisha sniffed around the shed where small critters often congregated, and also wove her way in and out of the hedges that lined the back fence. She urinated a substantial volume and also marked several times. Grant waited until she had achieved a bowel movement, then led her back to the car. There was no time now to deal with the mess she'd made there an hour or so before.
Returning to the house, Grant sought out Sue and Kelly. "Can I have a minute with her?" he asked.
"Are you serious?" Sue shot back. "You want me to leave the room?"
"No," Grant replied. "I'd like to take her out into the yard." With that, man and dog headed out back. As they sat in the yard for what Grant realized might be their last visit together, he tried to explain.
Now, Grant knew that Kelly was an animal. He realized that she couldn't understand English. But there had always been something primal between them. A spiritual connection, Sue called it. They communicated in a way that transcended words.
So Grant knew that Kelly knew. Maybe she couldn't grasp the exact nature of things. But she certainly sensed the awfulness of the situation. She fully comprehended that her closest human companion was saying goodbye.
Grant's heart was breaking. So was Kelly's. They sat there for long minutes. Dog and man huddled together, he quietly sobbing, she whimpering. Finally it was time.
Grant got up and walked to the patio door. Kelly refused to follow. As she sat and stared, Grant motioned to her one last time. Then he disappeared inside the house.
Kelly walked about the yard, tracing the steps Kisha had walked in a short while before. She sniffed and sniffed. She urinated over each and every one of the wolf-dog's markings.
And then, as Grant was saying his painful goodbye to Sue, he heard them: mournful sounds coming from the yard. Kelly was howling. She often did that, but never quite like this. This sound was sad, plaintive. And, it seemed, just a little wild.
Neither Sue nor Grant spoke much; four wet eyes said it all. Grant loaded the car in silence. Then he drove away.
Copyright © 2005 Michael F. Murray -- All rights reserved.