|in my own words|
Chapter 6: On the Run
--by Mike Murray
If ever Grant questioned his sanity, he questioned it now. What had he done? How could he just up and leave? How could he leave behind the two souls he cared for most in the world? Just leave them back there on Magpie Drive (a place, he now realized, that he could never again call home)?
And there was more. He was leaving the old Grant behind, too. The Grant whom high-school classmates had nicknamed "the Marine" because of his close-cropped hairstyle. It was true. He had looked out of place amid the long-haired styles of the day. But he differed from his classmates in more ways than mere outward appearance.
Grant never went along with the crowd. Any crowd. An athlete on the track team, he never really hung out much with the other jocks at school. Neither did he have any desire to spend time with the popular kids. Sure, he had friends during his school years. He had no real soul mates back then, though.
Grant had always been different. He knew that. Even within his own family, Grant never really fit in. He left home at eighteen. As an adult, he drifted away from those with whom he shared little more than genetics. It's not that he didn't care for them. It's not that he didn't love them. It's just that there was so little common ground.
Group affiliations never much interested him. Grant neither sought nor required others' approval. All he ever needed was the love of one female and the companionship of a single dog. Anything more was gravy. Nice, but not necessary. Just that one good woman and that one good dog.
And he had had that in his life. Grant had enjoyed the love and affection of Sue and Kelly. And now he was leaving them behind because of a compulsion he did not comprehend. Why was this yearning -- a yearning for the wild that had been dormant for so long -- awakening so powerfully in him now? Why did this wolf-dog show up to take him away?
There were many questions. And there were few answers.
All that wondering would have to wait. Grant had bigger problems just now. Prime among them was finding a place to stay. Sue had always kept a list of motels that accepted dogs. She updated it regularly and consulted it when planning family vacations. All things considered, Grant believed it an act of supreme generosity that Sue had given it to him before he left with Kisha.
Grant picked a place from the list at which to stay for a day or two. It would probably be best if he took Kisha out for her walks early in the morning and late at night. No sense in giving anyone a good look at her; Grant doubted that any motel would willingly accept a wolf. Even one that was half dog.
After that, he could possibly take Kisha to a cabin that a friend of his owned. Roy had offered it to him many times, and Grant had always before declined. He hoped the offer still stood.
Grant pulled into the motel lot, registered, and took Kisha for her evening walk. Kisha's demeanor seemed to Grant much as it had earlier. Acceptance but little more. They walked along the edge of the road together in silence. Grant usually talked to Kelly on walks, but the wolf-dog seemed indifferent to chatter.
Besides, there was little need for verbal communication with Kisha; it seemed to Grant that she had a way of knowing what was going on in his head. It wasn't that the creature recognized his thoughts; it was more as if she naturally intuited his feelings, easily understood his moods.
After the walk, Grant unloaded the car. He was relieved to discover that Sue had packed some essentials for Kisha: a couple of bowls, some kibble, and some rawhide chews. Grant didn't know if it was out of affection for him, or if she simply knew that he'd likely forget to stop at a store to purchase the necessities. In any case, Sue cared about animals as much as he did. Grant guessed that she simply didn't want the wolf-dog to go hungry that night.
There was no food in any of the boxes for Grant. It didn't matter. He couldn't have eaten, anyway.
He didn't know quite what to do with Kisha with respect to the sleeping arrangements. Unlike a family pet, she couldn't simply have the run of the place. As Grant moved about the room, he noticed that the wolf-dog preferred a spot on the floor near the door. He momentarily considered letting her sleep there unfettered, but thought better of it.
She was, after all, part wild. So Grant decided to hook her up to her leash and then tether the other end to one of the dresser's legs. That arrangement allowed the wolf-dog to sleep in the location she'd selected, and it simultaneously offered her human companion some peace of mind.
Grant brushed his teeth, set the alarm for 5:00 A.M., and then settled into bed. He had thought he'd have trouble sleeping, but he was out almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.
The next day unfolded much as he'd expected. He got up early and walked Kisha before anyone at the motel was out and about. Then he called the office to say that maid service would be unnecessary. He took Kisha with him when he went out to get some fast-food breakfast. The woman at the drive-through window cooed over the wolf-dog, and asked about its breed.
"A shepherd mix," Grant replied.
Once back in the room, he ate his food and then fed Kisha. Grant resisted his inclination to take care of her first; he knew that wild animals read much into things such as the order in which members of the pack eat. If Grant had allowed Kisha to chow down first, she might have interpreted it as an indication that she ranked higher than he.
He was slowly but surely beginning to recognize -- and to obey -- the rules of the wild.
After breakfast he made his telephone calls. Roy's wife answered and took the message. She said she'd have her husband call back later that day. She also said that she was sure it would be okay with him if Grant wanted to use the cabin for a few weeks. Those words eased his mind considerably.
And then he called Sue. Grant reached the machine, and left a clumsy message. He didn't know what to say. He missed Sue terribly. He missed Kelly, too. Having left his home because of an urge that was irresistible, Grant now found himself dealing with a grief that was just as intense.
Why couldn't he just turn back? Why couldn't he return the wolf-dog and try to resume his old life, a life that had sufficed for so long? Grant asked himself why he had turned his life -- and the lives of those he held most dear -- upside down. He wondered why he remained so utterly powerless to reverse this dangerous course.
But deep inside him resided the simple truth: a life that had merely sufficed for decades was not good enough any longer. Kisha had changed everything. There simply was no way he could go back.
It wasn't the possible legal trouble he'd find himself in by returning. Hell, the law could catch up with him at any moment. He realized that. But Grant also knew that the force that set him on this alternate path wasn't frivolous; this path had called to him his whole life. The wolf-dog was simply an emissary. She was his escort to a life that always had always beckoned.
A week passed. Kisha and Grant were well settled into life at Roy's cabin. There were few prying eyes; there was little chance of being caught. And the property offered a closer resemblance to the natural setting Grant craved. Its glaring shortcoming was the absence of Sue and Kelly.
Messages left on Sue's answering machine went mostly unanswered, though she did call back now and then. She said she was doing okay, but that could be deceiving. Sue was one of those self-reliant types who always manage to bear up, and who are loathe to reveal suffering.
But after a week elapsed without any new word from her, Grant wondered if Sue had decided to break things off between them altogether. He could hardly blame her. How could any relationship, let alone a marriage, survive this?
Then it happened. Sue called. And she had remarkable news. Against his instructions, she had contacted a member of Tabor's shelter, someone she trusted. Sue had spilled the entire story. There was a significant fact of which Grant had been ignorant: Kisha had not really been adopted. An arrangement had been made to send her to an animal sanctuary in a western state.
The "Adopted" sign on her cage door had been misleading. It had only been hung there to indicate that she was unavailable. But there were no adopters waiting to take her home. The shelter's dog committee had determined that it would be difficult to find the right residential situation for Kisha. They recognized her wild side and were reluctant to release her to anyone living in a traditional neighborhood.
As Sue laid out the situation, Grant choked on the irony. What they had sought for Kisha seemed a lot like what he had in mind. The committee had simply figured that no such situation could be found, and so it located a sanctuary willing to take in the wolf-dog.
Where, exactly, did this leave things? Sue went on to say that, after much heated discussion, tempers cooled and options emerged. It shocked Grant to learn that a member of the committee had commented in an off-hand way that he -- Grant -- might make an ideal adopter for Kisha, if only he lived somewhere more remote and didn't have a fully domesticated dog already living in his household.
The comment wasn't a serious suggestion that Grant adopt Kisha. The remark was only a recognition of the fact that he seemed temperamentally suited to live with such an animal. He was stunned.
But that discussion took place before Grant had stolen the animal. The committee was feeling a lot less favorably toward him now. For the first week after the criminal act, committee members had sought Grant's arrest. During the intervening days, tempers eased a bit. They had ultimately decided to settle for the return of Kisha (that, and Grant's resignation from the shelter).
With the passage of a second week, and as a consequence of the conversation Sue had with her friend on the committee, things had evolved still further.
The attention of shelter officials now turned solely to Kisha's welfare. Her well-being had always been their primary concern, of course. But Grant's rogue act had generated intense emotional reactions, reactions that brought other factors into play. As more and more days since his larceny passed, however, passions had become progressively less intense. The safety of the wolf-dog was all that mattered now.
Helping matters along was the fact that Sue was an eminently earnest person, a person whose integrity was unquestioned. She was able to convince the committee that if she -- in spite of Grant's strange and unacceptable behavior in stealing Kisha -- nevertheless did not doubt his intentions with respect to the wolf-dog, then perhaps they shouldn't, either.
Sue suggested that she certainly had much to question and dislike about Grant's recent behavior. It was her life and her marriage, after all, that lay in shambles. If, despite all that, she could discern Grant's deep devotion to this half-domestic, half-wild animal, then maybe others could, too. If Grant was willing to sacrifice so much to be with this creature, was it not likely that he'd take good care of her?
Sue asked them to do the unthinkable. She asked them to relent and consider allowing Grant to legally adopt Kisha. And, as absurd as they would have deemed such a suggestion only a few days earlier, they agreed to give it serious consideration now.
Grant listened in stunned silence. He could not believe what he was hearing. It all seemed so impossible. There was a chance that his association with Kisha could be legitimized. There was a chance that things might work out after all.
"That's fantastic!" Grant exclaimed. "There is a God."
"I'm happy for you, Grant. I really am." But Sue's voice sounded anything but happy. "I guess once we get all this resolved, you'll be heading north."
And, just that quickly, Grant fell back to Earth. If the past few days had revealed anything to him, it was this: the gravitational pulls of the life that he was leaving behind and the one that beckoned him were almost equally strong.
Grant's legal troubles might have been coming to an end. But his inner turmoil roiled on.
Copyright © 2005 Michael F. Murray -- All rights reserved.