Chapter 9: No Sense of Time
--by Mike Murray
Grant pondered the terrifying events he'd just experienced. Events he'd set into motion. Sue would be back soon; he was supremely grateful that she had not witnessed the drama.
She would never have understood. She would never have forgiven him for putting Kelly in such danger. Grant wasn't sure he could forgive himself. Perhaps his grand attempt at reconciling the competing passions of his life was a bad idea. A selfish, bad idea.
Nobody gets to have it all. What made him think he could? He had never expected much of life before. Why was he asking so much of it now? Grant didn't know.
He only knew that Kisha had awakened something in him, something primal. The vague yearning that had been lingering in the recesses of his consciousness for so long had moved to the fore. He could no more ignore it than he could stop breathing.
Just the same, Grant's attachment to -- his love for -- Sue and Kelly remained as strong as ever. He dreaded the prospect that he might be forced to choose between potentially divergent paths.
The outside sound of a car door closing brought him back to the present.
Sue was weary and upset, but she forced herself to be civil. She spoke little to Grant as they ate. There was no hint of reproach in her manner. She was sad; she was not angry.
Sue had known Grant a long time. She believed in him. Believed in him in a way that made other husbands envious. Grant was amused at the contempt many wives expressed for their mates. So often they hurled insults that masqueraded as jest, insults that revealed undercurrents of discontent.
Grant's better half was never like that. Sue invariably supported him. Not in a sticky sweet or contrived way; she was simply his partner in every way imaginable. The world could heave whatever misery it chose their way; Grant and Sue knew they could always count on each other. They knew that they could weather almost any storm. They knew it without ever having to speak of it.
The drive had helped Sue sort a few things out. She thought about the nature of the man with whom she'd spent two decades. She knew him to be steady. He was uncomplicated. What you saw was what you got with Grant. No games. Few pretenses.
There was one thing about which she was absolutely certain: Grant was not frivolous. He was not normally given to flights of fancy. She concluded that his actions in recent weeks could only mean that he was wrestling with serious inner conflict.
And she knew another thing about Grant. Once he made up his mind, it was nearly impossible for anyone to change it.
So, partly out of a desire to assist the man to whom she was deeply committed and partly out of a need to resolve matters that impacted her own life, Sue decided to step back emotionally. She decided to try to help Grant find the answers he sought.
But not just then. Sue was dead tired. Tomorrow would be soon enough to begin wading through the mess.
In preparation for sleep, Grant tended to Kisha and Sue tended to Kelly. The wolf-dog spent the night tethered to the wall. Kelly happily assumed her usual place -- for the first time in many days -- on the bed between her two human companions.
Grant rose early the next morning. Mindful of the trouble of the previous evening, he was careful to prevent conflict between the canines. No urging was necessary to get Kelly to maintain physical space between herself and the wolf-dog. She steered well clear of Kisha as she headed out the door for her walk. She likewise allowed a wide berth upon returning. And once unhooked from her leash, Kelly bolted straight to the bed and Sue's comfort.
Grant next led Kisha outside. When he returned, Sue was preparing breakfast. Kelly clung to her side, eyes alert. As man and wolf-dog entered, Kelly's fur bristled and she let out a defensive growl. Kisha's head was lowered slightly, parallel to her shoulders in a ready position. But, that small display aside, she was otherwise aloof. The wolf-dog was observant of her surroundings and, as always, prepared for action. But she was not especially concerned.
"I think Kelly's afraid of your wolf," Sue remarked. The animal alarmed her, too, but she was doing her best to keep from letting it show.
Grant made no mention of what had transpired between Kelly and Kisha the day before. He doubted that he ever would. He was still hoping for the best. He was hoping against hope that the creatures who mattered so much to him could find a way to work things out.
On the surface, the day passed easily enough, neither party wanting to get to the point. Finally, Sue took matters in hand. "Okay, hon, I think we've stalled long enough. Just tell me, are you going to do this? Are you going to move away?"
"Suze, I have to. I'm not sure I can explain why."
"Save it. I've been thinking a lot about things, and I'm too tired to fight. Besides, I've known you too long. I could yell and scream and beg and plead, and it wouldn't change anything, would it? What I think really doesn't matter, does it?"
"Honey," Grant protested. "It's not like that. I don't want to hurt you."
"Spare me. Just tell me, do you want a divorce?"
"Who said anything about a divorce? I love you, Suze."
"But not enough to stay with me? You're willing to throw everything away? Besides, what the hell do you know about living in Alaska? You grew up in Cleveland, for Christ's sake!"
"Honey, please. I'm not saying it'll be easy. I don't know why I'm doing this, exactly. I just know I have to. You've heard me talk many times about..."
"Put a sock in it." Sue was finding it difficult to follow through on her initial intent to approach the situation calmly and supportively. She felt her emotions rising. "Just tell me. When are you planning to go? Do you file the papers, or do you expect me to?"
"I don't want a divorce, honey. Really. I was hoping that you and Kelly would come with me," Grant offered meekly. His voice was low and his eyes averted.
"And do what, exactly? I teach, remember? There aren't many colleges out in the middle of rural Alaska -- even if I were willing to move. It isn't like those jobs grow on trees. It isn't like waiting for something to open up at the gas station or the general store. You haven't thought this through very well, Einstein."
She was right, of course. Grant hadn't thought any of this through. He had acted purely on impulse. Kisha's appearance in his life had presented an opportunity. An oh-so-brief opportunity, Grant determined. There had been precious little time for contemplation. He had deemed it a matter of acting quickly or of letting the chance pass by.
And then there was this: even when attempting to execute carefully formulated plans, Grant had a glaring weakness. He was a person of broad strokes. Sure, he was rock-steady and eminently reliable. He worked hard, dedicating himself to big efforts over extended periods of time. He was as dependable as the day is long. Those traits had served him well as he painstakingly constructed a safe and secure life. But he had this thing about details.
Sue often said that Grant had no sense of time. She observed that when he immersed himself in projects, he would typically go hours without glancing at a clock. He suffered from tunnel vision; he tended to focus his mind on central issues, ignoring the peripheral. He was a big-picture guy; minutiae escaped him. Grant sometimes didn't bother to consider that failure to tend to details carried the potential of derailing the grandest of his efforts.
Sue pressed on. "Do you even know where, exactly, in Alaska you want to go? Do you have the vaguest notion of where you'll live? And what I would do if I came with you? You can write your silly stories anywhere, but what about me? Do you expect me to give up tenure?"
Sue seemed to be taking a perverse pleasure in the interrogation.
"No," Grant admitted. "I don't know any of that. But I do know one thing." In his time alone at the cabin, he'd had time to prepare for this important conversation with Sue. And he'd hit on something.
"Suz, there is one way we could give this a try without throwing away your position. You've been talking about taking a sabbatical. Why couldn't you use it to get away and do some research?"
There. He'd taken his best shot, played his ace. Grant braced for Sue's reaction. He expected her to erupt in anger or amusement.
He was met with silence. Grant ventured a glance at Sue's face to see what was up. Her expression was one of thoughtfulness. By God, she was thinking about it! He waited patiently, giving her the time she needed to let the idea sink in.
Finally, she let out a sigh. "Maybe it could work."
As the next couple of hours unfolded, Sue's mood brightened considerably. She got out pen and paper. She began writing. An academic through and through, she was fully at home planning, organizing, researching.
There would be the logistics of the sabbatical application process to consider. The matter of renting out their house -- or at least of arranging for a house sitter. She'd have to locate a suitable place in Alaska. And on and on. They were just the sort of details Sue lived to sort out.
The issue of the sabbatical was a serious one for Sue; she had been wondering what to do with it for some time. Grant's proposal would resolve that concern. Even more important to Sue, she believed it would give Grant a whole year to tire of a remote, isolated life. A whole year for her to talk him out of this nonsense. The remainder of Sue's visit was spent taking copious notes, making detailed plans.
Seeing that his wife was happily absorbed, Grant turned his attention to his other major problem: the relationship between Kelly and Kisha. Dealing with Kelly had always been easy and natural. But such had not been the case with Kisha. In order to interact properly with the wolf-dog, Grant had been obliged to learn the rules of the wild.
And learn them he had. He had become mindful of the things Kisha needed from him. He became every inch her pack leader. He meted out punishment when it was called for. He engaged in routine, daily bonding rituals -- always careful to require Kisha to first approach him in humble and submissive fashion.
Now Grant sought Kisha's acceptance of Kelly as a pack mate. He was surprised to learn that the wolf-dog demonstrated no overt hostility toward her domesticated cousin. In fact, fully aware of her leader's anger over her recent attack of Kelly, Kisha made it a point to humble herself to Grant whenever the three of them were in close proximity. She was doing her best to show him that she understood the rule he had established: that Kelly was not to be harmed.
Thus assured, Grant relaxed. He began to take both animals out together for walks. He figured he'd need to nurture their relationship gradually.
What Grant did not know, could not know, was that Kisha and Kelly had already begun to work out the terms of their relationship in moments when he was not around. By virtue of her superior fighting skills, Kisha demanded a senior position in the pack. Kelly was happy to yield it to her.
Kisha had no desire to hurt Kelly, though the aggressive rituals by which she asserted her dominance might have seemed cruel to an unknowing observer. The wolf-dog only wanted the berth she deemed rightfully hers. That was fine with Kelly. Kelly was a reconciler; what she desired was harmony.
In their own way and in their own time, the canines had achieved peaceful accommodation.
The bonds between man, dog, and wolf-dog were fast intensifying. In no time they were playing together, roughhousing together. Kisha and Kelly took to huddling together for naps. The wolf-dog no longer required physical restraint. She was now what Grant once would have called a member of his family.
More accurately, they were all four -- Sue, Grant, Kelly, and Kisha -- coming together to form a new pack.
Far too soon to suit Grant, Sue and Kelly drove off, their visit over. Kisha whined softly at Kelly's departure. She was already missing her canine companion.
Copyright © 2005 Michael F. Murray -- All rights reserved.