By Nancy K. Fishman
I wish she wasn’t afraid of me. Every Saturday, before she walks to her grandmother’s house, I take a dirt bath and chew on the longest nails on my front paws. I see my reflection in the pond: a grey wolf with fiery yellow eyes. I comb the burrs out of my tail and practice speaking in a voice that might pass for human.
I dream of her petting me; of pushing my black, wet nose into the moist palm of her small hand and feeling her scratch my ears. We curl up together in the cool green moss. She tells me stories about her friends, her grandmother, and how she got the scar on her right eyebrow. I stretch one paw over her, shielding her from the wind and curl my tail around us. She leans against me and seeks the warmth of my fur and the firm beat of my heart. It pounds steadily for the small girl with red hair and innocent palms. The moon rises and I resist a desire to howl.
On Sunday, I awake from my dream and search for her among the blueberries, where she often lingers. She rounds the curve, cherry red lips stained blue and sees me. She is frozen in fear and I see the whites of her eyes. I could eat her in six or seven bites; this is what my instinct demands. I feel it coming over me, a reflex, an imperative to tear her limb from limb. I slink over to her, where she is frozen to the ground like a tree on the riverbank. I am closing in on her, my breath hot and my eyes keen. She opens her mouth to scream, but fear has closed her vocal cords and the only sound remaining is her shallow breath. When I am within striking distance, I gently put my wet nose in her hand and slowly lick, savoring each salty crystal, each delicate line in her palm. When I lick her other hand, she slowly understands that I want to play. She tentatively scratches my head with her dirty nails, and then, when she realizes that I will not hurt her, she giggles nervously and gives special attention to my ears. I bark hoarsely with delight and then howl, to tell the world that I have found joy in the sticky palms of a little girl who is no longer afraid.
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Nancy K. Fishman received her MFA in Creative Writing in fiction at San Francisco State University in May 2021, including a Graduate Student Award for Distinguished Achievement. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.A. in English with an Emphasis on Creative Writing. She has been a resident at Write On, Door County (WI) and Dorland Mountain Arts Colony (CA). Her short story “Stoplight” was a runner-up selected by Joshua Ferris for Symphony Space’s 2021 Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize. She is currently working on a novel.