Title: Take My Hand
This story is part of the Glimpses of Ben Series.
The little boy's tongue swept his lips as he concentrated on tying his shoes. His socks were a matched set for change and he wore a fresh pair of jeans and warm sweater. The sweater was blue and well worn. It was a favorite sweater, one of the last things his mother had given him before leaving him. Its sleeves were becoming too short on the 6-year-old boy. His dark, curly hair swept his forehead and curled around his ears. His face was flushed from leaning over to tie his shoes. But he was just about ready.
The clock beside his bed read 5 a.m. The boy smiled as he saw the time. He had plenty of time. Time before his grandparents woke up, time before his chores, time before his lessons. Pulling his bedroom door open very slowly the boy stuck his head out in the hallway and listened carefully. His lips curled in a smile when he heard the silence that filled his grandparents cabin.
He quietly went to the door and climbed up to take his parka down off the hook. Slipping the parka on was easy, as his grandmother had insisted on getting him a new larger one. He missed the one his mother had given him but his grandmother insisted that it just was not big enough for him anymore. He made sure the small package of food was still in the pocket of his parka where he had hidden it before going to sleep last night.
He put his hand on the door latch and slowly inched the door open. His heart raced as he pulled the door closed behind him expecting at any minute to be found out. Success, the door shut without a sound. Looking quickly towards the East the boy noted that the sun wasn't yet spreading its morning rays his way. Good that gave him more time.
Taking a deep breath he slowly walked down the cabin steps and into the front yard. Even in the dark he knew exactly where the path was and made his way to it quickly. It wasn't long before he was out of the cabin clearing and off on his own in the woods. He went to his secret spot just off the path and picked up his walking stick. It was the one piece of protection he had besides the flashlight hidden in his pocket and his whistle and pocketknife.
Missing front teeth were a real pain, the boy thought. Without them he couldn't whistle like Dad had taught him. His dad had given him the whistle before his mum died. The whistle was shiny and silver and hung on the same ring as his pocketknife also a gift from his Dad. Grandmother wasn't happy about the knife, but Grandpa had told her to let him be about it.
Winding his way along the path, the boy walked for 20 minutes then stopped and listened. He heard the forest silence around him. He loved the sound of small animals and birds as they began to wake up. He knelt and listened intently cocking his head to one side. There, there it was he was sure of it. With a smile he stood up and moved off the path, making his way slowly through the underbrush. He made sure he made enough noise to warn the animals around that he was coming. Every 10 paces he stopped and listened then started off again.
The rushing sound of water got louder and louder as the boy moved through the underbrush. Soon he was standing on the edge of a small creek. He began walking towards the creeks source making sure he kept his feet dry and mud free. Within minutes he stood beside a small waterfall. It wasn't very wide, or very tall. The boy could climb to the top of it with just a few jumping steps up the side of it. He watched the water rushing merrily over the drop of rocks and branches as it made its way to the tiny creek below.
The boy found a spot a little away from the waterfall where he could sit on a small rock that jutted up from the earth by a large tree. It made a perfect stool for the 6- year-old boy. He huddled in his parka in the cold morning air and sat down to wait.
His eyes swept the area patiently as he listened intently. There he heard it. He held himself still and small against the tree and waited. He let his hood cover his head and held himself quietly.
The animal entered the small waterfall area stealthily, her tail held tightly to her rear. She raised her gray-fringed ears and stood listening. She paced back and forth on the ridge at the top of the waterfall her tough pads making little noise amongst the forest floor's debris. Planting her feet solidly, she lowered her head and neck until they were lower than her shoulders. She swept her head slowly from left to right as she raised her right paw and made a step. She made the same sweeping movement before moving her left rear leg up one step. Her glistening eyes blinked in the early morning darkness. Her tongue lolled out of one side of her mouth. Her fur was thick from winter yet and its light brown coloring protected her well. She moved with every caution her breed knew as she slowly lifted her nose to the sky to begin smelling out the area.
The little two-legged being was there. She could smell him and smell the food he had hidden on him. Her stomach pitched as her hunger drove her nearer the little being that had befriended her. Moving slowly she moved down off the waterfall's ridge and went to stand 10 feet away from the huddled figure by the tree.
The boy held his breath and waited. She was here. She had come, just like he knew she would. Carefully he brought out the food he had brought with him and crawled forward on his hands and knees until his was half way to the animal. He laid the food out carefully and slowly retreated to his rocky seat.
Cautiously the female animal approached the food. It smelled of the being but she nervously checked it out with her nose before picking it up and retreating back a few feet. She lay down and watched the boy, her eyes blinking in wolf fashion. Her ears twitched as she listened to the forest around them before laying one paw over the food and putting her teeth into the meat and pulling to take a bite. As she licked her canine teeth she watched the boy.
He watched her eat another chuck of food as she held it between her front paws. She opened her mouth and seemed to grin at him before taking another bite out of the food. In minutes the food offering was gone, but she lay there watching the boy. Her eyes blinked rapidly at him as she rose and took a step towards him. Still he didn't move.
She sat and quietly watched him for a few minutes and then moved stealthily forward again. She waited eons between each step. The boy sat and held his breath, his little fingers twitching on his jean covered legs. His human tongue swept his lips as he finally dared to raise his eyes to those of the female wolf. She advanced another step, then another and lay on the ground again. Her panting filled the boys ears as he watched her cock her head at him. His toes began to itch inside his wool socks, but he didn't move. He wanted so badly to move, but he didn't.
The wolf stood at last and was within touching distance of the boy. He could smell her fur and her mouth. He could see her dark brown eyes looking him over. He let out a soft sigh and turned one of his hands over on his leg to that it laid palm up against his jeans. Waiting was painful and glorious. Holding as still as the statues grandmother had shown him in her books about Greece, he waited. The wolf stopped pacing in front of him and extended her head towards the upturned hand. She put her nose almost to the skin and drew in the smell of the boy as she held one ear forward and one ear cocked back over her head.
She was close enough now for the boy to see how beautiful her coat was in the rising morning light. Her legs were soft beige rising into a flurry of silver and black and brown. Her guard hair was short on her legs but the hair on her body was longish and heavy. The animals face was narrow and brown, the hair between her eyes darkening as it moved higher to the crown her head where it became almost black.
The boy could see the hair on her body move with each breath she took. His heart swelled with pride that he was here at this moment. She needed his help and was accepting it. The wolf stood still in front of the boy and dropped to the ground. She lay still for a moment her ears twitching as she listened to a far off sound. Rising to her feet, she tilted her head until her lower jaw was tilted up at the boy. He watched her as she lowered her head and shoulders and seemed to lean towards him.
He could reach out and touch the animal but he didn't. Instead he crooned to her in a soft voice and watched her stand upright again. She raised her tail like a plum in the wind and pranced a few paces from him. She returned and stood almost touching him before giving a low growl and giving a leap moved away from him until she was once more standing on the ridge of the small waterfall. With a last look at the boy, she turned and retreated into the forest just as the morning sunlight began to take hold on the earth.
Some minutes later the boy moved. He leaned back against the tree with a satisfied smile on his young face. His hood fell off of his head he felt the tree bark against his curly dark hair. The blue-gray of his eyes shown clearly as he watched the sun rising. Using his walking stick, he pulled his little body up and looked at his watch. It was 6 a.m., he better hurry if he wanted to get back into the cabin before his Grandfather found him.
He took one last look around the waterfall and turned to start making his way towards the path. Before he took two steps the large shape of his grandfather stood in his way. The boy looked up with frightened eyes. Oh Boy. He was in for it now. He waited for the old man to say something, anything. But only silence met his ears. He noted that his grandfather had his rifle in his hand and that his grandfather's hands were shaking.
Raising his eyes to meet his grandfather's, he pleaded silently for understanding. The old man dropped to one knee and pulled the little boy to him, a gasping sound ripping from his chest. The boy was crushed to the old man but happy as he felt the shaking shoulder his head was pressed against. The old man put the boy away from him and stared down at the boy before extending his right hand towards the boy.
Shyly the little boy placed his small hand in his grandfather's and felt it held there tightly. The pressure was reassuring not hurting as the boy had expected. Holding the boy's hand the old man retrieved his rifle from the ground and turned them both back towards the path.
They walked silently thought the undergrowth the boy's hand held gently but firmly in the old man's grasp. Neither said a word on the twenty-minute walk back to the cabin and neither of them ever told the story of the morning's happenings to the boy's grandmother.
That evening the boy found a large book on wolves on his bed before he went to sleep. Inside was a note from his grandfather. "To Ben, for your reading pleasure. Grandpa." His reading light was on for quite a while that night before sleep claimed him.