The small things, that’s what Clark concentrated on. Never mind the wolf scratching at the insides of his hands, never mind the sound of its breath in his throat, the desire to hang his tongue out and let it loll. Never mind the way the full moon tugged at his skin.
External things. Things beyond the wolf’s reach. The motorcycle, his tools, the way the transmission rested in his hands, that was what he focused on. That was how he fought the wolf. The devil was in the details, but the wolf, thank God, was not. And maybe, tonight, the devil wasn’t in the details either. Tonight, God was in the details. God in the chrome, God in the gears, God in the grease and bolts and bits of everything that he touched.
Thinking about touching, about his fingers, his skin, the stripe of grease that was somehow on his lips… that was a pathway to the wolf. Clark’s tongue itched to stretch out of his throat to lick the grease.
Back to details. He’d been remodeling the Sport Scout for a good three weeks, but had saved the most delicate work for this full-moon night. For God and the wolf. There was salvation in the motorcycle, in the flagrant fenders, in the low-slung chassis. Screw his mind into the motorcycle, and for the first time in years, he’d have a full-moon night free of the wolf.
The wolf growled in his lungs, and Clark felt a bit of its frustration pass over his lips. Fifteen minutes to dawn. His fingers trembled as he worked the transmission into place.
And then, he was done.
Too soon! He realized it, and so the wolf realized it too, and he could feel it stretching within him, its claws scraping the skin beneath his fingernails. Clark hunted for something to tighten, something to adjust, some bit of grease to wipe away. His fingers tumbled along the skin of the motorcycle while his eyes hunted the corners of the garage. Something to catch his mind, something to distract him… There were the shadows scattered throughout the garage, the gleam of his tools in the overhead brights. And the red of his toolbox, red as blood, as red as a predator’s tongue…
The wolf scrambled in his throat; his prayer came out guttural. De profundis, Clark thought. Out of the deep have I howled unto thee, O Lord.
“Heavenly Father,”Clark gasped.
No words. Yelps and growls, and whines. Whining at God.
Clark stumbled back to the motorcycle. He’d tear it apart, this man’s thing, this thing that had caught him and bound him all night long. He’d tear apart this whole place, so the man would never be able to trap him again. He’d piss on everything, and the man would be afraid. Before the sun rose, before he slept again…
“Out…”Clark said, but the word no longer fit inside his mouth. Nothing of his own fit him any longer– the wolf’s claws scored the motorcycle’s chrome.
Dawn seized them.
It was not a flood of light that drove the wolf out of him. The wolf wanted to tear the motorcycle apart as much as it wanted to flee from the sun. Clark let it. He surrendered the motorcycle to the wolf. It leaped out of him, across the baby-pale rays of dawn, into the chrome and metal and rubber of the Sport Scout.
The motorcycle growled.
Clark pushed himself away. He stared and listened in the morning’s silence for… what? There was a resonance in his chest and the hairs on his neck, like a low, metallic chord. It made him itch.
Whining, groaning, growling, from the motorcycle. It wasn’t a sound that Clark could hear in his ears; it was like feeling his joints creaking. The wolf was a small thing, now. A detail. Clark reached out to the motorcycle and the wolf went silent.
Clark jerked his hand away. The wolf was a small thing, now, but not harmless. He scrubbed his beard with his fingertips. He’d been sweating all night long, and he stank. But even his stink was a pleasure, because it was a man’s stink. There was no beast-smell in the sweat, it was all man, it was, thank you God, human.
Clark turned to go inside. But he felt, between his shoulder-blades and in the ends of the hairs on his neck, the resonance trembling.