1. Bite marks


    It is about the teeth.

    Mine are small and blunt. The teeth I wanted back then were long and dagger-like, teeth that would dent my lips with their hard points.

    The day I was nakednew to her, Mama sat and watched me with her yellow eyes and said, panting still for the chase was not long over, Go on, little thing, you go on and eat. The blood will make you strong. Eat now, before it gets cold and toughens.

    She yawned and licked her nose. Mama did not understand my need for fangs when I was small.

    But I can’t, I said, as I sat and drew patterns with my finger on the ground in the blooded dust. Look at my teeth. What good are they? I drew back my lips and frowned all black and filthy, so fierce I was, such a wild little thing.

    I clutched the roughsmooth silk of her neck fur in my tiny fist, buried my nose in her side, rubbed my face against her flank and breathed in her musk. The wild, hot thud of her heart. The blood inside running and running. Her pulse my pulse. Bone of my bone. Heart of my heart. Grr, I growled into her ribs. Grr, Mama. Grr.

    She shook me from her, lay down on the pine needles with the steaming meat and began to pull it into pieces with her long teeth, slowly, tenderly, as if to be rough with the dead deer would hurt it. Filaments of fur, white and red, set adrift from the cooling skin by wolfish jaws, rising and falling on the warm air. Low light finding us through the branches of the thorn bushes. My naked limbs sunbrowned, yet gooseskinned and shivering. My dark hair dreaded and falling across my face and down my skinny back almost to my behind where there was no tail. The other pups would snarl at each other while they waited to feed, showing their brave little teeth, sharp and pointed, squealing and pulling at my trailing tresses. I would jump on them, bite their tails until they yelped and ran off. Then they would turn and pounce on me and we would growl and grin and howl and so it would go. We wrestled and played and my mother tore up the dead creatures she brought.

    The day I was new to her I clung to my mother and she tore up the meat and I ate it all. My hands and chin red and slick with the blood so sweet-sweet and sticky. My belly full. My eyes heavy. I lolled against her and put my arms about her neck and nibbled at her great grey ears and my heart swelled with hers and oh oh oh I love you I whispered. When all the little things had eaten and we had been licked clean by mama’s insistent tongue, we piled together and slept, tumbled and warm in a heap of grey fur and whining yawns and hot breath and twitch-legged dreams.


    I grew and my teeth did not.

    Every day I woke with hope, ran the tip of my tongue over the blunt pebbles in my mouth, growled deep in my throat because I did not yet have my fangs.

    Soon, my thing, my little frog, Mama would say to me. Do not give up. We never give up. Soon.


    One day when I was grown, tall enough now that I could look over the thorn bushes that were my home, I walked to the lake to swim and bathe and play, as was my custom every day. But on this day I stopped at the edge of the forest for a man stood there, tall and straight as a young pine. I froze, breathless, one hand on the knuckled bark of a tree, one foot raised toe-to-earth, tense as if I were stalking prey. Everything in me, each nerve and sinew straining towards him, but still and quiet as hanging mist I was. He was still and quiet too. He watched the water as it was harried into waves by the breeze. He watched the clouds as they chased each other across the blue. He watched the branches of the trees that bowed to him in the wind. I crouched at the edge of the trees and watched the man watching the world and he did not see me.

    When I had looked enough and had the what of him, the dark of his hair and the light of his eyes and the searching of his fingers, I crept around the edge of the lake, keeping to the shadows, climbed onto a sun-warmed rock and slipped like an otter into the water. I held my breath and swam to where he was and watched him from beneath, the blood booming in my ears. He watched the world and did not see me. I blew bubbles up towards the sky. I saw them burst on the surface but still he searched for something in the air and did not see me. I sang to him from under the water, as I had heard the muddy trout sing to their pale, pinkmilky eggs, but still he did not see me.

    So I swam a little way off, put my feet to the rocky bottom and stood. The water came just to my belly, the drops falling from me all over. I stood and shivered and looked at the man and his eyes saw me and he watched me watching him. I put a lock of hair in my mouth and sucked the water from it. He raised his hand to me and said something but the wind took his words. I would not have understood his barking anyway. But I saw him and he saw me at last and I slipped under the water and swam away.


    I see him in the woods every day. He is looking for a small girl, brown-limbed, tough-footed, silent, with great dark eyes that see everything and more. With tiny white teeth that she hopes will stay just as they are.

    I trail him as he searches the woods, keeping downwind though I know he cannot scent me. My shadow follows his through the trees, slipping across the ground softly, softly, never touching. Never touching.


    I have stopped wishing for my teeth to grow into fangs that would dent my lips with their hard points.


    Tomorrow I will let him find me. I will follow him through the forest to the water’s edge and he will stoop to run his fingers through the long grasses that sway in the water there, as he always does. I will come out of the trees and stand in front of him. I will rest my hands on my hips as I have seen him do and try not to frighten him with my growling, for he will not know that I mean it with all the love in my wolfish heart. My eyes will say, Look, you have found me and he will understand. I will take him by the hand and lead him soft-soft to the place where the pine needles are warm and dry and sweet-smelling in the lee of the hill and I will bite him gently with my dull little teeth and put the pieces of him back together, slowly, tenderly, with my kisses, touch the roughsmooth silk of him and bury my nose in his side, rub my face against his flank. The wild, hot thud of his heart. The blood inside running and running. His pulse my pulse. Bone of my bone. Heart of my heart.

    And Grr, he will growl into my ribs. Grr, my love. Grr.