The Claustrophobic Wolf
It was once that three young bachelor wolves shared a house on a hill near a thick old forest.
The wolves preferred the edge of the forest rather than the deep woods of their brethren. They liked the open space and the feeling of expansiveness it gave them and they liked the view from the hill, but mostly it was because the oldest of the bachelor wolves was claustrophobic.
During the pack meetings under the moon he always stood on the outside edges. When the leader asked him to come closer so he wouldn't have to yip so loudly, Gordon, the oldest of the young bachelor wolves, told him, "Someone must stand guard for us. I volunteer."
And the wolf leader would nod his head and pad back to his place on top of the flat rock to call the meeting to order.
Gordon kept his ears on the meeting and his eyes on surrounding bush, and he knew exactly where the quickest path to home could be found.
His housemates, Rald and Hubert, spent many a lazy hour sleeping in the sun or hunting for food, but Gordon liked to tend to the house and do the cooking.
One day his mother came by for a visit and asked him why he didn't go hunting with his friends.
"Someone has to stand guard for the house, mother. I volunteer."
"I don't see you get much of a problem with visitors. There's not much for cover for anyone to sneak up. Your house will be safe for a few hours. Rald or Hubert can look after it just as well, too, if it must be."
Gordon gave his mother a cup of huckleberry tea and a skewer of flying squirrel to snack on as they visited.
"I will say it is a fine view, son. You can keep an eye on the comings and goings of the villagers at the bottom of the hill, and see how the farmers tend their fields. When the geese fly south they'll stop in those harvested fields, I'm sure."
She licked her lips at the thought of fresh, fat goose.
"We don't get many coming around. The path to the forest is set far enough away. None has yet to snoop in the windows that we've seen, and there aren't any tracks."
No sooner had he said the words when a great grunting and snuffling assaulted their ears.
They loped to the nearest window and found a huge boar with curving tusks rooting about in the garden.
"Not my turnips," cried Gordon, racing out to chase the intruder away.
The boar pulled his snout out of the dirt and met the wolf's gaze without flinching.
"Get out," Gordon growled. He curled his lips and bared his fangs and put on his most menacing face.
Instead of fleeing with his curly tail between his legs the pig dug in his trotters and grunted.
"Those turnips are sweet, wolf. They'll make a fine meal."
"Not on my watch, pig." He nipped at the boar's face and side.
"That's a fine looking house you've got, friend wolf. Why don't you invite me in?"
"I've got company" said the wolf. "And your face is dirty."
"If I clean up, will you let me in?"
Gordon had been raised well and he knew his manners. Providing hospitality was the right thing to do even to a hog who was stealing vegetables.
"There's a stream by the wood. Go stick you nose in it and come back."
The boar trotted off to the stream while Gordon went back to the house.
"I see he's left. Did you scare him or reason with him?"
"Neither. He asked for hospitality. I've invited him in after he's washed."
His mother put a paw to her brow and shook her head. "Son...he's food. Are you planning to have him for dinner?"
"Only as a guest, mother."
"You are much too kind, son. Perhaps that's why you don't care to live with the pack."
"You know I don't like closed spaces, mother. The forest is not for me."
She got up and opened the door and nuzzled her son good-bye. As she did, the boar, all freshly washed with drops of water shining on his bristles in the afternoon sun, was at the door about to knock.
"Will you let me in now, wolf?"
The boar came in and made himself comfortable on the couch.
"What a fine house you have. It's seems bigger inside than out, and you've got a grand view of the farms and the village." And the pig smiled to himself because he'd overheard the wolf remind his mother he was claustrophobic.
"Would you like some tea? And how about a nice squirrel kabob?"
"Have you got any oats?" asked the hog. "I'm not much of a meat eater though I do thank you for the offer."
The wolf opened the pantry where the grains were stored. Once his back was turned the boar lowered his head and butted the wolf into the cupboard. He closed the door and threw his body against it, snorting with laughter.
It was dark in the pantry and awfully crowded. The wolf scrunched his body against the wall. He turned his head this way and that until he could see the little crack of light coming through the door.
His eyes grew wide and he started panting. His tail was mashed against his body and a back paw was jammed under a heavy sack of grain.
Small snuffling noises came from the other side of the door. Occasionally he heard a choked grunt. The hog was trying to control his laughter, but not doing a very good job of it.
Gordon twisted his body and threw it at the door. It budged a little, but the boar shifted and closed it again.
The movement closed the door completely. The crack of light was gone. Gordon closed his eyes and pretended he was outside. The trick worked in the past when he felt closed in, but not this time. The chortling pig on the other side of the door was too disturbing.
His stomach got tighter and tighter and he was running out of breath.
"I think this house should be mine," said the boar. "I'll put a half-wall between the kitchen and living room first, and then I'll change the windows. I like lattice windows. I suppose they all open? I'd change that, too. It's much safer if only one or two do, for escape in case of fire. But you've got so many in this house. I'd like it a bit more private."
He sank to the floor to rest a bit and think.
Gordon threw himself at the door a few more times, but there was no room to get a good run at it so the door hardly moved.
He moved his snout to the door jamb to get some air. As he moved the sack of grain moved and his paw was free. He flexed it a bit to get rid of the numbness and as he did he had an idea.
There was just enough room between the shelf and the grain sack for him to stand.
It was tight, but he held his breath and sucked in his stomach and made himself fit.
He coiled his body ready to spring, and he waited. The sun was shining full on the floor in front of the cupboard door. The boar was right in the middle of the sunspot, and he was probably getting sleepy.
The snuffling and chortling on the other side of the door grew fainter and fainter. Soon they were replaced by regular breathing and the occasional soft grunt.
He must be asleep, thought the wolf. It's time to strike.
He closed his eyes to calm himself, took as deep a breath as he could under the circumstances, and hurled his body against the door.
The boar had shifted a bit in his sleep and was no longer hard against the door. There was just enough slack for the wolf to break out.
The boar squealed in surprise when the wolf flew out of the pantry at him.
Gordon sank his fangs in the hog's back hamquarter and dragged him to the door.
He pushed the door open with one paw and tossed the hog out on to the ground.
The boar scrambled to his trotters and squealed all the way into the forest.
Gordon stood at his door catching his breath and watching the hog rush away, and then went to the kitchen to clean up the mess.
That night at the pack meeting he went to a spot away from the crowd. He checked around as usual, but didn't bother looking for the nearest path home. Instead he padded over to the front row and sat back on his haunches.
He was right in front of the pack leader. The leader noticed.
"You're not guarding tonight, Gordon?"
"I'm done with standing on the edges, Leader. Let someone else volunteer tonight."