Flash Fiction No. 4 – “Wolf, are you there?

Something I wrote today at lunch.  I have an idea for a story that grew out of this short action scene, and it has been kicking around my head for a couple of years now, going nowhere.  I finally decided to write the scene, and see if it triggered additional material.

It did, and I plan to flesh out at least a short story (although the plot I have in mind is longer), but meanwhile I though this would make a nice little Flash Fiction morsel.  Maybe not.  Either way, I now have this off my mind, and onto (virtual) paper.   Additional comments after it.

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“Wolf, are you there?”

The man who had introduced himself to the little girl as Dave was now pulling her by her wrist.  It was all she could do to keep up with his pace without falling, even as she kept asking for her mother.  Dave stopped, turned to face her, and still holding her wrist, he put his face within a few inches of hers.

“You will be quiet, and you will keep up!”  His words were harsh, and the girl’s eyes went wide with fear.  The man straightened, and turned to continue down the alley.

“What the . . . “ His exclamation was in reaction to a man blocking the way.  Dave blinked, as if to make the figure disappear, and he briefly wondered where the man had come from.

“Let the child go.” The stranger’s voice was soft, sounding more as if he had placed a coffee order than commanded Dave to release the little girl.

Dave eyed the man for a moment, and then his free hand reached inside his coat.  A small flash, and Dave’s head was rolling on the ground, his hand still grasping the girl’s wrist as his body began to collapse. The stranger moved quickly, prying Dave’s now lifeless fingers from the girl’s wrist, turning her, and heading back the way she and Dave had come.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“ . . . Denise . . . “ she answered, and tried to look back at Dave’s body.  The stranger shifted to block her view, and continued walking as if nothing had happened.

“Denise.  That’s a pretty name.  How old are you Denise?” he strolled casually, a welcome change from the pace Dave had set.  

“Four.“ She paused a moment, then continued, “What’s your name?”

“Wolf.  Call me Wolf,” he answered as they approached the street.  Flashing lights from a police cruiser illuminated the small crowd in front of the market across the street.  He stopped and squatted down beside the girl.  

“Now, you look on both sides of the street, and then go to those lights.  Your mom is waiting there for you, and she is worried about you.  OK?” His face was in the shadow, and Denise could not make out his features from the distraction of the flashing lights.  

“Alright,” she said looking up at him as he stood.

The man let go of her hand.  “Don’t worry; I’ll be there when you need me.” He said as he gently prodded her toward the street.  

She took a few steps, and as her mom noticed her and started to both run and call to her, Denise glanced back at the empty alley.

“Wolf?  Are you there?”

Wolf shook off the aftereffect of the jump.  As cobwebs cleared, his eyes focused on Dr. Harden, the latest of The Project’s administrators.  

“That was not smart.” Her voice was striving for stern, but her face opted not to support the voice.  “We’ve tweaked the timeline, and got rid of the body, but Denise is now one of us.  More important, she’s linked to you.”

“I know.” Wolf settled on the sofa put there for returning jumpers. “I was there by accident; I could not just let it play out.”

“She’s now your responsibility; whatever her fate was supposed to be, nothing can happen to her now.  See to it.” Dr. Harden’s face had finally managed to catch up with the voice, just as the voice had given up on the whole stern idea.

Dr. Harden considered the young man sitting there, watching him absorb the magnitude of his new responsibility.  She touched his shoulder.  “I would have done the same.”  Wolf did not look up.

Later, in her office, in hushed tones she reassured the person at the other end of the line.

“No, he does not suspect anything.  He thinks it was a coincidence.”  She listened a while in silence.  “We did what we could,” she continued, “now we have to let it play out, and hope for the best.  . . . Yes, Sir, good night to you too.” 

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I went back and forth about including the last two paragraphs.  In a way, they are not fair to the reader.  But on the other hand, it seemed to me a better closure than the pat on the shoulder.  

. . . if only I were a writer, I would know which is best . . .

So, where did this come from?  From the title of a book I had read when I was very young.  When my mother reads this sentence I will get an e-mail telling me all about it, but right now all I remember clearly about the book is the title: “Lupo, ci sei?” (“Wolf, are you there?”).  

I found a couple of books with that title from a cursory search on the Internet.  One is from 1925, and the other from 1963.  The later is probably it, although I could not find a synopsis of it anywhere.  No, I don’t want to buy it, read it, or know too much about it.  I carried this memory for a long while, and I am comfortable with its vagueness.  

I’m hazy on the plot, but I remember at least one kid as the protagonist, and someone who showed up to help him when he asked the question “wolf, are you there?”   We are talking more than 40 years ago, and I don’t know if the person that showed up was was real or imagined, or if it was even human.   All I know is that I wanted for it to be a Lupo for me when I was growing up.  

I knew better, of course, but the title stuck with me through over 40 years of what has arguably been a pretty good life.  I know better now as well, even as so many people rely on their version of Lupo to help them get through life.  I once thought I could be a Lupo for others, but that’s another thing I now know better; you can only be one for yourself.  

Anyway, the scene is written, a plot is taking shape in my mind, and maybe one day my version will fuel a kid’s inspiration.  An inspiration which, like mine, likely will have no bearing on the actual story, but draws on what I think is an awesome title.

As usual, thanks for visiting, and thanks for reading my stuff.

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