When he was born, I was the happiest daddy in the world. No one could've been happier than me, to see that beautiful baby boy. When I saw him, I thought, Mine. Well, mine and Linda's. But still, he was something I'd made myself, something that had come from me. I had all these plans, you know, the way fathers do. Teaching the boy how to play baseball. Pushing the bicycle along. Taking him to the park, to the playground, to football games. I mean, yeah, he was still this naked little bologna loaf thing in the hospital bassinet, but he was my son.

Then he was bitten, and all that changed.

I was angry. You understand that, don't you? Angry at Linda, angry at myself, angry at the whole world. How could someone have let this happen to my son? He was my pride and joy, the pinnacle of my world. He was going to do everything I hadn't been able to do. He was going to be what I had never been. But no, now he was this--this thing. All my dreams fell to pieces that day Linda opened the door to the guest room and found him naked and bloody inside and the walls raked with scratches.

That was the first and only time Linda hit me. The night after, I'd been irrational--had a little too much to drink, I suppose, and I just wanted something to blame. Linda shouldn't have let him out alone, those hunters should have been faster, why didn't she raise him right, why wasn't I there with him, and now he was this monster, he wasn't my son anymore, the wolf had taken him away from me--

--and Linda hit me.

"I never," she hissed, "want to hear you call our son a monster."

And she left, with me gaping at her behind.

She was right, of course. He wasn't a monster. He was still my son.

But he wasn't. I could see the wolf there, every time he looked at me. I could see the moon in his eyes. It made me. . . afraid. No, not afraid. Gregory Philip Webster is afraid of nothing, much less a mythical beast. But this mythical beast had come to life inside my son, and every time I looked at my son I knew that he--or the thing inside him--wanted to eat me alive. I hated that wolf, the one who had taken my son away, and maybe Tony thought I hated him, too.

(Maybe Tony thinks that he and the wolf are the same. But they aren't, they aren't, they aren't. I love Tony. I do not love the wolf. I will teach Tony to play baseball and soccer and basketball and football. I will teach him to ride a bicycle. I will take him to Disneyland. But the wolf, I will not touch it.)

Either Linda didn't see it or she saw it and didn't let it affect her. As far as I could see, nothing changed between her and Tony. She was still his mother, he was still his son. And I was still his father, but he was not my son. There was the wolf in him, and it bared its fangs at me every time I saw his face.

So I began to look at his back instead. And I watched him grow taller and broader, muscles in his back and in his legs and his arms. It was fascinating to see him grow and become a man, to make the footprints that I had never made. Honor Roll, National Honor Society, Varsity Basketball, State Championship playoffs, salutorian. But I knew the wolf was still there, under his skin, laughing at me and eating my dreams. I knew that behind my back, the wolf was saying things like, "My old man is a bastard" and "I hate him."

It hurts. Yes, it hurts. He is my son and I love him. But I do not love the wolf.

(I fear it.)



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