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Blood Runs Deep
I live in the middle of nowhere on top of a mountain covered with dense forests and lined with winding roads. I’ve seen my share of wildlife. One time, for a brief moment, I walked on one of the dirt roads and saw a fox flick into the brush. A sleek blur of burnt red with a bushy tail. Raccoons come up to my front porch, stand on their hind legs with their hands out, and beg for cat food, grapes, and peanut butter sandwiches. Their babies, just little balls of fur, stand behind their mothers and sneak glances at my feet. A herd of deer graze in my back yard and eat all of the fall apples and sneak into the strawberry patch. There are so many of them. Too many of them. Owls hoot outside my bedroom window and lull me to sleep during the summer. Their beating wings take flight and echo in my dreams. Brushing in and out. I was out walking one day and a cougar shot across my road and was gone before I could draw a breath. I stood there stunned.
Once, I stopped my car in the middle of the road so that a mother duck could lead her little ones to the pond across the street. For a week, an opossum lived in my garage until I saw the drool trail that led to her nest of ripped up newspapers and collection of shiny things. Another opossum camped out in my shed for the winter and had babies all over the place, leaving her mess for me to clean up. I’ve never seen a bear, but I woke up one morning and found my garbage strewn far and wide with huge teeth marks in the garbage can. A neighbor’s dog went missing and people sighted the bear bumbling along on their acreage. A new couple, originally from Chicago, saw the same one. They asked at our neighborhood meeting what we should do about the bear. “Should we shoot it?” They asked. We laughed. “This mountain is its home. We’re not going to do anything.”
On some nights, eerie noises fill the silence and the darkness. Unknown creatures, faceless in the dark, crawl on the forest floor, snapping twigs and rustling pine needles. Eyes like embers glow and flicker through the branches of the undergrowth. And, when the moon is full and shinning, the sound of howls and screams from the coyotes reverberate across the mountain sending my hair on end and a shiver up my spine. The noise grows almost to bursting when the domestic dogs join the din. Eventually, their voices recede like the ebb and flow of the tide until the night swallows the sound whole and the dark is quiet and still.
But one voice is never heard on this mountain. I never have heard the howl of the wolf. I have never seen their yellowed eyes or their warm gray fur. Their paws do not touch this mountain anymore, but their blood runs thick in its waters.