If there were any justice in the world, I would have been born a wolf. Instead, I’m a seventh grader.
Canis lupus occidentalis
I don’t know if I am actually part of the dare. I end up standing next to Vi. She’s looking at the Ben & Jerry’s. When she notices me, it’s like I’m an afterthought to choosing between Phish Food and Cherry Garcia.
“A grown wolf can run up to thirty-seven miles an hour,” I tell her.
“That’s pretty fast.” She takes a pint of Cherry Garcia out of the freezer and heads to the checkout kiosk.
I follow her. “Who’s your tattoo of?”
Vi explains that she is Kali, mother of the universe and incarnation of Shakti, i.e. a form in which Shakti manifests, not to be confused with reincarnation, which is when your karma, i.e. your good and bad deeds, determine how you will be reborn, like as a human, if you’re really good, or an animal, if you’re not so good. Then we’re standing in line next to Adishree, who says, “Vi, you promised you wouldn’t embarrass me.” Vi rolls her eyes. I look at Adishree to see if I can tell where she is hiding her shoplifted object. Now that I know bad karma is the only thing standing between me and reincarnation as a wolf, I am ready to fuck my karma the hell up.
When we’re out of the store, I show the girls the packet of gum I slipped in my pocket at the checkout. I sort of expect them to say something so small doesn’t count, but Hailey and Mason go, “Ooh, ahh,” like I have heisted a rare treasure, and Bethany gives me a high five.
“I couldn’t do it,” Chloe admits. “My mom would kill me if I got caught.”
The other girls shake their heads in defeat too.
“What did you take?” I ask Adishree.
“Actually, I was just joking.”
“No way, you chickened out!” Devin whisper-gasps.
“I can’t believe you think I would actually shoplift, that’s so trashy.” She laughs like we’re just all friends having fun, making jokes, but there’s a sort of snarl in the edge of her voice that makes me think of cornered animals.
“I can’t believe you’re that gullible,” Adishree says to me. “I think you should go home.”
Vi offers to drive me home. I want to be in a car with her and I want her to say something like, “Sorry about my sister.” It’s all just too much on top of the many other things I want, so I say, “No, thank you, I can walk.” Though no one else is outside, nearly every house in the subdivision has their porch lights on, so the night is goldish instead of dark. It’s a nice night for a walk, I guess, except my sleeping bag is starting to unroll and slip from my arms. I sit down on the curb to readjust it; then I am sitting on the curb just to sit and look up at the moon. My mom will probably have a lot of questions about why I came home early. I don’t want to answer any of them.
I take the gum out of my shorts pocket, slide out a piece, unfold the silver wrapping, put it in my mouth. I chew, I think, Fuck Adishree, I say out loud, “Fuck Adishree.” I unwrap another piece of gum, shove it in my mouth, then another and another until the whole pack is a thick rubbery mass in my mouth. I chew and chew and chew, and saliva hangs from my lips in thick strings like saliva hanging from the maw of a Northwestern wolf who has just gorged herself on the soft, bloody, nutrient-rich organs of an elk. Then I spit it out and howl.
I howl to the moon at the top of my lungs. A wolf’s howl can carry up to ten miles. From somewhere, up to ten miles away, I hear a reply.