Home > Wolfsong (Green Creek #1)

Wolfsong (Green Creek #1)
Author: TJ Klune

Wolfsong

 


By TJ Klune

 

Ox was twelve when his daddy taught him a very valuable lesson. He said that Ox wasn’t worth anything and people would never understand him. Then he left.

Ox was sixteen when he met the boy on the road, the boy who talked and talked and talked. Ox found out later the boy hadn’t spoken in almost two years before that day, and that the boy belonged to a family who had moved into the house at the end of the lane.

Ox was seventeen when he found out the boy’s secret, and it painted the world around him in colors of red and orange and violet, of Alpha and Beta and Omega.

Ox was twenty-three when murder came to town and tore a hole in his head and heart. The boy chased after the monster with revenge in his bloodred eyes, leaving Ox behind to pick up the pieces.

It’s been three years since that fateful day—and the boy is back. Except now he’s a man, and Ox can no longer ignore the song that howls between them.

 

 

For Ely, because of all those Tumblr links.

 


You know the ones.

 

The thirst is real.

 

 

Oh please don’t go, we’ll eat you up, we love you so!


—Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

 

 

motes of dust/cold and metal

 

 

I WAS twelve when my daddy put a suitcase by the door.

“What’s that for?” I asked from the kitchen.

He sighed, low and rough. Took him a moment to turn around. “When did you get home?”

“A while ago.” My skin itched. Didn’t feel right.

He glanced at an old clock on the wall. The plastic covering its face was cracked. “Later than I thought. Look, Ox….” He shook his head. He seemed flustered. Confused. My dad was many things. A drunk. Quick to anger with words and fists. A sweet devil with a laugh that rumbled like that old Harley-Davidson WLA we’d rebuilt the summer before. But he was never flustered. He was never confused. Not like he was now.

I itched something awful.

“I know you’re not the smartest boy,” he said. He glanced back at his suitcase.

And it was true. I was not cursed with an overabundance of brains. My mom said I was just fine. My daddy thought I was slow. My mom said it wasn’t a race. He was deep in his whiskey at that point and started yelling and breaking things. He didn’t hit her. Not that night, anyway. Mom cried a lot, but he didn’t hit her. I made sure of it. When he finally started snoring in his old chair, I snuck back to my room and hid under my covers.

“Yes, sir,” I said to him.

He looked back at me, and I’ll swear until the day I die that I saw some kind of love in his eyes. “Dumb as an ox,” he said. It didn’t sound mean coming from him. It just was.

I shrugged. Wasn’t the first time he’d said that to me, even though Mom asked him to stop. It was okay. He was my dad. He knew better than anyone.

“You’re gonna get shit,” he said. “For most of your life.”

“I’m bigger than most,” I said like it meant something. And I was. People were scared of me, though I didn’t want them to be. I was big. Like my daddy. He was a big man with a sloping gut, thanks to the booze.

“People won’t understand you,” he said.

“Oh.”

“They won’t get you.”

“I don’t need them to.” I wanted them to very much, but I could see why they wouldn’t.

“I have to go.”

“Where?”

“Away. Look—”

“Does Mom know?”

He laughed, but it didn’t sound like he found anything funny. “Sure. Maybe. She knew what was going to happen. Probably has for a while.”

I stepped toward him. “When are you coming back?”

“Ox. People are going to be mean. You just ignore them. Keep your head down.”

“People aren’t mean. Not always.” I didn’t know that many people. Didn’t really have any friends. But the people I did know weren’t mean. Not always. They just didn’t know what to do with me. Most of them. But that was okay. I didn’t know what to do with me either.

And then he said, “You’re not going to see me for a while. Maybe a long while.”

“What about the shop?” I asked him. He worked down at Gordo’s. He smelled like grease and oil and metal when he came home. Fingers blackened. He had shirts with his name embroidered on them. Curtis stitched in reds and whites and blues. I always thought that was the most amazing thing. A mark of a great man, to have your name etched onto your shirt. He let me go with him sometimes. He showed me how to change the oil when I was three. How to change a tire when I was four. How to rebuild an engine for a 1957 Chevy Bel Air Coupe when I was nine. Those days I would come home smelling of grease and oil and metal and I would dream late at night of having a shirt with my name embroidered on it. Oxnard, it would say. Or maybe just Ox.

“Gordo doesn’t care” is what my dad said.

Which felt like a lie. Gordo cared a lot. He was gruff, but he told me once that when I was old enough, I could come talk to him about a job. “Guys like us have to stick together,” he said. I didn’t know what he meant by that, but the fact that he thought of me as anything was good enough for me.

“Oh” is all I could say to my dad.

“I don’t regret you,” he said. “But I regret everything else.”

I didn’t understand. “Is this about…?” I didn’t know what this was about.

“I regret being here,” he said. “I can’t take it.”

“Well that’s okay,” I said. “We can fix that.” We could just go somewhere else.

“There’s no fixing, Ox.”

“Did you charge your phone?” I asked him because he never remembered. “Don’t forget to charge your phone so I can call you. I got new math that I don’t understand. Mr. Howse said I could ask you for help.” Even though I knew my dad wouldn’t get the math problems any more than I would. Pre-algebra it was called. That scared me, because it was already hard when it was a pre. What would happen when it was just algebra without the pre involved?

I knew that face he made then. It was his angry face. He was pissed off. “Don’t you fucking get it?” he snapped.

I tried not to flinch. “No,” I said. Because I didn’t.

“Ox,” my daddy said. “There’s going to be no math. No phone calls. Don’t make me regret you too.”

“Oh,” I said.

“You have to be a man now. That’s why I’m trying to teach you this stuff. Shit’s gonna get slung on you. You brush it off and keep going.” His fists were clenched at his sides. I didn’t know why.

“I can be a man,” I assured him, because maybe that would make him feel better.

“I know,” he said.

I smiled at him, but he looked away.

“I have to go,” he eventually said.

“When are you coming back?” I asked him.

He staggered a step toward the door. Took a breath that rattled around his chest. Picked up his suitcase. Walked out. I heard his old truck start up outside. It stuttered a bit when it picked up. Sounded like he needed a new timing belt. I’d have to remind him later.

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