Illustration by Arthur Rackham.
The night is dark and the air is still. Even the one fly too stupid to escape your hospitality has settled into a deep slumber fuelled by Mortein, or perhaps rigor mortis. You lie peacefully, coasting along the currents of slow wave sleep.
Yet something sounds in the kitchen, and your foggy mind is stirred into wakefulness. You slide out of bed, curved spine and hanging arms harking back to Neanderthal predecessors. Red-rimmed eyes crack open.
You shuffle your way to the door.
The sounds are coming louder now – a rattling here, an inhaled thhhhuuuurrrrrrr-smacksmacksmack there, as of a tongue making its way around the rim of a Dolmio sauce jar. Your lumbering heartbeat thuds a touch more quickly. Can it be? A clatter comes from the kitchen – it’s there, returned; it’s come in again from the cold – and your steps shuffle with far greater alacrity now as you stumble your way over the bar heater and grab the doorframe to break your fall, hand snatching for the handle – you push the door open; you fumble for the light –
The kitchen is empty. Small pieces of plastic from a disembowelled bag blow whispering across the tiles, like the suburban equivalent of tumbleweed in a deserted mid-western town. A lid from tomato paste jar rolls a last ring around the frozen meat lying on the counter, then falls into a rattling halt. The curtains by the half-open balcony door float lightly in a cool breeze.
You take a tentative step, avoiding the smoked salami. Then another.
There are no lights on in the bungalow out the back – yet this, you are convinced, is of no consequence. Indeed, according to your research, wolves have remarkably good night vision.
You narrow your eyes, keeping them fixed on the little room where Grandma dwells. The window is dark. But you have not been fooled.
Signs Your Grandmother Is A Wolf
- She finds dressing in wool-based materials to be excessively amusing. You’ve caught her cackling about sheep’s clothing on multiple occasions, and while you previously put it down dementia, now you’re not so sure.
- She has a particular fascination with children dressed in red. Last Halloween you zipped up your daughter in an Elmo onesie, and it took you eighteen minutes to prise her from Grandma’s clutches at the end of the evening.
- In her younger days, she was a trumpet player in the Salvation Army brass band. She can hold her breath underwater for longer than it takes a sloth to cross a highway, and has been known to blow down houses of cards from the opposite corner of the living room.
- She never spits on tissues when wiping dirt off your child’s nose. No: she simply licks their face.
- She claims to have been born in an unmapped village deep in the countryside of Ukraine. When you and the family took a trip to Eastern Europe to explore your heritage and visit her birthplace, however, the coordinates she had provided led you to the edge of a very large, very dark forest.
- Two words: Full Moon.
- You once caught her drooling while watching greyhound racing on TV. She blamed medications. You took her word at the time, but later saw her squatting intently by the rabbit holes near the neighbour’s fence. It was a conflicting day for familial trust.
- Her facial hair game is very strong.
- When your daughter was a toddler, you often struggled to convince her to urinate before bedtime. Grandma’s solution to this problem was to massage aforementioned daughter’s belly with her warm tongue. The most disturbing part of this situation was that it inevitably worked. Your daughter, however, took an uncommonly long time to transition from crawling on all fours.
- The History Channel once ran a feature on cave drawings in remote areas of Europe. Grandma grew weepy and nostalgic at the segment in which a pack of wild dogs brought down a mammoth.
- She never wastes any part of a meal, and upon finishing her portion of lamb cutlets always insists on crunching the bones. You may have questioned this once, but she claimed her habits were due to living through many cold and hungry winters, so you didn’t press the subject.
- Her tales about the good old days almost all seem to involve taking unspecified but satisfying disciplinary action against dishonest shepherds.
Still not convinced? Fine: let’s go in for the kill. You were christened Remus, and your twin brother Ron has never liked his real name. You both share a taste for steak saignant. As for your daughter, she has taken to seeking out high places and howling on clear nights. What’s more, your household appears blessed, for it’s the only one in the neighbourhood not to suffer a swift turnover of household pets, and there’s always meat on the table.
Today was her first day of volunteering at yet another petting zoo. The ones she gets involved with tend to go out of business eventually, but no matter. She has plans to move to the countryside next year; perhaps breathe some fresh mountain air. People are flocking to it, she says. Hardly any uncivilised pigs, not like in the suburbs. She might even be able to make some new friends.
She has been stocking up on fleece clothing.