Finding things to do in the summer:
It’s short, so maybe I’ll just put it here too:
My brother Eli and I watched the new family move into the creek den. They had a strange smell, very doggy, and we guessed that they came from the cities. We counted seven cubs; they all had a much more wolfy scent. There were also three older juveniles from a previous litter, close to our age. There was no dad. We went to tell Ma, who looked out and took a big whiff. She growled. “Nothing but trouble,” she said.
None of the juveniles were good at hunting, even though they ran really fast. So naturally they tried to get involved with herding, and so Eli and I found out a lot more about them since our dad’s family, the Kenshos, had corralled one of the biggest herds in the area.
They said they were Huskies, like their mom. The little cubs, their brothers and sisters in the creek den, had a different dad who was a wolf from the River pack. This shocked me but it explained the different scents. The two girls were named Lila and Sheila, and the boy was Kito. They didn’t answer to any family names from the River pack, though their mom said the little cubs would all be named Stone, after their dad. So we called them Lila, Sheila and Kito Stone even though they didn’t like that.
They stood out in a pack. A lot of it was the smell, which was definitely not normal, though it wasn’t bad. They didn’t quite look normal, either: soft fur, little paws, and really sharp black and white patches on their fur. All this was interesting to me, but Kito was far and away the most interesting: he had eyes that were different colors. One of them was normal but the other, the left eye, was the clearest blue I had ever dreamed of seeing in the sky. I liked to just look at him, which made him really angry. I wished I could spy on him in a way that he couldn’t see me back, because it seemed to bother him so much.
I didn’t know at first that it was weird to like him until Eli told me. “Rhoda, don’t let Kito look at you for too long with his hex eye. It’s bad luck.”
We were with Jessie Pines, Eli’s girlfriend, around the shed that old wolf Folder had built for smoking meat. There were usually a few good scraps there. She looked up from what she had collected so far and laughed at me. “You like him, Rhoda?”
My ears went flat on my head and I lied. “No.”
“I’ll bet you do. Hey Eli, it looks like Kito’s hex eye was too fast for you. Now he has your sister under his Husky spell.”
I snarled at her, which never scared her as much as I wanted it to. They both laughed some more. So I bit Eli instead, and socked him a few times while I held the scruff of his neck with my mouth. He cried, since he overreacts to things like that. Jessie and I watched him pout, and she spoke to me quietly. “You’d better make it clear to him to leave you alone, Rhoda. There’s been some talk about it.”
The next day at the herder training group led by aunt Applegate, Travis Pines wouldn’t stop winking his left eye and singing “I spy with my ugly eye a she-wolf who wants a little Husky!” He and Jessie laughed at me, and the last time he did it Kito stared right at me. I wanted to look at his beautiful eyes but what Jessie said yesterday kept coming back. I turned away. His sisters weren’t saying anything and they were right there, so why should I?
A fight started that very second between Travis and Kito. Aunt Applegate broke it up and told Travis he had to run back and forth between the mill and the crossroads, and Kito had to run back and forth between the worship tree and the crossroads, until she told them they could stop. She told Kito’s sisters to go home for the day, and she’d be sending Kito home when he was done running, but they’d be welcome to come back tomorrow.
When they were gone aunt Applegate told us that it was cruel to tease Kito and his whole family for being Huskies, or “Husky Wolf mutts” in the case of the cubs. “Cross-breeding is not a crime, though there are times we must question the wisdom of those who participate in it!”
And the disappearance of their father would only serve to make life harder for all of them, she added. They were trying hard to blend in, and we should try not to become obstacles to this because it was very hard for them to do. But it would be especially hard for Kito due to “his heterochromatically deformed eye” forever setting him apart. “He deserves our pity,” she said.
Of all the things anyone had said or done to Kito, aunt Applegate did the worst thing that day because naturally after that we all had powerful ammunition: some stink about his family, as well as some fancy new words: “Muttbrother!” “Crossbreeding mother!” And the crown jewel, “Heterochromatic Deformity!” Life was worse than ever for him.
Not many days after that, when he was sitting on the hill watching the herd by himself, I came over and tried to explain to him that I was different, and I thought his eyes were beautiful. He bit me but I rolled over and showed him my throat. “You can bite me again if it helps,” I said.
He covered his beautiful blue eye and ran away. I didn’t firmly believe or disbelieve in magic before that, but at that moment I knew there was no magic in the world, at least not the type that works as it should. If it worked like it should have worked, Kito would stare at my brother Eli, Travis and Jesse Pines, and Lady Applegate, and some sort of rays would fly out of his mysterious eye and those rays would carry justice, not a hex. Those rays would give them all what they deserved.