(GK: Garrison Keillor, TR: Tim Russell, SS: Sue Scott, TK: Tom Keith, RD: Rich Dworsky)
GK: One cold night at a little house in the woods, Death drove up in a van to pick up my mother.
TR: Sorry to trouble you, ma'am, but --- it is time to go.
SS: I thought it was only a virus.
TR: It is.
SS: But I'm only 34.
TR: I know.
SS: Goodbye, Buddy.
GK: Goodbye, Mom.
GK: I missed the touch of her hand, I missed her comforting smell, I missed the sound of her voice. I missed lying next to her watching TV and eating fresh popcorn. And a few months later, when Dad came home with Agnes, I was still feeling bad.
TK: Buddy, this is Agnes. Your stepmother.
SS: Buddy. That's a funny name for a kid. What's your real name?
SS: Then let's call him Lester. Bring my things in from the car, Lester, and then go change your clothes, put on something decent. And comb your hair.
GK: Yes, ma'am.
SS: And don't call me ma'am. Call me mom.
SS: Let me hear you say it.
SS: Let me hear you say, Yes, mom.
GK: Yes, Mom.
SS: That's better. ---- What are all these ugly pictures? Get these out of here. (CRASH, GLASS AND CRUNCH)
GK: She threw out my mother's stuff. And she had Dad cut down the trees around the house.
SS: I want a yard with grass.
GK: (CHAINSAW) The beautiful trees of my childhood. (BIG TREE FALLING) All gone. And that's when I ran away into the woods.
GK: I walked for miles through the snowy forest until I was completely lost. (DISTANT HOWL) And then the sun went down. The moonlight was reflected on the snowbanks and I was just about to dig down into one and spend the night. And then up ahead I saw a beautiful silver wolf. She sniffed me carefully (WOLF SNIFFING). And then I looked to my left and there was another wolf. (WOLF HOWL) and to my right, another (WOLF HOWL), and one behind me (WOLF HOWL). And the wolf in front of me turned and tossed her head and I understood that I was to follow her. And I did. (FOUR HOWLS, IN SERIES, IN HARMONY) (TR, TK, SS, WOLF SFX) They took me to their den in the side of a hill. We squeezed in tight. It was warm and cozy. I lay in the middle of them. And they licked my face and hands. They named me ***----.
It was hard learning their language. The grammar is very complicated. Each word has many meanings, depending on how far back the ears are bent ---- and so many words sound alike --- this word, (WOLF WORD), for example, means "the place where the deer come at night to browse" but this one (SIMILAR WOLF WORD) means "the way the sky looks when winter is approaching" and this (THIRD SIMILAR WOLF WORD) means "I'm getting tired of having squirrel every day" and this (FOURTH WORD) means "Were those your droppings I saw on the trail today, are you feeling well?" And the howling was very precise. (HOWLING CHORD). If you howled a little flat (WOLF BARKS), they'd run you off. But I was happy among the wolves. All of us lying together on a cold night, the smell of fellow creatures snuggled up close. And they accepted me, even with my poor grammar and bad accent, my undeveloped sense of smell. When I turned eighteen, my wolf father took me aside for a talk.
TR: (GRUNTS, SNIFFS, THEN WITH MOUTH CLENCHED) My son, I'm going to speak to you in your own language. It's time for you to return to your own people, the hairless people, the ones who smell of fossil fuels.
GK: But you're my family, Dad. You and mom----.
TR: I know. But you're not one of us.
GK: I'm doing my best.
TR: Son---- everyone and everything has its own nature. Wolves are wolves and people are people. Wolves don't wear pants and carry briefcases and feel self-pity and people don't run on all fours and hunt at night. It's time for you to go back.
GK: I tried to argue but he bit me (TR SNARLING) and I ran down the path toward the highway. (TRUCK PASSING) And I came to a little farmhouse at the edge of the woods. And I walked across the yard. And there I met Grandma.
SS: Well, hello. How are you? What's your name?
GK: And I told her. ( ***----).
SS: Interesting. We'll just call you Slim for now. Come in. We're going to get you into a nice hot shower. (SHOWER)
GK: It was terrifying, standing under a hot waterfall, losing the crust of dirt that was like my second skin. I felt naked without it. And it was painful to have clothing on my body. It felt like I was caught in the jaws of a trap.
GK: But Grandma was patient. She taught me how to live indoors again.
SS: That's a napkin. Napkins go on your lap or around your neck. They're part of being indoors. And don't bite me. No bites. Never bite.
GK: In wolf culture, there's a certain amount of playful biting, and I had to learn not to, and learn not to mark the door to my room......
SS: No. Not there. Use the toilet. You're indoors now.
GK: I had to learn not to greet Grandma in the morning by sniffing her hinder--- (SS CRY)
SS: No. No. Don't sniff people's butts. We don't do that. Not indoors and not outdoors.
GK: By day I learned to be a person, but at night, in my dreams, I was still in the forest, lying quietly under a tree, sniffing the wind, watching the moon.
GK: And then one day, I met Grandma's granddaughter, Red.
SS: Hi, Slim. Grandma told me all about you. Except she didn't tell me how good-looking you are. I like those leather pants.
GK: She was a fox
SS: My, what big teeth you have. What big muscles you have. What big eyes you have.
GK: I have big eyes because you just took off your clothes.
SS: Oh, did I?
GK: She was in heat, and we mated. (GK HOWL, SS REPLY, GK HOWL, SS REPLY) And later that year she had her first litter.
(MUSIC UNDER, TO END)
GK: For the kids' sake, we moved to town. I don't think much about being a wolf anymore. Sometimes I'll pick up a smell in the air that brings back memories of the pack, but the smells that mean the most to me now are the smells of my wife and children, all of us snuggled together on a cold night, eating popcorn.
(c) 2001 by Garrison Keillor