OLDEN CAUL – A HALLOWEEN STORY

I tweeted a story on Halloween, and here it is in full, so that you can actually read it. It’s one port werewolf, one part Catcher in the Rye. It was, unsurprisingly, very damn fun to write. Sometimes i love trying on a voice that isn’t remotely mine.

***

OLDEN CAUL

If you want to know the truth, sometimes I think I was born with a silver bullet already lodged in my heart, that’s how lousy I feel.

I was going through a general terrible goddam year of all kinds of torment and failure, and my parents got some idea that Central Park and I were up to no good.

They sent me to psychoanalysis. I was lousy with secrets, but I didn’t tell Doctor Abari much more than that I felt sort of rotten as hell, and that it was all the fault of everyone in New York City. One day I was standing on the F train, and a guy came up to me and said Hey Buddy, and I said Hey, I’m not your buddy, and the guy punched me in the stomach.

Boy, without any warning, not to him, and not to myself either, I just sort of lurched up like a madman and inserted my teeth into his ear, which he didn’t like on any level, if you want to know the truth and so he punched me again, this time in the jaw.

I got up out of the subway and there it was, full moon, big and white and dangerous as a glass of milk with bourbon at the bottom.

I told Doctor Abari about the silver bullet feeling and he looked at me, steady as anything, and said “Olden, that’s a silver spoon you’re feeling,” which sort of offended me, given I’d be as happy living in a cold water walk up all by myself as I am in my bedroom on Fifth Avenue.

“It’s a silver spoon caught in your craw,” he said. “The only difference between you and most rich people, Olden, is that you swallowed the fork too.”

I went to the barber and got a haircut and a pretty close shave – my hair has recently grown six and a half inches – went down the street to get my shoes polished, then went to my father’s office. I’d gotten sent to the clink for three hours for public intoxication after I bit the guy, and I owed my dad bail money. I went to my grandma’s place, and she gave me the cash in tens, patted me on the cheek, and told me my hair looked nice. It was already getting long again. I tolerated tea, and then I was off to my dad’s firm, smelling of Shalimar.

Instead of taking the money, though, my dad told me “you’re going back to the Academy, Olden Caul. New York City’s no good for you, and you’re no good for your mother’s nerves.”

I instantly felt that lousy silver bullet feeling. I said goodbye to my kid sister Fee, who looked at me very much like she didn’t trust me to behave.

The train was packed full of college girls, and since I figured they were the last girls I’d ever see, chattering in their cardigans and crinoline skirts, drinking in the cocktail car, I watched them from the door. The bartender was a fucking phony who’d never let me in.

“Get along with you, boy,” he told me, and I said “I’m not a boy,” which caused him to pass me a Coke. I spit out the window, just before I took one of the girl’s gin and tonics and swallowed that instead.

“Get that monster out of here,” said the girl.

“What is his problem, anyway?” I heard the girls muttering as I left the cocktail car.

“I’M A GODDAM WEREWOLF!” I shouted.

“Give it a rest!” one shouted back. “You’re a little baby in your school shoes.”

The conductor came and evicted me, but one of those girls looked out the café window and howled right at me, and that was a victory over something. She wasn’t good looking, all nose and eyebrows, but we sort of struck up a howl together before the train was gone.

Then I was there with my suitcase, the goddam moon overhead, looking down from its perch like a fat old baby. Anyway, it was December, and all, and it was freezing out. We could talk witch teats, but what it felt like was hell. Somebody’d stolen my coat, and my gloves were gone. Is it any wonder the pelt came over me?

I walked into the Academy at midnight already wolved out, even though I’d had every intention of putting on my uniform. If you want to know the truth, the place was full of phonies, but it was worse than that, because in my full moon fever, I saw a room full of ponies, and I went in looking for trouble.

I looked out over the rugby field some point in the night, and I saw that girl from the train, and she howled once, twice. She’d taken off her cardigan and folded it nicely, but she was still wearing her sweater clips. Otherwise, she was a pretty convincing wolf. I was full of blood, and so I went after her.

If you want to know the short version, that’s how I ended up back in New York City, on a wolfing rampage. It was that kind of crazy night. New York was full of tourists and none of them knew we were coming for them around the Rock Center tree.

“Olden Caul,” said the girl when we paused midway through chewing up some guy from Florida. “That’s a certain kind of name.”

“Old family,” I told her. “Someone got on the lousy side of a wolf back before the Mayflower, and here we are.”

“I got bitten at the Bronx Zoo when I was six,” she said. “I climbed the fence and dropped into the enclosure.”

She wasn’t a bad sort of girl.

We ran all the way through Central Park, having already taken out several fucking phonies who’d crossed our paths. She’d savaged a cocker, I’d eaten a retriever of pedigree.

“Olden,” she said, when we stopped at Rock Center. I have no wind. I don’t pretend I do. I’m a smoker, and so is she. She was back in her cardigan, chainsmoking. I’d been into the liquor store in wolf form begging like I was some kind of Saint Bernard. Now I had a stack of tiny bottles because some nice lady in there didn’t know anything about breeding.

“Yes,” I said.

“You want to go iceskating?”

I’d had a dream for a long time about a bunch of little kids playing, me at the bottom of the cliff, just catching them when they fell. It turned out she had it too. We weren’t planning to bite them or anything. We were just planning to keep them from hitting the ground. Same with the skaters. Things go wrong, though.

“You want to go live in the wilderness later tonight?” I asked her. “Or go out West?”

“I came from there already,” she said. “My parents are at 86th and Amsterdam. Everybody here is a werewolf, Olden Caul. They just pretend they’re not.”

She was taking off her cardigan, this girl, this girl in the garnet sweaterclips, and I followed her onto the ice, both of us skating, both of us wolves.

A little kid was in front of me, teetering on his blades, and I came up behind, yelling, in my wolf voice, “Don’t worry, kid, I’ll catch you.”

The little kid turned around, and there was my sister Fee Caul, not in wolf form, but feral all the same. Fee was ready. Fee was prepared.

“Oh, Olden,” she said, and pointed the family pistol with the tranquilizers.

If you want to know the truth, I didn’t even feel it. I’d been lousy so long, it was a relief to be unpelted, and left in the middle of the rink, my sister loading me onto a sled and dragging me up Fifth Avenue in the middle of a sudden snow.

The girl, I don’t know, last I saw she was being taken by animal control, but when I think about her, I miss her.

The best wolves are the ones who never let phoniness overtake them, the ones who act like normal dogs, but keep their teeth sharp. That’s what Fee says.

She also says, “don’t ever tell anybody you’re a werewolf, Olden. You’ll just end up biting them.”

THE END

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