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The White Wolf
There were two events that haunted my childhood, both taking place at school. The first event happened on the first day of first grade. The teacher had instructed the class to stand, state their name, and tell what they planned to do when they grew up; of course at that early age we had lots of future firemen, police officers, doctors, and veterinarians. I was different. I stood up, told the class my name was Lloyd Garrison and told them my future career, which I was sure would get lots of ooos and ahhs. I told them that I wanted to be a superhero that I wanted to save people. Instead, snickers greeted me – those of the children and of the teacher – and I took my first plunge into the cold water that is life.
The second took place just days after my confident turned embarrassing stand before the class. I had taken the seat in the far back of the classroom, away from the rest of my classmates; I found that this seat gave me privacy to draw and read comics while the class did arithmetic. That day the teacher had stepped out for a few minutes, unbeknownst to me, and two girls – twins – came to my desk. They asked me what I was drawing. I had drawn a picture of a majestic creature: a white wolf, which I had fallen in love with upon watch a National Geographic video feature on them. The white wolf had a sort of peerless bravery. In the feature, the narrator described how they traveled in packs and how the entire pack depended upon the leader. It was the leader’s responsibility to get food for the pack – determining where and how they attained it – and where the pack rested at night. Basically, it was the leader’s decisions that determined whether the pack would be strong or weak. And I thought that willfully determining the fate of loved ones totally redefined bravery; I hoped to become that brave one-day. I thought if I could become that brave then I could be a hero.
As with my superhero announcement I believed this my moment to shine, so I flipped the picture around and flaunted it before them. As long as I live, I’ll never forget their response. They asked if I planned to grow up and become a wolf now instead of a superhero. They giggled and proceeded to scribble on my drawing with black crayon.
It was only then that doubt clouded my naïve mind; whenever I thought about my two favorite things in the world, I was reminded of how they all laughed. It’s amazing how quickly doubt can darken hope. As my school life progressed, my popularity declined. By the end of the first grade, I was no longer referred to as Lloyd Garrison; the kids had a new name for me: Geeky Garrison. A name cemented on me, and no matter how hard I shook and fought, it refused to come off. That is until March twenty-first.
“Get up, Lloyd!” My father grumbled after clearing his throat purposely loud. “Juliet, you just let your boy sleep all over the floor all day?” He yelled to my mother. This week marked the first time Steven had come back. He left for Vegas a few days after Mom found out about me; I assumed he only came back because they ran him out. (It was a correct assumption.) Mom struggled with maintaining a job and maintaining me, so she took him back on the agreement that he would get a job. They both fulfilled their end of the bargain, though, I doubt a five-dollar an hour job at the Fish-N-Fry was the help Mom wanted. Especially since Steven tended to instigate more problems than he solved.
“Lloyd, out of your father’s way, please.”
“Mom,” I called back, “It’s a Saturday and I’m so tired. Can’t I please just sleep in a little while longer?” I found at an early age that if I emphasized the words in all the right ways, she normally caved in.
“Nope, ‘fraid I’m not going to take that little number today, mister. Remember the promise you made to Mommy?”
I had promised to exercise today. To be perfectly honest, I desperately needed to. My cheeks were as plump as hacky sacks. “No,” I groaned and quickly followed it with, “do I have to?”
I certainly had to, Mom was particularly adamant about that. And after a few more protests, she broke out the big guns, “Come on, Lloyd, you’ve never seen an out-of-shape superhero, have you?” Man, did that hit home. Man, how I hated it though. I then reluctantly agreed to do some exercise.
Steven balked at our compromise: “Now why do you throw crap like that at him? God, sometimes I don’t even know why I came back. Sometimes I wish those cheapskates hadn’t thrown me out of their sorry town.”
“What are you saying?” Mom asked.
“I’m saying he’s eleven and old enough to know reality from trash.”
I guess it wasn’t such a good idea to tell Steven all my plans to be a super hero a few days ago. I showed him all the comics, including Superman and Spider-Man (my favorites) and went on telling him what all I admired. He had drowsily nodded at my explanations.
“By eleven, I cooked for the family, had a job, and went to school. Don’t you think you’ve babied him enough with this superhero crap? And look at him! It’s not like he’s just a few pounds over weight, no, this tub probably is twice my weight.” Whirling around to look at me he continued, “Listen, son. I’m going to tell you like my old man told me: you don’t have it. I dreamed impossibly like you, Lloyd, and I’m here to tell you, quit while you can. I didn’t amount to anything and I certainly didn’t catch that dream. And you’re worse off than I was. So… this superhero business, I’m telling you to drop it before you get too attached; trust me, it will be the best thing to happen to you.”
Pff, what does he know.
When I decided to become a superhero, I developed this little voice in the back of my head telling me to stay strong when I felt weak.
Mom, looking at my face, said, “Steven, listen to what you’re saying! Just because you didn’t live out your dream of becoming some silly racecar driver doesn’t mean you have life’s permission to screw up dreams for others! Now look, look at the harm your words have caused.” She pointed at my blubbering face. All the muscles in my face were contracted, trying to not let a single tear shed. Trying to be tough. Truth be told, Steven was right – the cards weren’t exactly stacked in my favor.
“I don’t care what you think,” I screamed, jumping out of my Spider-Man sleeping bag. “I can do anything I set my mind to. Right Mom?”
“You’ve been feeding this?” Steven asked before she could respond. She gave a resounding defense, but he just responded with a tired sigh and doubtful mummers.
Don’t defend the poor little fat boy! He can take it, because he’s a hero. Yes, the hero we all need.
Somehow, though, my superhero voice couldn’t stop the tears from streaming. Little rivulets streamed down the hillsides of my face; Mom and Steven were too absorbed in their argument to notice. Mom apathetically shot up her hand in an effort to end all communication with Steven and retreated into the washroom; he chased after her. In the whole two weeks Steven had been back, there wasn’t a day when the two didn’t argue. Steven always won, Mom always caved in to his overwhelming persistence. But today I think she’d had enough, as she raised her voice right back at him. Eventually it escalated, sounding as if there were a shriek fest going on in the washroom.
Run away. They’ll be looking for you and you’ll be gone. Gone far, far away.
I decided with almost no deliberation to listen to that voice.
I walked out the door and purposely slammed it; they didn’t notice, though. Once outside I began to sprint. No place in mind, just away from here. I ran and I ran. After a few blocks, I stopped to catch my breath, there was a sea of sweat across my head and my lungs pulsated.
With no warning, I burst out, “God, you are fat! You tub of lard… Oh, and this nerdy boy, this lard-o, is going to be a superhero one day, who will fly around saving everyone who has picked on him; gee, I bet they wished they didn’t do something so cruel…and so easy.” By this time, I was mad with tears. I sat there on the curb. People passed by, some looked in bewilderment while others snickered; clearly, though, they all wondered why this human hog was sweating and crying a river on the side of the road.
“I’m just a stranger in a strange land.”
Once I got control of myself, I set out walking again. It felt as if New York was under a dome, and the heat had nowhere to go other than to bounce around the city. After only a few more torturous minutes of the heat, I surrendered my march to the sea and began to search for shade.
I found solace in a pocket-like dead-end ally; no one was around and it was completely shielded from the sun. I rested my back in the far left corner, took off my glasses and began to clean them with my sweat-drenched shirt. Suddenly, as I wiped my right lens, a ray of sunlight flickered off the left lens, and directed my eyes toward a small hole in the wall to the left of me. I crawled over to it. Looking through to the other side, I saw an ally much like the one I was in, except this one had an exceptionally large steel door embedded on the back wall. It looked like a bank vault, except it had no lock, just a single handle and some writing inscribed in the center. I stared blankly at the vault for some time. Finally, I decided it was the brave thing, the superhero thing, to investigate, so I began to look around for a way over. Searching along the wall, I found a fissure tucked behind a long-retired trash dump. The fissure ran all the way up the wall; it looked as if someone had taken a single sheet of paper and slit it perfectly in the middle, leaving just a few inches in between the separated pieces of paper. I had nearly missed it because behind the fissure was an identical wall and if you looked straight at it, it appeared as if there was no opening at all.
Determined, I slid the empty dumpster just enough so I could squeeze through; a fairly easy fit, the fissure was a different story, though. I gave an air-sucking gasp, as I sucked in all of Geeky Garrison’s excess skin (Mom referred to it as this when I asked her why other’s called me fat), and slid my fat carcass through the impossible hole in the wall.
Exhale. A burst of carbon dioxide erupted as soon as I reached the other side of the wall, and, like a swimmer coming up out of the water, I gasped for a gulp of oxygen. But it didn’t matter that I was nearly drowning on land or that I was covered in enough sweat to bathe a Christmas pig, because I had made it to the other side, to the hatch.
Man, was I tired…but, man, was this enlivening.
What stood before me was both exhilarating and disquieting. A single bulged open eye lay in the center of the hatch. The pearly whiteness of the eye was in direct juxtaposition with the blackness of the steel hatch. Below, in the same white color of the eye, was written “DEAR EDGAR CAYCE AND YOUR BRAVE VISION: I CAN SEE THROUGH THE BLACK – THE CLOUDED – THE UNCERTAIN.”
I grabbed a trembling hand, unconsciously reminding it to behave like a superhero would, after all, what could possibly harm me behind that door? Shortly though, the unpleasant, Lloyd-like thoughts crept up. What if there is something that could hurt me in there? If so no one would know I am here. No one could rescue me from this thing that crept beneath the door. So I stood there, good ol’ Geeky Garrison acting no braver than a Chihuahua facing a Rottweiler; Geeky Garrison acting as usual.
Fairly soon I had constructed a mental image of the creature that would certainly disembowel me should I release it. It was probably the most unlikely scenario imaginable, yet it petrified me. Standing behind the hatch door would be my most admired creature: a White Wolf. He would look wary and worn like he had endured years on nothing but fleas and the occasional cockroach. He would be living on a hairline of hope, and I would go to him because I could recognize myself in him. I knew that hopeless struggle. Paradoxically, seeing him hopeless would restore a little hope. Because if a white wolf, a creature I associated with the apex of bravery, could be hopeless and cowering then spineless Geeky Garrison could be brave.
All anyone needs is hope. With hope anything can be accomplished.
Only then, when my terrors had been mollified, would he strike. His eyes, once pleading, would snap to a ferocious red as some malign force took control of him; he’d have the lamb he had adroitly lured. It would be hope’s cruel way of mocking me.
Push that hatch open. Be brave and be a hero. The hero you need right now.
Without further thought, I threw my hefty package against the weight of the door.
Heave. Rest. Heave, followed by more rest. I followed this pattern until the door seemingly clicked into place and began to slide open. What happened next occurred in a matter of milliseconds. The door sped open; I was standing directly in the center, looking and awaiting the beast. Suddenly, a burst of silent white light flooded my eyes. I clenched them shut, and then blacked out.
Suddenly, I was seated in a car, more specifically, the driver’s seat. A familiar nagging voice rang in my ears, “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom, are you listening?” I turned and looked into my own plump face in the passenger seat. Then a voice that wasn’t mine spoke, “Yes, Lloyd, now Mommy will be right back.” It was Mom’s voice. “Now sit right here, I just have to do a little something. It won’t take long, I promise.” It was like I was watching Mom’s life from her point of view. Only watching, though, I couldn’t speak and I don’t remember having a single thought. All I remember is what happened next.
I saw everything. Mom pulled the keys from the ignition, as she looked at a hangnail on her right thumb; she got out of the car and began to walk across the street. For the next five seconds, my view was focused entirely on that hangnail. Mom was picking at it, not looking where she was going, and then BAM! My view flew around with Mom’s body, finally coming to a thudding rest against the asphalt. Slowly blackness began to flood my view.
The last thing I heard was an eleven-year-old child wailing.
I awoke on my back; I was looking up at some heavenly-looking clouds, wondering what had happened to me. I jerked up. The hatch door was open; behind it lay a concrete wall splashed with black paint. White writing lay again in the center. It read: “THE FUTURE IS BLACK. TOGETHER WE CAN SEE THROUGH THE BLACKNESS AND CREATE A WORLD FULL OF WHITE.” I ran home.
A few months later, I sat in the passenger seat of the car; only this time instead of complacently nodding to my mom’s statement, I put up a pestering argument. I saved her. Today she is still alive and Geeky Garrison is not. Today, Lloyd Garrison is above the name calling, because Lloyd Garrison overcame the squeamishness of Geeky Garrison by deciding the fate of his mother. He was brave like a white wolf leading the pack. Today Lloyd Garrison is a hero.