The Grey Wolf by Wayne Ray

The sun began to set over the summer forest of Algonquin Park as the older Grey Wolf walked up to the edge of the cliff overlooking Whitefish Lake. Three hundred feet below in the oncoming twilight a campfire was being lit, canoes crossed the lake from the small island to the far most shore and its row of two cabins, and campers and hikers left the abandoned railway tracks for the Canoe Lake campgrounds. Grey Wolf looked over the edge of the cliff and his world and sat down on his hind legs. He gazed out at the setting sun and felt at ease and in control of his life. Such as the life of a wolf is.

He shook his massive grey head in the breeze as the heat from the sun dissipated and its red/orange glow accented the forest like an old Tom Thompson or AY Jackson painting. On the beach below the Junior Forest Rangers were building their final campfire for the month. They were heading into the distance to the new Expo 67 in Montreal for three days, in the morning. Three glorious days away from planting trees and clearing brush along the Algonquin Park highways. But three days away from the two cabins on the other side of the lake. Girls their own age were there for the summer teasing and canoeing and being girls. The tall lanky seventeen year old Junior Ranger threw on some dead spruce branches, which made his red hair look even more red. He was the one who missed the girls across Whitefish Lake the most. Well one in particular girl who caught his eye. The fire rose high enough to get the Grey Wolf’s attention and spark a memory of forest fires he did not want to remember. Farther away even still, the tall lanky Forest Ranger’s future ex-wife was born at that moment.

With the receding orange sunset came the deepest royal blue sky in its wake and the stars came out and began to light up the land on a moon scale and pepper the lake with diamonds. Whitefish Lake sat there in the growing moonless darkness like a giant purse with the Ranger’s road as its handle, the fire as its clasp and the island its only decoration. Each tree a neat skilled stitch around the perimeter. Sitting as if it were resting along the old abandoned CNR railroad tracks.

Grey Wolf took notice of the receding sun, the boys on the beach, the smells of the night air and waited. He had been waiting, or at least returning to this cliff top every night for two weeks, waiting. He waited for his mate to return. She was off somewhere in the forest hunting or lost or chased away by man or other forested beasts. Grey Wolf knew she would return and she had. She was just coming out of the brush that hides the underbelly of the forest on the edge of the clearing on top of the three hundred foot cliff . . . one soft step at a time. She crept up close beside him in a small wolf way. Grey Wolf stood up on all fours and smelled the air. He knew she was there. She got down on her front paws and raised her tail and hind legs in the air. Then she moved up beside him so that he would know she was with him finally. She sat down on her hind legs as he was doing. The evening sun set. The sky was star black. The lake still and the air crisp and then . . .the howl.