My grandmother’s kitchen was dark, and that was where she kept her dog. He whined all the time. He was made of glass.
I lived with my mother, but I never seemed to be at home. Maybe I was distracted when I was home, lost in a daydream, so I didn’t notice where I was. Grandmother’s house made me nervous, kept me on edge. I always knew where I was when I was there.
According to my mother and grandmother, a wolf lived in the woods outside my grandmother’s house. I was as scared of the wolf as they were, but I planned to reason with him if I ever met him. I kept a pot of beans on the stove and a bag of fruit in the refrigerator so I always had something to offer him.
My grandmother cared for her glass pet like he was her own arm, but she got so sick with fever, I had to take care of him.
Instead of eating food like a normal dog, he ate light. There weren’t many lights in grandmother’s house (she said they gave her a headache), but the dog had a special lamp, a very bright one. You knew he was eating if he got hot to the touch and glowed a little. I tried feeding him when my grandmother was too sick to get out of bed, but he refused to eat.
“Come on, little pup. I know you miss Grandma, but she’s getting her strength back,” I kept telling him. He whined like he always did, and he wouldn’t fortify himself. He stayed cold as the glass on the windows that separated us from the winter night.
When I went to take Grandma her bowl of porridge, she wouldn’t eat either.
“How is God?” That was what she called her pet.
“Pretty good,” I said. I didn’t want her to know he wasn’t eating. I didn’t want to seem incompetent. She always treated me like a kid, but I was brave enough to walk through the woods of ill repute to visit her. My mother wasn’t nearly so brave.
“The wolf is tempting me,” she said. “I’m afraid I’ll succumb this time.”
We stopped talking to listen to the cello playing outside her window. My grandmother always told me the wolf played the cello to tempt us to go outside. I had never seen the wolf. Whenever I tried to shine one of the lamps out the window, it didn’t illuminate much of anything outside. It only helped me see my reflection more clearly.
“Don’t go outside. It’s cold out there,” I said. I hoped that someday I would marry a man who could play the cello. Until then, the music helped me sleep, but I wasn’t tempted to go outside and meet the one who played it.
“I could let him in here.”
Was she serious? Her eyes looked eerie in the low light. I kept the lamp in the hall turned on, and it barely illuminated her bedroom when I opened her door. She didn’t want any kind of light in her room. I wasn’t sure what she did when she got bored. I kept a lamp in my room so I could read and knit.
“You’re feverish. You aren’t thinking clearly. You have to get better so you can see God,” I said, and she began to cry. I left her alone. It was best to leave her when she was feeling repentant.
She always promised me that God would protect us from the wolf. I didn’t know why she was so drawn to him.
I tried feeding the dog again, and again he refused, so I went to my room to occupy myself. I knitted a small blanket for the dog so he wouldn’t get too cold while my grandmother was sick. I thought about using my skin to warm him, but whenever I brought him to my cheek, it was like caressing an ice cube. It made my cheek go numb.
My mother once told me that my grandmother couldn’t afford a pet, but I didn’t think the glass dog could be very expensive to maintain. We needed to keep some lights on anyway. And yet, if my mother hadn’t sent food and medicine to my grandmother, and if I hadn’t carried them through the woods, my grandmother would have died a long time ago. My mother wouldn’t carry the supplies herself. She had always been so afraid of the wolf.
When I was finished composing my small blanket, I went to the kitchen so I could cover the dog.
“Sweet little pup!” I said as I put the gray blanket over its clear body. It whined, of course, but I was so used to it, it was like silence.
I glanced out the window to see if I could see the wolf. The cello music had stopped. Maybe he was resting, or maybe he was at one of our windows, watching.
I always stayed in my room at grandmother’s if a visit ran long and lasted until after dark. Lately, it seemed it was always dark. But when the sun rose, I knew the wolf would go into his cave, and he would rest. I just had to wait for the night to end.
As I prayed for the sun to rise, the dog stopped whining.
“What?” I said. I took the blanket off of his glass back, and I shook him. He was colder than death, and now he was silent.
I let out a scream. I begged the dog, and I prayed to God. “Don’t die! Don’t leave us alone! The wolf will get us!”
I shouldn’t have carried on that way. I woke my grandmother, who started screaming. I heard her bed creak, and she padded into the hallway. I thought she was too sick to stand, but she ran at me and shoved me aside and took the dog up in her arms.
“Oh, God! God!” she called out. Then she turned to me. “Why didn’t you tell me something was wrong?”
“What could you have done?” I said. “Pets don’t live forever.”
Her face was so white. Her lips, and even her eyes seemed white all the way through. She looked at me with a frozen face, a twisted gape of hatred. She had been so kind to me, and we had always shared what we had with each other. When she was younger, she would send food to my mother and me. It would have scared me less to see the wolf stare hungrily at me than to see my grandmother that way. It’s much worse when someone you trust turns out to be ravenous.
The cello music started up again, so lovely and pleading.
My grandmother was very strong at that moment. I tried to overpower her, but she ran from me and unlocked the locks and flung open the door.
“Come in!” she shouted at the wolf. “It’s all over. There’s no protection for us anymore.”
The music stopped. I grabbed the now-silent glass dog and ran back to my room. I locked the flimsy deadbolt and put a chair in front of the door and hid under the bed.
I could hear my pot of beans simmering on the stove. Why did I think I could stop the wolf from eating meat? My precautions were comforting lies I’d told myself. My mother had always warned me there was no way to outsmart the wolf.
While we were under my bed, I asked the dog, “Why did you have to die? Things were bad enough as it was.”
It was pointless to ask him for protection now that he was dead. And yet. I thought I heard the slightest whine in his glass throat. I thought I heard some sign of life.
“Yes! Good dog, good!” I said.
Outside my bedroom, it was silent.
“Grandmother?” I called out.
She didn’t answer. Instead, I heard the cello again. This time it was inside the house. Right outside my bedroom door.
I shook the glass dog. I held him tight. I pleaded with him. “Save me!”
The glass grew a little warmer, and I could hear a little whine again. He was still alive. Maybe he’d only been sleeping.
“He’s alive again!” I shouted at the cello player. “He’ll protect me!”
The music kept on. I began to cry. The glass dog was a little bit alive again, but he wasn’t making the wolf go away. I waited under my bed curled in a ball, clutching the glass dog. If my grandmother had only waited patiently, held out hope that the dog would recover! If she had only waited until morning. She was sick, yes, and it made her weak, but had she learned nothing from the old stories?
Now that the wolf was in the house, time seemed to stop. Morning was not on its way. I grew hungry, and the music grew sweeter by the minute like a cake rising in the oven. I needed to go to the wolf. He was calling to me, and he was never going to go away. It was time, at long last.
I held the glass dog as a kind of lucky charm, and I unlocked my little lock (that a wolf could have easily torn off) and opened my door.
Outside in the hall, there was no cello. There was only a glass wolf. Inside his belly, my grandmother slept all curled up. She was smiling like she was having a wonderful dream. Was the wolf digesting, or was he gestating? I couldn’t tell. I called out to my grandmother, but she couldn’t hear me.
The music came from the wolf’s throat. Now that I was in his presence, I could see that the pet we’d had so long was not a glass dog. He was a glass cub, the young offspring of this wolf. As he grew, his little whine would become a beautiful song. But we had taken him from his parent, from the strong nutrition that could make him grow. The wolf was full of light, and it was the cub’s food. So close to the parent wolf now, the glass cub grew hot, like a lightbulb left on all night. He burned my fingers, and without thinking, I dropped him on the hardwood floor.
He shattered. He was our friend, the pet we’d had so long. Now it was only me and the wolf.
The music stopped. The wolf grew silent and stared at the broken glass like he was trying to solve a complicated puzzle.
“I’m so sorry!” I said. “I didn’t mean to hurt him! He was burning my hands. You made him too hot.”
The wolf opened his mouth. The yawning glass made a sound like when you drop an ice cube into hot water. Inside the wolf’s mouth, it was bright. The light in him was keeping my grandmother so warm and peaceful inside his belly, and he was so spacious. He bent down and swallowed up the broken pieces of the glass cub. When he was finished, I could see the glass pieces floating inside of him, and I knew they would find a way back together. The glass cub would live again.
The glass wolf kept his mouth open for me as an invitation. So polite. The lovely music resumed and leaked from his open maw. Why not go to be with my grandmother and our old pet? We’d all lived together so long. I had the feeling that whether I entered the mouth or ran back to my mother’s house, my fate would be the same. I would end up in the wolf’s belly eventually. I kept my eyes open as I placed my head inside his mouth.
Ivy Grimes lives in Virginia, and her stories can be found in Vastarien, Dark Matter Magazine, Interzone, ergot., Tales From Between, Shirley Magazine, and elsewhere. Feel free to visit her at www.ivyivyivyivy.com.