Impulse Control was originally published in the February 2007 issue of the eZine Static Movement
Mickey didn’t approve of zoos, but that day she had a hankering to visit the wolves. It had been months since she’d snuck Harlan in there, an act she felt the tiniest bit guilty about, but what else could you do with a wolf in the city? And, if she were honest with herself, which she was trying really hard to do now that she’d reached her twenty-first birthday, she felt a little guilty over the events that led to her having to sneak Harlan there. After all, it wasn’t really Harlan’s fault, was it? Well, maybe some of it was, but still, a wolf is a wolf and it’s in their nature to act in wolfish ways.
At first it had been really weird having a wolf in her apartment. The place was just a one bedroom and a small one bedroom at that. It was hard enough moving around, what with all the furniture her mother had stuck her with, but with Harlan at her heels every moment, whining, licking her calves as she walked, occasionally nipping her heel, well, it became a real drag real fast.
And the howling at night if she left the blinds open! She loved leaving the blinds up, the window open to the night breeze; loved knowing that the old guy across the courtyard had set up a telescope just to watch her. It was such a kick. But, when she did leave them open, Harlan would throw his head back and howl so pitifully and loud that it broke her heart to hear it. Not to mention having to read the not-so-polite notes that started appearing on her door.
And potty-training! Have you ever tried potty-training a wolf? Not happening! And the smell. And the amount. It didn’t seem like Harlan ate enough to leave that much in the middle of her bathroom floor. That he used the bathroom floor was the only consolation. At least it was tiled and didn’t take a lot to clean up. Still, she could have done without that task every morning. And it wasn’t like she could take him out for a walk in the park. A wolf? On a leash? In the park? No way.
The final straw had come when he started jumping in bed with her and actually trying to mate! Hello! Not doing the Catherine the Great thing here! No beasts in her boudoir. She preferred her sexual partners walked on two legs, not four.
Oh how she had wanted to talk to her mom during that time. She knew her mom could fix things. To be sure she’d get a lecture over what had happened. She always got lectures. It was in the nature of mothers to give their daughters lectures. And her mom was especially good at it; full of little words of wisdom, sage advice, troubling proscriptions. But, of course, mom was in Europe somewhere, incommunicado, off on another one of her personal explorations of the meaning of life, so Mickey had done the only thing she could think of to do; snuck Harlan out one night and dumped him at the zoo.
At least her mother was back in touch, she thought, slipping on a pair of tight black jeans, inspecting her bright red toenails in the process. She stretched her fingers alongside her toes. A perfect match. She had to look good tonight. Her mom would surly be POd over what had happened so she wanted to at least look her best. No lecture number 442 on proper attire tonight.
She stood before the mirror and ran a brush through her thick, red curls, tilting her head as she did so, inspecting the narrow black streaks that were slowly becoming visible. She was looking more like her mom every day; a fact which once annoyed her no end but now sort of thrilled her in a way she could never explain to anyone.
The clock in the hallway struck the quarter hour. She had forty-five minutes to get to the zoo. Her mom had promised to meet her there at midnight. Rummaging through her T-shirt drawer, she pulled out a half-T and held it up. “Poor Impulse Control” was written across the front. One of her favorites, but it was poor impulse control that had gotten her into this mess in the first place so it didn’t seem like the most appropriate top to wear under the circumstances. She finally opted for one her mom had given her on her sixteenth birthday. Always best to use a little psychology whenever possible. Especially if you were heading for deep doo doo.
The shirt was black, with a scarlet pentagram on the back and the four compass points on the front. She slipped it over her head and pulled it tight against her tiny breasts. Her nipple rings were perfectly aligned with the East and West points of the compass. One last twirl before the mirror, a slight adjustment of her bellybutton ring, a dab of musk behind the ears, and she was heading for the door as the clock struck the half hour.
The night was cool. Winter would descend soon, another factor which added to her feeling of guilt. She slipped into the zoo without incident. It was a small place, and poorly maintained at that, but even without those factors she’d have gotten in with ease.
Her mom was late. No surprise there. She had wanted to talk to her first, explain the situation, get the lecture out of the way, but it wasn’t looking like that was going to happen. After five minutes of pacing, she made her way over to where the wolves were kept. It was a hillock of sorts, rock strewn and dry with tired bushes scattered randomly about and more dead trees than live ones. No place for such a noble beast as a wolf to live but that was beyond her control. She’d had to take Harlan someplace, and this was the only place near enough where she felt he would be safe.
Leaning against the barrier, staring out across the moat that kept the wolves imprisoned, she could just make out several ghostly shapes slinking about in the distance. Letting loose with a soft whistle, she watched one shape turn its head and stare in her direction. Slowly it walked toward her, swinging its massive head side to side and back over its wide shoulders, as if expecting attack. As it grew closer she saw that it walked with its tail tucked between its legs. Tufts of hair were missing from its back and its ears were ragged and torn. Her heart just broke watching it, and broke again when she realized it was Harlan. His stay with the other wolves had obviously not been a pleasant one.
Harlan came to the very edge of the moat and sat uneasily on his haunches. He cocked his head first one way and then the other. His eyes glistened in the moonlight. Lips quivering, he began to whine softly.
“I’m so sorry, Harlan,” Mickey said. “I … I just never thought they’d treat you like this. Honest.”
At the sound of her voice, Harlan stopped his whining. Cocking his head again, he stared at her, lips moving without a sound.
“Mom’s coming soon, Harlan,” Mickey continued. “She’ll know what to do. How to get you out of there and back to where you belong. I’m really, really sorry, Harlan.”
Mickey nearly leapt over the fence and into the milky water of the moat at the sound of her mother’s voice.
“Mom,” she said, turning. “You scared me nearly to death.”
“Then you should be more aware of your surroundings, dear,” her mother replied. “So, what, pray tell, is so urgent that you’ve called me from my retreat?”
Mickey fidgeted, shuffling her feet, trying hard not to bite her lip or look down at the grown. Twenty-one or no, her mom always made her feel like a ten year old.
She let out a sharp breath and looked straight into her mother’s eyes. “It’s Harlan, mom,” she said. “He’s, ah, kind of in a bit of trouble.”
“Harlan? Trouble? What sort of trouble?”
“Well, ah, that’s kind of hard to explain, mom. Maybe you could, you know, sort of see for yourself. Okay?”
“Uh, yeah,” she said, wincing. “He’s here.”
Her mother turned her head left and right, scanning the grounds, then turned full circle and faced her daughter again.
“I don’t see him, Michelle. Is this some kind of joke you two are playing? Because if it is …”
“It’s no joke, mom,” Mickey said, cutting her off. She stretched out her arm and pointed across the moat. Her mother’s gaze followed, the look of wary puzzlement turning to consternation when the object of Mickey’s point became apparent.
“You didn’t?” her mother gasped.
Mickey’s resolve broke and she looked down at the ground, unable to bear her mother’s angry stare. “‘Fraid so,” she said, her voice a whisper.
“Michelle Marie! How many times have I told you …”
“I know, mom. I know. It was an accident. Honest to the Goddess, it was. We were arguing, you know, and he was pestering me, following me around the house like some love sick puppy one moment and yelling at me the next, and I was in my time and I wanted to just enjoy it and he wouldn’t leave me alone and, and, and, it just happened. One minute he was standing there yelling at me, and the next he was on all fours peeing on himself. I tried to turn him back, but I wasn’t even sure how I had done it in the first place. Please, mom. Please help him. Turn him back for me.”
“This is what you get, Michelle. I warned you about getting involved with a mortal. And I warned you about leaving your studies. Had you stayed in the coven until your maturation day, you’d have known what to do.”
“I know, mom. I know. Really I do.” She started to cry. “And I’ll go back. I promise. Just as soon …”
There was something in that sound that made Michelle look up. Instead of the angry, hard face she expected to see, her mother was smiling. And then, softly, she started to laugh.
“My dear, dear girl,” her mom said, her gaze unfocused and far away. “How so alike we are. I forget that far too often. Were my mother still alive, bless her witches soul, I’m quite sure she would be in hysterics right now.”
Her gaze refocused and she turned to face her daughter. “When I was just about your age, I loved a man very much like your Harlan. Oh, he was a fine man, virile and strong and, the Goddess knows, a man well skilled in the bedroom arts. One night, during an argument, I turned him into a Gecko. Only the Goddess knows why I chose that form. I certainly didn’t. Nor did I know how to turn him back. And, come to think of it now, I, too, was in my time. We witches do tend to be more powerful while the sacred blood flows. And, I fear, a bit more impulsive as well.”
She sighed, the smile never leaving her lips. “I kept him in an aquarium for nearly six months before I found the courage to confess my deed to your grandmother. The poor, poor man.”
She whirled suddenly, reached out and snapped her fingers. There was a flash, a muted clap, and Harlan was gone.
“I’ve sent him home, Michelle,” she said. “To his home. He will not remember what transpired these last months. Nor will he remember you. I would strongly suggest you not contact him.”
Before Michelle could say a word, her mother vanished, leaving only the echo of her voice behind.
“And I also suggest, my dear, that you return to the coven. Soon. Very soon.” And the echo, like her mom, faded away.
Mickey stood by the fence a while longer, watching the other wolves emerge from hiding, slowly making their way to where Harlan had earlier sat. As they gathered, she turned, snapped her fingers softly, and followed in her mother’s wake. Stillness descended. Everything looked just as it always had and only the wolves would ever have noticed the change.
Albuquerque, New Mexico