It was my sister who came, down from the mountain, when the rest of them refused. I hadn’t seen her in ten or eleven years, but she was largely unchanged.
‘Come home,’ she said, kissing my cheek.
‘I can’t,’ I said, kissing hers in return.
My groom was sleeping by the fire. His long hind legs spread out on the warm stones. When we sat, I tucked my feet under him, out of habit.
I showed her the litter, picked out the runt, putting the mewling thing in her arms. She was stiff and proper as a judge, but I saw something soften in her as she held him.
‘Have you named him yet,’ she asked.
I shook my head, my hand tunnelling into the mass of his brothers and sisters, into their tongued and furred squirm. I lifted two of them in one hand and knelt to tuck them against their father’s side. He nuzzled them in and then licked at my fingers. Did I still taste of this morning’s love-making? I blushed and pressed my hand into my pocket, hoping my sister had not noticed. She had, of course.
She lifted the runt to her face and studied him. ‘I shall call him Paul,’ she said. ‘That’s a sensible name for a sensible boy.’
Neither the wolf, nor the mountain, agreed*.*The final line of this micro-story is a phrase borrowed from Aldo Leopold’s ‘Thinking Like a Mountain’: you can read the full essay online)