The Howling
Rion Amilcar Scott

Sometimes it's just two or three together and sometimes it sounds like a whole pack.
Then my father from the next room: The fuck is this, a howling convention?
I ignore my father as his ranting becomes heated and incoherent (another, less soulful sort of howling, really) and try to count the individual voices. This night I count seven, but I figure I'm always off. I make up stories about them. All seven. Tonight they run from a dirty, foul-mouthed, meat-fingered band of hunters. The hunters have my father's eyes and later in my story, I notice the wolves do too. Every time he screams from next door, the hunters get more dialogue.
One hunter falls atop a wolf and turns the table by trapping it between his teeth. He chomps and chomps at the back of the animal's neck, ripping apart the flesh.
Sometimes the hunters win and they howl in victory. Sometimes the canines win and they howl just like the hunters.


The howling stops not suddenly, but gradually over time. I want to walk these negro streets howling like the free wolves who bawl late at night. But they've all been silenced now.
Sometimes I think I hear it in the distance, but I'm not sure. My dad says their ranks have been thinned by the hunt. Fucking wolves know what's good for them, he says.
Maybe too many have died. Maybe they've gone into hiding. Learned to adapt. Evolved the howl from their repertoire.
I'm restless tonight. Unable to sleep without it. The silence pains me. I climb outside from my bedroom window and mimic the sound in all its soulful loneliness.


The things we do to stave off boredom. My throat aches from a week of howling. I've learned to perfectly mimic the pitch and tone of a forest wolf. It's not hard; I locate my loneliest, most disconnected moment and howl from there.
My father thinks the animals are back with a vengeance. He goes to a window and bangs and screams to scare off the wolf he thinks is below.
Every night my father's screams get louder and he becomes more unhinged. I wonder about his sanity and what it would take to push him over the edge. This night I sit close to the house but out of his view eating dried meats and laughing at the wild color of my father's latest profanity string. My plan is to stay out there long into the night, howling each time I sense my father has settled into bed.
The howl has become my everything: primary vehicle for self-expression, the story of my pain and a comedy routine rolled into one. I want the sound to swirl my father's head, burrow into his ears so he has to live with the melancholy of the howl. A funny thing happens though as I'm preparing to howl. I retreat into my sad, hollow spot, distant and disconnected from all things in creation and I remember one lonely night after another in that house, my wordless father passing me as if I was imaginary. I began to doubt my own existence until the moment I tipped over a living room statue. A porcelain thing. Tacky and unrefined and utterly unimportant to my father until the moment of its destruction. My father screamed me back into existence. Whenever I doubt my material nature, I crack a mirror, shatter a bottle of wine. My howls don't drive my father to unbreakable sadness, they return to me the trembling and physical pains and silences of my boyhood.
In the distance, a rare howl sounds in all its tortured solitude. I can't help running to it, unsure of what I'll find but howling all the same.

Rion Amilcar Scott has stories in or coming from New Madrid, Fiction International, PANK and others. He teaches at Bowie State University.

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Yug.

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