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Fiction, © Copyright 2000, Jim Loy
Peter stepped off the train, and instantly felt very cold. He was bundled up in many layers of clothing, including a heavy coat, a scarf, and a fur hat. But even so, he found himself almost expecting his breath to freeze solid and crash to the ground. He was the only person who got off the train, at this small station. But there were several people there. Peter wondered what was going on, as he saw that several of the people were soldiers with rifles. They were bundled up like he was, and were shuffling around to stay relatively warm. Then Peter saw Oleg, his grandfather's neighbor, climbing down from his two-horse sleigh. Together they loaded Peter's suitcases into the sleigh. They climbed in, and off they went into the woods, with a jingling of bells.
Peter was visiting his grandfather for the Christmas vacation from school. He was studying biology at Moscow University.
"Why are there soldiers at the train station?"
"A wolf. There's a big wolf which has killed some livestock and is terrorizing the country folk. We all carry our rifles with us wherever we go." Oleg pointed at his own rifle in the back of the sleigh. "No one has been injured though."
Peter wondered if the wolf was watching them now. He saw some shadows which might have been a wolf. The he saw a man trudging through the snow, in the distance. Oleg explained, "That's one of the hunters. People say that the man who kills the wolf will be famous like Peter and the Wolf." Peter almost choked, and Oleg laughed out loud. As a child, Peter had captured a wolf. He had been lucky to survive. He had become a hero by doing something stupid.
That night, Peter and his grandfather sat before a warm fireplace and talked of old times, relatives, school, the Czar, revolutionaries. Peter said that he had seen the Czar once, and had never seen a revolutionary, although maybe he had, because he didn't know what a revolutionary looked like. And they talked about the wolf. Grandpa said, "I suppose the people around here will expect you to catch it by the tail." He chuckled when he saw Peter's grimace. "This wolf is very large. I have seen him several times. I do not think that you will capture this one."
The next morning, Peter went out to chop wood. He examined the high rock wall that completely surrounded his grandfather's yard. The wall had seemed taller when he was a child. But it was still taller than he was now. He saw the tree that he had climbed as a child, and the branch that reached over the wall, the branch he had sat on when he caught the wolf with his rope. He shook his head and started chopping wood. Soon, Peter set down the ax, and loaded a pile of wood into his arms. He straightened up, and there on the top of the wall was the wolf, casually examining Peter with its head cocked to one side in an inquisitive pose. Peter tried to think what to do. It was too far to run to the house. If the wolf made a move, he decided to throw the wood and grab the ax. He only hoped he could do it fast enough. They stared into each other's eyes for a long time. Then the wolf turned and disappeared to the other side of the wall.
Peter ran to the house. "Grandpa, the wolf was right out there, on top of the wall!"
Peter's grandfather opened the door as Peter ran toward the house. "Yes my boy, I know. I saw it through the window. I reached for my rifle, and then it was gone."
Peter borrowed the rifle and a pair of snow shoes, and ran off after the wolf. Outside the wall, the tracks were easy to follow. Peter followed the tracks over the top of a hill. And he saw, in the valley below, the wolf jump onto another rock wall. The wall surrounded a small house. Smoke came from the chimney. Then, to Peter's horror, a little child ran out of the house and into the yard. The child lay down in the snow and made an angel. The wolf studied this mysterious behavior. And Peter aimed his rifle, wondering if he could hit the wolf at this distance. Then the wolf was gone, as if it had sensed danger.
Peter climbed down the hill and rang the bell at the gate in the wall. The child, who turned out to be a little girl, let him in. They introduced themselves. The girl asked, "Are you Peter and the Wolf?"
Peter replied, "Well sort of, I'm Peter..."
The girl ran to the house, "Grandpa, it's Peter and the Wolf!"
An old man opened the door. He had alarm on his face, and a shotgun in his hands. Peter reassured him, "It's just Peter. I'm afraid you just missed the wolf." He showed the wolf's tracks to the old man.
The old man said to the girl, "Katrina, perhaps you should play indoors today."
"No! Peter and I are going to go shoot the wolf."
"Katrina, I don't think your toy gun will work very well on a real wolf."
"I will shoot the wolf with my toy gun, and Peter will finish him off."
Peter asked Katrina to stay and protect her grandfather, in case the wolf came back. She reluctantly agreed to stay.
Peter resumed tracking the wolf. Then the tracks of another man joined the tracks of the wolf. Someone else was stalking the wolf. Peter came to a meadow, and ahead he saw the other man on snow shoes, with a gun of some sort cradled in his arms, trudging rapidly through the snow. The Peter saw the man disappear into a hole in the snow. Peter ran to the spot, and pulled the man out of a stream by grabbing the hood of his coat. Ice had already formed on the man's wet clothes. Peter took off his own coat and wrapped it around the man. Then he pulled and dragged the freezing man back to the house of Katrina and her grandfather.
The man's name was Ivan. He recovered after a few days, under the care of little Katrina and her Grandfather. Peter visited them every day during his vacation.
The wolf occasionally killed a goat or a cow. And then it moved on, and was not seen again.
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