As it turned out, their incipient friendship was only going to deepen, but neither of them knew it at the time – or at least wouldn’t admit it. Not even to themselves. As is the case with many an enduring relationship, closeness is usually achieved via relentless conflict. You start arguing and you get all worked up and then it strikes you: you hate and mistrust the other person’s point of view. Not only that, but you actually hate and mistrust the other person as well, and all the other person’s ancestors 20 generations back and all their offspring 20 generations from now, and the entire planet; and yet, after you’ve pulled out all your hairs, you settle down in their arms and sigh about how life would be so bland and unrecognizable without them.
So, as obviously as night follows day, once more, they fought. Pigli didn’t want to stop for sleeping.
‘First of all, I want to get there as soon as possible’, he had explained. ‘Secondly, I have a very delicate sleep. I cannot doze off just anywhere, I need my rituals, I need a certain smell, I need to fluff my pillow of leaves twice, then turn on my left side, then on my back, and finally, on my belly. And for that I need a den that is exactly my size. Not to mention that I need perfect darkness, and the forest is simply not dense enough here.’
‘Newsflash, my friend. Can I call you that, by the way?’, Cleo interrupted.
‘Let me warn you!’, he winced, scrunching his nose. ‘I’m tired so you’d better not risk it.’
‘Well, newsflash, anyway. At the Zoo there will be zero forest. How are you going to be able to sleep there? By the way, do you know that sleep deprivation can seriously affect your nervous system? I mean, it can really make you crazy.’
‘Crazier than you’ve made me? I doubt it.’
‘Seriously. You become erratic, irrational, unmanageable. I don’t want to risk that.’
‘Don’t worry! You’re already ahead of me. And while you’re at it, add a danger to society to the list’, he jeered.
‘Well, I need my eight hours of sleep. Do you want me to be a mess when I show up in front of reporters tomorrow? Do you? If you can’t sleep, fine, go watch the stars, practice your surrender, pick a wallpaper color for your cage, but I have to be credible tomorrow. Remember? Everything depends on that.’
‘I guess you have a point. I wouldn’t want you to lose it completely. At least not yet. OK, you can sleep. I’ll just walk around a little.’
‘Make sure to get some dry wood.’
‘What for?! What for, he asks?!! To make a fire, to keep warm, what else?’
‘You actually expect me to make a fire?! Do I need to remind you that wolves shun fire? Whenever we see fire, we keep away.’
‘So what am I gonna do for warmth?’
‘I don’t know. Do whatever you sheep do to keep warm.’
‘We squeeze hard against one another.’
‘Well, then… tough.’
Cleo suddenly widened her lips in a big grin, rolled her eyes and flipped her eyelashes seductively at Pigli.
‘Whaaat?! Noooo, no no no and no. No way. You’re not cuddling up with me’, he said and started walking in reverse.
‘Are you afraid of intimacy? We’re in this together after all. It might improve my performance tomorrow. Make me look more self-confident’, she continued to meow.
‘No! And that’s final! Get it into your head! I’m not gonna touch you.’
‘Hmmm… Would you rather I talked all night?’, she suddenly threw in the heavy artillery.
Pigli threw himself on the ground defeated and his face decomposed with repulsion as he felt Cleo inch her body into the thick fur on his back. She fell asleep smiling and soon began to snore. That Zoo’d better be worth it, he said to himself and spat. Where are those rabbits when you need them?
He was so angry and his nerves were so bruised that he completely forgot about his rituals and soon after fell into a deep and troubled sleep. A flock of sheep with their huge mouths puckered up and painted with red lipstick were chasing him. He was gasping and beads of cold sweat popped up on his forehead one after another. However, everything was not lost. He dreamt he was summoning his own pack to fight the wicked creatures. He was himself again, a real wolf. His blood was running, he was giving orders, dispatching the others to their positions, overseeing and planning the attack. For once, he was victorious. The sun came up upon his smile and rested on his happy face, and as he opened his eyes Cleo’s big round head was above him.
‘Aaaaaaarrrrgggg!’ he yelled.
‘Aaaaaaarrrrgggg!’ she yelled back scared to death, and her wool stood up on end.
The real-life nightmare was back, but now he could deal with it. He continued to snarl at her until he brought her to the point of imminent heart attack and then he laughed until his stomach hurt. He strutted to the nearest stream, washed his face and sprinkled his pectorals with cold water while Cleo just stood there dumbfounded and watched. For some weird reason, he was feeling good about himself. This one was really tough even for an exceptional emotional intuition such as Cleo’s.
(to be continued)