The votes are in and the readers’ choice for Scene of the Month for July is my unfinished werewolf novel The Wolf. Since I posted the prologue a few months ago, I figured I would follow it up with the scene that immediately follows it. Enjoy!
The tiny, battered Airstream looked out of place among the shiny new trailers that dominated the campground. Many of them were big as houses, apartments on wheels, some with side sections that snapped out to become bedrooms, with satellite dishes aimed at the sky, trying to pick out television signals between the crowding pines. The campground attendant could remember a time, not so long ago, when people came into the woods to get away from the distractions of home; now they packed all their distractions into enormous plastic boxes and brought them along. At least there were fewer fights among drunken campers, now that they were cloistered away inside their houses-on-wheels as if in their living rooms.
The attendant eyed the Airstream and the beat-up car that had evidently dragged it to this location. Every once in a while, you got a situation like this, where somebody parked their trailer in a spot that somebody else had reserved. Usually the squatters were either in an old shitbox like this one, or else in the latest super-duper no-expense-spared megatrailer complete with hot tub and helicopter landing pad. Dealing with the wealthy interlopers was usually a bigger pain in the ass, merely because they had a greater capacity to cause trouble. He knew a guy at a campground nearby who had gotten fired over such an incident.
He glanced up the road, to where the rightful renters waited. They had pulled their shiny SUV and equally shiny trailer to the edge of the dirt track, underneath the spreading branches of a sycamore. He could see them watching him impatiently. They wanted their space, and he couldn’t blame them. They’d reserved it a year in advance, after all.
He went up to junky pickup, took a look in the cab. Vinyl seats. He got a sticky feeling just looking at them, remembering many summer days when he’d had to peel himself off such upholstery at the end of a car ride with his parents. The seat was patched in a couple of spots with peeling duct tape. It was hard to tell how many patches there were, exactly, because of all the old fast food wrappers scattered around inside. The dude should know better; garbage like that was sure to attract animals.
The attendant moved on, taking a look in the truck bed. Nothing much in there, just one of those metal carryalls like you put tools in. It was held shut with a rusty padlock. He noticed gouges in the chassis in several different places, deep slashes in groups of three or four. Some had been patched with a pasty Bondo-like material; others had been left as they were, rusting around the edges of the torn metal.
He was just wasting time, trying to look investigatory while he delayed checking the camper itself. He had a feeling that the owner of this particular trailer was likely to get rambunctious when told to move. How long did he have before the registered camper started leaning on his horn? He glanced their way again. They had moved a little closer, a sure sign of impatience.
With a sigh, he went to the Airstream and rapped on the door. No answer. He rapped again, waited a little while, then went to the window near the door. He wasn’t quite tall enough to see inside, so he dragged over a bench from the picnic table and stood on that, steadying himself against the tarnished aluminum as he peered through the dirty window. The curtains weren’t drawn, but the darkness inside made it hard to see anything. He clicked on his flashlight and played it around inside.
Jesus Christ, what a fucking mess. He’d thought the truck was bad; the trailer looked like someone had peeled open the top and shaken a Dumpster out into it. And what the hell was that stuff hanging on the wall? Were those leg-hold traps?
He moved the light around. Fuck, look at all the weapons: Rifles, a shotgun, assorted knives and machetes. Big handcuffs, weighted nets, knotted nylon rope. Big, dusty bottles on the counter held yellowish fluid; could be gasoline or piss or moonshine, he didn’t know. What he did know was that he had no intention of fucking around with this lunatic. He would call the cops and let them deal with the situation. Anybody with equipment like this had to be a poacher at best. The handcuffs suggested something more sinister.
He climbed down off the bench, looked around. Nobody was watching, as far as he could see. He dragged the bench back to where he’d gotten it, then ran back to the waiting guests and called Dad out of the vehicle for a little chat. If the facts about what had been inside the Airstream weren’t sufficient to persuade the man to sit tight until the police arrived, the lurid presentation was.
Obviously shaken, Dad returned to his SUV, while the attendant ran back to his shack at the campground entrance, which had the only functional phones in the place.
He was still trying to convince the cops that he wasn’t crazy when the Airstream went by on its way out of the campground, making a left on the gravelly road, heading toward the freeway.
I don’t know if I’ll ever go back and finish The Wolf. I haven’t worked on it in years, but that doesn’t mean much; I let Dragon Stones sit about halfway complete for at least three years before I finally went back to it and wrapped it up, and it turned out to be my favorite out of all my books. So who knows? Someday The Wolf may hit the shelves after all. (And by “the shelves”, of course, I mean Amazon.com.)
In the meantime, the poll results have been reset once again, and voting can now begin for the August scene of the month!