Adolfa and the Wolves
I saw my sister climbing the mountain, going up its sharp incline with rocks falling with each step and dust stirring. A powerful spirit seemed to be luring her to the top, a strange and supernatural calling.
Few people in the Mexican village had ever climbed Mount Ynez. The mountain is extremely treacherous, especially during the winter months when the temperatures reach below freezing. Many wolves and wild dogs roam there, certainly not a place for a young girl.
Adolfa and I live with our momma and great-grandma by the foothills. Dad has been missing in the war for more years than we can count. And we’ve given up hope that he’d ever return. We live from hand to mouth without him, and momma always complains about not having enough help.
At one time, my sister did her share of chores, easing momma’s load. Now she leaves our home every morning to scale the mountain, visiting the gray and black animals in the wild, not coming back until nightfall.
Adolfa seems unafraid of the dangers in the high ground. This strikes me as odd since she is the last person you’d expect to be brave, typically scared of a common house spider or a mouse that scurries on the floorboards. Not even my burly co-workers at the mill are stupid enough to do that climb. And besides, the sound of a wolf’s growl and snarling teeth would make any sane person run.
“You’re a damn fool,” momma said. “Why jeopardize your life with those wild beasts?”
“They make me strong,” Adolfa said calmly. “I take on their strength like it’s my own.”
“Strong?” momma scoffed. “What’s that supposed to mean for a girl? You’ll never be strong like a wolf — you’ll be weak like me. Our place is in the way we organize our house and take care of the children while the men are away fighting wars.”
Adolfa shook her head to disagree and refused to listen. She knew what the wolves meant to her. Not one human being could match their bravery.
“I want you to stop this foolishness, Adolfa! Now promise me you won’t go up there again,” and grabbed her shoulders, demanding that she listen.
Adolfa did not answer. No one could convince Adolfa to abandon the wolves. They were the close family she always desired, not the miserable brood who lives in the broken-down shack with no ambition or pride.
“A wolf will rescue me from peril. They bring me gifts and place wreaths upon my head as if I were a princess.”
“Aren’t you afraid of their howling?” asked grandma, who was blind from eye disease.
“No,” grandma. “Their howling gives me courage. When I am around them, I absorb their power, as if they share it with me. They are shrewd and know when people approach with peace and goodwill. If you are respectful, they share their ancient secrets.”
We struggled to imagine Adolfa climbing the mountain. She was so delicate, and the winter air was windy and raw. How could she feel anything but fear and cold up there?
When momma found out she returned to Mount Ynez against her wishes, she refused to discuss it.
“That’s it,” momma said. “End of conversation. If Adolfa wants to hide away on Mount Ynez, go right ahead. I will not feel pity for her when something happens. She was warned. Now I wash my hands of her.”
“Do not worry, momma. I will see what she does up there and bring her back. I promise.”
The next day, I followed my sister out of the house while momma was making butter and grandma napping. I made sure Adolfa did not notice me, ducking behind trees and hiding in the brush.
Once we arrived at a clearing, my sister walked over to a lone wolf. The wolf put its head down in deference and greeted her by licking her fingers. Adolfa’s hands sunk into the wolf’s thick gray fur as if lost forever. Then she reached into her basket to retrieve some raw rabbit meat.
I watched her feed the hungry wolf, who took the meat with his paws instead of snapping it up with his sharp teeth. It was shocking to see how well Adolfa got along with the wolf.
Suddenly, I felt the heavy presence of something lurking behind me. Soon menacing growls and hot damp breath brushed against my neck. The last thing I remembered, I fell to the ground.
When I awoke, I did not find myself eaten or shredded upon the ground in a million pieces, but many ominous pairs of carnivore eyes staring down upon me. This time, my sister was among them, smiling with kind blue eyes, her soft pale hands stroking my forehead in comfort. She was dressed differently, not as a peasant girl; more elegant and better groomed.
“The pack will not harm you, brother,” Adolfa said as if her voice was not my sister but an angel. “They are only guarding me. They want to know why you followed me?”
I sat up. “I came here to protect you, Adolfa.”
“Protect me?” she said, laughing. “I’m the one who needs to keep you from getting hurt, dear brother, since you have trespassed on the wolves’ territory. Strangers come up here to hunt wolves, not protect young girls.”
Shortly after, the animals stopped growling and crept away, blending into the brown and green woods, then vanishing into the misty mountain air.
I could not convince Adolfa to return to the village. Every time I raised my voice in persuasion, I heard the wolves growl in the distance.
“This is where I am most content,” she said. “It’s as if I were born to be here. Perhaps I was a wolf in my past life.”
I would leave the mountain without Adolfa. As I made my way down the spiraling path to the foothills, I felt envious of her connection with the wolves. There was confidence in her voice and pride in her eyes like I’ve never seen.
Momma was at the door waiting when I arrived. “Did you bring Adolfa back?” she asked.
I shook my head. “No I didn’t, but she is safe.”
“Safe? Up in that mountain alone?”
“Yes, momma. She has made friends with the wolves. They protect her.”
“Nonsense!” momma shouted. “How could a wolf protect a girl?”
I put a hand on her shoulder.
“Even if I could convince Adolfa to come home, I wouldn’t. She has found happiness and freedom up there. I don’t understand why they chose her, but I do know that she is fortunate.”