Teddy rushed through the door and put on the brakes in the living room, when he saw his mother there. “Hi, Mommy. What are you doing home and you're all dressed up,” he said surprised by both facts.
“I'll tell you later. Where's Robby?” Hary asked
“He went around back. He got all wet and yucky,” Teddy said, wrinkling his little nose.
She got up and went to see what was up with her elder son and indeed, he was all wet and yucky. In the screened off back porch Robby had already started to get undressed, sitting on the floor to untie his sneakers. They were giving him problems, the knots he always managed to get into the laces, now wet were resisting his efforts at undoing them.
Hary told him, “Just pull them off, Robby, I've seen you do it a thousand times, why are you so concerned about undoing them this time.”
He looked up and grinned at her, “Hi, Mom. Oh, Mrs. Peters always says I should undo the knots instead of just pulling my sneakers off and I thought she'd be here. You must have gotten the day off, if you had time to go shopping for a new dress. That's a nice color of red. When is Paul going to pick you up?” Robby asked as he pulled the still laced sneakers off of his feet.
“Right on all counts, my smart alec, elder son. You don't mind baby sitting Teddy tonight?” Hary asked as he pulled off his socks.
Robby shook his head, telling her, “No, I don't mind, he loves it when it's just us guys and that makes him easy to sit.” He stood up and started to pull off his sweatshirt, which because it was wet was giving him troubles, He asked his voice partly muffled, “Mom, howcome...” and then he had to stop because the wet material of the sweatshirt was over his face.
Hary thought, 'Oh, no, he's going to ask about sex. I knew I should have had Paul talk to him.' “Is this something about sex?” she asked with trepidation, as he managed to get the sweatshirt off.
Robby looked at her in surprise and shook his head, “No, I know everything I need to know about sex, right now.”
Pulling up his T shirt he was surprised when Hary snapped, “What do you know about sex?”
After getting the T shirt over his head, he looked at her, his eyes sparkling wickedly, “I know my thing feels good when I play with it.” and he watched her blush from head to toe.
Robby chortled, saying with amusement, “That's an interesting shade of red, Mom, but it clashes with your dress. You really should leave the sex talk stuff to Paul or Mr. Wilson, you don't do it very well, besides that's not what I was going to ask you.”
“And just what were you going to ask, you nasty little squirt.” she asked, blessedly feeling her face begin to cool down.
“I just wondered howcome, our clothes change when we do.” Robby asked, a twinkle in his eyes as he knew she was glad to get off of the subject of sex.
Robby unbuckled his belt and popped the snap of his jeans and then he listened as Hary explained, “Well, your father before you were born decided to find out that very thing, he spent every spare moment for almost six months talking to every werewolf he could find. Finally, after considering every aspect of the change, he gave me a sheet of paper. It said, 'I have absolutely no idea. I give up!'“
She laughed at the startled look on Robby's face so reminiscent of his father's. “I'm sorry honey, he never did come up with a reason. He finally settled on a phrase that a lot of ministers like to use. 'It's God's work.' I know that's not particularly satisfying, but that the best that I can do.”
Robby shrugged and unzipping his jeans, he pushed the wet cloth down with his underpants and stepped out of them. Hary looking at her naked son, was startled by how dirty he was,
She asked, “I know you just had a bath last night before bed, so how did you get so dirty?” As Robby started to head for the back door, she shook her head, “Uh, uh, rubber boots over there, in the corner. That'll keep the dirt off the floors.”
Robby grumbling a little went over, got his rubber boots and pulled them on, before answering her question. “There's this kid at school and for the last three weeks every time I turn around, he's jumping all over me. I'd almost think he was a bully, but he's only my size and you know what that means.”
Indeed she did, except for Gary Wilson, Robby's best friend who had some werewolf blood in his veins and had the sturdiness that went with it, Robby was stronger, faster and more durable than the vast majority of other children his size.
Robbyn explained, “He's never thrown a punch, but he jumps on me and starts wrestling with me and he's serious, there's no fun in his face like there is when I wrestle with Gary. Since he's not as strong or as fast as me, I can pin him down and sit on him until he gives up and when I let him up he just runs away.”
He told her, “Today when I was on my way home he tried to tackle me like he's been doing, but he only bumped me really hard. I lost my balance and ended up in this deep mud puddle, left over from that hard rain we had last night. Luckily, I managed to throw my backpack to Gary before I ended up in the drink. It's just as well that he took off, before I could get back to my feet, I was feeling like pounding him.”
“You don't intend to pound him, now?” Hary asked.
“No, he didn't do it on purpose and besides,” Robby said with a grin, “how can I get mad at him for something I was thinking about doing to Gary.”
She couldn't help it, she giggled. Taking Robby by the shoulders she turned him around and gave him a swat on the bottom. She told him, “Go take a bath and about the sex,” she blushed again, “don't tell, Teddy, I'll have Paul talk to him.”
Robby grinned with amusement, “Sorry, Mom, he already knows. Seems he had a precocious classmate in kindergarten, who taught him about it.” He continued with indignation, “Imagine, he got to learn about it five whole years sooner than I did, I think that's totally unfair, after all dad was still alive when I was five.” Walking through the kitchen and the hallway beyond, he headed for the stairs, his mother following him on her way to the living room.
Partway up the first flight, Robby leaned over the railing, “I told him that it's something that's supposed to be done in private and he's not supposed to teach anyone else about it, because parents tend to misunderstand. I think he understands, but you should still get Paul to talk to him.” his head disappeared, then reappeared, “In fact, I think I might just sit in on that discussion.” His head appeared for the third time, “By the way I know the real name and most of the other names, I just didn't want to embarrass you too badly.” This time his head disappeared and didn't reappear.
Robby, after his bath, was lying on his bed, doing his homework; Hary poked her head around the door jamb, asking, “Mind if I come in?”
Robby said in mock indignation, “Certainly not, a boy demands complete privacy when he's in his bedroom.”
She said ironically, “Sure, sure, that's why you choose to stay in here with Teddy instead of moving into one of the other bedrooms.” coming into the room.
“I'm terribly afraid of thunder and lightning, ya know.” he said meekly.
Hary grinned inquiring, “If that's the case, who was that boy, in the back porch, watching that thunder and lightning storm we had last evening?”
Robby's green eyes lit up, as he said, “Oh, Mom it was lovely, I don't know why people get so excited over fireworks when all they have to do is watch a storm like that.”
Hary told him, thinking about the past, “Well, I'm afraid that I don't agree with you, though it does have its savage beauty. You're like your father, he loved storms and when I was in his arms I felt completely safe.”
Robby was quiet, letting her think, until her eyes turned back to him and returned to the present. She asked, “Now who's this boy you've been having trouble with?”
Robby got into a sitting position, legs crossed under him. He told her seriously, “His name is Paul Wilkins and he's been in my classes as long as I can remember, but until the last few weeks, he's never been a particularly physical kinda kid. My grades are as good as his and we're usually one, two in the class and we never know who's in first place until we have exams. But since I'm a werewolf and have to keep in shape, I travel with the jock crowd. I've seen him watch wistfully from the sidelines. When I get chosen captain I always pick him and the other kids who aren't all that good and give them a chance to play.”
Robby grinned, saying,“That's one of the reasons that they don't choose me as captain very often. They think my picks suck and I'm not really cut out to be a pack leader. It's usually Gary and David Rall and they're both very competitive. The kids that aren't very good, well they get chosen, but they don't get to play very much.”
Hary looked with love at her very nice, amiable son, carefully hiding it when he looked up at her, so as not to embarrass him. She sat on the bed beside him. She said thoughtfully, “I had an idea. I was wondering if the Wilkins are Gypsys. Not all of them are wanderers anymore and our people and Gypsys have been friends for centuries. They're the only humans who can tell what we are even in human form.”
She told him, “About ten years ago, just after I got back from maternity leave, from having you, I arrested an Ishmael Wilkins, for drug possession. He got five years in the state pen, but he got into trouble when he was inside and his sentence was extended a couple of times and he just got out. He could be one mean dude. But looking back on it, he didn't give me as much trouble as he usually did with cops. I was somewhat preoccupied at the time, just getting back on the job. As I said, they know us, but we don't know them, if we don't know in advance that they're Gypsies.”
Robby looked at her with excitement, green eyes wide. He asked, “There are humans who know about us?” and she nodded, “About the Willkins kid, what do I do?”
She explained, “If he is a Gypsy and he knows you're a werewolf and his family is in trouble, but his leader forbade him to talk to you, he might be trying to attract your attention this way. Visit him in wolf form, if he is a Gypsy, he will know and he will address you as Friend and he will invite you into his home and you will know. We have been friends so long that we have an obligation to help them if we can do so.”
Hary stood up, telling him, “Tomorrow is a Friday, why don't you go visit him tomorrow evening and find out. By the way, about Rose Peters. Since your dad worked at home, we didn't need a babysitter. When your dad died three years ago, I had enough seniority to work mainly days and your grandparents filled in until they moved to Florida last year and Mrs. Peters took over then. I don't know if I ever mentioned it but Rose is a cousin.”
“Mrs. Peters, is a werewolf?” Robby squeaked. “Why didn't you tell me before?”
She grasped his nose and gave it a little pull, saying with amusement, “I thought if you couldn't figure it out, that gave me a advantage. You're not quite as smart as you think you are, smarty pants.” Robby looked a little chastened.
Robby was lying with head on paws, looking at the Wilkins' house. There was a doghouse, but the scent was months old. He was trying to think of a way to contact Paul Wilkins. With five kids, he'd figured they'd be in and out, since it was only seven o'clock, but he hadn't seen any kids. He didn't feel like just going to the door, in human form until he knew for sure that they were Gypsys.
Then Robby raised his head, he had an idea. Paul's last science project had been on Morse Code. While Robby didn't know much about Morse, he knew the SOS code. Three dots, three dashes and three dots. Even if he had forgotten a lot of the code, since the science project, Paul would remember that.
Getting to his haunches, he gave three quick barks, then three longer ones and then three more quick ones. Within seconds, he was pleased to see Paul Wilkins appear at the door. Certainly not above practical jokes, Robby circled around and got behind Paul, as he moved into the yard.
Paul was looking out into the darkness beyond the yard, when three feet behind him, Robby barked once. Paul jumped and spun around, hand over his heart. Robby was on his back wriggling and the whining he was doing was unmistakably laughter.
Robby rolled onto his stomach and though he was no longer laughing, there was humor in his green eyes. Paul knelt in front of him and said reflectively, “That wasn't very nice, but then again I've never seen you pull a practical joke on someone you didn't consider a friend.” The next words were very formal, “Welcome, Friend, I invite you into my home.”
Robby changed into human form. “Mom never told me if there was any ritual form of acceptance, but I gladly accept your invitation.”
Paul's large brown eyes were wide, he'd known from stories about the friendship between Gypsys and werewolves but of course, he had never seen one. He reached out to touch Robby on the chest and Robby grinned. “I'm real, believe me. By the way, the next time I'm in wolf form I just wanted to tell you, that I love being petted.”
Paul giggled at that, it sort of made things more real. He said, “Come on inside, we eat late on Fridays, that's why nobody's been outside.”
Robby followed him into the house and into the kitchen, where everybody was just finishing what had evidently been a substantial meal. “I thought I told you, that we weren't going to ask for help from Friends.” barked the older man sitting at the table. Robby figured this was Ishmael and despite the fact that he knew he was an ex-con and could be mean, he liked him on sight.
Quite obviously, Paul wasn't the least bit afraid of his uncle. He said virtuously, “I didn't say a single word to him, honest.”
Ishmael grinned, saying, “I shoulda figured you were smart enough to figure out a way to get help, without saying anything.” he looked at Robby, “Welcome, Friend to our home.”
Robby bowed, it felt, APPROPRIATE. He said solemnly, “You obviously have a problem. Our peoples have been friends for centuries. How can we help you.”
While Ishmael, as the oldest was the leader, now that a Friend was actually in his home, the others were free to tell him what the problem was.
For the first time, the pack was prowling. Stationed around the Wilkins house, were Paul, Rose and Robby in werewolf form and his mother was in the house, with Teddy. As a puppy Teddy was having the time of his life with five children to play with and pet him, it being close to a full moon.
*There's a vehicle coming.* Robby told the others. Paul barked three times to alert Hary in the house.
A red pickup truck drove into the yard and as two men got out the werewolves moved in and Ishmael came out of the house. “So Ishmael have you decided to come in with us?” asked the driver who was the bigger of the two men.
“No!” Ishmael said definitely. “When I got out I vowed to go straight. I intend to do so.”
“Not smart, Ishmael, not smart at all,” said the passenger, as he and the driver reached into the truck and pulled out baseball bats. Robby, who had jumped into the bed of the truck, then onto the top of the cab, growled savagely and the men looked at him with startled eyes. When Paul and Rose who had come up behind the men also growled ferociously, their knees began turning to jelly.
Ishmael gave a nod at the wolves, “I've got a few Friends to help me.”
“You don't think a few dogs are going to help you, do you,” said the driver, not really very convincingly.
Hary moved into the light and despite the fact that she was in human form, she looked no less deadly than the rest of the pack. Very quietly, yet with a great deal of menace, she said almost caressingly. “Well, well if it isn't George Stevens and Wayne Morris. Hello boys. You haven't been around for a while. Ishmael and his family are Friends of mine, I don't think you want to bother them now do you?”
For some reason, she scared them, even more than the dogs did. Throwing the bats back into the truck, they shook their heads, too scared to answer out loud. She held up a radio, telling them, “I've got friends in the State Police. I've reported your presence here and they promised to keep an eye on you for me. Now leave and don't come back. Move!!!” the last word came out like a whip crack and they moved. Getting back into the truck, they backed out of the yard and headed for the highway, with absolutely no intention of returning.
Hary spoke into the radio, “Hello, Ron. They just left here and the way they were moving, you just might be able to pick them up for speeding.”
She grinned at Ishmael and he grinned back, saying quietly, “Thanks, Friend.”
They were walking home from school the next Friday and they were opposite the place where the mud puddle had been on the previous Thursday. Paul Wilkins was with them, somehow he had been integrated into the group. Gary had accepted the fact that Robby had a new friend and he was aware of what was about to happen.
Robby grabbed Paul's backpack and threw it to Gary who was waiting for it and then Robby pushed Paul into the mud puddle. Paul wasn't surprised at the practical joke. He pushed himself to his hands and knees in the water and looked somewhat confused, as he said to Robby, “It hasn't rained in a week, howcome there's still a mud puddle here?”
Robby grinned, saying, "Oh, I told Mrs. Ronson, about what happened last Thursday. She's a good sport and she loves practical jokes, so she let me use her hose. Come over to my place. You can have a bath and I'll give you some clothes to wear while I wash your clothes. I asked my Mom to call your folks after you were in bed last night and they said you could stay over for dinner. I asked Gary too, but he and his parents are going to his Aunt's for supper so he couldn't make it.”