The Tale of a True Howlcaholic
A tale of wine, wolves, and winter.
On a cold winter evening in the wastes of the frontier, Conrelius Sugarshanks was out hunting wolves. They’d been preying on his meager herds of sheep, and he had to protect his impoverished family’s well-being. As the moon rose higher and the air grew colder, he reluctantly accepted defeat, knowing that his advantages would be diminished as the night grew dimmer and the wolves grew hungrier. On his way home he heard a howl in the distance, and quickened his pace. Minutes later, a rustle in the bushes, but he didn’t turn quickly enough. Didn’t raise his gun fast enough. He felt the beast’s teeth on his arm.
But it was not the beast he’d been expecting. Before him stood a boy, perhaps twenty-one years old, perhaps a little more, scrawny and wiry and unburdened by either clothing or civilization. The feral lad snarled through teeth which had never been brushed, and paced with feet that had never known shoes. Cornelius, for his part, couldn’t bring himself to harm the lad. Instead, he brought the feral boy home and fed him. His wife was, initially, less than pleased.
The next day, they set about trying to solve the mystery of the boy. It took some time, and a whole lot of boring failures, but eventually they came to realize the lad was the orphaned son of billionaire tycoon Xander Reed and his wife … her name was Carol, or Cheryl, or something. No one could really remember. The important thing was the boy was entitled to a great deal of money… if he could learn to speak English and stop biting people.
Early attempts to civilize the boy met with failure. Many a tutor left with tetanus. But Conrelius’ wife had become obsessed, hoping to lay hands on the boy’s fortune, and that meant Conrelius may as well have been obsessed, for his wife was quite the nagger. So, in a dangerous gamble, they pooled their meager resources for one final, desperate gamble.
They summoned three of the wisest men on the planet. Kirk T. James, famed explorer who once taught a tribe of Bonobo apes to communicate with a complicated alphabet of grunts and flatulence. Pike Luc Jeanard, a French philosopher who believed that the key to wisdom was the sense of taste. And finally, renowned anthropologist Barry Roden, who had once, however briefly, brokered a nine day peace in Gaza with little more than a few bottles of wine and some interpretive dance.
Each man arrived with a similar strategy, and a case of wine. First was James, who brought with him the 2010 Columbia Valley Malbec, a heavily perfumed wine loaded with elegant flavors of berries and cedars. After a few nights of drinking it (admittedly, from his bowl in the basement), the wolfboy stopped snarling. By the time the case was finished, he no longer growled, bit, or spat.
Next was Jeanard, with his case of 2010 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Loaded as it was with a rich and velvety mouthfeel, it encouraged the boy to experiment with language. The hint of cocoa in the aftertaste left him yearning for more, but he would only be granted a second helping if he used the words he was slowly learning. Certainly, the boy was making progress.
Finally came Roden, with a fine case of the 2010 Columbia Valley Merlot. Its dense and luscious fruit flavors appealed to what was left of the boy’s animal instincts, but its long, smooth image continued to push him in the direction of sophistication; it was a wine to offer not just his mood, but his very mindset. It was then that he began learning the fundamentals of the written word.
With the task accomplished, Conrelius’ wife hurriedly pushed through the paperwork to make the boy’s fortune theirs. But Conrelius, seeing the boy on the cusp of culture, understanding only wine and little else, used a portion of the wealth to buy the lad the best education money could buy, and placed the rest in a trust fund, where the boy could claim it upon completing college.
Years later, long after his divorce, old, bankrupt Conrelius would often think of that feral boy, and wonder what became of him. Old Conrelius was certainly alone, and could barely afford to live in the tiny studio his uncle rented him out of pity, but he was free of regret, though not curiosity. One Christmas, he received an anonymous package. In addition to several million dollars in cash, it included a single bottle each of the Merlot, Sauvignon, and Malbec, now distributed by the extremely successful and prestigious "Raised By Wolves" vineyard, and a beautiful drawing of a wolf. It was the greatest gift he could have hoped for (particularly the several million dollars).
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