Word Count 497
The Wolf Waltz: Dancing through the Ages
by G. Ackman
The wolf sat imperiously at the top of the hill, his grizzled face surveying the pack below. Seven females, two adolescent males, and four pups milled around, aware of him and waiting for his signal that they were heading out to hunt. His eyes softened when he gazed on the pups. They were fine looking animals, three girls and one boy. The boy, rambunctious and energetic, never gave his mother any rest. The old wolf knew his mate did not really mind. It was a sign that the youngster had what it took and would someday be reigning over the pack. The alpha male with his thick gray and white fur looked around and was content. Food had been plentiful and tonight’s hunt would result in full bellies for another few days. He sniffed the air and knew that winter’s bite was still weeks away and that tonight’s moon would light a silver path through the forest as they stalked their prey.
He lay down for a bit of a rest, but kept his head erect, his eyes alert, and his nose constantly reading the landscape, always ready for any intimation of danger towards his pack. He had been the alpha male for seven long years, mating early each spring with the alpha female. Someday, when he was gone, she would be alone, would not mate another. The new alpha male – one of the adolescents playing with the pups down below? Or the little male pup that was even now crouching and stalking his sisters? Either way, the old wolf knew the day would come when one of them would challenge him and this time, he would lose.
It was the way of things. A delicate dance choreographed eons ago and played on this dance floor every year. The partners changed, the music shifted but never stopped, and the dance went on. This was his dance, begun when he was little more than a weanling. He had challenged the old alpha and lost in a battle that had been a ferocious clash of fang and claw. Even now, he bore the scar on his right shoulder and it pained him a bit when he knew the rains or snows were coming. He limped slightly when the day’s travels took him far afield. It was another sign that the music of his dance was on its last verse. He had lost that first challenge, and the second, and the third. But then, suddenly it had been his turn, and he had been the victor. The old alpha lay bleeding on the dueling ground. He had assumed his place on the dance floor and had ruled wisely and well.
It was nearly time for the night’s hunt, but first he would rest. His weary head slowly descended to his paws and his golden eyes watched as the young pups played and the adolescents showed off. It was good. As he slept, the music changed and the pack kept dancing.