“So what’s in that juice anyway?” Ben asked as he skipped down the stairs with renewed vigor.
“I see you’re feeling better huh mister?” Jed replied.
“Yeah. What’s in it?” Ben prodded.
“Ya know, there are things in life you’re just better off not knowing about young feller. If you were older and wiser like me, you’d know that” Jed scolded as he rocked back and forth in his rocking chair in front of the unlit fireplace.
Ben walked through the living room and picked up a picture featuring a ten years younger looking Jed and a sweet looking, happy woman. “This is your wife?” Ben asked curiously.
Jed was visibly worked up as he moved around in his chair and cleared his throat in the way he always did when he was going to blast Ben for being a ‘moron’. But after a long drawn out sigh he ceded and replied, suddenly hillbilly accent-free, “Yeah. That’s Gloria”
Ben smiled back at Jed and said “Pretty lady”
“Yes. Yes she was. It’s been forever since I’ve seen that beautiful smile” Jed said. There was a deep sorrow in his voice but he spoke clearly as if he had come to terms with her being gone a long time ago.
“I’m sorry. What happened?” Ben thought for a moment that he could be passing over a boundary and that maybe this was one of those “things he was better off not knowing” but decided to ask anyway. The old man was helping him deal with being a werewolf and serving him bloodied cocktails and slabs of raw meat. Pleasantries and politeness were probably the least of either of their concerns.
“I think maybe you already know” Jed raised an eyebrow and peered at Ben suspiciously.
Suddenly it all made sense. Ben felt embarrassed by his epiphany as it should have been obvious all along. “That was you that saved me in the forest” Ben replied in bewilderment.
Jed didn’t respond but slightly nodded, prodding Ben to continue.
“That’s how you know all this stuff… about the curse… about everything” Ben added. He had considered the possibility from the onset but shrugged it off numerous times. Jed was old and even a bit frail looking. He always properly cooked the meat he ate, not the practically raw stuff that Ben had been eating. Suddenly Old Jed reeked of wolf. Ben was utterly flabbergasted at how he had been so oblivious to such a strong scent.
“You were supposed to be back before sunset. I heard gunshots, figured you had a little run in with some of the local yahoos. Damn internet hunting tour groups… bunch of morons. They bring in wannabe hunters from all over the world to hunt out here cause o’ the lax laws and whatnot. Morons go and drink themselves silly during the day and try to bag a deer or two as the sun sets. Every once in a while they just end up killing each other” Jed spit out a mouthful of tobacco into a small metal tin.
Ben took a moment to let it all sink in. It seemed too obvious to be true. Then again it also seemed a bit ridiculous to ‘assume’ anyone was a werewolf and so he hadn’t thought about it much. Ben figured he had been so absorbed in his own problems that he had been oblivious to a lot of things.
“You’ve got less than two weeks before the full moon” Jed continued, breaking the awkward silence. “Those hunters were a good test. You lost control. You killed those men and almost got yourself killed in the process. Now I’m not going to lecture you on right and wrong cause I lost track of that rubbish a long time ago. Is it right that we got stuck with this curse?” Jed sneered.
Ben hung his head in shame as he listened. Seeing that, Jed’s tone picked up a bit to an almost cheery level. “Don’t get me wrong kid, they deserved it. I saw it all. Shot you and left you for dead. Pretty sure that even the law would be on your side as self-defense. They murdered you. Several times in fact. Regardless, there will be time to think about that later. Now that you know what you can do, and what you can’t, you know what you need to do”
“Why are you helping me?” Ben asked. He had asked Jed many times but never got an answer.
Jed’s eyes started to tear up and his voice cracked a bit as he spoke. “I can smell her blood in your veins… Having you around… being able to smell her as if she was here beside me… I lost my chance at sainthood decades ago. I’m just a selfish old man”
Ben didn’t really understand. Maybe he never would, but he did understand that without Jed, he was a lost cause. “You could have just let me turn into wolf and kept me as a pet. You may have your own reasons for keeping me around, but you’re doing a great thing for me either way and I appreciate it” Ben said earnestly.