The wolf slept in Kismet’s bed every night and was there every morning.  The boy and the wolf grew inseparable.  Mrs. Whitmore never saw one without the other, and if she did, she was immediately concerned about the other’s whereabouts.  Mrs. Whitmore never fully respected Prestige until what could have been an unfortunate day.

               Mrs. Whitmore stood bent over a mixing bowl, her hand whirling around and around, combining the flour, eggs, and butter into one blanket of dough.  She wiped the sweat off her brow and rubbed the end of her nose with her wrist.  Mrs. Whitmore periodically peeked at the recipe in front of her, making sure to follow the next instructions precisely.  She was a fine cook and even finer baker!  She was known most for her wonderful sugar and honey loaves that she entered annually at the town’s festival.  Mrs. Whitmore was a fragile but kind soul.  She took each day seriously and did not wish to fritter any hour away on “terrible wastes” such as reading fictional stories or attending clubs.  She’d rather be seen mending, cooking, or sweating out in the fields rather than sitting in a group of catty women or reading make believe stories.  Mr. Whitmore called her “his sweet practical,” and that she was indeed.

               That afternoon, as she stirred and folded the thick glob of dough, she heard the baying of Prestige and the ferocious sounds of fists hitting flesh.  The narrowed her brows and wiped her dusty hands on her apron.  She rushed to the window and looked out at the barn.  There, in a struggle of dirt and limbs, were Kismet, Prestige, and three stray dogs.  Mrs. Whitmore gasped and grappled for the rifle on the wall.  She headed out to the scene, hoping and praying that her aim would be smart.

               The three dogs belonged to the Houston’s, who lived a couple of houses down from Banner Sullivan.  They were known for jumping the gate at night to chase after rabbits or coons, but they usually ended up in a neighbor’s yard where they killed the chickens and stole the eggs.  On this occasion, the three dogs slipped under the Whitmore’s gate that led into the field and scared the horse hooked up to the plow.  The horse spooked terribly and ruined the neatly prepared rows as well as destroying the plow.  Prestige had alerted Kismet just in time when the thieving hounds were making their way to the chicken coop.

               Remembering her son couldn’t hear her, Mrs. Whitmore leaned down and picked up a rock.  She looked up at the brawl and upon seeing the bloodhound’s hindquarter she released the rock, striking the dog in the leg.  The bloodhound rolled off of Prestige and lay still for a moment before limping off to lick his wound.  The other two dogs remained snapping and clawing at Prestige, angered that they couldn’t bring the big wolf down.  Prestige didn’t miss a trick; he dodged and snapped out at the right time and in the right place.  Each bite from the wolf’s jaw was clean and deep—he didn’t shred or tear the flesh like the dogs did, he did it with accuracy and speed.  And all the time, the wolf kept an eye on the boy, making sure he came out of the fight with nothing more than a scratch.

               “My dear boy!”  Mrs. Whitmore breathed as she pressed the butt of the gun against her shoulder.  Her finger hooked around the trigger and she aimed for the rotund, matted-hair dog first.  She didn’t care if the owners broiled her for killing the dogs—her son was far more important.   Mrs. Whitmore almost yanked the trigger before she saw Prestige throw her target to the ground by the throat.  She lowered her gun and watched.  The wolf closed his jaw around the dog’s neck until the cracking of bones was heard.  The other dog fled with his tail between his legs, soon followed by the limping bloodhound.

               Kismet lowered his arms from his head and gazed at Prestige.  The wolf licked his lips clean of the blood and went over beside his master.  He dropped down into the lying position and placed his head on Kismet’s lap.  A huge sigh escaped the wolf’s body and the eyes closed for a moment of contentment. 

               Mrs. Whitmore drew the rifle to her side and emptied the cartridge.  She walked over to her son and placed a hand on his shoulder.  Kismet spun around and, seeing a glimpse of his mother’s skirt, threw his arms around her legs.  Mrs. Whitmore leaned down and stroked the boy’s hair.  She could feel his body trembling against hers and his hands were locked around her legs.  Prestige’s eyes opened and he looked up at the mother.  The mother looked down at the wolf, and at that moment, she felt no disgust towards the animal.  All she saw in the bright yellow eyes was trust.  The red wolf had saved her son’s life, and she had a feeling that it wouldn’t be the last time Prestige would protect the family.    

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