The man on Walnut is howling. He has been for the past 6 weeks, on his porch, barefoot, wearing long johns that end halfway down his ankles. The neighborhood boys whisper stories to each other of how he was raised by wolves. They dare one another to touch the corner of his house while he stands there. He pays no attention to them. Only howls.
The women in town make him casseroles and set them at his feet, sometimes in his lap. They pat his head like they would their dogs. They tell him they’re sorry. When they walk past his home and see the meals still sitting like lawn ornaments, untouched, they collect them. Some grew frustrated, others kept trying. Ms. Adams thought maybe he didn’t eat meat and made him lasagna once more, this time with mushrooms. She fed it to her husband after it sat wrapped in foil at the howling man’s feet for 3 days. Mr. Adams ate every bite without complaint.
The pastor calls it “singing,” says the man’s just a little out of tune. Widowed himself, the minister understands. He watched the man’s lower lip shake like windblown shutters in the cemetery. He remembered that shake in the same way he remembered how his wife used to call him “David,” holding the “a” a bit longer, as though his name unraveled in her mouth. On cold nights he wraps blankets she once stitched over the man’s shoulders. Together they howl. The moon watches.
The man and his wife lived in the only home on Walnut Street. They were quiet and kind. He tipped his hat when women walked past their home. He waved to the neighborhood boys, gave them candy. On Sunday mornings they went to church together and took the long way home, cutting through a pasture of cedars. So inseparable they were, we thought his middle name was an ampersand. His night song became as familiar to us as all those crickets and whippoorwills. When he finally stopped, we missed it. He started walking through cedars again, combing his fingers with their needles.