Connor had been observing the deer for some time, it was a buck, young, he wanted to pounce. His muscles were tense, his pupils dilated greatly, his heart years for the taste of blood. Yet a steady presence held him back, he too crouched in the bushes but unlike Connor who was wound up like a spring, this man was as calm and still as the pine trees.
“No, not this one” Chaoa said. ” It is young, not yet mated, we shall leave it for this season, come, let's go back.”
The two of them snuck away from the deer without disturbing it and made it out of the tree line in short order, where a pair of horses were waiting. Though Chaoa refused help, Connor knew he struggled to mount his horse, as winter approached his joints became worse and worse until he was nearly totally still.
Connor had been at Pine Ridge, living with the Lakota there, for about a year. Chaoa had found him one day, scavenging for food like an animal, as the unfamiliar environment had thrown off his hunting skills and took him in. They had become rather fast friends, though Connor suspected this was only in part due to Chaoa’s kind soul. He suspected he was different, not exactly like Connor, but different from the rest of common folk; though he never brought it up.
”I could have taken that buck,”Connor complained.
“You could have, yes, but you should not jump at every opportunity the moment it presents itself,”Chaoa said “The wild dog may do this, he feeds whenever he can, and in his eagerness he thins the herd and will starve in a few years time, you may have the spirit of the wild dog, but you are still a man, and must be smarter if you are to survive. Patience, that is your lesson for today, we call this Wowacintanka, one of the four great values”
“Wowacintanka,” Connor repeated. “My people would say Foighne”
“Foighne, I will remember this word, and I am gracious for it” Chaoa said.
This was how their friendship was built, on shared knowledge. Chaoa knew the land, and had wisdom of years. Connor had experience, and stories from his childhood, of what he thought was his homeland, the vague memory of rolling green hills, of Ireland. It was all so long ago now, he didn’t even know if it was real or just a dream.
The rode out of the pine woods and onto the reservation lands, it was all flat plains and hills here. Chaoa said there used to be buffalo that roamed through here, and his people would move with them, but that was a long time ago. He promised he’d take Connor to a place with buffalo and teach him how to hunt them, the idea of taking down something of that calibre did stir a fire in Connor’s heart; his favourite books were old stories about men who braved danger to face down great foes, beasts, and monsters. He remembered the nuns and priests telling him stories like that, those days as a child in a Catholic orphanage were fond ones.
Chaoa lived in a lonesome mobile home surrounded by scrap and old cars, this was how he made what little money he had. Either selling the raw materials or fixing up an old vehicle and selling it for cheap. He didn’t really like the work, in fact he detested the smell of oil and rust. Yet it was the only way he could afford the things he needed, food wasn’t an issue for him, in fact Connor noticed he hardly ate. No, water was what he mostly needed, a lot of it, several hundred gallons a week. It was damn expensive to pump water all the way out here, but Chaoa couldn’t move to go to a spring or pump.
The other thing was the lights, a lot of them, they came on automatically as they hitched their horses and stepped into the mobile home. Lots of special bulbs of red and blue, these were good for when it started to get cold, in summer Chaoa would simply sit outside for hours in the hot sun, yet he never seemed to get sunburned.
Chaoa sat down and Connor made them tea, this was also something that made them a good pair, the love of peace and quiet. They didn’t always need to talk, for a while, they merely enjoyed the silence, the sounds of bugs, and the lowering level of light as the sun slowly set.
“You have grown stronger, and healthier, than when I first met you,” Chaoa said. “I remember you being skin and bone, barely able to fell a stag, you had been running… how long was it?”
“Long, years, since I found myself on that cold beach,” Connor said. “Nowhere to go, nowhere to live, no way back home, if you hadn’t found me I would died in the cold, or been killed.”
“You could go back, to Ireland, if you wished,” Chaoa said. “We could raise the money.”
“Perhaps, but would I be welcome there, would it still feel like home? Am I still the same man as when I left? Will anyone accept me, Will it feel the same as it did when I was a child?” Connor wondered. “No, I don’t know where I belong, I just know I’m not wanted, all I’ve ever been is not wanted, the closest anyone has ever been wanting me is when they’ve hunted me.”
“It is a shame you were born to these days, long ago, my people cherished the dog and what he could do for the nation, you would have been held in high honour”
“Didn’t they used to eat the dogs too?”
“Is it not the most honourable end of all to know that you have helped others to live?”
They chatted for hours as the night became totally dark, until their conversation was interrupted by the sound of loud motorcycles; distinctively the sound of removed mufflers on motorcycles. Ten of them approached Chaoa’s land and from them stumbled their very drunk riders, kids really, the oldest couldn’t have been more than twenty. They wasted no time smashing about the place, destroying what they could or claiming valuables. The Pine Ridge reserve had no help from local police and hadn’t the money to provide their own, so lawlessness like this was frequent.
Chaoa and Connor watched this from the mobile home.
“I will ask them to leave,” Chaoa said.
“They won’t listen, they never listen,” Connor said. “Let me scare them off, then they won’t ever bother you again.”
“You know you can’t, once folk know you’re here they will come for you, and you will be hunted again, no, this is not your fight, patience, my friend, patience,” Chaoa said, and he walked outside.
He moved slowly, but had a steady strength to him. The kids barely noticed him as he approached, when they did, they started jeering and laughing at him.
“What’re you up to, old man?” one asked.
“Please leave my home,” Chaoa asked. All he got was laughs in return.
“Oh yeah, and are you gunna make us old man, huh?” another kid asked, he lifted a wooden baseball bat, and he swung it at Chaos’s arm. When it made contact, the bat splintered and cracked, and Chaoa seemed unfazed. The kid looked stunned for a second. “What the fuck?”
“Please leave,” Chaoa said again.
“Yeah, whatever, let's fucking torch this dump.”
Connor watched in anger as they retrieved gas cans and started pouring it all over the scrapyard. Chaoa sighed but didn’t move to stop them, but Connor could stand by no longer. He felt the growl build in his throat, he felt his hackles rise, his teeth bare. This was his home, his territory, Chaoa was his, and he wasn’t going to watch it all burn.
There was a loud howl following by a guttural roar as Connor leaped from the mobile home, he landed on the closest kid. He brought his fist down into his skull with a crack! And the child lay still.
“Connor! Stop!” Chaoa shouted, but Connor was gone, and the animal was awake.
The other boys screamed and ran in terror, many of them crying at the sight of him, they ran for their motorcycles, but Connor was faster. He bounded on all fours and caught up to the slowest one. He grabbed him by the ankled and pulled, so he fell onto his face. Connor gripped the boy's skull in his massive hand and unhinged his jaw, his large canines flashing in the dim light.
“Please! Please, momma! Oh, God! Momma!” the kid sobbed, but his pleas didn’t reach the Wolfhound’s ears as his teeth nipped towards his neck.
“Wowacintanka, Ituya-Sunka, Wowacintanka,” Chaoa spoke calmly now, his hand rested on the Wolfhound’s shoulder. “Patience.”
Something in how voice, calmed the beast, And Connor returned, he looked at Chaoa and then back to the scared child in his paws.
“Oh Lord,” he said, horrified, he released the kid, and he ran off sobbing to his bike and rode off after the rest of them.
“The… other one, did I?”
“He is alive, badly hurt, but alive,” Chaoa said. “I will keep him alive until help can arrive… I am sorry, but you must be gone before they get here, they will be on your trail if they find you, you must run now.”
“They will blame you for what I did… I can’t!”
“They will be far more merciful tome than to you, trust me, now go, into the wild, now.”
“Thank you… for everything.” Connor looked around, taking in the sight of one of the few homes he’d ever known. That was when Chaoa embraced him, his arms couldn’t even capture the entire width of Connor’s form.
“You must learn patience, wild one, and restraint, and do not give into despair or hatred, do these things, and you will know peace one day.”
“I will… my friend,” Conor embraced him back. Chaoa smelt of the woods, of trees and bark and sap. He would remember his scent, and seek it out again if he could.
So into the wild he went, along again, and alone he would remain. Chaoa’s lessons helped him greatly, and he fed well. Every time he would spare a deer, or a troublesome human, he would remember “Wowacintanka, patience”