That’s how it went for over a week, meeting at dawn to exchange gifts. I tried to touch his hand once, but he snapped at me and bolted. One morning,
the sun crept up above the trees and across the sky without his making an appearance.
Four days later, I saw his photograph on the front page of the Oregonian. He was in a misbuttoned long-sleeved workshirt, crouching on a gravel
road and surrounded by beefy men – some smoked, others laughed, a few weather beaten faces showed concern. The boy clutched a strip of jerky in his
fist, his hair hung down over his eyes, obscuring his expression. The article told of how he’d wandered into a logging camp while the workers were
at lunch. Attracted by the food, he’d approached the men who tossed him sandwich halves, fruit cups, chips. This kept him occupied while the
foreman called the nearest ranger station.
They had to subdue and cuff him to get him into the cruiser. It was noted that he scratched and bit like an animal. The article concluded by saying
the boy was currently under observation at OHSU in Portland.
I couldn’t stop crying. I wanted to find him, rescue him. I promised myself that I would run away and infiltrate the hospital. I would break him
out, and we'd vanish into the forest together. After a time, it became apparent to me that I would do none of those things. Out tumbled another set
of excuses to hedge against my guilt and sorrow. I would have to hitchhike to Portland, or I would have to steal my parents' car. I would never be
able to get the boy out of the hospital. I didn’t know how to live in the wild.
I would miss my life.
I followed his story for the next three years. The articles (“Real Life Wolf Boy!”) petered out after a while. From what I could gather, he was
the research subject for a group of developmental psychologists and neurologists who cared for him in a clinical setting. After the funding ran out,
he was shuttled from foster home to foster home. There was evidence of abuse. He never learned to talk, and he never lost his aversion to being
touched. No one was ever able to discover who his parents were, or where he came from. He disappeared when I was seventeen, almost without a trace.
Several eye witnesses had spotted him loping down back roads and byways, until he came after long miles to the forest.
His discarded clothing was found strewn at the edge of the woods. He was never seen again.
It's a bummer, but not as bad as some of the endings that suggested themselves.
For instance, one scenario had him being mistaken for a deer and shot. Which, I am given to understand happens a lot to Chinese immigrants in Oregon
when they go wildcrafting. I guess it's a culture barrier thing: how would you know you need to wear eyesore-bright orange to avoid getting shot if
you've never been told?
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