Saturday, February 4, 2017

DMI2017, Week 4: "Lila the Werewolf" by Peter S. Beagle

The story this week is brought to you by the Five of Diamonds, from the collection Masterpieces of Fantasy and Wonder.


As it happens, "Lila the Werewolf" is a story I remember reading as a teenager, from a book of Peter Beagle's collected works, but I didn't remember any of the details of the story. I have never been that crazy about the idea of werewolves, so that is probably why. To me, there are far more interesting (and scary) monsters than werewolves. In spite of that, however, I found this to be a well-written, interesting story made more interesting by Beagle's creative use of language.

The story is relatively simple. The protagonist, a guy named Farrell, hooks up with a girl named Lila Braun, who soon after moves in with him. One night he finds a note from Lila, saying that she's having dinner with her mother and probably spending the night as well. He thinks nothing of this, but later that night Farrell is awakened by a wolf that suddenly comes into his bedroom through the open window. He keeps his eyes closed as the wolf moves closer and closer to him, even standing over him, until the moment when sunlight finally enters the room. He opens his eyes then, and finds Lila sitting on the side of the bed. She says she just came home, and indeed she did.

But as Beagle puts it,

Farrell's gift was for acceptance. He was perfectly willing to believe that he had dreamed the wolf; to believe Lila's story of boiled chicken and bitter arguments and sleeplessness on Tremont Avenue; and to forget that her first caress had been to bite him on the shoulder; hard enough so that blood crusting there as he got up and made breakfast might very well be his own.

It's not his blood, of course -- the blood is from a dog that Lila killed during the night, while she was a werewolf. He's rattled, naturally, but Farrell does indeed have a gift for acceptance, and he decides to live with this new knowledge about his girlfriend, in spite of advice to the contrary from his friend Ben.

Time wears on, and Farrell doesn't ever bring it up directly, but Lila knows that he knows her secret, so much so that she eventually has no qualms about transforming right in front of him. Farrell sometimes closes his eyes during these transformations, however, not willing to completely grasp what is happening with her.

The plot thickens when the building's superintendent sees Lila one day and somehow instantly knows that she's a werewolf. From that point on, he looks for any opportunity to get proof of this and then do something about it -- that something obviously involving a silver bullet. Beagle mixes in Lila's over-protective and slightly bitchy mother, who obviously knows all about Lila's "problem" and is used to sheltering her daughter, for some comic relief. The story comes to a dramatic, if slightly humorous, climax one night with a full moon, when Lila suddenly goes into heat, attracting all the dogs in the neighborhood to their certain death.

While this was a good story, I find that I still don't care that much about werewolves, so it's getting 4 stars from me.

Deal Me In 2017 is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

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