Cartoon Wolf and Cartoon Girl

by Thomas Gumbel

One day, a boy who was a wolf heard from the adults that death was a thing.  At first, he was scared of dying.  He wondered if his friend, a girl who was a human girl, had heard about death.  Then he was scared of the girl dying.

The wolf wandered the streets, the green countryside, the edge of the dark woods, and the grounds of the haunted shack, thinking about how all of it might change.  At the end of the day, he stumbled on his favorite stream, where the girl found him washed up on the shore so many years ago.  The girl was sitting on its bank, dipping her ankles in the water while she made a little boat out of some driftwood and an old shirt.  The boy who was a wolf watched her work with her strong little hands.  He loved her; her ginger hair, the way she sat where each knee seemed to have a mind of its own, the big flannel shirts she always wore.  The boy who was a wolf sighed before trotting over.  “I love you,” he said.

The girl sighed and set the little boat adrift on the stream.  “I’m sorry.  You are a cartoon wolf, and I am a cartoon girl.  I do love you, but we were written to be only friends.”   The boat bobbed and swayed for a second, but didn’t go under.

The girl continued, “I love you as you are, and you are a great friend.  So it has always been.  But even if I could return your feelings, people would think it’s wrong and they’d want to get rid of us.

“Again, I’m sorry.”  The boy who was a wolf did not expect his feelings to be returned.  He understood; even in their world, animal-human unions were not accepted, even when both consenting parties talked and had opposable thumbs that appeared whenever convenient.

The boy who was a wolf sniffed around town for ideas.  He figured the girl would not love him back because he was not a boy that was a boy.  So he went to the witch that lived in town and asked her how he could become more like a boy for the girl to love him back.  The witch took pity on him, but unfortunately, he was written to be a wolf.  She resolved to help as much as she could.  The witch used her magic to recraft the wolf’s body like that of a man.  Though still furry and still with tail, he now walked around on two legs and had opposable thumbs that didn’t only appear when convenient.  The boy thanked the witch and ran off to find his friend.

He found the girl carrying groceries back from town.  “Look,” said the boy who was a wolf as he took one of her baskets in his new arms, “I’m like the other boys now.  I walk like a man, and now I’m taller than you.  Does this not mean I love you?”

The girl sighed.  “I’m sorry.  You are a cartoon wolf, and I am a cartoon girl.  I do love you, but we were written to be only friends.”

She continued, “Changing one thing about yourself doesn’t show love.  It shows you’ll do what it takes to win the other person like a prize.  The change is always to your benefit, and you can always change back.

“Again, I’m sorry.”  The boy who was a wolf was wounded, but he supposed the girl was right.  He had new fans, tasks like reaching top shelves and opening jars were much easier, and the witch could always undo her spell.  So he went away to think some more.

One year and twenty-six episodes later, the boy who was a wolf was leaving a poop outside one of the rich folks’ parties, as per tradition.  While in hiding, he overheard some of the snobs talking.  Some gossip had come back from a trip to one of those city cartoons miles and miles away.  They’d seen the news there in big light-up letters: their world might be cancelled.  Something to do with “being Flintstonian,” having a “lack of edge beyond the occasional juvenile poop joke.”  The boy couldn’t let such a thing happen to his world, the girl’s world.  He’d heard about characters in other cartoons that chose to be heroes who helped everyone they could.  These heroes always got the girl that they were in love with.

So he started to smoke, and drink, and play guitar, and make jokes that pushed their rating.  He’d be up late nights, studying popular culture or practicing martial arts to better stick it to the various antagonists in town.

There were times when the boy who was a wolf was sure that his world and his friend were doomed.  He coughed himself half to death after trying his first cigarette.  First time he drank alcohol, he woke up in the gnomes’ town in the forest with his pants down and his fur dyed blue.  Unusual, considering he doesn’t wear pants.

Still, their world’s ratings improved dramatically.  Though the town all celebrated, the boy who was a wolf did not see his girl.  He went down to the stream and still did not see her.  He wandered to the edge of town and finally found the girl leaning on a fence, staring at the haunted shack.  She had her chin in hand, pointedly ignoring everything that wasn’t directly in front of her.  The boy who was a wolf sidled up to his friend.  “I saved our world so we wouldn’t die.  I changed in difficult ways so the producers would want to keep us around.  Does this not mean I love you?”

The girl sighed.  “I’m sorry.  You are a cartoon wolf, and I am a cartoon girl.  I do love you, but we were written to be only friends.”

She continued, “You were in danger too.  You did the right thing, but you only did it to try to win me.  You didn’t do it just to save our world and the people in it.

“Again, I’m sorry.”  This time, the boy who was a wolf got angry.  He stormed away, and stayed away for a year.

The wolf became more popular than ever, as did his world.  The wolf was strolling through town one day, noting all the additions to brainstorm for new adventures later.  A casino here, a new factory there, the ruins of a historic mansion, a strip mall.  He was about to call it a day and mosey on down to the bar when he ran into his old friend the witch.  She told him that the girl was declining in popularity.  At the end of the season, they might choose to Write Her Out.

Though the two hadn’t spoken in a long time, the wolf was terrified.  He thought about all the characters he knew vanishing over the years; the train-hopping hippo, the sick boy from the crummy end of town, the inventor.  He couldn’t imagine the girl not existing anymore.

The boy who was a wolf made every effort to reconnect with the girl, insisting time after time that he wouldn’t try to win her again.  The wolf set her up on a series of blind dates, thinking that she had a better chance of being kept around if there was a love interest in the picture.  He taught her everything he knew, from popular culture to playing guitar, and he never felt more in love with her as she learned and they grew closer again.  He got the girl to talk about her feelings and the past that had been written for her.  If there was a problem in the boy’s life that stumped him, instead of trying his usual series of harebrained solutions until stumbling into the right one, the wolf would go to the girl to talk about it right away.  The girl was thoughtful, and always provided the boy who was a wolf with a new way to look at his problems.  As her best friend put roots back into her life, the girl showed him corners of their world he still hadn’t seen, played him obscure records, and taught him woodworking.  She made a new guitar for the wolf as a reward for making his first successful boat.

The wolf got into less fights, kept conversations polite.  Some of his less wholesome friends, like the thugs down at the tavern or the con artist who lived in the boarding house’s wine cellar, grew suspicious of him.  He stayed “edgy” enough to be kept around, in case he needed to pull more strings.  And still, there were rumors that the girl could be Written Out.

The boy once again enlisted the witch for help.  The witch cast two different spells on the girl.  The first spell amped the girl’s sex appeal, so she never again had a bad hair day and her curves filled out until they sat snug inside her clothes.  The second spell made her far more clumsy, so things would spill on her or her clothes would rip, or she’d fall over and leave her behind sticking up in the air.  These spells combined, the girl became weaponized fanservice.  Soon after, she and another boy (who was a boy) from town started courting.  He proposed to the girl at the end of the season.  The boy who was a boy was wealthy, with a well-connected family.  He helped his bride throw an extravagant wedding.  The whole town attended, including the boy who was a wolf, who didn’t leave a poop for a rich person to step in for once.  This was the final push needed to establish the girl’s following, and from then on, no one wanted to see her go.

Two prosperous years later, the boy who was a boy left the girl.  The wolf heard, and was worried, so he looked around town for her.  He looked around the streets, the green countryside, the edge of the dark woods and the haunted shack.  After a whole day of searching, the wolf found the girl sobbing down by the side of the stream.  He said, “It’ll be okay.  You’re still smart and compelling and funny and beautiful and clumsy, and everything that makes everyone else love you as much as I do.  You won’t be Written Out.”

The girl looked at him in shock.  “That’s not what I’m crying about.  What are you saying?”  The wolf realized what he’d just said, and couldn’t reply.  “Please tell me.”

Because the boy loved her, he did what she asked and explained everything.  He told the girl about hearing the rumors, spending as much time with her as possible so the viewers could see, and about the spells.  “You must hate me now.  I manipulated and changed you.  I’m sorry.”

“But I’m still the same girl.  A couple little spells aren’t going to change that.  You walk on two legs and you smell like cigarettes now, but you’re the same old goofy, tactless, protective boy.  You did everything you could to keep me alive and never tried to tell me or change me.  Of course I love you.”  The boy who was a wolf and the girl consummated passionately.

Turns out not everyone was pleased with an anthropomorphic wolf nailing a hyper-sexualized teen.  Their entire world was relocated to the nostalgia afterlife, with its sky of perpetual static.  The girl and the boy who was a wolf became outcasts in this dead world.

Years later, the boy still brought the girl the paper with his mouth every morning.  The girl always groomed the boy’s fur and scratched his belly after a hard day at work.  Here in this strange dimension of cartoons that only grown-up children, stoners, and hipsters remember, the girl bore the boy who was a wolf a litter of seven puppy-humans.

Eventually, the producers realized this could just be out-there enough to be a hit.  They looked upon the masses of childults, stoners, and hipsters, and said, “Yeah.  This is the shit that people want to see.”  So the girl and the boy who was a wolf and their family were reborn, delivered unto the world of late-night cartoons.

And they lived happily ever after.

Thomas Gumbel wanted to be a cartoonist before wanting to be a game designer before wanting to be a writer before wanting to be a rock star before realizing you don’t have to pick just one thing. Currently, he’s juggling several dozen projects – including an internship with GameSkinny – while college graduation and the real world sprint toward him like a rhinoceros made out of dynamite.

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