Wolf Moon: The Ranulph Fables Episode 3

By Anne Paton-Cragg

The story so far

New to Portsmouth, Ranulph the wolf has found lodgings with feisty fox Trixie, and the two of them have set up a stall selling “wild food wraps” on the seafront. Her brother, Tod, has proved untrustworthy in business and Ranulph is wary of him. In this episode, Ranulph joins a choir and gets more than he bargained for.

Dramatis Personae

RANULPH, a wolf

TOD, a wily fox

TRIXIE, a fox, Tod’s sister

ORLA, a wolf-husky cross who appears in this episode

Episode 3: Ranulph Finds His Voice

It was a clear, fresh night with a full moon. In the woods at home, I would have howled up at the indigo sky. But the city was no place to let rip. I kept my head down and hummed quietly, distracting myself from the urge to howl by concentrating on the mackerel I was tending on our makeshift barbeque.

I concentrated too successfully and Trixie glared. ‘You’re drooling.’

‘Sorry, give me one of those handkerchiefs.’

‘They’re serviettes, Ranulph.’ She lined the checked cloths up with the forks she had put out.

I sighed and wiped my muzzle on my forepaw.

But Trixie was looking at me more kindly now. ‘When you were humming just then, I thought what a nice, mellow voice you have.’

‘Oh, thanks.’

‘You should come to choir.’ Trixie’s little head tilted at a considering angle. ‘Find Your Voice, in Albert Road. They’re always looking for male singers.’

I gave the fish a poke. ‘These are done.’ Fat flared on the charcoal as I lobbed a sizzling fish onto the plate Trixie held ready.

‘The heads aren’t supposed to fall off are they?’ she sniped.

‘I must have broken its spine when I despatched it.’ I slipped a mackerel onto the other plate. ‘You can have this one.’

Trixie seized her knife and fork. ‘What a gent.’ After a few chomps and gulps, she returned to her theme. ‘I was serious about the choir, Ranulph.’

‘I’m not a singer. Howling, now, that’s different.’

Trixie made an expansive gesture with her fork. ‘Everyone can sing.’

‘I had to stand at the back and mime at the school carol service.’

‘Aw, bless.’ She stuffed a fish head into her maw, muffling the final consonant.

‘I played percussion in the orchestra though.’

Trixie gave me a dirty look. I realised I was rapping the table with my knife and fork. ‘Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,”’ I went on. ‘The wolf in the story is represented by the kettle drum. I looked the part.’

‘I don’t listen to a lot of classical music. Did you enjoy playing the … kettle drum, was it?’

‘Whacking it was OK. Counting the bars was boring.’ I laid down my cutlery. ‘Do you mind if I abandon these? I don‘t like poking bits of metal ─’

‘You’d rather drum with them,’ Trixie interrupted.’ That school you went to didn’t teach you any manners, did it? With her knife, she lifted a sizeable chunk of fish to her muzzle, dropping half.

I preferred fish raw but as I lived at Trixie’s place, she called the shots. For a fox, she could be surprisingly dainty in her habits.


The short, dull evenings were closing in. It was too cold now for Trixie and me to sit out grilling my catch, even in winter coats. I fished near the Round Tower or on the beach, then stayed in and watched TV, wishing I had a girlfriend.

Trixie mentioned the choir several more times. ‘Everyone can sing,’ she kept repeating. ‘It’s not a special talent only certain people have.’

So, one January evening, I let her cajole me along to Find Your Voice. As there weren’t many males, some of the females sang in the tenor section Trixie had said I should join. As well as humans, the tenors included larger breeds of Canis domesticus. No foxes, but there were a couple in the soprano section, amongst the terriers, poodles, and female humans. They groomed themselves and sang elaborate trills when others were silent.

‘Showing off, as usual,’ commented one of the female tenors.

We began the session with warmups, making silly noises and trying to blow raspberries. The conductor didn’t seem to understand that the lips of dogs, foxes and wolves like me, aren’t designed for that. Singing “Row, row, row your boat” as a round was more in our line though, and we were getting into our stride when the conductor dealt the tambourine a decisive bash.

‘Ok, guys, you probably noticed the full moon on your way here. We’re going to learn “Silver Waves Under the Moon” for the spring concert.’

Appreciative grunts and nods all round.

‘We’ll start with the melodic line. Listen. ‘Silver waves under the moon.

I threw my head back and gave it my best.

The man on my left looked daggers, edging away to stand near a collie with a loud, confident voice.

‘I can’t see the conductor properly,’ said the boxer on my right, although we could all see perfectly well. He too moved, leaving a gap between me and what looked like some sort of husky cross. A bitch, I was pretty sure, though too far away to get a proper sniff. She was large for a husky, not much smaller than me.

She saw me looking and bared her teeth in a smile. Pretty incisors.

That magic moonlit night when I met you-ou ou.’ I added a few higher notes at the end, tilting my head back to project the sound.

The conductor scowled. ‘Can we stick with the tune, please? No embellishments.’

Next thing, he’d be ordering me to stand at the back and mime. I felt my mane stand up. The lovely female had a rudimentary mane herself. Mysterious amber eyes, not those weird blue ones huskies usually have. Almost wolf eyes.

‘Under the silver- spangled sky,’ I sang over at her in a yearning voice.

‘Some of you aren’t watching,’ snapped the conductor. ‘Keep time. Everybody.’ He raised his hand.

Our love, so young, so new-oo-oO-OO.’ Whoops, I’d ended in a howl.

But this time the gorgeous female was howling too, as were other dogs in our section. My cramped vocal cords extended blissfully, swelling the sound, expanding the theme. Even the smaller dogs were howling now. Awesome.

‘Stop,’ bellowed the conductor, as if he wanted to end all music for ever.

The glorious sound dwindled and died.

‘Improvisation is on Tuesdays in Milton.’

Paws shuffled, jaws grinned sheepishly.

‘Anyone who wants to change class, see me afterwards.’ His glare targeted me. ‘And please be aware there’s a selection procedure.’ A meaningful pause, then, in a rather smug falsetto, he demonstrated the melodic line. He moved on to other parts, looking at me when he got to the tenor line. I mimed, not trusting myself to suppress further howls.

 ‘Our love, so young,’ the lovely husky sang. She was looking straight at me. But was she pitying me because I’d been picked on?

‘That’s better.’ The conductor took a harmonica out of his pocket and blew a G. ‘We’ll sing it through once more. Silver waves under the moon.’

I was still singing moo-oo oon when everyone else was halfway through the next line. Why waste that lovely round vowel?

The conductor gave the harmonica a furious blast. ‘There’s no place for individualists at Find your Voice. The person disrupting this choir needs to leave now.

Trixie, cause of my exposure and shame, smirked behind her paw. I heard giggles from the soprano section.

‘Don’t mind him,’ said one of the female tenors. ‘He’s a stand-in. Our regular conductor is great. Come back next week when she’s here.’

That was the last thing on my mind. I felt the stares as I slunk out, head down, tail heavy and drooping.

Leaden-hearted, I skulked along Highland Road. I’d missed the chance to speak to the lovely husky. Car fumes and wafts of stale lapdog pee compounded my misery as I plodded towards the traffic lights.

But what was that? Surely, the sound of padding feet, of claws tapping the pavement.

Just as the lights changed to red, my pursuer came level with me. I heard panting and glimpsed the curve of a pink tongue, the snowy fur of a cheek.

It was her!

‘So you found your voice.’ There was a smile in hers, a warm smile.

‘Seemingly not the voice that’s required,’ I said. ‘It’s all do-this- do-that-do –what- I -say in there. OK for dogs perhaps, but…’ I saw the admiration in her amber eyes and stopped short. My tail lifted.

‘So you’re a wolf?’ she ventured. ‘I’ve never met a full breed.’

‘Don’t talk so loud. We aren’t popular round here, in case you haven’t noticed.’

She straightened her shoulders proudly. ‘I’m half wolf myself. On my father’s side.’

I saw the line of hairs along her back go up and felt mine do the same. I gulped. ‘What’s the other half?’


I was recovering my composure.  ‘I’ve got a bit of that in me too, on my mother’s side. I’m Ranulph.’

‘Orla,’ she crooned.

‘Orla,’ I rolled her name in my throat. ‘I could write a song for you.’

‘Let’s go to the cemetery,’ she said eagerly.

‘Good idea.’

‘We can howl as much as we want.’ Orla’s eyes were shining. ‘Tonight’s a Wolf Moon.’

Next instalment – The Karma of Jewellery: Trixie gets in a fix and Ranulph and Orla rescue her, but events take a surprising turn.

Image ‘Capitoline Wolf statue in Khujand’ by Adam Harangozó reused under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 licence.