When I was in college I spent a semester in England. Not all of it–there were a few places I didn’t get to, like the home of Dylan Thomas. While I was there I lived and went to school in Harlaxton Manor, a Victorian house that’s been featured in films like The Haunting and recently portrayed a French domicile in an episode of Victoria, although all that was long after I’d left.
Sometimes I went into the nearby town of Grantham. Well, it wasn’t that nearby. Closest to the manor was the picturesque village of Harlaxton with narrow lanes and houses with small gardens and apple trees, all of it surrounded by farmland. Grantham was a pretty good distance, 2.7 miles according to the maps. One guy did try to walk there and a herd of cows followed him half the way, but that’s another story. A lot of us went back and forth by cab. A local cab company offered a special deal to students, and if we were lucky our cab driver was Big Dave. Regular visitors here might remember Big Dave’s encounter with the will o’the wisp, or his vanishing hitchhiker story, or the time he was bitten by the only poisonous snake in the British Isles, or his tale of the hairy hand. Big Dave was also, as I’ve said before, called that partly to distinguish him from another Dave with the same company whom we called Little Dave, but also because Big Dave took up most of the front seat by himself.
So one night I was lucky enough to get a ride home with Big Dave. We were passing through the farmland when we heard a low, mournful howl.
“Sounds like someone’s dog,” I said.
“Or a wolf,” said Big Dave.
“I thought there weren’t any wolves left in Britain.”
Big Dave chuckled. “Oh, you’d be surprised what you’d find out in the meadows between villages and towns. Lots of strange things you find on moonlit nights.”
I leaned forward and Big Dave went on.
“I was driving around the other side of the village, near Belvoir Castle, and I heard an animal snarling and barking. Something angry, whatever it was, and I slowed down. I didn’t want to hit it. And then I saw something out of the side, something moving. Whatever it was jumped out in front of the cab and I pressed hard on the brakes. Skidded to a stop. It was a man. He sort of snarled at me and I saw he was starkers.”
“Naked. I thought maybe out for a jog, even if it was a bit cold for that. Takes all kinds, y’know.”
I remembered Big Dave’s story about the time he was drunk on New Year’s Eve and decided to go for a swim in the Trafalgar Fountain. Fully clothed.
“We just stared at each other,” Big Dave went on, “and then he ran around and jumped in the back of the cab. ‘Drive me into town, please!’ he said, and I started driving. I think all I had was a tea towel but I offered that to him. As I pulled forward I heard something come barking and snarling up at the back tire so I sped out of there.”
“It wasn’t a werewolf,” I said.
“Even worse.” Big Dave started to laugh. “The poor man had been taking a bath, went to get the evening newspaper off his front porch, and had gotten locked out. He wanted me to drive him to a locksmith. And he was being chased by his neighbor’s dog.”
Big Dave and I laughed together and it echoed across the moonlit fields.