ears and a small alligator with deer antlers.
"Are these real?" I asked. "They're impressive."
"The pieces are from real animals," he said, nodding, "but this is my art, not nature's."
Then he took my hand and said, "I think you're very special."
I knew it was a line, but I hadn't kissed anyone since the wolf head grew, and I guess I missed it. I leaned in.
That's when Leonard realized that to kiss my human lips, he'd have to put his whole head into the wolf's mouth. He pulled back.
"How about some wine?" he asked. He showed me into the house, and invited me to have a seat in the living room. The couch was dark and shiny, too slippery for me to get comfortable.
The room felt like a hunting lodge, because the walls were hung with his artwork. A squirrel with parrot wings rested on the mantle, and next to the fireplace stood a young deer with a single white horn in the center of its head. I found myself wondering who had killed the fawn. Surely not Leonard.
He returned, handed me a glass of wine, and sat next to me. "Shall we toast?" he asked, "To romantic possibilities?"
I nodded, but as I lifted the glass, my wolf nostrils flared for the first time. I felt a rumbling deep in my chest and realized I was growling. "What is this?" I asked, "What's in my glass?" I set it down and took a closer look at him.
"Wine," he said. "It's a nice pinot noir." But he was standing then, and backing away, backing closer to what I suddenly recognized as a gun cabinet.
I leapt toward him. "You think you're gonna kill me?" I grabbed the unicorn-deer from next to the fireplace, and held its pointy horn to his throat. "Don't move."
He closed his eyes and whimpered, but he stood still.
I stepped back and picked up the glass of wine he'd served me. I held it to his lips. "Drink, Leonard."
He shook his head, with his mouth tightly shut, like a child who doesn't want to eat his peas. "Drink or this horn goes through your neck."
"I didn't want to hurt you," he said.
"Drink the damn wine, Leonard."
He took a sip and let it dribble out the side of his mouth. "I can't," he mumbled.
I pictured myself knocking him unconscious, teaching myself basic taxidermy, and leaving him in the garage with the other creatures.
Instead, I made him kneel on the floor as I took all the bullets from the gun cabinet. Growling at him, at myself, and at life, I headed for my car.
On the drive home, I couldn't stop sniffing the air. I rolled down all the windows and opened the sunroof. I could smell everything for miles around . . . the trees, the birds, the road, even the sky.
I knew if I wanted, I could close my eyes and smell my way home. I felt alive and full of energy.
Alone on a dark stretch of road, I threw my head back, stuck my nose through the sunroof, and howled.
Lisa Beebe | 11