This month sees publication of our newest print issue, Hobart #14. As such, and as we have done to accompany our last few print issues, we are devoting the entire month to various "bonus materials" -- photo essays, alternate endings, drawings, extra short fictions, interviews, & more! Below, another "Animal Collection" short by Colin Winnette, to accompany "Tarantula" and "Killer Whale" in #14.
I scratched my neck until a lion’s mane appeared. I broke the skin and it poured right out. Up until then I hadn’t received much attention from women. I hadn’t received much attention from anyone really. But all of a sudden, I was a point of interest. It wasn’t something I knew how to handle. My best friend said we were in luck. Had I ever seen Teen Wolf? Things were about to start going our way. But I was still terrible at sports. In fact, I was worse than I’d ever been. I couldn’t turn very fast, couldn’t hold things like I used to. My thumbs were stiff. My fingers wanted to curl. My best friend told me to practice. If the mane didn’t come with any supernatural talent, I could always train myself, get better on my own, and that would still be impressive. More and more women said hello to me on the street. I got free coffees in cafes. A girl at a bar winked at me from across the room, and I had been pretty sure people didn’t actually do that. It didn’t feel right. I couldn’t get comfortable. I didn’t talk as much as I used to. I was less friendly. People said, It’s a nice color, did you dye it? I nodded a lot, or pretended not to notice them. I kept to myself. My palms got bigger and my fingers kept curling. They doubled over to half their size. I slouched a little so people would notice me less. I tried to cover the hair, but it was spilling out from my wrists, my thighs, my neck. I was scratching here and there, scratching all over, and it just kept coming. I stopped going out as much. I ordered in, left money in front of the door with a note that said, Be right back. When I did leave the house, women made meaningful eye contact. I hunched over so I didn’t have to think about it. It’s not that I wasn’t flattered, but it made me nervous. I didn’t know what to make of all the hair, the claws. I didn’t know what it meant, if it meant anything. My best friend stopped coming over because when he did I growled at him until he left. I wasn’t going to be exploited. I wasn’t there for his gain. I didn’t want to flirt or play sports or wear t-shirts. I went to the bank in order to cash a check, but they wouldn’t help me. They called the police, and I slunk out the back. I got even lower to the ground so I wouldn’t have to look anybody in the eye. I stared at the cement, at the dirt, at pigeons moving past. Little kids tried to touch me, but their mothers held them back. I took shits wherever I wanted, drank water from the gutters when it rained. I ate trash when it looked good. I started to feel better. In a way, I was more in control of my life than I’d ever been. And for whatever reason, I wasn’t really lonely anymore. It was liberating: ignoring phone calls and hellos, sleeping outside whenever the sun hit me right, having a tail to swing from time to time, whatever was needed to keep the flies at bay. I was even able to find a job that didn’t ask much of me, or not much more than those few things. I’m fed regularly and fed well. People keep their distance. There’s even a girl I like, and I think every day about having her. But most of the time I just pad about in circles, thinking how little good it does to guess what happens next.