* Nominated for the Pushcart Prize
By: Anna Faktorovich (Pseudonym for Run Patterson)
I plan on retiring and surrendering my position as the founding director of my publishing business, Patterson and Company, over to my protégé, Dan Jameson, next week, and now seems to be the best time to write this confession of the double-life I’ve lived these past three decades, as I climbed up the New York social ladder, all the while concealing a dark part of myself. I doubt anybody will believe this frank account. It will surely be dismissed as yet another work of magical realism, horror or fantasy.
It all began in 1984, when I arrived in Brooklyn with an associate’s degree from the Southern Kentucky Community College, with a dream of becoming a journalist, and enough saved from my job in the Diner to live in a tiny studio for a month. I applied with every newspaper, restaurant and grocery store in the region, and managed to find freelance gigs with some small papers and some part time bagging jobs. On the way home from a night of bagging, I came across what looked like a gray dog, as I was crossing the street from the D-line train station. I had always been fond of pets, having cared for a bunny and a cat as a child, and this dog had long luxurious hair, and was wagging its tail, so I felt disposed to pet it. As I approached, I noticed a wild gleam in its eyes, but it was too late to swerve out of its path. It rushed at my outstretched hand and bit it. I was lucky in that its teeth only scraped the sides of my fingers, and I didn’t lose any bones or limbs. The wolf, as indeed I clearly realized that it was a wolf when I saw its teeth, lost interest in me after this scrape, and skipped away gingerly, continuing to wave its tail, as if he had just had a rough tumble with a college buddy. My hand was bleeding, and I rushed to my apartment to disinfect it, thinking all-the-while that it was unacceptable for people in modern society to let wolves run wild in the middle of Brooklyn.
I went to sleep that night with a bandaged hand, and I got a rabbis shot on the following morning at the Brooklyn Hospital as a precaution against rabbis. My hand didn’t get infected, and the cuts started to heal nicely, so that I had practically forgotten about the incident a couple of weeks later, when I was walking home as usual, noticed a full moon above me and gave a short howl at it, “Aaaawuuu!” The howl came out like a hiccup, and I was embarrassed about it immediately. I looked around, but the street was abandoned. I walked a bit faster and was soon back in my apartment. I had taken notes on the Brooklyn Book Festival earlier that day for the Brooklyn Times, and now I had to type the hand-written notes down and add some descriptions to make the sketch into an article that was due on the following morning. I sat down at my small desk, took the cover off my typewriter, and began writing the first draft. This was a time before computers, so I usually typed a draft, read it, made corrections with a pen on it, and then typed the final draft. As I typed, I began to notice that I was writing as if I had suddenly developed a learning disability. I saved that first draft and check it occasionally to remind myself never to write on a full moon:
The Brooklyn Book Festival opened its doors at 9am on Saturday to a crowd of over three thousand book-lovers, who rushed to the tables of authors ready to sign books. “It’s a guufff, guuffff, rrrrr,” Jane Stanley, a New York Times best-selling author said, as she turned and showed her rump. The scent of her armpits was intoxicating, and those standing in line for the signing were all delighted to inspect the cleavage she was displaying to all at a higher eye-level from her. But, even more overwhelming was the smell of the chicken wings… Rrrrr! Aaaf! Uuuuuph! Prrrrraaafff!
I rolled the page out of the typing machine, and tried to look at it under my dim lamp to figure out where I had made mistakes. As I squinted at the first few words, I suddenly put the edge of the page into my mouth and started chewing on it, still studying the text. I realized what I was doing when I bit off a piece of the page and swallowed it. I stopped, ripping the page away from my face and placing it on the far side of the table. It was clear that I had to stop working for the night and make a fresh attempt on the following morning. I brushed my teeth, changed into my checkered night shorts, turned off the lamp, and got into my twin bed for the night. I usually sleep on my stomach, and I lied down on my stomach as usual. For a moment, I drifted off, but I was startled into waking when I felt a heavy stream of saliva streaming out of my mouth onto the pillow. I wiped my face, but there was too much liquid, and the cold wetness made me not want to lie on that side of the pillow again. Afraid that I would salivate all over the other side of the pillow if I just switched sides, I lied on my back and looked up at my slanted low ceiling. Time flew by, as I was reflecting about my pet bunny, about chicken wings, and for some reason about running naked through a forest… The first rays of the sun started to appear through the blinds, and when I opened my eyes after having them closed for some time during my reflections, I noticed that my nails were unusually thick and curved, and that I had ripped the edge of my sheet with them without realizing it. For some reason, my mind was dazed, and I couldn’t decide what to do about the sheet. I just kept staring at these thick nails, and suddenly I noticed that in place of the few thin hairs that covered the bottoms of my fingers, a whole bush of hair was growing out, until my hands were entirely covered in a thick covering of hair. I raised an eyebrow in surprise, and realized that my ears were oddly moving upwards along the side of my head. Meanwhile, my eyebrows were getting lost in the thick gray fur that was sprouting all over my face. I was very clean-shaven because having a beard was a sign of communistic tendencies in that period, and I clearly recall that I was thinking that I will clog my pipes trying to shave all that hair off. Another odd thing I noticed, as I ran my tongue over my dry lips was that my teeth were suddenly very narrow with gaps between them, as if they had all rotten, and this upset me as I wondered how much it would cost to put in dentures for my whole mouth, and this was clearly going to be more than I could afford on my freelance salary. I also noticed that I could distinguish more details in the wallpaper coloring and little cracks in the darkest and furthest part of the room, but that while everything was sharper, the green shirt I left on a chair looked bluish. As I was studying the shirt, my nose expanded upwards, and I was looking at the muzzle and the black button edge of my nose. Seeing the shape of this nose finally led me to suspect that I was turning into a dog. I’m pretty short at around 5”5 and my length had remained constant. My overall mass also appeared to be unchanged, but most of my body parts had shifted, expanded, shrunk, so that as I scratched my stomach with my claws, I was disoriented by all these changes. They were not painful, but my joints were itching from the friction involved in all those muscles, bones and fat particles shifting all over the place. I could no longer remain in the position I was in, on my back, so I rolled over, placing my head onto my paws.
I stared at the window and it was now daylight outside. My alarm started ringing. I hopped up, and saw myself in the mirror on the wall across from my bed. Studying my thick mane and tail, I realized that I was a wolf, and not a dog as I previously concluded. The sound of the ringing alarm was more distressing for me than on normal mornings, so I rushed at the alarm clock and attempted to push the button to turn it off. My paws were much clumsier and less dexterous than my human fingers, so the alarm clock slipped out and fell on the floor. I jumped to the floor after it, but instead of pushing the button, kicked it across the floor. I tried to turn it, so that I could push down on the button, but it kept slipping, and I kept jumping after it, as it slid. Finally, it had frustrated me so much that I bit down on it with the full strength of my teeth and the back cracked, and the batteries fell out. This shut off the ringing, so I left the alarm alone, and looked around the room, trying to orient myself.
I gave myself two extra hours that morning to finish the article, and time was quickly slipping away. It was my third piece for the Brooklyn Times, and while I had never turned in an article late anywhere before, I knew that if I failed to meet the deadline, I would have officially burned the Verrazano Bridge to working with that paper in the future. I was aware of who I was, and had most of my memories, but my reasoning ability was diminished. I tried to call out for help, but I could only make barking, roaring and howling sounds. Oddly, I could still form short, broken sentences in English in my head, and I decided that I had to attempt dressing and going over to the paper to turn in the first draft that I managed to finish before going to bed, as this would at least have shown effort on my part to meet the deadline. My shorts were still around my waste, and I decided that they were good enough for the occasion. Then, I tried to turn the knob of my closet to take out a clean business shirt, but while I reached the knob by leaping at it with my torso, and standing on my hind legs (which was more difficult than upright humans can imagine), I could not achieve a full turn of the knob, despite leaving deep cuts all around the knob with my claws. The knob was round and made out of a slippery metal, so there was nothing for me to sink my claws into. My arched back started to ache, so I left the knob alone. I walked over to my chair and pulled my greenish shirt off it with my teeth. I underestimated my strength, and the shirt’s sleeve ripped slightly. Then, I tried to pull the shirt up and pull my paws through the sleeves, but my body just wasn’t designed for the task. At one point, I turned over to my back, with the short on the floor, rolled over to my side and tried to push one paw through a sleeve. My hairy forearm was about the same diameter as my human arm was before, but my chest was wider, so while I could slip half of my forearm into the sleeve, it was impossible to pull it around my back and over my second paw. This enraged me and I tore the shirt to bits with my teeth. I stood there growling over it for a couple of minutes before I recalled that I had to try to get to work on time.
“Fffine,” I barked to myself in my mind, “as if anybody will recognize me as a wolfff anyway. Whaaat’s the big deaaaal about goin’ in my shorts alone?!”
Now, my apartment was on the top, third floor of a building, above a small Pizza shop on the ground level. It was on a street perpendicular with the railroad tracks. I lay down on the floor, with my head on top of my paws to think for a few moments. If I couldn’t turn a knob, I couldn’t open the front door. I noticed the fire escape ladder outside the window, which I hadn’t really thought about before, and I decided that this was a possibility. I rushed to the window and pushed the blinds away with my nose and paws. I then scratched my claws against the bottom edge of the window, attempting to insert them under it and push it upwards. This proved impossible, and I split one of my sharp nails in the attempt, discovering that splitting a claw is a lot more painful than splitting a thin human nail. I reclined back on the floor, waiting for the bleeding around the claw to subside. As I lay there, I realized that there was no way I was going anywhere that day. So, I gave up on keeping my job with the Brooklyn Times, and settled for opening my fridge and eating a couple of cold sausages from the bottom shelf, and spilling a bottle of milk on the floor, and licking the drops off. I went to sleep that night on my stomach, thinking that it was the first time I was going to bed without brushing my teeth.
Near daybreak, I once again felt uneasy and woke up to the strange sensation of my bones shrinking, expanding, duplicating and disappearing. I stared in wonder as my nose shrunk back to its old position, and the wolfish hair fell out across my body, leaving behind my stringy human hair. I realized that I was crouching on bent knees, so I stretched out and turn around onto my back. I was particularly amazed at seeing the claws shrink and turn into clear thin nails, and I turned the nails to watch them reflect the sun. There was nowhere in particular to go that morning, as I had “quit” my job on the previous day, so I spent the day fixing the damages I caused as a wolf. It took hours just to collect all the hair off my sheets, and to do my laundry. The Laundromat attendant was not amused when the hair I couldn’t get out of the sheets clogged her machine and caused it to leak water, so that she had to call a mechanic for the emergency. I considered replacing the wood by the window and the front door that I scratched in my attempt to escape the apartment, but decided that the damages were not that noticeable considering the dilapidated state the apartment was in when I moved in, and the fleet of cockroaches that invaded it daily without the landlord making an attempt to fix any of these problems.
My mood was lifted on the following morning, when I woke up without turning back into a wolf, and I decided that I had not lost my mind after all, and thus would not be able to claim insanity disability benefits, and had to get a new job. After an extensive search, to my own surprise, I found a full-time reporting position with Sun Times Weekly, and they were satisfied with my work for two weeks until the next full moon, when I once again found myself unable to come to work, and was once again fired.
The only thing I could do to resolve this crisis was starting my own little paper, The Odd Gossip. I was the only editor, reporter and publisher in the business for a while, so there was nobody around to fire me for not working a day out of every month. While I started the paper out of necessity, I quickly realized the many other benefits of running an independent business, including the fact that most of the profits went into my own pockets. My circulation began to grow, and I hired bums to distribute in the streets, to cut down on costs and increase profits. The bums whined a lot about wanting a raise, so from exasperation I once ran an article with photographs in it about a sighting of a werewolf in Brooklyn. While the big papers in the city never covered what the independents in the region were doing as part of their monopolistic efforts to exterminate the competition, on this occasion they picked up on my story in an attempt to poke fun at how ridiculous my paper was, but this only brought an enormous following of werewolf believers, and other freaks to my paper, and it took off like a wildfire. It months, it became the weird gossip favorite in the City. I capitalized on this success to expand into publishing books, labeling the publishing house, Patterson and Company, because I enjoyed seeing my name in humongous letters over my office building.
Most of my full moons were spent calmly in my apartment, in a similar fashion that your dog or cat spends her Saturday at home, while you’re away on vacation. I started buying myself dog food, or placing fish or meat in a plate on the floor, and water in a bucket to avoid spilling food from the refrigerator onto the floor. Dog food was not a favorite, as I liked it about as much as a wolf as I did as a human. The problem with leaving meat out was that it attracted flies, and the meat dried up during the twenty-four hours when my fingers were incapacitated. As my wealth grew, I created innovative solutions to this problem, placing food into compartments my-size that had plastic doors that opened when I pushed on them, and closed behind me, to lock in freshness. I also bought fantastic toys, beds, and other goodies that are usually used for dogs and that worked fantastically to entertain me in dog-form. I even tried getting a giant typing machine to write a bit on the full moon, but the few sentences I managed to type in that condition cannot even be reproduced here due to their explicit and violent nature.
One of the problems that became apparent shortly after my transformation was that I would have trouble finding a mate in my condition. The success of my magazine would have been an ideal time for me to have found a life-partner, now that I was finally financially stable, and would have been able to house, clothe and otherwise nurture a family. I decided to begin the experiment by taking on a dog companion. While this choice might seem odd, I decided on it when I read that people who are considering having kids are supposed to experiment with a plant first, to see if it would survive. Now, if the dog companion survived a day with me as a wolf, this would have been theoretically a good sign for a human partner. The choice of which dog to bring into my home was complicated by the fact that I kept fantasizing about poodles when I was a wolf. I knew that I had to choose a well-bred poodle for the role, and that it had to be a female poodle. I was a bit concerned about not being able to control myself around the poodle, and I felt guilty about these animalistic urges. But, as a red-blooded male, I also felt that intercourse with a member of a species similar to my own when I was a wolf was a perfectly natural and healthy activity. I spent a fortune on buying a show-poodle, thin, with thick white hair, and an elegant nose. I bought it a couple of weeks before the change, and we spent some time getting to know each other as I walked her to the park, where she defecated, and ran after my Frisbee. She frequently slept with me in my bed, and that’s where she was on the morning I woke up in wolf-form. She was very surprised to find a wolf breathing heavily at her neck, and ran, squealing to the far-end of the apartment. I let her adjust to the news gradually, and she eventually came out to the center of the apartment, to grab a morning snack. I approached the plate with stake that I left out for us, and joined her by biting into one of the stake pieces. We were both waving out tails joyously before the end of the meal, and I spent the day running after her, sniffing her rear for most of that day. We had beautiful doggy-style sex on the following full moon, and I can honestly say that was the best sex of my life. I spent a decade with Suzy, the poodle, though our love was never sealed in a marriage contract, for obvious reasons. Then, Suzy reached the end of her life, and after a rapid decline passed away. I was still in my prime, and I couldn’t imagine taking on another partner that would have a lifespan many decades shorter than my own, so I decided to attempt a relationship with a human next.
I had not found another werewolf in all these decades, and I suspect that there are less than a dozen werewolves in the world, after all, there are only a few thousand wolves in America, so it would be odd if there were equally as many werewolves.
Finding a human partner proved to be much more difficult than finding the perfect bitch of my dreams. My wealth was extraordinary by that point, and I lived in a penthouse on Fifth Avenue. I had a couple of servants, including a housekeeper and a chef, who were always given the full moon off. I also had a chauffeur who drove me around town, and I employed his help to attend major fundraisers, opening-night opera and theater performances, and various other social events, where the richest, most beautiful and most accomplished ladies of New York gathered. After attempting a few pick-up lines with no success, I hired the best match-maker in the City, and she set me up with her top choices. These ladies were all on a hunt for a wealthy man, and some asked me to marry them on the first date. I measured all of them with the yardstick of my dear Suzy, and while they barked more and were likely to be a lot more expensive to maintain, I found several of them to be to my satisfaction. While I could’ve tried to hide my condition from them, I could not find any among them that would agree to a prenuptial agreement. Thus, if I hid the truth, and they discovered later on that I spent a night every month away from home, or that I actually turned into a wolf on those nights, they could’ve kept half of my money by blaming me for breaking the marriage. I was attached to my money, and so I decided that I had to reveal the truth before a marriage contract was signed, to avoid objections later on.
Here’s what happened on one of these occasions. I was dating Jane Stamual for around two months. She was thin, with long blond hair, and blue eyes that were the same tint as Suzy’s. When she walked across the restaurant, I couldn’t help but notice the similarity of her gate and the rotation of her rump to Suzy’s style of movement. That night Jane even put her hair into a high ponytail that wagged as she walked, just like Suzy’s tail. I almost howled when I saw it, but sipped on my wine to restrain myself.
“I’ll have the teriyaki shrimp salad,” Jane ordered, as a waiter had come up without me noticing.
“The same,” I barked. I never ate salads, so I regretted the order, before the waiter walked away.
“Is that like totally classical music they’re playing, oh my god, like, no way!” Jane said, nodding with outrage and giddiness to the man in a tuxedo that was playing one of Beethoven’s sonatas on the piano in the middle of the restaurant.
“I think so… What kind of music do you like?”
“Something I can dance too. This is just morbid, like, way totally a downer!”
“Yes, it is morbid…” I echoed, and started recalling the speech I had prepared with my confession.
“And, what is that woman behind me wearing! Did you notice? Her dress is red, and that’s sooo last season. And those shoes, there’s hardly a heel on them. I could never leave home looking like that, oh my god!”
The woman she was critiquing clearly heard everything she said, and was now staring at Jane with a throbbing malevolence, as if she was about to come over and dump her plate over Jane’s head.
“Jane, there was something I wanted to tell you,” I said, in part to distract Jane’s attention from the critique.
“Yea, ok, like totally, what is it?”
“How would you feel if for a day out of every month I underwent a change… turned into somebody else…?”
“Yes… I guess, kind of like Superman…”
“Oh, please, honey, there’s no way, you’d ever turn into Superman.” She pointed at my bulging stomach with her eyes.
“Well… perhaps, not Superman… maybe more like into a dog…”
“Are you implying that you want to have an open marriage?”
“Open?… Marriage?… No, I didn’t say that.”
“No, ah-ah. I’m not having any of that. No.”
“No. I also believe in monogamy… That’s not what I was trying to say. I mean, if I actually became a dog… or maybe a wolf for a day every month…”
“I’m not cleaning up your crap! Don’t you have maids? Why would you even mention your doggy ways or whatever? What do I care?”
I considered making a new attempt to explain what I was getting at, but I never managed to voice it because it was apparent that she would definitely divorce me and get all of my money, and leave me in a nut house within a month of the marriage… even if she never found out that I was a werewolf. So, I dated some more, and had many one-night flings, but never attempted marriage or a relationship with a human.
Life flew by as most lives do, with a few variations, like the night I spent in a park on a full moon, attempting to be free as a wild wolf. I discovered on that occasion that I was a domesticated wolf, and that my condition did not come naturally with wolfish instincts. I saw a squirrel, but it jumped up a tree before I even had an urge to chase after it, and I certainly did not visualize it as dinner. So, I got progressively hungry across the day that followed until I ended up by the trashcans near the park’s showers building. I was sifting through the trash with my paws when a park ranger spotted me. He had a stun gun on him, and I barely managed to run yelping into the thicket to avoid the darts that he sent my way. I was running through the woods for many minutes before I stopped to look around. What saved me in that instance was that I left my shorts on for the day, feeling a bit self-conscious about nudity even when I looked like a wolf. The ranger was puzzled by the shorts just long enough to allow me to calculate his intentions and run away. I spent the night in the back of my pickup truck, for which I left the back open, just in case the wild was disappointing.
Another incident that has stayed with me is the time I forgot to close the front door of my penthouse on a full moon. The open doorway was too tempting, and I skipped down the stairs and made it out into the City’s streets. It was morning on a Monday, and the streets were quickly filled with busy New Yorkers, on their way to work. I tried to trot lightly, pretending as if I was a show dog, skipping along the street on my way to a circus performance. It worked for a bit, but soon pedestrians started screaming, jumping out of the way, and a few even ran across the street to escape me. These were all positive reactions that I should’ve had when I came across a werewolf in my youth, and I nodded in appreciation of their wisdom. But, things became tense when a couple of police cars were called to the scene, and I was cornered by the cops. I made a brief attempt to run away, but when the cops blocked my way, I decided that I did not want to make any new werewolves just to escape, and surrendered peacefully, slipping my neck into the collar that the cops were extending towards me. The officers took me to the pound, and I was put into a cage there, next to all of the other crazed barking and clawing mad dogs. I tried to doze off, but the barking kept me awake across the day and night. Right before sunrise I was so tired, I slipped into sleep, and woke up when my expanding body snapped the bars of the cage, causing me more pain than I ever felt before during one of my transformations. As I crawled out of the cage, I realized that the pound supervisor had removed my trousers, and that I was now in the buff in the middle of a public building. Thankfully, it was so early that only a night guard and TV-watching night manager were on duty. I opened the door to the room where the dogs were kept and snuck quietly out of the pound. I even published a piece about the crazed wolf that was found in the City and then escaped from the pound myself in the Gossip, which I was still printing weekly. The biggest complication was finding a way to make it through New York City in the nude. I settled on calling my chauffeur collect from a payphone. He was not as surprised as I thought he would be upon seeing me emerging from behind a garbage unit, private-parts-and-all, which suggests that I might be a lot weirder to others than I think I am.
My life has flown by, but it has been a blast, and more privileged and entertaining than most ordinary lives, and even more so than some of the weird lives and afterlives that I’ve covered in the Gossip. It is time for me to retire, and to enjoy my golden years somewhere that both the wolf and the human in me can appreciate. Perhaps, I’ll find love once more, now that I have a dog’s lifespan left to live.