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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Once Bitten

A strange romance involving a dog bite and a full moon.

********************************


Once Bitten


Ben Coleman’s already bad day took a serious downturn when a dog bit him on the ass as he was walking home from work.
He never saw the perpetrator.  It was pouring rain, he’d left his umbrella at home that morning when the sky was clear blue, and when it happened he was trying to see where he was going in the half light with rainwater dripping in his eyes and a gale-force wind gusting into his face.  He felt a sudden impact from behind, as a wet, hairy body collided with him, and felt two jaws clamp down on his left butt cheek.  Ben lost his balance, and in the process of trying to stay on his feet stepped off the curb into a large puddle, and finally came to rest in an untidy heap on the sidewalk.
He swore profusely, and stood up, massaging his posterior.  The seat of his pants was ripped, and he was pretty sure he was bleeding, although it was hard to tell with the general wet.  Of the dog who had done the deed, there was no sign.  The bastard must have pounced and run.
     Ben scowled.  Good thing.  He loved dogs, but he'd have kicked the crap out of this one if it'd stuck around long enough.
By the time he got home it was almost completely dark, and the rain had faded into intermittent drizzle, still being thrown against the windows by the wind.  He went into his bathroom, stripped off his wet clothes, and after drying himself off he looked over his shoulder at his reflection in the mirror.  Yup, there it was.  A neat, serrate bite mark, right in the middle of the left side of his ass.
“Dammit,” he said.  It didn't look too serious, but there was blood on his skin and on his ripped boxers.  “What was with that stupid dog?”
Mostly, dogs loved Ben.  He had often thought that dogs liked him better than people did, but this was only partly true.  Ben had made it through twenty-four years without making any enemies, but he got the impression that most people thought of him as a hapless dork, the kind of guy who would never amount to much more than what he was, which was a stock clerk at Home Depot.  It sometimes galled him that no one seemed to take him seriously.  Even his mother had once said, “Ben is a sweet boy, but you know, you just can’t… do much with him.”
He was a fairly well-built 5’11’, but his clothes never seemed to fit right.  His unruly chestnut brown hair wouldn’t lay flat, even with applications of industrial-strength hair-gel, and finally he’d just given up and let it do what it wanted.  His entire social life could, he thought, be summed up in the overheard exchange between two of his coworkers:  “Oh, you know Ben,” one of them had said, and both had rolled their eyes and started laughing.
     So this was about right.  He couldn't even get a dignified injury.  Other people break an arm skiing —he gets bitten on the ass by a stray dog.
     Well, he wouldn't be telling anyone about this, that was for sure.  He just would avoid sitting down at work.  Last thing he needed was giving everyone another reason to laugh at him.
He thought, a little wistfully, about his upstairs neighbor, Arianna.  This sort of thing would never happen to her.  And it would definitely never happen to anyone who could ever be her boyfriend.  Arianna was the pinnacle of all that was sweet and smart and elegant.  She was one of those people who could tie back her hair and put on a paint-stained sweatshirt and look stylish.  She had a quick smile, and a kind laugh, played the guitar, and she cultivated orchids.  No, Ben was certain—no one who cultivated orchids would ever be interested in him.
He gave his hair another cursory toweling, and glanced at the clock on his nightstand.  It said 9:17. 
What single guy went to bed at 9:17 on a Friday?  And immediately his mind replied, I do.  And he got into bed (rolling over onto his right side), pulled the covers up, and was asleep within minutes.

***

And the next month passed, much the same as the previous ones had.  The bite healed with remarkable swiftness, and the private indignity of having been bitten on the ass by a stray dog faded.  Ben found, over the following weeks, that he was feeling unusually good.  He got out of bed with energy, instead of needing his usual two cups of coffee even to be coherent, and his daily duties of heaving around boxes and bins didn’t leave him as exhausted as before.  There was also this sudden, rather overwhelming upswing in his sex drive, which had previously been kept at a dull roar by the sad knowledge of his having no girlfriend.  Now, he found, the sight of a cute customer in tight shorts was enough to leave him no choice but a quick visit to the men’s room.
But nothing unpleasant, and nothing really weird, until the night of August 3.
He’d been feeling itchy all day.  That’s the only way to say it—it was like an internal itch.  It wasn’t exactly painful, but it certainly wasn’t pleasant, and he was glad that his shift was over at six.  He felt like he needed to stretch, or lift weights, or maybe do about a hundred jumping jacks.
He got home at six-thirty, ate a light meal more from habit than from hunger, then sat down in front of the television and tried to get involved in some stupid game show.  It wasn’t working, but he was able to at least sit still until seven-fifteen, at which point he got up and began to pace around the room.
At seven-thirty, he began to run in place.
At eight o’clock, he was standing in the center of his living room, feet planted, his whole body trembling.  He reached up with convulsive hands, and pulled his shirt over his head, and then unbuttoned his pants and tried to unzip them.
His hands were so slick with sweat that it took three tries.  But by 8:01, he was in the middle of his living room, stark naked, shivering as if he had a fever, with his clothes in piles around him.
And that was when he felt his insides began to shift.
It was like two giant, invisible hands were reaching into him, pulling his organs around, twisting some, compressing others, bending, pushing, pulling.  He fell over forward, only catching himself from a painful face plant at the last minute. The whole thing was simultaneously painless and excruciating.  He looked wildly around him, but there were no mirrors in his living room, and part of him was glad there weren’t.  
Then it was over, as quickly as it had begun.  The itching was gone, but he felt disoriented and a little sick.  He went into his bathroom, panting heavily.
     He wasn't moving right.  Had he had a stroke?
Then he realized that he was in his bathroom, but he couldn’t see the mirror because it was too high.  He tried to stretch up to reach it, lost his balance, and fell over onto his side, but sprang back up again with remarkable alacrity.
His bedroom closet had a full length mirror, so he trotted into his bedroom.
Trotted? his addled brain cried out, but soon that thought was swamped.  There was no room in his brain for anything other than the image he saw in the mirror.
Because it wasn’t him.  Or, more accurately, maybe it was him, but it wasn’t his usual concept of himself.  In the mirror he saw a dog.  The dog was smaller than your typical lab but larger than your typical poodle, and looked a little like he was built from spare parts.  He had a curled tail like a husky, the short, square muzzle of a boxer, and the coat color of a German shepherd.  He gave the dog an incredulous look.  The dog, for his part, perked his rather ridiculous-looking floppy ears, furrowed his broad brow, and cocked his head at Ben.
That was when he knew what had happened.
What the hell?  Other people got to be werewolves – he was a weremongrel?  Well, that was pretty unimpressive.  It figured.
But there was no doubt.  Mirrors don’t lie.  
Of course, he still had to check.  He lifted his left hand.  The dog in the mirror lifted his left front paw.
Shit! Ben shouted.
The dog gave a surprised bark.


Okay, this was seriously bad. 
It must have been that dog bite a month ago.  That was how it always started, wasn't it?  A bite.  And then the next full moon – whammo.
He walked tentatively out into the living room, and glanced around him at the familiar surroundings – his couch, television, kitchen.  It all looked the same, although a little dim and hazy and colorless, and a bit odd given the different angle.  The smells, though!  He recognized hundreds of odors, from the Chinese food he’d brought home three days previous—the empty boxes were still in the trash—the beer bottles by the sink waiting to be brought down to the returnables counter at the grocery store, even the smell of his shampoo from the bathroom.  It was like a giant, multicolored tapestry of odors, each telling a story, each demanding his attention. 
He ran around the room, looking and smelling and wagging his tail.  Tail?  It was only a moment's alarmed thought, then he realized that there wasn’t anything he could do to stop it from wagging, so he stopped worrying about it.  He jumped on the couch.  
No dogs on the couch! said his dad’s voice, from his childhood.
     Yeah, but his dad wasn't here, was he?  He could do whatever he wanted when there was no one watching!  The night sky was sparkling invitingly, with a brilliant full moon hanging in the blackness.  He looked toward the window, and reached out a tentative paw.
The screen was never too secure; the frame was bent.  He had mentioned it to his landlady, but it hadn’t been high on either of their priorities lists.  His human side remembered the loose screen; his dog side said, Woo hoo!  Freedom!  He pushed the screen with both paws, and it fell outward, landing on the ground outside with a thunk.  Ben the dog followed suit within less than a second.  A hedge broke his fall, but he rolled free and scrambled back to his feet, and galloped out into the night.

***

Being a dog, Ben found, had its advantages.  There was an essentially infinite amount of fun to be had.  A cat or a squirrel was like a gift from the gods.  Best still, there was a significant portion of the world that simply didn’t matter.  He hadn’t realized how much of his discontent in life had come from being forced to pay attention to things that he just didn’t care about.  Now, as a dog, if you couldn’t eat it, chase it, roll in it, pee on it, sniff it, or hump it, you could safely ignore it.
The night was spent in a most agreeable fashion, and he only thought of returning home when he saw the light in the sky.
He arrived back at his house at a little before six, not that he knew or cared much what exact time it was.  All he knew was that the dog part of his brain, which had been getting progressively stronger as the night wore on, was demanding that he return.  When he got to the front of the house, he looked up at it.  It looked a lot bigger than he remembered.  He saw the screen, bent even worse than before, lying on its side on the dew-covered grass.  His living room window was a rectangular hole, lit from within, because of course he had neither thought of, nor been capable of, turning out the lights before leaving.
That was when he recognized that he had a problem.
The base of the window was five feet off the ground, and there was a large hedge beneath it.  It might be possible for a dog to jump down from it safely, but to jump up into it wasn’t unsafe, it was impossible for a dog his size.
He trotted up the stairs onto the front porch, trying to quell a rising sense of panic.  From here, the jump toward the window was even more difficult—there was a railing in the way.
He went back down the stairs onto the sidewalk, and sat down, cocking his head to the side and looking up at his familiar house, which now looked like an impregnable fortress.
So that's what the deal was about opposable thumbs.  He looked down at his paws, and then back up at the window.
Dogs in distress don’t have a lot of options.  They don’t have available to them the usual range of articulations that humans have.  Faced with a sudden, urgent need to be inside the house, and no way to get there, Ben the dog did what every dog in the history of the dog/human relationship has done in a similar circumstance; he gave a pitiful whine.
In the upper window – Arianna’s apartment – there was a hint of a movement.  He cocked his head, ears perked.  The curtain twitched aside a little, but the hoped-for sound of a window sliding up and a blessed voice saying, “What is it, fella?  Do you want to come inside?” never came.
By this time, the sky was shot through with pearl, and there was a bright spot on the edge of the horizon.  Ben felt a sudden and overwhelming fatigue covering his panic like a soft blanket.  He crawled through the hedge, considered once more trying to jump up into his open window.
No way.  It was impossible.  He lay down, resting his head on his front paws, and gave a heartfelt sigh.
Moments later, his consciousness had drifted away, and his eyes closed.

***

Ben awoke to the sound of a car driving by.  It may have been only minutes later.  He had slept so soundly that it was impossible to tell.
The first thing he noticed upon opening his eyes was how much more colorful everything looked.  The second was that his nose seemed unfortunately impaired—nothing smelled like much of anything.
The third was that he was back in human form, and was lying on his stomach, behind the hedge, stark naked.
As this novel realization struck him, the memory of the events of the previous night came flooding back into his brain.  And then he recognized another advantage dogs have; they don’t care if anyone sees them naked.  In fact, the concept of nakedness isn’t even part of their mental set.  
It is, however, part of the human mental set, and Ben’s stomach clenched with anxiety as he peered out from between the shrubs.  He didn’t live on a busy street – but still.  It would just figure, ending a night that had actually been brilliant fun with being arrested for indecent exposure.
He wriggled his way forward on the scratchy bed of leaves and bark mulch, and poked his head out.  No one much seemed to be out – it was early, and fortunately, a Sunday morning.  He had only to time it right, and perhaps he could make a dash for the door without being seen.
A car passed, and then there was silence, and Ben scrambled out from behind the hedge, and ran up the stairs.  After a momentary pause in which he had to remember how to turn a doorknob, he yanked the front door open, ran across the foyer, and then flung open his apartment door.
He closed the door behind him, and—for some reason he never could figure out afterwards—threw the deadbolt, and then just stood there, chest heaving, heart pounding.

***

He had gotten himself dressed and mostly calmed down by the time the knock on the door came at ten o’clock sharp.  He opened the door.
“Hi,” Arianna said, smiling fetchingly.  There she stood, resplendent in ragged shorts and a faded t-shirt that said “This T-Shirt and I Climbed Mt. Washington.” Her wavy black hair was held back by a clip, and her brown eyes regarded him with friendly interest.  Ben felt his brain melt into sludge.
“Hi,” he said, lamely.
“I’m Arianna, your neighbor upstairs.” 
“I know.”
     He gave an inward wince.  He was such a loser.  He couldn't think of a better response than “I know?”
“I just was wondering if that was your doggy I saw outside, early this morning?  He sounded like he wanted to come in, and I was worried…”
“Yes, he’s mine,” Ben said quickly.
“I heard him whining.  I thought about letting him in, but I wasn’t sure he was yours.  Is he okay?”
“Yes, he’s fine.”  Ben looked over his shoulder, and added, not very convincingly, “I’m sure he’s around here somewhere.”
Arianna broke into a smile of relief.  “Oh, good, I was worried.  What’s his name?”
Ben stared at her, trying to will his brain to come up with something clever.  Finally he gulped out, “I just got him.  I haven’t named him yet.”
“Oh!” she said, brightening.  “That’s so cool!  He’s such a cutie!”
Ben blushed, and hoped she wouldn’t notice.  “Yeah.  He’s a good dog.”
“Listen.”  For the first time, she looked a little ill at ease.  “I like to cook.  I got some stuff to make pad thai – you want to come up for dinner tonight?  Maybe we can talk about dog names.”
Ben goggled a little, and had to resist physically the impulse to wag a tail he no longer had.  “Sure.  That’d be great.”
“You can bring your dog if you want to.”
“Okay,” he said, and his mind shouted at him, yeah, you’ll be bringing your dog, all right!
“I’ll see you at six?”
“That sounds awesome.”
And Ben went back into his apartment, and closed the door, feeling torn between elation and the sensation of having been beaned with a brick.

***

The pad thai was excellent, and although sauvignon blanc was not something Ben had ever had before—his tastes ran more to beer—he had to admit it was nice.  Of course, given the company, he’d probably have been happy with some stale tortilla chips and a glass of lukewarm tap water.
If Ben’s image of Arianna was inaccurate, it was only in degree.  She was kind, funny, smart, and talented.  She worked for a design firm, doing layout for brochures, posters, and advertisements, and Ben had to fight down the self-defeating question of why on earth anyone like her would be interested in anyone like him.
“Where’d you get your doggy?” she asked him, interrupting his musings.  “I’m sorry you didn’t bring him tonight.”
“Oh, he rolled in something disgusting.”  He’d anticipated this comment, and had come up with the answer that afternoon.  “You know dogs.  And he was a stray.  I got him at the SPCA.”
“Awww, I love that.  There are so many pets that need a home.”  She smiled at him.  “You know, I wonder if you picked him out because you look alike.”
“We look alike?”
“You didn’t notice? You two are really well suited.”
Ben smiled.
“What are you going to name him?”
“I don’t know.  I’m lousy at names.  I suppose something will come to me.”
Arianna looked thoughtful.  “You know what I thought of?  Grendel.  You know, like from Beowulf.”
“Wasn’t he the monster?”
“Well, yes and no.  He was Beowulf’s enemy.  But he was only a monster because he wasn’t one thing or the other – he wasn’t a man, wasn’t an animal, wasn’t good, wasn’t evil.  You get the idea in the story that he didn’t want to do bad things, but he just sort of couldn’t help it.”  She grinned.  “Like rolling in nasty-smelling stuff.”
He laughed.  “That’s a good name.”
“Well, he’s your dog, so you get the honors.”
He looked at her, and seized by a sudden impulse, said, “You want to go for a walk?  It’s a pretty evening.”
Arianna smiled.  “I’d love to.”
Huh.  Maybe he wasn't as hopeless at this as he thought he was.

***

  They walked for two hours, ambling here and there, talking about nothing, and spent a sweet twenty minutes sitting on a bench in the park watching the sunset.  When they stood, Arianna took his hand, and he hoped she didn’t notice his sudden, surprised smile.
When they got back to the house, they stood on the sidewalk for a few minutes, reluctant to end the evening.
“Well,” she finally said, “I’m so glad I got up my nerve to ask you to dinner.  It’s been a wonderful evening.”  She rose up on her tiptoes and gave him a light kiss on the mouth that sent an electric tingle all the way down to the soles of his feet.  “I bet your doggy misses you.”
“Grendel,” Ben said.
“Grendel,” she said.
“Can we do this again?  Soon?”
“Sure.”  She grinned.  “You know where I live.”

***

He lay there in bed that evening, staring at the ceiling, waiting for sleep that wouldn’t come.  Thoughts chased themselves across his brain like leaves flying on a high wind.
She is amazing.  I think I’m in love.
Oh, yeah?  Wait till she finds out you’re a part-time dog.
Maybe she doesn’t need to know.
You want a relationship with this woman, and she doesn’t need to know you turn into a dog when the moon is full?
It only happened once.  Maybe it won’t happen again.
Sure.  Because that’s the way it always happens in the stories.  Face it, bub, you’re screwed.
She’ll think I’m a nut if I tell her.
Oh, so you want to wait until you’re making out with her on the couch, and the full moon rises, and she suddenly finds she’s getting hot and heavy with Fido?
I just won’t see her when the moon is full.
Oh, and she won’t notice you don’t actually have a dog?  What’ll you say when she comes down to your apartment – your dog is vacationing in the Keys?  Your dog is away at his high school reunion?  This girl is smart.  You’ve got to tell her.
I can’t.
You have to.
At that point, the argument seemed to be over, but it was still another two hours before he finally fell asleep.

***

Two weeks, seven dinners, and three visits to a local nightclub later, Ben decided that he had himself a girlfriend, and a serious problem.
First off, he worried that it was becoming obvious that he didn’t want to invite her down to his apartment.  The excuse of “it’s a mess” only worked for so long.  At some point, the question of, “so why the hell don’t you clean it up?” would certainly occur to her.  Every time she seemed to be hinting that she’d like to come down to his place, he veered off into a suggestion of plans to go out.  It didn’t seem to bother her, not yet.  She just looked a little amused, as if she found his shyness about her seeing his place charming.  But he wouldn’t be able to keep it up, he knew that.
Second, and it was a big second, was the fact that he still hadn’t told her about the once-a-month come-as-your-favorite-canine episodes.  This was clearly a much more pressing problem.
He let it go another week and a half.  The next full moon, September 1, was barreling toward him like a runaway truck.  He had the option of waiting, and seeing if it would actually happen again, but in his heart he knew that it would.  He could already feel the beginning of the internal itch, and the full moon was still two days away.  
Well, weren’t there options?  He could pretend to be sick, and when he turned into a dog just stay in his apartment and hope she didn’t come and knock on the door.
Dammit, no.  If he was a weredog, he was going to enjoy it.  Being a dog was fun.  He wanted to do it again, and he definitely didn't want to waste his one night a month hiding under the bed.
So, he had to tell her, tonight at dinner.
Samuel’s was a nice little Italian place only a few blocks’ walk away, and when Ben suggested it Arianna had waxed poetic about the best lasagna in town.  She was working until five, and said she’d meet him there, so at about twenty till he left his apartment.
He hitched a sigh.  This was the most ridiculous situation in the world.  It could only happen to a loser like him.
And his argumentative voice came back, but this time it surprised him.
Loser?  He had a beautiful girlfriend.  He just had a little problem.  He had to tell her, and count on her understanding. 
He shuddered.  Yeah, she'd understand, all right.  She'd understand that he was a loony.  He should just turn back now, tell her they needed to break up, it wasn't going to work out.
But he kept walking.

***

Dinner was wonderful, romantic, and sweet, and he didn’t enjoy it at all.  It was only after a second glass of Chianti that he felt he had fueled his courage enough to start.
“Arianna,” he began, and then stopped.
She looked up, suddenly apprehensive.  “What?” she said, keeping her voice light.
“We need to talk about something.”
She gazed at him for a moment, her brown eyes shining in the candlelight.  “You’re not about to break up with me, are you?” 
“I… no!  God, no.  I’d be a moron.”  He didn’t mention that he’d actually considered it on the walk to the restaurant.
Her shoulders relaxed.  “Good.  Wow.  The way your voice changed, there, suddenly you had me worried.”  She took a little sip of wine.  “Because, you know…” She looked down.  “I was kind of hoping you’d spend the night with me tonight.”
Ben goggled at her, and then grinned.  “Really?  I mean, um…”
She laughed.  “I suppose that’s a yes?”
“Yes.  Yes, of course!”
“But you were going to say something, and I interrupted you.”
Ben took a deep breath.  The sudden bombshell of horniness that her suggestion set off had scattered his thoughts like a mental hand grenade.
“Listen,” he finally said.  “I have to tell you something, something about me.  You may change your mind about spending the night with me after.  I understand if you do.”
“What is it?  You’re not gay, are you?  Or unable to have sex for some reason?”
“No!”  God, this was not going well.  “Neither.  I’m not gay, and I can… do it.  Just fine.  I think.  I mean, it’s hard to judge yourself in that way, so…”  He trailed off, and then smacked his forehead with the base of his palm.  “Look, can I just tell you?  This is hard enough without you speculating.”
“Okay, sorry,” she said, contritely.
“Well, I guess the best way to start is to tell you that I don’t own a dog.  The dog you saw…”
“Grendel?” 
“Grendel.  He’s not my dog.”
“Whose dog is he?”
“He’s not anybody’s dog.”  Ben paused.  “He’s me.”
Arianna stared at him.  “He’s you,” she said flatly.
“Yes.  Two months ago, I got bitten by a stray dog.  Or, at least, I thought at the time it was a stray.  I guess it was… something else.  Because at the next full moon, I turned into a dog.”
“Grendel?”
“Grendel.”  He swallowed.
“You’re making this up.” 
“No, I’m not.  I swear.”
Arianna stared at him some more.  
“You don’t have to believe me.  I understand if you want to go home.  I can walk back.”
She shook her head.  “I don’t want to go home.  Yet.”  She looked deeply into his eyes.  “And we have plans for tonight, remember?”
“Are they still on?
She nodded.  “So far.  I’m just… well, it’s not every day someone tells you something like this.”
“I know.” 
“And you think that at the next full moon, this will happen again?”
Ben nodded.  “I can already feel it beginning.”
She raised one eyebrow.  “You don’t get…  you know, violent or anything?  You know, like the werewolf movies, where the werewolf tears his sweetheart to shreds and feels guilty forever after.”
Ben swallowed.  “No.  Nothing like that.  You know dogs.  All they want to do is have fun.”
“So it is fun?”
He nodded.  “It’s a blast.  It’s like being a kid again, but no parents, no teachers, nobody in charge.  All you want to do is play and just experience what’s out there.”  He added, a little wistfully, “I wish it lasted longer, that’s all.”
“All of that, from one bite?”
“I guess so.  Look, I know I can’t prove it to you…”
She looked up.  “Yes, you can.”
“I can?”
“I can be there and watch you when the next full moon rises.  Then, either you’ll turn into a dog, or you won’t.”
“I guess that’s true.  So, you don’t think I’m crazy?”
“Jury’s still out on that one.  But I know there are some weird things in the world.  Why shouldn’t this be one of them?”
Ben let out a long breath.  “You’re really understanding, you know that?”
She leaned back in her chair, and said, musingly, “So, my boyfriend turns into a dog once a month.  It could be worse.  My best friend’s boyfriend turns into an asshole at least three times a week.”

***

That night, as he was drifting off, Arianna’s cheek resting on his bare chest, she said, “I guess that’s why Grendel looked like you.”
He smiled.  “I guess.”  He paused, and his face became serious.  “Are you sure you want to be there, when… it happens?  I have a feeling that the transformation… it’s not pretty.”
“I can handle not pretty.”
“I’d be okay alone.  I went through it alone once, and it was fine.  Weird, but fine.”
“No,” she said firmly, and her arm tightened around his middle.  “If this is part of your life, I want to be there when it happens.”
“Okay.  Two nights from now.  We have a date.”  He chuckled.  “Maybe after, we could go to the park and play fetch or something.”

***

September 1 dawned with showers and wind, and Ben couldn’t think about anything all day but the growing restive itchiness, and his anxiety over how Arianna would deal with his transformation.  Maybe she’d get scared and stay home?
      But at six PM, she was at his door, a bottle of wine under her arm, her expression serious.
“I came a little early, so I brought some wine.”
“Maybe you should have brought dog biscuits,” he said, trying to be light, but his voice was trembling.
Arianna went and got two glasses and a corkscrew, and poured out the wine.  She handed him his glass, and held hers up.  “To an adventure.”  They clinked their glasses together.
The wine helped to calm him a little, but by seven-thirty, he was sweating profusely, and shaking violently.  He stood.  “I think it’s starting.  I need to get undressed.”
She stood as well, went to him and kissed him gently.  “Do what you need to do.”
He had barely gotten his shirt off when he looked up, and noticed that Arianna was doing the same thing; she had her t-shirt off, and was working the button on her shorts.  In the whirlwind of sensations that accompanied the transformation, the puzzlement over this got lost in the physical torrent of pulling, pushing, sliding.  He fell forward onto the floor, felt his bones drawing together, fingers shrinking, the tickle of fur sprouting from the bare skin of his back and chest.
And then, like the night a month before, it was over.
He looked up, searching for Arianna’s kind face looking down on him, wondering what they’d do together, a human and her dog out for a night of play.
But Arianna wasn’t there.  Standing next to him was a sleek, black and white female border collie with laughing brown eyes.  She trotted up to him, pressed her nose against his side and nuzzled him briefly.  She then gave him a nudge toward the door – which he only then noticed she had left a little ajar.

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