by Tiffany Belieu, 3.24am May 10th 2021
The worst part about being a werewolf is all the stares at the grocery store. There is just something about a cartful of glistening raw meat that reminds people what they’re made of.
Monster Mart opened in my neighborhood two months ago. They sell things like all-natural swamp water and blood decanters. It’s not surprising that humans were quick to turn from pitchforks to profits. I swore I wouldn’t shop here, I have standards, but they sell meat in bulk, a must for the high-metabolism set.
My entrance tonight is heralded by a few chimed bars of The Monster Mash. A little something for the human clientele looking for some entertainment with their shopping. I shop quickly and alone, but it’s almost impossible to avoid at least one annoyance every trip.
I grab a cart and scan the area to plan the best avoidance strategy. Tonight, among the milling crypto-tourists, I recognize a familiar face from my old Lycanonymous group. Steve. I really can’t abide any it’s-been-awhile-let’s-get-a-coffee-and-catch-up awkward conversations. I slink behind a large display of Ethical Eating kits. “Leave ’Em Alive!” a cardboard standee happily proclaims while bleeding from a non-lethal neck wound.
I peek around the corner for Steve and snatch a sack of potatoes from produce before turning the corner to the glory, the epicenter—the meat counter. I meander past rows of thick steaks, sausages in natural casing, lamb chops. It’s not quite like it was but something is waking up in me. I push it down and skip all the high-end offerings in favor of the Moonlight Special.
The glowing case announces “Two-for-One Hams!” with a drawing of the Big Bad Wolf, curly pig tail between his teeth. Other than a few over-dried summer sausages it’s an empty case. Zero hams. A small card taped in the corner announces there are no rainchecks on the special. The emptiness sends a rumble through my stomach, irritation curling my nerves.
“Wolfman!” An exclamation bursts behind me. I turn to find a man waving a camera. “Wolfman, honey!”
I turn away, staying silent, focusing on a speck of dried blood on the otherwise creamy white of the no-rainchecks sign. Ignore them was always the advice. Breathe was always the instruction.
“Can we get a picture?” a heavyset woman with a similar touristy air asks, slightly shy.
Calm, I am calm, I feel the chant fill me. Best just to get it over with.
“…Okay.” I give them a pursed-lip smile as they hold their phone selfie style.
“No, no,” the man says. “Scary—like a Wolfman!”
“Uh, that’s not…”
“Harold,” the wife hisses.
“Come on!” He cups his hands to his head mimicking pointy wolf ears “Awwooo.”
“Fuck you,” I snap.
I can feel myself begin to lose control of my body. I try to breathe. In through my nose and out through my mouth. One…two…three…
“Ohhh, now we’re scary.” Harold snaps an unsolicited picture.
I feel a growl escape. My chest and limbs begin to ache.
Not long ago, I would have stalked through the shadows of the parking lot, found Harold’s car by the scent of his cologne, his undetected kidney infection, his mortality. I would crouch low, just outside the light, all things beautifully tensing. One…two…three…
Steve. He places a strong hand on my shoulder.
Shame grounds me. Hairs flatten, teeth recede. My shirt has been shredded and Harold and his wife have scattered a display of summer seeds in their haste to escape.
I turn and stare briefly into Steve’s kind face, full of concern, before I too rush from the store empty-handed.
In the parking lot, cool evening air centers me. I think about going back, being honest with Steve or even calling someone from the old group, but nothing ever feels like the right kind of emergency. Instead, I light a cigarette and watch the smoke curl blue into the night.