Playing the Odds

“What are the odds that I can get it even rarer?”

“How rare do you mean?” asked the greasy man behind the counter.

“I don’t know. Super rare. Like, just breath on it.”

“Come on, Dave,” he replied, “you know I legally can’t serve it like that.”

“Come on, Al,” David replied, “you know I can’t stand it when you call me Dave.”

“Medium rare’s the best I can do,” Al said. “Besides, you ordered it just plain medium last week.”

“That was last week.”

“I don’t get you, Dave.” Al turned back to the kitchen. “Burger, medium rare, heavy on the rare!”

“I’ll take it,” David told him. A few minutes later, he sat on a bench in the park, soaking in the sunshine and peeling an anemic tomato off of his lunch.

The moon was waning something fierce, and in a few days it would be full. He didn’t need his meticulously updated calendar to know this either. The dramatic part of his condition would kick in then, but before that, his teeth and fingernails would sharpen, making it hard to type. His senses had already sharpened, which is how he heard the air being sliced in half by a flat, round object spinning toward his head.

Unfortunately, his reflexes weren’t as sharp as his hearing, and that flat, round object bounced off of the side of his skull and spilled lunch. A growl rumbled from deep inside, and he roared, “What the fuck was that?”

The girl, probably a college student, her glorious breasts straining against a heavily reinforced sports bra, skipped over to him and squealed, “Oh-my-God-I’m-so-sorry-mister!”

He realized as she leaned over to retrieve the Frisbee that his libido had also sharpened. He probably shouldn’t stand right now.

She straightened out, shrugged, and blushed. “You want to, maybe, I don’t know…” Sheepishly, she showed him the toy in her hand. “… play fetch?”

Right then, the only one thing pissing him off more than her inadvertently mocking his condition was the fact that he really did want to fetch that damned Frisbee. If he had a tail, he would have wagged it. Instead, he gulped and nodded.

“Good boy,” she cooed and flung it with a snap of her wrist. Her technique was flawless, but her aim could use a lot of work. As he reflexively gave chase, he watched it clip a tree, sail all the way out of the park, ricochet off of a bus and a minivan, narrowly miss a pedestrian, and disappear down a side street.

“Oh-my-god-I’m-so-sorry!” she squealed.

He trotted after it with a sigh, but as soon as he rounded the corner, his hair stood on end. Something was setting him off, but he couldn’t figure out what. Every instinct told him to leave, but that sports bra and the time of the month wouldn’t let him. Besides, the midday sun revealed every corner of the block, and it was empty, save for a sedan parked against a nearby curb.

He crouched beside the car and reached beneath it for the lost Frisbee, stopping suddenly when a number of details clicked into place like tumblers in a lock. First off, there was an irregular shadow that didn’t belong to the undercarriage. It carried with it the faint scent of vanilla covering up a deeper scent of rotting soil, along with the rustle of something alive without a heartbeat. He stood, backed away, and announced, “If I knew how to hotwire a car, I’d drive it out of here and let you roast.”

“No, you wouldn’t, puppy.”

Closing his eyes, he replied, “What makes you say that, angel face?”

“I think you know what I’m talking about.”

He reminded her after a moment, “I had a little too much to drink that night.”

“So did I.”

“No,” he said, “you drank someone who had too much to drink.”

“Same thing.”

“Not for us regular people.”

“Puppy,” she said, “when have you ever been ‘regular people’?”

“Are you going to tell me what you’re doing down there?”

“It’s kind of a long story.”

“It would have to be.” He sat down on the sidewalk with a sigh. “Arianna,” he said, “I thought we talked about you and your people coming back to town.”

“You really believe you could stop us?” It was an honest question, not a threat.

“I do.”

Silence filled the block until she told him, “You know, I wasn’t there when it happened.”

He replied, “I don’t think it makes a difference where you were when my family was murdered.”

“Yeah, you do.”

He jumped to his feet and dusted his pants off. “Anyway,” he growled, “I need to go fuck a coed, so why don’t you go ahead and stay here until the sun goes down.” Because if he didn’t fuck something today, he was going to combust. But he couldn’t bring himself to follow through on that–not with Ariana so close by.

A dozen hours later, after he failed to talk himself out of it, David returned to the sedan, muttering, “What are the odds that she’s even still here?” Sure enough, a quick sniff and glance under the car revealed that she wasn’t. This was both a relief and a disappointment.

Suddenly, she appeared out of nowhere, poked his shoulder, and laughed a low, flirty laugh. “You’re it,” she told him before slipping back into nowhere.

“I never liked you,” he whispered and gave chase.

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