Night of the Man by Harris Coverley

Night of the Man

The young wolf convulsed and fell to the floor

“He’s doing it again!” said one of the wolves in the pen
“Every time it’s a moonless night!” observed another
          “It can get quite annoying…!”
                    “Ever since that drunk fell in here and bit him!”

He turned and twisted
          Yowling
His fur retracted into his skin
His paws flattened into palms
          Toes into fingers
His snout collapsed into his face

A pale foetal form stretched out in the straw
          Then rose uneasily

The pack despite having seen it so many times before stared in awe
          Not willing to tear this “man” limb from limb
          For they still recognised the scent of a fellow lupine

He brushed his short black hair back with his hand
          And bid them all good night

With consummate skill
He pulled himself over the wire fence
And through the bushes to his hidey hole
Retrieving the plastic bag
And checking the time on the watch inside: 9 pm

          He was going to be late

He put on the uniform in the bag
          Red and blue striped
                              Donned the cornball hat
And then climbed over the zoo wall

It was a short walk to the all-night burger joint
          And as he predicted—

                              “You’re late Kinsey!” said the boss
                              Wrapped in his greasy apron

“Yeah, yeah,” said the “man”

And he got straight to work on the grill

Across his shift at times there was an overwhelming desire
To launch his teeth into the raw meat at his side
But he suppressed it—it was not for a “man” to do such things

On his break he talked with Louise
          The teenager with the blue fringe and nose ring
On the bench around the back

Taking a chance she leaned in close
And put her hand on his thigh

At three years old
He was twenty-something in human years
But human love still escaped him

And he pulled away
          Ashamed

She took a drag of her cigarette
          Understanding the bitter message

At half-five the working day (that was the night) was over
          And he collected his wage slip

“Don’t be late again Kinsey!” barked the boss
          “You’re on thin ice as it is!”

“Yeah, yeah…” he replied
          Not truly caring
          It was just a job after all

As he walked back to the zoo
          The sun had begun to rise
          A blue hem against the horizon

His skin stung as his fur poked above the epidermis

Behind the bushes he undressed with great relief
          Bagging away his anthropic artefacts

He slunk above the fence into the pen

“He’s back!” said one wolf
          “Where does he go?” asked another
                    “Who cares?!” opined a third

A greying fuzzy humanoid
He scraped into the straw and slept

A curious pup sniffed him—
          “He smells like cooked meat!”

          “Don’t be stupid!” said his mother
          And led him away by the scruff of his neck

At midday the two keepers had the usual chat by the pen’s gate:

          “He’s sluggish again isn’t he?”
                    “Aye…maybe we should put in that camera
                              …see what he gets up to at night…”

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Harris Coverley has had verse published in Star*Line, Spectral Realms, Scifaikuest, Polu Texni, Silver Blade, California Quarterly, The Crank, Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, Altered Reality Magazine, Apocalypse Confidential, Tigershark, Yellow Mama, View From Atlantis, and many others. He lives in Manchester, England.

Image Credit: HOMO HOMINI LUPUS, MAN IS A WOLF TO MAN, Acrylic on Paper, 2019 by Igor Eugene Prokop, Hungary [see singulart.com for purchase]