One morning, Joe Benson woke up with antlers. Yes, antlers, as in two awkward, wooden protrusions, springing from his head. He was a deer man. He looked in the mirror, touched them gently, and screamed. He made the situation real by nervously putting it into words: “I’m some kind of fucking deer man now.”
But he knew it wasn’t natural. It made him question a lot of things. He called his mother in Bangor and asked if his father—who he tenderly referred to as “that sperm donor you once humped”—was, you know, a deer. Or a moose. But she just laughed into the phone. So he hung up and questioned the existence of God. He pulled out the Bible, clutching his antlers, and poked at Genesis and said, “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.”
About ten fuck you’s later, he called his girlfriend Josephine, a gorgeous Philosophy major who didn’t feel comfortable enough with Joe to let him see her naked. He wanted her sex so badly, especially in the long, wine-soaked college evenings, but she said she was too self-conscious to go there. Plus, Joe felt he was falling deeply for her, and didn’t want to screw things up.
“Baby,” he said, his voice swallowing itself. “Babes, listen. Today has been a weird day.”
“Is it a rash?” she asked.
“No,” he said. “Worse. Much worse.”
Fifteen minutes later, Josephine burst into Joe’s apartment, hand on hip, displeased to find out that Joe had not relayed to whole truth to her.
“You are so full of it,” she said.
She tossed her purse and keys onto Joe’s kitchen table. “You’re not dying or anything. You just got some weird-ass antlers.”
Joe stood there blinking. Josephine continued:
“You just need to be careful. Wear an orange vest if you go in the woods.”
“I’m not concerned with bullets,” Joe said. “I don’t want the scorn. I have class tomorrow. I have a job.”
Josephine laughed, showing her big toothy grin. “Just tell them you have lupus,” she said.
In a huff, Joe shuffled to the freezer, pulled out a handle of gin, and swigged. He didn’t offer Josephine anything, but she moseyed over and pulled out a beer anyway. They both sat on Joe’s couch, drinking in gulps, and before Joe could even let out a sigh, Josephine initiated, for the first time, the dirty deed. She stuck a hand down Joe’s pants.
“I know this is strange,” she said. “But I think I want it.”
Joe set down the gin. He almost blurted, Really? but decided against it. If the antlers were working to assuage some strange fetish of Josephine’s, then so be it. He just said, “Ok baby,” and grabbed her hand. He lead her into his bedroom, put on some Al Green, and laid her on his bed.
Joe began by undressing for Josephine and dancing to the music. She lay on the bed, watching him, quivering with desire. He slid out of his skinny jeans with finesse, but struggled to get his t-shirt off with the antlers. Then he ripped off his socks, and tossed them carelessly onto his mountain of laundry. Finally, he slipped off his boxers.
“Now your turn,” he said, sliding into bed.
Josephine stood. One by one, she plucked open the buttons of her blouse, and let it fall by her ankles. She unhooked her bra and tossed it aside. Before going for the zipper of her jeans, Josephine hesitated, cupping her breasts with her perfectly manicured, blood-red fingers. With her fingertips, she rubbed her perky nipples. Joe wanted Josephine so badly in that moment—wanted to kiss her fine breasts and work his way to her soft neck. But as Josephine slid out of her jeans, Joe saw something more beautiful than anything he had seen before, a freakish grace but grace nonetheless: Josephine’s thighs—so perfect in their musculature—were infested with horse hair.