By noon, the day turned dreary. Rain fell. It immediately froze on the chilled ground. The creature stood behind the house and cried.


Belleza's kitchen, at the back of her house, opened onto a screened-in porch. The creature stood near its door, howling his complaint. His fur must have been oily. All over him the water beaded into glassy, icy drops that he shook off.

"Don't you have a den or something?" Belleza shouted through a window.


"You are a wild animal. It's not my job to shelter you."

The unblinking, marble eyes looked at her. The weak mouth made a chewing motion. The once perky tufts over his ears drooped. Belleza went on the porch, unlatched and opened the screen door, then retreated to the dry warmth of her kitchen.

The creature entered by stooping and turning sideways. He seemed to grow, to become huge now that she could measure him by the scale of her wicker chairs.

"Phew! You smell to high heaven," Belleza complained from her side of the door. It was wet, wild animal smell: yeasty, gassy, gamy, an unwashed infection.

"Don't break the furniture," Belleza ordered.

The creature did not sit in a chair. He sighed and lowered his wide-bottomed body onto his feet, like a father penguin warming an egg. He rested the bandaged claws on his belly. He leaned against the wall and Belleza saw that he would leave marks on the paint.

"I know where this is leading," she said through the door. "I've read Bettelheim. You won't stop until you are sleeping on my pillow. Well, I'm not a princess and I'm decades past sexual initiation, symbolic or otherwise. So forget it."


"Yeah, I wanna lot of things, too."

Belleza's bedroom was at the rear of the house and had a window opening onto the screened porch. Through it, she could hear the raspy breathing of the creature as he slept. She could not bear to lie down in her bed, with only a wall and a pane of glass between them. She tried the front bedroom, her office. It had a couch, but she knew immediately that she would not sleep there either.

Her old house had an old-style enclosed stairway, the steps seeming to climb inside a tower. The door at the bottom locked with a key. Belleza took bedding and the key and her hand gun up to a dormer room. It was filled haphazardly with boxes of books, some spindly furniture, more books overloaded into bookcases.

"No Rapunzel dreams," Belleza said aloud.

But she did dream.