Into the glen came that vixen, sniffing along Bambi's urine trail. "She's
going to steal my food again," thought Sozont, but then he luxuriated for
a moment in that *Spike* feeling from his hippo segment. "She can't
hurt me now! I can play any game I want with her." He stewed
for a moment, then decided to roast the vixen over coals of kindness.
—"Come on over! There's plenty."
—"Thanks." She came into the bushes, disjointed
the deer's left hindleg, and sliced through its tendons and ligaments with
one swipe. As she bit in, Sozont noticed that she was wearing brass
claw-extenders on her right forepaw.
—"Sometimes I wish I had talons," she said, following
his gaze. Sozont raised his whiskers for a moment. If she didn't
like her phenotype, why didn't she just mutate into something that suited
—"I like my talons," he said, wrinkling his toes.
"I'm a tigrihippostrich."
—"You're butt-ugly, that's what you are. Can't
you just pick one pheno for your whole body?"
—"This is who I am right now," said Sozont, trying
to keep his cool. He reached into the deer's abdominal cavity and extracted
a kidney. "And that's no way to talk to the fur who killed your dinner.
Perhaps we both have problems with 'social graces'?" He offered
the kidney to her. She struggled for a moment, internally wrestling
with a snide remark, but eventually she just took the kidney and bit into
—"Thanks. That's yummy!"
—"Yeah, I ate the other one. My name's Sozont."
—"I'm Martha Stewart."
Sozont couldn't resist. "Martha Stewart? Shouldn't
you be in jail?"
She scowled, but just for a moment. "I don't
have to change my name just because some *non-fur* makes an ass of herself!"
—"I suppose not. So why are you a fox with brass
talons, Martha Stewart?"
She had finished the good parts of the kidney and gone
back to chewing on the hindleg.
—"I'm sort of attached to this vulpine form, for old
time's sake." Seeing that there was still some tongue left, she reached
over to take it, while saying, "You can call me Marth, for short."
—"Sure thing, Marth. Have some tongue. You
seem rather hungry."
—"Look, I know I have a weight-control problem." There
was that scowl again. "But it's not every day that a fox gets to eat
venison, so I'd like to pig out, if that's okay."
—"It's okay." Marth's cheekpads were a little
heavy. She had a definite "apple" shape. Was there a hint of
a moustache under the facial fur? It all meant something, but Sozont
couldn't quite place it. He reached in and yanked Bambi's heart out
of the carcass. He took a bite.
—"I've... never hatched any chicks." He put
the heart down, next to Marth. She looked at it, but took another bite
—"You seem more like the live-bearing type to me."
She looked at Sozont's belt. The feathers stopped below it. The
fur came down to it on both sides. In front there were a few hippo-hairs
—"I'm more comfortable with bird-talk for, um, rutting
season." There it was. He had said it.
There was no more tongue left. Marth picked up
the heart, looked at it, hesitated, took a small bite.
—"I've... never had any kits." She took another
bite. "I've tried several seasons, but nothing happens."
Gland problems! That was it. Her bodyfat
distribution was off-kilter.
—"Have you seen a doctor?"
—"There's... nothing wrong with me that's covered
by Universal Healthcare. I don't have any money for the off-plan stuff."
She took what was left of the heart and passed it back to him. Sozont
took a bite.
—"I think I'd be a good provider," he said. Hey!
What happened to roasting her over the coals? Sozont finished
up the heart. "I make a little money with computers, and don't have
to spend any on food, so it... accumulates."
—"I *wish* I could save some money," Marth said. She
looked over the carcass, but there was little left that was really edible.
Bambi had been quite old and many of his muscles were stringy and tough.
—"Hey, wanna go for a swim?" Sozont hoped he
could see more of those shifting curves.
—"No, I'm quite full. I might get a stomach-ache."
—"But this venison was really great! Thanks
for sharing it with me." There was that eye-sparkle again.
—"Well, if I bag another one someday, maybe I could
call you to help me eat it?"
Sozont pulled the cellphone from his belt and was about
to ask Marth for her number, but she took the phone to enter it herself.
Although it was an off-brand model, she seemed to have little difficulty
navigating the menus. "Spike? I think I've met him. Insipid
echidna. Why do you have *his* number?"
"Because he's an easier lay than you!" Sozont thought,
but what came out of his mouth was "Oh, he's fun to talk to sometimes."
She gave him back his phone. He looked her up.
"Martha Stewart," it said, with a number. He pressed CALL.
The sound of Lizst's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 came from somewhere
on her body. Sozont closed his phone and put it away.
—"By the way," said Marth, "The other hindleg was
infected. I see you didn't eat it."
—"Yeah. It was hurting a lot. I put him
out of his misery."
—"That's the job of a carnivore! Somefur has
to do it." She was smiling again. "Well, I gotta go."
—"Thanks for helping me eat, Marth."
—"Thanks for everything, Sozont. See you soon!"
She slowly scampered off.
Maybe rutting season wouldn't be so bad this year,
after all. But had he bitten off more than he could chew?
The ants had arrived and were swarming over the carcass.
Sozont called Spike.