by Lee Blevins
Rex Rorker was just a mild-mannered MMA fighter until the night he finally remembered to drag the trashcan to the curb and got bitten by a rabidly overactive raccoon. Rex considered himself quite animal-friendly but his instincts and training were violence personified and PETA wouldn’t like it if I told you what he did to that critter after it bit him.
Later, after tossing one last item into the trashcan, Rex went back inside and collapsed into a three-day coma.
He woke up on the rolled-up MMA mat he used as a pillow only to discover that new and strange hair had grown on the backs of his hands. Otherwise, he was unaffected except for the blackened circles around his eyes.
Rex had to go to work. Luckily, it had been a three-day weekend. Unluckily, he was an Uber driver so Labor Day didn’t mean much to him except that he was still broke.
He drove for two and a half hours without incident before a minivan swerved into the lane in front of him. He would have been involved in a major car accident because he was distracted texting his old ass aunt but some sort of scraping, hissing sensation triggered him to slam his brakes with all the power of a varmint’s paws crushing a muffin. As they tend to.
Shaken, and kind of horny but this isn’t that kind of story so I don’t know why I even brought it up, Rex logged out or whatever Uber drivers do when they’re tired of listening to heavy breathing from the backseat. Then he went to the gym.
His coach was a gray-templed, cigar-chomping zine editor who liked to snack on Bugles. That session he made Rex spar his archnemesis aka Java Thompson. Normally, Java would have made mat meat of the only relatively punier Rex but this time when Java went in for his patented pinkie toe crank Rex slid out of it with the stealthy grace of an oversized rodent.
Rex flipped over on all fours, feet and hands arched, ass raised menacingly, and scratched his bully across the cheek. Coach separated them, reprimanded Rex, and then sent Java to get a checkup at the nearest veterinary clinic.
Dejected, and still kind of horny but that still isn’t relevant, Rex Rorker walked down the now darkened block to his automobile. He was lost in his own regretful bouquet of cauliflower ears when a loose Golden Doodle ran past him, dragging its clanking leash handle behind it.
“Help!” yelled a beautiful woman (Rex could just tell). With pure animal instinct, he dived forward like a certain tree-climbing mammal. (I’m getting pretty good at dancing around the word raccoon, aren’t I?)
Rex managed to grasp the leash, and having stopped the pup in its tracks, rose with his shoulders hunched and his arms bent sneakily at the elbows.
“You saved my—a lot of trouble,” said the gorgeous blonde or redhead, depending on which era of the comics you prefer.
Rex hissed, dropped the leash, and darted up the side of a vintage tee-shirt shop. He found himself crouched on the roof, watching the woman and the dog flee together, best friendship confirmed by fear, and realized she was not likely to sleep with him now.
The moon slid free of the clouds and slammed against Rex like a big fat jellybean. The grappler watched in utter adjectives as gray fur sprouted over his arms. He felt wrenched in cliché as his jaw jutted forward and his teeth sharpened. His tail (he always had a tiny one) grew substantially and burst free from his form-fitting sweatpants.
Rex sniffed the air for the scent of danger and knew that tingling he felt was from his sensory-heightened whiskers.
An armored van, hijacked by a kind of oddly diverse group of gangsters, sped down the street below, guns blazing out the open back doors at the police caravan that gave chase.
Rex Rorker sprang(!) to the nearest dumpster.
As he rummaged around for starchy remnants, he thought of something his late Uncle Obi-Wan had often said: “With great power, comes great big raccoon turds.” And the legend grew.
Lee Blevins lives in Lexington, Kentucky. He is right in the middle of a creative existential crisis. These things happen. You can find him on Twitter @BleeSevens or visit his sad, bare-bones website byleeblevins.com.