Back Road

By Promise Jackson

Being a veterinarian wasn’t a very eventful job. In fact, the media portrayed it pretty accurately. The most exciting things one could expect is a loving pounce from a dog the size of a refrigerator or the scandalous and questionable repetitions of a parrot. Sure, the rare occurrences of tending to an abused animal or putting down a dying pet were heartbreaking, at best and traumatic at worst, but it was still a tame job.

Dr. Holt Denver could remember that restrained “This isn’t what I meant when I said I hoped you would become a doctor,” look in his mother’s eyes when he told her the news. It wasn’t about the salary, he knew, but more so about the prestige and bragging rights.

“Whatever,” Holt thought as he leaned over the passenger seat to sneak another french fry from the paper bag sitting there, “I don’t need diamonds and gold to make me happy.”

The man’s earth brown eyes flickered away from the dark road for a split second. In only that second, his car jolted upwards with an aggressive thud.

His sneaker smacked the brake pedal as his knuckles paled around the steering wheel. The car came to a halt and bounced lightly on its wheels. Holt briefly thanked God he wasn’t in a main road with other cars. Though, he knew that didn’t mean that he was completely out of danger.

After turning off the engine and undoing his seatbelt with shaky hands, the man exited the vehicle. He squinted against the trees hoping for the illumination of the moon or maybe the glow of a nearby Seven Eleven sign, but no such luck came his way. With a sigh, Holt pulled out his phone to use the flashlight.

Almost immediately after the milky white light painted the slick road, he saw movement. Every hair on the man’s body prepared to strike upwards until a calming realization limped his way.

It was only a dog.

Holt watched as the canine shook the dirt off of its charcoal black fur with what almost looked like disgust, only to wince and whine upon putting pressure on its front paw.

Guilt flood into Holt’s gut when he realized that he hit the dog, and a great mixture of disbelief and gratefulness washed over him as he realized that a broken paw seemed to be the most damage it had sustained.

“Come here, fella…” he hushed as he attempted to scoop the dog up, “We gotta fix that paw of yours.”

Surprisingly, the dog made no resistance other than an initial flinch.

“Maybe he’s domesticated?” thought Holt, “Probably someone’s lost pet.”

He had no problem placing the dog in his backseat. Although there was a subtle fear that it might break out of its compliant state somewhere during the car ride, no disruption was made.

The dog showed the same obedience once brought home. Holt was able to lay the canine down on his rug, run upstairs to grab his emergency medical supplies, and return to set up a splint.

As soon as the vet finished his handiwork, his cell phone vibrated against his pocket.
Without hesitation, Holt brought the phone to his ear as he stood up.

“Hello?…Oh, hey mom…”

Traces of the woman’s chipper voice prattling on filled the silence of the foyeur, only interrupted by Holt’s occasional “Yes,” and “I’m in the middle of someth–” wedged into the stream of monologue on the other end.

The man found himself pacing around the room as he listened to his mother talk about her day, how her neighbors are carrying along, and what latest celebrity brawl was about.

However, another sound pricked at Holt’s unoccupied ear.

Stopping in his tracks, he held the phone away and turned to distinct just what the odd jumble of sounds were. Then, his cell phone bounced off of the carpet.

Holding the foyeur window open with one hand and clutching a box of chicken nuggets in the other, was a woman. One of her feet was planted on the window sill, and she looked ready to climb outside.

“Hey!” Holt shouted, “What do you think you’re doing?!”

Raising her eyebrow, the woman said, “Uhm…leaving?” as though it were obvious, “Oh yeah! Thanks for patching up my arm.”

A question rested on Holt’s lips until he noticed the splint on the woman’s tattooed arm.

His mouth opened and closed as he looked between her and the rug where he remembered seeing the dog.

“Are you…” he finally started, “A werewolf?”

“Good guess, but they don’t like being called werewolves. “Lycan” is the politically correct term,” said the woman, “I’m a shapeshifter, as you can see by the god awful stretch marks.”

As she flaunted her bare arms, she muttered, “I’ve gotta stop transforming into large animals…”

Holt adjusted his glasses, “So, let me understand something,” he said, “I took you home, fixed your broken leg–er, arm, and you were just going to leave like that?”

“Alright, so taking your Mcnuggets was a jerk move, I admit it,” the woman sighed, putting the box back down on the table next to the paper bag, “But I figured just walking up to you saying “Hey, thanks for helping out your local Eldritch being out!” would put you in a coma.”

“Well I’m not just talking about a “thank you”,” said Holt, “Don’t I get something, like, three wishes or something for helping you out?”

“I’m a shapeshifter, not a genie.”

“Still, aren’t you indebted to me now?”

The woman slouched with a sigh, “Do you really think that’s how magical beings work? That’s real racist, buddy,” she said, “But since I’ve been bored, lately, I’ll humor you. What do you wish for, Holt?”

“How did you know my name?”

“It’s on your nametag. I’m Jinx, by the way. Anyway, how about that wish?”
Holt reflected for a moment, suddenly feeling like he was being put on the spot despite making the initial request. His earnings didn’t need improvement. He was satisfied with his appearance. Power, as a certain superhero taught him, came with unwanted responsibility.

“How about something that really matters?” Holt finally said, “I wish for love.”

“And that’s how I met your mother.”

The young teen scooping a spoonful of his McFlurry into his mouth gave a hum of comprehension, “Wow. That’s like something out of an old fable,” he said unenthusiastically, “So she just married you on the spot?”

Holt scoffed, “No! To be honest, I thought she’d just give me a magic charm or something to help me find a mate.”

“Like I said; I’m a shapeshifter, not a genie,” said Jinx as she waltzed into the kitchen, snatching one of her son’s fries when he wasn’t looking, “I mean, I could’ve asked one of my witch friends from up north for a charm, but I figured you were pretty cute and it wouldn’t hurt to try.”

She leaned over and planted a chaste kiss on Holt’s cheek, “And now we’re here,” she said.