That night, Hortense peeked out from behind the haystack, and motioned me to follow her up by the house.

      The werecoon had gone down to the creek, so I stood alone, munching some tasty oats Bob had given as a special treat. "This better be important," I said to Hortense, already missing the oats as I followed her.

      "Suspicious," Hortense whispered, watching Randolph stand on his hind legs on a rock by the creek howling at the moon. "Very suspicious indeed. I discovered the beast doesn't just come out in the light of the full moon."

      "How fascinating! You've discovered that, have you," I said sarcastically, still missing those oats. "Remember when we first saw him? He comes out mostly at the full moon, but..."

      I stopped to watch Randolph tear into an apple, ripping into it with his fangs. Seeds flew everywhere. "Wow," Hortense meowed shivering, "if he's not dangerous, why's he need fangs?"

     "What," I said, jerking back from looking longingly at my oat bucket.


     "The fangs," she said. "He has fangs. Aren't you listening?"

      "I'm trying," I flickered patiently, "but sometimes it's hard. I guess Randolph's fangs hold his jaws apart."

      "Very funny," she said, sounding annoyed. "Meet me later tonight after the others have gone to sleep," she purred with that self important look of the detective on her smug lips. "I'll show you something that'll knock your socks off."

      "I don't wear socks," I said, stomping my hooves impatiently. "I hate it when you use those tired old, hackneyed phrases. Where do you get them?"

     But Hortense didn't answer. She skulked stealthily across the yard.

      "Well, I'll try and meet you," I whinnied. "I'm not promising anything,'s bound to be a late night, what with the full moon and all, and..."

     rockyfly Randolph jumped on a fence post looking positively ferocious. The moon threw light beams around him and I felt my heart flip-flop, but chuckled when he started flexing his puffed up, hairy muscles. When he made poses like the body builder I'd seen in a magazine, I gave a horse laugh. I got so caught up in his antics I forgot my meeting with Hortense.

      Especially when Matt waved a big, red, juicy apple in front of my nose. He got on my back, demanding we make a round of the barnyard. Until I get the apple I'm his to do with. I love apples. They're to die for.

      "Mo-o-o-m. Matt's teasing Clarence," cried Blythe.

      Matt looked to the house. "Am not," he yelled.

      "Are too," she replied.

      "Matt, you're in big trouble, mister."

      Mary called impatiently, "Matt, it's a school night...quit teasing Clarence and come to bed."

      "Mo-o-o-m," Matt whined, Clarence was giving me a ride, and I gave him an apple."

      "That's nice dear, come to bed."



      A shrill small voice echoed, "Na-na-na-na-na-na."

      Matt put the apple on a fence post by the barn where I couldn't get it, but no trouble. No trouble at all. I turned my back and gave the post a one-two kick with my hooves, and it was APPLE TIME. Apples and oats in the same night, be still my beating heart, I'm knee deep in horse heaven.

     When I finally sauntered around the house, Hortense meowed sarcastically, "Sure you can spare me the time. I don't want to take you away from anything important, a busy horse like you." cribby

      "Hortense, can the chatter," I said sleepily. "It's late, and I should have been asleep in my stall hours ago. What did you find?"

      "I found the book," she moaned, "The Curse of the Werewolf."

      "It tell you about the end of the world?" I neighed.

      "No, it didn't tell me about the end of the world, "Hortense hissed, eying me impatiently from green eye slits. "It did tell me we've got trouble."

      "I can hardly wait to see the chapter on werecoons," I whinnied with a horse laugh.

      "Clarence, there's no chapter on werecoons, you ninny."

      "What? You don't say," I said in mock surprise, faking shock. "Then it must be a happening thing nobody heard of before."

      "Werewolves, werecoons, they're all the same kettle of fish," Hortense glared.

     "Kettle of fish?" I nickered, horse4 "I thought we were talking about werewolves, now we're talking about fish. I wonder if there are such things as werefish?" I asked, but noticed Hortense didn't look amused.

      "You know Clarence, you madden me sometimes," Hortense hissed, charged electricity popping from her eyeballs. I know the shrewd horse always backs off right then, but no-o-o-o, nobody ever accused this horse of doing anything easy.

      Hortense burned with a short fuse, not taking the new direction of our conversation well, not well at all. "Hortense, you look positively livid. Whatever's the matter?"

      "Clarence," Hortense purred, exercising great will power to hold her poise and self control, "stop changing the subject. "Can we get serious now?"

      "Don't have a cat, Hort," I whinnied. "What's wrong?" I asked with a sincere look on my face, but couldn't help adding, "Someone step on your tail?"

      "You're impossible, you know that?" Hortense fumed. "We've got a big problem, and you're making jokes."

      " got a mouse in your pocket?" I snickered.

      Well that did it. She appeared to swallow a cherry bomb. Her hair stood on end and her eyeballs appeared as volcanoes of molten fire. She bared her fangs, and right away I showed instant apology. "I'm sorry Hortense," I said with tight, trembling lips, hoping to hold back the merrymaking still threatening to explode inside me. I pictured myself sitting on a keg of dynamite, bits and pieces of me plastered all over the barnyard. "What have you found?"

      "I tried to tell you," she meowed, "I read a book buried in Bob's closet, "Curse Of The Werewolf." Did it open my eyes."

      "Oh," I snickered, "did you have them closed before," a hiss spewed through my lips fluttering like escaping gas.

      "Keep laughing, Clarence," Hortense glared. "The fact a werecoon lives in our midst is not chopped liver."

      "I guess not," I snickered till I brayed. "Chopped liver could have far reaching effects and implications."

      "Keep joking, Clarence," she purred. "That werecoon's a life-threatening thing."

      "Randolph, life-threatening. Hortense, get a grip and lighten up." But she didn't lighten up. She didn't lighten up at all. Hortense fretted and fumed, staring at me with scorn.

      "You're not talking to a feather-head," she snapped. I had a humorous reply, but decided it healthier to ignore the chance to make fun of her words, appealing though it was. I zipped my lip, and acted interested. "Hmmm," I said in a deep, gravelly voice, nodding my head and giving my best impression of being in deep thought. "Show me the book."

      "It's high time you gave me a little respect," she mumbled.

      "I give you as little respect as anybody," I whispered, but I must be living right. She didn't hear me.

      She circled around the book, set down, got up and circled again, thought about it, laid down facing away towards the house, stood up, circled again, lay down facing me, looked me in the eye, licked her paw with a detached air, and in frustration made an abrupt turn and licked her tail. I stood patiently unmoving through it all. Finally I said, "Stop it, you're making me dizzy you nervous nelly."

      Hortense ignored me, and primly asked, "Have you ever studied Randolph when he transforms into the werecoon in the light of the full moon?"

      "I can't take my eyes off him," I yawned. It was already past my stalltime, the time for all good horses to be asleep in their stalls, and I looked longingly over to the barn.

      "Have you looked deep into his eyes and thought him mad?"

      "He's a few degrees off true north," I muttered, "but mad...I hardly think so. Nobody's perfect, not even you!"

      "Listen Clarence," Hortense swatted my nose when I appeared ready to drop off. "When somebody...or something, is so mad he's lost control, it's Katey bar the door."

      "What's that mean?" I asked sleepily.

      "It means anything can happen, and most likely will."

      "Anything?" I whinnied.

      "Anything!" she purred.

      "I think you're overreacting Hortense," I started swaying to keep awake. "I've seen Randolph for a good while now, and I've witnessed the werecoon many times. At first he transformed only at the full moon, but lately he changes anytime, mostly when he feels the need to liven things up. If something was going to happen, it would have happened by now."

      "Not necessarily, my sweet, gullible Clarence. What's next? Have you considered that? Stalking unsuspecting children?"

      "Hortense, Hortense, Hortense," I neighed. "Randolph just likes being the life of the party."

      "Who's to say he won't go off the deep end and do something...bad?" she probed my eyes earnestly. "How far will he go for a laugh? Clarence? Who knows what might happen when he's the werecoon?" she purred. "Who knows? I for one, don't want to find out. The very thought gives me goose flesh," she sighed, putting her paw to her forehead.

      Again I put a leash on a comeback concerning the goose flesh, and smiled at my self-control. "Hortense, you silly cat, you've got him all wrong. Randolph's an ordinary werecoon."

      "Ever hear 'Where there's smoke, there's fire?'" Hortense smiled smugly.

      hors2 "You daffy feline," I whinnied, "before you go convicting the werecoon, wait till he does something to condemn him for. Have you heard the saying, 'innocent until proven guilty?'"

      "Don't you see, Clarence? He's not like us. He's not our kind of animal. Don't wait until you have to tell me you're sorry. I don't want to be responsible for that, Clarence, thank you very much."

      "For what? Nothing happened yet, and nothing will happen."

      "I've noticed funny goings-on with that werecoon."

      "I've noticed funny goings-on with you, Hortense."

      "He's a different one, I tell you," Hortense purred.

      "Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately, pal?" I neighed. "You've got beady eyes...and a pasty grin."

      "We're not talking about me, Clarence. We're talking about the werecoon. He's not normal, and that proves my point."

      "Not normal, you say," I sighed a deep, depressing sigh. "Neither are you. Neither am I. After all, who else talks to you about such nonsense at any and all hours of the night. Respectable horses have been sound asleep for hours."

      "I don't understand!" she meowed.

      "Neither did anybody in the valley Randolph came from," I neighed, striking my hoof into the dirt, "that's the point."

      "What point? Whatever are you talking about? Clarence."

      "If you don't know," I neighed, "I give up. Let's have a look. What's it say?"

     "It says that in the pale light of the full moon, simple folk can be turned into werewolves, raving maniacs hunting for prey, that's what it says."

      "Randolph is a werecoon," I nickered. There's a difference. Besides, I'm no simple folk."

      "He's got mean looking fangs," she hissed. "The werecoon ever try to bite you?"

      "No!" I whinnied indignantly. "Certainly not."

      "If he bit you," she purred, "you could turn into one too."

      "What, me, a werehorse? That's too funny for words, Hort. Too funny for words."

      "Well, laugh about if you want, but it could happen. According to the book..."

      "Book, smook, what does that book have to do with Randolph? Nothing like that's going to happen here."

      "Oh," Hortense purred smugly.

      "I can't stand it anymore," I whinnied, "Randolph may have a few minor variations from the traditional raccoon, but difference is good. Difference keeps life from getting boring. Is any of this getting through to you Hortense?"

      "You're getting much too excitable, Clarence. You've got to look at this thing with reason, but you're too involved. You can't see the trouble right in front of your face, can you?"

      "Uuhahahaha," I neighed. "Hortense, this doubt, this suspicion, this framing of an innocent raccoon, this whole guilt trip...that's what's wrong."

      "Clarence, Clarence, Clarence, you naive horse, I hoped you'd listen."

      "You listen, Hortense, werewolves don't have anything to do with little furry Randolph werecoon."

      "He'll crack," she purred, "I know it, wait and see."

      Down by the creek, Randolph the werecoon set on his haunches howling at the moon.rockyfly Hortense shadow boxed, swiping at Randolph with her paw. "Be careful around that werecoon. Be very careful indeed."

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