Seneca drove a convoluted route, one that I could never retrace, to a modest old farm house. She honked the horn. “Hey, Jack! Come help me load this shit on Loretta!”

A short man with a baseball bat came stumbling out of the house, rubbing his eyes from an afternoon nap. Once Seneca vouched for me, Jack’s human appearance melted away to reveal his true face.

I was elated. This mute shapeshifter was the first fantastical creature I’d seen since I was a boy!

“Loretta,” it turned out, is a car-sized, horned opossum that they employ as pack animal. Seneca’s car was incapable of making it the rest of the way to the settlement.

We had to pile the groceries into Loretta’s saddlebag.

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