Gina Thayer

Werewolf Three Ways

We harvest our werewolves once a month when the full moon is bright and bloated in the sky. I run the show, oversee the whole endeavor. I’m the one they will blame if the meat is sub-par. The diner’s experience begins and ends with me.

There are no regulations for werewolf farming. No mandatory free-range fields or requirements of what we feed the animals. But people want to feel good about what they eat, so I keep our operation tidy. Our pastures are spacious. The grass is fresh and green. Each werewolf has its own little pen with a hut in the corner where it can sleep.

I tell the staff not to think of the werewolves as part-human. I avoid the fields when the moon is slender, when the creatures’ eyes are roving and frightened, their pupils wide and somehow hungry despite the milk and meat and grain we provide to keep them plump. Harvesting is easier without those faces in mind. And if a twinge of guilt bubbles up unexpected, I take solace in the fact that their meat is destined for only the finest of restaurants.

What do you feed the man who’s eaten everything? As a society, food trends change over time. We’ve lost the collective itch for foie gras or puffer fish. There are no more monkeys being scalped beneath the table. It’s all about the experience these days. The food has to make the diner think.

Our chef’s preparation is “Werewolf Three Ways.” The meat is gamey, lean, expressive. You can tell if the werewolf was a smoker. The chef sears it medium-rare with a red wine reduction, werewolf risotto with spring leeks and black garlic, his personal spin on werewolf au poivre. He calls it playful, adventurous, a trio with a twist. He aims to capture the diner’s imagination.

“We use every bit of the wolf,” he says. “Sustainability has always been our mission.”

In our restaurant, there is fine china rimmed in gold. There are silver spoons, polished until they are mirror bright. There are white tablecloths and wine pairings for every course. The sommelier is a family friend of two presidents. Our werewolf nights are a once-a-month affair and we are booked out for many, many moons, the guest list a who’s who of celebrities and politicians, athletes and movie stars, fashion editors and foreign royalty.

But first there is the harvest. There are the flaming lights in the creatures’ yellow eyes when they are cornered in their pens. The howling cries when bullet pierces flesh. The wolves will never feast on tender meat again, nor reemerge as human when the moon begins to wane.

What makes my job tricky is the timing of it all. When a werewolf is killed, it shifts back to human form. Speed is of the essence. We have butchers on hand. They leap into action, cleavers raised. We can’t sell hacked up cuts to clientele like ours. They’ll send it back, write bad reviews. It is merciful to aim for the head or the heart, but werewolf brain fetches quite the price. We do what we can before the flesh reverts. I don’t ask too many questions of the butchers.

At last night’s harvest, a werewolf nipped me. I had a momentary lapse, the briefest of distractions. There is no margin for error in a job like mine. The bite was small and easy to conceal, but now I have a choice. Thirty days to decide. Do I take my own life before the month is out, know that I died with my dignity intact? Do I succumb and run amok, make them hunt me down like the olden days?

Or do I offer myself as a gift, a tribute, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? There are guests who would pay dearly to meet me, speak with me. To touch my human flesh and then devour me when the time is right. I could fetch a fine price, leave a small legacy.

One day, werewolf will be a long-gone trend. Food historians will write about its rise and its fall. Those white tablecloths will be set with finer china, rarer foods. The most expensive wines will pass through the lips of the rich and daring, the elite, the privileged few.

I imagine shaking hands with a loyal patron, offering up my bitten arm, the better to inspect the authenticity of my bite. I imagine the silver bullet’s hot sting, the frantic butchery as my body revolts against death. I imagine myself as “Werewolf Three Ways,” our chef lovingly seasoning my medium-rare flesh.

I look out my window where the moon, just past its peak, is slowly rising in a velvet sky. I phone the restaurant, ignoring the faint trembling of my hand. After half a ring, the maître d’ answers. I tell him who I am, and he greets me warmly. I ask if I might speak to the chef.

Gina Thayer is a Minneapolis-based writer with an interest in the speculative and scary. She is pursuing an MFA in fiction at Vermont College of Fine Arts.