As Gretchen screams at the thunder and intermittent flashes of lightning, the fox leaps from the shoulders of the belligerent badger. Landing with a squishy thud in a sea of gloopy, flowing mud, it scurries through the wet stalks of grass, hissing and spitting at things unseen. Running her fingers through the fox’s fur with her feet kicking in the electric air, she feels the muscles and bones beneath its skin. She’s never touched someone—some thing—this intimately before. Her parents never touched each other—at least not in her presence—but she saw others do it, namely in movies and on the rare occasions she was allowed outside. She might’ve only been six, but she was old enough to know that to be intimate was to be human. Of course, she wasn’t of the age to indulge in such things herself, but she often wondered what it would be like to touch the body of another; to run her fingers over the flesh of a living person with a heart and mind of their own. That she was doing it to a fox didn’t seem to be that much of a biggy. She preferred the company of animals over humans anyway. Boys were ugly. Too stupid. Animals were beautiful. They were perfect. If they were created by God as her mother told her they were, then God was a genius and also a madman for making humans. If, like her father said, that they were products of mere chance, then what a wonder it was to exist in a universe where such beauty was given the merest slither of a chance to be.