Posted by John on Wednesday, 25 April

mosquito-borne encephalitis and was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he spent three weeks on clear fluids. He never got a glimpse of the shy and nocturnal creatures, although he returned to New York with a cellophane packet of suspect rodent droppings and a pledge to keep searching. On the morning of April 24, an hour past dawn, a man named Palmer Stoat shot a rare African black rhinoceros. He fired from a distance of thirteen yards and used a Winchester .458, which knocked him flat on his back. The rhinoceros wheeled, as if to charge, before snorting twice and sagging to its knees. Its head came to rest under a spread of palmettos. Palmer Stoat instructed his guide, a former feed salesman named Durgess, to unpack the camera. Lets first make sure shes dead, Durgess said. Are you kidding You see that shot Durgess took the Winchester from his client. He approached the lifeless mass and poked it in the rump with the rifle barrel. Stoat grinned as he dusted off his mailorder khakis. Hey, Bungalow Bill, look what I killed! While Durgess assembled the video equipment, Stoat inspected his newest trophy, which had cost him thirty thousand dollars, not including ammo and gratuities. When he moved the palmetto fronds away from the rhinos face, he noticed something wrong. You ready Durgess was wiping down the lens of the video camera. Hey, look here. Stoat pointed accusingly. Im lookin. Care to explain Explain what Thats a horn, said Durgess. Stoat gave a yank. It broke off in his hands. Durgess said, Now see what you done. Its fake, Jethro. Angrily Stoat thrust the molded plastic cone at Durgess. The other ones real! Durgess said defensively. The other ones a nub! Look, it wasnt my idea. You glued a phony horn on my thirty-thousand-dollar rhinoceros. Is that about right Nervously Durgess cracked his knuckles. Whatd you guys do with the real one Stoat demanded. Sold it. We cut it off and sold it. Perfect. Theys worth a fortune in Asia. Supposably some kinda magic dick medicine. They say it gives you a boner lasts two days. Durgess shrugged skeptically. Anyhow, its serious bucks, Mr. Stoat. Thats the program for all our rhinos. Some Chinaman over Panama City buys up the horns. You bastards are gypping me. Nossir. A jenna-wine African rhinoceros is what the catalog says, and thats what you got. For a closer look, Stoat knelt in the scrub. The rhinos cranial horn had been taken off cleanly with a saw, leaving an oval abrasion. There the plastic replacement had been attached with white gummy industrial adhesive. A foot or so up the snout was the animals secondary horn, the caudal, real enough but unimpressive; squat and wart-like in profile. The whole idea, Stoat said irritably to Durgess3 was a head mount for my den. And thats a helluva head, Mr. Stoat, you gotta admit. Except for one tiny detail. Stoat tossed the fake horn at Durgess. Durgess let it drop to the ground, now sodden with rhino fluids. He said, I got a taxidermy man does fiberglass on the side, hell fix you up a new one. Nobodyll know the difference, sir. Itll look just like the real deal. Fiberglass. Yessir, Durgess said. Hello, why not chrome ever thought of that Rip the hood ornament off a Cadillac or maybe a 450-SL. Glue it to the tip of that suckers nose. Durgess gave Stoat a sullen look. Stoat took the Winchester from the guide and slung it over his shoulder. Anything else I should know about this animal Nossir. There was no point telling Stoat that his trophy rhinoceros also had suffered from cataracts on both eyes, which accounted for its lack of alarm at the approach of heavily armed humans. In addition, the animal had spent its entire life as tame as a hamster, the featured attraction of an Arizona roadside zoo. Stoat said, Put the camera away. I dont want anybody to see the damn thing like this. Youll get with that fiberglass man right away First thing tomorrow, Durgess promised. Palmer Stoat was feeling better.