By Lisa Christine Svenson

All in all, Mortimer Wiggins had a good life. He had lived through the taunts while he was growing up, being called names like "goat-boy" and "satyr-boy." He had lived through being assigned only roles of livestock in Christmas pageants. He had even managed to rise up to the challenge of playing basketball, and finally overcame his curse of being made the team mascot. He had become a star forward in his senior year. Mortimer Wiggins had even found a woman who married him. Although she had made it abundantly clear that she would never have children with him, she was willing to overlook the fact that he had horns, a tail, and cloven hooves. She was the only woman who had ever made love to him, but as far as he knew, he was doing okay in that department with her now.

Mortimer knew his life was a good one, but...but he still had a nagging sense of doubt about his self-worth. Selina was a beautiful woman, he thought to himself as he looked at her sleeping beside him. Other men had asked for her hand, but she had set her sights on Mortimer. Part of him was very happy about this, but part of him wondered why. Why would she have sought him out so actively? There wasn't any inheritance at stake. His parents had given him up for adoption at birth and he had been in and out of foster homes his whole life. The foster homes had been fine for the most part. Nobody had ever abused him and only a couple of the families had made him sleep in the barn. But there was nothing about Mortimer that he felt deserved Selina.

It had started earlier in the afternoon when Mortimer had met Mr. Palmer's new secretary, Chelsea. She wasn't as classically beautiful as Selina, certainly, but there was something magical about her eyes, the way they had seemed to look almost through Mortimer when she smiled at him and shook his hoof. Was he flattering himself to think that she was being more attentive than she needed to be? Was he crazy to keep seeing her face when he closed his eyes and tried to sleep? Or was Chelsea going to cause a lot of trouble in Mortimer's marriage? He tried to close his eyes again, but he only saw Chelsea's smile, her almost-yellow eyes. Finally, he stopped fighting the vision and was able to sleep.

Mortimer woke filled not with self-doubt, but with self-loathing. Here was a man who had placed at the top of every test his school had ever given. He had done well in every class. But he had never found a direction or a vision. He worked in sales because it was a comfortable job, not because he loved it. He wasn't bad at it, but he wasn't great, the story of his life. He was okay at a lot of things. He knew people couldn't be good at everything, but he wanted to find something he was really good at. Always, people passed him by and overlooked him for anything he tried to do. Mediocrity was acceptable, but he knew he had scored well on IQ tests and he knew he should find his skill, he just couldn't. His self-loathing tended to lead to periods of great depression, and he felt one coming on now.

He hadn't been born with the horns, those had come during adolescence, along with his secondary hair. He had been born with a tail and hooves, though. Who was born with a tail and hooves? Could he blame his parents for not wanting to keep him? That he couldn't blame them for, but what he did blame them for was not killing him. Who could give birth to a child who looked like a goat and let him live? Wouldn't it have been more humane to have killed him and said he was stillborn? Mortimer certainly thought so.

Maybe what bothered Mortimer most was the lack of a history. Passed from family to family, he certainly had no traditions to fall back on, not that he would ever have kids to pass them on to, but he wished he knew something of his heritage. He knew he didn't want to meet his parents, that it would be much too upsetting for them, but still...he would have given most anything to know something about his roots. Perhaps the family tree would provide some answers, too. Perhaps there had been other members of the family similarly afflicted with his goatism, or whatever it might be called. It wasn't as if this knowledge would affect or change anything, he was just curious. A goat-man without roots, that's what he was. A nobody with no story to call his own.

Settling deeper into his funk, Mortimer rose from bed sluggishly, smiling only briefly when Selina gave him a kiss as they passed, he on the way to the shower, she on the way out. He thought of Chelsea as he soaped his body. What was he thinking? Wasn't one woman falling in love with him more than he really deserved? Could he even flatter himself to think that a second woman might be interested in him? It was preposterous. He tried to smile as he thought of Selina, her smooth skin, her sparkling eyes, the way other men looked at her whenever they went anywhere. Selina was perfect. And Chelsea was new. New and different, not familiar and dull. Selina wasn't dull, really, he could tell that by the way other men leered at her, he wasn't blind, but...Mortimer was confused. He had to straighten out his head before he did something very, very wrong.

Selina was dressed and gone before Mortimer left for work, but he had taken a long time in the shower to torture his brain with questionable thoughts. He knew she couldn't wait for him to finish, and he understood. He felt better, really, just going to work and not seeing her on the way. That would have been too much guilt to bear. He powdered himself and put on extra deodorant and cologne, just so he'd smell less like an animal, and left for the office. He drove slowly, seeing Chelsea's eyes in every yellow street light, seeing her smile in every hubcap. When at last he was at the office, he had to physically hold himself back so he wouldn't look too anxious to see Chelsea. He wondered what possible reason he could fabricate to visit his boss. There was a piece of mail on his desk that had been misdelivered. His opportunity arose more easily than he had expected. Mortimer took a deep breath, closed his eyes to pull himself together, and meandered up the hallway to see Chelsea, on the pretense of seeing his boss.

Chelsea's smile greeted him from a long way away and he could hardly feel his feet propelling him, that's how strongly he was drawn to her. He approached the desk, pleased at how well she came into focus, how clear and bright her eyes were this morning.

"Good morning, Mortimer," she said.

"Good morning, Chelsea. This was on my desk." He handed her the envelope.

"Look, Mortimer, I need to talk with you. Is there anywhere we could go to be alone for a few minutes?"

Mortimer's heart raced. He thought of Selina, beautiful, exciting Selina. Chelsea was new, but Mortimer had it lucky with Selina. He had to say no to Chelsea, knew he needed to, knew he wanted to. "Conference Room A is usually empty in the morning," he said.

"Let's go," she said.

Mortimer found himself following Chelsea, surprised at how forward she was, how bold, how willing to show the whole office that she was a woman who could take charge, even in a morally questionable area. She walked into the conference room, looked around her quickly, then called Mortimer inside, and closed the door behind him. She motioned broadly at a chair and Mortimer sat, watching, wondering. Chelsea paced about the room. She looked uncomfortable, uneasy. Mortimer thought perhaps he should touch her to soothe her nerves, but that was always risky because if he caught someone wrong with a hoof, there could be serious bruising, so he just waited.

At last Chelsea sat down beside Mortimer and looked up at him with a smile. "I've been looking for you forever."

Mortimer's breath caught in his throat. "Forever?"

"There's something I have to tell you, Mortimer. I don't want you to think any less of me for what I have to say."

"Oh, I won't." He secretly hoped she wanted him then and there.

"I'm your sister," she said.

Mortimer sat in stunned silence, instantly sickened by what he had been thinking. "My sister?" His voice was slow and deliberate. "As in?"

"As in your little sister, same mommy and daddy, same gene pool."

That explained the yellow eyes, Mortimer thought. "Wow." He didn't know what else to say.

"I found out where you were, but it took me a long time to come here and actually find you."

"Yes, I scare a lot of people away."

"No, no, it isn't that," she said. "No, you're a cutie. It's just that I felt so guilty."

Mortimer knew what it was to feel guilty. He thought of Selina, glad that he had her, glad that he hadn't told Chelsea how he felt, disgusted at how he had felt. He shuddered as he thought of making love to his sister, even though she was pretty. "It's nice to meet you," he said.

"I know this must be strange to you. Mom and Dad tried to pretend you didn't exist, so I was a teenager before I found out, or I would have come sooner. I needed to grow into the idea."

"How did you find out?"

"Uncle Wally told me," she said. "He was mad at them for giving you up, said you were a beautiful little baby."

"Oh."

"I'd like to meet your wife. Can you join me for dinner tonight, the two of you?"

"Let me ask Selina," Mortimer said.

"We have a lot of catching up to do," Chelsea said. "I've got to get back to work now, but why don't you give me a buzz this afternoon and let me know, okay?"

"Sure." Mortimer stood.

Chelsea gave Mortimer a big hug and a kiss on the cheek, then practically skipped down the hall toward her desk. Mortimer smiled to himself, finally realizing he had roots. He picked up the phone to call Selina, happy to have her. Mortimer Wiggins had a good life.


Copyright 2000 Lisa Christine Svenson