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Tales of the Chinese Zodiac #12 of 12

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It came as a surprise to no one except Yuhan himself that, in the Year of the Goat, he fell in love with one.

She was particularly beautiful, his goat, with a gleaming coat of silver threads and small wooden wheels instead of hooves. But people frowned on overt goat love, even in the remote village of Sunrise, and Yuhan was forced to keep his love hidden, both literally and figuratively.

Yuhan rolled his goat up a long, winding path in the nearby mountains until he reached a small but cozy cave.

"Here you shall be protected from the wind and rain, from the early morning frost, and from the floods of springtime."

The goat said nothing, but simply regarded him with the dull brown circles of her eyes.

Her silence didn't deter Yuhan. In fact, he redoubled his efforts to win her affection by climbing the trail to her cave not merely once or twice a day, but a full dozen times, his arms laden with gifts and treats to amuse her and bind her heart to his.

But Yuhan's work suffered. He was the town's only cobbler, and he'd never been more than just adequate at the task. The weather grew colder, the rains fell harder, and the number of shoes Yuhan needed to mend swelled as quickly as his love for the goat. When he wasn't visiting his true love, Yuhan was making himself new shoes, for just one day's worth of treks up the mountain and back ruined his soles and covered his feet in blisters.

And still, the goat refused to return Yuhan's love.

Finally, after months of wooing, Yuhan grew too weak to make the journey up the mountain. His bloody feet had swollen to almost twice their normal size and throbbed painfully. The citizens of Sunrise were angry at the poor condition of their shoes, and Yuhan was forced to keep his door bolted shut and the curtains drawn over his two small windows. He thought of his goat, alone in that dark cave in the mountain, and for the first time, his heart did not threaten to break with the pain of unrequited love.

"Perhaps it was not meant to be," Yuhan whispered, and his heart lightened at the thought. "Perhaps next time, I will fall in love with a woman, and she will tend to my wounds and help me in my business, and let me kiss her."

But the wise people of Sunrise knew better, for it was soon to be the Year of the Monkey, and they had already fashioned a most beautiful specimen with fur of curled bronze and teeth of molded sugar.


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Jenn Reese has published stories in cool places like Polyphony 4, Flytrap, Strange Horizons, and various anthologies. She currently lives in Los Angeles, where she practices martial arts, plays strategy games, and laments the loss of Buffy. You can follow her adventures at her website. To contact her, send her email at jenn@sff.net. Her previous appearances in Strange Horizons can be found in our archive.
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