Carl Hiaasen – Sick Puppy

Carl Hiaasen – Sick Puppy

Carl Hiaasen – Sick Puppy


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.

“Let’s first make sure she’s 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 rhino’s face, he noticed something wrong.

“You ready?” Durgess was wiping down the lens of the video camera.

“Hey, look here.” Stoat pointed accusingly.

“I’m lookin’. ”

“Care to explain?”

“Explain what? That’s a horn,” said Durgess.

Stoat gave a yank. It broke off in his hands.

Durgess said, “Now see what you done.”

“It’s fake, Jethro.” Angrily Stoat thrust the molded plastic cone at Durgess.

“The other one’s real!” Durgess said defensively.

“The other one’s a nub!”

“Look, it wasn’t my idea.”

“You glued a phony horn on my thirty-thousand-dollar rhinoceros. Is that about right?”

Nervously Durgess cracked his knuckles.

“What’d you guys do with the real one?” Stoat demanded.

“Sold it. We cut it off and sold it.”


“They’s 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, it’s serious bucks, Mr. Stoat. That’s 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 that’s what you got.”

For a closer look, Stoat knelt in the scrub. The rhino’s 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 animal’s 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 that’s 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, he’ll fix you up a new one. Nobody’ll know the difference, sir. It’ll look just like the real deal.”


“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 sucker’s 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 don’t want anybody to see the damn thing like this. You’ll get with that fiberglass man right away?”

“First thing tomorrow,” Durgess promised.

Palmer Stoat was feeling better. He rubbed a hand across the rhino’s bristly plated hide and said, “What a magnificent creature.”

Durgess thought; If only I had ten bucks for every time I’ve heard that line.

Stoat produced two thick cigars and offered one to his faithful guide. “Cohibas,” Stoat said, “the genuine article.” Theatrically he fired up.

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