Mammal: The Unicorn

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August 23, 2003
Reviewer: we are not the sort of parents our parents were, Providence, RI

Recently my wife and I bought a unicorn for our daughter. Frankly, I was suspicious of the ads—though it looks like the manufacturer spent a great deal of money on the production and the soundtrack is warm and memorable, the featured animals seem cheesily put together; they do little but graze and move slowly across a length of pasture in time to the music. I found it hard to believe that an animal with such flimsy legs could support a child, as was demonstrated briefly. But we did not want to be the sort of parents our own parents were, four people whose determination to shut down any possibility that bloomed within the confines of the domestic space seemed, in hindsight, eerily conspiratorial.

We worked out a sequence of weekly chores she must complete in order to earn the animal. These were: cooperate w/ family; get dressed by self; get undressed by self; no secret/exclusive clubs; comb own hair; brush own teeth.

“You will have to be responsible for the unicorn,” we told her.

“I know,” she said.

“You are not getting this animal for free,” we said.

To be perfectly honest, it was a time of great peace in our household. For some time, I had been picking fights with my wife and daughter whenever an opportunity arose. Sometimes, I would manufacture an occasion, so that we would fight not only about the manufactured situation but about my having manufactured the situation as well. But with all of us working together to buy the unicorn, we did not have the time or energy to bicker.

At night, our daughter stayed up late, sewing articles of clothing for the unicorn. “Do you think she’ll need mittens?” she would ask. “I don’t know. I don’t know about unicorns,” I said. In the commercials, the unicorns walked on all fours, with their hands pressed to the grass. I should have looked closer, though, because what a terrible disappointment it was, two months later, when we finally received the unicorn in the mail. Instead of a hand, the animal had only a single enormous digit, shaped like an inverted cone, a dangerous, ugly appendage. Additionally, the animal was huge. Consider yourself warned—this animal is not appropriate for small households, contrary to what some other reviewers suggest. Plus, it scared the living daylights out of our daughter. I removed the cardboard packaging from the animal’s head (which is hideous), and my daughter ran to her room, breathless. How do I describe the face of this animal, except as the physical manifestation of one’s deepest nightmare vision? It scanned my wife and I with frantic eyes as big as tennis balls, huffing and snorting inside its travel crate. I was horrified.

I won’t even go into the biggest disappointment of all—the horn.

We put the thing in the back yard, where it made high-pitched screeching sounds. We slept fitfully. The next morning, the lawn was chewed to bits, and our saplings were snapped in half or otherwise destroyed. The unicorn stood defiantly by the birdbath, not even mildly sorry for what it had done.

Needless to say, the unicorn went back to the manufacturer early the next day, and our daughter was heartbroken. Let this be a warning to anyone thinking about purchasing one of these animals: they are arrogant, brutish creatures, cheaply constructed and wholly unfit for children. Don’t give in to the advertisements, unless you happen to live in a castle with high ceilings, or a steel home on a considerable stretch of hard, durable land that you don’t mind seeing destroyed by this monstrous creature.


Megan Milks is the author of Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body (Feminist Press, 2021), a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in transgender fiction, as well as Slug and Other Stories and Remember the Internet: Tori Amos Bootleg Webring.

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