"The hooves," I replied without hesitation.
"The local park near where I lived had this path that ran through a large eucalyptus grove, very secluded, very dark from the canopy of trees. I liked it because when you were in there, it muffled the city noise, and you couldn't see even the houses that were only a few hundred feet away. Remember, I lived just south of San Francisco, so there wasn't really any other place to escape the city other than in the park."
"Nature boy," the Muse said.
"Shaddup. Anyway, I was cutting home through the park one afternoon on my way back home from school, and I came across these four hooves, just laying in the middle of the path."
I nodded. "Indeed ick. Actually, saying that they were laying there gives the wrong image. They were more or less standing upright, bottoms to the ground, bloody stumps to the air, and spaced apart just about as far as if they were still attached to an invisible cow." I thought a moment. "It could have been horse's hooves, though. I'm not really sure. I might be able to tell them apart now, but not twenty years ago."
"So let me get this straight," the Muse said. "You found four hooves, standing straight up, in the middle of a city park, with no other cow parts to be seen? Or horse parts, either?"
"And did you ever hear anything about it on the news? Anyone missing a farm animal in the middle of a big city?"
I shrugged. "I never heard anything, and they were gone the next day when I went back."
"Yeah, see," the Muse said, "there's your first mistake. Don't you watch horror movies? Never go back. That's when the monster gets you."
"I figured I was safe," I said. "I mean, it's not like I saw any human feet there, you know?"
"Shortly after that, I learned that gelatin comes from hooves, which made me wonder why they got left there in the first place. I mean, if you're going to use all of the animal, you might as well get a bit of Jell-O from the thing, you know?"
"Well, Jell-O is sort of nasty," the Muse said. "Other than for wrestling in."
"You're going to have to tell me how you know that, you know."
"You'll just want to put it in the book."
I nodded. "Definitely. Sexy Jell-O wrestling scenes are all the rage. I think Jonathan Franzen has a chapter devoted to it in his new book."
"I don't think that was Franzen," she said. "I think it was last month's Hustler."
"I think I'm going to bed. You're starting to weird me out a little bit."
"Hey, you're the one talking about the mysterious leavings of a sloppy butcher. I think you take the freak prize for this evening."
"A prize! What do I get? Money? A plaque? Hot monkey sex?"
She grinned. "Check the fridge in the morning. I think you'll find something green and lime-flavored that will serve as a freak prize."
"Did I mention that we live within an hour of the town in which Jell-O was first fabricated?"
"Go to bed," the Muse said. "Now you're just showing off."
"Always, Muse. Always."