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This is a short story I wrote some months ago. It won Honorable Mention at BYUI's Pre-professional Conference. It's not much. In fact, I think it's a little pretenious. But whatever.

When Elli was eight, her brother decided he didn’t want to be human anymore.

“Will you be a dog?” she asked, looking at her brother enviously. She had always wanted to be a dog, and it would be just like Jonathan to figure out how to turn into one and not tell her how. He was always making discoveries. Like last Christmas, when he turned the gumballs from his stocking into seeds and planted them in the garden. They were going to grow into a gumball tree, he said, and Elli had watered the tiny sprouts every day until her mother dug them up.

“I don’t know. I’m not sure what I want to be. I just don’t want to be human.”

“Why not?”

“Because we’re killing the rainforest. I saw it on the evening news. They’ve got this big machine that chops down the trees and turns them into paper.”

Elli had seen it, too. That big machine stayed in her nightmares and refused to budge.

“But Johnny, what about last year when you and Kimball broke the branches off Mr. Howard’s apple tree? Remember that? You didn’t care about killing trees then.”

“That was a while ago. I’m a changed man now.”

Elli looked very hard into his blue eyes, drawing out the lie. Johnny was good at turning twigs into bread crumbs and old socks into kites, but Elli could spot the truth. She stared at Jonathan’s dirt-streaked face and his crusty blonde hair, a mirror image of her own, until he stabbed the ground with his big toe.

“Okay, you got me. It’s not about the rainforest. I’m just tired of being human. That’s not that unreasonable, is it? Come on, admit it, you’re bored with being human, too.”

“Not really.”

“You are a liar, Elli.”

“Well, I mean, sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be something else, but I wouldn’t want to stop being a person forever.”

“You’re just like the rest of them,” sneered Johnny, tossing his head.

“Like the rest of who?”

“The rest of them. The whole darn human race. Just no curiosity, that’s what’s wrong with them, no curiosity at all.”

“I’m going inside,” Elli replied, picking up her bear and shaking out the sand. In school, she had learned quickly that the best way to deal with someone who was being mean was to just walk away.

“Fine! But if you leave now, you won’t get to see me transform.”

Elli hesitated on the doorstep.

“Whatcha gonna turn into?”

“I told you, I don’t know.”

“Then forget it,” she said, spanking the door closed.

That evening at dinner, Mother was very upset.

“Where did that little stink disappear to? He better not be making trouble.”

“I think he’s gone, Momma.”

Mother swiveled to face her, eyes nothing but business.

“Where did he get off to?”

“Well, I don’t know. He just said he wasn’t gonna be human anymore. I suppose he became a bird and flew away.”

Quick as the words were out of her mouth, her mother whisked her plate off the table.

“Go to your room!” she shrieked.

Elli didn’t argue. She had told the truth, and there was nothing to do but slink down the hall. At her brother’s room she stopped to peek in, but he wasn’t there.

That night, Elli’s stomach growled so hard, the rumbling kept her awake. It was echoed by a chorus of thunder from outside. For several minutes, it boomed unaccompanied, until rain joined in with a gentle patter. Elli added her breathing to the rhythm.

By the time the storm ended, Elli was fast asleep, so she didn’t hear her window slide open. She did feel Jonathan shaking her, though, and she woke with a start.

“Johnny! I thought you’d left,” she whispered, throwing her arms around him. He was soaking wet.

“I did. Didn’t you hear me outside?”

“That was you? You turned into thunder?”

“Naw, I was the rain, silly.”

“Oh. Well how was it?”

“Not quite what you’d expect,” Johnny yawned, throwing his arms out wide, “Not near as exciting as it looks. So I came back.”

“That’s it? That’s all you’re gonna tell me?”

“I’m tired, Elli. I’ll tell you more in the morning.”

He dragged himself towards the door, smearing the carpet with water.



“You cost me dinner, you know.”

“I’ll make it up to you, sis. Tomorrow, I’ll teach you how to talk to dogs.”

Satisfied, Elli rolled over and fell asleep.


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