The Sale - Expanded editionBig thanks to Qualin for helping me to flesh this story out and to the writers of Deep Space Nine's "It's only a paper Moon" for inspiring parts of it.
* * *
It was early July and Dave was bored out of his mind. At fifteen years old, he didn’t have very much money; he’d tried to get a summer job, but jobs were difficult to acquire. He was wandering around his neighborhood looking for something to do when he saw a sign advertising a garage sale.
It will give me something to do, even if for only 10 minutes. I probably won’t buy anything though.
Dave had never bought anything at a garage sale before; he’d visited them a few times, but had never seen anything worth buying. Most of what he saw at garage sales was the sort of junk that people had in their basements or garages that they’d bought, used once and stored away.
Most of the stuff at the sale was standard fare. Old board games, computer and Nintendo games that the family kids hadn’t played in years. There were also a few pots, pans and assorted kitchen gadgets. Dave browsed though some of the items with the hope he’d find a video game he hadn’t have played before. Seeing titles he hadn’t played since he was a kid brought back fun memories. He didn't feel like buying anything though.
As he was about to leave, something on one of the tables caught his eye. It was a statue of a raccoon. It was about fifteen centimeters tall and surprisingly detailed with an odd looking blue stone in its chest. Dave’s admiration of animals had him enamoured with the statue. It almost seemed to draw him to it. Digging into his pocket, he found $50.
There’s no way that’s going to cost less then $100.
He queried someone that seemed to be operating the sale; a guy that looked to be about Dave’s age.
"I’m not sure how much they want for it. I’m just standing in for the guy operating this thing while he’s in the bathroom."
"I think it’d looked great on my dresser, I have $50. I know it’s probably worth more but it’s all I have," Dave asked.
"Fifty bucks? Wow, you must really want this thing. You’ve got yourself a deal dude!" the guy said.
Dave handed him his money before taking the statue. As Dave was walking away from the house, he could have sworn he saw a raccoon glancing out a second story window at him with a look of concern. When Dave looked back, it was gone.
* * *
"You sold what?" the owner of the house, a man in his forties asked, alarm in his voice.
"It was just a statue of a raccoon with a jewel in the center of its chest. This dude gave me fifty bucks for it! I thought it was just some cheap ornament but he was willing to pay that much so I let him have it," the teen answered.
"Oh my God," the man said.
"What’s wrong? Look if I shouldn’t have sold it then I’m sorry," the teen answered.
"No Billy, it’s not your fault. It shouldn’t even have been there in the first place. Do the kid give you his name or anything?" the man asked.
"I’m Sorry Mr. Jarel. Do you want the money for it? Should I try to find the guy that bought it?" Billy asked.
"No, this isn’t your fault. Don’t worry about it," Mr. Jarel said.
"Okay. Well, I have to go, I’ll see your later," Billy said.
"Yes, good night Billy," Mr. Jarel said.
Billy walked off towards his house a few houses down. Mr. Jarel walked back into his house and up to his son’s room. He knocked on the door.
"Come in," his son’s voice said.
"Jim, we might have a problem. Remember how the statue disappeared and we’d thought that even though it didn’t cure you, at least it wouldn’t harm anyone else?" Mr. Jarel asked.
"Yeah Dad?" Jim asked.
"Well, it re-appeared during the sale and Billy sold it. It wasn’t his fault, I was in the bathroom at the time and Billy had no idea of what it can truly do," Mr. Jarel said.
"I thought I saw a guy walking away with it. This is so cool, I might get a little buddy to play with!" Jim said, his eyes lighting up. "I mean, I thought I’d have the ability to take this form whenever I wanted to if that spell worked and I changed back. Although, I’m not sure I want an innocent person to end up with this happening to him."
Mr. Jarel sat down on the bed beside Jim, petting him on the head.
"We have no idea where the kid lives. I can only hope it doesn’t do this to him. But if it does," Mr. Jarel said.
"Don’t worry dad, I’ll take good care of him!" Jim said.
"I know you will," Mr. Jarel said.
With that, he got up and left the room. Jim looked back out the window, wondering if the kid he’d scene would be back as he saw him or in the same form he’d spent the last three years in.
* * *
That night, Dave put the raccoon statue on his desk by his bed and admired it for a while before going to sleep.
A strange sound emitting from the statue woke Dave up in the middle of the night. He looked towards it to see its jewel glowing. He got up and walked over to it, trying to figure out what was happening. Just then, the jewel sent out a beam of white light that struck Dave and washed his body with a strange sensation that subsided after a few seconds. Dave examined the statue, and it appeared normal. Not sure what to do or to think he went back to sleep.
Dave awoke the next day in a great mood feeling refreshed physically and mentally. It was as though he’d slept better then he had in years. Looking at the statue, he saw it showed no sign of anything unusual. He concluded that what happened must have been a dream or his imagination playing tricks on him.
After undressing to take a shower, he immediately noticed something was wrong. The hair on his arms and chest (which was up until then thin), was considerably denser to the point where he could barley see his skin under it! His legs were already hairy, but now a pelt of gray-brown hair had covered them!
I’ve heard of puberty causing some changes to seem to appear overnight but this is ridiculous.
Not sure what to do, he stepped into the shower. About halfway through, he was pouring some shampoo to wash his hair. The sight of not only what seemed to be claws growing from his fingernails but also a thin coating of fur sprouting on the top of both hands terrified him.
"What the heck is going on?" he said, in an almost panicked voice. As he said this, his voice seemed to change and started sounding higher pitched. His face itched and ached as though something was pulling on it. He now realized that the hair was his arms and chest was in fact, fur. Before his horrified eyes, it grew and expanded, becoming much thicker and softer. Wanting to look in the mirror to see what was happening to his face, Dave received another surprise when he discovered the facet seemed to have moved up by at least a foot. He realized that the room wasn’t growing; he was shrinking!
He managed to turn the water off before shoving the shower curtain aside. He didn’t have time to dwell on the pulling sensation behind him before his ears felt as though they were moving up his head. In the few seconds it took him to run to the mirror over the sink, he had shrunk enough that he no longer reached the mirror! The closet doors downstairs had full length mirrors on them. Since he was home alone (his parents had left for work) he didn’t have to worry about anyone seeing him naked.
Trying to say something, he found his voice sounded completely different, almost animal like. He felt himself shrink some more before it seemed to stop. Almost in a state of panic, he got down to the basement. His back and muscles started feeling odd and he found himself feeling uncomfortable running on two legs. The length of his arms and legs and the position of his hips all seemed to change in an instant as he fell forward onto his front paws. He ran on all fours, feeling much more comfortable and normal. When he finally got to the closet and looked at the mirror to see what was going on, he saw something he never would have though possible, his reflection was that of a raccoon.
I’m a raccoon!
His fur was a perfect mixture of gray and brown; he had the classic bandit mask and five rings on his tail.
I’m a raccoon!
He seemed to be pretty young, old enough to be on his own, but still youthful enough to have a long life ahead of him.
No, I can’t be a raccoon! It has to be a trick!
Trying to fool the reflection, he started moving various parts of his body. The reflection responded perfectly. When he touched his face and encountered a muzzle with whiskers; felt his chest and met fur; he couldn’t deny it anymore. This was no trick, dream or hallucination; he really was a raccoon!
I’m a raccoon. That is so … cool!
Where that thought had come from, he didn’t know. He did however, feel playful. It was as though his worries were melting away. He assumed it was just euphoria caused by the change and would fade, but he decided to enjoy it while he still could. Looking in the mirror, he admired his reflection. As a human, his looks were only average but as a raccoon, he was quite handsome.
I feel like singing!
When he tried to sing, only chittering emerged from his muzzle, although something in his mind told him that was only a small sample of his potential repertoire. A chill ran down his spine and the euphoria started wearing off.
I’m a raccoon and I can’t speak; what do I do now?
He decided that he had to go to that house to get an explanation. Managing to open a basement window and crawl out, he closed it behind him.
As he walked outside, he was of two minds. He didn’t have a shed of clothing on; nothing out of the ordinary to an animal, but to him, he was naked. Anyone who saw him would see everything, including parts that were for his eyes only. On the other end, no one would know a human mind and soul lurked in this body. There was certain allure to being able to parade around nude without anyone being the wiser. However, he also crossing roads would now be perilous; any car or truck would have no idea of whom or what he really was. They’d stop or swerve for a human but for a raccoon?
Most people will but some jerks that don’t care won’t!
Everything looked massive with his new stature. It reminded him of when he was a little kid where the world was new to him, everything larger then life. A familiar street was now alien. New sounds and scents bombarded his mind and he held his ears and went into a fetal position. Then his own scent hit him, not powerful or offensive, just there. He recoiled, shaking his head to try to escape it. Unfortunately, it was now a part of him; it would go where he went.
After a few minutes, as the onslaught of scents and sounds became bearable and he calmed down. Dave could only assume his mind was adjusting to it.
That feels better, but man, talk about your information overloads. I guess I’d better start towards that guy’s house.
What for a human was a fifteen-minute trip was almost an epic journey for a raccoon. He stopped several times along the way to climb trees and explore the world his new senses had opened for him. Even a simple sniff of a tree branch revealed traces of squirrels that had been there a hour ago, birds who regularly perched there and of raccoons who’d passed by. His improved hearing allowed him to hear people a fair distance away talking; he understood what they were saying. Good, at least I can still understand English.
One good thing about being an animal; he was able to cross yards without fear of anyone complaining about his trespassing. Maybe it was the raccoon curiosity or sense of adventure, but he wanted to explore them, find out just what was in them.
Eventually he arrived at the house. He saw a man that seemed to be in his forties sitting on the porch having a coffee and reading the newspaper. Approaching him, Dave protested with series of warbles and chirps. Oddly enough, he now seemed to understand how to make all the sounds a raccoon can make. Dropping the newspaper, the man gasped, and then shook his head, looking guilty.
"It’s you isn’t it; the kid that bought that statue yesterday?" Dave nodded his little head.
He must have found out from the guy I got it from. But how does he know it’s I? He has some serious explaining to do!
The man continued, "kid, I’m sorry about this. I owe you the full truth. You see I never intended you to buy that statue in the first place. It belonged to my son Jim. Three years ago, he purchased the statue from an antique store. The clerk wasn’t sure where they got it. The night after he bought it, it did the same thing to him. He managed to convey to me what had happened to him with a pen and paper and we made our way back to the store to demand an explanation. The owner of it said that all sales were final and didn’t believe that Jim was my son; he thought Jim was a pet. We had no choice but to leave. We weren’t sure why they sold it knowing it would do this to him and have never found out. I considered suing but the store was going out of business and I didn’t want to risk exposing Jim. Recently, a priest told us he could reverse the effects while allowing Jim the ability to take raccoon form at will. Unfortunately, it didn’t work and the statue vanished. It seems it re-appeared on the table during the sale. The good news is it only affects the owner of it. Since Jim bought it, he was the owner of it. You became the owner when you bought it. We’d thought we could reverse the effects but it seems we were wrong. I’m sorry kid, it looks like you’re stuck like this."
Dave hung his head. I’m going to be like this forever. What’ll happen to me then? What if my family and friends don’t accept me as a raccoon?
"I know things seem rough Dave, but you’ll be all right. While it did take us a long time to find out about that reversal spell, we were able to find basic information about the statue shortly after Jim changed. The good news is that, being a raccoon will not shorten your longevity. As you can imagine, Jim was relieved when we found that out. You’ll also keep your human memories and intelligence. Don’t worry about Jim, just because you own the statue doesn’t mean he won’t be able to keep its benefits. One of the main reasons we didn’t want to give it to anyone else was because if someone else owned it, they would change as well. I will take you home and explain what happened to you to your family."
Perching on the man's shoulders, Dave directed him, though a series of warbles and trills to his home. With each passing minute, he was feeling increasingly comfortable in this body. When Dave parents got home, the man explained what had happened to him, with Dave able to use a pen and pad to confirm it. At first they were upset, but when they saw that Dave was in reality happy with what had happened, they calmed down.
Dave wasn’t sure whether he’d choose to return to humanity if someone found a way to reverse the transformation. For now, he decided to accept this strange fate and explore what it meant to be an animal.
That night Dave stood on his bed and looked at himself in his bedroom mirror. He was damned handsome and he beamed at the idea of never having to worry about what he was starting to see as human silliness again. Looking at the statue, he smiled. He could have sworn it smiled back at him. Curling into a little ball on his bed, he found it a wonderful and warm feeling. Closing his eyes, he went to sleep.
* * *
Dave awoke the next day from a fantastic dream where a statue had turned him into a raccoon. He heard the birds chirping, felt the warm summer wind blowing into his room as it ruffled his fur.
Wait a minute … fur? That was a dream … wasn’t it?
He opened his eyes to see fur and saw that everything was colossal. His bed, (normally a double size), made a queen size look diminutive. He was lying on his back spread out on his bed. Rolling around, he stood up on the bed … on all fours.
Looking at the mirror above his dresser, he saw the raccoon looking back at him. The statue stood there it all its glory on the dresser; this was real.
Standing on his hind legs, Dave touched his belly fur. Realization of freedom from his human responsibilities hit him; he cooed at the thought of it. He couldn’t wait to show his new form to his friends Bobby and Drake.
Hearing someone walking up the stairs, he quieted down. Dave immediately knew who it was from the scent. He’d smelled it on his mother yesterday. It felt so strange for him to know someone that way. She walked into his room with a smile on her face. Dave realized he wasn’t wearing anything; for someone his age, his mother seeing him naked was the ultimate humiliation. Despite her having seen him yesterday, he still wasn’t ready for such things to be normal. He went onto all fours as she walked up to him. The woman petted him on the head and down his back; it felt good.
"So, you’re up! Well, we should get started then," she said.
Started; what is she talking about?
Dave pawed at her hands to get her attention.
"Well Dave, you’re a raccoon now; so we need to make some changes," the woman said.
She walked over to his dresser and opened several drawers, including his underwear one.
"I doubt you’re going to be wearing clothes anymore, so we might as well give these to good will." I guess not, but calm down Mom; this just happened! She started laying out the clothes on the bed as Dave watched. He walked over to and sniffed them. He could smell the human scent of them, his human scent. She stopped after she’d emptied the underwear and shirt drawer. Dave looked at her and shook his head. "You want to keep your clothes?" Dave nodded his head. "Well, unless you want to somehow wear these clothes again, I don’t think we’ll be needing them anymore. I guess if," she stopped on that word, staring at the floor before shaking her head. "No, we will find a way to make you human again." She then smiled and petted Dave’s head. "This is just a vacation!" With a smile, she put all of his clothes back.
What if we can’t That guy said that reversal thing didn’t work!
"Now, it might be a while so we’ll have to make sure you keep your studying up. You’ll need to read books so you don’t forget your schoolwork. I know you probably want to show this to your friends. I don’t think that’s a good idea. We can’t have them telling the authorities,"
Bobby and Drake would never do that! Anyway, I’m a raccoon; they don’t go to school! Why learn a bunch of stuff I’ll never use?
Turning, his mother looked right into his eyes. "I know that look mister; you still need to study, even if it seems pointless! Tell you what, why don’t you go sit outside while I make you some breakfast? I doubt anyone will think a raccoon on the deck is abnormal. Just don’t bother any wild ones, especially females." Dave chittered at that last comment. Geeze Mom, I wouldn’t mate with an animal; I’m still Dave inside. His mother looked dead serious however. "I mean it Dave, you’re too young to be having kids and just because you’re an animal now doesn’t mean you have to act like one." Dave simply nodded his head before jumping off the bed and making his way downstairs.
His mother opened the backdoor for him and he wandered outside before climbing onto one of the sofa like chairs on the back and lying on his back. He looked at his paw like hands and wondered how useful they’d be.
Can I type with these things? All my friends online should know about this. I don’t want them thinking I up and left.
A warm breeze blew through the yard; it carried with it an enticing scent. It seemed to come from the apple tree in the yard. I can climb to the top and get the best apples now. He climbed off the couch and wandered onto the grass, it tickled his feet. He walked to the base of the tree and looked up, he could smell all of the good apples just sitting up in the tree, just waiting for him to come and get them.
Somehow, he knew how to climb the tree. He climbed it, his razor sharp claws allowing him to ascend with ease. Soon, he was towards the top and picked several apples, throwing each of them down to the grass below. He looked out at the view before him. He couldn’t see as far as he thought he’d be able to.
Oh well, I guess nature never intended a raccoon to see that far.
Climbing back down, he retrieved the apples and carried them all back to the deck to eat them. They were in almost perfect condition; the drop being the only thing to case any damage. He bit into one, its juices spraying his teeth and mouth. He heard the backdoor open moments later as his mother walked onto the deck. She was carrying a plate of bacon and eggs.
"Where’d you get the apples?" she asked. Dave pointed to the tree and chittered. "You climbed the tree? But there’s plenty of apples at the bottom, why … oh I get it, the best ones are at the top are they?" she asked. Dave nodded and grinned. "Well, just be careful climbing. Anyway, I made some bacon and eggs for you; I know raccoons like meat so I figured you’d like this."
She put the plate down and Dave almost jumped on it. He’d finished them in only a few minutes and felt full. He’d looked up at his mother, nodded his head and smiled.
"You’re welcome," she said.
Picking up the plate, she walked back into the house. Dave looked out into the yard and closed his eyes. He listened to the sounds and took in the scents around him. The raccoon sense of adventure and curiosity within him was coming out; he wanted to explore!
He distraction had him momentarily forgetting thoughts of telling his friends online or playing with his console (at least trying to use the thing with his paws) as he leapt off the couch and wandered into the yard.
Exploring his yard and the two adjoining yards, Dave discovered a smorgasbord of scents he never knew existed. He acted on an impulse to investigate all of them. By the time he was done, he’d lost track of time. He walked back into his yard feeling hungry and ready to see if he could use his computer. He walked up to his back door and chittered.
My friends need to know about this. They’re going to be so jealous when they find out I don’t have to go to school anymore!
"You done exploring Dave? You were out there for six hours; I’ve seen kittens less curious then you!" His mother said as she opened the door. Dave started to walk in before his mother stopped him. "Wait a minute, let me see those feet!" Dave stood on his hind legs but he tried his best to cover his groin. "Come on Dave, you’re an animal; and animals aren’t modest. Now, lay on your back, it’s easier that way."
Dave didn’t budge; he just stared at his mother.
"I promise I won’t stare," she said.
Realizing he had little choice, Dave rolled onto his back with his feet in the air. His mother retrieved a towel and started drying his feet off. This was embarrassing for him; he’d long since left behind his mother having to bathe him or see him like this. When she finished, she nodded and Dave rolled onto his feet.
"Your father would probably think us crazy if he saw that little scene. However, we'll adjust. I know that was embarrassing for you Dave, but you have to remember that being an animal isn’t going to be all fun and games," she said as she folded the towel and petted him on the head. She scratched him behind the ears and Dave closed his eyes, just enjoying the sensation. She did it for several minutes before stopping and standing up.
"I never thought I’d get this close to a raccoon," she said. You’re getting close; Think of how close I am! "Well, why don’t you go downstairs and watch TV or something? I have to do some cleaning. Your computer is still up and running if you want to try using it."
Dave nodded and walked down into the basement. He had Bobby and Drake’s e-mail addresses and they were on his list of chat friends. Just wait until I break the news.
In the basement, he climbed onto his chair and beheld the monitor. As with most everything else, it now appeared massive. He looked at it with a sort of fascination before turning on the monitor. It was a stretch for him and he nearly fell off the chair in doing so. He decided to anchor the chair with pair of books to prevent it from moving. After fidgeting to find a comfortable position, he settled on standing on his hind legs with the chair set to a lower position.
He was thankful he had a trackball mouse; with his paws, moving a standard mouse would have been difficult. Unfortunately, he had to use most of his paw rather then just his fingers to move the cursor. It was difficult not to let the sights of his desktop distract him. The raccoon curiosity within him seemed more interested in their appearance rather then what they could do.
Come on Dave concentrate, just because you’re an animal doesn’t mean you have to act like one.
He managed to access his e-mail, finding no new messages. He then accessed his messaging program and saw that Bobby and a few other of his friends were on; Drake however was not. Moving the cursor to open a chat with Bobby, he felt nervous.
What if Bobby doesn’t believe me? He looked at the webcam on top of his monitor I could send him a picture of me. He initiated a chat, doing his best to type. However, his smaller paws made it difficult. He made many typos. He did manage to get across a basic greeting however.
He and Bobby chatted for a few minutes before Dave told Bobby the news. Bobby didn’t believe it at first; not that Dave blamed him. With a little difficulty, Dave took a picture of himself with his webcam and sent it to Bobby. It took the boy several minutes before he accepted it as the truth.
After that, the boy's reaction was a flurry of questions. They included (but weren’t limit to) how being a raccoon felt, if Dave could speak, how he and his family were reacting to it and if he had tried anything with a female, a question Dave didn’t appreciate. The questioning went on for nearly an hour before Dave was getting bored. Bobby announced that he and his family were going on vacation for two weeks starting the next day but was insistent at seeing Dave when he returned.
The duo said their good-byes before Dave logged off, climbed off the chair and walked over to his TV to play a game. While he was able to get the CD into the console without scratching it, the controller was now a little too big for his paws. He couldn’t hold it and had to place it on the floor. He managed to start the game, but his difficulty in controlling the character had him losing on a level that was normally easy for him. He chittered in upset before trying three more times, only to feel as if he was just playing the game for the first time.
Okay, I guess I can’t play this too much any more.
Like most people his age, he had always loved his videogames, but now it seemed like he could only play them on a casual basis. I can learn to play better. Better having to do that then going back to school.
Turning the game off, he settled back on the couch to watch TV.
For the following two weeks, that cycle repeated itself. His mother had taken the first week off work to be home with him; his father the second. Over those two weeks, Dave gradually mastered typing in his form as well as started getting his game back on his console. He came to find that his father was a little less strict when it came to washing his feet; the man let Dave do it himself. His father seemed less protective of Dave and felt that he could defend himself, so he let Dave wander around much of the block so as long as he checked in on a regular basis.
While Dave was finding the lack of apprehension over summer ending was comforting; he was also growing bored. He kept waiting for the proverbial fireworks announcing what was supposed to be an exciting new form and life. Those fireworks however, never happened. He needed something he couldn’t have had as a human in his life to show him this was worth it.
Bathing was no longer a daily chore but a weekly one. Keeping his fur groomed took enough of his time that he didn’t want to waste more of it if he didn’t need to. He still hadn’t of learned how to speak. While raccoon’s vocalizations were great for conveying emotion, they just weren’t the same as talking.
One Monday morning, his mother greeted him as she came downstairs.
"Well Dave, your father and I have to go back to work now. We’ve been talking to Mr. Jarel and he’s said he’d love to have to over at his place for the day. Apparently, his son Jim is quite excited about meeting you," she said.
Ah, come on, I was just getting old enough to have the place to myself! Now I need a babysitter as if I’m some kid?
His mother opened the closet, revealing an animal carrier big enough to hold him in. Animal instinct had Dave nearly shrieking at the sight of the contraption.
"I know you don’t want to go in here but it’s just easier. This way, anyone that sees it will just think you’re a cat we’re dropping off. I know your friends Bobby and Drake were going to come over today; they can still come over this evening. Now, the sooner you get in that thing, the sooner we can get you over there and out of it, okay?"
Dave nodded and approached the carrier. Nervously, he climbed into it and lay down as his mother closed it. The drive to Jim’s house only took a few minutes and soon Dave found himself in the house with his mother opening the carrier. Dave gladly jumped out of it and looked up at his mother.
"I’ll be back this evening. Have fun Dave!" she said before heading out.
Turning around, Dave saw the man that had sold him the statue as he knelt down and petted him.
"Hello Dave, how are you doing?" he asked.
Dave chittered at the man. "Can’t talk yet eh? Don’t worry, we can help you with that."
Help me, what does he mean; raccoons can’t speak.
Moments later, a raccoon a little larger then Dave walked in. Unlike he, this one had gray fur with black mixed in. He was quite handsome and seemed friendly. It walked right up to Dave, stood on its hind legs and held out its right paw. Dave did the same and the two shook paws.
"Dave, meet Jim," the man said. He then looked at Jim. "He can’t speak yet Jim, so be nice."
"Can’t speak eh? Well, don’t you worry dude, I’ll help you with that. Before you know it, speaking will be as normal as chittering," Jim said. Jim’s voice was almost like that of a child. Dave could only chitter back at him.
I can talk like this? That is so cool!
When they released their paw shake, both went onto all fours. Dave walked around Jim, sniffing him as much as he could. Jim’s scent was similar to his own, yet different enough that he could tell them apart. This house in fact had a different scent then his. It was strange, as a human, only if there was a strong smell would Dave think of a house in terms of scent. Over the past two weeks however, it was becoming as influential as sight on his way of thinking.
Dave waited patiently while Jim sniffed him. When Jim stopped, he stood on his hind legs. "Been eating the apples from the top of the tree eh? Smart guy, it took me a month to figure that one out!" he said. Dave could only look up at Jim. "I can smell em all over ya Dave. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it. Now, come on, let’s go downstairs."
Dave nodded and followed Jim down into the basement. It was cool down there with leather furniture and a large screen TV. Jim beckoned Dave to climb into one of the leather sofas, which he did with Jim standing on his hind legs in front of him.
"Talking isn’t so hard. You find that making raccoon sounds comes natural right?" Jim asked. Dave nodded his head. "Okay, I know it’s easier to make those sounds, but to speak, you just need to think about the sounds. At first, I know it’ll be hard. It was for me. But soon, they’ll come as natural as raccoon sounds."
I’m not sure what he means, but if he can talk, he can’t be lying.
"Don’t worry Dave, you can do it, you’ll be fine. Try saying your name. Think of the sounds before producing them. It’s sort of like when you try to make animal sounds as a human; the difference is you’re teaching yourself to communicate with them normally rather then just for fun."
Dave did his best to think about it. "Chitter, D … a …v … e chitter!" he said.
Man, that sucked.
"That’s fine Dave, now just try saying it all together. Try it a few times and you’ll get it down pat," Jim replied.
Dave nodded his head and repeated his name, each time saying the letters closer together until he was able to say it normally. He churred in joy, leapt at and hugged Jim; he’d spoken his first word since changing. After Dave released the hug, Jim nodded at him.
"You’re welcome. Now, want to try some other words?" Jim asked.
"Great let’s start with a few simple ones," Jim said.
For most of the Day, Jim taught Dave to talk. They took a break and spent a couple of hours outside exploring Jim’s yard. Dave wasn’t sure why Jim was being so nice and helpful to him. He did however, feel a sense of happiness that he had someone else in his life.
By the time his mother picked him up, Dave was able to say his name, hello, goodbye, as well as raccoon and a few other animals’ names without a problem. Jim told Dave to keep practicing and he’d be fine. Dave’s mother was ecstatic, and thanked Jim several times.
After getting home and having supper, Dave talked to Bobby and Drake online and told them the news. In a sense, he felt a little embarrassed yet at the same time silly. Saying such simple words and people acting as though this was a massive accomplishment made him feel like a toddler. However, he also felt liberated from the ever-increasing expectations society put on people his age with each successive generation. The two agreed to see him and soon after were on their way.
"It’s so cool, I’ve never pet a raccoon before. Everyone always says they’re wild animals and to never ever touch or go near them!" Bobby said as he petted Dave.
Man, this is actually creepy.
Dave stood there while they looked him over. He never thought to worry about the fact that they were seeing him naked; they’d seen him in his underwear and even in the shower after gym on the few times they’d decided the class needed one. Of course, in there everyone said to look at the floor and to get in and out. He suspected his apathy was because it still felt as though this wasn’t truly his body; just one he was vacationing in for the time being.
"Geeze dude, don’t be so willing to touch another guy!" Drake said.
"Raccoon … now," Dave said.
Bobby almost fell back. "You can talk now?" he said.
"Dave met a friend that’s started teaching him how," his mother added.
"That is so cool!" Drake said.
"Like he said, he’s a raccoon now, so it’s okay to pet him. Anyway dude, how often can you pet a talking raccoon?" Bobby protested.
"Relax dude, I was only kidding," Drake replied.
"So, how do you use the computer and stuff with those paws?" Bobby asked.
"I show you," Dave said.
Dave led the way to the basement, where he showed them. It was still awkward but he did manage for the most part. They played his console for a little while. Dave watched them easily accomplish what was now difficult for him, which made him jealous.
It was soon growing late and Bobby and Drake had to go home. They promised Dave they’d visit him as often as they could and that they’d keep what had happened to him a secret as not to alert the authorities.
After they left, Dave felt a little lonely. Normally, he’d be able to go with them and hang out at the mall, arcade or something else. Now, he felt left out. The novelty of being a raccoon was waning and he was wondering what would become of him.
* * *
Dave spent a lot of time at Jim’s house over the next few weeks. It’d been more then a month since Dave had changed. His parents seemed to be adjusting to his change and were now talking to him normally rather then as though he was a pet or toddler. His vocabulary was improving by the day and he could speak nearly as well as he could before he’d changed. He was growing fond of Jim and starting to think of him as a mentor, perhaps even a brother.
Jim was using his laptop to look up information on legal issues one day in his basement as Dave looked on. Dave's thoughts had distracted him enough that he wasn’t paying much attention to which type.
"What’s wrong Dave, you’ve been quiet," Jim asked.
"Sorry, I’ve just been thinking about stuff. It feels like my friends Bobby and Drake are leaving me behind. They don’t visit too often now. School starts again in a few weeks. Although I’m glad I don’t have to worry about homework or studying anymore, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my life."
Jim turned around and looked Dave in the eye. "Well, what have you done since you changed?" he asked.
"Well, besides you helping me to learn to speak again, I’ve mainly just relaxed and played; you know summer vacation stuff, just with being a raccoon added in. It’s weird, I look in the mirror and it still feels funny seeing that furry face looking back at me."
"You’ll get used to it in time," Jim said.
"It’s been fun relaxing. As a human, it was like you know, I wanted to do it as much as before school starts up. Now though, there isn’t that issue and I don’t have to worry about missing the chance to relax. I want to do something. Is there anywhere we can go? Stuff I can read? My Mom wanted me to read so in case I do become human again, I won’t fall too far behind. The subject didn’t come up again though. Can we read books without ripping the paper?" Dave asked.
"Of course we can Dave; we just have to be careful. I’ve read all sorts of books. I’ve probably learned a lot more then I could have as a human in school. The best part is, I can go at my own pace and there’s no homework. You’ll be able to as well," Jim replied.
"But, what about my friends and how they seem to be moving on?" Dave asked.
"They just need to adjust to this Dave. At first it was probably cool for them but now that the novelty is wearing off, they might find it a little disturbing," Jim said.
"Sort of like how at first watching the raccoon in the mirror was cool, but now it’s feels strange and how I’m getting worried about my future now?" Dave asked.
"Exactly. Don’t worry man, they’ll get used to it and will figure out how your friendship will to work. Then, they’ll take it from there," Jim said.
"Thanks; so, what are you looking up?" Dave asked.
"Just legal issues for writing and publishing novels. You see, I’ve been working on one. As you can imagine, they might react oddly to seeing a raccoon as their client. I had thought that if that reversal spell worked I could use my human form for relating to the company. Since it didn’t, I’m trying to find out my rights."
"You’re writing a novel? That’s so cool! Can I see it?" Dave asked.
"Not yet, let me get it past the initial stages first okay?" Jim asked.
"Sure," Dave said.
"Say, why don’t I show you some of the books I’ve read. I think it’ll give you something to do. I learn more so I have things to use in my novel and stories but also to keep my mind active. I ever do become human again; I’ll need to know stuff. Now, let’s get a book for you," Jim said.
With that, Dave followed Jim to a bookcase where a large collection of books sat, seeming to wait for him to read. It would take time for him to read them all, something he now seemed to have in abundance.
* * *
Three weeks later, school had started. Dave had spent the past weeks doing a lot of reading. He’d learned more in those weeks then in his entire first year of High School. Unfortunately, he still wasn’t sure just what he was going to do with said knowledge. While it did keep his mind off his situation, it didn’t seemed to lead to anything.
Dave lay back with Jim in a swing in Jim’s backyard. The past six weeks had allowed Dave to become well acquainted with Jim. Jim had done much for him. He’d shown him becoming an animal didn’t have to mean giving up on the human things he enjoyed. He felt a debt to Jim that he wasn’t sure he could ever repay.
A chilly breeze whisked through the yard was a sign fall was coming. It was a bookend to the summer; the days grew shorter, temperatures cooled down and school began. For Dave, remembering a time before school was difficult, perhaps impossible. Should he have gone to University, it would have been seven more years before school was over and he didn’t have it beginning as a sense of closure to the summer. Without that closure, he felt incomplete; as though, he were waiting for an event that was never to come. It augmented the feeling that the world was moving on without him. He felt locked as the Dave he was before this mess had started two months ago.
"Penny for your thoughts?" Jim said.
"Hmmm?" Dave asked.
"You looked like you were deep in thought there," Jim said.
"Sorry, I was just thinking about things. School started this week. Had this not happened to me, I would have been there. Drake and Bobby have told me about classes they’re taking. They know some will suck and others will be good. I feel left out; life goes on, but not for me," he said.
"I understand how you feel Dave. When I changed, I had to watch friends go to University while others got jobs or went to college and made new friends and lives for themselves. Life goes on and we cannot cling to what we no longer have, especially when we cannot have it again," Jim said. Dave hung his head. "Here, there’s something I want to show you that I think will cheer you up."
Jim jumped off the swing and Dave followed him into the house via the cat door his father had installed in the backdoor. He led Dave to his room where he still had his bed and a desk. Opening a desk drawer, he pulled out two pieces of paper and lay them out on the desk. He stood on the desk and allowed Dave to stand on the chair. Dave looked and with shock saw two pencilled pictures of a raccoon; it was Jim.
"You drew these?" Dave asked.
"Yes, I guess you could say they’re self portraits," Jim answered.
"They’re beautiful." Dave didn’t want to touch them for fear of damaging them. "I had no idea you could draw."
"Before this happened to me, I was going to be an art student. At first, I thought becoming a raccoon meant I’d only live as long as one. That alone sent me into a depression. About a month later, my Dad found out I’d still live as long as a human and even keep my intelligence and such; I was happy. He wasn’t sure about finding a cure so I realized I was going to be like this a very long time, even forever. It seemed like I’d never draw again. Then, I realized there are people out there that have suffered injuries or have medical conditions that have left them with far less then what I have. They’ve managed to produce incredible works. I’m not saying it was easy for them, just like this wasn’t easy for me."
Jim motioned towards the drawer and Dave jumped off the chair and onto the floor before climbing onto Jim’s bed. He watched Jim put the pictures back with great care before his joining him on the bed. Dave lay back on one of Jim’s pillows and relaxed while maintaining eye contact with Jim.
"Give yourself time to accept this Dave, don’t rush anything, take it nice and slow. Life will go on for you. You just have to discover what you want to do. Don’t be afraid to enjoy this," Jim said.
"So, I need to stop thinking of the world leaving me behind and accept I’m just taking a different path in that road of life people are always talking about?" Dave asked.
I dunno if I ready to let go yet but I do enjoy playing and exploring, even getting into mischief is fun. I’d never be able to get away with that as a human. But wow, he can draw and write? I dunno if I’ll ever be able to do that.
"Yes. Don’t worry about the road not taken, focus on how you can enjoy the road you did take; even if perhaps you never intended to take the path you did." Jim answered.
"Yeah, you’re probably right. I guess if Drake and Bobby move on, they move on. At least we have each other. Just like they’ll make new friends, so have I," Dave said.
"Exactly Dave. So, want to go outside and play?" Jim asked.
"Sure," Dave answered.
With that Jim took off towards the back door with Dave in hot pursuit.
* * *
A month later, leaves were falling from the trees, coating the ground in an array of colors. The days of shorts and tee shirts were past, leading to jeans and jackets. The days were growing shorter.
After the first month of school, Dave hadn’t of shown up to any of his classes and Jennifer wanted to know why. She’d heard that it wasn’t like Dave to skip school; he’d always been responsible and punctual. His friends Bobby and Drake had always evaded any questions of where Dave was. The only explanation she’d managed to squeeze out of Bobby or Drake was that Dave was away; perhaps ill and seeking treatment or going to a private school in another city; she didn’t believe it. She’d managed to find out where Dave lived and walked to his house intending to get answers.
Jennifer didn’t want to admit it, even to herself but she had a crush on Dave. At lunch, she’d seen him sitting with Bobby and Drake joking and laughing. He had a wonderful laugh. He was in her history class in the previous school year. She hated the class; she found history profoundly depressing when it wasn’t boring. How can I relate to things that happened 200 years ago? She looked forward to the future, of what she could do with her life and of positive directions society could take, that is, if we don’t destroy ourselves.
When she’d found out Dave was taking a law class this year, she’d signed up for it hoping they'd be in the same class together. She’d been considering asking him out. Perhaps, she thought they’d not only end up in the same class but in a group project together. Yes, that would be the perfect opportunity. Perhaps, she’d get a glimpse of him if they had class at the same time in gym; maybe I could even sneak a peak as he’s changing. She snapped back, no Jen, those aren’t appropriate thoughts; you don’t do that sort of thing.
A chill ran down her spine as she approached the house; this was the decisive moment. Colorful leafs littered the lawn and a single small car sat in the driveway. A chilly breeze blew through the street as she walked up the driveway and to the walkway leading towards their front door.
I have to know the truth.
Reaching the front door, she took a deep breath and rung the doorbell. She waited for several minutes while no one answered. Finally, she was about to leave when she heard something from the backyard. Curiosity got the better of her and she walked along side the house and peered into their yard.
What in the name of?
A woman she assumed was Dave’s mother was sitting on a porch watching two raccoons, a gray/brown and a gray/black one playing. They wrestled on the grass before running up a large oak tree. Both chortling as though they didn’t have a care in the world.
No one ever said anything about Dave having a pet raccoon, let alone two.
She continued to watch as the two animals ran down the same tree trunk and walked up to the woman.
"Sorry Dave, supper isn’t for another hour," the woman said.
Jennifer recoiled and fell onto her rear end with a stinging thud.
Did she just call that animal Dave? It can’t be what it looks like!
She stood up and brushed her jeans off as she regarded the animals. They seemed so innocent and peaceful. The very idea however that the animal was Dave deeply disturbed Jennifer. It looked so content to be doing something so simple; it even made animal sounds. Dave was a smart guy, how could he be happy doing that? How could this have happened to him?
Jennifer turned around to run away from the house as fast as possible. She however wanted answers. Confusion, anger and upset got the better of her and she opened the gate and walked right into the backyard.
"Who are you? What do you want?" the woman asked.
The raccoon that the woman had called Dave looked at Jennifer. Its mouth hung open as it stood on its hind legs and attempted to cover itself. The other raccoon looked at him. Then something happened that nearly sent Jennifer over the edge.
"Dave, who’s she? Do you know her?" it had spoken. A raccoon had talked!
No, it’s impossible, I’m dreaming, please tell me I’m dreaming!
Jennifer started backing up, fear in her eyes as she tried to make sense of what she was seeing.
The raccoon that was apparently Dave put his hands on his hips and looked at his furry companion. "Way to go Jim, now she knows we can talk."
He had talked! His voice sounding like an animal with almost human level advanced vocal chords speaking. Jennifer looked at the woman and shook her head. The woman was shaking her head at the two animals. She looked at Jennifer with compassion in her eyes.
"No … this is impossible," Jennifer said, her eyes welling with tears.
"I’m sorry that you had to find out this way honey. I’m Dave’s mother, and yes, that is Dave and his friend Jim. So, who exactly are you?"
"I’m Jennifer … I go to the same school Dave went to. I wanted to know what happened to him and tell him how I felt about him. No one would tell me where he went," Jennifer said, trying to hold back tears.
"Well, now you know Jen," Jim started, pointing to Dave with his paws. "That’s right, we’re the real McCoy."
The enormity of what she’d seen overcame her and Jennifer felt feint. The entire world seemed to spin. The last thing she knew, her legs were giving out and everything went dark as she fainted.
Jennifer awoke feeling dizzy. As her vision cleared and the dizziness faded, she saw she was lying in a bed with Dave’s mother looking on in concern to her right and the same two raccoons from before to her left standing beside her legs.
Oh my God, there’s two wild animals in the house!
When she saw these two didn’t alarm Dave’s mother, she realized seeing them talk was not a hallucination. She sat up, curiosity getting the better of her as she reached over and touched Dave on the head. She jerked her hand back when she saw the fur was real.
"How did you?" she started.
"Become like this?" Dave asked, standing on his hind legs.
"Or, how can we talk?" Jim asked, as he stood behind Dave; He was a little taller.
"Ugh," Jennifer said, holding her head to try to contain her building headache.
"Maybe you two should start from the beginning," Dave’s mom said.
"Well, all right," Jim said.
Jim reiterated the story of how the statue changed him with Dave continuing the story, pointing said statue out as needed.
"How can you talk?" Jennifer asked.
"At first, I couldn’t. It was scary trying to speak and only warbles and chitters coming out," Dave said.
"I taught him that all he had to do was to calm down and form the words as normal. I learned that after the first few months. Image my parents surprise when I said my name for the first time since changing," Jim said.
"We just need to think about it a bit more. It’s natural for us just to make raccoon sounds. However, as long as we try, we can speak," Dave said.
"How do you cope? I mean, you can’t get a job or go to school now; doesn’t it get boring?" Jennifer asked. Dave hung his head and went back down to all fours before lying down. Had she opened an old wound? "Dave, I’m sorry."
"No, it’s okay," he stopped talking only to chitter for several seconds. He stood on his hind legs again and brushed at his muzzle before touching the top of his head as though he were trying to concentrate. "Sorry, I meant to say I know you didn’t mean to."
"It wasn’t easy honey," Dave’s mother interjected. Jennifer looked at her. "When Dave first changed, we were upset to put it mildly. It wasn’t easy accepting our son was a raccoon but," she stopped and walked over to Dave, petting him down his back. "No matter what he looks like, he’s still our son and we couldn’t turn our backs on him. It’s taken these three months to get used to this but I think we’re going to be all right."
Jim walked up to Jennifer. "Being this way isn’t so bad. At first, I was depressed. I wanted to throw myself in front of a car and end it there. Then, I realized that I’m just one person. Yes, Dave and I we are still people, despite being animals. I’m just one person; if I have to be like this for the rest of my life, the world isn’t going to end. Maybe I am missing things in life I could have as a human, but I’m also gaining an appreciation for the simpler pleasures in life. Anyway," Jim showed Jennifer his hand like paws, "My paws are like hands; I can for example, use a keyboard. In fact, I just submitted an article to the local paper a few days ago. They don’t know what I am of course but it does show I can still have a life and make something of myself."
"Yeah, I sort of see what you mean. I guess knowing the world will go on no matter what you do helps," Jennifer asked.
"It does help. Once I saw society would go on without the human me there, I knew it was okay to let go and stop being sad about being this way."
"But you’re a raccoon! Doesn’t that bother you?" Jennifer asked.
"Well, at first, yeah of course it did. Everything was so huge and I couldn’t speak. I mean, that would bother anyone. I got over it when I accepted that life had something different in store for me. Eventually, I realized how lucky I was to get to experience being an animal but with human intelligence and memories to go with it. How many people get to experience that?"
"Probably not a lot!" Jennifer answered.
Jim walked back over to Dave and put his paws on Dave’s back. "Dave and I here are lucky. Instead of getting upset over this, I prefer to think of the things that we can experience together that we’d never be able to as humans. Well, I think you’re here to talk to Dave. Come on Miss Green, let’s give these two some privacy," Jim answered.
"All right but keep the door open!" she protested.
She picked up Jim and walked out of the room. Jennifer sat on the edge of bed looking at Dave.
"So, are you doing okay like this Dave? I’m still not sure I believe it!" Jennifer asked.
Dave looked into the mirror before responding. "I’m not sure even I believe it. When I look into that mirror, I still feel funny seeing this face looking back at me. At first, I was happy, I didn’t have to go back to studying, could run around without a shred of clothing on, wouldn’t have to ever worry about paying bills or getting a job in my life. Despite what Jim mentioned, I soon realized all the things I was going to miss. Sure, most classes are boring, but some are fun and I have my friends there with me. Then there are things like having a girlfriend. It wouldn’t be the same like this. I won’t be able to drive a car now, or go to College or University when I’m eighteen. I can’t have my own place or go for walks anything alone. In a way, I’m just some over glorified pet now. When you go home, you’ll be able to go on with your life but I’ll still be this way. Ten years from now, you’ll be doing things we can only dream of now, but I’ll still be this way. How I am now is where I’ll always be."
Jennifer petted Dave on the head. She felt sorry for him. At first, it must have seemed fun to be this way but she could see how being that way long term would mean having to give up a lot.
"Dave, I’m so sorry. I thought you were all right with it though. Jim seemed fine!"
"He’s used to it. It was hard for him to accept it. His parents told me that he went into a depression after changing where his human mind all but shut down for months. He can at least write and draw! He’s been able to use his paws like hands and found tools to let him."
"But your paws are like hands, I’m sure you can use a keyboard or pen and paper," Jennifer said.
"I can, but what I mean is I can’t really write as in write a story or essay. I may be able to use a pen and paper but I can’t draw as in art. With paws so small, it’s harder to play games now. I mean, I can still play them, but I often have to play on easy. When I don’t think about it, like when I was in the yard, I’m okay with it. Jim had been so nice to me; he’s helped to make this bearable. He tells me not to let it bother me and to just accept what I am and don’t worry about what I can’t or couldn’t have had. It’s so hard for me to do that. I keep thinking of myself as that teenager trapped in this body."
Jennifer felt so sorry for him. A part of her wished she could exchange places with him. She never achieved great grades anyway and she wasn’t sure she’d be able to get into University if she wanted to go. Being an animal for life would be better then seeing Dave having to endure this.
"Is there any way I can use that statue to trade places with you? Anything would be better then seeing you go through this!" Jennifer said.
"No!" Dave protested. "I could never live with anyone doing this to themselves just so I’d be all right! I guess in time, I’ll be used to it enough not to let it bother me. Anyway, the statue can’t do that. Maybe in time I’ll learn to do useful things. You should see some of the things Jim has written. He told me that becoming a raccoon brought out innocence in him. He said that he wants to write children’s books and some day let the world know the truth about what happened to him. I guess in time I can do stuff too, I know I have the time."
"Maybe I can find a way to change you back! Maybe I can change myself too. Then you'd at least have a female friend," Jennifer suggested.
"No, I can’t do that to you. My life as a human is over Jen. No point in messing your life up as well. I want you to live your life and be happy. Get a good education so you can make a life for yourself," Dave said.
"Are you sure? You’re so cute this way and I did always have a crush on you," Jennifer said.
"I’ll be okay and eventually, I won’t get sad about it anymore," Dave said.
Jennifer thought about it for a few seconds before she leaned down and kissed Dave on the muzzle. She didn’t care that it was like kissing a cat or dog; the boy she had a crush on was still inside of him, begging someone to release him.
"I’ll still visit you Dave and that won’t be the last kiss. Being a raccoon doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends, good friends," Jennifer said.
"Just remember not to say anything about me or Jim. We need to keep this a secret for now," Dave said.
Jennifer nodded her head, stood up and smiled at Dave before walking downstairs and leaving the house after reassuring Dave’s mom that she would keep this a secret. As she walked away from the house, she looked back at it.
I don’t care what they say Dave. I’ll find a way to change you back. You won’t have to be a raccoon forever. You too Jim. You can still have your human lives.
* * *
Two weeks later, Dave and Jim were at a park near a river. The weather was cooler and the ground was covered in leafs. Dave had been quiet for the last two weeks, not saying much and warbling and chittering more often.
They sat on a bench on front of the river, the warm sun heating their fur in the cold wind.
"You’ve been quiet the last couple of weeks Dave," Jim said.
"I’ve just had a lot of think about," Dave answered.
Their discussion, he’s still depressed.
"Look, Dave, I know you’re still feeling depressed about all of this but," Jim started. He looked at the river, he knew this was first time Dave had been here since changing. It was a favorite place of his to go to unwind. "I want to show you something."
Jim jumped off the bench and walked to the river with Dave following. At the riverbank, he looked into the water, and stepped into the mud. It squished under his feet. He heard Dave chitter from it.
"That’s it Dave, walk up to the bank," he said.
He saw Dave peer into the water.
"Can you smell them?" Jim asked. He heard Dave chitter and nod his head as he closed his eyes.
"It’s okay, let yourself go. That smell is crayfish, something our wild friends eat. Go ahead, let instinct guide you."
He watched as Dave dunked his forepaws into the water. Dave gasped when they made contact with it. He searched around before seeming to find something. He lifted it out of the water and began to eat it, moving it about to find the best tasting parts. When he was done, he opened his eyes and looked at Jim.
"You see, could you have truly experienced that as a human?" Jim asked.
"I guess not. But, I just ate a fish or bug, whatever they are," Jim said.
"So? People go fishing, eat beef, pork and poultry they buy! Maybe this is a bit more up close and personal but it’s no different in the end."
"Yeah, I guess but," Dave said, lying down and getting his belly covered in mud. "What about the things I’m missing out on?"
"What would you be doing right now if you were still human?" Jim asked.
"Well, I’d probably be in class right now," Dave started.
"Me to. We'd be listening to some teacher," Jim started. He stood on his hind legs and moved his forearms about as though imitating the teacher, "drone on and on about something you’ll never use. All just so you can pass some test and get a credit that means nothing in the grand scheme of things."
"Maybe but I’d still be with my friends," Dave said.
Jim walked over to him, and put a muddy paw on Dave’s shoulder.
"We’re with each other aren’t we? We’re friends right?" Jim said.
"Yes and I consider you a great friend. You’ve helped keep me from going insane over this after the initial fun of it wore off," Dave said.
"Exactly, think of what we’re doing right now. We’d never be able to do this as humans. Even if we did, it wouldn’t be the same. One door may have closed on us, but another door opened with it. Don’t worry about what you’re missing out on. No one person can experience everything; unless of course he lives to be 50,000 years old. Don’t think of yourself as a human trapped in the body of an animal." Jim pointed to his belly with his paws, getting it filthy. "Inside, I’m still Jim. Sure, I may look weird but the core of who I am is still there."
Dave stood up and looked at his paws. "I guess I’ve been afraid to enjoy this completely for more then a little while each day because … it’s like I’d be betraying my human self if I let myself go and just enjoyed this weird situation. I also worry that I’m ignoring certain duties, like human things I should be doing."
The younger raccoon hung his head. Jim reached forward with his right hand like paw and gently lifted Dave’s chin up. "You won’t be betraying yourself Dave. If this has taught me anything, it’s that the body isn’t as important as what is inside. I know it sounds corny, but Dave is still in there," he said, pointing to Dave’s now mud covered belly. He then touched Dave’s muzzle and looked right into he eyes. "You’re still Dave, you just look a little different, that’s all. As for we should be doing; someone else will do them. No one expects a raccoon to do human things."
When he let go, Dave looked himself over and after appearing to consider Jim’s words, nodded his head.
"Yeah, you’re right. Wow, we got all dirty," Dave said. He then looked into the water and made a happy chitter. "Up for a swim?"
"You bet!" Jim said.
The two ran into the water, splashing and chittering. Jim felt much better now; Dave was finally beginning to accept this fate. He knew that the depression he’d gone through was worth it now as he’d used what he’d learned to help Dave through it a lot faster.
He didn’t know if Jennifer would find a way to make them human again. His parents had searched for ways for the first few months but they hadn’t have found anything. Maybe somehow Jennifer’s school had access to a resource that could do something or perhaps she would join the two of them in this strange fate. Either way, he knew that Dave was going to be all right.
* * *
Two weeks of searching and she'd had no luck. Jennifer had scoured her school library for information on the raccoon statue. She’d found information the statue Dave had. The information said it could turn its owner into a raccoon with both human intelligence and longevity. Should they give it to someone else, that person would become the owner. Former owners would retain their human intelligence and longevity; all the more reason for me to join him. She did not find information about reversing the spell however.
Searches for spells to reverse human to animal transformations found fictional stories but nothing concrete.
She was nearing giving up and considering resigning herself to the fact that the boy she had a crush on was going to be a raccoon for the rest of his life. She jumped when something touched her right shoulder.
"Sorry Jen, didn’t mean to startle you. What were you looking at?"
Jennifer turned her head to look at her friend Dana. "Just something for a friend."
"Animal statues?" Dana asked.
"It’s a long story," Jennifer answered.
"Well, it must be important; you’ve been here every lunch for the past two weeks!" Dana said.
"It is. I needed to find information about a raccoon statue."
"Looking for a present for someone?" Dana asked.
"Not exactly," Jennifer responded.
The end of period bell rang and Jennifer logged off the computer before standing up and walking towards the library doors with Dana.
"So … what happened to that guy you had a crush on? You were saying you were going to go to his house to find out where he was. Did you find out?" Dana asked.
They walked into the hallways, students shuffling to their next classes. Jennifer didn’t want to tell Dana the truth for fear of exposing Dave.
"Is this statue you’re looking for, for him?" Dana asked, prodding Jennifer. Jennifer whimpered at that comment. "Jen, what’s wrong. Did something happen to him?"
"Sort of, but I can’t tell you here. I … need to tell someone. I’ll tell you on the way home after school." Jennifer said.
"Not telling anyone what?" Dana asked.
"I’ll tell you later," Jennifer said.
The two girls parted ways as they walked to their different classes.
Later that day, Jennifer walked with Dana down the streets away from the school. It was cool out and both were wearing denim jackets and jeans. They walked towards their houses about a twenty-five minute walk from home.
"Okay Jen, so what’s going on?" Dana asked as a cool breeze ruffled her long red hair.
Jennifer looked around; making sure no one was listening or could see them.
"Remember those statues I was looking up?"
"Yes," Dana answered.
"I was looking for a specific one; a raccoon with a jewel in its chest. It’s something to help Dave," Jennifer answered.
"Help him? What’s wrong with him?"
"I shouldn’t tell anyone; he could get into trouble," Jennifer answered.
"Oh come on, don’t stop now!"
"All right fine, but you can’t tell anyone!" Jennifer said.
"Don’t worry about it."
Jennifer revealed the truth about Dave to Dana. Dana looked right at her, disbelief in the teen’s face.
"Come off it Jen, what really happened to him?" she asked.
"I’m not joking! I know it sounds crazy but it’s true," Jennifer replied.
"I have got to see this then!" Dana said.
"No! They’d be mad if they knew I’d told someone!"
"Well, can’t you bring a digital camera or something and get a picture of him? I don’t think I can believe you unless you prove it," Dana said.
"Come on, Dana, don’t make me do this. How can I betray him like that? What if the cops, government, or someone else finds out? They’d probably dissect him to learn why this happened to him! The more people that know, the bigger the risk, is that what you want? You know how those sorts are!" Jennifer protested.
"Wow Jen, I knew you had a crush on him, but I didn’t think you’d take it this far. We’ve known each other for ten years now. Isn’t our friendship more important then a little picture? It’s not like I’m asking you to give it to the news or tabloids!" Dana said.
"I don't know Dana," Jennifer said.
"Where does he live, I’ll go there and see him for myself!" Dana said.
"Dana!" Jennifer said.
"I’m trying to find information on how to make him human again. Think about how you would feel if you were in his position. A magical statue turns you into a raccoon with no apparent way to become human again; that’d be scary enough! Imagine some guys in suits taking you away, saying they’re going to do some tests to figure out why this has happened to you," Jennifer said.
"All right, I get the picture. I’m sorry, okay, I’m just curious. If you like Dave so much, why not change yourself with that statue?"
"Would you really want me to be a raccoon?" Jennifer asked.
"No, but I bet Dave would like it," Dana said with a mischievous grin as she winked.
"Relax, I’m just kidding!"
"Anyway, he said no when I asked if there was a way to take his place," Jennifer said.
"You offered to become one so he could be human again … hot damn you’re heroic!" Dana said, jabbing Jennifer with her elbow in a playful manor.
"I guess it was heroic," Jennifer said with a smile.
"Look, I’ll ask my folks if they can help," Dana said. Jennifer shot her a worried look. "Don’t worry, I’ll just say it’s something I read in a history book or tabloid. I won’t tell them the truth."
They were nearing Dana’s street where they always parted ways.
"All right Dana but be careful."
As Dana turned down the street, she nodded.
"Come on, this is me we’re talking about. Don’t worry, Dave will be just fine."
* * *
Some time after having cleaned up in the river and drying themselves off, Dave and Jim were in Jim’s basement sitting before his laptop computer.
Dave lay back in one of the leather chairs that he loved the smell of while Jim sat on the floor in front of him.
"You sure your parents won’t mind me sitting on here?" he asked.
"We’re clean now and they’ve accepted having a raccoon as a son. At first it bothered them a little but I know to stay off the furniture if I’m dirty; they don’t make an issue out of it anymore."
"Have you ever searched for information about the statue on the ‘net. I mean, since changing, I can use the keyboard, but it’s hard. I’ve had to keep quiet about this to my friends online. I wish I could tell them what it’s like. One of them in particular loves any smaller furry animal," Dave asked.
"I did at first when I came out of being depressed but by then I found I didn’t have quite the attention span I had as a human. My father searched but found nothing. Only through that priest was he able to find out what we thought was a cure. Since it didn’t work, I’ve had to accept that I’ll probably always be this way. Although, to be truthful, I wasn’t sure I wanted it to work," Jim answered as he checked his e-mail.
Dave chuckled at the sight of it, the sound much like the churring natural members of his species would make.
"What’s so funny?" Jim asked.
"Oh, nothing," Dave answered.
"Dave, when you spend more then three years as an animal, you find that you take offense to a lot less then you did as a human. Don’t worry, if it’s something I did, I can take it."
"Seeing a talking raccoon check his e-mail, it’s just funny," Dave answered.
"You see if we were human, you’d have missed seeing that. I’m not offended bro, it’s okay to find it amusing," Jim said.
"Bro?" Dave asked.
Jim turned around. "Well, yeah, in a weird way we’re like brothers now. I’m used to being this way and I feel a bond with you. I don’t want to give that up."
Dave realized he felt it too.
"So, what is it you wanted to show me?" Dave asked.
"This," Jim answered. Jim opened a document entitled, ‘the adventures of Toby the Raccoon’. "This is the novel I’ve been working on. The novel that becoming this way inspired me to write."
An hour later, Dave had read the first chapter of the novel; he especially loved how accurately Jim had captured the part of Toby and how he felt and experienced things. He and Jim were eating dinner of chicken with corn on the cob. Dave had come to enjoy corn since changing; it was something he’d never been able to enjoy as a human.
Finishing off the corn, Dave put the empty cob down and relaxed. "I was wondering something Jim."
Jim put down the piece of chicken he was eating and looked at Dave. "What is it?"
"You said you weren’t sure you wanted that cure to work. Is there a part of you that wishes it did?"
"I’d say yes, a part of me misses being human. However, I have my family and I have hobbies to occupy my time. I’ve learned a new perspective in life that I’d never have been able to learn if this hadn’t of happened to me. At times I wish I could go to the mall or have my own or be on my own. But then I remember being human isn’t all fun and games either. I’ve gotten used to being this way. If I became human again, I’d have to catch up in many different ways. I’ve made a life for myself like this. I don’t know if I could give it up. Maybe it’s a blessing this happened to me when I was still young," Jim responded.
"How so?" Dave asked.
"Well, if I was older and married with children, imagine how that would have been. At least I hadn’t of had a career going. In a way, this is my career. I’m comfortable like this, I’m don’t think I want to risk losing it. What about you Dave?" Jim asked.
"I think about things you’ve said and I find myself wondering. Normally, I’d say, yes I would. Then I realize I’d have to go back to school and miss things like us playing at the park. I’m just starting to get used to being this way, maybe that’s why I’ve been thinking more about it lately. After more then three months and seeing Jennifer mention she had a crush on me, I kind wanted to be with her. I don’t want her to be a raccoon if she doesn’t want to be. I can’t have her like this though. I mean, if she has to move on then that’s fine. But, I do still kinda feel like I’m being left behind, although I am starting to like being this way. I guess it kinda bugs me that the world seems to be going on just fine without me. A part of me keeps expecting someone, somewhere to say ‘wait a minute, Dave’s still a raccoon, we have to correct that’."
"I think I know what you mean Dave but think of it this way; Say you were someone so important that if you ended up like this, an entire country or kingdom would fall? Could you enjoy this knowing that your enjoyment has cost an entire kingdom or country its freedom or even the lives of its citizens?" Jim asked.
"No, I couldn’t. I’d never be able to comfortable knowing my being this way has ruined the lives of millions," Dave answered.
"Exactly," Jim said. He walked over to Dave and petted him on the head. "That’s one nice thing about being just a regular guy; we can stay like this and society won’t fall apart. If we can become human again and choose to then that’s fine as well."
"So, I should be thankful that Jennifer and my friends are going to school as normal, life is going on for them. At least I can enjoy this know that even if I’m not there that life will go on, that it’s not the end of the world?" Dave said.
"Exactly; I say, go with the flow, let go and enjoy how weird life can be," Jim said.
Dave nodded his head. "You’re so nice to me. I mean, with our age difference, as humans we might never have been able to relate."
"Just another thing we can do this way that we couldn’t as humans," Jim said. Dave nodded. "I’m nice because it’s great to have someone to share this with. You’re like this because we made a mistake. I want to help you through this because I can use what I’ve learned and feel I should because of our mistake. Not only that, but I like you as a friend. Now that we have each other, it’s hard for me to imagine life without someone to share this with."
Dave realized one problem, if he could become human again and Jim couldn’t, what was he going to do? He wasn’t sure he was willing to let Jim be alone so he could have his humanity back. Jim had been a wonderful friend to him. Dave thought of him almost like a brother. Could he abandon Jim and be able to forgive himself?
"You’ve been a great friend Jim, thank you," Dave said, hugging Jim.
Jim returned the hug. "That’s what friends are for."
"Want to go watch a movie or something?" Jim asked.
"Sure, why not?" Dave answered.
With that, the two of them started upstairs. Dave knew things would work out, he knew that despite his missing life as a human, he’d gained others things from being this way.
* * *
It was the later part of November. Six weeks had passed since Jennifer had told Dana about what had happened to Dave. By now, snow was falling and the weather was cold. Jennifer had made sure to visit Dave over the weeks, but a combination of homework and other assignments had made it difficult enough that she hadn’t of seen him in two weeks.
Dana had kept her apprised of her progress, nothing as of yet. Jennifer was starting to feel down, it was looking like Dave was going to be stuck like this forever. With the weather growing colder by what seemed like the day and the work load from school, the option of acquiring the statue from Dave and getting her own natural fur coat was sounding increasingly appealing.
No Jennifer, you can’t give up like that, Dave needs you.
When she arrived home, she checked her e-mail to find a message from Dave. Curiosity had her reading it.
Hi Jen, long time no see. Jim and I are doing great. Jim sent his novel off to a publisher today, just wait until they see it; it’s great! Thanks for your e-mail address. All my online friends are wondering why I haven’t been on that much over the past near five months. I don’t know if I should tell them the truth. On one good note, I’ve followed Jim’s advice and started a story about a raccoon that gains human intelligence and the crazy adventures he gets into.
Anyway, if you’re busy with school and all, I understand. Don’t worry, I’m keeping busy with Jim so I’m not lonely or anything. If you want to come over to visit or chat online, you’re always welcome.
Closing the e-mail, she felt a little guilty for having not visited Dave in two weeks.
A pair of raccoons using computers to write novels, stories and e-mail; what is this world coming to?
Her telephone ran seconds later. When she picked it up, it was Dana, who Jennifer hadn’t seen in a few days. Dana sounded excited.
"Jen, guess what?"
"What?" Jennifer asked.
"I may have a cure for your friend."
* * *
Dave stood on the bathroom sink gazing into the mirror. His reflection was that of a form now natural to him. The discussions with Jim had helped. Jim was like a brother to him. Five months ago, he had no idea Jim existed; now it was difficult to imagine life without him.
His older sister Tessa was finally coming to see him. His parents hadn’t of told her about his situation until a week ago. She’d been busy with work and raising her kids, so Dave understood that she couldn’t get away.
Twenty-eight always seemed so young to already have a three-year old girl and two-year-old boy and be an executive at her company. I wonder how she does it. Will she accept what I’ve become? I’ve had almost five months to accept it; Mom and Dad only told her a week ago.
I wonder what the kids will think of me. Sean is too young to understand but Alice might. I wonder if she’ll think of me like she does a cartoon character. Then there’s Ethan; just wait until he finds out his brother in law is a raccoon.
Dave didn’t understand why his parents still kept his other family members in the dark.
Maybe they were holding out hope for a cure, that someone would have found a remedy by now and the issue would have fixed itself.
After this long however, his form felt final; they couldn’t hide it anymore.
Jennifer’s two-week absence didn’t offend him. She’s probably accepted my fate. She needs to move on and make a life for herself with some other guy. I just hope it won’t be with some jerk.
"You’ve been in there a while Dave; you okay," Jim asked from Dave’s bedroom.
Leaping from the sink to the toilet and then to the ground, Dave walked back into his room. Climbing onto the bed beside Jim, Dave accessed the laptop his parents had bought him a couple of weeks ago.
"Yeah, sorry, was just thinking about stuff." Dave answered. He’s going to ask what sort of stuff. "Like, how I don’t feel like a human in the body of an animal anymore." He stood on his hind legs and touched his furry chest. "I feel secure in this body. It doesn’t seem like I’m missing school anymore. Raccoons don’t go to school, so in a sense, I’m not missing out it."
"You’re adjusting well Dave; I’m happy for you. Who would have thought a cute little statue could have such a profound effect on our lives?" Jim said, pointing said statue out.
"Not I," Dave said, churring as he rolled onto his back and stretched out. "My sister is coming over today to see me. She has two kids, a two and three year old. I wonder how they’ll react to me once they see me, I’m wondering if they’ll freak out or want to give me a hug."
Jim walked over to him, looking straight into his eyes. "I can give you a hug if she won’t," he said, his tone playful.
"Not if I do first!" Dave answered. He leapt up and tackled Dave in a playful hug. He felt free, able to behave like a kid, but with the comprehension level of an adult.
They rolled around for a few minutes, both chittering without a care in the world. When they stopped, they both stood on their hind legs.
"I don’t think you need to worry Dave. She’ll probably just think of you like her kids. It might feel a little weird, but, there is the fun factor," Jim answered.
"Yeah, you’re right." Dave said.
"Kids tend to be more open minded. Don’t be surprised if they start calling you Uncle Raccoon or something else equally as cute," Jim said.
"Man, you’re awesome Jim. You’ve made this fun and shown me the good things about it," Dave said.
Jim poked Dave’s belly then leaned in closer to his face so their noses were touching. "Hey, when you spend years as an animal known for mischief, you learn to look at things differently. I used to be more cynical, but now, I just don’t worry about things so much anymore."
The doorbell rang a few seconds later and Dave heard his mother walk to the door and open it.
"Dave, Jennifer is here, she wants to see you!" his mother called out.
Jim stood on his hind legs and Dave followed.
"Hey, maybe she’s here to join us?" Jim said.
"We’ll see," Dave said.
With Jim following, Dave leapt off the bed and walked downstairs. He saw Jennifer removing her boots and then her hat and gloves.
"Hey, long time no see Jennifer," Dave said.
"Hi Dave, hey Jim," Jennifer said.
"So, what’s up?" Dave asked.
"I’ve found something that may solve your problem," Jennifer said.
The quartette sat in the living room minutes later with Dave and Jim on one couch together, Jennifer, and Dave’s mother on the other.
"Become human again?" Dave asked.
"Yes. It turns out the spell Jim’s father found out about did work … sort of. There is another way to become human again but at a cost. If the owner of the statue smashes it, he will become human again with the ability to take raccoon form at will. However, the debris from the statue will soon vanish and re-appear intact close to someone the owner knows. It could end up anywhere. Even someone said person hasn’t seen or heard from in years could get it. It could also appear as close as beside another person that lives with them. Ultimately, the next person to own it, ends up with the same fate," Jennifer said.
"Maybe that’s what happened with the store I got it from. Maybe the guy that owned the store knew someone that owned the statue and they smashed it, maybe even by accident. The clerk that was there when I bought it wouldn’t have known as the owner was on lunch at the time. I can understand why he didn’t believe my Dad; maybe he didn’t know the truth about the person he knew. So, what went wrong with what the priest did? We thought it would give me what he called the were-raccoon ability but without the statue vanishing and harming someone else," Jim asked.
"It seems it did the opposite unfortunately," Jennifer answered.
"I’d say I could just smash it then and be a were-raccoon, then I could take this form at will! But, I don’t want an innocent person affected by it. Then Jim couldn’t use it either," Dave said.
"Well, with the method I found, you’d both be fully human and the statue won’t vanish. Now, only the owner of the statue can use it change himself back. However, if Dave gives Jim the statue back, he’ll be the owner again, and then he can use it on himself."
"Isn’t that wonderful guys, you can be human again!" Dave’s mother said.
"Yeah, wonderful," Dave said, hanging his head.
He looked at Jim, who appeared sad but also having accepted his situation.
"Maybe we should leave you two alone to talk about this," Dave’s mother said.
Jennifer nodded and the two humans left the room and went downstairs.
"Wow, become human again, I never though it’d be possible," Jim said.
"I know, I’m not sure what I want to do. I mean if we could both become were-raccoons, then I’d say yes. I’d be so cool, we could still be like this but also do human stuff! But, I couldn’t risk another just to become like that and I couldn’t deny you having it!" Dave said.
Jim petted Dave by his ears and looked him in the eyes. "I guess we can’t have our cake and eat it to. Anyway Dave, I’m used to being this way; this is who and what I am now. Truth is, I don’t want to go back to school or get a job. You’ve only been this way for a little under five months. At least you can still catch up in your life and go back to being human without the long transition period."
"You’re like a brother to me Jim. I can’t just go back to being human and abandon you!"
Jim took Dave’s paws into his own. "Don’t worry about me. I was like this for almost three years before we met. I’m used to being on my own with this. Get back to your life. Sure, you’ll need to play catch-up for a while but think of all the stuff you can do now."
"I’ve accepted what I can’t do like this; I like being this way. Yet, if I don’t go back, then all the effort Jennifer and anyone she solicited help from will be for nothing. I don’t know what to do," Dave said.
His mother and Jennifer walked in a second later.
"I’m sorry Dave, we didn’t mean to eavesdrop but," Jennifer started.
"Dave, I know you like being this way but think of your future. Sometimes what feels comfortable or fun isn’t what’s best for you. I think you should become human again. I know you’ve heard this before but, you’ll understand when you’re older why changing back is best for you."
Jennifer walked over and petted Dave on the head. "Anyway Dave, think of all the fun we could have."
Jim petted Dave’s right shoulder. "Don’t stay this way just because you want to do what’s right for me. It’s your life, you need to do what’s right for you. I’ve loved your companionship Dave. It’s been wonderful having someone to share this experience with," Jim said before looking at Jennifer.
"You can become human as well Jim," Jennifer said.
Jim shook his head. "This is who I am now; I don’t want to go back."
"Well, If you want to stay this way then that’s cool. You do make a handsome raccoon. I can’t wait to read your novel when it’s published," Jennifer said.
"I have a feeling it won’t be the last," Jim said.
"So, what do you want to do Dave?" Dave’s mother asked.
Dave looked at the trio, giving each one a long and hard look. These past few months with Jim had been wonderful. When he’d finally accepted his fate, he’d known it was all right to let go. Now, he could become human again. Fate had opened a door for him, but going through it meant leaving Jim behind in a sense if Jim decided to stay this way. Could Jim be happy without him? Could he be happy knowing he’d denied Jennifer getting to know him as a human? Could he be happy going back to school again? Did he want to put his parents through having to deal with their son living his life out as a raccoon?
Was this truly his decision to make? It would effect the lives of several people either way. Could he do what he wanted without feeling selfish? If only Jim were to become human, Dave knew he would as well and the duo would have each other in their struggle to get their lives back in order.
"I," Dave started. He looked at everyone in the room. His eyes focused right on Jim.
"Do what’s right for you Dave, not what you think is right for me," Jim said.
I love being a raccoon but as one, I’ll never be able to have my own place, go on any trips, drive a car or do much. As a human, I can go back to my life and even have a girlfriend. He looked at Jennifer; she was smiling at him. She has a cute smile, but I’m used to her seeing me like this. Jim says he’ll be okay. I guess he will be. He’s even telling me to do what’s right for me. I can still visit him. I never loved school, but it’s not as if I hated it. It would be nice being able to go out on my own again and to hang out with my friends. I can’t give up on being human after living for more then fifteen years as one and only spending a little under five months as a raccoon.
"When I first became this way, it seemed like a dream. I didn't have to do homework, study or get a job and never would. Then I realized the things I’d be missing out on in life," he said. He walked over to Jim and put his arms around him in a hug that he held for a minute before he released it. "Jim was so nice to me, he’s helped me to realize that I could still have a life in this form and there were things I could still experience."
"Dave," Jim said holding out his right paw. "Before you say anything else. Remember that patients often fall in love with doctors; this a problem psychiatrists know all too well." Everyone stared at Jim. He stood on his hind legs, holding out his hands and shrugging his shoulders. "Hey, I’ve had a lot of time to read since this happened to me. Anyway," he started, going back onto all fours. "Dave, I think you might be in love with me."
"Jim … I think you’re really cool and I love being around you but I don’t know if I’d say I’m in love with you."
"I think he means like a brother, not like you’re attracted to him," Jennifer said.
"I mean, Jim’s been so nice to me and he plays and hangs out with me. He’s made this a wonderful experience. I dunno, maybe I do love him," Dave said, hanging his head.
"Those feelings aren’t anything to be ashamed of Dave. They’re a part of who you are; they’re a part of being human. You don’t have to give those up if you become human again."
"I guess if you put it that way and you mean it then, I’ve decided that I want to be human again." Dave said.
Jim walked over to Dave, stood on his hind legs and petted him on the right shoulder. "I understand Dave. It’s been a great time. Well, I’ll be going then," Jim said. He jumped of the couch and started walking towards the door.
Dave jumped off after him, not wanting to see Jim go. "You don’t have to go. You can stay!"
Jim looked at Dave before shaking his head. "I should be getting home anyway. Take care Dave, have a good time. You know where to find me if you want to see me."
With that, Jim walked towards and out the cat door. Dave was worried Jim was walking out of his life forever.
Why do I feel this way about him? He’s a guy and I’m straight!
"Don’t worry Dave, he just needs time to adjust to your decision. Well, what do we need to do to make Dave human again?" Dave’s mother asked.
"You still have the statue right?" Jennifer said.
"Yes, it’s upstairs in my room," Dave said.
"Come on then, we have to use it to restore you," Jennifer said.
Jennifer and his mother headed upstairs as Dave looked at the cat-door. He could visit Jim when he was human again, and now he’d able to go out with Jennifer. Nodding his head, he started towards the stairs.
Dave stood on his bed with Jennifer and his mother standing at the end of the bed.
"What do I need to do?" Dave asked.
Jennifer reached into her pants pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. "Okay, here is what you need to do. You need to put your paws on the statue and chant the phrase I have written down."
Dave’s mother picked the statue up and placed it on the bed in front of Dave. Looking at it, Dave wasn’t sure what to do.
"What’s wrong Dave?" his mother asked.
"I’m not sure I want to go back," he answered.
"What are you talking about Dave? You’ll be able to be human again! Isn’t this what you’ve wanted since this happened to you?" Jennifer asked.
"Yes but I’ve gotten used to being this way and I’ve become good friends with Jim. I’ve also gotten used to not having to go to school, do homework or getting a job," Dave answered.
Dave’s mother knelt down and petted him on the hand. "I know this has been a break from those things for you. However, if you stay this way, you’ll be an animal. I know you’re comfortable this and wish you could freeze things as they are right now but we all have to grow up sooner or later."
"Of course I’d be animal!" Dave said.
"Dave, I think she means on a deeper level," Jennifer said.
"I’m not sure I understand," Dave asked.
"A big part of being human is growing and changing. I don’t mean just going through puberty but growing as a person as you leave behind old ways of thinking for new ones. Remember when you were around eleven or twelve and didn’t like playing hide and seek with your friends as much?"
"Well, yeah, I was outgrowing it," Dave replied.
"Would you have wanted to stay that ten year-old boy who loved playing hide and seek forever?" his mother asked.
"Maybe, it could have been fun," Dave replied.
"But, then you never would have been able to grow out of having to go to bed early or doing things like getting to see PG-13 movies. Being a kid is fun but we all have to grow up at some point."
"Yeah Dave, didn’t you ever see Pinocchio? Those kids refused to grow up and look what happened to them," Jennifer said.
Dave shuddered at the reference when he remembered the infamous scenes in that movie.
"But, I’m not a donkey, I can still type, do stuff and even talk!" Dave protested.
"That’s just the point Dave; you’re comfortable now. However, I think you’re becoming complacent and that’s not good. You have an opportunity to become human again; to do things you can’t do like this. Anyway Dave, I think your feelings for Jim may also be a desire to be close to someone. I think you want someone close enough to cuddle with who you can tell things you wouldn’t tell anyone else. You deserve a chance for that,"
"Mom!" Dave protested.
"Sorry, I’m just saying," Dave’s mother said.
"I think you’re cute like that Dave but unless I become a raccoon or you become human, we can’t really be a couple. Sure we could be friends but not much more," Jennifer said.
Dave looked at Jennifer. "And unless I find a female raccoon in heat I can’t really get close to one. Even then, it wouldn’t be love," Dave said.
"And we’re not going to stand by and let you do that mister!" Dave’s mother said.
"I know … I know, I wouldn’t do that. Anyway, I may love Jim but we’re both guys and straight so we can’t really … you know."
"But you and Jennifer can be a couple Dave … once you’re 18 of course," Dave’s mother said.
"Yeah, I guess so. But I like being a raccoon," Dave said.
"I understand that. However, the longer you stay this way, the harder it will be to go back. If you do decide to stay this way forever, what will happen in one, five or ten years from now? As a raccoon, you won’t be able to get a job or ever have your own place. We can’t support you forever and if something … happened to us where would you go?" Dave’s mother said.
"I dunno, but I’m sure I’d be fine. Anyway, I’m happy now why wouldn’t I be in the future?" Dave asked.
"People change Dave. I made mistakes when I was your age. I went through the rebel stage where I skipped classes thinking it wouldn’t matter as it was just school. I remember my parents always telling me I would understand when I was older why it mattered. I always thought they didn’t know what they were talking about. Now that I have you and Tessa, I understand how my parents felt. You may not know it but you’re a smart kid Dave. You can accomplish a lot in life but you can’t do so much of that if you stay this way," his mother said.
She gently stroked his chin and looked into his eyes. "I know it’s fun being this way Dave," she said, her voice soft and understanding. She stopped petting him and took his right paws into her hands. "Think of it this way, could you publish a novel as a raccoon? Perhaps Jim might get one or two out, but what happens if people want to meet him? What happens if his publisher tries to rip him off? As a human he could fight it, but as a raccoon, he’d have little recourse," his mother said.
The argument to stay a raccoon was growing weaker by the minute. Dave looked at himself in the mirror. "But I’m so cute and handsome like this," Dave said.
"Dave, the human version of you isn’t ugly. I always thought you were cute!" Jennifer said.
"But I’m happy with who I am now," Dave said.
"But would you really want to stay as you are now and never change? You can’t live your life in a raccoon version of Never-Never land. Sure if you stayed this way, it’d be fun, but then you couldn’t really evolve and grow as a person could you? You have potential Dave. Please, don’t throw it away. I know right in the here and now you want to stay this way but think of the future you’ll be losing. I want what’s best for you Dave and I know that becoming human again is," Dave’s mother said.
"My parents are always telling me that we all have to grow up eventually Dave. I think this is one of those times," Jennifer said.
In addition, there’s all that work she did to get this information.
Dave nodded his head and took a deep breath.
"I guess I do need to think of how this will affect my life and what’s best for me, even if you’re right that I might not know it until I’m older." Dave stood there a good few minutes before nodding his head. "All right, I’ll become human again."
Jennifer beamed and placed the paper before Dave. He looked it over, and put his paws on the statue. Taking a deep breath, he recited what the paper said. A chill ran down his spine as he finished the spell.
The jewel of the statue began to glow and just as the night after he’d bought it, it struck him with a beam of energy. When the beam faded, Dave felt dizzy and fell onto his back on the bed. His mother picked up the statue, Dave assumed to put back on the dresser.
"Dave, are you all right?" his mother asked.
When his head stopped spinning moments later. He said that yes, he was.
"I think it’s beginning," Jennifer said.
Oh man, they’re going to see my naked. Maybe as a raccoon I’m used to it but as a guy…
"Just don’t stare okay?" Dave asked.
"Don’t worry honey, I’ll get a towel to cover you," Dave’s mother said.
His entire body tingled and he felt as though something was pushing from inside every square centimeter of his body. He felt a chill and looked up to see his fur falling out and vanishing. The room seemed to be getting smaller. In reality, he was getting bigger. His torso and hips ached and he felt his hips and legs moving so his legs would be under his body. His ribcage seemed to be altering, changing the shape of his torso to a human one. Now his muzzle was feeling strange, as though someone were pushing on it. His front legs tingled as he felt the bones change.
He felt the sensation of his human legs dangling over the side of the bed just before his mother draped the towel over his midsection. In what was a disturbing and bizarre sensation, the bones in his neck re-aligned as the shape of his skull reformed into a human one.
"Looks like you’re almost done Dave," Jennifer said.
Soon, he was moving human fingers attached to human hands on human arms. His tail, which he’d felt touching the bed, seemed to vanish, which alarmed him at first but he calmed down as he reminded himself that humans don’t have tails.
In what seemed to be the last of the changes, his ears moved back to the sides of his head. They resumed a human shape as his jaw finished its conversion into a human one. He opened it and felt his teeth with his tongue; they felt human.
The size of the room was a lot smaller now, his bed feeling more like what it did before he changed. Then, it seemed to be over; Dave was his human self again.
While smells and sounds weakened, when he stood and looked out his window (draping the towel around his waist and holding the towel so it wouldn’t fall down) he noted he could see much better. He turned to the mirror and looked at his refection. He was human again, looking just as he remembered himself. He fastened the towel around his waist as his mother ran over and hugged him.
"Oh Dave, I’m so glad you’re all right," she said.
Dave looked at Jennifer. She was beautiful and now he could date her. He looked forward to that.
"Thank you Jennifer. I never thought I’d be human again. Now, I just have to figure out what I’m going to do with my life," Dave said.
"I’m glad to help Dave; now you … we can have that life," Jennifer said.
Dave’s mother released the hug. "I’ll go start making calls so everyone knows the good news," she said before leaving the room.
"I still need to see Jim. I care for him. Maybe I can convince him to become human again," Dave said.
"I understand. Well, I’ll be going then. I’ll call you in a couple days," Jennifer said. As she walked by him, she slowed and kissed him on the right cheek, which made Dave blush. She then hugged him and repeated the gesture, but now kissing him on the lips. "I’ve been waiting to do that for so long."
She left the room, leaving Dave alone. That was nice, maybe this will be all right after all. But Jim, I still need to see him. He’s done so much for me; I can’t just leave him behind.
* * *
Why was he feeling this way? He’d been a raccoon for years before meeting Dave. Perhaps being a mentor to another had given him another purpose in life. Having someone to share this experience with had been special. He’d played before meeting Dave of course, but with Dave, it was special.
I guess it’s true that any experience is better with someone to share it with.
Now, Dave was going to be human again and Jim would be alone. That was fine, he had his family, his novel and there were even people online he spoke to. He’d been able to confide in a few of them about his situation. He’d met people he’d been a friend with for a short time before they moved on.
Sure, Dave had said he’d still visit, but Jim knew how these things went. They’d talk daily then his visits would gradually decrease over a period of time before they only sent annual happy Birthday and/or Christmas cards. Eventually they’d send their last ones realizing both had changed so much that they couldn’t be friends anymore and it would be over.
After an hour walk home, he walked through the car door his father had installed. His father was there as he arrived.
"Dave’s mother called and told me the news, isn’t it great, you can be human again!" he said.
"I’m not sure I want to," Jim said.
"Come on Jim, I know that tone. Let’s sit down and talk about it," his father said.
Jim’s father led him into the living room where he sat on the couch, petting it to his right where Jim sat beside him. Jim lay down on the couch, his head on his front legs.
"I don’t get it; I should be happy for Dave; I am, yet at the same time, I feel depressed," Jim said.
His father petted him along his back. His mother joined them on the couch parallel to that one, sitting down at the end of it beside Jim.
"I think I know what the problem is honey," she said. Jim looked at her. "Caring for Dave made you feel needed, not to mention gave you a friend in your situation."
"I guess it did. Dave was like a younger brother to me, a protege even. I really do care about him. I wanted him to stay this way, yet I also want what’s best for him. I feel sad that we won’t be able to play anymore but I know becoming human is what’s best for him."
His father stopped petting him and his mother petted him to get his attention. She smiled and scratched under his chin.
"I think you’re learning what it’s like to be a parent. It’s all another part of growing up Jim. Sometimes, you have to put aside what you want and to do what’s best for your child, even if it pains you to do it. But there are also times we need to do what’s right for us, even if it’s difficult."
"You think I should become human again?" Jim asked.
The doorbell rang moments later and Jim’s father went to see who it was.
"I think it would be what’s right for you, even if you don’t know it," Jim’s mother said.
Jim stood on his hind legs.
"I’ve accepted being this way. Now, I’m unique. In school, I was the total opposite. More then anything, I just wanted to fit in. I never smoked or anything like that but I hated the idea of being different. I dressed, talked and did everything the same as everyone. When this first happened, I was depressed. Later, I taught myself to speak so I could still somehow fit in. Then, I started realizing I couldn’t fit in with my friends anymore. They were human, I wasn’t. As I could speak, I wasn’t even a normal raccoon; I couldn’t fit with them. Being away from peer pressure had me understanding that fitting in means nothing if you’re being someone you aren’t. I knew that I was unique and that made me special. I mean, how many talking raccoons are there out there?" Jim said.
He heard someone walk into the living room and turned to see a teenaged boy with his father. It took him a few minutes to recognize that boy as Dave; he’d only seen him the day of the garage sale.
"You’re the only one I know!" Dave said.
"Dave?" Jim asked.
Dave sat down beside Jim and petted Jim on the head.
"I admit Dave, not bad. I’m just not used to seeing you as a human," Jim said.
"Well, don’t worry bro; I’m not going to abandon you. We’re still bros. and I owe you big time," Dave said.
"For what? To be truthful Dave, I wanted you to stay a raccoon so we could be together," Jim said. However, that would have been selfish and I couldn’t do that to him.
"What stopped you from trying get me to stay that way?" Dave asked.
"Because," Jim started, looking at his mother, who smiled and nodded. "Then I wouldn’t be much of a friend now, would I? I want to stay this way and that’s fine, I’ve accepted this. But, I know that you deserve a chance to live your life and to have the opportunities you were meant to have; ones you can only realistically have as a human."
"Yeah, you’re right but what about your opportunities? I still owe you, if it wasn’t for you, I’d have never considered writing. Hell, I’d never been much into reading but now I’ve come to see how enjoyable it can be. Part of the reason I never got good grades was because I was never much into studying or reading my textbooks. Now, it doesn’t seem so bad. I know our age differences as humans might make things hard, but we can work it out. My time as a raccoon was so much fun, but, well, my mother explained it pretty good." Dave said, telling the others what his mother had said.
"She’s right Dave, and Jim, her points are valid," Jim’s mother said.
"I don’t know, I mean, I know there are things I can’t do like this but I like being this way. Life is so much simpler and fun like this! I don’t want to go back to school or work!" Jim protested.
"One thing I’ve learned from this Jim, we can’t always have our cake and eat it too. Everything has tradeoffs. I’m sad over missing the freedom I had as a raccoon but I’m also happy on other freedoms I’ve regained from becoming human again. What if my Mom is right about what she said?" Dave asked.
"I don’t know Dave, I mean, I’m scared! Right here and now, I’m comfortable and things are working out," Jim said, sounding as though he were starting to cry.
Jim’s mother held him closer.
"Maybe this in a sense is our fault," his mother said.
"What do you mean?" Jim asked.
"We’ve given you a home that’s air conditioned in the summer, heated in the winter, free clean food and water and the ability to bathe regularly. We’ve even given you entertainment and allowed you to have hobbies. When it looked like you were going to be this way for the rest of your life, we wanted you to be happy."
"That’s just the thing, I am happy," Jim said.
"Well Jim, it’s also my point. You can become human now. Is it fair to stay here like this for the rest of your life? I know it’s scary, but we all have to grow up someday, maybe this is your day. Think of all the things you’ll get to do again. Now, you won’t have to worry about being in the shadows anymore. I know it’ll be hard getting used to being human again, but we can get you help for that. Sure, you’d be happy living like this for the rest of your life but you couldn’t accomplish much more. This form would lock you in this way of thinking and behaving forever. You deserve better, you deserve a chance to go out into the world and live."
She’s right, I know I do but it’s been so long, how can I make it as a human again?
"Please Jim, you’re still young. To you twenty-one must seem old, but in reality, you have your entire life ahead of you. You still have plenty of time to catch up and get used to being human again. Right now, I know it’s probably hard for you to see why changing back is best for you. Believe me when I say that you’ll understand when you’re older."
"All right then, if you guys think it’s for the best, then I guess it is," Jim said.
Dave nodded. "I know we can get through this Jim, it’ll be messed up for both of us, but I think it’ll be worth it."
Two hours later, the statue was back in Jim’s possession and he was standing in his room, restored to human form as he stared into his bedroom mirror. He’d spent the past hour just staring at his reflection, trying to come to terms with the fact that this was really him. He didn’t look that different from his pictures of the weeks before he changed, the only difference being he was three years older.
It had taken him the better part of that hour to realize the flowing shoulder length red hair was his and to feel comfortable in the blue tee shirt and jeans he now wore. They itched and a part of him, (not too small a part at that) wanted to throw them off. He heard a knock at the door, now trying to accept how much quieter and weaker smelling things were as a human.
"Come in," he said, his voice now normal, and speech (rather then the sounds of a raccoon) being natural.
He turned to see Dave opening the door. Normally, he’d have seen Dave as just some high school kid, difficult for him to relate to given he was more then three years out of High School by now.
"Hey Jim, how are you doing?" Dave asked.
Dave still felt like a younger brother to him.
"Not bad all things considered," Jim answered.
"Kinda messed up isn’t it?" Dave said.
"Yeah," Jim chuckled. "I thought I was going to be that way forever. It was such a comfortable life, no worries, school, work or any responsibilities."
Sitting down, Jim sighed. Dave sat down beside him.
"Yeah, I know what you mean. But, I guess we need to move on now. I mean, I don’t really want to go back to school, but my Mom says that I’ll understand when I’m older why this was the right decision," Dave said.
"Yes, my parents keep saying that too. I just hope they’re right," Jim said.
Jim knew they were right. He knew his novel and art (should he pursue it further) couldn’t really work if he stayed a raccoon. He knew that as a raccoon, he’d eventually have reached (had he not already) his limit of where he could go. He didn’t want to be stuck at that level forever. He realized that, despite his upset over having to return to getting a job or going to school eventually, that at least now he didn’t have the proverbial ceiling. Perhaps that was why he’d been so happy helping Dave; it gave him another purpose in life, a way to grow beyond how his form had restricted him. Being a raccoon was a wonderful and fun experience, but had he stayed, he couldn’t have evolved beyond that.
"You know Jim, we don’t have to go back to school or wherever right away. Want to go watch a movie or something?"
"Sure bro, why not?" Jim answered.
With that, Jim followed Dave downstairs. He knew things were going to be hard. While he did wish he were still a raccoon without human worries, he also knew that perhaps, it was time for him to grow up.
While, perhaps he’d lost three years of his life, he’d also gained a new perspective and wisdom. He’d gained his writing, something as a human he may never have done. Perhaps his mother was right, maybe it was time for him to grow up.
As he and Dave sat on the couch and relaxed, Jim smiled at his friend, no his brother, perhaps not in blood, but that wasn’t what mattered.
"Going back to a human life won’t be easy for me you know," Jim said.
"Nor I, but I know this was all worth it. I mean, we wouldn’t have been bros. if that didn’t happen to us. I may not have started writing or reading a lot," Dave said.
"I doubt I would have either. I guess it will be worth it in the long run," Jim said with a smile.
The two talked before selecting a movie and readying it. Jim was happy Dave had his life back. It would take him time to adjust to having his back as well. Knowing Dave’s tenure as a raccoon had changed him for the better had Jim feeling good about himself. His stay had changed him as well. Now there was just the matter of re-adjusting to human life. Perhaps both Jim and Dave had learned important lessons in life, about the value of growing up. While staying innocent forever was appealing and fun, Jim knew that naiveté had its limits; he couldn’t stay virtuous while also being able to do the things he truly wanted to do. He knew there were tough adjustment times ahead. He wasn’t sure how he was going to handle it. He however, felt it would be worth it in the end, for both of them.
"You know, there are probably others out there that are still raccoons because of that statue. Maybe we can find them and help them," Jim said.
"Sounds like fun," Dave answered.
"First though, we have a movie to watch," Jim said with a smile.
As Dave started the movie, Jim lay back and relaxed. While this perhaps was the end of one journey, it was also the beginning of another.