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We were Goblins

Justin Allen Berg is an associate professor of sociology. He has published a number of articles in scientific journals and thought pieces on news websites. This is his first publication of fiction.
We were goblins that summer. Fire-roasted rabbit to eat and muddy pond water to drink. Howling at the stars at night. Groggy and green till afternoon. Cage and I hobbled everywhere during those sweltering days, sweat dripping down our youthful, twisted faces. Long on ears, short on experience, smelling like gutted, discarded fish.
We paid no nevermind to the villagers, except to scare the occasional group of girls. That night by the flames of the bonfire. They were laughing. We appeared, prepped with our best pickup lines. One look. We stood. Nothing more. They screamed and hugged each other. We kicked their ale, spit in their fire, and yelled and growled. Left. Limped to other places. We hated their parents, the stories they told about us. But we loathed the prince in his big castle. Knights of glory, they said. Knights of cruelty to us.
We are goblins. Lonely. Angry. Avoiders of mirrors and pond reflections. Cage hit my face. I punched his stomach. Brothers. We talked like rocks rolling down the side of a mountain. Not home but to eat tasteless soup, sleep in hay, and argue. Smoke in the air. Rags on the dirt floor. I left. Cage stayed. "I'm ugly," he said. "Don't deserve no nothing."
I traveled to the north. Worked for a troll, collecting rotting animal carcasses for him to eat. A coin each. The next summer I didn't return or the summer after that. Met a daughter of a werewolf. Gorgeous to me, wild at night. Skinny-dipped. Raced through the forest together. Laughed at many full moons together, because she never grew fangs, until two summers later, she changed on a blue moon, as daughter of werewolves do. And I changed. Leaner, taller, cleaner.
I returned home. Cage had moved out, but cared for our parents. He had changed and not changed, softer, slower, kinder, but still smelly, a drinker of muddy pond water and teller of tall tales. He had turned cynical, but kept his laugh that warmed my heart.
Met one of the bonfire girls by a wishing well. She didn't run from me, having experienced her own thunder storms. We had a child together. A little girl. Cuter than a baby unicorn. More magical than a fairy.
I will always be a goblin, of course. But, I am comfortable in my own skin now.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

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