by Shannon Peavey
I don't watch the cars rushing past us on the highway, and I don't look at my brother in the backseat. Instead, I count the sparse hairs on my arm and tell myself that it's not turning into fur.
I check all the time, since my brother started turning into a dog. The teachers at school call it a tic, like they call a lot of things I do. They tell me to sit still and be quiet. They look at me like my voice is only barking--like I'm the one who's an animal.
Now that Noah's finished changing, my mother and I are taking him to the old landfill to live with the other kids who are dogs. He sits in the backseat of our rusty pickup, his tail curled under him and a whine in the back of his throat. He knows something is different.
I asked Mom once if it was going to happen to me, too. She said it wouldn't, as long as I was good. Good kids have nothing to worry about.
"It's okay," I tell Noah, and his tail thumps once against the cracked vinyl.
We pull off the highway and onto an old paved road. The tarmac is pitted and chunked up along the side and the truck runs badly over the rocks. In the distance, a chain-link fence rises out of the brush and runs ever smaller along the horizon until it vanishes into a haze of heat. The place must be huge. I've never seen it before--it's been closed for years and only recently reopened for this purpose. By now there must be a hundred dogchildren inside the fence.
Dogchildren don't make good pets. Some people tried, early on, but it never turned out well. It's too hard for parents to treat their kids like dogs, to train them not to bite and keep them off the furniture. They're meant to be outside, playing with their own kind and learning how to be what they've become. Doing dog things. Social workers come by a couple times a week and drop off kibble, Mom says. Once a month, a scientist leashes them all up and runs tests to see if they can be made people again.
Mom parks by a crooked gate with wire running over the top. She wrestles with it while I gather Noah up in my arms. He's not a big dog. One of those little patch-eyed terriers with yappy voices.
"You're a good brother," I tell him, and his ears perk up. He was, even if no one else thought so. He taught me how to cheat on tests and how to breathe so I could run forever--short belly-breaths, like pulling air from the ground. He never told me to shut up or be still.