The Shape-Shifter's Mother
by Wendy Nikel
On Monday, Jeremy Sanders woke as a turtle.
He hadn't always been a turtle. His mother certainly hadn't given birth to a turtle that rainy night five years ago, but there was no denying that's what he was now, from his exquisite, beak-like mouth all the way down his coarse shell to the scaly tip of his tail. Unable to leap from his bed as he normally would, he tumbled to the floor with a thud that sent his mother's heart racing and her feet flying to his room from across the hall.
If the olive hue of his face or his newly leathered skin surprised her, she didn't show it. She gently helped him off his back and carried him downstairs, in much the same way as she did every morning, though this time taking care to avoid his claws. Today, breakfast consisted of greens and carrots, which Jeremy ate much more readily than when he'd been a human boy.
That afternoon, his mother took him to the pond. Choosing a shaded bench beside the banks, she peered out from between her wide-brimmed hat and the top edge of her novel to watch him scuttle down to the water. She wondered what she'd ever done to have a turtle as a son and how long he meant to remain one. It hardly seemed fair that the other boys should be allowed to run and jump and play ball when her son--only hers--should have such stubby, short legs and slow gait.