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February 6, 2019 Fiction

Martha, My Shapeshifting Friend

Lanny Durbin

Martha, My Shapeshifting Friend photo

Martha and me, we’re sitting under an umbrella table waiting for these cheese fries. There was this food truck that started up in town—first one in our little crap hole town—that claimed their cheese fries would change your life. That’s what it said on the side of the silver truck, painted with purple and orange—OUR CHEESE FRIES WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!

So Martha and me, we said, hell, better check out those cheese fries!

Martha said to me with sun in her eyes, “I feel like I shapeshift a couple times a week.”

“That right?” I said.

“Yeah.”

“I hadn’t noticed.”

“Well, maybe it doesn’t show. But, man, I’ll tell ya. I feel it.”

I thought, shit, that’s heavy. I didn’t say it out loud just yet. I was thinking about the cheese fries, of course, but I was also thinking about a lot of other things. Was thinking about where all the time went, about how I wished Martha didn’t have to get as sad as she got, you know, the usual things. Started thinking about shapeshifting, too. Only shapeshifter I could think of was the one from the X-Men pictures. Blue skin, I think. That didn’t seem so bad. I figured I’d been pondering too long, so I said, “Shit, that’s heavy.”

“Yeah.”

“It hurt?”

“Does it ever. At the store, going alright, then bam, I’ve changed.”

“So you can’t control when you shapeshift? Not a very useful skill then, huh?”

“Not very.”

“Try it. Shapeshift right now.”

Martha looked around at the other idiots waiting to have their lives changed by the cheese fries. She closed her eyes and straightened her shoulders. She took a deep breath and held it hard like she was trying to pop her ears. I watched her there, really trying to shapeshift. It was sad as hell. She let the breath out and opened her eyes, looked at me, like, well?

“Oh my god!” I said.

“What!?”

“Martha? Is that you?”

“Yeah … hey, shut up,” she said. “Go ahead and make your fun.”

“I’m sorry. Maybe my hidden skill is that I can’t see shapeshifters.”

Martha rolled her eyes and smirked a little. The greasy man dying inside the food truck called my name. I carried the plate of cheese fries back to our picnic table. We stared at the fries as they steamed and drowned in yellow, wondering if we should say a few things before our lives were changed forever. We decided, nah, just let it happen.

“Anything?” I said through a mouthful of wet potato and cheese.

“Nothin’,” Martha said. “Needs salt.”

“I don’t think I like cheese fries.”

“Man, me neither.”

She said pushed the fries away. “I really do shapeshift, okay?”

“I believe you, hundred percent. More than I believe in these bullshit fries.”

I picked up the rest of the fries and slam dunked the plate into the trash barrel on the sidewalk. Martha giggled and ran out of the offended food truck man’s sight. She walked a few paces ahead of me, the remnants of the laugh from the slam dunk still in her steps. We got to my car and I saw that little lightness fade and her shoulders slump. Was just like that. It seemed so small but she really felt it. 
 

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