chapter 2

"Uh. Yeah... I think." I said then added, "Who are you guys? ", "and girls?" when I see one is a woman. They don’t look like cops and I could tell they weren’t social workers either by the way they dressed. Social workers usually wore suits or pants suits if they were girls, while everyone here was wearing blue jeans and t-shirts.

"We found you passed out in the woods, so we brought you back here," said the man in the flannel shirt who is now lying down next to me. "Let’s introduce ourselves so we can get acquainted," he says. We are the Packers family. "I’m Raven and this little guy, I mean girl, name is Dumbo". He pointed to his right shoulder where a real raven was sitting.

"We call her that because she reminds us of the crows in that" Dumbo" movie, but we don’t know their names, because they never said them in the movie so we just call her Dumbo."

I liked the crows in that movie too, but I had always been told they were a racist stereotype of African American people. That is why Disney couldn’t make a sequel, but I didn’t say that.

The raven on his shoulder suddenly let out a caw as if she was trying to say" hi". Then she suddenly jumped off his shoulder and landed on my head, which made me jump a little in surprise. After she had landed on my head, she then looked at me upside down, and for a second I thought she was going to poke me in the eye. Instead she cocked her head the way a parakeet does, and I could tell she was just checking me out. It almost looked like she was smiling. I knew that sounds weird, because birds don’t have that kind of muscle in their beak to do that. I also noticed she had blue eyes, just like one of mine, which was strange because most birds have black eyes.

"Hey she likes you", I heard the man in a flannel shirt, who I now knew was Raven say.

"That’s strange, she usually only sits with Raven," said someone else in the group I hadn’t met yet.

"This is my wife Silver Ear," Raven said putting his arm around a very pregnant red haired woman, who definitely was not Native American. She looked so pale standing next to Raven that she remained me of the ice queen in that Narnai movie. You know the one played by that actress who has really dark eyes and usually plays a scary or powerful woman. Unlike the lady in Narnai, Silver Ear had a friendly smile that made you feel safe. She also looked like she was going to pop, being so pregnant like a balloon filled with too much water. She had her legs crossed. I think she had to go to the bathroom and she was trying to hold it, because she was hopping from one foot to the other slightly. She must have been afraid if she left she might miss something. She was wearing long sleeves and jeans that were unbuttoned because of her large belly. She had a peace sign around her neck and one feather earring.

"And this is my little brother," continued Raven." We call him LB, which is short for little brother".

LB looked a lot like his brother only shorter and younger. He was wearing a shirt with a skull on it and with the sleeves ripped off. He had his arms crossed and was looking at me hard. He was trying to look tough, but I could tell he was just checking me out. Not the same way a guy checks out a girl but more like the way you check out competition.

"And this is our adopted brother Red," he pointed to a very skinny African American man who was sitting on the floor scratching his ear with his foot like a dog. He must take yoga classes or be double-jointed or both to do that I thought. I couldn’t scratch like that if someone paid me. When he was done scratching he looked straight at me, and smiled warmly. I noticed his hair was red, but it didn’t look dyed (that was probably wear he got his name). He was wearing a black and purple striped shirt and blue jeans. He had on a pair of thin wire glass, but they didn’t make him look nerdy like most glasses, they just mad his eyes look bigger. He reminded me of the "Where’s Waldo" guy. Suddenly he opened his mouth and said, "Did you know butterflies taste with their feet?"

"Uhhhh. No." Was all I could say, while thinking what did that have to do with our situation?

"And they used to be called flutterflys", He added.

"Just ignore him, " said LB rolling his eyes.

"He’s always telling us useless information."

Right next to Red was one of those wolf dogs called a husky. At least that’s what I thought at first. Then I looked closer. It wasn’t a dog. It was a real wolf. The wolf raised his head, looked at me then put his head back down and went to sleep. Unlike everyone else in the room, he was the only one who wasn’t interested to see me.

"And last but not least", said Raven. "This is Gram-Gram, " he said pointing to an old woman.

"About time you got to me", she said in a smart Alec but just kidding kind of tone. She had very long gray hair down to her waist. She was blind. I could tell because her eyes were completely white, like Storm in the X Men. She was sitting down with her legs crossed, wearing a poncho and very big pants like the kind that rappers wear. I was glad she was sitting down, because if she got up the pants looked like they would fall down.

"Well now that we’ve told you our names, what’s your name kid?" said Raven.

"Uh….. Trooper...," I said shyly. I never knew what to say to strangers. Was I supposed to be nice and polite, or just run for it in case they were kidnappers?

"Trooper," repeated LB. "That doesn’t sound like a Chinese name. I would have thought you were more of a Chin, or Jung, Or Yang. Hey you know that reminds me of this joke, about how fat people saying they have more chins than a Chinese phone book."

"Shut up! You’re being racist," mumbled Silver Ear in a disgusted and embarrassed tone of voice.

"I’m not!" LB shot back, looking mortified that someone would call him racist.

"It’s not like I was telling that joke I heard at the bar about a pope, a priest and a Chinese guy that walk into a bar".

"Just be quiet", growled Silver Ear.

"I was just saying.... Oh forget it", answered LB looking annoyed and frustrated he wasn’t able to tell his joke.

"I thought it was a pope, a priest and a girl from Kentucky," said Red.

"Uh that’s a different joke. I’ll tell you that one in private," said LB and winked at Red and me.

"Am I in trouble?" I said, "Is this a police station?" I was trying to sound innocent and sorry at that same time so they wouldn’t be too hard on me.

LB laughed, well not really laughed, more like a snort from trying to hold back a laugh. "Us in a police station? Yeah right."

"You’re not in trouble, you’re safe with us", said Raven looking concerned.

"Safe? You mean I’m not in trouble for letting the dogs out?" I blurted out.

"What dogs?" said Red, who was now curled up on the floor right next to Lefty as if he was a friendly dog.

Uh boy. That was stupid thing to say. Now they would probably tell the police on me. Well no point holding back now I thought.

"Well I ... I uh. Kind of... let all the dogs….that were...supposed to be… put to sleep… loose," I answered.

"Did any of them have rabies?" said Gram- Gram.

"Uh no", I said.

"Then good for you," she said.

"Tell us about yourself kid", Said LB.

"He said his name is Trooper! Not kid!" corrected Silver Ear.

"Fine, said LB. "Mind if I just call you kid anyway?" looking over at Silver Ear, who was rolling her eyes.

"Uh ok", I said, relieved they weren’t mad about the dogs I’d liberated from the pound.

So I told them about my life. How hunters found me in the woods at age three. My birth parents could never be located or identified. So I was taken to the orphanage, and how the nuns raised me (if you could call it that). Seems they didn’t like me that much, especially one nun named Mona. But every one called her nun Moe for short, like Moe on The Three Stooges. She looked a lot like Moe too, with her big nose, always-frowning expression, and a bowl hair cut. She could have been his twin sister. Luckily she had never watched the "The Three Stooges" and had no idea who they were, otherwise she wouldn’t approve of the nickname. Not that she knew about it. No one dared called her that to her face. She was always putting me in the worst foster homes she could find. I didn’t tell them about my dream that I’ve been having for years, as I had never told anyone. I wasn’t going to tell them, no matter how nice they seemed.

"Wow Kid that’s rough", said LB. "No wonder you are called Trooper, you sure are one after what you have gone through."

I blushed; I always do that when I’m complemented.

"Actually that’s how I got my name," I explained. When I was first found in the woods I had no identification on me, (three year olds rarely carry a driver’s license). And since the state couldn’t find any record of my birth at any hospital they had no idea what my name was, or if I even had a name. So someone suggested they just call me Trooper since a state trooper had brought me to the orphanage. It was just until someone else adopted me. It wasn’t meant to be permanent, but since I haven’t been adopted (so far) it just stuck. That’s what I was thinking but instead I blurted out,

"Thanks, no one had ever told me that." I said in a very loud squeaky voice. That happened sometimes when I was nervous.

I didn’t get a lot of compliments. Most people just made a lame joke such as your sending in the Trooper, or asked what Boy Scout Troop are I was in?’

After a few minutes of awkward silences LB asked me question I’ll never forget.

"Sooooo, how long have you known you were?.... Well... you know?" said LB.

"Know I was what?" I said, wondering what he meant, a risk taker, and a rule breaker. They all looked at each other for a moment then back at me.

"You know", repeated LB

"He doesn’t know! That’s why he hasn’t answered your question", snapped Silver Ear.

"Just look at yourself kid", said LB.

"Uh O.K." I said looking down, nothing unusual, just my legs and arms in a fur coat...

Wait.... I wasn’t wearing a fur coat; I never would wear a fur coat. My arms were skinny but they were never this skinny and where were my fingers? There was some sort of gloves on them covering them up like ...paws.

"Is this some kind of joke?" I shouted out in surprise.

"Now why do people always say that," said LB. In a very calm voice as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening.

"Now take it easy Trooper. Look over here," said Raven pointing to a full-length mirror against the wall.

When I did look I almost fainted. Instead of seeing an exhausted Chinese boy in the mirror, you want to know what I saw? A wolf staring back at me. I was a wolf. My human body was gone. I was covered in gray fur. I looked like a real wolf, not a human with just hair all over his body. The only thing that looked like me was my black hair that was still on top of my head and my one blue eye and one green eye. But I was a wolf, a real wolf. I know I just said that, but hey I was in shock, wouldn’t you be? I’m having another nightmare, I thought to myself. I had heard about waking up in one dream and being in another. That must have been what was happening now. I was like that guy in a book I read, who woke up and discovered he was a giant cockroach. I forget what the title was called; I just remember the plot because I had to read it for an English class.

"You’re not dreaming Trooper", said Raven. "Now just calm down," he said like this was all perfectly normal.

But I couldn’t calm down. I was running around in circles on all four legs.

"I got to wake up! I got to wake up!" I kept telling myself, this was too weird. I thought I was saying it in a normal voice, but I must have been shouting, because Red had his hands over his ears. Lefty was also sitting up now staring at me, so now I was interesting to him.

After running around in circles for a while till I felt sick I saw the door. I would run out the door I decided, and then I would wake up. It seemed like a reasonable idea at the time. I made a dash for it, but Raven tackled me. I landed on the ground hard. Aside from being pinned to the ground, Raven wasn’t hurting me. But I couldn’t get up, and I definitely wasn’t comfortable. I was thankful the floor was dirt instead of hard linoleum. Funny the things that runs through your head in crisis.

"Soggy sorry droopier", mumbled Raven.

I think he was trying to say "Sorry Trooper," but he sounded like he had something in his mouth. I looked up and realized he did have something in his mouth. It was the scruff of my neck, but it didn’t hurt. That wasn’t what surprised me, because now he was a wolf too. As if this wasn’t enough for me to handle in one day, so was everyone else in the room now a wolf.

Chapter Three

That’s when it hit me; they were the same wolves I had seen earlier in the woods. It hadn’t been a dream. Or if it had been a dream I was still living it.

"We are not going to hurt you kid, we are going to help you", said Raven still in a clam almost relaxing voices. At least that’s what I think he said since he still had my neck in his mouth when he said it; the words came out "Weeeve.. bar.. snot.. blowwwing.. tob shirt.. youve Trmper."

"We are skin walkers or as you probably know better werewolves, just like you" said Silver Ear. I knew it was her even in wolf form because of her voice and she still had the earring in her ear and the peace sigh around her neck.

"What?" I said. I couldn’t have heard her right.

"A werewolf! Due!" said a wolf that must have been LB, because he had the same messy long hair on his head. Only now it was fur. He said it like I just asked the dumbest question in the world, which I guess it was. I didn’t want to be annoying and ask him to repeat it again (yes even under pressure I’m that self conscious). But I couldn’t have heard him right. I was too shy to ask, "Did you just say werewolf?" Then if I were wrong they’d all laugh and say "No we said. Uh... What rhymes with werewolf? The point is I would sound stupid. Yes, I was actually worried about looking stupid after being turned into a wolf. I told you I was shy and self-conscious.

"Yes, A werewolf kid," said LB. "Also known as a Lycian, a shape shifter or a skin walker. We used to say Skin Walker, that’s the native word. Around here more people are familiar with the word werewolf, which is a wolf person... not to be confused with a cat person. and when I say cat person I mean the kind that turn into leopards. Not the crazy old ladies that get twenty different cats that will possibly eat them if they die alone."

"He gets the picture", said Silver Ear. "And not all cat people are crazy", she added defensively, which probably meant she knew some cat people herself.

"A werewolf!" I repeated "But... those aren’t real, are they?" I stammered. They all laughed when I said that.

"Not real," said LB laughing. "Then what do you think you are? A giant bunny rabbit named Harvey?"

"You must have had some idea that you were... different..?" said Silver Ear in a calm reassuring voice. That’s when I noticed her stomach looked even bigger in wolf form. I could see her nipples, which I tried not to stare at even though it wasn’t as big as deal if she had been in human form. It was still awkward to look at though.

"Well." I said trying to think of a way I had known I was different.

" I do like pineapples on pizza, "I said.

"Really? I like peanut butter on mine", said Red, he still had his glasses on which was a very funny sight. I would have laughed if I hadn’t been so scared.

"Did you know peanut butter was invented by a black man? I learned that during black history month, and so were the gas mask, the stoplight, and open heart surgery…."

"We get it Red, said Silver Ear, LB, and Gram- Gram all at the same time.

Gram- Gram still had those white eyes and was shorter then the other wolves. Her hair, or shall I say fur, was grayer so she almost looked white but not quite.

"But I’m not finished," Red protested.

"Oh yes you are," said LB.

"Like I was saying," commented Silver Ear.

"I mean you must have had moments you couldn’t explain, like waking up tired, like you had been up all night."

"Or understanding dogs more than people," added Red.

Suddenly I realized they were right. I had other happier dreams, where I had been in the woods, just running, and would wake up in bed, tired and sweaty. Sister Moe always accused me of bringing dogs into my room to sleep with me. She was always telling me she found fur in my bed, no matter how hard I tried to keep it clean. I just assumed it had come from other dogs at the SPCA.

I recalled how even the meanest dogs in the SPCA would be intimidated by me. One time I was staying with a foster family house that you had to walk by on the way to school. On the way you went by this lady’s house that had a huge half Doberman Pincher, half pit bull. It was on a long chain that could easily reach you unless you got off the sidewalk. That was a problem, because it was a busy street. So your choices were get mauled by an angry dog or get hit by a car. The only other path to school would get you there two hours late. The lady who lived there refused to shorten her dog’s chain. She said it was because she wanted him to have more room. The real truth was she was a mean lady; she made the Wicked Witch of the West look like Mary Poppins. If a car had hit one of the kids, I think it would have made her day. Yeah, she was that mean. Seems she was the police chief’s great aunt or something, so no one did anything.

One day I walked up to that dog and it didn’t bark once. It stuck its tail between its legs and wet itself. Dogs do that when they are really scared. It never attacked another kid, at least when I was there. So I was kind of a crossing guard. It all made sense, but still this was a lot to take in on one day. Was I going to be a wolf forever now?

As if reading my mind LB said, "You can change back whenever you feel like it kid. Just like us."

Then as fast as they had become wolves they turned human again. If I blinked I would have missed it. It wasn’t like in the movies where it took werewolves a long time to grow all their fur and they looked like they were in pain. It happened very fast and it wasn’t painful at all. "How come your clothes disappear when you turn into wolves?" I said.

I had been wondering about that when I noticed Silver Ears nipples, which thank God I couldn’t see now, as she was fully dressed.

"We’re not really sure, just like a lot of things in life," said Raven. "It’s part of the magic. Let us explain...."

"You mean let me explain," said Gram- Gram. She cleared her throat and said," Let’s start at the beginning."

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