One summer, Joey and his younger brother, Oliver, went off into the woods behind their grandfather’s house. They loved visiting their Grandpa. While mom and dad sat and visited, the boys ventured off to fight ogres, explore far-off planets, defend their fortress from mutant hordes, or whatever adventure their reading material on the trip had inspired. Oliver and Joey would play from morning until lunchtime and then until dusk. Or until they started fighting, which happened pretty regularly.
After a few hours of climbing trees, the boys decided to skim rocks across the creek that cut the woods in two. Joey grabbed a handful of tiny pebbles and tossed them into the air. He watched them fall on the water like rain and tried to count all the circles they left in their wake. Oliver picked up a smooth, round stone. It looked like a large, blue coin. He wrapped his pointer finger and thumb around it and sent it flying across the water. It bounced once, twice, three times before it finally dove underwater with a satisfying splash. Joey tried to match his brother but with a larger stone that looked more like a dinosaur egg than a coin. He held onto it with both hands, spun around in three circles, and released the rock, sending it flying far across the water and onto the other shore.
“Nice try, goof,” Oliver laughed, “but you have to find a smooth...”
“I know,” Joey snapped back. “I just wanted to through a big rock really far. Which I did!” He stuck his tongue out at Oliver who was staring at the ground. “And don’t call me ‘goof’.”
“Yeah, sure. Whatever,” Oliver replied without looking up. He bent down slowly as if he were creeping upon a skittish animal.
Joey stomped over, “What are you looking at? Is it a bug? If it’s a big, and you throw it on me, I’m telling Mom!”
Oliver picked up the object of his attention with his finger tips. “It’s not a bug, goof.” He held it up to the sun. A little rainbow refracted on his face. “It’s a crystal!”
“Let me see it!” Joey screamed as he ran to his older brother. He jumped up to snatch it, but Oliver’s arm was far too long.
“Cool it,” Oliver scolded. “I want to look at it for a minute, and then I’ll give you a turn, ok?”
If there was one thing Joey hated more than Ogres, Mutants, and Aliens, it was taking turns. “No,” the little boy yelled. He tried climbing up Oliver’s body like a thin tree trunk, but the older brother shimmied his hips, and the younger brother fell bottom first on the rocky shore. “I want it now!” Joey demanded with a stomp.
“You’re a monster,” Oliver chuckled. A flash of lighting shot from crystal and struck Joey. The flash was blinding. The world was white. Once his eyes recovered, Oliver didn’t see Joey anymore. Before him stood short, blue-haired creature with bulging eyes, three horns on its head, a mouth full of pointy teeth, and large claws at the ends of its stubby fingers.
“What?” the little thing asked with Joey’s voice.
Oliver’s mouth fell open. “Joey?”
“You... You’re.... Look at yourself.”
Joey stared at his brother for a second and walked to the shore and studied his reflection in the stream. He looked back at Oliver and then again at his reflection. “You turned me into a monster?”
“Not on purpose!” Oliver screamed. He could feel panic sinking in.
The brothers stared at each other for a moment. Finally, Joey marched past Oliver and simply said, “I’m telling Mom.”
What was panic quickly became fear. “Wait,” Oliver begged, “I’ll let you see it.” He forced a smile and offered Joey the crystal.
Joey took it and walked a few steps away from Oliver. He held it up to the light and saw a tiny rainbow grow and shrink as he moved the crystal end over end. Joey looked at his monstrous paw and an idea popped into his head. He turned to Oliver and smiled, “You’re a monkey.”
A bolt of lightening struck the older brother, but before the dust settled, Joey added, “Wearing roller skates… and… eating mud!” Two more flashes struck Oliver. When he finally got a glimpse of what he had done, Joey laughed so hard tears fell down his hairy cheeks.
“What did you do?” Oliver asked, but he already had a pretty good idea. He looked down and saw two brown, furry legs and a pair of blue roller skates. Before he could say another word, Oliver began shoving fistfuls of mud into his monkey mouth. “Ahm perling mah!” the monkey boy mumbled, spitting mud everywhere.
“Ah, ah, ah!” Joey said, wagging a stubby green finger in his brother’s face. “No talking with your mouth full!”
Oliver swallowed the muck down with a gulp and screamed, “I’m telling Mom!” He stomped, well, the closest thing to a stomp he could do wearing roller skates.
“Wait!” the little monster screamed offering the crystal. “You can turn me into whatever you want!”
Thunder struck several more time in the woods that after noon until a four-legged booger man was looking at his brother, a pink and purple striped snowman. “Ok, goof,” we should probably knock this off and head home. Turn me back, and then I’ll turn you.”
“No, you turn me first, I’ll melt soon,” the snow man said, looking down at the growing puddle around him.
“Good thinking,” Oliver tossed him the crystal, but he tossed it a little too high. The shimmering object caught the attention of a crow flying overhead. The bird grabbed the crystal with its feet and flew away. The brothers looked at each other for a brief moment. Then, they screamed and ran after the crow, following her to an ancient pine tree. The crow glided down to her nest and dropped the crystal by her eggs. She hopped onto a branch to watch the two funny looking creatures scurry to the base of her tree. She watched as the snowman tried to climb up the trunk. She cocked her head at the booger monster who stretched its legs up to the top of the tree. Oliver and the crow looked each other in the eye for a moment before she pecked at his face as he tried to grab the crystal with his mouth. The crow hopped back to the center of her nest and sat on her eggs.
Joey began to cry. “What are we going to do, Oliver? I can’t climb it without legs and you can’t grab it with just your teeth!”
A little smile stretched across Oliver’s green, gooey lips. “No, but we can do it together. Hop on my back, goof.”
Joey shuffled backwards, “Ew. No, you’re all boogery.”
“I know, but if you hop on my back, I can stretch and lift you up there. You’ll have better luck with your stick fingers than I would with my booger mouth.”
“Heh,” Joey chuckled, “You said you have a booger mouth.” With that, Joey climbed onto his brother’s boogery back and steadied himself as he went higher and higher. Once he had reached the nest, the crow hopped off her eggs, ready to defend her babies and shiny treasure. She pecked at Joeys wooden hands, but the snow boy was determined to retrieve the crystal. Finally, the crow flew up to attack his face and left the crystal unguarded. Joey snatched it.
“Got it!” he shouted.
“Hold on, Goof,” Oliver called as his legs shrunk, bringing them back down to the base of the tree. Thankfully, the bird decided to cut her losses and stay with her eggs. Joey tumbled off his brother’s back and stared at the crystal. “What are you thinking about, Goof?”
“We could be anything. Robots. Monsters. Wizards,” Joey said dreamily.
“True,” Oliver nodded his head, “but after everything that happened today, all I want to be is your brother.”
The melting snowman smiled. After a pair of lightening flashes Joey looked up to Oliver and asked, “What should we do with it?”
Oliver took one last look at the crystal, “I don’t want it.” He offered it to Joey.
“Me neither,” the little boy said, backing away from the crystal like it was a venomous snake. “Who does?”
Oliver looked up at the nest, “She does.” He took five steps back and threw it as hard as he could into the sky. The bird rocketed from her nest and plucked it from the sky. She returned to her eggs and marveled at her reclaimed treasure. Meanwhile, the two boys started their walk back to Grandpa’s house.
“I’m glad I’m your brother,” Joey said as he put his arm around Oliver’s waist.
Oliver rested his arm on Joey’s shoulder. “I’ve been a lot of things today, but being your brother is the best.”