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© 2001, Tad "Baxil" Ramspott

                            BIRTHDAY PRESENT

                          Precision Short Story
                                By Baxil
                              July 22, 2001

	"It's just a phase," he says weakly.

	"We shouldn't encourage the boy," she pleads.

	He holds up the mask.  "Last month, Will ran around the yard, arms 
stretched out -- a flying eagle.  On Thanksgiving, he scraped his knee 
galloping around on all fours.  A horse, or a unicorn."  He reaches to 
brush the stiff plastic whiskers, run his fingers through dyed fabric fur.  
"Next week he'll be a dragon.  Let's just humor him."

	"Dear, I'm not so sure.  The Hartfelds, down the street," she 
lowers her voice, "I think they're, you know," she whispers, "cats."

	"Honey, we shouldn't judge."

	"Will's spent most of the last month with their Clay.  That's what 
this is.  I don't want to stunt the boy's imagination, but he needs to 
understand, you know, what he really is.  Human.  Like us."

	He massages the bridge of his nose.  "It'll pass."

	Neither of them is quite prepared for Thursday morning.

	She's halfway up the stairs when William's door rattles and bursts
open.  A scruffy tiger cub, cartoonishly striped, rolls into the hallway,
landing on its back, staring up at her through wide eyes.  It squeaks,
high-pitched; she could swear she hears, "Thanks, Mom!  You're the best
parents ever!"

	He comes upstairs, but can't find anything to say, either.

	They call the school, explain Will is sick, and let their son out
into the backyard.  He throws the still gift-wrapped mask away.  The two
sit numbly around the kitchen table.

	"It's just a phase," she says weakly.

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Page last updated Jan 10, 2002. Design (c) 2001 Tad "Baxil" Ramspott.