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Christmas Shopping
by Oren the Otter
Oren the Otter -- all rights reserved

I'm a lucky SCAB, I think, because I can drive. This means that I am able to live way up north by the lake and still putter down on my scooter once a day to visit my friends at the Blind Pig. Jeremiah can't drive because he's fifteen. Theo and Annette can't drive because they're fish. As for me, I'm too small to drive anything that can carry cargo. I guess that's how we managed to rope Kris into taking us all Christmas shopping.

We had been walking around the mall for a couple of hours. It's not like we were getting tired or anything. In fact, we were all having quite a bit of fun walking along, eating snacks from every express restaurant we passed and looking at the animatronic sea-animal exhibits that the mall was showing off for the cetacean institute this season.

No, the only thing that was even slightly dampening (besides the occasional slosh from the Jefferson's fishbowl) was the fact that nobody could find what they were looking for.

I had finished most of my Christmas shopping, but I was on the lookout for an otter plushie. I had promised one to Victoria so that she could have a miniature me to snuggle. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find an otter plushie? I don't think anybody makes them!

Jeremiah was looking for something for Poe. When asked what she wanted, she replied "Oh, you know us magpies. Anything sparkly." Sparkle, there was in droves, but nothing was right.

Theo and Annette didn't have a lot to spend, being unemployed. Still, they had hoped to find one very special gift to give each other- a pair of wedding rings wearable by fish.

Kris was searching for two gifts. For his wife, Karen, we wanted a silver fur-brush. He had found plenty of brushes, but not a single one in silver. He was also searching for a special toy for his three-year-old daughter, Cassie. She had pleaded, with big Bambi eyes, for a horse-morph Barbie. Thus far, all of the stores were out.

So, in happy frustration, the five of us trudged on through the mall, peeking in the calendar booth and gawking at a robotic bassilosaurus as it slithered through fiberglass rocks and sang.

"How about earrings?" Said Jeremiah as we stopped in a jewellery store. "Do you think that Poe would like earrings?"

::Not a good idea.:: said Annette through her vodor. ::Magpies don't have ears. When she morphs, the rings might rip through her earlobes.::

Jeremiah dropped the earring he was looking at as though it had scalded him.

"Nothing here we can afford." said Theo. "We're ready to move on if you are."

Jeremiah picked up the fishbowl and went to join Kris and myself in the neighboring toy store. I was madly digging through the plushie bin, searching for my lookalike, when I heard Kris exclaim "I found one!"

"Found what?" Jeremiah and I asked in unison.

"A horse-morph Barbie! It's way up there on the top shelf."

"I got it." I said as I started to climb. As I went up, I could feel my body change from an otter to a pine marten, the better to get me up there. I then pushed the boxed doll down into Jeremiah's waiting wings.

Kris took the Barbie doll while I climbed down and pressed a button on the back. "Let's morph!" declared the toy. Little mechanical devices inside stretched the doll's skin out, changing her from a human to a morphic horse.

"Back before my monastery days, this stuff was science fiction." declared Kris. "I can't believe they pulled off a technological stunt like this for only thirty-nine ninety-five."

Annette pretended to yawn. ::When they make a trout-morph Barbie, give me a call.::

We all chuckled. Then it happened. A scruffy looking woman shouted "YOU'VE GOT A HORSE MORPH BARBIE!"

Chaos ensued. Suddenly, we found ourselves mobbed by people driven crazy by the need for a horse-morph Barbie. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, collectors, scalpers and people moved to insanity by the hype bore down on us. "RUN!" I shouted, the fear running through me causing a small pair of glands to grow near my butt.

The sloshing water of the fishbowl found its way under Kris' feet and he slid horizontally into a Nerf display. Just as an ugly old witch was getting ready to snatch up the goods from my prone friend, Kris handed off to me and I ran like heck. A big ugly goon slowly gained on me, swinging a wiffle bat, so I did the only thing I could think of. I let out all of my spray. As ugly writhed in the aisle gasping for breath, an overzealous uncle leapt in front of me with a plastic meat cleaver.

"Jeremiah! Heads up!" I tossed the box in the air. With a single smooth motion, Jeremiah handed the fish to Kris, swooped over the sports aisle and plucked the doll out of midair.

"I got it! I got it!" proclaimed the angel-boy, until someone threw a plushie-net over him. He threw the box back toward Kris, and it landed in the Jefferson's bowl. A toy scalper reached for it until Theo popped up out of the water and started barking like a doberman. Changing to a weasel to better weave my way through the crowd, I made it up front and shifted back to otter form. Kris sailed the box over the heads of the crowd and into my paws. Catching it, I placed it on the counter and said "Ring this up and then phone for a police escort."

Jeremiah, still tangled up in the net, came to my side, followed by Kris and the fish. We all looked weary, but triumphant.

Just as the clerk took Kris' credit card, a greasy looking man came up and demanded our booty. Naturally, we refused. How were we to know he was a polymorph? Within seconds, all of us were shrinking, including the fish. My paws and tail lost their fur. My ears grew enormous. The next thing I knew, I was a field mouse.

I was soon joined by four other field mice, two dry, two soaking wet. We didn't stick around to admire each other, though. Not when Greasy was trying to step on us. We ran across the corridor and into a Digger's store, where we hid behind the discount bin.

"I can't believe he turned us into mice!" said Jeremiah. "My wings are gone!"

"I'll scurry up a payphone and call Jesse." I said. I turned to go back out the corridor, and that's when I saw it. Through the wire bars of the discount bin, there was a big, soft otter plushie staring me in the face.

"Hey, look at this!" said Theo, pointing right next to where I was looking. "A pair of golden slap-rings! Perfect for a fish tail! And we can afford these!"

Annette hopped up and down with excitement.

Jeremiah was about a foot away, looking at a string of bright red beads. They were the shade of red that goes perfectly with black, and they were sparkly! "I've found Poe's present!"

"This IS serendipitous." said Kris as he examined a chrome fur- brush. It wasn't silver, but it was silver-colored, and it was beautiful. "Just think... if we hadn't been turned into mice, we never would have found all this stuff."

Jeremiah smiled. "And we can buy them when someone gets here to dig the stuff out and retrieve our clothing from the other store."

Jesse arrived fairly quickly. I was almost tempted to ask him to change me back, but I didn't. He didn't want anyone to know that he's a polymorph, and I didn't really feel like putting up with the agony that accompanies Jesse's transformations. He gathered up our clothes, our belongings and the fishbowl and agreed to drive us each home. We thought about waiting for the change to wear off together, but figured that we would be better off if we were each at home, since Theo and Annette would need to jump into the water when they switched back, and Kris And Jeremiah would be naked.

On the way home, we passed a trailer where a man was selling toys.

"Stop here!" Kris requested loudly. "They've got Horse- morph Barbie!"

"That's the guy from the toy store!" declared Theo.

"He's a scalper." I told Kris. "He'll rob you blind."

"I know, but I just gotta have that doll!" Riding in Jesse's paw, Kris approached the greasy man. He had Jesse pick up a horse-morph Barbie and was about to pay the man five times the retail price when sirens began blaring. The scalper swore and ran to his truck, where he started the engine and pulled away, the window on his trailer-shop still open.

"Hey!" said Kris. "What about the doll?"

"Consider it a gift!" yelled the panicked polymorph as he pulled out into the street, only to be stopped half a mile down by two K-9 officers.

"Gee... thanks."

A happy ending to a crazy day. We changed our minds and decided to wait out the change back together after all. Sitting around Kris and Karen's living room, five mice, a kangaroo and a cat lady had a wonderful night singing Christmas carols, drinking cider and cocoa (with marshmallows as big as my hand) and having an absolutely wonderful time.

I love Christmas shopping day.

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