by Jon Sleeper
© Jon Sleeper -- all rights reserved
"Okay, folks. Here's the spot. I'll get set up while you calm down that kid of yours..."
It'd started out as a good idea. The week before Maxine and I realized that we didn't even have a family picture, even after four years of marriage. Though we had lots of pictures of the lot of us taken separately (most of those of the Twins), there were none of all of us all dressed up, looking nice for the camera.
I called a local photographer who was delighted at the prospect of taking our picture. "I've read about you in the papers. And I read your weather column every day. What exactly did you have in mind?"
We decided that the best place for the picture was the clearing where our wedding ceremony had taken place. I was a bit disappointed when Grace didn't react to it in the same way she had before the ceremony, dashing through the grass in her nonmorphic form. Instead she just looked around and said, "This place is cool. I remember it. How long is this going to take?"
My adopted daughter had grown up quickly. At twelve she had the body of a fifteen year old human. Her mind had grown as fast as her body, and she was now attending the local high school as a sophomore. Surprisingly enough, the kids there actually looked upon things like her hooves, ears, muzzle, fur, and tail as a kind of personal quirk. She was just one more SCAB going there, after all. Nothing special.
What made me more nervous was the fact that she always seemed to be thinking about some boy. Who this boy might be, I hadn't a clue. Maxine and I were going to sit her down and have a talk very soon.
While the photographer got out her equipment Jimmy was getting more and more nervous. He was more active of the Twins, and tended to like four feet more than two. He was also intensely curious about everything, but when he saw something he didn't like we all knew it.
The first time we tried to take the picture, Maxine held Adam and I held Jimmy. But once he saw the eye of the camera, he shifted forms in my arms, bleated, and vanished into the tall grass of the clearing.
At that moment I wished that the boys didn't shift forms so much. It was impossible to keep any kind of clothing on them. They'd always find a way to get out of it. Adam pointed in the direction that Jimmy went. "Can I go and play too, Mommy?" he said in a piping voice that was almost a bleat.
Maxine smiled and lick-kissed him just between his eyes. "Not now, little buck. Maybe later." She looked in my direction. "Well?"
I was already removing my dress shorts, putting them where they wouldn't get stained. "I'll be right back..." I shifted forms and followed my son into the grass, finding him easily. When he saw me he ran up to stand underneath, finding a spot he knew was safe.
Eventually, I got him back near camera. But not for long. As soon as he caught sight of it, off he'd go into the grass again. The photographer gave me a frustrated look. I shrugged at her. "You know kids. This may take some time..."
Time enough for everybody to have a picnic before I could convince my little buck that he didn't have to be afraid.
We finally got the picture, after much more frustration. On the twentieth try Jimmy's curiousity finally won out over his fear. I was ready at all times to bend down and catch him before he could bolt again. Though this didn't make for the "perfect pose", it was good enough.
And we finally have our much-wanted family photo.
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