Not today, the boy thought. He knew the tone in his mother’s voice meant a bath. But he was ready. He had been practicing. “Abra ka-dabra, zala-ka-zoot!” Cohen said. “Turn this boy into a newt!” A spark, a pop, a puff, and he had transformed. 

Newt-Cohen peered between the leaves of the shrub he had been hiding behind. On the porch, his mother scanned the property with predatory keenness, but passed right over his hiding spot without even a pause. 

He was free!

Through the garden, out the gate, down the hill to the creek. It was one of Cohen’s favorite places to play. Fresh, cool water, soft, squishy mud, and somehow Cohen knew instinctively that the river bank was a variable candy store of yummy bugs and worms. 

Cohen froze. The shadows at the base of a nearby bush emanated a primal menace. 

He should flee. He should change back. He just needed to remember the words. 

A serpentine head emerged from the undergrowth. Dark, beady eyes and violent green scales.

Cohen was panicking, but still couldn’t find the words. 

The snake opened its mouth.

“Cohen Eidelberg!” It shrieked in his mother’s voice. “You come home this instant!”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox