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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Sci-fi · #1875225
What's wrong with Hugh?
“There’s something wrong with me,” I tell Mother. She is in the kitchen washing up after breakfast. A dish clatters into the basin and she turns to look at me.

“There’s nothing wrong with you, Darling. You’re perfect!”

She always says that. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell her. I know it’s not true though, because the neighbors stare. I don’t look like my family either. They know it, but they will never talk about it. “I don’t look right,” I say as Brother walks through on his way out.

“You look just the way you’re supposed to,” he says. Then he tries to distract me. “Want to go to the store, Hugh?”

I love to go to the store. There are so many wonderful and exciting things at the store. “Yes,” I say. We go out to the garage. He holds his hand out to me and I go toward him. I count his fingers. I’ve just learned how to count. “You have five fingers,” I tell him.

He stops, opens the car and lifts me up to the place where I ride. “Aren’t you the smart little thing,” he tells me. “That’s a new trick. Who did you learn that from?”

“I taught myself,” I say. He smiles at me and gives my head a pat. He is quiet during the ride to the store. I talk the entire time. The store is very large. Everything you could ever want is at the store. We get a big bag and go around putting things in. I try to help but most things are hard for me to hold and everything is big and heavy. Brother is very strong though, so he has no trouble filling and carrying the bag. “I want to be strong like you,” I say.

Brother looks down at me. “You are just as strong as you should be, Hugh. Let’s go check out.” We walk to the front of the store. It is a long way for me, but I don’t complain. There is a line to get out and we have to wait. The other people in line are watching me. Most of them try to pretend they’re not, but one of the older ones stares at me.

“He’s staring at me,” I tell Brother. Brother looks around and then glares his unhappy look at the old one. He reaches down to pick me up and cuddle me against his chest.

“Don’t be afraid, Hugh. No one will ever hurt you. I won’t let them,” he tells me. I know he is angry with them.

“I’m not afraid,” I tell him. I’m not. I’m never afraid, it’s just strange. I wish I knew what was wrong with me.

Brother pays and we go out to the vehicle. He carries the bag and me. I don’t mind, I like when Brother cuddles me. He puts me in my riding place and we head home. “They didn’t like me,” I say.

“They don’t understand about you.” He turns to smile at me. “You must never leave the house without your family, Hugh,” he says.

“I know,” I say. Then I wonder what he means about not being understood. We go into the kitchen. Mother is still there. She looks up and smiles at us. “An old one stared at me at the store,” I tell her.

“Don’t pay attention, Hugh,” she reassures me. Then she looks at Brother. “I’m going to have a talk with Father,” she says.

“Okay,” Brother tells her. “I’ll put these things away.” Mother goes to talk to Father, while Brother works. When he’s not watching me, I go into the hall and put my ear to the door of the office. I can hear Mother and Father.

I’m still listening when Sister comes through on her way to her room. “What are you doing, Hugh?” she asks.

“Listening to Mother and Father,” I say.

“You shouldn’t do that, Hugh. It’s not polite.”

“Why isn’t it polite?” I ask. “I learn important things.”

“Maybe, but their conversation is private. They’ll tell you when they want you to know.” She strokes my head. “Let’s go to my room and play,” she says.

“Okay.” I follow her down the hall. “What is a genetic freak?”

Sister stops walking. “Where did you hear that?”

“One of the neighbors,” I tell her. “They won’t let their children play with me. It makes me sad.”

Sister picks me up and hugs me. “Don’t be sad, Hugh. They don’t understand about you, that’s all. Someday they will.”

I snuggle against her as she starts walking again. “Father is a scientist,” I say. “Can’t he fix me?”

“He already did, Hugh,” she tells me. “Now you’re perfect and no one who knows you thinks anything different.” She sets me down on the floor in her room and gets the ball. I love the ball. “Let’s play,” she says.

I forget to use my words and bark. I’m so happy. I love my family.
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