Mike adjusted his collar with one hand, cradling his tuba with the other. Dressing up for a concert in the park on a hot day like this was rather uncomfortable. At least they were allowed to wear short sleeves.
He looked around. Most of the musicians were starting to take out their instruments to tune them. It was time to block out all the distractions and focus on the music.
He pulled out his tuner and played a note. Great, he wasn’t that far off. He adjusted the valve and played again. Something was off. He played his note again. No, it wasn’t him. Suddenly, the player next to him jumped out of his seat and darted away.
Mike felt a hard pinch on his upper arm. Holding his tuba close, he jumped up and swung around. An angry swan was hissing at him and holding its wings up menacingly. The hissing! That was the odd sound he’d heard. He backed up slowly as the swan advanced.
The swan paused. Mike’s chair was in its way. Mike darted around the chairs in front of him and ran, still clutching his tuba. The hissing behind him finally stopped. He stopped running and turned around. The swan was watching him from a distance.
The ushers were slowly moving the chairs farthest from the swan over to a gazebo. It would be cramped, but there would be shade and they’d be farther from the river and possible swan nests. The swan retreated a little further and they gathered the rest of the chairs.
Mike took the long way around to the gazebo. One of Mike’s friends handed him the handkerchief he used to wipe down his trumpet. “Dude, your arm’s bleeding,” his friend said.
“Thanks!” Mike took the handkerchief and looked down. “Oh no, my shirt!” He’d managed to bleed onto his shirt. His mom wouldn’t be happy.
“Don’t give back the handkerchief,” his friend said. “I have lots.”
Mike wiped up his arm and tied the handkerchief in place. “Do swans get rabies?” he asked.
“Let me look it up.” Mike’s friend pulled out a phone and tapped at it. “Nope. It looks like only mammals can carry the disease. You’re good.”
“Great. Thanks. Well, I need to find my seat,” Mike said. Soon enough, the concert started.
Mike’s mom exclaimed over his injury. The bite had left a bruise that was starting to go all blue and purple. The scratch was small and looked like little red dots. She insisted that he wash his arm really well and then give her the shirt to treat right away.
She got the stain out of the shirt and the handkerchief, and the bruise was gone within a week or so. The whole incident had become a funny story to tell. Except that he’d started to crave fish and green leafy vegetables and taking long baths every night. He’d also started to adjust his clothes and hair now and then when they felt out of place.
His mom, noticing his preening, had insisted on teaching him how to coordinate outfits. Then she took him to a hair stylist. When he saw the scissors coming at him, he’d hissed at the stylist. It was completely unexpected. Luckily, the stylist laughed. Mike didn’t think it was funny, though.
That night, Mike woke up in the middle of the night feeling strange. Moonlight was streaming brightly through the window. The moon was full. Mike felt trapped, like his pajamas weren’t fitting quite right. He shifted around. What was wrong?
He squirmed around and managed to work his way free. He tried to ignore the glimpses of feathers and wings and webbed feet. Finally, standing on his scrunched up pajamas in the middle of his bed, he had to admit it. He was a swan. A were-swan.
Mike slumped on his bed and hissed. This was awful. He didn’t want to be a were-swan. He tucked his head under his wing and tried to sleep, hoping to wake up normal. Instead, his mind raced.
It wasn’t all bad. Tonight he was trapped in his room because he couldn’t open doors or windows. But, maybe next month he could learn to fly. He didn’t feel any urges to bite or eat anyone like were-wolves do in the movies.
Flying sounded kind of fun. And it was just once a month. He could work around that. He preened his feathers. He looked good. Things could definitely be worse. What if he’d become a were-skunk?