ardboard boxes. That's all it seemed like R.J.'s life amounted to, at least to the moving guys.
His house - the very house he grew up in - was now populated by dozens of cubic cardboard boxes, each scribbled with the name of the room its contents originated from. Most of his clothes were boxed up, as well as the vast majority of his toys. The only thing he could play with on this final night was a Monopoly game. The walls in his room were bare, no more posters of Kobe Bryant or SSJ Trunks like what had adorned his space only a week ago. All that was left was his bed, the board game, and the stupid boxes.
"Your turn," R.J. mumbled to his friend, Josh, as his eyes wandered around the spearmint green walls of the room.
"OK." Josh scooped up the dice. "So, what time are you leaving?" he asked, wishing there was a more delicate way to ask the question without sounding like he was pushing R.J. out the door.
"The plane departs at 1:30," R.J. replied, "so we'll probably have to get going at about 11."
Josh tossed the dice onto the board. A six.
"Dang it." Josh picked up his thimble and slowly counted the steps. Marvin Gardens with a hotel. $1200. "I'm out. All I got left to mortgage is Oriental and Baltic."
R.J. sighed. "Looks like I win again."
A knock on the door startled the two boys.
"R.J., it's almost time," his mother announced. "Time to go into the bathroom."
"Aww, Mom!" R.J. whined. "Josh doesn't care. He's seen me change before."
The door opened. R.J.'s mother was in sweat clothes - her normal wardrobe for full moons.
"R.J., I keep telling you it's a bad habit to shift in front of other people." She looked over at Josh, and gave a faint smile.
"C'mon, Mom, just this once," said R.J. in his most piteous voice.
His mother had the will of balsa wood. "Oh, OK. But you aren't doing this kind of thing when we get to San Francisco." She left the bedroom, closing the door behind her.
R.J. stood up. "Well, here we go. One more for old time's sake." He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and threw the little switch in his mind. He felt the wolf in him manifest itself like waves in a tide pool, and within seconds, he reopened his eyes, blinking a couple times to readjust to the light.
"Hey, R.J." Josh's voice sounded almost as if he didn't want to be heard.
"Yeah?" R.J. sat back down on the floor, starting to reorganize the materials from the game.
"You want to go to in the tree house for a little bit?"
R.J. shrugged. "I guess." He folded up the Monopoly board and put it back in the box.
They came out of their bedrooms and headed for the kitchen. As they crossed the living room, R.J.'s mother looked up from her novel.
"Where're you guys going?" she asked.
"Oh, we're just going to grab some sodas and sit in the treehouse for a while."
"OK. Make sure you bring a flashlight if you're going to be there very long. I don't want Josh to get hurt tripping over something in the dark."
"We've got one in there," R.J. replied.
"Oh, all right."
They each got a root beer from the fridge and exited the sliding glass door into the backyard, where the treehouse they had helped build was found. They climbed up the rope ladder hanging off the side of the house, Josh going first so he wouldn't get repeatedly whacked in the head by R.J.'s tail. As they climbed into the treehouse, the open window therein gave them a perfect view of the full moon.
"So, who's moving in?" Josh asked.
"I dunno. Probably some old folks."
"You think they'll keep this treehouse up?"
"Maybe, if they have grandkids, or something."
Josh sighed. "Do you remember, this is where you told me."
"Told you what?"
"You know, told me that you were a werewolf."
"Oh, yeah. Of course I remember. I was there too."
Josh laughed. "It seems like so long ago. I just moved in across the street, and you knock on the door and invite me over. You never were a shy person, you know."
R.J. nodded. "I know. So we come on up into the treehouse, and I ask you what a werewolf is. You say yes, and boom - I go furry on you."
"Right. And I thought it was the coolest secret ever." Josh sighed. "Then I found out that the whole town already knows you and your mom are werewolves."
R.J. popped open his drink and took a sip. "Yeah. I'm kinda surprised nobody ever really gave us trouble for that. With all the movies they've seen and stuff, they might've thought we were going to eat everyone."
Josh followed suit with his soda. "Think there're werewolves in San Francisco?"
"Probably. There might be a hundred of 'em, it's so big. But I don't think everyone knows who they are like around here."
"So, what are you going to do when you get there?"
"I dunno. School won't start until next month, so I'll have a chance to get to know some kids around the neighborhood before that."
"Are you gonna tell them?"
"No, probably not," R.J. replied. "I mean, not as fast as I told you. I was in kindergarten when you moved in. Now we're in fifth grade. I can't just get up in front of the class and say, 'Hi, I'm R.J., and I turn into a wolf during a full moon.' Either everyone's gonna laugh at me or scream their heads off."
"They're going to find out sooner or later."
"I know, but I want them to get to know me before I say anything."
Josh sighed, took another sip of his root beer, and looked out at the moon. "There it is."
"There what is?"
"There's the thing that turns you into an animal every month." Josh looked back at his friend. "You know, R.J., I've always wanted to ask - if you could find a way to not be a werewolf, would you do it?"
R.J. pondered the question for a moment. "I don't know, Josh. I'm so used to it now - it's really no big deal. For me, anyway. I mean, sure, it's probably great to never have to worry about being in a crowd when there's a full moon, or putting holes in all your shorts and underwear, and worrying that you might hurt someone on accident. But I've been like this my whole life. It's, like, a part of me, you know. I'm R.J. Knight, and I'm a werewolf." He thought a little longer. "I think I would. Yeah, I probably would. Especially if I knew this was going to happen."
"You sure you have to go tomorrow?"
"Yep. Dad's already there, renting a condo. He found some computer company to hire him. He's gonna make a lot more money than he did at the computer store over here." R.J. gulped down more of his root beer. "Only thing is, he has to move to San Francisco to work there, 'cause that's where the company is."
"I know, I was just kinda hoping."
A few moments of silence passed between the two of them.
"This town isn't going to be the same with you guys gone," said Josh.
"I bet. No more wolves to worry about."
"It's gonna be a lot more boring, I'll tell you that."
"I'm sure." R.J. snickered.
"You know, R.J., I was thinking..."
"Let's not go back into the house. I wanna just spend the night in the treehouse."
"You want to sleep in here? Why?"
"Oh, I dunno. Just because we haven't done it before."
"But we don't have any blankets or pillows or anything. It's probably gonna get chilly later on."
"You can get my sleeping bag out of your room if you want. I just want to stay in here for tonight."
"I'm not sure Mom will let us do this."
"Why not? She said I could spend the night. She never said where."
"OK, hang on." R.J. shuffled his way back to the ladder and went back into the house.
Josh sighed again, taking one last swig from his can of root beer. He peered out at the moon once more. R.J. had been his best friend ever since he could remember, and now he was only hours away from leaving. Sure, he had other friends, but R.J. always stood out in his mind. Maybe it was just because he was a werewolf. But he always felt more comfortable and secure when R.J. was around.
A few minutes passed, and R.J.'s lupine head popped back up into the doorway of the treehouse, his free arm cradling a large quilt and two pillows. "You wanna give me a hand?"
"Sure." Josh reached out, grabbing the items from R.J., who made his way back into the shelter.
"What did your mom say?" Josh asked.
"She said just this once." R.J. replied. "Like we're going to do this again."
Josh chuckled. "Yeah, really." He shook his soda can, wishing there was more left in it. "Have you seen the new place?"
"Dad mailed us some pictures. It's kinda neat, actually. It's got a big backyard, and a big kitchen. It's only one floor, though. I kinda like having stairs."
"Are you close to the Golden Gate Bridge?"
"No, I don't think so. I think we're, like, across town from it." R.J. finished his own drink. "It'll be a lot closer than it is now, though." He yawned. "Yeah, all this great stuff I'm gonna be around, but nobody to do anything with."
"You'll make some more friends over there, R.J."
"Yeah, maybe. But it won't be the same. I've known you ever since I could remember." R.J. yawned, his fangs glinting in the moonlight. "But with them, I dunno, it's gonna be different. It's not like I'm gonna know them all my life. And what if they don't like me? What if they find out I'm a werewolf and don't want to be friends?"
"Hey, when I found out you were a werewolf, I didn't care."
"No, but you were five years old then. Five year olds don't care about anything." R.J. looked out the window. "You know, Josh, I think this is the first time in a long time I've ever been scared."
"What are you scared of? You're just moving away."
"Yeah, I know, but there's so many things out there that I don't know about. Even my wolf side is afraid."
"R.J., you're gonna be fine. San Francisco is a beautiful city. I'm sure the people there are great, too. Maybe it'll take some getting used to, but you've always done OK before."
R.J. sighed. "I guess."
Within an hour, the lazy summer air was making the two of them drowsy. Josh and R.J. kicked off their shoes, lay down on the floor of the treehouse, and both let out a long gasp of fatigue.
"Are you ever going to write to me?"
"Of course. I'll write you as soon as I get there."
"OK. I'm going to write to you whenever I can."
Another spell of silence circled around the treehouse.
"Are you going to find another best friend?"
"Never. You'll always be my best friend."
"Are you going to find another best friend, Josh?"
"No way. Nobody is going to be a best friend except you, R.J."
"Even when we're all grown up?"
The pauses were getting longer and longer as sleep began to wash over them.
"Are we ever going to see each other again?"
"I don't know."
"I hope so."
"I hope so too."
Yet another period of silence.
"If you ever find any more werewolves, let me know, OK?"
"If another werewolf ever moves in, be sure to tell me."
R.J. felt his hearing grow hazy as sleep was about to carry him off for the night.