“I went to your family’s zoo yesterday.”
Xiu bent her head. Her long black hair fell on her face, hiding her expression.
Her full name was Su Xiu. We had just become friends after her family had moved into our town. “The elephant is so nice to look at, isn’t it?” I continued. “The giant turtle is so funny. I liked the gorilla and giraffe, too. Also, I might be imagining it, but the two zebras looked to have some comedy routine. And the peacock looked like a bit of a show-off. Oh, and the rabbits are so cute—”
“Yuri,” Xiu interrupted. “You like animals, don’t you?”
“My favorite,” I said, grinning, “was the horse. She’s got the most beautiful black mane I have ever seen.”
Xiu blushed red. “Then,” she said, “I will give you free tickets. So come any time.”
When Sunday came, I arrived at the zoo an hour early. I thought of going to Xiu’s house to thank her parents for the tickets. But when I got there, I saw a group of people coming out. Her family, I guessed, seeing how Xiu was among them.
The group formed a circle. All of them wore robes that looked paper-made. A man in the middle raised a talisman, reciting something in Chinese. There was a loud BOOM.
My ears were filled with the sound. The entire area was blanketed by clouds. A giraffe appeared where the man had stood. A woman next to him turned into an elephant. The two grandparents turned into the turtle and gorilla. Two men became zebras, and two children transformed into rabbits.
And where Xiu had stood, now stood a horse with a glorious black mane.
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