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Hemingbird t1_isuoy6l wrote


"P-Put me down, Goblina!"

"Uhh ... You're bald."

Goblina stood in the middle of our living room, triumphant and confused. My father squirmed above her.

"Not like that!" he hissed. "Not. Like. That!"

After the incident—it was the third time my orc girlfriend Goblina had deadlifted a relative of mine against their wishes on this day alone—we all ate ice cream together in silence. My father kept stealthily touching the top of his head. Uncle Peter stared at Goblina with a look of awe. 350 pounds and she'd lifted him above her head without breaking a sweat.

"Goblana, I think it would be wonderful for you to meet my friend Sue," said my grandma.

"It's Goblina," I corrected her.

She turned to my orc girlfriend. "How about this Sunday? We can call it 'brunch'."

"Sue?" said uncle Peter. "Isn't she the one from your bridge club that owes you money?"

Grandma's cheeks went rouge. "Well! Maybe she owes me a dollar or two. Does she? Oh, perhaps you're right. I didn't even think of that."

Earlier, Goblina deadlifted my grandma as a greeting and she didn't even bat an eyelid. "Interesting," my grandma had said. "How interesting."

My father let out a deep groan. "Your grandson's girlfriend is not your hired muscle." Then he added, "If you absolutely need some help getting your money back, I guess I can step in."

"You?" said my grandma. "What are you going to do, write her a stern letter?"

"Folks have said that I look quite intimidating."

Uncle Peter raised his brows. "I think they mean you look sort of like a rapist."

"Rapist!" cried my father. "What the hell do you mean by that?"

"Hmm," said grandma. She squinted her eyes at my father. "That might do the trick."


"If I were to leave the two of you alone for a minute ... The imagination has a tendency to run wild, you know."

My father left the table. Hopefully he was headed to the bathroom to shave off his pencil mustache.

Goblina sat with hunched shoulders scooping up tiny bits of ice cream. Of course my mother had chosen pistachio. "You have a lovely home," she said.

"Well, it's no cave!" my mother replied.

"Yeah, but it's still pretty nice."

My mother frowned.

"Brunch?" my grandma mouthed. She made a fist, crackling with arthritis.

"Boy I'm stuffed," said uncle Peter. He slapped his belly. "Not even Hercules could lift me now."

Goblina's left eyebrow twitched.


Hemingbird t1_isuv4jv wrote


Goblina's family took turns lifting me. Her little brother, Gobrey; her elder sister, Gobannah; her mother, Gobessica; her father, Gobilliam; her grandmother, Gobanelle; and her grandfather, Gobius.

"It's like lifting a feather!" cried Gobius.

"No, more like a potato," said Gobrey.

After they'd all deadlifted me and put me down, they stood in line with hopeful looks plastered all over their greenish faces. I turned towards Goblina.

"R-Right!" she said. "Alex is human, as you all know. He doesn't really ... lift people."

A silence fell over the wonderfully-decorated cave. Goblin Christmas was a big deal, and Goblina's family celebrated it with an intensity I'd only seen in my own family after an unknown relative had left us a hefty inheritance.

I cleared my throat.

"And that's more," she added, "he doesn't really like ... being lifted, either."

Gobilliam shook his head. "Nonsense. Everyone enjoys being lifted. Everyone enjoys lifting people. That's what we do."

"Ah," said Goblina, "but the humans—"

"Is this about your uncle?" asked Gobessica. "We heard about what happened. Is he alright?"

"Oh. Yes. He's fine. A couple of stitches, that's all."

"What happened?" asked Gobannah.

I looked over at Goblina. She gulped. "I got a bit excited and ... I tossed him right up at the ceiling fan."

Gobilliam let out a roar of laughter. "That's my girl! That's the strength of our family!"

Goblina's grandfather scoffed. "So you're worried you'll throw us into the ceiling fan? This is a cave! There's no fan. The temperature regulation is all natural. And frankly, I don't think you'd be able to lift me an inch!"

"Grandpa!" said Goblina.

"What? The boy thinks he's so strong that he'll hurt us, and he's just a weak little huma huma?"

"Dad!" cried Gobessica. "Watch your language."

Gobius shrugged.

"Actually," I said, "I don't think I'd be able to lift any of you. And Goblina ... When you throw my relatives up into the air it makes me feel a bit ... emasculated."

They all stared at me. "I can't help it," I added. "I feel embarrassed."

Goblina look deeply into my eyes. "Why haven't you said something?"

"I don't know ... I mean, I think it's really cool that you're strong. But I'm a guy. I'm supposed to protect you."

Gobannah snorted.

"Protected by a shrimp! Gwahahha."

Gobius rolled on the cave floor in a fit of laughter.

"You never said he was so funny!" said Gobanelle. "So that is why you like him. We discussed it before you two came. None of us could come up with an answer."

"Grandma! That's rude!"

"I'm serious," I said.

They all stopped laughing. My words echoed through the cave, coming back to mock me.

After a while, Gobius said, "There's no shame in being a weak little huma huma." He nodded to himself. "Orcs lift each other as a greeting but it is also a way of maintaining our strength and of making sure that we're all strong enough to defend each other."

"That's right," said Gobanelle. "Of course you feel weak and pathetic and like a little shrimp when you can't lift the ones you love!"

"It's like the old ballad," said Gobius. "You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains. You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas."

The rest of the orcs joined in. "I am strong, when I am on your shoulders. You raise me up to more than I can be."

Their eyes twinkled with tears.

Gobius suddenly clapped his hands together. "That settles it!" he said. "You shall become strong, my boy. You shall become strong!"