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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!"