My back aches every time I sit down to write. Perhaps it is because of my tail; it goes numb if I sit on it, so I have to arch my back slightly to make room for it. I have always stuck my butt out; despite this habitual arch of the back I have never been able to do a backbend, even at an age when other girls could flop over easily, bendy as rubber dolls.

In a book I liked a boy sprouted wings from his shoulder blades, so I examined my back for pin-feathers every time I felt a prickling. I lay face down on my bed and tried to imagine my wings with such conviction that reality, embarrassed, would have to give in and produce them. Slowly, not wanting to rush it, I would turn my head and peek back over my shoulder, holding the sensation steady (the weight, the counter-tensed muscles, the confusion of feathers). I must have blundered, because I saw nothing there. One day, though, fingering my shoulder blades, I did feel a rough patch. I dug my nails into it and brought around a few triangular bits of a horny material that I realized were scales. So I was changing, but into nothing so angelic as I'd pictured.Very well: I rearranged my ambitions with surprising ease. I was growing up into an outline I couldn't see, like a scribble of crayon in a coloring book, trying to guess what I'd be before I touched the edges anywhere, but I knew that whatever it was would be big and complicated. Wings, tails, extra legs: I could cope with anything but the usual.

I shed my scales (I still have one, in a bed of dirty cotton: a translucent bit of nail with faint concentric stripes) and nothing more came of it, but I took it as a comforting kind of promise: anything might muscle its way out of me.