They really must not get many giants in this part of the world, Eli thought as he sat in the rain; his head inside the classroom window and his body on the schoolyard lawn. He shifted his weight slightly to try and get his rump out of the puddle that had formed under him. As he did so his massive neck smashed into the old wooden window frame causing it to crack.
“Can I help you Eli?” the potions teacher asked pushing her spectacles up the bridge of her crooked nose.
“Oh. Um. No, sorry Mrs. Gradient. I’m just kind of getting wet from… well you know, the rain and such.” Eli’s cheeks became a rosy red as he felt all of the eyes in the classroom focus in on him. “It’s okay really. I’m good now.”
“Fine. Just please don’t interrupt me again while I am teaching about growth potions.”
“Sorry, it won’t happen again Mrs. Gradient,” Eli responded, tilting his head as far down as it would go while wedged through the window.
“Now where was I?” Mrs. Gradient continued. “Ah yes, as you all know sometimes you may need to grow something in size rapidly to reap its benefits, like a tree full of juicy delicious apples.”
Eli noticed Mrs. Gradient glance over at him.
“Other times you might want a potion to shrink things to a smaller size, but we will cover that next semester.”
Great, Eli thought. If only we had started with shrinking potions maybe I wouldn’t be sitting in a puddle.
He had moved to the sprite village of Elderberry with his parents a couple weeks ago. His father had gotten work erecting magic dishes at the tops of trees to extend the range of the 5M network across the township. It seemed like the sprites in his grade had never known life without their spell phones. Whenever they weren’t in class their tiny eyes were glued to the screens.
Eli didn’t own a spell phone; his fingers were too big and something as simple as writing “hi” ended up a jumbled mess of letters.
So, Eli just watched his new classmates from afar scroll aimlessly on their spell phones during lunch. He had to eat outside, which was fine on sunny days when other students would sit in the courtyard during lunch, but on rainy days he had to eat by himself under the big weeping willow, looking into the firefly lit cafeteria at the sprites eating their greens.
Today water droplets slid down the long vines of the tree. Eli sat with his knees pulled up to his chest. The faint glow from the cafeteria lit up the vaulted windows. Eli was just finishing his second helping of cow when he heard a sniffle from behind the trunk he was leaning on.
“Hello. Is someone there?” he asked, as he craned his neck around the thick trunk of the tree.
“Ah!” a surprised voice screamed from the other side.
“Ah!” yelled Eli.
"What are you doing here?” stammered a boy, as he came body to face with the giant. He was wiping the back of his arm just under his eyes.
Eli leaned back. “Sorry! I didn’t mean to startle you. I just, well, this is where I eat lunch. I’m too big to fit inside the school building you see.”
The boy squinted at Eli. “Well you are rather large. And you are definitely not a sprite.”
Eli paused for a moment. “I don’t mean to be rude, but you’re kinda big yourself.”
“Yeah, well, that’s what happens when your mom’s an elf and your dad’s a sprite.”
“Oh…” replied Eli. “I mean I didn’t even know sprites and elves could… you know.”
“Have sex and make a baby?”
“Yeah, exactly. Is everything alright? It sounded like you were…”
“Everything is fine! It is great! I don’t feel different, and left out, and alone at all! Who are you anyway?
“My name’s Eli. I just transferred here from Black Rock Mountain. My dad got a job working on the spell phone towers.”
“I’m Bill. Why are you sitting out here in the…” Bill looked up and down. “Oh, sorry, you did mention the whole giant thing.”
“I mean I am only slightly different from the rest of them and I still don’t fit in, so I can only imagine how you must feel.”
“It’s not so bad,” Eli replied. “I like being outside, and I still get to learn. I just wish it was a little easier to make friends on the outside you know?
“Well I’ll tell you what Eli the giant!
“Just Eli is fine.”
“Are you sure? Eli the giant has a nice ring to it.”
“I’m good thanks.”
“Okay suit yourself. Well I’ll tell you what Eli is fine!
“From my experience the only person you can rely on is yourself. I’ve been here my whole life and no one has ever tried to help me fit in, or wanted to be my friend, just because I’m a little different. And I hate to state the obvious but… you’re really different.”
Bill smiled up at Eli and winked. “Don’t mention it.”
Eli grinned. It was the first time he had smiled at the school since starting the semester a couple weeks ago. The rain still fell; it caused goosebumps the size of boulders on Eli’s skin, but inside he felt warm. “So why are you out here? You fit inside the building.”
“Not that it’s a big deal, or any of your business,” Bill said looking down at his feet which were scuffing the ground. “But a school cafeteria isn’t the nicest place to be when you don’t quite fit in. I normally just eat by myself in the corner; it gets a little lonely.”
“I get that,” sighed Eli. “Well, if you don’t mind eating outside I’d be happy to eat with you during lunch. I mean, I get that it's not ideal with the rain and all but…”
“Hey! A little rain never hurt anyone. Unless you're a witch that is.”
They both laughed. Not at witches melting from water—that would be a terrible thing to laugh at—but that they had found friendship in an unlikely place under a weeping willow tree, with an unlikely friend.
Eli and Bill continued to meet every lunchtime. Bill was a year ahead of Eli, so they didn’t have any classes together. But both of them looked forward to the middle of the day when they could just sit and talk. Their friendship grew stronger—like a dwarf hammering molten iron into a broadsword—with each day that passed. They commiserated over what made them different, but also found those same differences were what allowed them to bond with one another. And in the end, it was something they had in common.
The weather began to get colder and Bill needed to wear more and more layers of leafcoats to keep warm, but that didn’t stop him from meeting Eli outside for lunch every day. Then one day snow began to fall.
“This is dragon shit,” Bill said. “You shouldn’t have to sit out here in the cold while everyone else gets to keep warm by the fireplaces in the building.”
“It’s okay. My large body actually keeps me pretty warm. It’s not so bad except the icicles that form on my earlobes. They make me look like you, except my elf ears are upside down,” Eli snickered.
Bill feigned an offended look, but then chuckled. After a moment his face suddenly got very serious.“It’s still messed up Eli! This is the year 201! We have magic, and spell phones, and rings that can turn you invisible! The headmaster could at the very least raise the ceiling a few tens of feet.”
“I have a feeling even the headmaster doesn’t really want me here. When I first met him he just kept saying, ‘oh I see,’ over and over again. I thought he was broken, and I’m not quite sure what he saw since he was busy flying back and forth the whole time.”
“What about your parents? Don’t they know how terrible this school is being to you?”
“Kinda. I tell them it’s not too bad because we are trying to keep a low profile. My dad really needs this job. Times are hard in the giant world. There isn’t as much need for us to cut down giant bean stocks and move mountains as there once was. Magic has come a long way in the last decade apparently.”
“Magic may have, but fairytale creatures clearly haven’t. I know change is slow when it comes to how people perceive each other, but come on.”
Eli sighed. “I know Bill. But at least we have each other.”
“You know what? You’re right.” Bill stood up. The frozen grass crackled under the weight of his body. “We do have each other. And I’ve got your back pal; all twelve feet of it!”
“Bill what are you talking about?”
“Don’t worry about it! Follow me!” Bill marched towards the front entrance of the school.
Eli followed. He was a little nervous about what Bill had in mind. As he got to know his only friend better, Eli found that Bill was a bit more of a risk taker than he was. Just last week he had brought his oversized venus fly trap to school claiming it had eaten his homework.
Bill reached the door of the school and looked back at Eli. “My dad told me only to use this type of magic in an emergency; I’m calling this an emergency. I’m not going to let my best friend freeze to death out here in the cold.”
“Best friend?” Eli whispered. He couldn’t be sure if it was the snow melting on his cheek or something leaking from his eye.
Bill bent down on one knee, put both hands on the ground, and closed his eyes. He began to chant something in a language that Eli had never heard before. Bill’s words seemed to reverberate off of the trees in the school courtyard. The ground began to glow a pulsating neon green. Everything began to shake. Eli looked around, searching for something to grab on to.
Then, out of the ground sprouted row after row of saplings. They grew, and grew, and grew until they crashed through the ceiling of the entryway into the school. They shot up a hundred feet into the air and unfurled a dense canopy of leaves and branches at their precipice. The ceiling had been ripped off the building and now lay somewhere in the trees above.
Bill slumped forward and breathed heavily. Eli slowly walked forward to stand beside his best friend. He looked up into the canopy that stood four times his own height.
“There you go pal. Now you can get into the school building like everyone else,” Bill said between heavy breaths.
Eli realized he wasn’t wrong. He could now practically walk all the way to the cafeteria under the cover of the forest ceiling Bill had created. The walls of the school were still completely intact, it was just the ceiling that had been ripped off as the trees grew through it. Yes, there was now a trunk or two in the middle of the hallway, but Eli could be in the building now. He could walk in the hallways like everyone else.
“Bill. I don’t know what to say. I mean thank you, this is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. But also, you’re going to be in so much trouble.”
Then, as if Eli was a fortune teller instead of a giant, the headmaster came flying down the hallway, fire literally streaming from his eyes. “William! What have you done? This is it for you, you will be expelled after this you half…” The headmaster stopped himself before finishing the derogatory remark.
“Get in my office right now! I am bringing in the Grand Wizard of Magic Schools to deal with you. And you,” the headmaster fluttered his wings to fly up to eye level with Eli, “I am sure you had something to do with this. I told everyone a giant wouldn’t fit in at Sprite Prep Academy.”
Eli slumped his head and looked at his feet.
“You walk around to my office window and listen from there. You’ll most likely be expelled by the Grand Wizard as well!” With that the headmaster grabbed Bill by his elf ear and dragged him down the hallway. Eli turned and walked out of the newly formed tree lined entry way and into the fresh blanket of snow on the ground, leaving giant footprints behind him.
The Grand Wizard arrived soon after the incident and entered Headmaster Sprite’s office. He had a long white bear and wore a blue robe with silver stars running up one side of it. Bill sat across from the headmaster in a chair that was slightly too small; Eli sat outside with his head through the headmaster’s window.
“I like what you did with the front entrance,” the Grand Wizard said as he entered the room.
“Grand Wizard! Thank the gods you’re here. This little monster has destroyed the front of our school!”
“Excuse me headmaster,” the Grand Wizard thundered. “But I know you are not referring to one of our students when you use the word monster.”
“Uh. No. Of course not,” Headmaster Sprite stammered. “It’s just that the school; it’s ruined.”
“Is it now?” The Grand Wizard glanced over at Bill who was picking at a hangnail on his finger. “I suppose this is your doing Mr. Bill?”
Bill just nodded.
“And what’s your name my child?” The Grand Wizard asked, looking at Eli.
“Eli, why are you sitting outside in the snow?”
“He is just too large to fit inside the…” Headmaster Sprite was cut off by the Grand Wizard.
“I did not ask you.”
Headmaster Sprite stopped hovering above his chair and slunk down into it.
“Now Eli, why are you sitting outside in the snow?” The Grand Wizard asked again.
“I don’t fit inside the building sir,” Eli whispered.
“Huh, that seems odd considering all the headmaster had to do was ask the School Board of Magic to cast the height modifier spell like we do in the Tree Nymph Schools.”
“Well, um, you see,” stammered Headmaster Sprite.
“The only thing I see here,” as he spoke the Grand Wizard’s voice began to crescendo, “is a bigoted old sprite who will answer to the School Board of Magic and will be promptly removed from his position on the grounds of student prejudice. Now wait for me outside!” The room had become very dark. Bolts of lightning seemed to be emanating from the Grand Wizard’s eyes.
Headmaster Sprite’s mouth stood agape, his eyes opened wide in shock.
“Now!” bellowed the Grand Wizard.
Without another sound Headmaster Sprite flew out of the room.
“Now then,” said the Grand Wizard. The light in the room had returned to normal and the Grand Wizard’s eyes were now calm and gentle. “If it is alright with you Mr. Eli, I would like to cast a spell around you that I think might help make your time at Sprite Prep Academy a little more enjoyable.”
“Okay,” Eli responded as he looked at Bill who had a grin the size and shape of a halfmoon on his face.
The Grand Wizard raised his staff and uttered a few words. Eli felt a tingly sensation. The world around him became distorted like he was looking through a glass of water. Then his vision cleared, and everything seemed normal.
“Now Eli, why don’t you join us inside,” said the Grand Wizard.
“But I don’t fit inside the…”
“That’s nonsense, try climbing through the window for now and see how that works,” smirked the Grand Wizard.
Eli cocked his head to the side and squinted at the Grand Wizard. He took a deep breath, shrugged, and reached his hand towards the window. As his body came closer, the window opening became larger, and larger, until he could fit his whole upper body through it. “What is happening?” he gasped.
“It’s magic!” Bill said gleefully, clapping his hands.
As Eli continued through the window it stretched more and more until his whole body could fit through. Eli stepped inside of the office, which now had shifted in size so that he could stand comfortably within it.
“There, that’s better,” said the Grand Wizard. “Now wherever you go in the school the building will shift around you to make sure you are comfortable. No more worrying about those short, pesky, ceilings. We can’t change who we are after all, but we can change the world around us,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “As for you Mr. Bill, I rather like what you did to the front hallway of the building, I may be requesting your assistance with beautifying some of our other campuses.”
“I’d be happy to help sir,” said Bill with his chest puffed out proudly.
“Now why don’t you both run along. If I’m not mistaken you still have a few minutes left before lunch ends. I have a feeling you both will find the cafeteria much more comfortable now.”
Bill looked up at Eli who couldn’t stop smiling. “Come on!” he said, tugging on the sleeve of Eli’s shirt. “I want to show all of the other students how my best friend fits in now!”
Eli shook his head and felt his cheek become wet. It was definitely not melting snow this time. Bill and Eli ran through the door of the office, which morphed and stretched to allow Eli to fit through comfortably. Their laughs and cheers echoed down the shifting hallways as they ran to the cafeteria to have lunch together.