My Brother, the Alchemist | by Matilda Harjunpää

     My little brother is needier than teenage girls on Instagram. Always has to be the center of attention. It used to be cute when he couldn’t say his Ls and pretended to be a fish for a week for absolutely no reason, but he’s in school now and it’s getting old.

     Mom says he’s going to be an actor. Dad says he has ADD. I say he’s a pain in the ass. I love him, but he’s a pain in the ass. This is why I was not interested when he wanted me to come see something in his room. The kid wants a medal for coloring inside the lines. But he persisted.

     “You have to come! It’s so cool! You have no idea!”

     I reluctantly teared myself away from my laptop and followed him. He had spread an assortment of forks and knives and spoons on the floor.

     “Mom’s not going to like that.”

     “Yeah, yeah, but look!”

     He picked up a spoon and closed his eyes. A slight furrow in his brow. I thought he was trying to bend it and sighed loudly in protest. He opened one eye and shushed me.


     His hand trembled as the spoon started to change. From the tip of the handle all the  way through, it looked like it had turned to gold. I figured it was like those color-changing spoons you get from cereal boxes. He handed it to me and it was warm. Five times heavier than you’d expect a spoon to be.

     “How did you do that? Can you do it again?” I tried not to sound impressed.

     Turns out, he could. Just to make sure, I brought him the spoon from an empty yogurt container in my room, and he turned that too.

     “We should tell Mom and Dad,” I said. “They’re going to want to see this.”

     He beamed with pride and it irritated me. I let him get away with it this time.

     We had a family meeting when our parents got home and my brother showed them his trick. They were suspicious at first, but I could see their eyes slowly morph into wobbling piles of cash.

     “We have to get these appraised,” Mom said.

     We squeezed into our ‘96 Corolla and drove to the closest Cash For Gold. My brother and I stayed in the car while our parents went in with the box of utensils, cheeks flushed with excitement. When they got back, they did not look happy.

     “Why would you pull a prank like that, make us come all this way? The man said it’s fool’s gold. Fool’s gold! Do you think it’s funny to humiliate us? Is it fun for you?”

     Mom was livid. My brother said nothing but I saw the tears in his eyes. I actually felt bad for him.

     “So how did you do it?” I whispered.

     “I don’t know,” he said, sobbing quietly. I believed him.

     That’s when our parents started arguing. Mom wants to put him on YouTube because he might get on Ellen. She says it may not be real gold but it’s still one hell of a trick. Dad thinks he should see a child psychologist. This has been going on for months.

     Meanwhile, my brother can’t stop turning things. We try to hide all metal from him, but he’ll turn the buttons on his jeans. Doorknobs. Faucets.

     We eat with plastic spoons.



Matilda Harjunpää writes in Helsinki, Finland. She tweets very short stories @matildahrjnp.