Note that this story is extremely character-driven and oriented . There’s no spectacular ‘save the world’ plot, or anything like that. It’s also written in a different POV and style – hopefully that won’t deter you from reading. You might call this an Original Trainer, as it does have some of the same characteristics and such, but the story really isn't about the training, badge earning, and the like.
The story itself is rated ‘PG’ just for safety, and will go no higher than PG-13.
Comments, critiques, etc. are appreciated and welcomed. Don’t hesitate to point out any typos – as due to the length of this chapter, and I am quite sure I missed some.. and just because I have a horrid proof-reading eye. Also note that one or two things which might count as mistakes, are on purpose. (As a hint, they’ll be in italics.)
Also note that in the first stage, that I’m trying to portray young characters to the best of my ability – so their mannerisms and such will be as close to their age group (hopefully right on) as I can manage them. If you feel that they are not acting as they should, please don’t hesitate to say so. Thank you.
[Stage 1: Childhood]
Changing Circumstances Pt.II
By: Saffire Persian
Childhood is a fleeting thing,
Looking back on the Past with no regret,
Looking at the Future as little but a dream for another day,
Living in the Here and Now for only a small time,
So hold onto it while you can…
You are running quickly, caring only that you put as much distance from between you and your cousin as possible. You can still hear her counting up to one hundred like you made her, though, knowing your cousin, she doesn’t always play fair. She thinks she does, but she’s stupid in that way. In a game of ring toss, she insisted she had won because she had gotten all the rings on the hooks, but the truth of the matter was she only got them on the hooks because she had walked right up to the devices you threw the rings on and dropped the rings onto them.
Her parents and your parents praised her for her ingenuity (Dad said that meant ‘smart’) and creativity.
You just called her stupid.
That, and a no good liar-cheater.
Because of the memory, you run all the more faster, glaring back in the direction where she should be standing, a scowl creeping onto your features.
Stella is your cousin after all. And as your cousin, she’s bound to cheat.
(But the Viridian Forest has many places to hide.)
You haven’t been here much since your mother watches you like a hawk; but you do know that the small forest offers many nooks and crannies to hide in… you might even find something special while you’re at it. You’ve heard the stories that float around school about all the ‘mysterious treasures’ around here, hidden in secret passageways, enclosed in orbs that look like Pokéballs… The forest holds every ingredient for an adventure for a kid such as yourself, and you have even gone on one or two ‘secret’ outings with a few kids from school, searching for treasure.
But at the moment, treasure hunting is not a part of your eight-year-old agenda. Hiding is, and hiding fast. You can’t hear Stella counting anymore, and because she likes to talk loudly, you know that the reason you can’t hear her counting anymore isn’t because you’re too far away.
You snort in indignation. She didn’t even get to twenty-five! The nerve of her!
Trying to make as little noise as possible, you dart down the brown path, spotting a likely bunch of berry bushes just in front of you, surrounded by a few trees. Thick and bushy, it’s as good of a place as any to hide.
“Whhherreee areeee you?! Come out! Come out! Wherever you are! Twenty-one! Ninety-nine! ONE HUNDRED!”
Bottling down the urge to yell at your cousin (and shamelessly tell her that she’s the biggest cheater you’ve ever seen ever), you decide to tell her she’s a big cheater only after she gives up, and only then. You then dive into the berry bushes without hesitation (though you’re still fuming; she needs to play fair!), wrinkling your nose at the overwhelming berry-smell. Pleasant as it may be, it’s stifling to you.
Well, she won’t be able to smell me, then, you think.
Hunkering down amidst the leafy foliage, you watch (well you try to watch, you can’t exactly see much from where you are) and try to listen to what your cousin is doing; from the sound of her voice, she’s walking away.
Good, you can find another hiding place if needs be. It’s not cheating, and even if it is, if she can cheat, so can you. Fair is fair, right?
As her voice fades away into the forest, your heartbeat slows its desperate pounding and your breathing slows. Not wanting to be seen, you crawl across the ground on your hands and knees, blissfully unaware on how much anguish you will probably cause your mother when you come home, clothes worn and dirty.
Squirming through a rather dense patch, your face peeks out of the bushes, your eyes furtively darting left and right. A large shape suddenly fills the whole of your vision, its large, black eyes boring into yours. A split-second later, when your brain has finally registered what exactly is going on, you scream. You scream as loud as you possibly can, holding nothing back.
You stop screaming abruptly.
Not because of someone coming to your rescue, but because at the moment you began screaming the bug (which you now recognize as a Caterpie) started screaming too, high-pitched and shrill. However, unlike you, it shows no signs of stopping. All you can do is stare and blink as its black eyes go as wide as saucepans while it rises up on its green body like snake Pokémon would.
Suddenly, its eyes roll to the back of its head, and it topples straight onto its back. It doesn’t move, and it isn’t screaming anymore. Hesitantly, you poke it; it’s as stiff as a plank of wood.
A plethora of emotions surge through your mind, confusion and horror becoming the most prominent of them all. You didn’t kill it, did you? You didn’t mean to. You certainly didn’t want to. That doesn’t make this your fault does it?
Nuh’uh, you tell yourself. It’s not dead. Just fainted. Like on TV.
Pokémon do that all the time, right?
Yeah, that’s right.
Your little frame heaves with relief and you laugh nervously, wondering how in the world you could’ve been scared of such a diminutive creature. It’s not big like the Caterpie you’ve seen before, so it must be young like you are...it’s tiny enough you could probably squish under your shoe. (Not like you’d want to.) You’re not a scardy-cat like Mom is. She’s the scardy-cat when it comes to bugs, she’s the one who’d have a fit.
Still… the Caterpie hasn’t moved a muscle. And even though it has only fainted (You think. You know. You want to hope.) it still worries you. So, you decide to talk to it. Maybe it can hear you or something. You start with an apology – that usually works the first time.
“M’sorry that I scared you: I promise I’m not a monster or nothing like that...” You then add out of inspiration: “You scared me, too.”
It doesn’t move. You shift into a sitting position as you clear the bushes, rather frustrated. Why isn’t it waking up now? You apologized – wait! You think you saw one eye just open – just for a few seconds -- before snapping closed. The response is heartening, but it confuses you all the same. Maybe you’re have a hallucinwhatits… well, whatever it’s called. You’ll think of it later.
Again, you poke it to see if you get a response; it’s still stiff.
“Wake up!” you say, this time louder. You wait. There it is again! The eye opened. This time, you’re sure of it. It didn’t faint – it’s just playing dead! That makes you furious. It’s just like Stella with its tricks. That’s not fair – and it’s not right! You were worried. You’re not worried anymore, but still…
“You’re just playin’ dead! I saw you! I saw you, I did!” you tell the Caterpie, making sure your tone is as annoyed as it can get, folding your arms for emphasis. Both saucepan-eyes open. It’s watching you now. Good. “You’re being mean, you know. I’m not sorry anymore!”
Slowly, the Caterpie curls up onto its back. It looks confused, and rolls over onto its stomach. “Pri? Catrrr prii?” It makes no movement to run, so you continue on your little tirade, spilling your heart out with no regret to the consequences that might happen later on.
“That’s right, you were being naughty! You’re not supposed to trick people! My mom says that tricking people's bad. She gets mad at Dad for it allll the time! She says it’s a no-no, so what you’re doing is bad.”
(The fact that it playing dead came naturally to it never occurred to you.)
You stare at it, noticing that there are tears pricking at the corners of the bug’s eyes, and it actually looks genuinely sorry… or maybe it’s just scared of you again. That thought in itself makes you feel bad.
You sigh. “I guess I’m sorry again if you’re sorry. So… you sorry?”
“Then I’m sorry. I forgive you for your trick, but –“ You waggle a finger in its direction. “--don’t do it again, ‘k?”
You’re not sure how much the Caterpie understands, but you think it understands enough, and you reach out a hand tentatively to pet it to show that you're sorry and aren’t going to hurt it. It doesn’t screech or run away as you reach out your hand, patting it on the head. It seems to rather enjoy it, judging from the happy sound coming out of its throat.
(After all, you haven’t rushed at it, and haven’t tried to eat it or squish it under your shoe, and you’ve apologized, so why should it?)
You blink. Once, twice.
Your face scrunches up in thought, as you try to make sense of the thing’s gibberish as it tries to talk to you. You think you can understand some things, and you know it’s trying to ask you something, but its gibberish is starting to sound like the noises your baby cousin garbles. You freeze.
The Caterpie seems to notice your surprise and flinches, inching back a few paces, but it doesn’t run away. Then you hear a familiar voice yelling through the trees. She had to have heard your scream. Great. You have to find somewhere else to hide, fast, or she’ll find you, and you really don’t want to lose.
You move backwards into the bushes abruptly, and the Caterpie squeals in fright, searching about frantically. You peek your head out of the bush, hearing your cousin’s voice coming closer and closer. “I need to hide!” you whisper for the bug-type’s benefit. “She’ll find me! Sorry. But I’ve gotta go.”
“Catr? Pi?” To your surprise, the bug has approached you on its own accord, rising on its long body to try and look at you on your level. It looks rather concerned as it cocks its head, a small growlish sound radiating from its throat.
A loud yell disturbs you: it’s your cousin shouting your name.
“Ehh…” your face twists in confusion as you try to make sense of what’s being said. “Umm.. Yeah, that’s who I’m hidin’ from if that’s what y’mean.”
As you make a move to retreat further into the bushes, you see that the caterpillar's following, nudging you with its head. You ignore it and begin to disappear deeper into the only concealment you have. It pursues you into the next small clearing as you look left and right, deciding which way to go. It then takes the opportunity to dart in front of you, hopping up and down.
“Capi. Sqrea! Catrrrrr!”
With your attention caught, it stops and begins to crawl in the opposite direction, peering over its shoulder. It makes another odd noise, an insistent one. Maybe… it wants you to follow it?
Your cousin’s voice is getting closer and your heart quickens as you begin to panic, Stella's voice too close for your own comfort. Oddly, the Caterpie looks rather frantic too. It’s jumping up and down again, squeaking.
(It is almost as if it is saying ‘Come on! Come on!’)
“You know somewhere I can hide?”
It nods quickly. Once. Twice. Thrice. And with a nervous ‘squee’ it bolts through the bushes.
For something so small, it sure is fast. You wince; knowing you can’t keep up with it; you can’t exactly stand up and run, because Stella’ll see you for sure. So, you’ll have to trudge it, carefully, cautiously.
You set off in the caterpillar’s wake, crawling as fast as you dare through the foliage, dirt, and berries, trying your best to keep up with the bug Pokémon. You can’t really move that fast, crawling on your hands and knees like you are: the bushes slow you down and they rustle when you go through them so you have to move slowly in order for you to make as little noise as possible. Luckily for you, the Caterpie notices you’re having trouble, and slows down by a large amount, allowing you to keep up.
When you finally clear the veritable “forest” of bushes, you spot the Caterpie just in time to see it dart into a opening underneath the roots of a rather old looking tree. It’s a rather large gap, looking as if it had been dug out by a Pikachu or something. Maybe the gap’s big enough (and deep enough) for you to squeeze through. Just maybe… just maybe you can fit.
Looking over your shoulder, you become determined. You’re going to try; Stella’s not going to win this round. You’re not gonna to let her.
Somehow, you manage to fit underneath the tree, but the space is cramped so you’re forced to curl up in a tight ball like a cat just to fit. There’s enough room for the Caterpie to fit too. It's pacing around in a tight circle nervously –even more so when Stella’s voice periodically filters through the forest.
You frown. “Stella’s not that scary, you know. Well…” You pause. “…she can be a little bit scary sometimes. She’s kinda like a bird, I guess: throw her a worm or something she likes and she’s nice enough until she wants another one...” you pause again, only realizing your mistake after the Caterpie squeaks in fright, looking more nervous than ever. You hurry to correct your faux pas, though the damage has already been done. “Umm… maybe she’s like a cat, she likes them better. Yeah…”
The Caterpie doesn’t seem that assured, and goes completely still, like it did before when it was playing dead. You hear Stella moving in your direction – she’s really making no attempt whatsoever to keep quiet. You mimic the Caterpie’s posture, going completely rigid. You hold breath and count to ten, breathing again only when her voice fades away enough to feel safe.
“So,” you say quietly, “this your house?”
“It’s kinda small. Is there someplace bigger?”
It cocks its head, and thinks for a moment.
Slowly, it creeps out from underneath tree roots, and you can hear it move through the berry bushes as you began the rather arduous task of getting out from underneath the tree. You only just manage to get your head out into clean air before you spot something white colored dart past you. It’s a bird – not one of the small ones you see around your yard from time to time, but a bigger one you’ve only seen once or twice in the fields. You think you remember you dad calling it a Pidgeotto.
A terrified squeal disrupts your thoughts, and you spot the Caterpie’s long, green body running back through bushes toward you with the Pidgeotto in fast, eager pursuit.
The bird looks absolutely murderous, and your need no incentive to pull back into the den while the Caterpie scurries in from another (smaller) opening by where your feet are. The Pidgeotto doesn’t waste any time trying to dive in after the bug, but a well placed kick with your foot wards the tawny-feathered creature off.
“Otto!” it hisses venomously, glaring at the both of you through the gap. It hops backwards on its talons, surveying the situation with keen, golden eyes.
A moment later, it hops backwards a few more paces and begins to flap its wings with great, powerful thrusts. The thrusts send waves of dust, dirt, bits of foliage, and even a few small rocks into your hiding place without an ounce of mercy. The Pidgeotto is clearly trying to force you – or more specifically the Caterpie – out.
The airborne mix of dirt and other particles is making it hard to breathe, and every breath makes you sneeze or cough, and the sharper bits blown in from the Pidgeotto’s Gust stings any part of your body that’s uncovered. Even worse, you can’t see, having already had the sense to bury your face within your arms. Despite this, the Caterpie still manages to scream in absolute terror, which to you is far worse than what the Pidgeotto is flinging at you.
“Leave us alone!” you manage to yell, before the dirt forces its way down your throat, stifling your voice and making you choke.
“Pigit!” it hisses again, menacingly, but it doesn’t stop. In fact, the attacks seem to intensify.
This time, you hear the bird cry out in pain, and the Gust stops. You open your eyes just in time to see the Pidgeotto spin around as a rock lands near its taloned feet, making it jump back. Its feathers flare, and it squawks at something you cannot see.
“Leave him alone, you stupid, no-good birdbrain!”
It’s Stella’s voice.
At her voice, you slowly start to creep out from underneath the tree again, spotting your cousin. She looks determined and certainly quite a bit miffed, holding a small rock in her palm. The Pidgeotto is still refusing to leave its spot, flapping its wings in warning and screeching fit to burst. Stella is by no means intimidated by the gesture.
You shake your head, and Caterpie appears beside you, watching the confrontation from behind your shoulder.
“Leave him alone,” your cousin repeats. The Pidgeotto isn’t happy at this, glaring vehemently at your cousin as she glares back with her usual, stubborn look, beginning to toss the rock up at down. The Pidgeotto puffs itself up, wings spread…
… Only to be hit in the head with another well-aimed rock a second later as Stella reiterates her command, telling it adamantly to shut up (a word she uses quite often) on the side. This time, the Pidgeotto looks a bit hesitant and its screeches fade in volume.
The Caterpie, meanwhile, is looking back and forth between human and bird with unconcealed amazement while also looking very much alarmed. Stella herself has picked up another rock from the ground, continuing to yell at the bird before unexpectedly charging with a loud and very much ungirlish roar that sends the Caterpie fleeing back into its hiding place.
(If you didn’t know Stella as well as you do, perhaps you would have, too.)
The bird, in the meantime, is staring in shocked silence at the feral, beastly sound your cousin emitted. It quickly comes out of its reverie, squawking in surprise and irritation as it is forced to hurriedly backtrack on ungainly legs away from your charging cousin. Stella shows no signs of stopping, eventually making the screeching bird turn ‘round and take wing.
As soon as it’s up in the air, Stella launches her last rock. Stella has always had a good aim – and the next shot proves it, missing the Pidgeotto by only a small margin.
Defeated, the Pidgeotto gives back one last, baleful glance, before fleeing in the other direction with all the dignity it can muster.
With the bird gone, you take the chance to pull your body fully out of your temporary hiding place, standing up and brushing a dirt off your t-shirt and pants. You’re a complete mess, covered from head to toe with all the grime and dirt the Pidgeotto was gracious enough to throw at you.
You barely have time to compose yourself before Stella places herself right in front of you, her smile one that would put an Aipom to shame.
“I could’ve got it myself,” you say off-handedly, not liking the way she’s smiling at you at all; it’s rather unnerving, to tell the truth.
“You’re okay, then?”
“Of course I am,” you grumble, “I’m not a baby, you know.”
“Good!” she shouts, her smile growing wider before tackling you unceremoniously to the ground, making a ‘victory’ sign with her fingers. “Then I found you! I win, I win, I win!”
“You did not! You cheated!” you yell angrily. “Get off of me!”
She doesn’t budge, though she does sound a bit offended. “I didn’t cheat. I did exactly as you said.”
“You didn’t count to one hundred. You cheated!”
“I did not!” Stella exclaims. “I counted to one hundred, I just did it faster than you by not saying all the numbers.”
An uncharacteristic growl makes its way out of your throat, but you don’t care. “You’re the biggest cheater ever! Now get off of me!”
She shifts into a sitting position, still perched atop your back, making sure to meet your eyes as her grin goes rather lopsided. “You’re just a sore loser, and,” she adds, “you scream like a sissy.”
That was the last straw. You are not a sissy – no way, no how.
“I’m not a sissy!” you yell loudly, this time making a more active attempt to throw Stella off your back, absolutely furious at the unwritten rule that you do not, under any circumstance, hit girls.
Normally, the taboo doesn’t bother you at all – but with Stella… there’s no words to describe how much you hate the rule. She’s nice a lot of a time and fun to be around when she’s not being a cheater or a liar, and that’s why you hang around with her. But even memories of times like that don’t stop you from wanting to explode and do something to retaliate. Stella tends to have that effect on you when she wants to; she’s able to bring out the side of yours that few people can. (Your dad says that it’s your ‘mother’s side’.)
In your opinion, she can take the most sane and patient of people and turn them in to raging, roaring monsters – with her not batting an eye during the process. She knows how to push your buttons, and do it well, even if, at times, it’s not intentional.
In the end, you manage to calm yourself, though the observant of eye would have noticed your eyebrows twitching madly in rebellion.
“I don’t scream…like a sissy.”
“Uh’huh. I heard you – that’s how I found you.”
You stop your struggling, your eyes narrowing as you look toward your old hiding place where a very noticeable green head is sticking out, watching you. “That wasn’t me, it was the Caterpie!”
Your cousin cocks her head in confusion, and you finally have the opportunity to throw her off balance and, most importantly, off your back.
You point towards the tree as you stand up, and the Caterpie’s head disappears back into the darkness as quickly as it had appeared.
Stella frowns. “I don’t see one.”
“That’s because it’s hiding,” you tell her, adding, “stupid.”
Of course, Stella never responds to that. You don’t think she really cares, but you call her that anyway.
“Oh… just watch! Caterpie!” Slowly, the Caterpie’s head emerges from beneath the tree roots once more, looking at Stella with a rather frightened expression. It then looks to you, then to Stella again in apparent confusion. “I’m not hiding from her anymore,” you tell it. “She’s not gonna hurt you. She’s not gonna eat you either.”
This time, it’s your cousin’s turn to look confused, and you decide it’s best not to tell her what you said to the Caterpie about her. She’d just get mad and hit you with her fist or a small rock -- whichever one comes to her mind first. You’ve gotten plenty of bruises from her to prove it, too; she likes to throw stuff a little too much.
“See,” you say.
“Fine. You don’t scream like a sissy.”
At that, you grin triumphantly and the Caterpie takes the opportunity to scuttle out the hollow and behind your legs.
“I was saving it from the bird. It was going to eat it.”
Your cousin rolls her eyes, before kneeling down to the Caterpie’s level. It backs away, an odd gurgle making its way out of its throat. “Well, what’re you gonna to do with it?”
You shrug. “What d’you mean, ‘what am I going to do with it’?
“The Pidgeotto might come back, then it’ll get eaten –” The Caterpie’s expression is now utterly mortified “—and you don’t want it to get eaten, d’you? ‘Cause if it does, it’ll be your fault!”
The Caterpie is now clinging to your pant leg for dear life as it searches the skies frantically for signs of the avian Pokémon. You shake your head. “You’re not gonna get eaten.” The Caterpie calms visibly down at that, so you turn your attention back to Stella. She does actually have a point: you can’t just let it get eaten. “Well, what am I supposed to do with it? Take it home?”
Stella nods. You sigh.
“Mom’s scared of bugs, though.”
Stella grins. “I know. It’s kinda funny.”
“Besides, maybe the Caterpie doesn’t want to go.”
“Did you ask it?”
“Then do it.”
You look down at the tiny Caterpie, who looks up at you rather expectantly. “Well, you heard her. D’you want to go? You don’t have to if you don’t want.”
It takes a few seconds for the Caterpie to respond, looking back to its hide-away, to the sky, to Stella, and lastly to you. It nods slowly.
“See?” says Stella. “Now, was that hard?”
Deciding not to respond, you stare up into the sky, watching the clouds as if they were the most entertaining things in the world.
“Well… if you really don’t wanna take it, I guess I could take it home for awhi –“
Both you and the Caterpie both cut her off in one instantaneous moment.
“PRIIIII!” “NO! I’ll take it home!”
You both look at one another. The Caterpie’s eyes are alternating between you and Stella, its face still terrified (and after hearing that beastly roar on Stella’s account, you don’t blame it) while yours holds a rather resolute, determined expression. All you know is there is no way in the universe she’s taking the Caterpie home.
Stella’s courting a Cheshire Cat grin once more. “What did you say?”
You decide to scowl and stare at her sullenly in return, sighing for good measure. You know for a fact she heard exactly what you said, that all-knowing, smug look a clear indicator if nothing else was. “I said,” you repeat, saying each word slowly so she can’t fake her way out this time, “I’ll take it home. It doesn’t want to go with you.”
Stella’s smile doesn’t fade, if anything, she looks more excited than before. “I really hoped you’d say that,” she says, grabbing your wrist. “C’mon! I wanna see Aunt Claire freak out!”
She says that, but she doesn’t know about the time a bug-type had the misfortune of crawling into your house. The last time, it had been a Kakuna that had managed to get into your house through an open window. She doesn’t know how the Kakuna had made its way into your parents’ room and into their bed. She wasn’t there to hear the unearthly, banshee scream that sent nearby neighbors rallying to your house. And when she came over to your house that day, she did not see the small hole in your parents’ bedroom window where glass should have been – nor for that matter did she see the fragments of your mother’s favorite porcelain vase littering your parents’ bedroom floor amongst the tussled bedcovers and fallen books.
She did, however, notice your father’s wary attitude, and your mother’s rather paranoid behavior.
But all she said about it was, laughing, “Did Uncle Will scare Aunt Claire again?”
At that statement, you shook your head, but decided against telling her what happened. It wasn’t any of her business anyway, and she certainly did not need any new ideas. She was full to the brim with them anyway, and not one had done anyone but herself an ounce of good.
The Kakuna itself had gotten away unharmed, its outer shell protecting it from the more physical aspects of your mother’s break down. Although, it did look very much disturbed as you watched it flee back into the forest, if its wobbly hops were any indication.
After that experience, bug-types never surfaced around your house again.
No, you then decide, shaking your head. She doesn’t have a clue.
You then break out of Stella’s grasp, eying her incredulously. “Now? Do we have to now?”
Stella nods. “Yes, now. I found you. I won, so the game’s over.”
You still will not let her ‘winning’ go. She cheated, and you intend to ingrain that in her brain until the day she dies, then afterwards in heaven (if the angel-people allow it, anyway). “You cheated!”
“I still found you,” she says, sticking out her tongue. “So there!”
You grit your teeth, forcing yourself not to yell something that you might regret. “If we go back, you have to promise to not say anything to my mom about the Caterpie.”
You fold your arms across your chest. You’re not going to budge, come rocks or fists, until she agrees. “’Cause I said so.”
Stella looks rather disappointed at the thought, though she relents. “Okay… you’ll probably mess up anyways. “
You suddenly hold out your hand, a serious expression coming to your young face. Even the Caterpie seems surprised at your gesture. “Pinky swear.”
You sigh. “Just do it, Stella.”
Stella shrugs, and extending her own hand, she completes the ritual without much thought to the matter. At that, you’re satisfied. Not even she could find a loophole out of the promise now.
You now tune out her merry little ditty she’s humming, turning your attention to the Caterpie who has thus far not said another word, watching the exchange between you two in silence. You don’t feel quite so hesitant about your commitment now, but you can’t help but think that your mother might just be far worse than an angry bird when it comes down to it, and twice as hard to drive off and change her mind.
But you suppose as long as she doesn’t find out, it will all be well.
It’ll be only for a few days. It can’t be that hard, can it?