by Stuart Spencer
when little kid, didn’t believe people got smaller. could see they did with own two eyes. some got small fast, overnight. one day saw them on street, full size, big as life. few weeks later – half size.
some people different. called them slow ones. started to get small, but years went by. they stayed same size. but then would start to shrink, those too. just a little first, but over time – smaller, smaller until tiny.
happened to people, could not deny. but did. said to self, not me. never me.
don’t blame self. what do kids know. nothing. how can they. kids are kids. kids get bigger. know nothing else. natural, way of world. parents celebrate, make marks on doorway into laundry room. little jimmy, so tall on such and such a date. little sally so tall on etc. being kid is getting big. wasn’t own fault that did not believe opposite also possible.
remember exact day. out of college 4 plus years. decent job, downtown milwaukee, unicorps bank. assistant manager, financial services. cubicle by window. considered perk. looking at computer screen all morning, realized somebody been messing with swivel chair. too low, looking up at screen at odd angle. had to readjust. picked up butt, reached under, fiddled with knob. up we go. all good, kept on working, then it hit. was it really swivel chair. who would mess with swivel chair. oh my god. oh my god, oh my god, stand up, tell pool sec going to lunch. not even noon. didn’t care. sweating, dry mouth. needed air.
walked down to lake. clear spring day. air fresh. sailboats in harbor. wind high, clouds scudding. little kids having picnic in park. school outing. teachers minding them. saw it all for new.
game of kickball. little boy delivered kick, ball went up and over heads. boy went racing, hitting bases. one, two, three, then safe at home. beaming in glory. was that boy, and never knew. now watching him, knowing he was unaware, and would be unaware until he stands here, and watching yet another boy ...
never stopped to see it, now too late. all too late. too sad to cry. or maybe not too sad. maybe mad. maybe outraged. maybe fuck all this.
called in sick. took off rest of day. pool sec said drink fluids.
asked girlfriend if she would help fight this thing. said yes, suggested
internet search. all scams and kooks. went to bookstore, bought books. they said step one is measure self, so measured self on kitchen doorway, made mark. step two, buy gravity boots.
girlfriend said, call doctor first. so called doctor. made appointment. doctor not optimistic. medicine has no answer, he said.
said to doctor, books say have hope.
doctor said, books want to sell books.
said to him, what about gravity boots?
he said, can’t hurt you.
pleaded with him, give me something. anything.
he said, try vitamins.
went to drugstore, bought vitamins. went to gym supply, bought gravity boots. went home, hung self from hooks in ceiling. four hours every night. turned tv upside down, worked just fine. people came over, had to adjust. asked girlfriend to please adjust. she went along a while, then broke up with me. couldn’t take it. her words.
free to hang all night now. learned to sleep like that. got to like it. intense dreams.
doctor said, all that blood to head.
gave it month, so said books, then measured self again in kitchen doorway. gained half an inch. worked. excited. new lease on life. people at unicorps noticed. looking good, they said.
life went on.
then one day pool sec said, you look thin.
same as swivel chair, took a minute. then it hit. thin. meaning what. couldn’t concentrate. total panic. left early, went home, weighed self on bathroom scale. 16 pounds less than last time. went to kitchen, measured self. still as tall. oh my god, oh my god, oh my god all over again.
went out, bought new books, different books. eat more, they said. went shopping, bought a ton of food. went home, cooked it, ate it all. kept doing that every day. six egg breakfast, half a pound bacon, four slices toast lots of jam. morning snacks. two double cheeseburgers lunch, milkshake, extra fries. snickers bars in afternoon. meat and potatoes every night, lots of pie and ice cream. kept checking my waist. fatter, for sure. hanging from boots not so easy now. had to wait for food to settle. otherwise, it come back up.
gave it month, then weighed self. lost two pounds. fatter yes, but bigger no. keep this up, would end up very fat small person.
threw boots in garbage, started eating celery. decided let it happen. it did.
kept getting smaller. smaller every second. smaller than yesterday, smaller than this morning.
had to leave work. got workman’s comp. had to get sister do errands. couldn’t leave apartment. couldn’t reach doorknob. decided to write this, get it down. one of books suggested. but realized had to write telegram style. hitting key major effort. have to stomp, whole body, jump up/down on keys. no caps, impossible to reach shift key/letter key at same time.
then heard about thing called size weekend. all about power of thought/prayer. held in kansas city. got ticket and what they call carrier. needed carrier, big person to carry. not allowed on plane otherwise. afraid people will step on.
size weekend awkward, everybody looking, comparing. some very tiny people there. big people embarrassed at own size. small people resented bigger ones. heard one very little woman say, why hell is she here, pointing to woman twice her size, two feet high.
leaders told us idea of weekend, how was up to us, could only help us help selves. then former size weekenders said it worked for them, just keep faith, etc. they were big but not that big. but big compared to us.
sat in circles with other people, some small, some very small, some - hate to say it - really tiny.
lots of chanting, sensing power from each other. load of bull. but saw woman my size in other group really into it. liked that. liked seeing someone else into it. introduced self over coffee. talked about kc weather, nice facility, so forth. end of day, learned we shared hotel. got her room number. 8 pm got carrier to turn other way, went down hall. her carrier out to dinner, door left open. went in. both scared. so strange. didn’t talk. didn’t have to. knew it all, both of us. we were same size after all. she understood. she knew future. shrinking into nothing, gone completely, vanished into nothing.
so two tiny people, folded napkin for mattress. tiny naked bodies pressed together, tiny butts and tiny organs naked to air. yet strange thing is, felt large again right then, as large as ever had been.
Stuart Spencer is a playwright and novelist. His play Resident Alien was originally produced at he Humana Festival of New Plays and has had productions in regional theatres across the country. Publications include: Plays By Stuart Spencer (Broadway Play Publishing), Blue Stars (Best American Short Plays of 1993-94), The Playwright’s Guidebook (Farrar Straus & Giroux). Spencer teaches playwriting and dramaturgy at Sarah Lawrence College.