They Stole My Idea

In 2012 when I was almost exclusively a science fiction writer (cough cough, this) and trying to be the next Vonnegut, I wrote a short story called “The Family Giant.” Obviously I did nothing with it, and it has been gathering dust in my docket for 5 years until recently, when I saw a trailer for a new Matt Damon/Kristen Wiig movie called “Downsizing.” Apparently somehow, these hollywood pervs managed to hack my computer and stole my idea.

Now, read my story below and tell me what you think! That’s really all I got, just a repost.

 

The Family Giant

By John S Mannheimer

 

George tenderly clenched the square of paper between his nails and slipped it under the microscope. It was the grocery list. Papa wanted more Gouda, his favorite cheese. Emily wanted steak. And Mama wanted wine, specifically a bottle of Brunello d’Orcia 2004. George glanced to his right, at the bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet 2003 sitting next to the microscope. He had drunk most of it. Only a few measures formed a small black-red lagoon at the bottle’s bottom. That ought to last a few more days, anyway, he thought. At the list’s finish was a postscript, scrawled in his mother’s sacchariferous cursive: “We are so grateful for you, George,” punctuated by a heart. He rolled his eyes. Sure they were. George’s mother left a similar note each time he headed to the grocery, or painstakingly built a doghouse like he had last month—father’s injury precluded him from any heavy lifting, so the task fell to the able-fingered son. George had been sad to see Rocko go. The black spotted mutt was the last bit of company George had in the vacuous house. Oh, the sacrifices he made in the name of family.

George left the empty house and slumped into his cheap car. A large man would have been cramped in the small, cage-like chassis. But George was small framed and thin, among the reasons his family had decided that he was the obvious choice for Giant. He didn’t eat too much and he was quite responsible. Besides that, he was never all that involved in the family dynamic. At the dinner table, he was quiet and aloof, stirring the contents of his plate judiciously until dismissed. The car’s modest engine switched on with a rev that sounded like a remote control car. George turned the wheel and zipped onto the road.

The grocery store was nearly empty when he arrived. The aisles, once emptied of food by ravenous patrons during the shortage were vibrantly filled with verdant greens and juicy red meats at purportedly low, low prices. George recalled the gnashing chaos of supermarkets on television as a child. Every time Papa put on his coat to head to the store, George would hold onto his leg to weigh him down, until his mother pried him off and Papa disappeared out the doorway. George feared for his father’s life. It was not uncommon back then for people to get trampled in the fracas.

Now, the same aisles that were once inundated with wild shoppers were empty, save for endless shelves of produce, milk, and meat. George picked up a steak, hefting it in his hand, figuring he could take about half of it for himself. The other half ought to appease Emily and the rest of the family for a good month. Next, he picked up a bottle of wine—the best money could buy, why not? It was a rarity for him to buy wine, whiskey, or any other spirit—only about once per month and a half—so when he did, he chose top shelf. It was in no danger of being depleted quickly. Usually he simply had to count on himself not to drink the majority, which could be difficult sometimes in the lonesome, empty house. If George continued to take it for himself, though, he would have no choice but to switch to a cheaper brand, and that wouldn’t be fair to his mother. She was a connoisseur, and already suffering enough from having to drink the same, albeit high-end wine for months at a time. Who was George to deny the little lady’s simple pleasure?

George reached for the last, red wheel of Gouda cheese. The grocery store was so empty that he hadn’t noticed a figure in the corner of his eye, and neither had the figure, so as it happened, two hands met on the red wheel of Gouda. The figure drew hers back sharply.

“Oh, I’m sorry! I hadn’t noticed you,” she blushed.

“No, it’s all right,” George said, the forgotten ecstasy of human contact tingling on his hand. “It’s my fault, I’m not used to their being anyone in here,” he admitted. The store’s cooling system clanged hollowly, echoing through the store. He seized the Gouda wheel, the last one, and handed it to the girl, a pretty brunette. She smiled shyly and accepted the offering with a “thank you” and placed the cheese in her cart.

George had never seen the girl before. It seemed strange, as the small town had only been made smaller by the Shrink. She might have been the last girl in town that was his age.

“Are you shopping for yourself?” George asked, strolling alongside as she rolled her cart down the chilly aisle. She picked up a gallon of milk with an appraising look, then set it down in favor of a half-gallon.

“No,” she said. She looked up at George with big brown eyes. Why was she dressed so cutely? George at once felt naked in his unwashed white t-shirt and mesh black shorts. “I’m a Giant,” she admitted.

“Really?” George asked excitedly. “Me too.”

“Oh?” She asked, continuing to peruse.

“Yep,” George said, for once proud of his Gigantism. “My mother and father and sister all live with me at home,” George said. “…And dog,” he added grimly, remembering Rocko.

“They do dogs now?” She asked.

“Unfortunately,” he sighed. “I lost my only bit of company because of it. To be fair, it was my sister’s dog. But now the house is all the more lonely.” This was his first social interaction in months, maybe even a year. He felt rusty.

“I have a cat,” said the girl. “I won’t let them have him. He’s all mine,” she smiled and made penetrative eye contact with George, and he was too shocked to demure.

“That’s smart,” George picked back up. “Say, what’s your family like?” He asked. “If you don’t mind my asking.” She half-smiled, but did not look up from the dairy products. George remembered the game. He was never very good.

“There’s Mom, Dad and Tony, my little brother.”

“How old is he?” George asked.

“Eighteen.”

“Emily’s eighteen,” George mentioned offhandedly.

“Hm.”

George felt he should grab something off the shelf, selected some peanut butter.

“Would you like to meet them?” she asked suddenly.

“Really?” George said, dropping the peanut butter loudly into his basket. “Sure, I’d love to.” Not wanting to seem eager, he added: “It can get pretty boring at home.”

She nodded understandingly. “How’s tomorrow? I get off work at six. Why don’t you come by?” She wrote down her address on a piece of paper and handed it to George. “My name’s Evie.”

“George,” he said.

“Well George, I’ve got to finish shopping.”

“Oh, of course,” he said. She turned to a different aisle, actually the one he had planned to go next, but he decided to wait for her to finish. “It was nice to meet you,” he called after her.

For the first time in a year, George had a reason to spruce up. He doled out a ration of the groceries to the family, picked up a new note Mama had left: “Need more toothpicks for kindling” and headed off in his diminutive automobile.

She answered the door to the modest house, accepted the flowers that George had brought and on which he had contemplated circularly for hours deciding whether or not they were too much. Evie had dressed up, too, which eased George’s mind. She, too, had apparently been looking forward to human contact, so few and far between for giants. She showed him around her home—it was illusorily large, full of empty space like his own.

The dinner Evie had prepared, however, was quite immodest—roasted duck and cranberry sauce, served with buttery asparagus and milk, a meal that George didn’t take lightly, cleaning his plate in conscientious appreciation of how expensive a Giant-sized portion of duck went for. He told her what there was to tell her about his job, which was basically that he drilled holes in metal sheets all day long. Evie worked as a clerk at the hobby shop.

“Do you like that sort of thing?” George asked with a mouthful of duck. “Crafts and what-not?”

“MmHm.” She nodded vigorously, raising both eyebrows as if incredulous that George hadn’t already known this about her. “It’s sort of my passion.”

“Well, you’ve got to have one of those,” George agreed. “Otherwise, life can get to be pretty burdensome, and you can stop really living. For yourself, that is.”

She smiled at that, seemed to understand what George was saying perfectly, though she cocked her head in a way that made it feel to George as though she pitied him. George pushed the thought aside as he swallowed the last spear of asparagus.

“Would you like to see?” she asked.

“See what?” George said.

“Where they live,” she said.

“I’d love to,” he said. “Would you like some help?” He pointed to the dishes.

“Just leave them,” she said, getting up. “It’ll give me something to do later,” she explained. George knew the feeling well. His home was perpetually clean as a whistle, not as a result of a propensity for cleanliness, but boredom.

He followed Evie upstairs to the attic. What he saw made his own family’s home look like a motel. It was a regular Garden of Eden. Immaculately constructed hills and valleys, a phosphorescent sun that doubled as a moon, dangling from the ceiling by invisible fish wire. The walls were painted sky blue. Distant picturesque mountains were painted on the backdrop. At the top of the highest hill was a beautiful green house, like the emerald palace somewhere over a rainbow. There was a quixotic windmill spinning slowly, pushed along by a gentle, oscillating fan mounted to the wall, painted blue to blend with the skyline.

“It’s—it’s wonderful,” George gasped. Evie folded her hands together proudly.

This was her hobby.

George walked carefully along the path that cut through the mock-hilly terrain and Evie followed. The land was elevated to about his waist, and the path divided it in half like a foreboding canyon.

“Hold on,” said Evie. She squeezed past George, who had forgotten what it was like to feel a woman’s soft body squeeze by you—he had taken those movie theatre brush-bys for granted—and unscrewed a plastic bridge which connected the two lands over the chasm. “Bridge out,” she called toward the house, which made no response. “Dinner time,” she noted to George, looking at her watch. “We’ll have to wait.”

While they waited, Evie gave George a tour of the remarkably crafted meadowland. A tiny speaker system simulated family rainy days once or twice a week. (Evie’s mother loved the sound of distant thunderstorms as she went to sleep).

There were trees with waxy aesthetic apples hanging down, a pool table and a pool, a home gym where hilarious hundred-gram weights were hefted. George felt a twinge of shame for the world he had bought in-store for his own family, colorless in comparison to this paradise. Their nights and days relied on George’s switching on and off a reading lamp. Their chairs and tables and doghouses were made of toothpicks and woodchips jointed by gobs of Elmer’s glue.

Evie tapped her watch. “They should be about finished now. Would you like to talk to them?” She asked.

“Talk to them? But how could I do that?”

“Simply,” Evie said nonchalantly. Like a goddess, she reached out into the phony sky and plucked from it a tiny brown and white and yellow broach, shaped like a soaring bald eagle. It had hung just below a cloud. Affixing the eagle to her collar, she tapped it three times. Feedback bounced around the attic walls, buffeting George’s eardrums. Evie peered searchingly over the land she had created and with a dainty pluck, uprooted a plastic bush. Beneath it was a black pole, roughly two centimeters long, standing straight up. George squinted hard and realized the pole was a microphone stand, the eagle broach’s companion.

“Watch,” Evie smiled enchantingly. She bent over, and with a gentle but effective flicking of her finger, rapped on the little green house’s door three times. Evie pulled her collar up to her mouth. “Mother, Father, Tony,” she whispered. “There’s somebody here I’d like you to meet.” Her voice came through the sound system gently like the simulated wind. It must have sounded like a loudspeaker to them, because the tiny wooden door that George could have crushed between his fingers swung open, and three little figurines shuffled out to meet the giants.

Squinting down on the hill, which looked like a shrunken set from The Sound of Music, George could barely discern the three tiny faces. He could, however, tell what they were wearing. Mother wore a fluffy pink dress, crafted from a billowing inch of fabric. Father wore suspenders and a loosened tie, and penny loafers, though he himself might have been crushed by a piece of loose change. Tony wore a white t-shirt and jeans, and his indistinct face was framed by shoulder length hair. The father figure trotted down the hill, taking his place at the microphone stand.

“Guys,” Evie spoke into her broach. “This is George. He’s a family giant, too.”

“Hiya,” the father said. His voice, like Evie’s, filled the room. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Paul.”

George was in awe of this carefully crafted world. It made him feel like a lousy son. “Nice to meet you, sir,” he said. “I’m George.” Paul shrugged and cupped his hand to his ear.

“Oh, you’ve got to use this,” Evie said. In the excitement of things, he had forgotten something he knew quite well, that shrunken people couldn’t hear his voice. He had been unable to communicate to his own family, only receive their microscopic messages, never deliver his own. He could attempt to write smallishly, but rarely did, taking the size barrier as an excuse to not have to communicate.

 

George took the microphone and repeated himself. Paul nodded, hearing George’s voice through the loudspeaker system.

“So, George,” he continued. “What are your intentions with my daughter?”  George was startled. He looked at Evie, then at Paul. Paul made a grand gesture, indicating that it was a joke.

“I’m just kidding you, Georgey. It’s fine to meet you. We don’t get many visitors besides our Evie. It’s tough the way things have worked out for people like us.”

George nodded. It was tough from his side of things, he knew that much. He hadn’t much considered how tough it would be for those who shrunk.

“What’s your family like?”

George scratched his head. “Well, there’s Papa and Mama, and Emily,” he said.

“Oh! You’ve a sister!” Evie’s mother had chassed down the hill to join. “Mary,” she introduced herself. Tony remained at the doorstep looking bored. “How old is she? What’s she like?”

“Eighteen,” said George.”

“Oh my, Paul,” Evie’s mother said, nudging her husband.

Paul’s father said: “Our Tony is eighteen as well.”

“It can get pretty boring up here for an eighteen year old boy with no girls around. Evie’s mother whispered scandalously into the mic, but the sibilant secret spilled across the entire valley. Tony had apparently had enough of this soiree and returned inside. George saw him through the house’s window, slump onto his bed, picking up a book.

George remembered how boring it indeed could get as an eighteen year old boy with no girls around. He also remembered how boring it could get as an eighteen year old with no one around. This miniature paradise that Evie had so lovingly constructed for her family was ideal for the two parents. It made for a perfect retirement home. But it was no proper place for the pent up energy of a young man. When Tony grew up, then what? He would never be able to “grow up” enough—not to take on the world alone. The Shrink was irreversible. If their was a growth process, they could just enlarge the food itself. Instead, they had to shrink the people. George stretched his arms, brushing his knuckles against the attic’s wood ceiling, suddenly thankful for his lean, gangly limbs.

Evie and George returned downstairs to the living room. George nearly mistook the amorphous fuzz that occupied the couch as a cushion to sit on. Before he could, the cat leapt out of the way, into Evie’s lap.

“They’re wonderful people,” George said.

Evie smiled sadly. “Yes, they are. I’ve tried to give them the best for their situation. It’s really not fair how it all turned out.”

“No,” George agreed. “Why did you get chosen? It’s not every day that I meet a fellow family giant my own age,” he said.  “Most of them are the fathers. We’re a more unique species. Untraditional providers.”

“We are, aren’t we?” She looked to the attic in reverie. “As you can guess, we were too poor to get by—Tony was so thin—things had just started to get bad by the time I got out of high school. I worked two jobs, Mother did too, and so did Dad, but it was still barely enough. That’s when we opted for the Shrink.” George nodded. He knew the formula—poor, working class family in no way equipped to accommodate the massive food shortage. In his case, Papa’s bum-knee made George the obvious choice for Giant. George obliged, not keen on the idea of being reduced to centimetric stature, not overly sentimental about being separated from his family.

But Evie had done it out of love (for she so loved her family that she gave them up). George was simply a black sheep. He gave up his three relatives willingly, secretly blaming them for his own resultant loneliness.

“It’s amazing, what you’ve created for them,” George said.

Evie shook her head quickly emphatically, her face reddening. She looked as if she urgently needed to defend herself against the compliment. “No, no, it’s the least I can do. Really. There isn’t much for them in the way of niceties.” Yeah, thought George. Besides three extravagant, full meals a day delivered on the doorstep without having to lift a finger. “After all,” she said, “Family is the most important thing, don’t you think?”

George nodded, though the thought had never once crossed his mind. Surviving had always been the most important thing for his family.

“I just feel the worst for him, though,” said Evie.

“Who?” George asked. “Paul?”

“No—Tony. I’ve tried to provide the best I can, but he’s growing up. It really crushes me to think what kind of a life he’s been born into,” Evie went on. “He was just a boy when they did the Shrink. You know, it was a very tough decision on my parents, allowing me to be the Giant,” she reminded George, as if certain he were judging their irresponsibility and blaming them for Tony’s prospectively terrible life.

“No, of course—I understand fully,” George assured her. “We all had to make sacrifices back then,” he said somberly. “It was a hard time, for people like us, Evie.” Evie nodded sadly. Then, she leant forward and gave George a warm kiss on his freshly shaven cheek, just a sheepish peck—but nonetheless it surged warmly through his whole body, causing a happy grin to break out on George’s red face. Evie smiled shyly, just barely grazing his finger with her own, as if by accident. George was suddenly mitten by this auburn haired girl who thought that family was the most important thing.

They said goodbye and agreed to see each other again in two days time. They both knew it was a silly protocol in a town with a population density below 1—but that was the point. The reason you play the game, George thought, is that it’s fun. Besides, George had work to do.

The next day, when he returned from his career as a professional screwdriver, George brought with him an array of tools, purchased at the hobby shop in town. He had sneaked in when Evie wasn’t working, afraid he might frighten her off. Now, he emptied the plastic bag onto his dimly lit kitchen table, and made better use of his capable hands than he had using the simplistic power-drill allowed.

The next morning, he had produced a new table—he had dug into his savings to buy faux-oak, the finest and most expensive form of plywood the shop offered. Along with the table came four handcrafted chairs and a ready-made full desk (his mother had wanted to start writing her autobiography, so he thought it would make a perfect workspace. He left the fragile pieces of furniture in front of the house. Bleary-eyed, he looked at the house that had come with the shrink—it was simple, cheap, plastic. His mother had written a note, he recalled, suggesting perhaps a change was in order—not now, but whenever he could find the time. But that was more than a year ago, and the suggestion hadn’t been raised since, and George had already forgotten about it.

He leaned forward and carefully felt the siding of the small, foundationless country home, which sat in the center of a waist high table. It was located far away from the television room, far from George’s private dwelling. The hobby shop offered all sorts of house models—Victorian, Colonial Georgians, Barbadian chattel houses—but his own family was stuck with the “Sears Catalog Home”—plucked directly from a Levittown somewhere. The plastic screeched as he rubbed his fingers on its false vinyl exterior. It certainly wasn’t like the verdurous mansion that sat high on Evie’s hill. Perhaps he would buy them a new place. He blinked and committed the idea to memory, before going upstairs to rest up for his date.

He greeted Evie at her door with a bouquet of flowers that he could not really afford. She accepted them, but a deathly pallor had come over her face. She held out her hands. “Don’t come in!” She warned.

“What is it?” He asked, taking an instinctive step forward.

“Stop!” She admonished tearfully. “Oh, George. It’s terrible—Tony’s run away!” She collapsed limply onto George’s slight figure, nearly knocking him backwards. But he caught her, and gently brought her eyes up to his.

“Why would he do that?” George asked.

“I don’t know,” She wailed. “Mom says he’s been fighting with her and Dad, and that he was threatening to do something drastic. Oh, George, I don’t know what to do, he could be anywhere.” She grew frantic. “What if he’s fallen through a crack? What if he’s found a way outside? The birds—George, he’s so small he might look like a rice to them. Quick, we’ve got to shut the door.”

“Wait.” George furrowed his brow. “I’ll find him,” he said. Evie looked up.

“But George—” she began.

“I’ve got sharp eyes, Evie,” George said. “And better hands. And I’ve got another advantage—I know the mind of an 18-year-old boy.” Evie dried her face and sniffled once. Then, she nodded her assent. George nodded, taking off his shoes, and entering the house deftly, one paw at a time.

If I were an eighteen-year-old boy, where would I go? He thought. Scratch that. If I were a half-inch tall eighteen-year-old boy, where would I go? Swimming in the toilet? No. Why would that be appealing to anyone of any age? Come on, George—think. Win the game, right here, right now.

Three hours later, Evie inside from the front step. “How’s it going, George?”

“Swell,” he hollered back. But it was not going swell. He had made very little progress since his heroic vow to locate Tony, as the act of scanning the porous carpet with each footstep, then when finally sure that there were no Lilliputian virgin boys hidden inside, suddenly remembering that squishing the brother of the love of your life and the possibly the last marriageable woman in fifty miles is not the way to win the game, and painstakingly checking again had hampered his purported eagle eyes and dexterous fingers from plucking the long-haired little bastard from the clear blue sky.

George carefully tiptoed into the television room, and after investigating each fiber on the couch cushion, plopped down, dog-tired. Where could this little asshole be? Anywhere, really. Between the goddamn quarks in the atmosphere. No taller than a penny, nearly inaudible—it was like trying to track down in ant in a haystack—something like that, at least.

George reached for the remote control, then thought better. Reruns in perpetuity. TV had lost its appeal since the shrink’s introduction. Cable companies didn’t try to entertain the few giants that were left to roam the Earth. Instead, he looked to the bookcase affixed to the wall. There were great, old tomes—Paul and Mary must have been great readers, pity the books, too couldn’t be shrunk down. There was Tolstoy and his compatriot Dostoevsky, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and the gang, a load of Encyclopedia Brittanicas…George squinted at volume S…it seemed to be inching itself out of the bookcase, slowly but surely, until…

The book crashed violently to the ground. George stood up suddenly, vigilantly, certain that the heavy leather-bound volume had squished Tony and George’s chance with the flattened Stanley’s sister along with him. But when he peeked under the book, there were no cute, infinitesimal intestines splattered across the cover, no miniature brains exploded like the tiniest of watermelons on the carpet below.

George stood. The shelf on which the book had rested stood at eye-level. How the hell did that thing fall? He squinted hard at the now yawning chasm between R and T. Sure enough, there was the little bastard. Tony, attempting futilely to scale the spine of volume T, slipping and sliding off with each grab. “Tony,” George said.

Tony wheeled around, petrified. The gust of George’s voice seemed to knock him down, where he remained in a scared stupor. George remembered that Tony could not respond—at least not audibly. With his reputedly dexterous fingers, George plucked the tiny creature by his collar and hefted him from the bookshelf. He dropped Tony carefully onto the palm of his hand, and jaunted up the staircase, bearing good news.

Tony curled nervously into a ball, bouncing up and down with each gigantic step George took, desperately grabbing handfuls of palmy flesh. Just as George reached forward to grasp the attic door, he felt a small sting. And another. He looked down to find Tony biting George’s skin with all his might. George prodded him tenderly with his finger. “Stop that, you little jerk,” George said. Tony wouldn’t let go until George managed to shake him free with a small earthquake.

When the aftershock had gone away, Tony stood on wobbly legs. George bent down to within inches of the scrawny Micro sapiens. “What is it?” George asked. Tony pointed to his ear, then to George. “I’m aware,” George said. “I can’t hear you.” Tony shook his head. He pointed to George then mimed him plucking something from his palm, and placing it in his ear. “If you think I’m going to put you in my ear, forget it,” he said, cupping his other hand to make it so Tony could distinguish his response. “Not after that biting display you put on.”

Tony slumped desperately. George wasn’t sure, but he thought tears were coming from his shrunken eyes. He pointed to his mouth, then to George, indicating that he wanted to talk. Sighing, George thought how the boy must feel. “OK,” he nodded. But how?

George swung open the attic door. He snaked through the canyon and unlatched the bridge that barred him from the house perched on the lush, plasticine hill. Reaching forward, he rapped on the great, faux-oak door three times. A little, matronly face peeked out. George pointed to the microphone at the hill’s base, and as Mary scurried down the hill, holding the bunches of her dress, George plucked from the wall the broach that would allow him to communicate with her.

“George?” she asked excitedly. “Have you found him? Have you found our boy?” George nodded, extending his hand to show Tony, who seemed less than eager to return to the house from which he had escaped only hours before.

“Oh, thank god!” she cried. “Thank you, George,” she smiled with great relief. “Paul!” She turned and shouted back to the house. “George found our boy!” She turned and whispered into the microphone: “He’s napping. He has no trouble sleeping, even when our boy is missing!” Paul poked his head out from his upstairs window like a groundhog, looking around bleary eyes. “George has Tony!” Mary called up to him. Seeming only pleasantly surprised, Paul rubbed his eyes and descended the stairs to come meet Mary.

“Hold on,” George said, looking at Tony, who looked back to him. “I’ve got to have a talk with Tony.”

Mary cocked her head. “Oh? A talk?” Then she smiled. “But of course, by all means—talk away. We’ll be inside the house.”

“Um,” George began, looking momentarily at Tony, who stood on the uncertain earth of George’s trembling hand. “Actually, I think we should talk alone,” George said. “And seeing as the loudspeakers ring throughout the room…” George said. “Would you mind?” he asked. The parents looked at one another confusedly as George offered his hand on the phony green turf. Nervously, the old couple crawled onto George’s palm. They embraced their found son momentarily. Then, as Tony crawled off onto the hill, they found themselves flying on the nimbus of George’s massive hand, out of the attic and onto a hallway table. George held up a finger to indicate that he would just be a moment, then pointed to the table, mouthing the words: “Stay right here.” The parents nodded powerlessly.

Back in the attic, Tony had taken his place at the microphone. George tapped the broach to test it, making Tony cringe.

“Sorry,” George said. “So…why did you leave?” George asked.

Tony shrugged. “There’s nothing for me, here.” George was somewhat shocked at how deep this little creature’s voice was.

“No,” George said. “I suppose not. But where were you headed?” George asked. “What were you doing at the bookshelf?”

“Well,” Tony admitted. “I remembered that Dad had a collection of…magazines hidden in between the encyclopedias…”

“Oh,” George nodded. “But those would be too big for you to enjoy anyway,” George said.

Tony shrugged. “Well, I figured I could stand over the good parts, you know…” he looked at the ground ashamedly.  “Put yourself in my shoes,” he went on. George imagined putting himself in those incredibly small shoes. “There’s no girls up here,” Tony said. “Never will be. I’m never going to go hungry, sure—but in another way, I’ll always be starved.” He stuck his hands in his pockets and looked down. “What kind of life is that?”

“No kind,” George agreed.

“I’m going to die—a virgin,” Tony said. George nodded vaguely, suddenly understanding this little hero’s tragic dilemma. That’s what the shrink was—survival. It didn’t allow families to keep living, just keep surviving.

George sighed. Then, and idea.

“Listen buddy,” he said. “There may be something I can do.”

 

The next day, Tony woke up around one o’ clock. The sun beamed through his window. A single flake of dust about the size of his finger tip drifted by his the light. He stretched his body out and scratched his head. He wondered what the hell this George character thought he could to make his doomed existence any better, let alone worth while. Hurling himself off the canyon was still at top of the list as far as Tony could see. He walked downstairs and ate a few chicken fibers and pancakes. Nothing to do, like always.

Some fresh air, perhaps. Tony’s parents were nowhere to be found. His dad liked to hike around the attic and his mother enjoyed gardening. All the windows were open, making it feel like the house itself was breathing in and out the perpetual spring that his sister had so lovingly created for them. He loved her and thanked her for how she had provided for them, but envied her and wished he had the foresight as a twelve-year-old to demand not to be shrunk. But he had been frightened, and naturally clung to his parents.

He pushed open the door, squinting at the pseudo-sun above him. “No clouds today,” he mocked the world with no one in earshot. He sat shirtless on the stoop of his house. Everything the same, every day and night. Nothing much happens around here, he thought. Same trees, same trees, same windmill spinning the same direction. Suddenly, Tony jolted, not believing his eyes. In the distance stood a new, pink house. A realtor’s sign was posted in the front yard, with the big red word “SOLD.” He squinted hard. In the front yard was a long chair, and on that long chair was a thin, brown-haired girl basking in the sunlight, catching a tan.

 

FIN

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