There once lived a man smaller than a teacup. Convivial even with the scullery maids, yet having a gentleman’s bearing, he charmed all comers. He spoke French and Portuguese without an accent and was fluent in Dutch and Mandarin Chinese. He conversed on Hobbes with utmost respect, but never missed church on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.
The Sultan of Brunei once offered 46,000 silver dollars to whomever could procure my little man, but I bound him to the crook of my arm with a skein of unbreakable silk and stole him away to the seaside. We burrowed deep in the cool sands, my little man and I, napping away the daylight hours. In the evenings, we dined like kings on moonlit lobster and shad roe. It was not until a dashing imp from Abyssinia became all the rage that we could safely rejoin society.
At length, my man began to fail. First to be shed was his handsome overcoat. Next, his eyes and limbs shriveled away. I read to him the morning Times and recited choice passages from Keats, though he surely knew them by heart. I carried him to the garden in a petal-lined snuff box and described to him the passing of the seasons: the specific angle of each green sprout that poked through the clay, the distinct pattern of each snowflake that landed wet on stone.
His suit and skin grew loose then fell away. I rubbed his exposed muscle and sinew with camphor oil and warmed them against my cheek. Once, he was mistaken for a veal cutlet and I snatched him back a scant second before he was to be impaled on a roasting fork. Thereafter, dinner invitations grew scarce.
I cradled him in my palm and fed him salt pork and biscuits and, when his teeth had dissolved, marrow pudding and flummery. When his tiny pulsing heart was all that remained, I held it for months, massaging it between my fingers when the beating slowed.
Ultimately, the heart too crumbled to dust, which I held in my clenched fist and waited; I would have sooner endured damnation than allowed that dust to settle on the earth and mingle with common dirt. The first snow-shrouded night of the Mnido Giizis, the little Spirit Moon of the Ojibwe, marked the end of my wait. I brewed a pot of tea steeped with the powdery remains of my tiny man. Gulping the tea, I felt its warmth spread throughout all my humors, thickening my blood and bile. I felt my liver and stomach shrink and solidify, my lungs constrict and harden. I waited for my bones to adjust accordingly, but the morning and the days since found me unchanged in appearance.
My exterior size is no different now. When others observe this framework of skin-stretched skeleton, they cannot see that my organs have tightened into diamonds, impenetrable and indomitable. It is atavistic instinct alone that compels them to back away from me with eyes wide and nostrils flared.
Raised in an underground house on a pig farm, Chris Eno McMahon is an erstwhile teen bride, PTO president, and Homemaker of the Year for the state of Michigan. Her literary fiction appeared most recently in Flash Fiction Magazine. Her humor writing has been in many publications, including Weekly Humorist, Points in Case, Slackjaw, Functionally Dead, and Defenestration. She’s currently working on her MFA.
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