by Cathy Ulrich

 

This world is too small for him. He has to duck his head to fit. His mother is the only woman who ever held him.

You nearly split me in two when you came into the world, she says, like he’d done it on purpose. She used to feed him half as much as her other children, hoping he’d stop growing. He never did, and his brothers and sisters would sneak him peas off their plates, and crusts of bread.

His father constructed a special addition to the house just for him, with furniture to fit, and his brothers and sisters would play inside with him. They would pretend that they were all Jack and he was the giant, needing slain.

His youngest sister once stood atop his dining table and kissed him on the forehead.

Dear brother, she said.

She went off and was married, like all of his other brothers and sisters, and left him behind in the room their father built.

Once, he went with his parents to the city. He had heard of the city from his brothers and sisters when they came to visit. They all said it was so very big.

The children shrieked and the dogs followed him and the strangers stared. His parents went into little shops and he waited on the sidewalk, looking in the windows. His mother bought him some chocolate, and he swallowed it without chewing, like a child.

How did you get so big? said the children when his parents left him alone on the sidewalk.

He said, I don’t know, and one of them kicked him in the ankle.

His parents took him home as the sun was setting. The would have liked to stay the night in the city, but there were no beds to fit their son.

What did you think? said his mother.

It wasn’t what I expected, he said.

After that, he didn’t like to leave the room his father had made for him, where everything was the proper size — or nearly: one of the chairs creaked and shuddered if he sat in it, so that was the one he saved for guests. His youngest sister came to visit once, letting him lift her up into the chair and then dangling her legs over the edge of it.

With you, I feel like I’m still a child, she said.

Oh, he said.

There is one window in his room, and he used to watch out of it in case his sister came home again, and perhaps bring another kiss like the one she had given him when they were children. He doesn’t watch for his sister anymore, but he still looks out his window at the world — it’s a very large world, he remembers his teacher telling him in the days before he grew too large for the desks at school and stayed at home — and thinks it isn’t as large as all that. From his window, it is small enough he can hold it in his hand.

 

 

Cathy Ulrich is an average-sized person who can’t always reach things on the top shelf. Her fiction has been featured in a variety of journals, including Rose Red Review, Pidgeonholes, and Monkeybicycle.

 

 

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