JUST BIG ENOUGH TO CAREby PocoChapter 1In the late 1990's, certain technologies advanced at a rate that would have madea graphic depiction zoom almost straight up, off the scale. And no one reallywanted to see the scale. Depending on your perspective, computers were quiteworkable for most purposes in the late 1970's. Then they doubled in power andspeed 4 years later, then again 2 years later, and today the "double a pennyevery day and be a millionaire in a month" game applies to the little box on thedesktop, or the palm of one's hand.
How much computer? Well, the one that overloaded on the Lunar Module, causingNeil Armstrong to have to hand-fly the beast the last few hundred feet down tothe Sea of Tranquility, had less power than today's pocket organizer. And thatwas cutting-edge science in 1969, using components that wouldn't even bemainstreamed for most of a decade after that. Don't even look at the graph.
You'd only be confused...
Daria Morris was never confused, at least not by simple science. Althoughrelatively unknown, in her own way she outshone the "Ellie Arroway" characterportrayed by Jodie Foster in "Contact," a screenplay adapted from the novel bythe late Carl Sagan and his wife. Daria loved that movie, had it on DVD, andwished she could accomplish something so dramatic. She had the education, shehad the knowledge, she had the talent for things few men could even comprehend.
Daria Morris was a brilliant person, a wonderful person, a charming person, aperson you would be proud to call a friend. A person you would brag aboutknowing.
Something always stood in the way.
She was a "little person."They used to be called "dwarfs" or "midgets" or other things even lesscomplimentary. Last century, any adult less than 4 feet tall could be a "Barnum-esque"side-show attraction, but, like General Tom Thumb, could aspire to little else.
Daria measured exactly 31 inches.
Ironically, at twice her height, she'd have been considered a "babe." Daria wasperfectly proportioned, even her head, which bore a captivating face completewith deep brown eyes. She was living proof that brain mass has little to do withbrain capacity.
She hated her life.
It didn't matter how intelligent you were, or how captivating you were. You werethe size of a baby just learning to walk, and that's how full-grown peopletreated you.
"Aren't you just the cutest little thing?""Climb up into my lap, little lady!""Whoops! I almost stepped on you! ""Want something big to fill you up? Got it right here!"The huge insults from huge idiots swirled in Daria's thoughts constantly, evenwhen she wasn't subjected to them. More than once her ribs hurt from beinggrabbed and tossed into the air. The "bigs" weren't deliberately trying to becruel, but if they only knew.......
One gorgon-male named Dick (how appropriate) fancied himself a chess-player.
"I'll take you on any time, little lady. You can be the White Queen."On the Internet, where no one can see your laughable size, Daria had acquiredthe rank of International Grand Master three years before. She politely declinedhis offer, and, even more politely, said nothing about his lack of deoderant.
Daria did use the Internet, though, in her ongoing search to find herintellectual equal. That search was an ongoing frustration, as the chat roomsand newsgroups were filled with people who, while they might have been matureenough in person, became adolescent jerks when their faces and names wereremoved.
In the meantime, she wrote cheesy romance novels. This she did mostly for money-- it was hardly an intellectual challenge. It paid her bills and slowly filledher savings account. (What was she going to spend money on? Nights on the town?Dancing? Yeah, right.)Daria had a car, heavily modified to allow her to drive it. It wasn't drivenmuch. Her groceries were delivered, ordered and billed online. It was probableeven her literary agent and publisher didn't know that this writer of tall,strong heroines needed a step-ladder to get into bed.
All of Daria's fictional heroines were tall and strong. Living vicariouslythrough the likes of Allison Camden in "Last Train From Paris," or TamaraMitchell in "The Princess Pretender" tended to ease the boredom and lonliness alittle, and make the fact that she was getting paid to write this stuff a littleless, well, silly.
"Lonliness" was an operative word, impossible to ignore in quiet, privatemoments. Daria was beautiful, and knew it. She was a Mensa-category genius, andknew it. But she had been betrayed by some Higher Power. Again and again, thethought of her lot came crashing through, usually in Faulknerstream-of-consciousness.
"Why me? I'm a good person; I have so much to offer the world, but I'm a joke!Never taken seriously...never appreciated for who I am...no one to love me...noone to care...I could love...no one will let me...it's not fair...isn't theresomeone for me...somewhere...?" Right about then, the tears would start to flow.
Daria had a fair amount of self-esteem, so it was all the more frustrating whenher mind suddenly threw these little "pity-parties" for herself. Intellectually,she knew she was above this sort of thing. Physically, she was below just abouteverything. Emotionally, she still had the need of a child her size to be heldand told that everything would be all right.
"Shake it off, Daria. Write something. Become 'Katherine, Mistress ofInternational Intrigue,' or some such tripe.""Oh, the hell with it. Have a drink."A shot glass was the size of an old-fashioned when Daria's tiny, perfect handheld it. Stoli rocks was her drink; two shots was enough to send her flying.
Today, she had three.
Nobody knows, da trubble I seen...
Nobody knows my sorrow...
Daria laughed at herself, at the incongruity of trying to sing a spiritual in avoice more reminiscent of "Alvin and the Chipmunks.""You're a drunk little lady, you know that Daria! Ha ha ha ha! Where's the greatbig pillow on the great big living room floor? Ker-plunk! Ha ha ha ha ha! Nowwhat was that song Grandpa used to sing?"Mairzy doatsAnd dozey doatsAnd little lamsey-divey!A kiddley-divey too,Wouldn't you?The big, soft cushion on the floor was home for the night.
Phrases that describe Daria now include: terrifyingly intelligent, stunninglybeautiful, fascinatingly tiny, painfully lonely, and TOTALLY SWACKO.
chapter 2Little Daria had a big girl's headache when she awoke 9 hours later. The sun hadrisen, but she was still struggling to follow its example. Luckily, thecoffee-maker was also on "automatic."A cup and a shower later, her head was almost clear. The e-mail indicator wasflashing on her computer. Probably something from the publisher.
03:47 gmtTO: Dmorris@ wishingwell.comFROM: [email protected]: Please, let's talkMESSAGE: Daria, we share much common ground. Will you write me back? Please?JerryDaria read the message in 2 seconds, but stared at it for several minutes. Sheknew no Jerry or Jatwell. What could he want? What was he selling? Probably avariation on the pop-up ads that were now more numerous than ants at a picnic.
14:01 gmtTO: [email protected]: [email protected]: ResponseMESSAGE: Who are you, and why are you contacting me? I'm busy. Do you want tobuy some books? The stores are full of them. I do not attend book-signings.
Don't waste my time again.
Jerry wouldn't give up that easily. Further e-mails were more insistent. Anabbreviated sample:Jatwell: I'm shrinking!Dmorris: This is getting ridiculousJatwell: Not kidding! Was 6'2" a month ago, now 5'4" and diminishing!Dmorris: Even if true, why are you telling me this?Jatwell: Because we don't live very far apart. A friend of a friend told meabout you, your situation and how smart you are. I thought you might understand.
Daria, I'm scared!Dmorris: Be easy, Jerry. I'll talk to you, but I have no idea what to do foryou.
Jatwell: Please, Daria, may I visit you? Please?Dmorris: I'll have to think about this.
Daria did think about it. Possibilities turned over in her mind, including: He'sa kook, he's a huckster, he's a tabloid writer/photographer looking for a scoop,he's trying to saisfy a bizarre sexual fantasy, he's a criminal looking for aneasy mark, he's telling the truth.
The last possibility moved from the rear to the forefront over the next 72hours. In the same 72 hours, her computer's mailbox was bulging with messagesshe had not responded to.
Jatwell: Daria, what can I say to convince you? PLEASE ANSWER!Jatwell: Had to buy smaller clothes, plus boys' clothes that I'll probably bewearing very soon. Please talk to me!Jatwell: Had to put a phone-book on the chair to reach the keyboard. Daria, I'mnot lying to you!Jatwell: The shrinking process is accelerating. I won't be able to drive a carmuch longer. I'm scared to be alone! Daria? Oh, please answer, Daria! I'venowhere else to turn...
Jatwell: I'll give you anything I have! All my money, all my possessions,anything! Talk to me, Daria. I'm begging. I'm begging.
Jerry was either a talented con-artist or was truly in a desperate state ofpanic. But which? Daria was not insensitive to his supposed suffering, but shewas also human enough to have a petty thought or two.
"Well, well! One of the bigs isn't so big anymore. How does it feel to have alevel of human dignity based on something as shallow as physical size, then haveit stripped from you, a little at a time? Some of us NEVER had what you had, andmaybe we're a trifle bitter about it. Can you blame us? We're people too, youknow. There's as much joy, and sadness, and fear and frustration in us as thereis in you. They laugh at us. We don't deserve it! We just want to be accepted!Stop laughing at me! Damn it! Damn all of you!!"Daria took measures to calm herself, then re-examined the situation. An hourlater, she had made a decision.
0115 gmtTO: [email protected]: [email protected]: Your requestMESSAGE: I'm still not sure about this, but if you must visit me, I live at 3725Wallingford. You should know that I have a gun, and will use it at the slightestprovocation.
The "gun" was real. An antique 2-shot .22 Derringer, capable of ruining aChihuhua's day, but little else. It was the only pistol Daria didn't need bothhands to lift.
It's hard to glean emotions from an e-mail, but the one Daria received minuteslater seemed to have an air of relief about it. "Thank you, Daria!" it said. "Asfast as I can make it there!"There were few knocks at Daria's door, but there were enough for her to knowthat this one originated a full foot lower than most of the rest. She took adeep breath, double-checked the tiny firearm in her right hip pocket, then threwthe bolt and turned the knob.
Maybe she hadn't been lied to. Jerry was standing there on the stoop, and Dariawas pleased to see she finally reached a man's chest, instead of his crotch.
Jerry was well-dressed, except that his clothes were far too loose on him, evenfor a little man. Daria could see that he was also well-built, muscular, noperceptible fat, with a pleasant face topped by sandy-blond hair. The facemaintained a smile, but his blue eyes (blue in this lighting, at least) wereshowing a combination of hopefulness and anxiety.
"Miss Morris?""It's Daria. Jerry?""Yes ma....I mean yes, Daria. May I come in?"The small "big" seemed so apprehensive that Daria relaxed a little. "Yes, comein. How about a drink?""Whatever you're having will be fine."Daria decided that a little more Stoli would not be out of place, given themoment. She served them both, in the appropriate glassware. Then she climbedinto a special chair that let her see eye-to-eye with her rare, full-sizevisitors. She found herself actually looking down at Jerry. He was anxious, asif he feared she would throw him out at any moment.
"Have a gulp, Jerry. There's more where that came from." She waited a moment.
"Feeling better?"Jerry was at least feeling calmer. He wasn't much of a drinker, but these dayshe was willing to learn. "Daria, please believe me. I'm not lying to you. I AMshrinking!"Daria's doubts were fading. "Do you know how, or why?""No, I don't! Six weeks ago, I was in a nightclub, having a great time. I liketo dance. I felt strange on the way home, and the process, this, started thenext day, slowly at first, but much faster now. Daria, they say you're verysmart, like a genius or something. Is there anything you can tell me, anythingyou can do?Daria the genius was at a loss. "Have you seen a doctor?""Hell, no! Ever see that "shrinking man" movie from the '50's on TV? He waspoked and prodded, and treated as a sideshow attraction until they thought thecat ate him. This is bad enough, without all that. Daria, I just thought that,even if you couldn't help me, you'd be the one person who'd understand.""Because I'm smart, or because I'm tiny?"Jerry was embarrassed, but at least he was honest. "Both, I suppose. Oh Jeez,it's happening again!"Jerry had shrunk a full inch during their short conversation. It was visible,even to Daria. His voice had that desperate quality again. "Daria? May I stayhere, please? I'll sleep on the couch. I've got some smaller clothes in the car.
Please, Daria, don't send me away now!"There were no more doubts left in Daria's mind. Her earlier angry thoughtschanged to sympathetic ones. She did understand.
"I won't send you away. Get your things. You can bed down here. "Daria slept late that morning. So did Jerry. Curled in a fetal position on thecouch, he looked even smaller than he really was. The real shock came when sheawakened him and he stood up. He was barely a head taller than Daria, making himroughly 3 foot 6.
Jerry panicked, and started sobbing. "Stop it!! Stop it!! Oh, God oh God, why isthis happening?" He cluched Daria, holding her tightly, afraid to let go.
Once she was disentangled, Daria managed to make some coffee and microwave a fewwaffles. Jerry wasn't hungry, but Daria's orders had taken on new meaning.
"EAT!"She kept him supplied with water, assuming that dehydration on top of all ofthis couldn't be a good thing. He sipped, and they talked, for most of the day.
By 3 pm, the smallest clothes Jerry had brought no longer fit.
By 7 pm, he and Daria were the same size.
Jerry broke down again, crying his much smaller eyes out for a full 15 minutes.
Regaining some of his composure, he said "Daria, thank goodness I'm here withyou. It won't stop! Please don't leave me!"I won't leave you, Jerry. Never. Come down here with me.""Huh?""Don't talk. C'mon."His loose clothing literally fell off. She took him by a hand that now swallowedhis, and led him to the comfy cushion on the floor. Again, and again, and again.
Daria found some Ken clothes from her Barbie collection for Jerry to wear thenext morning. By the afternoon, those, too, were ridiculous.
Daria could now hold her new friend in one hand. "There's nothing left for youto wear, Jerry, unless you'd like a handkerchief or something."By now, Jerry had resigned himself to it all. "It doesn't matter, Daria. Please,just hold me, keep me warm and safe. It won't be much longer now."Daria knew that, too. She closed her fingers gently around her now palm-sizedboyfriend. "If I had known what was coming, I'd have gotten a better manicure!"Her fingernails were fine. Jerry's voice and face told her so while they werestill big enough to hear and see. He lay in the hollow of her hand now, unclad,but still smiling. Daria brought the inch-tall figure to her ear to listen tohis last.
"Daria, I'm not frightened anymore. Honest I'm not. It doesn't hurt, and I'vemade a new friend, and I think I made her happy, at least once. You'rewonderful, Daria. Keep writing those stories, and don't let anyone get you down!He shouted the last words, to be heard. When Daria lowered her hand to her eyes,all she could see was something barely recognizable as a human form, about thesize of a grain of rice. She reached the nail of her left index finger into herright palm, scooping up the little dot. She brought it as close to her eye asshe could focus, watching it shrink to the size of a grain of sand, thendisappear altogether.
Daria sat in silence for a long time. Then she got up and put on some water fora cup of tea. She thought about writing another story, this time one about asmall woman who overcame obstacles. She'd have to e-mail her agent about this.