THE SECRET HISTORY OF SOMEONE IN THIS ROOM
BY LEE KLEIN
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He was born as small as we all were. Very small at first. Not much bigger than a squirrel. A nearly blind thing howling when the doctor welcomed him into the world with a slap that caused an immediate growth spurt. Suddenly he was as big as a bloated ferret. He didnít look like a ferret. He looked like a human being. One covered in the drool and irresistible cuteness of the recently born.

Attacked by toddlers, sustaining a number of growth-spurring blows, he was well over four feet tall by the time he reached his terrible twos. His most momentous spurt of that tender era occurred when his mom smacked him hard across the mouth for slipping her some tongue upon a goodnight kiss. And as whimpering yielded to sleep and snores, he shot up a good 18 inches in one night. 

If his youth were a sandwich, the impact to his skin that triggered the spurts was a slice of rye on one side of the deli meat of sudden and accelerated growth. And the severe ache that inevitably followed was the slice of rye on the other side. And that was like a sandwich. And he choked on this nasty snack, nearly all the time, swallowing his moans as shins and forearms and thighs doubled and tripled in length year after year. It totally hurt, as though he were an elastic rope with which the earth and sky played tug oí war. And the sky was winning.

(Iíd like to say, now that Iíve been reading this for a bit, that itís a wonder heís here with us today, right here in this very room, after all heís been through.)

But back then, when he was in elementary school, the boy had attained the height I present before you. Six foot three is a fine height for a 30-year-old narrator reading at a literary event about small people in a big country, but for a first grader, this height presented problems. None of the desks came close to accommodating him. He was a foot taller than his teacher. And all this took place back when parachute pants were all the rage. Yet he was forced to wear long baggy sweatpants in case someone hit him too hard in a recess game of dodgeball and he suddenly shot up a few sizes. 

You would think that he would be forced to live like a young, gifted classical pianist. Too worried about his hands to do anything remotely rough and tumble with the reckless kids in the neighborhood. But he applied himself to the hurly burly activities of youth. The lunchtime games of kill the man with the ball, the snowball fights, any of those violent games in which one person was attacked by a dozen others. And all these games just made him taller. The family doctor assured his parents that, although heíd never seen or heard anything of this sort before, these growth spurts, as uncommon as they were, had limits that would be discovered in time. 

By intermediate school, however, the boy was the first non high-schooler selected as a McDonaldís All-American basketball player, back when he was seven foot four. This made his parentís proud. He didnít have too many skills on the court. And he didnít need them. In one particularly rough game he entered at 7í4íí and left at 7í7íí. By the time he reached high school, the boy was already over nine feet tall. And by his sophomore year he could see well over the rim while standing flat on his feet. All this presented a problem in the locker room, on the team bus, wherever they went. Then he got a call from the Philadelphia 76ers and dropped out of high school to join them, instantly becoming a phenomenon, the fifteen-year-old kid nearly twice as tall as anyone on the Los Angeles Lakers besides Kareem Abdul Jabbar. The 76ers could provide customized transportation, all the adjustments needed to help him live like a relatively normal person. So that was good. But the sportswriters hated the boy, saying he was perverting the subtleties, the intricacies of the game, turning it into a freak show. 

And he kept growing all the while. 

By the time he was old enough to drive, he could cover the court in three strides. But then he had trouble dunking because the hoop was too low. He started missing shots. The ball was too small. The hoop even smaller below him. It was like standing on a chair in the kitchen and tossing a clementine directly into the drain in the sink. 

A simile about something going down the drain is apt, because, by this point, he was tired of it all. It wasnít fun anymore. Plus, he was still growing. Old enough to vote but entirely unable to participate in society like a normal human being. It was no good. Heíd reached the point beyond which even the most daring woman would consider taking him home. In case youíve zoned out, I would like to reiterate that he was really fucking tall. 

And he was lonely. 

On the brighter side of things, at this point in his life he was rarely hit, and so it seemed his growing would stop. But, in response to this luck, he became something of a self-flagellator. Slapping himself until his cheeks glowed red. Punching his thighs until they bruised. Addicted to the familiar pain that helped his body surge toward the sky.

That summer, after the basketball season ended, he fled to the northern territories where he could be alone. And there he committed himself to a solitary life, working on his natural talent: that is, he spent the days smacking himself to increase his height. 

In a national park along the northern border of this country, he smacked himself with saplings until he attained a size at which only whipping with full-grown trees spurred his height above the oldest growth in the forests. He lived on fish and deer. Rattled the berries off raspberry bushes. He burst through the clothes he had worn when he first set out for the woods. One night he had to steal a giant tent near the park entrance to cover his bare midsection. By the end of the summer, however, he could no longer endure the isolation. Also it was getting colder each day. So he took off running south, covering huge stretches of land with each step, running beneath the shroud of darkness. 

One night while running, he encountered a blimp. It came at his head like a bullet, in slower-than-slow motion. He halted its progress, gripping it no differently than many of you hold your drinks tonight. He gently extricated two women from the navigational cabin. And tossing the blimp aside, let them stand on the tips of his fingers. Their features contorted with fear for what would happen. The ground below seemed like a diorama, an imperfect grid of farms delineated by country roads and interstates, and high above the surface, on his fingertips, were these two women, befouling their pants with fear. Perhaps because they were so scared of him, he did what he did. It certainly wasnít premeditated. They tasted like white chocolate. They melted between his tongue and the roof of his mouth. And as they slid through his stomach, he experienced a pleasure heíd never known. It was the delight of contraction. Something even more addictive than the ache of constant growth: it was the joy of shrinking. Something that, for him, unfortunately required the consumption of innocent young women.

So he spent most of the months that followed discreetly picking off hot-air balloons, blimps, small aircraft. Providing women the opportunity to melt in his mouth. Then throwing their vessels to the ground so all trace disappeared in a blast of impact with the ground, toward which his shrinking seemed to bring him closer. 

After a while, of course, things became difficult for him. When he became too small to pick airplanes from the sky, he had to do some really despicable things. I will not recount what he did here for fear of imprinting your consciousness with unnecessary marks of horror. However, once heíd shrunk to about twenty feet in total height, he realized a woman could be consumed in segments. And each segment worked as well, in terms of shrinking, as an entire woman did when he was considerably taller. So let that be a relief for those of you concerned about his diet of young women.

It has taken him a long time to reach his natural height, to stabilize as he has. Yet now, I am proud to say that he can be hit over the head with a giant mallet and nothing will happen. It is a really remarkable development for such a troubled man. And of course, he no longer needs to eat women. Such horrors are no longer necessary. Instead, what he does is publish a literary journal out of Astoria, co-hosting tonightís affair with Ms. Pastorek. Thatís right, the man Iím talking about is none other than Mr. Jeff Boison. Letís give him a big hand. 

And ladies, donít worry, donít worry, donít worry. He doesnít bite.

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