Apr/May 2004  •   Spotlight

A Little Man

by Alex Keegan

She didn't talk to him. Even when she talked to him, she didn't talk to him. She had perfected talking over him, talking across, and talking through him. And one day he realized. He had disappeared.

They were out with people. He wasn't sure he had disappeared. He didn't know if he was merely invisible, or incredibly small, or that, possibly, he did not exist. But he remembered that saying, I think, therefore I am.

So he stood up (nobody turned their head). He climbed on his chair (nobody spoke). He stepped onto the restaurant table (nothing).

He bent down, took some knives, laid them like a Scotsman places crossed swords, and he danced, his black-red kilt flying, his hairy legs spattered with some sauce.

Nobody took notice.

His name was Sam, this man. His wife talked. He watched her. It was like a slow film, something Italian, something French, all light and pauses and je ne sais quoi. He could see into his wife's delicate little ears (they had minute hairs), so he climbed up in there, and there, where there were faint traces of a pink powder (and a little wax), and a pulsing, beating drumskin, he worked out that indeed he had been transmuted. He also realized that he was glad his wife did not speak to him.

And Sam, a little devil now, whispered, close to that stretched skin, right at the aural door, millimetres from stirrup, anvil, et cetera. "I know, I know, oh, I know. I know about them all. I even know how you wash them away, how you wipe, how you check yourself. I am INSIDE you."

And, because he was inside his wife, he could not see, but Sam imagined her shaking head, the tinnitus of guilt, the sudden awareness. He rocked in this cul-de-sac, then climbed out quickly out lest a scratchy, worried finger came after him.

Outside, he slid round her neck, swung on a pearl, looked lapward and saw an incredible swell and hollow. He jumped, hoped, and between those breasts he barely remembered, it was faintly dark, a little moist and really close in like this, a deep mix of competing aromas.

He climbed down looking for the nipples, a flesh mountaineer, but he had to see, had to know. He had never had such a chance before.

It was tricky, slippy, but tucked inside expensive lace, caged, wired, uplifted, he looked around. A torch would have been nice, but without one he did the best he could. The nipple (the left one—he was right-handed) was large, the size of his head. It was the shape of a round leather foot-stool, not pink, even in the half-light, and rough, but malleable. He thought of a boxer's hanging punch-bag, of an air-bag, of playing soccer when he was still lithe and free and visible, and (he was an imp, remember) he dived suddenly, his head impacting that fat rough bud, and shouting GOAL! Again, Sam could only imagine, but he knew, knew that she would not bring her hand dangerously towards him. Eleanor does not, Eleanor would not, scratch her tit.

When he traversed her dry belly, frankly, he was disappointed. It wasn't as flat as he had thought, nor as smooth, nor was it delicate. Elastic was some barrier (but he managed) and now he climbed, in deep red darkness, over a glacial scar (Thomas) and into the rough.

The hair was springy but the climbing easy. It was hot here. He thought of the Amazon rain forest, of exotica. But he had to do it, he had to.

She had always said he had no idea. Fair enough. So Sam lay back, slid, and with a naughty heel, backwards-forwards, decided to experiment. His world heaved, she moved. Surely she wouldn't scratch? Not Eleanor. Not Eleanor. Backwards-forwards, side-to-side. Is it getting hotter? Is it damp in here? He could only imagine (and you have no idea of his joy) her embarrassment, her lady-like movements, her surreptitious squirms.

Did she think, perhaps, that this was a reaction to one of the other diners? Was this allure, attraction, some deep primitive lust? No dear, it's me, me, me, the unseen, down here! Clitter-clatter, clitter-clatter, rub-a-dub-dub.

He became bored and decided to climb back out. He smelled strangely, and a passing animal would have taken a great interest. Perhaps he knew this, that he was vulnerable as a mouse, because, outside, in the tinkling air of Luigi's Pizzatoria, again, an amalgam of mischief, baby powder and various dusts, he sat and thought and decided to climb into Eleanor's purse.

And Eleanor took Sam home that night. Yes, she did ask, "Did anyone see Sam leave?" but frankly, well, just frankly, dear...

And when she got to her car, dammit, where were the keys, dammit her powder was open, dammit her wet wipes were undone, drying fast. But she found the key. It had come off the key-ring. Drove home (a little bit illegal), struggled but found her front door key, clipped into their house.

And what about Sam?

It was close. For as Eleanor slapped and clapped her slightly angry, very frustrated way into the sitting-room (no illicit sex tonight, and for some reason, earlier she'd...) and clamped, clasped her purse tight-shut, our hero was shimmying down the silver of her dress.

Eleanor decided to have a drink, a long, strong, golden whisky. She barely thought of Sam, poor little Sam. Upstairs Sam. Lonely Sam. Poor Sam who would have come home, peed a late night pee in his en-suite, left the lid up, then crawled into his little musty, pathetic little bed, and slept.

She put one of her CDs in the player, but it kept stopping. So then she put in one of his, which played perfectly. She imagined Sam's late night piss, then faintly smug, she sat back on the sofa and started to drink.