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Smalling by Nick Stokes | Word Riot
Flash Fiction

February 15, 2012      

Smalling by Nick Stokes

Listen to a reading of “Smalling” by Nick Stokes.

The numbers on the alarm clock are too large. You need two hands to hold the coffee mug. You can’t pee over the toilet’s lip while standing. Pee puddles warmly on the linoleum. You can’t pick up your children to kiss them good morning and when you walk them to the bus stop it takes an unforgivable number of steps. As you re-enter your house through the dog door you remember that your children giggled as they swung you between them and after you almost fell there was a strange comfort in wrapping your hands around their index fingers. Your wife is gone and even if she weren’t you’re too short to whisper nothings into her ear. Your pants fall. Not your pants, you realize, your boy’s. His belt is long; time is short. A plus-sized child gives you a boost into your minivan. You sit on your laptop to see over the dashboard but it’s not enough. The key is awkward but you manage to insert it and start the minivan, after which you insert whichever scene comes to mind from movies in which a dwarf—or a child or a fairy or a toy—steers and a different diminutive pushes the pedals and perhaps a different diminutive watches the road, even though there is only you. This trivial memory gets you to work. You stand behind the newspaper box and watch your colleagues open the door you can’t. You can’t reach the pushbar; you can’t carry your laptop; you cannot wear the expression of numb acceptance, which falls from your body as did the pants. At this size your work is unimportant, though no more unimportant than when you were larger. Part of you wants to slink in unnoticed behind a co-worker to your casual dress, open floor, egalitarian workplace and push numbers and rearrange code and believe your work is worth doing, but that part of you is smaller than it used to be. And you realize that one of the most marketable advantages of suddenly being such a small nothing is that you are unnoticeable. Your absence is already here. You walk away. Your ring falls off your finger and clinks on the ground and you wonder how it stayed on so long. Looking up at your titanic minivan door, you know no memory will help you drive this leviathan. You walk to the park. The walk requires steps unquantifiable. Your legs are tired. The park is a vast wilderness. No one is there except a giantess pushing her over-nutritioned posterity in an SUV of a stroller. The toddler screams and reaches down for you, a plaything, a gleam in its eye, but this young mother whose skirt you look up, whose divine recesses you could lose yourself in, who would arouse you if she weren’t a wilderness of insurmountable mountains and impenetrable valleys, doesn’t notice you. The wheels crunch worlds as they go by, then fade. Your children wouldn’t know you now from a candy wrapper, an ant, another molecule. You will never make it home, and if you did you would be lost there. You stand in the grass. The grass grows. The sky is far and flecked with pigeons for whom you are too small to eat. A grain of dirt. A teeming pinhead of bacteria. A touch of fixed nitrogen. You are an atom, an idea, an iota. You are not nothing; nothing is immense and, for all you know, always slightly more infinite than the ever-expanding universe. You are not without consciousness. Your thoughts of yourself have not shrunk. Your self-awareness doesn’t take up less space. The fight you had last night is so small now; the sex you had last night is so small now; the tears are small and the victories are small and the loves are small and the losses are small. But you are not dead. You are infinitesimal and alive, and growing smaller.

Nick Stokes

About the author:

Nick Stokes’s writings have been published by Mixer Publishing, Waccamaw, Prick of the Spindle, City Arts, Word Riot, Opium, KNOCK, and Exquisite Disarray Publishing. His plays have been produced, supported, and developed by Northwest Playwrights Alliance, 14/48 Theater Festival, Theatre Puget Sound, Blood Ensemble, Open Circle Theater, Tacoma Arts Commission, and others. He has been awarded Artist Trust’s Camano Island Residency, a GAP award, the Rannu Fund Prize for Writers of Speculative Literature, and a Hugo Writers Award. He lives with his burgeoning family in Tacoma; he packs mules in the backcountry of Montana; he’s virtually at

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