I love my best friend Patty. We see eye to eye on most any subject, but when it comes to tiny men, I can’t understand her. When we were both eleven years old and liked to pretend we were witches, we made a pact to never let boys get in the way of our friendship. That meant getting together one day of the week no matter who we’re dating or marrying. That’s what we agreed.
I should have suspected something (though what that might have been, I have no clue) when Patty only developed crushes on really short boys in school. The rest of us liked tall drinks of water, but Patty gravitated towards stunted little guys, like the Sun spinning around some dingy planet. We made fun of her all the time because of that, or until we realized she didn’t give a shit what we thought about her taste in boys.
As adults lucky enough to have found work in the same city, we spend every Friday evening together, and alternate deciding what we do for fun. I like shopping for clothes, finding good sushi places, and romantic comedies. Patty likes gun shops, liquor stores, one-night stands, and tiny men. I dig the first three, but that last one? That one makes me want to vomit.
What’s the use of a small man? What the hell can anyone do with a handful of flesh that serves no purpose at all, that has no strength? Why did I have to be with her when she went to the mall to get one of those abominations to keep as a pet? Because it was Friday evening, and I had to do whatever Patty called fun, that’s why.
She didn’t tell me what she had planned for us until we met for drinks after work. We never drove anywhere on Fridays (because no matter what we did there was always booze involved), so we got a car to drive us to the mall after a couple of mojitos. I should have downed a third.
The place was crowded with people that had little money to spend and nothing else to do. The air was stale and not cold enough, and I wanted to be anywhere but there, pact or no pact. I didn’t have to go to work the next morning, and I wanted to spend the night with an able-bodied man, friend or stranger. But Patty waltzed into a Real Toys store to shop for no one abled nor bodied. I plastered a smile on my face and followed her in.
As I lagged behind, I heard Patty fawning and cooing at unseen merchandise, and I followed her voice, forcing my attention to linger on other customers, mostly women and their daughters, and a few men I wasn’t sure would want go home with the likes of me. I ignored the glass cages with diminished human forms in all skin tones and found my friend talking to one of the sales attendants about one of the little men in cages. I saw the employee reach into the cage and then I had to look away before I saw one of those wriggling things in action.
Unfortunately, they were everywhere. I heard Patty say things to me, invite me to look at this, touch that, try this, kiss that. I smiled in what I hoped was her direction and said “sure” a few times, never acting on the word. I overheard Patty change her mind a couple of times, and ask the clerk to fetch her a different type of man. I realized we’d be there longer than a few minutes. I made myself look at Patty. Her cheeks were red, and she could not stop smiling. She really looked happy. I felt bad for begrudging her a little fun when she always did what I wanted to do without protest.
There was no way I was going to feel the same enjoyment, but I didn’t have to be miserable. I walked all the way to the back of the store, where there were no little people for sale, but accessories like dollhouses, cages, infinitesimal furniture and how-to books. I stared at some of the extremely expensive stock and noticed a cage that stood apart from the others, the light above it dimmed down to near dark. It housed one tiny man. I could barely see him, and maybe that’s why I stepped closer. The price on the cage was surprisingly low.
“Good evening,” said one attendant I had not seen before. “Is there anything I can help you with?”
“Why is he reduced in price?”
“A few days ago Toby—that’s him over there—handed him to a little girl. Minors are not supposed to handle them instore. She was a bit rough with him, but her mom bought a couple of expensive models, so we just stuck him in here. He’s clearance priced.”
“How come he’s in the dark like that, with no clearance sign over him?”
“We just got word on the price reduction earlier today. I’m about to put up a sign. Would you like a closer look? He’s not broken—”
“No, thanks! I don’t like them. I’m here with my friend. She’s the one shopping. I’m just… waiting for her to finish.”
“Alright. Let me know if you have any more questions,” he said before he walked away to help someone. I didn’t need any help beyond getting the hell out of there. I didn’t want to look at a gross little guy, broken, frightened, probably bruised and missing an eye. That little girl had likely torn his man bits off. I suddenly wished I could see him. I didn’t know why. I stepped closer to the glass and leaned in. He sat in the dark, the floor in the cage blanketed with some kind of pellets or shavings. Maybe litter. I felt my throat close with a gag.
“It’s rude to stare,” said a little voice.
“It’s rude to exist,” I responded, bitingly.
“Please accept my apologies. I’ll stop inconveniencing you in a few days, I’m sure.”
“What do you mean?”
“No one’s going to buy me. Those of us that don’t get bought are turned into food for the others.”
“What? That’s not true.” Even in the gloom, I thought I saw him shrug. “But if it’s true… good, because you should have never existed in the first place.”
“Ah, you’re one of those. Just my luck. Look, lady, why don’t you leave me alone? My days are numbered and I’d rather spend them jerking off and getting high on the tranks they give me.”
“That’s— You’re so ru— Why are you on tranks?”
“Because my leg is broken, and they don’t know how to fix it.”
“That guy said you’re not broken. He said I could take a closer look.”
“Eh, I’m sure he was just going to turn on the overhead light, or maybe feed me a grain of rice so I’d look like a fucking clown for your amusement. Never mind I’d end up puking my guts out all night long because of the drugs.”
“You can go now. I don’t want to look at your face anymore. I hate you all.”
“Fine. You’re just as repugnant to me, but at least I’m normal. At least I was meant to be, you little piece of garbage.”
I straightened away from him and turned to look for Patty. I saw her at the register, paying for her purchase. I joined her and left the store. That was yesterday.
I wonder if he’s still there.