Big and Small Of It
And then Bill came in the room again. He was fusing about, moving bills and random papers, looking over Tara’s shoulder as she sat reading a magazine and having a glass of wine. He went over to the counter where the dishes were still sitting, waiting for him, and poured himself a tall one out of the jug. Tara turned a page in her magazine. She laughed at some anecdote; some article about some actor on some television show, and that was when Bill decided he’d had enough.
“Hey,” Tara said, as he pulled the magazine away from her.
“Oh, were you reading this?”
“You know damn well that I was.”
Bill put the magazine on the counter, got it wet in a puddle of spilled red wine. “Well I wanna talk.”
“You did all of the talking that you’re going to do right now,” Tara said. She pulled out a cigarette from the pack she had resting on the table. “I don’t need anymore of your shit.”
“Okay, but how much did those cost?” Bill asked, pointing at her pack.
“You know how much they cost.”
“Yes, but I want you to tell me.”
“$9.50,” Tara said. Then she lit up.
Bill nodded. “And the generics?”
“$8.75. Honestly there’s no real difference.”
“There’s a seventy-five cent difference.”
Tara took hard drag on her smoke. “And that would’ve given us what?”
“An extra seventy-five cents,” Bill said.
“Don’t be smart.”
He stood there and looked at her a moment then went over to the counter where the dishes were. “It counts.”
“I don’t know.” Bill picked up a pot where the residue of boxed macaroni and cheese had coagulated to the sides. “Maybe it would’ve gotten us a second box of this.”
“Are you still hungry?” Tara asked. She said it in a way that Bill knew she didn’t care if he was hungry or not.
“No,” he lied. “You?”
“No. But you’re hungry a lot lately, so I thought I’d ask.”
“True. But of course you’re not hungry. You have your $10 pack of ciggies to quell your hunger.”
“Have one.” Tara pushed her pack toward the end of the table.
Suddenly Bill got red in the face. He put the pot down, drank the rest of his wine, and stormed over to where Tara was. When he got close she tightened and curled into herself, as if waiting for a blow. But all Bill did was roll up his sleeve and shove his shoulder into her face. “What’s this look like?””
“The patch,” Tara answered, turning her head away.
“That’s right,” Bill said. “And what can’t I do while I’m on the patch?”
“Again, you’re correct. So why would you offer me something as dumb as a cigarette?”
“I don’t know.” Tara wormed her way from the table and got up. She went over to the counter and poured herself another glass of wine. She refilled Bill’s out of instinct. “I forgot.”
“Ah, the joy of a woman’s memory.”
“I didn’t mean anything by it,” she said. Tara came back over to the table with both glasses of wine. “Have some of this.”
“Is there poison in that as well?” Bill asked.
“Yes, but it usually takes years for it to work. So I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you.”
Bill laughed. He took his glass of wine and had a good pull on it. It went down fine at first. But then, as soon as the sweet booze reached his belly, it began to burn. Bill turned red-faced instantly. He set the wine glass down on the table, spilling some, and then clutched his stomach. “Jesus Christ, what is that?”
Tara smirked. “What do you mean? It’s wine. Carlo Rossi. The same shit we buy every three days.”
“Something’s not right,” Bill said. He held onto his stomach with one hand, and leaned on a chair with the other. “I don’t feel right.”
“What do you mean?” Tara started. But then right before her eyes Bill began shrinking. “Oh God!”
“Tell me!” Bill shouted. His face was red and covered in sweat. He let go of his stomach and the chair, and tried to stand upright. That’s when Tara noticed the sleeves on his shirt go over his hands. She screamed. “Oh Christ, what?”
“Come off it,” Bill said. But then he felt another guttural burn in his belly, and felt his pants drop an inch lower. Out of fear he grabbed his belt.
“Bill!” Tara screamed. She backed away from him and headed toward the counter. She dumped the rest of her wine down the sink then took another long drag on her smoke. Tara looked at Bill. It seemed he’d shrunk another few inches. His pants had completely gone over his shoes now, and Bill’s shirt hung so long on him it slumped over his shoulders. He looked like a child playing dress-up with his father’s clothes.
“I don’t know what to do?” Tara stubbed her smoke out and straightened herself. She made to go over to Bill, but then she felt a strong burn in her stomach. It doubled her over and she fell to the ground. When Tara looked up, she saw that her husband’s eyes were filled with terror. “What is it?”
“You.... you’re growing!”
Tara moaned. She felt an intense pain in her joints, bones, and muscles. It felt as if someone were pulling her about a thousand different ways. She fell on her back and raised her neck. The jeans she was wearing were almost up to her knees. Bill’s old crew neck shirt, one he’d warned her not to wear; the sleeves were up to the elbows. “What’s happening?”
“I don’t know,” Bill said, right before his pants and underwear fell completely off of him. Tara looked at him. He was maybe three feet now. Then he was two. And then...
“Bill!” She screamed. Tara tried to get up on her knees but she’d gotten so big that her ass hit the counter, and knocked over the wine bottle, magazine, and pot of macaroni and cheese residue. They all fell on her back. The wine bottle rolled off and smashed on the floor. Glass and blood-red liquid went everywhere. Wine ran down the kitchen toward where Bill was standing. He was maybe six inches tall now, Tara thought, listening as her jeans and shirt ripped. He was completely naked, standing maybe an inch away from his clothing. She reached for him, but she smacked the side of the table hard. She’d grown so much that it turned over on its side. “Bill!”
He had a look of horror on his face, as a stream of red wine raced toward him. Bill moaned. He felt the burn again, and then a horrible new pain all throughout his body. Three more inches were gone. Quickly, he ran toward his mound of clothes. He began climbing the fabric of his brown pants, getting to safety just as the wash of red river encircled him. “Tara!”
“I can’t,” was all that she could say before the pains came again. Tara screamed. The remnants of her shirt and jeans fell off of her, as did her shredded bra and underwear. When the pains stopped, Tara turned and sat, her head tilted against the cold, rough ceiling, one arm, which broke the screen, hung out the kitchen window, and the other pressed against the mixture of wall and cracked table. She was stuck.
“Tara, are you okay!” Bill shouted. But his wife couldn’t hear him. She just sat there, naked and frightened, staring down at him on his island of clothing, at the patch as it went floating by.
It was then that Bill heard a noise coming from the living room. It was a thump and then the patter of feet. From his height, the sound was deafening. The vibrations made him nauseous. Oh, no, Bill thought, bracing himself down in his mound of clothes, the goddamned cat. Sure enough Reggie came around the corner and surveyed the scene without any kind of fear. Fat, round, blue-eyed, Siamese mutt, shaped-like-a-football Reggie, who could never get enough in his damned belly, who always cried during every meal; the ten-year-old nuisance of a cat that Bill couldn’t wait to see die. They were face to face. Reggie was staring Bill right in the eye, and the cold, determined glare of the cat was beyond frightening, aside from being beyond all logic and comprehension. Bill felt his heart race. How long had it been since he tossed the cat across the living room? Five minutes? Ten? Surely, cats couldn’t remember that long.
“Reggie!” Tara screamed, looking down at the cat and her husband. “Reggie! Get!”
But the cat didn’t register her voice. He took his time and walked around the scene. He sniffed at Bill’s clothes, and then came around toward where the spilt wine rested. Reggie sniffed and then turned away. He walked over to where Tara was, found the pot of macaroni and cheese and began licking.
“Thank God,” Bill said from his mound. He looked up at the mountain of flesh that was his wife. “Tara!” But he was sure that he heard nothing.
“Bill!” Tara screamed, as loud as she could. She tilted her head slightly. She looked down at her husband and he was clutching his ears. Shit, she thought. It must be the sound of my voice. Oh God, what’s happened? But then. “Reggie!”
Only it was too late. Reggie had come across the kitchen and pounced on the mound of Bill’s clothes. Tara watched in horror as her husband backed away. But it was only a matter of time. Reggie was patient. He’s been a farm cat, and Bill and Tara had gotten him when he was already a year old and living and learning with his mother and the rest of the liter. Bill made one last attempt. He punched at the cat, full on, right in the middle of Reggie’s nose. The old Siamese mix didn’t even flinch. Then Tara shut her eyes. Tears welled in them. When she opened them, Reggie was laying the middle of Bill’s pile of clothes. He was licking his paws.
“Oh God!” Tara said, looking down at the half-soaked mound that used to be her husband. Reggie looked up at her and meowed. Tara watched a tear fall and splatter on the kitchen floor, and felt a burning in her stomach again. It came long and felt like she’d eaten fire. She tried to clutch her stomach but couldn’t. Then her head wedged away from the ceiling, and she could begin to feel herself shrink.