Miniature Wife

Apr 24, 2015
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GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:

From PRX and NPR, welcome back to SNAP JUDGMENT, the "To The Brink" episode. My name is Glynn Washington. And longtime listeners of the show, they know that sometimes we tell stories that are not true - but not because they never happened, it's because they haven't happened yet. This next piece comes to us from the overactive brain of writer Manuel Gonzales.

(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING)

ELIZA SMITH, BYLINE: (As Wife) What - what are you doing? Stop (screaming).

THAO NGUYEN: (As Narrator) He shrunk his wife. It was a mistake. One moment, she was her normal size, laughing at his pink tie, telling him to switch it out for the green one she got him last Christmas. And the next, she was the size of a mouse, kicking and biting at his shoe. He picked her up and put her in his pocket. She tried to sink her tiny nails into his shirt to tear at the cotton, but she was too small. She had no power.

SMITH: (As Wife) Can't you un-shrink me?

SAM FISHMAN, BYLINE: (As Husband) Don't worry. I'll take care of you now and protect you.

SMITH: (As Wife) What the [expletive] are you talking about? You shrunk me. Un-shrink me.

FISHMAN: We don't know how to do that yet.

SMITH: (As Wife) What about that expantiator (ph) thing. You said you got the money for that expanding thing at work.

FISHMAN: (As Husband) That's development. That's years off. Anyway, don't you think you could like it this way?

SMITH: (As Wife) Of course not. I want to go outside and see my friends.

FISHMAN: (As Husband) OK, OK. I just need some time. Just for now, let's try and make things better. I'll make this right.

NGUYEN: (As Narrator) He didn't make it right. He did have a multitude of enlarging tools back at the Miniaturizing Department. But instead, he built her a tiny house. He relished the smell of sawdust and wood and wood glue, the metallic smell that lingered on the tips of his fingers after handling so many small nails. He ordered one of his employees in the Miniaturizing Department to shrink down a dining room set, a nice bed and a few sets of sheets. He had some fun shrinking the refrigerator and whole shopping trips worth of groceries. After he had put all final touches on the house, he put it on his bedside table. And the next morning, he looked through the little windows at the unmade bed, the tiny lamp glowing in the living room. She was frying up some thin strips of bacon in the kitchen, muttering angrily to herself, and avoiding his gaze and his cheerful, good morning. He wondered, was it possible that they could be happy there together? He wondered if this mistake could be the solution to all their marital woes. She'd always made fun of his clothes, of his job, the way he allowed his mother to boss him around. Now he could continue to work. He would shrink pearl necklaces and other little trinkets for her in his lab. He'd tell friends she was on vacation, that she was taking night classes. He would sleep beside her in the little house every night.

But the next evening, when he came home from work, he couldn't find her. He opened up the dollhouse, lifted up the bed, opened the dresser. She was gone. He thought, maybe she just needed some time. So he wrote her a note on a Post-it - he couldn't change her back, but she would see life would be simpler this way; they would be happier. But his note went unanswered, untouched on the kitchen counter. He didn't see her for days on end. He started, in his way, to miss her. And so he miniaturized her cellphone. He put it on the dining room table in the little house, where his wife could easily find it. He called the phone four or five times a day. But after a few days, she still hadn't returned any of his calls. Maybe the phone didn't work, he thought, or she had left. Or maybe she was dead. But on the fourth day, he came back to his desk from a meeting and found a message on his office phone.

SMITH: (As Wife) Hey, it's me. I got your calls. I'm back in this stupid, tiny house. Let's talk this out.

NGUYEN: (As Narrator) He missed her deeply then - the way she used to sling her arm over his side as they slept, the way she used to tap her feet to an unheard tune as she cooked dinner. He grabbed his jacket and left his office, sped home, his heart in his throat. He parked the car on the lawn, burst through the door and took the stairs three, four at a time. He through the dollhouse open. There she was, in the little bedroom, on the bed. Her hair tousled, the sleeve of her nightgown falling from her narrow shoulder.

SMITH: (As Wife) Well, hello to you, too.

FISHMAN: (As Husband) What's going on here?

SMITH: (As Wife) What are you talking about?

FISHMAN: (As Husband) It's 1 in the afternoon. Why are you in bed? And why are you wearing that nightgown?

SMITH: (As Wife) What do you mean? What about it?

FISHMAN: (As Husband) That pink nightgown - the one I like so much.

SMITH: (As Wife) I was taking a nap.

FISHMAN: (As Husband) There's someone in here, isn't there?

SMITH: (As Wife) What?

FISHMAN: (As Husband) I bet you called Richard.

SMITH: (As Wife) Richard who?

FISHMAN: (As Husband) Don't play dumb like that. Richard - Richard Wear from my department. You couldn't stop laughing at his stupid golf jokes at the last company picnic. I bet you called him up, told him to shrink himself and come right over, didn't you?

SMITH: (As Wife) Are you kidding me?

FISHMAN: (As Husband) Richard, come out. I know you're in there.

SMITH: (As Wife) Don't embarrass yourself. Come on.

FISHMAN: (As Husband) Is he in the closet? Get out of the bed. I bet he's hiding under there.

SMITH: (As Wife) He isn't here.

FISHMAN: (As Husband) Oh, no? We'll see if that's true.

SMITH: (As Wife) What do you mean?

FISHMAN: (As Husband) Let's just see how you and Richard fare without sunlight or food or water. You'll need me then.

SMITH: (As Wife) I told you he's not here. You can't trap me in here forever.

FISHMAN: (As Husband) Oh, no? Watch me.

NGUYEN: (As Narrator) He locked his wife inside the dollhouse. He nailed the house shut, covered the windows with squares of cardboard, glued and then duct taped from the outside. He threw a drop cloth over the little prison and weighted it down with bricks from the garage.

FISHMAN: (As Husband) Just wait, you'll be calling for me before you know it. You'll see.

(SOUNDBITE OF FIRE CRACKLING)

NGUYEN: (As Narrator) He came home the next night to find the dollhouse burned to the ground. He searched the charred embers and ashes for a sign of her, but he couldn't find one. He didn't know how she'd managed to free herself. And then it struck him - if she could escape and then destroy the dollhouse, what else was she capable of?

That night, he wore earmuffs and swimming goggles to bed. He tied down the sheets, layered the bed three and four blankets thick. In the wee hours, the sickening smell of burnt flesh jarred him from sleep. He found a burnt cockroach on the nightstand, speared through its abdomen by a tiny metal skewer. And out of a corner of his eye, he saw her small figure jump from the nightstand and scurry beneath the bedroom door.

The next day, he starved the cat. And just before bed, he let it loose in the house. But he woke to find it dead on the pillow opposite him, covered as though it was taking a nap. How had she killed it? How had she moved it and settled it onto his pillow? The cat was well over five times her size. She had loved that cat.

He didn't want to take any more chances, so he drew a bath, let it overflow and flooded his bedroom. The water was two feet deep. He perched the bed atop brick stilts. He slept without earmuffs or headphones. He fell asleep and dreamed she was drowning in his moat. But she didn't drown. Instead, she climbed atop his pillow.

FISHMAN: (As Husband) (Screaming) Oh God, my eye.

SMITH: (As Wife) (Laughter).

FISHMAN: (As Husband) Come back. Come back.

(SOUNDBITE OF WATER SPLASHING)

NGUYEN: (As Narrator) But she was gone. He waded around his bed and found her boat, an old sardine can still slick with salt oil and smashed it again and again until his hand was cut and bruised. He opened the bedroom door and the water spilled into the hall.

FISHMAN: (As Husband) Can you see the white flag? Am I waving it high enough for you?

NGUYEN: (As Narrator) He walked to the stairs, where he slipped on the hardwood, tumbling down the 13 steps into the kitchen. And then from the bottom of the stairwell, he spied her camp - a small hut made of a coffee tin and a couple of overturned Tupperware containers. Tiny spears lined the entrance, each bearing the head of a spider, a cockroach, a fly. There she sat, warming her hands at the fire, humming to herself. She was wearing scraps of grubby kitchen towels crudely sewn together. Crawling towards her, he pleaded...

FISHMAN: (As Husband) Please, please let's solve this now. I'll do anything. I'll take you back to the lab. I'll set you right.

NGUYEN: (As Narrator) She turned then. Her eyes were red. Her smile crooked and wide.

SMITH: (As Wife) (Laughter).

FISHMAN: (As Husband) (Crying).

(SOUNDBITE OF DOOR OPENING)

NGUYEN: (As Narrator) He escaped from the back door. He stumbled through the overgrown weeds and brambles, the sad remnants of his wife's old vegetable garden. He pushed his way into the shed, and he clung to himself shaking. He was safe, at least until she found him. And she would find him and destroy him, tiny though she was.

SMITH: (As Wife) (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WASHINGTON: That's what he gets, Snappers. That's what he gets. That story comes to us from writer Manuel Gonzales. You can find out more about Manuel on our website, snapjudgment.org. Special thanks to narrator Ms. Thao Nguyen, San Francisco's own rock 'n' roll superstar. Our husband and wife are played by Sam Fishman and Eliza Smith. This story was produced by Eliza Smith, with sound design and wholly original score was by Pat Mesiti-Miller.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WASHINGTON: All right, now you're saying Glynn, I need more stories. Well, the stories you're pushing me, dare I say it, past the brink. But don't worry, there's plenty of SNAP awaiting your listening pleasure. Subscribe right now to the podcast before it is too late - snapjudgment.org. SNAP's on the Facebook, on the Twitter.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting can't be angry just because I dealt the cards. Much love to the CPB. PRX, the Public Radio Exchange, they're the ones who sold me the trick deck - prx.org. And even though this is not the news, no way is this the news - in fact, you could find yourself in a compromising situation with that hottie from work, and when their lover comes home, you could climb out of the window onto the ledge, just like in all the sitcoms, and when you hear the yelling about, who was here, somebody was here, you would still not be as far away from the news as this is. But this is NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.