(A small break from Rolbos, in response to Daliy Prompt. It’s an old story, but Vetfaan’s Surprise took a lot of writing, so I’m enjoying a break)
Tiny Jacobs is a small man in many respects. Although he comes from a small family – both in numbers as well in size – it is true to say that his body and his life are good examples of mediocrity. He came from a below average family living in the poorer section of the city. He scraped through school, was the last to sport bodily hair amongst his peers and has – up till now – never caught a rugby ball thrown at him. The opportunity to do so only presented itself but once: while he stood next to the field looking at Mandy Mitchell’s legs, the winger was tackled with such force that the ball flew from his desperate grasp that it almost took one of Tiny’s small eyes out. Being otherwise occupied, one can understand that he never saw it coming, anyway.
Mr Verster, the head of his school, often wondered about Tiny’s future. Small enough for a jockey, but after the ball incident, Tiny had to twist his head this way and that to see properly. There was no way he could steer a horse– nor most other moving things, alive or dead, come to think of it.
Tiny left school with the firm advice not pursue an academic career; it was a no-starter, Mr Verster said. One-eyed, small and somewhat disgruntled, Tiny trundled through town, looking for a job. At last, because he was physically impaired and possessed a stunted sense of ambition (Mandy flatly rejected his cautious and clumsy advances), he was appointed as Assistant-helper in the City’s Administration Office (Archive Division) . His job for the next 45 years involved working in the dusty basement where the records are kept. In essence, he was merely an office cleaner.
Of course his job suited him quite nicely, thank you. Because of his size, he managed to get into the nooks and crannies between and behind the shelves laden with boxes filled with documents nobody ever needed. This didn’t bother him: he still cleaned the place as if it were an operating theatre. The mayor remarked on this during his goodbye-party before his retirement – prompting the diminutive man to ask for a copy of the one-page speech (Times New Roman, 16 size), which he hung on his wall next to the photograph of Mandy.
They say some men fall in love once. Their minds, like the swallows in the summer or the salmon in Alaska, know only one route to happiness and joy. Call it noble instinct (or insatiable lust) if you like, but that was the way Tiny felt about Mandy. He could recall with remarkable clarity the way the wind ruffled the edge of her very short skirt that morning before the winger took the tackle. She had beautiful legs: shapely and long and oh, so alluring. He can remember how the fine white hairs stood erect that morning and how he drew in his breath once he realised what a powerful physical effect she was having on him.
But that was long ago.
He knows that Mandy got married to an investment banker (with perfect vision of what the future should hold, of course) and that they had two tall and strapping boys that played on the wings for the National Team. It would have been difficult to miss those photographs in the sports pages of the dailies: they were handsome, they were fast and they never missed catching a ball. Surest hands in the game, the journalists said. Tiny could only sigh when he read those articles: he still wondered about the fine blond hairs on those shapely legs.
Over the years Tiny accepted that Mandy made the right choice. Those two boys would most probably have been runty and sort-of underdeveloped if she chose to spend a lifetime with him. His jealousy towards the investment banker changed from total hate to a very mild form of admiration. Ce la vie...
After six months of retirement, Tiny decided that his dingy flat needed redecorating. After four-and-a-half decades of work, his pension was substantial and he had been living frugally all his life. He could afford to spoil himself with a little luxury. The plastic plants had discoloured and the carpet was basically a network of twine and fluff. With his chequebook in hand, he strode into Weatherly’s. He needed a new carpet, some pictures to go with Mandy’s on the wall – and a new couch.
The shop was a surprise and a shock. He never imagined prices like he saw there, but on the other hand; the range of merchandise was astounding. Then, suddenly, he wished the floor would open and the earth would swallow him on the spot. There, older but unmistakably familiar, was Mandy behind the desk in the carpet section. Breathless and in almost-blind terror (easier with one good eye), he turned on his heel to abandon his dream of more comfort in his flat.
Fate can be very fickle. Sometimes the winds of fortune blow ill – but on that day a favourable breeze caused Mandy to look up, gasp in surprise and shout his name loud enough for the manager to look up in alarm.
“Tiny? My word, it’s you!”
What could he do? He turned back, sheepishly, hanging his head and remembering those tiny hairs that now was hidden beneath the fabric of her tight-fitting jeans. He mumbled a muffled ‘hello’.
“I never thought I’d see you here, Tiny?” She could have said that she didn’t think he could afford anything there, but didn’t. His trolley was already laden with some pictures of geese and mountains, which must have convinced her that he was now, despite everything, a man of considerable means.
“Nor did I expect to see you here, Mandy, not here and not ever, I suppose.”
The fortune-winds picked up strength. She was due for a coffee break…would he….?
Five minutes later we find them sharing coffee at the little shop around the corner. He’d return later to pick a carpet, he said.
“I’m glad to see one of the old friends,” she started. He closed his good eye, relishing the fact that she viewed him as a friend. “I’ve been very lonely, you know? Ever since my husband had that heart attack, my life has changed completely.” Tiny didn’t know about it and said so. “Yes, exactly four months ago. Good riddance, I say. He had the looks and the money, but he never saw me as a woman. I was an object, a centre-fold to exhibit and brag about. I was the bearer of children and the charmer he needed to impress friends and superiors; but never the loved wife of a successful businessman. Now he was rewarded for a lifetime of ladder-climbing with a fatal infarct and a nice head stone; while I had to find out the debts were more than the assets.”
She took out a well-used tissue to dab away the imaginary tear, watching him for reaction. He made sympathetic sounds, sipped his coffee and remembered all those years in the dusty basement. Their lives had been remarkably similar. Being too beautiful or too weird had the same disadvantages.
He said so. She listened. Made more understanding noises. Sipped her coffee. Weighed the facts.
“Maybe I must come and have a look at your flat before you buy a carpet, Tiny? I’d be able to tell you exactly what you need.”
And with that, the winds that blew them together became a gale. He didn’t mind that her tears were fake. He didn’t care that she saw him as the last shelter in the storm of life that treated her so unkindly. It didn’t even matter if she was playing him like an ancient violin.
All that mattered was Mandy.
And she saw. She conquered. And then she came, but only later. At first she was uncomfortable in the small flat with its sparse furniture. The kitchenette allowed only one person in at a time; its cupboards contained a mug, a tin plate and some KFC plastic utensils for eating. He had a one-cup kettle and a two-egg saucepan. Predictably, his fridge was empty.
“You don’t go for the flamboyant life, do you?” It was more of a sarcastic statement than careful curiosity. He didn’t notice. His attention was focussed on the spot just below the ‘Levi’ tag. Whatever else has happened to Mandy, she certainly retained the shape that almost ruined his sight. Now, with her inspecting the empty shelf below the sink, he gave in to his boyhood fantasy to run his hand softly, tenderly over the curve of her rump.
He stood back, anticipating a rebuke.
But Mandy, the erstwhile queen-of-the-roost, suddenly realised how lonely, loneliness can be. Here was a bachelor – virgin soil – waiting to be cultivated. She also reflected briefly on her own life and realised it had been no better than his. Life had used her, chewed her, spat her out. In fact, she had been as lonely as he.
Later (much later), they lay on his single bed, intertwined like only first-time lovers can be. He was breathless; she could only gasp for air.
“But, Tiny, this is sooo BIG! I never realised…” She pointed in passionate admiration, satisfied grin in place.
And for the first time in his life, Tiny smiled with pride.
It took years of misunderstanding, denial, social abuse, manipulation and shallow living for her to realise how special the body of little Tiny was – and to think she could have missed this opportunity…
“Yes,” he said shyly, slyly. “It is, isn’t it?”
She was talking anatomy. He was looking at the future.
In the end, it didn’t matter. It really was the same thing.