Out of Clay

By Jerome Berglund

Vera cracked the egg on the counter with one hand, and out came a tiny man into the measuring cup. He was dressed semi-formally in miniature business casual attire, which became quite sticky as he splattered into the mixture of whites and yolks from the two more conventional shells which preceded his anomaly.

The spinster was appropriately flabbergasted, at a loss for words as to what made this sample so different from the rest of its baker’s dozen confederates, counted the occupant fortunate he had not been among the trio preceding, destined not for beating for a cake but deposited directly onto her frying pan at breakfast. If that would have been a quicker and less complicated affair, though grisly of clean-up projectedly. This new addition to her humble abode was unexpected, indeed somewhat disagreeable…

Vera’s eyesight was not so good anymore, yet with effort she managed to fish the petite gent out from the muck, get his clothing peeled off and crudely laundered with dish soap and a toothbrush. His vocal chords seemed equally diminutive, for try as she might – she did not try too hard, either, honestly – the old lady could not rightly make out a word he uttered, shout himself hoarse though she discerned him do regularly attempting.

He therefore only succeeded getting her attention once in a while through a sort of merry jig he could effect when the spirit moved him to. More often it was she who sought her lodger out, for he turned out to be pretty handy when it came to spot-cleaning, she required a compact proxy to retrieve the earrings she was always dropping under furniture, or chase down stray root vegetables which went flying into hard to reach places.

The underside of the refrigerator, piano, behind her toilet had never been tidier. Otherwise, for the bulk of their days they each lived like a harried contractor in an open model office, assigned to different teams and unconnected tasking, rendezvousing by their peculiar water cooler at an agreed upon set hour of the evening around quitting time to digest the radio plays which Vera religiously made a habit of consuming, broadcast cracklingly over an ornate old-timey receiver on the kitchen counter. Grand dame and microscopic wretch both, in fact, proved proportionately captivated by the high drama, romance and parable these salacious sagas presented.

The old lady listened and imagined herself free and agile like their casts of maverick characters, chasing glory and adventure unimpeded against Technicolor backdrops, at liberty with a clutch at most to her person, skipping down yellow brick roads gaily, fates in her corner and necessary muses programmed in on speed-dial, awaiting her call on a dedicated landline. Vera’s shrunken guest, conversely, fantasized that he were writ as large and imposing, might proceed through the wide world and its tall orders as impactfully as the brazen heroes always appeared to: walking with footsteps audible—resounding even!—and keeping up with these giants who dominated the competition he’d been dumped into haphazard. The old maid wished she could see details through the cataract blur, hear without need of an aid cranked to its utmost volume.

The pipsqueak desired to get perceived and understood, similarly. But both, being hopeless in their own hearts’ desires, were placated slightly through vicariously thrilling in, finding soothing via proxies less unfortunate, not hampered by deficiencies in providence and privilege, confined by size or capability. The promise of pretending would have to serve for them both, and it did in a hollow, unsatisfying way. If at times the little man had a screaming desire to hit the bricks, hightail it, go live in a burrow. And Vera was half tempted to bake him in a strawberry shortcake as she had originally intended.
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Jerome Berglund holds a film degree from USC, more recently has also worked as a commercial photographer and paralegal. He has previously published stories in Grim & Gilded, Stardust, Martian Chronicles, Propertius Press, and the Watershed Review, as well as a play in Iris Literary Journal.

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