Bigger Than Life in the Middle of the Night
White whiskers on a park bench in the early evening light. And, “Sir, do you have a cigarette?” The Whiskers look up at me and nod, and hand me one with an old brown hand from an old brown pocket of an old brown jacket made of wool and lined with something smoother that looks nice and warm, I think to myself, but don’t say. Instead.
“Thanks,” I say. And The Whiskers look up at me and nods. And “Sir, do you have a light?” I ask and The Whiskers shakes his head no. “Oh.” I pause. Not sure what to do with an unlit cigarette, so I sit down beside him to think about it.
We sit for a while, The Whiskers and I, and the night grows darker and the night grows quiet. Me and The Whiskers and the middle of the night. Until. “I am bigger than life,” The Whiskers says quietly, breaking the quiet. Smallish, drawling, looking down. I jump from the silence. Missing the silence. And I don’t believe him; that he’s bigger than life while he sits there so small. So I tell him, “That’s hard to believe.”
“Why?” he asks, not really listening, not really looking. At me, but past me, into the night.
“Well, first of all, the presentation was all wrong.” I say, simply, as such things should be said. And let them sit in the air until they seem louder, and The Whiskers turns his head.
“I don’t understand.”
“Well, first of all, that was much too quiet.” I say.
He pauses for a second, considering what I’ve said. “I don’t want to say it louder,” He replies. Begrudging.
“Well then,” I respond, “It can hardly be helped that I don’t believe you.”
The Whiskers sits for a second. A minute perhaps. While I watch a cat run under a car. Then.
“I am bigger than life.”
“That’s better,” I say, “But it seems to me, it could still be better yet.”
“I am bigger than life.”
“Well done!” I exclaim.
“I am bigger than life!”
“Very nice!” I applaud, “And I liked the enthusiasm. Now throw a little body into it.”
The Whiskers looks at me, and smiles. He has all his teeth, and that catches me off guard, as I suppose I expected him not to have any teeth at all. But his teeth are all there, and white, and quite nice by the streetlight.
He sits up a little straighter, taller than I expected and clears his throat. “I am larger than life.”
He’s switched from bigger to larger, but I decide not to tell him, because he’s really got some momentum now, and the point seems the same. The Whiskers stands up and stretches his arms out wide to the night, “I am larger than life.” He stands on one foot and shouts it again, then switches to the other foot, and hopping, says it twice more. He climbs on the bench boards and hands reaching up, shouts it aloud; like a Saturday symphony on a still, still night.
“I am larger than life!”
“OK,” I say, looking away, and letting it pause, “I believe you now.”
And he sits back down. And looks away too. And we both sit there together, a little bit longer, watching the night grow darker yet.
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED