She dreamed about the circus first, then dark alleys and long, long needles poking out of the carpet she had to dodge with her bare feet. She ran frantically through one dream after another but small, puffy hands kept tripping her up and pinching her legs. It was a fitful sleep until approximately 2:oo A.M. when she awoke, sweaty and startled, to the sound of gunshots…”
by ritah parrish
Eve loved her new apartment. It was on the top floor of a quaint two story building, with a big kitchen, Murphy bed, and lots of light. It was gigantic for a studio. She thanked the moving men and closed the door behind her, taking in the freshly painted smell, “Oh God! I am so exhausted!” Kicking her sandals into the tart air, she pushed aside some boxes with her beautifully manicured toes and started to strip. The bathroom was old but came with a claw foot tub and she ran the water. “This is going to feel great. Oh yeah….” and she let the water warm her sore shoulders. Her beer was ice cold and her muscles started to un-knot themselves as she planned the exact location for everything in her new home. She pushed the missing-him-pangs away with loose, messy gulps of beer.
Not five minutes into the bath, there was a knock at the door. Then another. One more. “Christ. All right I’m coming!” She slipped on a silk kimono robe, just right for summer, leaving wet foot prints on the path to the front door. “Who is it?” Skittish, she yelled the question at the peep hole. The answer came, perky and squeaky “Welcome Wagon!” Although she got on her tippy-toes to peer through the small glass hole, she could see nothing. “Where are you? I can’t see you.” The voice was strong but soft, the voice of a woman, “I’m way down here. I’m a dwarf!” Eve thought she could make out the top of a human head. “Well, thanks for the welcome but I was taking a bath and I’m not really dressed, so maybe another time?” There was a moment of silence. “Yeah, sure. I understand. How about later tonight?” Eve breathed out and rolled her head around a couple of times, “Okay.” She heard some rustling sounds from a paper bag or something like it, and the big voice from the little person, “Great!” Uneven stomps echoed through the hallway which hinted of cat piss. Seemed like the only draw back until the arrival of the little person.
Eve pulled the plug and plodded naked into the living room. She reached into a half opened box and pulled out a pair of jeans and a tee shirt. Didn’t feel like wearing a bra. She brushed out her long strawberry hair and sat down on the love seat with a fresh beer. Sounds started bubbling up from the apartment below and she listened harder because they sounded the way violence might sound. Crashing and scraping dominated her apartment. She was just about to call the police when she remembered that her phone wasn’t hooked up yet. Then it stopped. “Weird.”
She sat on the floor, legs wrapped around her toolbox, and pulled out her hammer. “Let’s see,” she said, purveying the blank white wall. “Right there.” She pounded the nail into the wall and hung her favorite painting. It was a gift from her estranged boyfriend, Paul. She thought about how perfect he was for her except for that one nagging habit, heroin. She reminisced, letting herself remember his face, arms and gift for making her feel safe until it hurt. Paul was her fiancee for three glorious weeks until she found the needles. When she asked him about it he lied. He was so talented. He was beautiful. He was smart. He was an addict with moments of piercing clarity. She walked away from the painting, seeking solace in another room. Eve started pulling her dishes out of newspaper nests and ran the tap to rinse them off. Another knock. “Man that little midget girl means business.” She went to the door and opened it, “Hey neighbor.” A small and freakishly large hand was extended, “Hey. I’m Debbie. Nice to meet you. Very nice to meet you. I took a chance and bought you some wine. I know some people don’t drink but like I said, I took a chance….” Eve watched her stubby fingers grapple with the paper sack and got a little bit queasy, then guilty. “Well, you were right! I do imbibe now and then. Come on in. Of course, the place is a mess but I can clear these things of the chair for you if–” Debbie The Dwarf leaned in close, “We can both sit on the love seat there. I know you’ve got to be tired from moving stuff all day. I don’t want you to go to any trouble on my account. Besides, I don’t take up that much room! Hee Hee Hee! Gotcha! Dwarf humor!” Had Debbie actually winked at her? “I’ll get some glasses.”
When she returned from the kitchen, the gnarled imp was snuggled up on the small sofa, peering into a box. Eve was suddenly uncomfortable. Extremely uncomfortable. “Hey, if you don’t mind Debbie, I’d rather you didn’t look in there. I’m a fairly private person.” Debbie put the box on the coffee table, “Oh hey. No, I don’t mind. I respect that. So, how do you like it here so far?” Eve tried to push herself as far away from the revolting girl-thing that was her neighbor, “Oh, it’s great. So far. But, I did hear some noise a while ago that sounded a little bit scary. Do you know who lives directly below me?” Debbie turned up her lips in delight, “You bet I do! Me! What do you think of that? Huh?” Eve flushed, “Well, I don’t know what to say… did something fall off a shelf or something? Are you okay?” Debbie rubbed her tongue against her lower lip, back and forth several times before answering Eve, “Everything is fine with me! Just because I’m a dwarf doesn’t mean I can’t do things for myself!” Eve jumped in, “No, I didn’t mean that. That’s not what I meant. I just–” “Gotcha again! Hee Hee! Boy you sure are gullible!” Debbie slapped her bowed legs, sloshing her wine. Eve jumped up for a towel, relieved for an excuse to leave the room.
Debbie called to the kitchen, “Hey sorry. Sometimes I just get carried away. Do you know who the last person to live in this apartment was? A nympho named Star. She boinked every pro basketball player that came through town. No shit! The noises I heard! I swear, she must have had a trampoline and other fancy equipment up here to make those sounds come right through my ceiling. You know what I’m saying? She liked to walk around the house naked and this one time I came up to borrow some olive oil and–” Eve could not take the image. “Listen, Debbie. I am really wiped out, you know? I appreciate the wine. It was very thoughtful of you but, I am so beat. So, I really need to get some stuff put away because I have to get up and go to work tomorrow. I hate to rush you but, you understand.” Debbie slobbered around the rim of her wine glass. “Oh, sure thing.” Her voice was light but her tread, heavy. Eve thought she looked hurt but waved a cheerful good-bye to Debbie on her way out.
After brushing her teeth she pulled out the Murphy bed, laid a sheet on it and collapsed naked onto the thin mattress. Her mind wandered off to sleep through jerky dream-fragments, I live above a crazy dwarf. Why do these things happen to me? Why can’t I have the things other people have? The one man I could see myself with loves junk more than me. I’m afraid I will end up alone and someone else will reap the benefits of Paul’s recovery and I am petrified. I’m so lonely, and that fucking dwarf. Why do there have to be dwarfs?…. She dreamed about the circus first, then dark alleys and long, long needles poking out of the carpet she had to dodge with her bare feet. She ran frantically through one dream after another but small, puffy hands kept tripping her up and pinching her legs. It was a fitful sleep until approximately 2:oo A.M. when she awoke, sweaty and startled, to the sound of gunshots.
Eve pulled on a robe over her bare skin and ran out the front door, down the staircase, to the apartment directly below her own, Chez Dwarf. She rapped the door with her fists and it opened to a bare footed, tank-topped Debbie, in her skivvies. “Are you okay? I heard shots!” Debbie smiled and said, “Hey, you. Thanks for checking on me but I’m okay.” Eve nodded and started to walk away so Debbie threw in, “But I am a little shaken. Could you come in for a minute?” What could Eve say? She walked into Debbie’s apartment. It was dark in there but as her eyes adjusted she noticed several stacks of old newspapers, smashed beer cans, five cats and three small round balls of shit in the corner, next to the couch.
“He came through those shrubs, that pervert! He was spying on me while I was masturbating! No shit! So, I took out my pistol and shot at the bastard. He ran off, but next time I won’t miss! You know what I’m saying? Can I get you something?” Those horrible words swung in Eve’s head like a ghoulish pendulum, while I was masturbating, and she got up to leave. “I better get back to bed. I just wanted to make sure you weren’t hurt. Maybe you should lock your windows and pull the shades.” Debbie craned her neck up toward Eve’s face and reached around her buttocks to hug her. “Hey, thanks again. You sure are sweet.” Eve broke away, made some awkward sounds and ran upstairs. She bolted her door behind her and listened to the pounding in her head. She took the wine bottle off the counter and pulled the cork out, drained the contents into the sink and threw the bottle into the yellow recycling bucket. It took her over an hour to get back to sleep.
Eve started working late so she would get home after Debbie went to physical therapy. She found note after note taped to her front door, mailbox and windshield. Debbie was in love. The notes contained confessions mostly, testimonials to the womb, labia majora, and other tales from the hood. Debbie was a gun-toting, alcoholic, lesbian dwarf on the make. Eve was her shiny plumb. Eve was straight. Eve was in mourning. Missing Paul was her pastime and very few moments went by that weren’t shaded with colors of him and how she had let herself love him until she had to leave him. The last thing she needed was a crazy, teensy, female stalker. She started shopping across town, doing her laundry at midnight after she was sure Debbie had passed out, for fear of running into her in the laundry room, and spending a lot of time at the gym. She felt like a prisoner in her own home. She called the landlord for assistance, “Hi, I live in 2B and I am thinking about moving. Do you have anything in another neighborhood? No, no everything is fine. I uh,…I need more space that’s all. Do you have any one-bedrooms? Oh, yes. Oh, I see. Well, I guess I can wait a couple of months. Please keep me in mind. Thanks.” She hung up the phone, discord in every corner of herself.
She ran a bath. Bubbles were good for stress so she generously poured the green, flowery-smelling liquid into the tub. She stretched and yawned, thinking to herself, What am I going to do about this? I hate to move again and I can’t really afford a one-bedroom. I can’t borrow any more money from my folks. I am screwed. Paul, will you ever be getting better? I’m scared. She’s whacked. She is mentally ill, I know it. I am being stalked by a psychotic leprechaun! She’s got a gun and she definitely knows where I live….
After her bath, Eve peeled a potato and cut it into chunks. The water had begun to boil and she dropped the potato squares into the stainless steel pot her grandmother sent to her as a house warming gift. She cracked the oven door to check on the chicken. She began to wash the lettuce…a knock. “Fucking Christ.” She decided to ignore it. Another knock. This one was louder, fraught with emotion. Eve went to the door. “What is it?” There was terrible gasping coming from the other side of the door, “It’s me. Debbie. I am just so upset. I am just so nutty over you. You know what I’m saying? I love you so much–” Eve screamed, “Go away Debbie! Please! Just go away.” Nothing. Eve peered into the peep hole. Nothing again. She opened the door a crack. Still nothing. She closed the door, puzzled.
The evening moved along quietly until bed time. Eve had just switched off the reading lamp when she heard banging and grinding from down below. It sounded to her like the dwarf was moving furniture. I am not going down. It’s not my problem. She is setting me up…. Another crash. Jesus Christ …. Eve slid on her sweat pants and sneakers. A terminal do-gooder, she pulled a thin sweater over her head, lifting her long red locks out from under it, and sprinted down the stairs. She put her ear to Debbie’s door. Thrashing. She banged her knuckles against it, “Debbie, open up! Are you okay? What the hell is going on in there?” The door opened to show a sliver of Debbie’s leg, “As if you care! As if! Come in if you want to, I don’t care.” The leg part disappeared from the doorway and Eve stepped inside furtively. Everything in the apartment was as it had always been. Eve was confused. What had made those sounds? Did she drag the furniture around and then move it back? What the hell was going on in here? “Listen, Debbie. I heard a lot of noise down here. What are you doing? I know you are doing something dramatic so you can talk to me. Well here I am! What do you want from me?” Debbie stood before her, her misshapen frame heaved with heavy sighs, “I was dragging myself.” Eve was sick of her, “Dragging yourself? What the fuck do you mean Debbie? What does that mean, exactly?” Debbie sat on a stack of newspapers and reached up under her boxer shorts. She unbuckled something. Her right leg fell off. “I lost this one about two years ago. Motorcycle accident.” Eve swallowed the vomit welling up on her tongue, “You have a prosthetic limb? I can’t fucking believe it.” Debbie started to cry, “Yeah I do. I’m not even half a person. I am like a third of a person. When I get down on myself I take off my leg and drag my body across the floor until my nub starts to turn purple. I don’t know why, really. I guess I like the punishment. I guess it feels like I deserve it.” Eve stood up. She shook her head and said, “I don’t know what to say Debbie. I really don’t. I am truly sorry that your life is the way it is but I can’t help you. I can’t…save you Debbie. We all have problems.” Eve walked to the door. Debbie wept quietly and looked up through moist, pig-squinty eyes, “I know that. You’re gonna move away, aren’t you? Just like Star. I took my leg off for you! You know what I’m saying? Doesn’t that mean anything? Are you just as shallow as her? I made myself vulnerable to you! I took off my freaking leg! I wish I could walk away but I’m not that fortunate. How can you?” Eve burped back the battery-acid taste climbing up her esophagus, “Easily, Debbie. I am an expert walker-awayer. I’m going to float out of this depressing, stinking room, as far away from you as I can get and I won’t feel a thing.” Debbie rocked herself on the stack of magazines and wept. Eve ran upstairs and popped the top off a Diet Pepsi, her hands shaking as she dialed Paul’s number. “Hello.” His voice wrapped itself around her like an ill fitting robe, “Paul. It’s me….” She needed him to sound better than he did and gulped her soda to settle her stomach.
Ritah Parrish’s various forms of writing have appeared in The Stranger, Plazm, Willamette Week, The Oregonian, 2 girls review, Driver’s Side Airbag, and the Portland Mercury. She has written and performed two one-woman shows in Portland in the last six years and was a crowd favorite on the Portland Poetry Slam teams of ’96 and ’97. She is the author of two chapbooks of stories, Pink Menace, and Girl Juice, which is brand new. I Dwarf You is a story from Girl Juice.