My name is Raymond Miller

My name is Raymond Miller

My name is Raymond Miller.

I just turned 16 last January (I’m a Capricorn). I have brown hair and blue

eyes. And I’m just over 7.5 centimeters tall (that’s about 3 inches for the

metrically impaired).

When I was born, I got my fifteen minutes of fame on page 5 of the National

Mirror. Sandwiched between stories about a man who could see out of his glass

eye and a demon-possessed spider monkey was a picture of me curled up in the

palm of my mother’s hand while she looked down lovingly. The headline read (I

swear I’m not making this up), “MOTHER MILLER’S MIRACULOUS TOY BOY!”

That was how SPECTRUM first found out about me. Apparently, they have a couple

of specialists on staff that do nothing but comb the tabloids for potentially

interesting articles. I still think it’s funny that a nationally renowned

research firm would cite the Mirror as a source, but Gary says it’s these

unconventional strategies that have kept SPECTRUM out in front. But I digress…

When the powers that be at SPECTRUM learned of me and became convinced that I

wasn’t a tabloid hoax, they approached my mother. I don’t know the particulars

of the deal—I like to think it was my best interests, and not the substantial

monthly checks, that persuaded her to turn me over to them. I do know that my

mother’s visits came less and less frequently and finally stopped altogether

when I was five.

I don’t remember much about my mother. Her face is faint in my mined, and would

have probably been long forgotten if not for the pictures in the Mirror. I

remember her hand, the soft warmth of her palm and the gentle caress of her

fingers. I remember red fingernails and the smell of lotion and perfume.

Let’s not mince words. I’ve spent most of my life as a specimen. However, it

really hasn’t been so bad. I mean, at least I had a room that was designed for

me. I had clothes custom-tailored, and I had meals specially prepared. I had a

TV, a stereo, and all the books-on-disk I would ever care to read. And I had

friends. Louise, Gary, Sally, Alan… These people cared for me—hell, they raised

me! I’ve never had to endure a single moment without at least one of them

nearby.

Until now…

I’m standing at the upstairs window of my dollhouse, staring out at the vast

expanse of the living room beyond. My stepsister Nicole is lying on the floor,

watching TV. Naomi, my stepmother, sits on the couch behind her, smoking a

cigarette before she goes to start dinner. My father is working late again. I

get the feeling this happens a lot.

It’s only been two days, but I hate it here, living like a hamster among these

cretins. I hate Paul Dalton, who fathered me sixteen years ago and popped back

up in my life, unwanted and uninvited, two months ago. I hate his wife Naomi, a

skinny blonde who wears too much makeup and smokes too much. And Nicole—sweet,

pretty eleven-year-old Nicole—scares the living hell out of me!

As if reading my mind, Nicole glances over and sees me standing at the window.

She bares her teeth at me in a predatory grin, then turns to her mother. “Momma,

can Ray watch TV with me?”

Naomi looks at me and shakes her head. “No, sweetheart. Leave Ray alone. He

doesn’t like to be touched.” She’s still looking directly at me when she adds,

“Although we may need to work on that.”

She’s still pissed about the trip from SPECTRUM two days ago. She and Paul came

out to pick me up, and I spent the entire trip riding in a shoebox on her lap.

The box was a bare, boring prison of cardboard that smelled faintly of leather.

I was wishing she’d put the lid back on; it would be dark, but at least I

wouldn’t be subjected to Naomi’s unstopping scrutiny.

“You doing okay, sweetie?” she asked as I sat huddled in the corner, as far from

her as I could manage. I looked up into her massive face, and she smiled when I

met her gaze.

“I don’t like cars,” I said, shouting to be heard. “I don’t like traveling.”

“Well sorry, your majesty,” my father said, glancing at me from the driver’s

seat. “We could’ve had SPECTRUM mail you to us, but I figured this would be more

comfortable.” I think he was trying to be funny, but I didn’t feel like

laughing.

“Don’t worry, sweetie,” Naomi said. “We’re almost home.” Her smile widened into

a grin. “You know, Nicole is so excited about you. She can’t wait to meet her

new brother.”

I said nothing, contemplating the fate that lay ahead for me. Visions of Elmyra

danced through my head. The cooing and the petting… “Oh, the cute widdle cuddly-wuddly…”

It was the idea of being played with that terrified me.

“Aren’t you bored just sitting there?” Naomi asked. “You want me to hold you up

so you can look out the window?”

“No!” I shouted, wincing as her enormous hand moved toward me. It stopped and

jerked away suddenly, and Naomi frowned.

“I was just asking, sweetie,” she said, a bit icily. “You don’t have to be rude

about it.”

Paul sighed and said, “For Christ’s sake, Naomi. Why don’t you leave the boy

alone?”

“I was just asking him, Paul. I don’t need the two of you biting my head off

about it.”

She glared down at me, then slammed the lid down in place. I spent the rest of

the trip in blessed silence and darkness…

Naomi snubs out her cigarette, stands up, and walks past my dollhouse on her way

to the kitchen. I find myself staring at her feet as she walks by—the way the

sandal dangles from her toes as she lifts her foot, then slaps against her sole

with each step. I feel like a voyeur, a pervert, but I can’t help it. It’s just

one of those buttons that is so easily pressed.

I can still hear Louise’s voice explaining to me, with great patience and only a

modicum of embarrassment, how boys my age tend to go through a “sexual

awakening” in which they experience feelings of pleasure mixed with guilt, yadda,

yadda, yadda. She also explained to me that sometimes people associate sexual

feelings with non-sexual objects or body parts. She called it a fetish and she

assured me that it was nothing to be ashamed of. I remember her giving me a

reassuring smile, but I was too embarrassed to smile back.

The thing is, there’s more to it than that. Unless you’ve spent your life the

size of an action figure, you can’t possibly know what it’s like. In my mind,

people are little more than a group of their various parts. Louise is a lovely,

gentle face that loomed over me for most of my life. She’s a soft hand with

long, elegant fingers that held me so lovingly so often. That’s how I relate to

people—as collections of vast body parts.

I wonder if Noami has seen me looking…

Nicole has been watching me steadily since her mother went into the kitchen. I

keep hoping she’ll forget about me and go back to watching TV.

No such luck. With one furtive glance towards the kitchen, Nicole crawls over to

the dollhouse on her hands and knees. I back away from the window as she peers

in.

“Raaaay,” she whispers. “Come out and play.”

“Not now, Nicole,” I answer as reasonably as I can, hoping she can’t hear the

tremble in my voice. My legs are shaking from her sheer size and nearness, but I

don’t want her to know how nervous I am.

“Come on,” she says. “I won’t hurt you.” She taps a fingernail on the plastic

window frame. “I just want to hold you for a minute.”

“Just leave me alone,” I shout, and this time my voice does break. She giggles

and her malicious smile fills the window.

“Little pig, little pig, let me come in,” she says in a gruff, playful voice,

climbing to her feet. “Or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in.”

The floor shakes violently, and I stumble onto the green sponge that serves as

my bed. I watch with mounting horror as my dollhouse slides away from the safety

of the stucco wall. I feel vulnerable, suddenly at Nicole’s mercy.

Her grinning face fills the vacancy of the fourth wall, and I can smell that

weird, fruity perfume that she wears. Her hand comes slowly towards me. I roll

off the bed and scamper to my feet, bolting through the bedroom door. I run past

the plastic stairs, towards the bathroom. The doorway is suddenly filled with

her palm as she blocks it from the other side. I turn and run back towards the

bedroom, but she has done the same thing with her other hand. I jump around the

banister and start down the stairs.

Too late, I see her bare foot blocking the bottom of the stairs, her monstrous

toes slowly wriggling. I try to go back up, but she has laid her hand on the

floor above, blocking my escape. Frustrated, I sit on the stairs and shout,

“Leave me alone!”

She flicks at me with her enormous finger, knocking me down the stairs. I hit

her foot and roll off it, landing on my back. Helpless, I watch her hand descend

on me. I squeeze my eyes shut as she grasps me between her thumb and forefinger.

Gripping me tightly around the waist, she holds me up to her face.

“I told you to come out,” she whispers. “You should have listened to me.” Her

breath washes over me, smelling of cinnamon gum. She sees me wince and blows on

me through puckered lips. Warm, wet air blows the hair from my face, and I

nearly gag on the sickening sweet smell.

“Nicole, please…”

My protest is cut short by a sudden, fierce pinch that forces the air from my

lungs. I throw back my head but I can’t find the breath to scream. I kick and

flail and pound on her fingers until she finally relaxes her grip. Defeated, I

hang limply between her fingers. I blink back tears of frustration.

“Say you’re sorry,” she says. It hurts to talk, but I finally manage a weak

apology. She grins at me. “Now say, ‘I love you, Nicole!’” I painfully squeeze

the words out, and she smiles triumphantly. “Now say…” she trails off, trying to

think of something properly demeaning for me to say. It doesn’t matter; at this

point, I’ll say anything to placate her.

“Nicole!” Naomi’s voice is shrill and angry. Nicole thrusts me back into the

dollhouse, knocking my plastic dining room furniture aside and dropping me in a

heap on the floor. I hear the slap of Naomi’s sandals as she storms in angrily

from the kitchen.

“I was just looking at him,” Nicole says, glaring at me. Naomi grabs her by the

arm and snatches her away from the dollhouse. Nicole’s foot catches the wall,

jarring the house and knocking everything in it askew. I cover my head, bracing

myself for the collapse that never comes.

“Go to your room,” Naomi shouts. Nicole starts to protest, but Naomi cuts her

off. “Get your ass in your room right now.”

Nicole storms off, grumbling under her breath. After a couple of seconds, I hear

the bedroom door slam. I look up and cringe as Naomi’s hand reaches for me. I

back away instinctively from her outstretched fingers, and I hear Naomi’s

exasperated sigh. She snatches me up roughly and yanks me into the air with a

speed that makes my stomach lurch.

“I’m not going to hurt you, Ray,” she says, glaring at me with enormous eyes. “I

just want to see if you’re okay. Why do you have to be so goddamned skittish?”

For several uncomfortable seconds, I lay huddled in her palm as she prods me

with the nail of her index finger. She rolls me on my back and studies me,

taking some kind of perverse pleasure from my discomfort.

“She didn’t mean anything by it,” Naomi says. “And if you didn’t get so

melodramatic every time one of us wanted to hold you, shit like this probably

wouldn’t happen.”

An angry retort pops into my head, but I bite my lip and simply nod. Things may

suck right now, but starting an argument with Naomi can only make them worse. “I

know,” I say, trying my best to sound reasonable. “It’s just going to take some

getting used to.”

“You’re not the only one, kid,” she says, setting me down on the carpet next to

her foot. I stand up and walk back to the dollhouse, trying not to stare as I

walk past. The white leather strap of her sandal runs along the top of her foot

and down between her toes. Her nails are adorned with chipped, pink polish. I

have this overwhelming urge to touch her foot, to run my hands along her toe…

It’s a crazy thought, but one I can’t seem to exorcise.

“Something wrong?” she asks, wiggling her toes.

“What?” I glance up, my cheeks flushing. I see a small smile creep across her

face and I realize that I have been busted.

“I asked if there was anything wrong,” she says. “You’ve been staring at my feet

all day, and I was wondering.”

Sheepish, I shrug and stammer, “I wasn’t… I mean… I didn’t…”

Her laugh is a mean, humorless snort that makes my stomach knot. She raises her

foot slightly and says, “You’d better get back in your dollhouse before somebody

accidentally steps on you.”

I bolt for the safety of my house, stumbling across the shag carpet until I

reach the garish plastic floor. Naomi is still chuckling when she steps over the

dollhouse and nudges it back against the wall with her foot. I spend the next

twenty minutes huddled in the corner, wondering if I’ll ever feel secure in this

place again.

 

As far as my life is

concerned, it’s hard to say just when the shit hit the fan. But my best guess

would be my sixteenth birthday party last January.

That day went pretty much as usual until my stint in the lab with Gary. He set

my carrier down on the table and opened it up, as he always did. Only this time,

when I stepped out onto the table, everybody jumped out and yelled “Surprise!”

and started singing Happy Birthday. There was even a birthday cake of sorts—a

Twinkie with a burning candle.

They finished singing and Louise lifted me up so I could blow out the candle.

One of Gary’s assistants, a fat college kid named Tony, raised his camera to

snap my picture. Gary sighed and muttered something about security, but Tony

just grinned back and promised him the photos would never leave the lab. “Just

one,” he begged. “For the bulletin board? I’ll develop it myself.”

“Okay,” Gary relented. “For the bulletin board.”

It was the last time we ever saw Tony.

The picture appeared in The National Mirror in February, in a special WHERE ARE

THEY NOW edition. I was on page two this time. The headline read, “SPECTRUM’S

SPOONSIZE SPECIMEN.” The article gave a lurid account of how my mother had sold

me to the lab, where I was subjected day in and day out to inhumane experiments.

And next to the photo of me in my mother’s hand was a new picture. The Twinkie

had been cropped out—all that remained was me, dangling between Louise’s finger

and thumb near the open flame of the candle.

I can only imagine what kind of battle SPECTRUM’s public relations people were

left to fight. Alan Macky, one of their top security guys, was called back from

Germany to investigate the security breach and figure out who was responsible.

Poor Gary

was called to the carpet for allowing the photo to be taken. For nearly two

weeks, everything came to a halt. The tutoring, the experiments, the therapy

sessions, everything. Then one day, Louise came in to talk to me.

“Everything’s going to be fine,” she said. “The project should resume on

Monday.” Even so, she didn’t look terribly happy about it.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“We got a call this morning from a man named Paul Dalton. Ever heard of him?”

“No. Why?”

She sighed. “He says he’s your father.”

I met him about a week after that. He was a short man (well, relatively

speaking), incredibly tan, with black hair that stood up like a pompadour. I

disliked him on sight.

“I can’t believe it,” he said, shaking his head as I stepped out of my case.

“I’m glad I finally get to meet you.” His voice choked when he added, “Son.”

“That remains to be seen,” I said. “If you’re my father, why would wait until

now to show up?”

“I didn’t have a choice,” he said, his voice growing whiny and defensive. “Your

mother and I split just before you were born. I didn’t even know she was

pregnant. Hell, she didn’t even know. But I saw her picture in the Mirror last

month, and when I saw your birthday I did the math and figured it out.”

“Well, thanks for stopping by,” I said. “Nice meeting you.”

He shook his head. “I’m getting you out of this place.”

I clenched my fists and shouted, “I don’t want to leave. You’ve got no right!”

“You’re just saying that because you’ve been brainwashed,” he said. “I read

about the kind of things that go on in this place, and I can’t allow them to do

that to my son.”

“They’re good to me here,” I said, feeling panic creep into my voice. “Really.

They’ve been like a family to me since Mom…”

“I’ll never forgive your mother for selling you to these Nazis,” he said. “I

only hope you can forgive me for not being there for you before now.”

“I’m not leaving,” I said as defiantly as I could.

“We’ll see,” he said, standing up and stepping back. “I’ve got a lawyer looking

into it.”

“No!”

“It’s for your own good, son,” he said, walking toward the door. “I’ll see you

in a week.”

Louise held me in her cupped hands, trying to soothe me as I cried. “He can’t

take me away from here,” I kept yelling between sobs.

“We’re going to do everything we can,” Louise said. “Gary and I won’t let you go

without a fight.”

“You’re damned right,” Gary

said. “’Nazis,’ my ass.”

Louise nudged him with her foot. “Language.”

We were sitting at a large conference table with Alan and a bunch of people I

didn’t recognize. One of them was a scary, thin guy with white hair and thick

glasses. From the way he spoke, I figured he was from SPECTRUM’s legal

department.

“From the mother, we have this nice, legally-binding document,” he was saying.

“But unfortunately for us, the father never signed anything.”

“Have we made him an offer?” Gary asked. “Maybe we could pay him to walk away.”

“Maybe, but I doubt it.”

“Come on,” Gary shouted, slapping the marble table. “You’re not buying his line

of crap about protecting his son, are you?”

Louise’s hands closed protectively around me and I felt her stand up. “I’m

taking Ray back to his room,” she whispered.

“We’re thinking he might have gotten a better offer,” the lawyer was saying as

we left the room.

I still don’t know the particulars, but apparently Paul Dalton showed up at the

preliminary hearing with some unexpected legal firepower. I was remanded into

his custody until the matter of my guardianship could be settled. Gary was

furious when he got the news. Louise cried. But I was just numb—I had been

crying nonstop since Dalton had first shown up. By the time that creepy SPECTRUM

lawyer explained to me that I would be going to live with Dalton and his family,

I had no tears left. Just the chilling resignation that my blissful life at

SPECTRUM was soon to end.

Naomi is putting dinner on the table when my father gets home. He gives her a

perfunctory peck on the cheek, then goes into the bathroom to wash up, still

grumbling about the day he had.

Nicole sits at the dining table, toying with her silverware and occasionally

glaring at me. When she sees me looking back, she presses her bare foot into the

carpet and twists it, as if grinding out a cigarette. She then gives me an evil

grin.

She’s mad at me because she got grounded. No TV for two days. And to add insult

to injury, Naomi made her come over here and apologize to me. Which she did,

sweetly and sincerely. Hell, I was almost convinced until she leaned in close

and whispered through the window, “I’m going to squish you.”

I turn away from the window and fall shivering into a yellow, plastic chair.

I’ve never felt so alone and so helpless. I miss my friends at SPECTRUM and I

would sell my soul to be there and away from this place.

I hear the slap of Naomi’s sandals approaching. “Dinner time,” she mutters.

Before I can stand up, my house is moved away from the wall. She crouches and

thrusts her hand into the room, setting the little plate on the floor in front

of me. The plate contains a chunk of chicken breast, a couple of pieces of

shredded lettuce and the torn corner of a piece of bread. At my size, the meal

is repugnant. But I know Naomi is in no mood to hear about it, so I thank her.

“You’re welcome,” she says. But instead of standing, she stays and watches me a

few seconds. Then finally, she whispers “Ray?”

“Yeah?”

“That thing that happened this afternoon, between you and Nicole? I don’t think

your daddy needs to know about that.”

Leverage! For the first time, I realize I’m not completely helpless. If Naomi

wants my cooperation, she’s going to have to earn my trust. I pretend to mull it

over, saying, “I don’t know. It’s kind of early in mine and Dad’s relationship

for me to start keeping secrets from him.”

She leans in closer, her angry face suddenly way too close for my comfort.

“Let’s put it this way,” she says, her voice dripping with menace. “If you tell

your daddy, he’ll punish Nicole and then he’ll yell at me for letting it happen.

And when he goes to work tomorrow, I’ll have you all to myself…”

And suddenly, my illusion of power is gone. I realize just how helpless my

situation is. I’m at her mercy, and she knows it. And, God help me, I think she

enjoys it.

“Okay. Fine. I won’t say a word,” I tell her. A tight-lipped smile appears on

her face. So smug and arrogant… I clench my fists at my side and once again

choke back the anger and frustration.

“Thanks, sweetie,” she says. She touches her fingertip to her lips, then gently

touches it to me. I close my eyes and sit there defiantly, refusing to flinch or

move away.

They all three eat their dinner without talking. The awkward silence is broken

only by the sound of silverware clinking on the plates. Then Nicole’s voice

pipes up, “Daddy? Can Ray sleep with me tonight?”

I hold my breath, honestly afraid of what his answer might be. Fortunately,

Naomi says, “I don’t think that’s a good idea, sweetie. Maybe later, when Ray is

more comfortable in his new home.”

“Say, that reminds me,” Paul says around a mouthful of chicken. “I was talking

to Rachel Foster today, and she warned me that the media is going to go nuts

once Ray’s story breaks. Her firm is supposed to handle the publicity, so if any

reporters call or come by, we’re just supposed to give them her name and

number.”

“Reporters?” Naomi asks. “Nobody said anything about goddamned reporters.”

“Naomi, honey, it’s to be expected. Before this is all over, I expect we’re all

going to be a little famous. Ray, most of all.”

“Cool,” Nicole says. “Are we gonna be on TV?”

“Maybe,” Paul answers. “Maybe some big shot producer will see you and decide to

make you a movie star.”

“Oh, Daddy!” Nicole giggles. “I can’t wait to tell Kim!”

Naomi heaves a martyred sigh. “So, does that mean we don’t have to keep Ray a

secret anymore?”

“Right,” Paul says. “I was thinking about throwing a barbecue or something this

weekend. Invite our family and friends over and introduce them to Ray.”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake Paul,” Naomi snaps. “Thanks for giving me so much notice.

I’ll have to go grocery shopping tomorrow, and the house is a mess. I told Suzy

not to come this week because I thought we were supposed to keep Ray under

wraps.”

“Well, call her and ask her to come tomorrow,” Paul says. “Hell, invite her and

her parents to the barbecue.”

Paul and Nicole chatter on happily about the cookout, gradually warming Naomi to

the idea. In a matter of minutes, they’re all tossing out names to be added to

the invite list. Cheryl and her daughter Kim from next door… Jim and Barbara

Rose… Linda and her husband… Naomi’s sister Debbie…

God, I am so not looking forward to this…

 

It’s late. I don’t know

how late because I don’t have a working clock in my house. All I have is a

plastic grandfather clock eternally set for 2:30. But it’s been at least an hour

since everybody went to bed. Nicole went first, glaring at me as she passed the

dollhouse and whispering “Goodnight, Ray,” in an icy voice. Naomi went soon

after, flashing me a thin smile as she passed by me.

Paul stayed up for a while after that, watching the Honeymooners on Nick at Nite

and drinking rum from a plastic Batman cup. At last, he stood up, turned off the

lamp and the TV, and stumbled by the glow of the nightlight into his bedroom.

When I heard his door shut, I breathed a sigh of relief and lay down on my

sponge bed.

It’s taken about an hour for me to relax and unwind. I’ve got knots in my

shoulders so tight that my neck pops every time I turn my head. When this used

to happen at SPECTRUM, Louise would wrap me in a hot washcloth and then gently

prod my shoulders with her fingertip until the tension melted. God, I miss her

so much…

Louise Herndon is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known, and I love her

dearly. She’s in her mid-forties now, but she looks like she always has. Long,

black hair and pale, smooth skin. Deep brown eyes and a smile that makes my

heart pound. It’s almost Oedipal, I suppose, since she’s been more of a mother

to me than anybody else, but I love her deeply and whole-heartedly the only way

I can. I think of the days ahead without her, and I feel empty.

My “sexual awakening” (as Louise so tastefully referred to it) happened a couple

of years ago, when I was 14. It wasn’t a gradual thing, but rather a sudden,

brutish onslaught of lust and shame. I was frightened by the ferocity of these

uninvited feelings, but…

Okay. I’m trying to make it sound more poetic than it was.

The therapy session began as any other. Louise set my carrier down on the coffee

table in her office. I stepped out of the case and sat down on the edge of the

table, letting my legs dangle. Louise sat in a chair a few feet away. It was

summer, and she was wearing a short green dress and brown leather sandals.

For some reason, the sight of her sandaled foot made my heart race and my throat

go dry. I felt a nervous excitement gnawing in my belly that seemed to sink to

my groin. The next thing I knew, I was sporting an erection.

She was asking me about an argument that I had had with Leslie (my math tutor),

and I was trying to answer her as best I could, but my eyes kept wandering back

to her foot. Her toenails were pale pink and freshly painted. She flexed her

toes unconsciously as she spoke, and the sandal dangled slightly from the sole

of her foot. My face was burning and I choked back a gasp as I struggled with

this sudden, inexplicable lust.

“Are you okay?” she asked. I nodded and muttered something about not feeling too

well. I forced myself to look away from her foot and into her eyes. I felt

guilty for my mental violation and I refused to allow myself another moment of

weakness. I shoved the invading thoughts from my mind and concentrated on the

session at hand.

I kept myself busy throughout the evening with the extra math homework Leslie

had given me and tried not to think about what had happened in Louise’s office.

But that night, as I lay in bed watching Letterman, I found myself unable to

push the thoughts out. They crept back again and again. I closed my eyes and saw

her foot, vast and beautiful. Finally I turned off the TV and dropped off into a

fitful sleep.

The next day, I could hardly concentrate on my classes. I kept thinking about

Louise and said a silent prayer that she would wear sandals again. I barely ate

my lunch and Gary got onto me for blowing the work in the lab. But 4:00 finally

came and my heart nearly burst with elations when I heard the slap of Louise’s

sandals on the tile floor.

It was even better this time. She kept her feet on the floor, but she slid her

foot out of her sandal and toyed with it while she talked to me. I kept telling

myself to look away, that she was going to figure out what I was doing, but I

couldn’t stop watching her toes grip the sandal strap and lift it before letting

it drop back to the floor. I don’t remember what she said. My answers were

evasive and probably made little sense. She finally called an end to the session

and took me back to my room.

I couldn’t even eat my dinner because my stomach was tied in such knots. I tried

to read another chapter of Pride and Prejudice, but I couldn’t keep my mind on

it. After reading the same paragraph over and over for an hour, I finally

switched off the monitor and lay down on the bed.

I thought of her pink toenails and wondered what it would have been like to

paint them. I remembered the sole of her foot and I imagined myself beneath it,

watching it descend on me. My erection became so tight that it hurt. I rolled

over on my stomach, without really knowing why, and thought of her toying with

the sandal. I pictured myself between her toes, struggling to free myself as she

wiggled them. I felt an explosion in my groin and my stomach was suddenly warm

and sticky. Every muscle in my body tensed. I arched my back and raised my head

as a convulsion wracked my body. I gasped and let my head fall to the pillow,

exhausted and relieved.

This went on for almost two weeks. I spent the session ogling her feet and I

spent my evenings fantasizing about them. I created these incredibly sordid

fantasies where Louise caught me looking and punished me. I spent most of my

time in these fantasies wedged between her toes or dangling from her sandal

strap, while she said such inane things as “So you like feet, do you?” or

“Submit to me, my little foot slave.”

I’m still not sure why I brought it up in our session; maybe I was going crazy

keeping it to myself, or maybe I just wanted to hear her say out loud how she

would feel with me pinned beneath her foot. I was feeling pretty cagey, and I

figured she was still in the dark about my petulant fantasies, so I just tried

to bring up the topic as subtly as I could. I mentioned that I’d had a dream

about her the night before in which she had almost stepped on me.

She asked me how long I’d been having these dreams, and I told her for a couple

of weeks. She frowned, and I knew I’d given the wrong answer. She crossed her

feet at the ankles and slid them under the chair as she leaned forward, and I

knew my cover was blown. Of course she knew! She was a licensed therapist, for

God’s sake! And I was some smart ass kid trying to trick her into talking dirty

to me.

Louise didn’t get mad and she didn’t chide me for being a little pervert.

Instead, she explained to me that boys my age tended to go through a “sexual

awakening” in which they experienced feelings of pleasure mixed with guilt. She

also explained to me about fetishes and tried to assure me that they were

completely normal, and nothing to be ashamed of.

Things eventually got back to normal, for the most part. The fantasies dimmed

and eventually became no more than a piece of my nighttime routine. My sessions

with Louise became less awkward as the weeks rolled by. But although she claimed

otherwise, I knew I had embarrassed her to some degree because she never wore

sandals in our sessions again.

A noise just outside the house awakens me. I bolt upright, and my aching neck

immediately makes me regret it. I see a shadow brush by the window, and I turn

away, afraid to look. Afraid that I’ll see Nicole’s face staring back at me.

I lie there in my bed, listening to somebody breathing outside my window.

Idiotically, I feign sleep, thinking whomever it is might lose interest.

Surprisingly, it works. Whoever it is moves away and walks into the living room.

For a second I lay there, my heart pounding at the close call. I hear the phone

being lifted from the hook with a soft beep. Somebody dials a number.

Cautiously, I climb out of bed and peek out the window. Naomi is sitting in the

chair in the living room, her legs tucked beneath her, dialing the phone. She

glances in my direction and I drop to the floor, praying she didn’t see me.

“Hey,” I hear her whisper. “It’s me.” A pause, then a giggle. “I know. I had to

wait for everybody to go to sleep.” Her voice becomes quieter and less distinct.

Occasionally, she giggles and clamps her hand over her mouth to muffle it.

“Quiet,” she admonishes whoever is on the line. “You’re gonna make me wake up

Ray.”

The rest of the conversation is murmurs and whispers, and when the air

conditioner kicks on, I know I won’t hear another word. I still watch her from

the window, amazed by the smile on her face. I don’t think I’ve seen her happy

since I got here. She makes a kissing sound into the phone, then hangs up with a

giggle. She glances towards the dollhouse again and I bolt away from the window

and leap into my green sponge bed.

I hear her approach, the muffled footsteps of her slippers on the carpet. I lie

there, forcing myself to breathe deeply and regularly, praying she can’t hear

the pounding of my heart.

She’s right outside my window. Even with my back to her, I can feel her eyes on

me. I have this urge to leap up and scream into her vast face, “Just leave me

alone!” But of course, I don’t. I lie there, pretending to sleep, waiting for

her to walk away.

She lights a cigarette, and for about ten minutes, I hear her inhale sharply,

then exhale with a deep sigh. I can smell the smoke as it wafts through my

bedroom. I fight the urge to cough, afraid any signs of consciousness might

encourage her to do more than watch me.

Finally, I hear her stand up with a soft grunt, and she pads back into her

bedroom. It’s only after I hear her shut her door that I sit up and heave a sigh

of relief. Which, of course, sets me to coughing. My bedroom reeks of cigarette

smoke.

I think of how Naomi acted on the phone, all giddy and giggly, afraid of getting

caught. The kissing noises, the tender smile…

I think she might have a boyfriend…

I’m standing in the break room at SPECTRUM, the one where we had my birthday

party. Only everything is my size. My body feels awkward, as if only barely

under my control. I see the Twinkie with the extinguished candle sitting on the

table… the wick is still smoking. I take a stumbling step forward.

“It looks like your wish came true!” Louise is standing on the other side of the

table, smiling at me.

“What’s happening?” I ask her.

“We made you normal,” she says. “You’re not a freak anymore, and you don’t have

to go live with the Daltons.”

I’m filled with a strange elation as I realize that everything is going to be

all right! I gaze into Louise’s beautiful brown eyes and clumsily make my way

towards her. Smiling, she walks towards me, her arms outstretched…

An evil giggle fills the room, and I catch a glimpse of Nicole’s monstrous eye

in the window.

I wake up sobbing.

It’s morning. Paul left for work an hour ago, and Naomi just went into the

kitchen to make breakfast. Naomi’s tuneless humming is soon drowned out by the

splatter-pop of bacon frying.

I’m so hungry—I haven’t eaten a decent meal since I got here—but the smell of

the bacon mingled with cigarette smoke makes my stomach clench. God, I’m going

to starve to death if Nicole doesn’t get me first.

As if on cue, Nicole comes bounding into the dining room, swinging her backpack.

She drops it to the floor with a thud, “accidentally” letting it fall against my

dollhouse. She stops and kneels, filling the window with her leering eye.

“Oops,” she says. “I’m sorry, Ray. I hope I didn’t knock any of your itty bitty

things over.”

I suddenly remember my dream, and the acute pang of loss I felt when I realized

that’s all it was. I turn from the window and clench my fists, commanding myself

not to start crying again. Not now. Not in front of her.

“Don’t you turn your back on me, midget,” she snaps. “Get over here right now,

or I’ll squish you…”

My sadness and fear give way to anger. With the exhilaration of someone with

nothing to lose, I whirl towards the window and shout, “Jesus, would you just

fuck off and die, you bitch?”

The smile on her face falters; she jerks as if slapped, and then shouts in a

voice so loud and shrill that it tears through my head. “Momma! Ray just called

me some bad names!”

From the kitchen, Naomi says, “Leave Ray alone and sit down. Breakfast is almost

ready.”

“But Momma, he said the ‘F’ word and he called me the ‘B’ word!”

“And I’m gonna whip your ‘A’ word if you don’t sit down right now.”

Nicole glares at me through narrow eyes and I, with a feeling of gleeful

abandon, flip her off. She stands up and I feel the house shake as she lays her

hands on it.

“Nicole!” Naomi storms over and yanks her away from the dollhouse. “I swear to

God, if you don’t stay away from Ray, I’m gonna ground you ‘til college! Now sit

your ass down at that table right now!”

“But Momma!”

“NOW!”

Nicole sits down and sulks as Naomi slides my house away from the wall and sets

my repugnant meal of egg pieces and bacon slivers down before me.

“Are you okay, Ray?” she asks, smiling that annoying patronizing smile of hers.

I wish I were big enough to wipe it off her face.

“Fine,” I mutter, my arms crossed. Her hand hovers, as if trying to decide

whether or not to stroke me.

“You don’t have to worry,” she says. “Nicole won’t hurt you. She’s just…”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake!” I shout, leaping to my feet and kicking at her enormous

fingers. She yanks her hand away and glares at me.

“What the hell is the matter with you?” she asks.

“Like you even care!” I grab the plate of food and throw it at her. It bounces

ineffectually off her cheek and splatters all over the plastic floor of my

bedroom.

“You little bastard,” Naomi snaps, brushing her cheek.

“You see, Momma?” Nicole says, running over to watch. “Ray’s being mean today.”

“Nicole,” go sit down and eat your breakfast,” Naomi says. “Ray and I are going

to go have a little talk.”

“I’ve got nothing to say to you,” I shout.

“Oh, we’ll see about that,” Naomi says. I scramble backwards as her giant hand

comes towards me, but there is no escape. She grasps me between her thumb and

forefinger and pulls me roughly from the safety of the dollhouse.

Instead of cradling me in her cupped palm, Naomi simply lets me dangle between

her fingers as she carries me down the hall into her and Paul’s bedroom. She

kicks the door shut and sits down on the unmade bed.

“Okay, now,” she says, holding me up. She smells of cigarettes and fried food,

and her angry face is surprisingly severe without makeup. “What the hell has got

into you this morning?”

“I hate this place!” I shout back at her. “I hate all of you! Why did you have

to take me away from SPECTRUM? I was happy until you people came along and

FUCKED EVERYTHING UP!”

“It’s not gonna be so bad,” she says. “Once you get used to things here, I think

you’ll like it better. And you gotta understand that this is just as hard for me

and your daddy…”

“Just because Paul Dalton fucked my mother seventeen years ago doesn’t make him

my father,” I shout defiantly. “And you’re not my ‘Momma,’ so quit pretending

like you are!”

Her finger and thumb pinch together fiercely, and I scream at the sudden pain. I

writhe and kick in her grasp.

“Be still,” she says. “You don’t talk to me like that, you little shit. Do you

understand me?”

I wipe at the tears in my eyes and glare at her. She pinches me again. “I said,

do you understand me?”

Frustrated, helpless, and tired of feeling that way, I nod and whisper, “Yes

ma’am.”

“Good.” She releases her grip and I drop into the palm of her other hand. “Now I

don’t know what kind of bug crawled up your ass, but this little tantrum of

yours is over. Your daddy and me have gone through a lot of trouble for you, and

I’m sick and tired of your little pissy attitude.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“You do it again, and you’ll see how bad things can get. No more dollhouse. No

more hot meals. I’ll tape you up and stick you in a drawer. Understand?”

“Yes ma’am.”

She smiles. “Good boy.” She stands up and we head back to the kitchen. Just

before we reach the end of the hallway, she whispers, “Now you be good, and

Momma will give you a bath after breakfast.”

It’s amazing the things you take for granted. Like food that doesn’t make you

retch when you look at it. Or your own TV, stereo and personal library of

digital books. Or, for that matter, plumbing.

When I lived at SPECTRUM, my little apartment had running water, including a

working toilet and a shower. Unfortunately, my current residence lacks this

convenience. My drinking water comes from a shot glass that Naomi keeps filled

and sets in my kitchen. My toilet consists of some small, white paper ketchup

cups that Naomi lifted from Dairy Queen. And bathing… well, bathing really

sucks.

Nicole has gone to school, and Naomi is sitting in the living room, chatting on

the phone with someone named Cheryl. From what I can tell, Cheryl lives next

door, is divorced, and has a daughter named Kim who is close to Nicole’s age.

“Oh yeah, you’ve got to see him to believe it,” Naomi says on the phone. She

looks towards the dollhouse, sees me, and smiles. “Well, Paul really wanted to

wait until the barbecue tomorrow night to show him to people but I guess you

can… oh, he’d love that, I’m sure.” Naomi giggles and holds up her bare foot to

regard her toenails. “Well, yeah, I am in dire need of a pedicure. I was

thinking about putting Ray to work.” She giggles again and says, “Cheryl, you

dirty-minded thing!”

God, it just gets worse and worse.

“Well, how about this afternoon?” she says. “I still need to shower. Besides,

Suzy’s coming to clean today and I kind of need to be here because she hasn’t

met Ray yet. I’d hate for her to accidentally vacuum him up or something.” She

giggles, then says, “Okay, Cheryl, I’ll see you about noon then. Okay. Bye-bye.”

She hangs up, then stands and ambles toward the dollhouse. “Ray, sweetie,” she

says, peeking through the window at me. “Momma’s gonna go take a shower. Why

don’t I go ahead and give you a bath while I’m at it?”

For the past two days, I’ve dreamed of a bath. I feel so grimy and itchy right

now I can’t stand it. And I’m really starting to stink. I figured it was beneath

Naomi’s notice, but when she put me back in my house this morning, she made a

comment about how it was starting to smell like a gerbil cage.

But the prospect of bathing in front of Naomi makes me cringe. And what if, God

forbid, she wants me to bathe with her? I can’t even think about that. I know I

don’t stand a chance of talking her out of it, but I try anyway. I sigh and say,

“I’d really rather not right now.”

For a second, I expect her to be angry. But she smiles and says, “I suppose you

could shower with me, if you wanted to.” Her giggle makes my blood run cold.

“No, that’s okay. A bath will be fine. Give me a minute to get ready.”

I rummage through all the clothes I brought with me from SPECTRUM, and I pull

out my bathing suit. I step into the corner, out of her sight, and slip it on.

Then I go downstairs and out the front door to step into her waiting hand.

Naomi carries me into her bathroom and sets me down on the marble counter, right

next to her clam-shaped sink. She turns on the faucet and holds her finger under

it until it’s warm enough. Then she flicks the stopper into place.

“Let’s see,” she says to herself. She sets the enormous bar of soap and a bath

rag down on the edge of the basin and turns off the water.

“Okay,” she says, turning her attention to me. “I think we’re about ready.”

“I can take it from here, Naomi,” I say. “Really.”

“Okay, sweetie,” she says. She scrapes a sliver of soap off the bar with her

fingernail, then offers it to me. She picks me up and starts to put me in the

sink, but reconsiders.

“Ray? Maybe you should take those trunks off.”

Horrified, I crane my neck up to look at her. “What? Why?”

She shrugs. “You’re supposed to be bathing, not swimming. Besides, what’s with

all the modesty?” A scary, predatory grin appears on her face. “What could you

possibly have to hide in there?”

“Naomi, please.”

“Oh, okay.” Her fingers envelop my body and her hand lowers me into the sink.

Her hand withdraws, leaving me sitting chest deep in warm water.

From inside the sink, I can’t see her. But I hear the shower start up, and I

hear her digging around for a towel. After a few minutes, I can see the mirror

behind the sink fogging up. I can hear her humming, but I don’t recognize the

tune.

I lather up with the sliver of soap and splash around to rinse off. God, it’s

incredible! I rub the soap into my hair, then dunk my head to rinse it. I’m done

in a matter of minutes, but I’m pretty much trapped in the sink until Naomi lets

me out. So I lay back and float in the warm water, feeling my tired muscles

relax. For the first time in three days, I feel almost human…

After a few minutes, I hear the water cut off and the shower door open. Naomi

continues to hum as she towels off. I can hear her rub her hair vigorously with

the towel. Soon, I hear her wet footsteps on the bathroom tile.

“That’s better,” she says, peeking into the sink. Her hair is wrapped in a white

towel. “You done?”

I nod and stand, glad to have the bath over with, and relieved that it wasn’t

nearly as bad as I had imagined. Naomi reaches down and scoops me up into her

palm. She starts to set me down on the counter next to the bath rag, but she

reconsiders. Instead, she picks up the rag and begins dabbing at me with it.

“What are you doing?” I ask.

“Just drying you off, sweetie,” she says. She rubs gently with the rag, wiping

my chest and stomach. “Hmmm,” she says, putting the rag down.

“What?”

She smiles. “Nothing. I just think we’d better get you out of those wet trunks.”

“No!” I struggle as her fingers tighten around me. Her other hand hovers above

me like a monstrous bird.

“Don’t,” I plead as she grasps my swimming trucks with the tips of her

fingernails and slides them off of me. Despite my protests, she effortlessly

pulls them from my kicking legs. She tosses my trunks onto the counter and picks

up the rag to continue drying me off.

“There we go, sweetie,” she says. “Feel better?”

“I’m fine,” I say, just ready to return to the relative safety of my dollhouse.

“Good,” she says, carrying me over to her vanity. She sits on the stool and

bends to set me on the floor.

“Now what?” I ask.

“I dried you off,” she says with a tight-lipped smile. “Now it’s your turn.”

I find myself standing on the bathroom floor in a puddle of water. Naomi’s bare

feet are on either side of me, still wet from the shower. Her hand comes down

and drops the washrag on the floor in front of me. I take the rag and drag it

over to her left foot. I begin wiping along the arch, down towards her toes.

It’s debasing and humiliating, but what bothers me most is that some part of me

wants to do it.

“Get between the toes real good, sweetie,” she says, fanning her toes apart to

make it easy. Nervously, I dab between her big and second toe, my heart pounding

from the feeling of sheer helplessness. She giggles suddenly, clenching her toes

together and snatching the rag from my hand. Startled, I jump backwards.

“Sorry, sweetie. Momma’s ticklish there.” She releases the rag and slides her

foot towards me, spreading her toes apart again. I’m suddenly, painfully aware

of my erection. I grab the rag and continue to wipe the water from her foot,

praying she doesn’t notice. I make my way around her heel, trying not to notice

the way her toes are slowly wriggling. Trying not to imagine how it must feel to

be grasped helplessly between them…

When I’m done with her left foot, she turns slightly and brings her right foot

to rest on the tile in front of me. For a glorious, terrifying second, I can see

the sole of her foot. What must it feel like to be trapped beneath it, to feel

its flesh press me to the floor? Shaking my head, desperate (yet reluctant) to

be done, I start to work.

By the time I finish, I’m pretty much drenched again. Naomi reaches down and

snatches me into the air along with the damp rag. I squirm and shift in her

grip, trying desperately to hide my erection from her. Fortunately, she doesn’t

notice, or at least pretends not to. She just wipes me dry with the rag and

tosses it onto the counter.

“You’re not still angry at Momma about this morning, are you?” she asks in a

teasing tone.

I choke back the resentment in my voice as I shake my head. “No ma’am.”

 

One of my friends at

SPECTRUM was an engineer named Sally Mabudafhasi. She was an older woman, fifty

or so, from South Africa.

I remember that she spoke with this beautiful, exotic accent that was clipped

and vaguely European. She also wore these thick glasses that made her brown eyes

amazingly large.

Three years ago, Sally was working on the lights in my apartment. I was lying on

my bed, watching her brown fingers as they nimbly navigated the tangle of wires

and circuits. It was almost frightening to realize just how complicated my home

became once you peeked beyond the bare white walls.

“Ray?” she said. “Have you ever heard of the abatwa?”

It sounded like one of my vocabulary words. “Isn’t that a slaughterhouse?”

Sally laughed. “No, not abattoir. Abatwa.”

I shook my head. “Uh huh. What’s the abatwa?”

“The abatwa are this race of little tiny people that the Zulus believe in. My

aunt used to come visit us in the city, and she would tell me stories about

them. They’re supposed to be really shy, and they only show themselves to

babies, holy men and pregnant women. In fact, my aunt used to tell me that my

mother had seen an abatwa sleeping in an anthill outside our house when she was

pregnant with me. I never believed her though.”

“How come?”

“Because if you’re pregnant and you see an abatwa, you’re supposed to have a

son. That’s what the legends say, anyway.”

Her hand withdrew from my quarters, then returned with a tiny soldering probe.

The air was filled with the sour, bitter smell of soldered wire.

“Anyway, my aunt told me that the abatwa were so tiny that an entire tribe could

ride on one horse, sitting behind one another from the neck to the tail. They

would ride the horse to hunt food and if they didn’t find anything, then they’d

eat the horse.”

“Cool. Then what?”

Her hand withdrew again, then returned one more time to snap the panel back on

the wall.

“I don’t know,” Sally said. “I guess they would go looking for another horse.”

“Well, did anybody ever catch one?”

“Probably not,” she said. “They carry these poisoned arrows that can kill a man

easy, so most people go out of their way to avoid them. In fact, my aunt said

everybody in her village wore thick, hard shoes when they went walking in the

hills just in case they accidentally stepped on one.”

“Ewww.” At the time, the idea of being stepped on was repugnant and frightening.

“Anyway, I thought you’d be interested,” she said, finishing up her repairs. She

tapped on the wall with her fingertip, and the lights flickered on above me.

“That should do it, Ray,” she said. “Give it a try.”

I clapped my hands twice, and the lights went out. Clapped again, and they came

back on.

“Cool,” I said. “Thanks!”

I’m lying on my green sponge bed, wishing right now that I had some of those

poisoned arrows. Just three would be enough…

Naomi is sitting in the living room, reading a magazine. The Price Is Right is

on the TV, and the constant blare of “Come on doooowwwwn!” is starting to give

me a headache. Life sucks, but at least I’m fully clothed. And clean. Now if I

could just get something decent to eat…

“Ray, sweetie,” Naomi calls me from the living room. “You wanna come watch TV

with Momma?” Dammit, why can’t she just leave me alone? I just lie there,

wondering how long I’ll get away with pretending I can’t hear her.

I find myself toying with the idea of fleeing the dollhouse and living like a

rat. I would never dream of trying to make it in the outside world, but for some

reason the idea of scampering for cover and avoiding capture appeals to me.

Darting under furniture, or even burrowing an elaborate network of tunnels

throughout the house.

I remember Louise reading me The Borrowers when I was younger. The idea of

living secretly in the world of giants was exciting and oddly tantalizing. I

concocted elaborate fantasies in which I was a Borrower who had been discovered

and captured. I spent many nights imagining that my guerilla brethren would

mount a massive rescue mission to free me from the giants and take me home. Of

course, I would never leave Louise, so in my fantasies she would always come

along to live with us…

What can I say? I was eight.

“Ray?” Naomi calls from just outside, startling me. I didn’t even hear her

approach. “Why don’t you come out now, sweetie?”

I just lie there, hoping she’ll go away if I ignore her.

“Ray?” The house shakes as she nudges it with her foot. “You in there?”

Just go away, I chant silently to myself. Just go away. Just go away. Just go

away.

“I’m going to count to three.”

Justgoawayjustgoawayjustgoawayjustgoaway…

“One… two…”

“I’m coming,” I call out to her. Defeated, I climb down the stairs and go out

the front door to stand at her feet. That’s the problem with fantasy. It sets

standards too high for reality to ever live up to.

She sits on the couch, cradling me in her palm. Her foot rests on the edge of

the coffee table, her toes toying idly with the TV Guide. I catch myself

staring, then glance up nervously to see if she saw me. Fortunately, Naomi is

too entranced in her “stories” to pay me too much attention. Bob Barker has left

the air, giving way to The Young and the Restless.

I have no idea who these people are, but Naomi watches this show religiously.

I’m treated to her non-stop commentary: “Oh, I hate her. She’s such a bitch. She

won’t be happy until the rest of the world is as miserable as she is.”

She strokes me absently with her thumb, which isn’t so bad. Her thumbnail pokes

gently at my chest, then traces a path down my stomach. I take a deep breath and

lean back against her fingers, feeling the warmth of her skin through my cotton

clothes.

“Suzy should be here any minute,” Naomi says during the first commercial break.

“Who is Suzy?” I ask.

“She cleans the house every Thursday, and she baby-sits for Nicole when we need

her to. She’s a real sweet girl. Oriental, but sharp as a tack and she speaks

English real good. I think you’ll like her.”

I doubt it seriously. In fact, I’m fairly confident that when this day is over,

I will have added yet another name to my Dalton Household Hate List.

The doorbell rings just as Jill Abbot is divulging her plan to screw Victor

Newman once and for all. Naomi sets me down on the table and goes t

My name is Raymond Miller

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