Paul Finds Himself in Miniature
This was a joy to write. Who hasn’t imagined the perils of being doll-sized in a human-sized world? I don’t always know where I’m going when I write this short, but flash allows it, requests it, and I arrive at the center sideways. While Paul is tiny, his world—and his heart—remain immense.
But Kay is still regular-sized, asleep in their bed as big as the sea, the raft of her breath carrying her away while Paul jumps to the nightstand, hooks his legs and shimmies down into the rough forest of carpet. He will escape the house—find a corner where rain has made the dead rot of plaster soft in his hands, or a crack beneath the door large enough for a mouse to slip through.
He finds the crevice in the kitchen, near the back door, past the cat who sleeps in the nursery-turned-storage room that contains abandoned things: StairMaster, embroidery projects, unfolded laundry. Dodging a hip-high spider scuttling across pale linoleum, Paul spelunks through the unknown of architectural framing, wishing for a pickaxe or cleated shoes, not the felted moccasins he shuffles the house in: Bedroom. TV. Kitchen. TV. Bedroom.
Outside, Paul climbs across the silvery carcass of cicada, skirts the concave home of a vole. The air is thick with night blooms and the edge of rain.
A Matchbox ambulance, parked haphazardly on the curb, starts right up. The tinny radio and snap of emergency calls mingle as he rolls the windows down and pulls out—the wind whipping in, the music loud, the neighborhood asleep.
He drives the rain gutter at top speed, pushing the toy to capacity, avoiding the pebble boulders and the disaster of fresh leaves. He thinks of Kay asleep, one arm extended toward his side of the bed—reaching, and the indentation his body left in the mattress, his full-sized imprint—empty. This size, he’d barely leave a mark. His footprints would whisper across the bed like the cat’s. He could curl into Kay’s hair, nestle in the space behind her ear, rub his face along the curve of her upper lip.
The brake pedal sticks beneath his slipper, and for a moment, panicked, he swerves. Where am I? What’s happened? The ambulance straightens. The neighborhood falls away, and Paul turns onto the road that leads to the ocean.
At this hour, the pier is lit up and customers, small as he, spill out over a popsicle-stick boardwalk. He guides the ambulance into the lot. There are other ambulances parked nearby. There are dented cars and tow trucks. Still in his pajamas—the ones Kay gave him for Christmas, navy blue cotton, white piping—he stoops to roll the hem. He feels respectable enough. Paul’s slippers are old and betray his rolling ankle, his low arch. The heel cap is flattened. His legs are pale. He is bruised from the blood thinners his doctor prescribed when he came home from the hospital.
He stretches, forgetting the long days of inhabiting a big, heavy body, of waiting for results. He forgets the walker and the blankets, the afternoons sitting in the sun with Kay while she knitted an endless scarf, and how even then, he was cold. But in the ocean’s air, he is nothing. He is as thick and warm as air itself.
If he focuses, he can move drone-like through the crowd. He searches for Kay’s face—though of course she won’t be there. He dances with a man wearing parakeet pajamas, who rolls his shoulders and juts his chin to emphasize the beat of the song, which Paul appreciates. He dances with a woman in yoga pants and a striped t-shirt. She leans towards him between songs. “Would you like something stronger than cough syrup?” she asks, but he doesn’t understand and shakes his head no. They do a slow twist, but she’s distracted by the man in the parakeet pajamas. Soon she hip-bumps her way to him, and the two dance together, their fingers tucked into their armpits, moving their elbows like short wings.
Once, Paul and Kay drove over rolling hills of sage and lavender, through a low valley and along a serpentine road to a place like this, where Kay took off her shoes and cart-wheeled along the surf. He rolled up his trousers and ran into the waves. On the boardwalk, after a late lunch, he took a crooked photograph of Kay while she leaned on the rail and laughed, the birds flocking around and around her on that other pier as she held out fistfuls of bread, letting the birds’ wings brush her arms, her cheeks.
When the music stops, Paul is standing in the surf, looking up at the moon. The dancers arrive around him, one by one, smiling and pointing.
“That’s the biggest moon I’ve ever seen,” the cough syrup lady says. “Is it because I’m yay high?” She holds her hand up, an inch between her thumb and forefinger.
“Maybe,” Paul says. “Are we getting smaller?” he asks, because the rush of the surf is to his hips.
“The moon feels so near, but it’s also so far away,” the man in the parakeet pajamas yells. He struggles to stay upright, staggering against the rising water. Paul vows that when the surf comes for him, he won’t struggle.
“What’s your name?” the cough syrup lady asks Paul. “I never got it. And you look familiar, like someone I met at a conference.”
But before he can answer, she is gone, swept into the tide. And anyway, he can’t remember what a conference is—or his name. There is only the bright night sky and the water carrying him in unknown passage—the departure and drag of the tide, the rising of incandescent sea spray. How marvelous it is to depart in such a fine, silvery flux.
Beth Hahn (she/her) is the author of the novel The Singing Bone (Regan Arts, 2016) and The City Beneath Her (Regal House, 2025). Her writing has been published in Tiny Molecules, DMQ Review, Ran Off with the Star Bassoon, Small Orange Journal, The Common, Milk Candy Review, Fractured Lit, CRAFT, and elsewhere. Find her at beth-hahn.com.