I jump and swipe my hand but come up empty. “Excuse me,” I say to the woman across the aisle, “could you please hand me a loaf of wheat bread?”
“Certainly.” She plucks the bread from the top shelf.
“I appreciate your help.”
“No problem,” she says. She starts to turn away then stops. “Your voice sounds so familiar. Are you the Cars Cars Cars guy by any chance?”
“You have such a big, deep voice,” the woman says. “I never would have guessed you were a… little person.” She frowns. “That’s the proper terminology, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is. But I’m not.” The woman’s face reddens, reminding me I need fresh peppers. “Thanks again,” I say and head for Produce.
Freddie Fredrickson owns Car Cars Cars. His voice makes fingernails on a chalkboard sound like a Brahms lullaby. He used to do his own ads for awhile but finally accepted that his screech was a turn-off and hired me to dub him. The Cars Cars Cars gig has become my bread and butter.
Our commercials are local classics. In one I talk like a munchkin. Then Freddie pretends to clear his throat, and I speak in my normal voice. Another time I dub Freddie pretending to thank his surgeon, Dr Larnyx, for fixing his vocal chords. People enjoy the humour, and Freddie’s business has boomed.
Freddie considers me part of “Team Cars Cars Cars” and has invited me to a party at his house for his fiftieth birthday. I ask Gloria, a woman I’ve been dating, to go with me. But she tells me her sister will be visiting her from out of town. Gloria and I aren’t super serious yet, but I feel we’re on the precipice.
I arrive at the cafe early because I make a better first impression sitting down. When a tall woman walks into the cafe, I glance at my phone to sneak a peek of Gloria’s profile picture on the dating app. It’s her. I motion, and she comes to the table. Probably takes her half as many steps as it would me.
“I’m James,” I say, remaining seated.
“Gloria. Nice to meet you in person, James.”
We chit-chat as we sip our coffee. “Your voice is so familiar,” she says. “Are you the one who–” here it comes “–does the PSAs for the library?” That’s a surprise.
“I am.” I tell her a little about my voiceover career, but am more interested in hearing about her.
Time flies, and I realise the moment of truth is stalking us. I decide to ease into my big reveal. I tell Gloria how, as a young boy and even into my teens, I’d dreamed about being an astronaut when I grew up. “But I don’t meet the height requirement.”
“I never realized there was any. But I suppose the conditions are cramped, so if a person is too tall–”
I stand. Gloria’s jaw drops.
“I’m not tall enough to be an astronaut, but I’m waaay too tall to be a little person,” I say, raising my hand and holding my thumb and index finger a smidge apart.
Gloria smiles. “I guess you’re in height limbo.”
“And I can limbo lower than most,” I say. She chuckles.
Gloria rises to go. I look up. She looks down – and says she’d like to get together again.
It’s a cool summer night and there’s a big crowd at Freddie’s birthday bash. Disco music thumps and a spinning mirror ball hangs from the ceiling. The walls are splattered with huge photos of Freddie posing on his Cars Cars Cars lot. He greets me and introduces his wife, Doreen. Before I can even wish him happy birthday, he disappears into the dancing throng.
Doreen and I make small talk for a couple minutes. I expect her to excuse herself and mingle amongst her other guests, but she sticks with me. Every time the guy with a tray of drinks passes, she grabs one and gives it to me.
Before long, the whole room is spinning faster than the mirror ball. I stagger away from Doreen and fall into an easy chair in the corner of the great room. The last thing I remember is Freddie and some woman making out on the couch.
I semi-wake, stretched out on my back, and fumble for the clock on my bed stand. When my fingers touch something soft, and I hear a giggle, I open my eyes wide enough to realise I’m not in my own room. “Where…?”
“I’ve been waiting for you to come to, cutie-pie.”
I’m on a bed with Doreen. She’s lying on her side, arm bent, hand supporting her head. No thumpity music. We’re both clothed. “How’d I get here, Doreen?”
“They say good things come in small packages. James, are you a good thing?”
“Maybe you’re a small package with a big package.” Doreen starts to rub my inner thigh.
“Forget about Freddie. He helped me get you up here. I’m sure he’s in a guest room with one of his Cars Cars Cars women. Freddie and I have an understanding.”
I slide off the bed and take deep breaths till the room stops turning enough for me to walk to the bedroom door.
“Your loss,” Doreen says.
I go down a hallway and am about to the stairway when I bump into Freddie. He’s in his underwear.
“There you are, buddy,” he says in a squeaky whisper. “I need you to do me a favour.”
I just did, I think to myself. “What?”
“I’m having a hard time getting Louise in the mood. I want you to kneel at the side of the bed and talk like that guy with the deep sexy voice.”
“You know. Big guy. Known for his voice. Barry something. Manilow, I think.”
“You mean Barry White? You want me to talk like Barry White to turn on your girlfriend? I’ll pass.” I start down the stairway.
“We’ll let you join in,” Freddie squawks behind me.
I grip the handrail and make my way down the steps and out the front door. The fresh air sobers me up some, but, as I head for my car, I know I’m in no condition to drive and summon a rideshare.
About halfway home, I realise we aren’t far from Gloria’s house. I’m buzzed enough to not think about how late it is and ask the driver let me out.
As I approach Gloria’s place, I see the lights are still on. Before I can ring the doorbell, I notice through a screened, open window that she’s with someone. Someone not her sister. Some guy. Some big guy.
My heart makes the brief elevator ride to my feet. As I turn away, I hear Gloria’s voice rise. “John, we’ve talked this to death. Go. Now.”
Gloria starts to show this John fellow to the door, but he grabs her. When Gloria tries to free herself, he holds her tight. I shove through the window screen and sprawl into the scene. John releases Gloria. “James!” she says.
“You should leave, fella.” He looks even bigger as I stare up from the floor. I get to my feet.
John clenches his fists. I clench mine. Gloria picks up a crystal vase from the coffee table. From the look on her face, it’s clear she isn’t trying to keep the vase from being broken. From the look on John’s face, he’s more frightened of Gloria than me.
John shakes his head and laughs. “You’re dumping me for this guy?” He laughs again. “You’ll be back,” he says to Gloria and heads for the door, running his fingers through my hair on his way out.
Gloria explains she was trying to do the right thing by breaking up with John in person. She apologises and says she’ll never lie to me again. I grin and promise Gloria I’ll never again crash through her screen window.
After a while, I arrange another rideshare, and we go out on the porch to wait. I stand on my tiptoes. As we kiss, Gloria picks me up and swings me gently from side to side. I feel weightless as an astronaut in space.
About The Author
David Henson and his wife have lived in Brussels and Hong Kong and now reside in Peoria, Illinois. His work has been nominated for Best of the Net and Best Small Fictions and has appeared in numerous publications.
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