Life on Short Notice


Oh, dear god, what have I done now?

Mom pointed to Marcy -- the oldest of my younger sisters by like a minute -- who smiled, moved forward half a step, and her face split into the biggest grin. "You're dating Gracie Carmichael? To the prom? Oh. My. Goody-goodness! Have you lost your mind? Do you not know what our night prom is on?"

You know come to think of it ... "No, not really."

"April first!" Darcy, the youngest of the Everett clan was about to pee herself with suppressed laughter as she all but screamed this at me. "Oh, she is so playing you, brother. This has got to be some kind of April Fool's joke on you, big brother."

Well, just fuck me to tears, Agnes. Fuck me to tears. My mind running off in a dozen directions at once, I absently picked up the little dog puppet and began to fiddle with it.

"Gordon?" I looked over at my mom. She was giving me a sympathetic eye. "Did it seem genuine when she asked? Could it be a joke?"

I looked down into the puppets bright eyes. Those fake eyes have attracted so many innocent children's attention. Just stupid pieces of glass with nothing behind them but the tips of my fingers making them appear to look at the kids. In those empty orbs, I saw it all: me, the patsy, dragged back to the place I had spent so much time chained to, then made fun of. I'm sure for most people high school is a time of personal challenges. Making new friends. Self-development. Dates ...

Growth spurts.

"Girls. Go get a cookie or a pretzel." Mom's voice broke no argument. My sisters vanished like smoke. "Gordon?"

"I don't know. She was nice the other day when she dropped off some paperwork then she called me asking if I would be her date to the prom. I tried to say no, but she overran me and wouldn't hear me saying no."

Mom sighed and shook her head. "So it could be a joke. Lovely. Gordon, what's the first rule?"

Ah, yeah ... the rules.

Back in the days of yesteryear, when I was still a wee tyke, the pediatrician confirmed what my mother already knew. I had achondroplasia, just like she did. My mom had struggled through her whole life with this and she knew the world I was going to have to grow up in was no better than it had been when she was ... well, little. So she gave me a set of rules to live by. Little person rules. And the number one was--

"Don't do things to make them laugh at you."

"Exactly. We may have to spend our lives with our faces in other people's butts, but we are not the butt of their jokes. Now, I want you to call this girl and tell her you can't make it."

I shook my head. "That will cost me a photography commission. Mrs. Hacket wants me to come help with the prom photos. She said they don't have anyone in the photo club yet with my skill. I'm supposed to direct four other photographers. Three are freshmen! Hell, even the sophomore hardly knows which direction to point the camera. I can add these to my portfolio, and I'm going to get tons of offers for private pictures after the photos hit the yearbook."

Mom was shaking her head from second one of my argument.

"This girl is going to do something, something you're not expecting, and you will be the laughingstock of ... a fucking high school, for Christ sake."

Oh shit, Mom's cussing. So I've reached a new standard of personal stupidity achievement. And it's only Tuesday. Imagine what I can manage between now and Friday if I'm already at this level.

"Marcy and Darcy will be going to that school for three more years." Mom pointed between her and me. "You think we had it tough, image what it's like to be a twin ... girl ... in high school. Every boy they date will have the sick thought -- or the sicker peer pressure -- of trying to talk your sisters into a twins ménage à trois."


She stopped and looked at me. "If you were dating a girl with an identical twin ...."

After a second, I nodded. "Yeah. Point made."

"So what are you going to do?"

"I don't know yet," I said honestly. "I've got a week to figure it out; I'll come up with something."

My mom stood there just looking at me as if she expected me to get a sudden inspiration and lay out some lengthy and beautiful plan. Then she gave me a disapproving look, a shake of her head, and a sigh that was soul deep. "I guess you want me to get your tux cleaned? Shall I get them to sew polka dots on it while they have it?"

I watched her stalk off into the mall, big people parting from in front of her like the Red Sea before Moses.

Sitting down in my studio chair, I wished I still had my hangover. At least then I would have an excuse for feeling this shitty.

"Excuse me? I would like to try a second pose, if we could."

Looking up, I saw that Timmy's mom was back with the little stinker. The brat looked at me and instantly started to cry.

I felt exactly the same.

** ** ** ** ** ** **

The more I thought about it there was no way I could head this "date" off without giving up my photo shoot commission. I had to go to the prom. Sure, the money I was going to make, the tons of photos to pad out my portfolio, together were more than worth the night in a tux. Not to mention the future contracts. Years and years' worth of opportunities and money was at stake.

Just what Gracie had in mind, I didn't know. Was she going to do something like dump a bucket of blood one me?

"They're all going to laugh at you; they're all going to laugh at you."

Going to be needing some mad psychic powers to take care it things if that happens. Humm.

Or maybe this was going to be the dwarf piñata gag. A bunch of big bruiser guys would come out of nowhere, pick me up, hang me off a hook, and hoist me up in the air. Leaving me up there my little legs running but going nowhere. Flying Greatest American Hero style above the gym, as they swing me back and forth.

Other terrible things ran through my mind as I sat there drinking my way through my beer supply. Spraying me with glue and covering me with fur to make me an Ewok. Or maybe I would get presented with a huge lollipop while the whole school flash mob sings "We represent the Lollipop Guild."

Drunk, I leaned my head back on the couch. "So what are we going to Gordon?" I rolled the cold glass on my forehead. "I could fight 'em with conventional weapons. But that could take years and cost millions of little people lives. And then, of course, I would go down in history as the man responsible for Willow Two not being made because they couldn't find enough little people. Yeah, it's that terrible photographer Gordon Everett's fault; let's get him. Ahhh!"

Fuck, my beer is empty. Must solve this shit.

Sliding off the couch, I stumbled my way to the kitchen wishing I could walk straight. It was one of those times when the whole world seemed against me. The whole weight of it was upon my shoulders. Opening the fridge, I stood there relishing the wash of cold air. I leaned my head against the inside, the cool plastic against my skin. Pulling out another beer, I turned and slid my back down the face of the refrigerator and sat my fat butt on the floor. The cold air was greater there, the pale light was softer, filtered through my groceries. Twisting off the top I thumbed it to roll across the floor in the general direction of the trash.

"Why?" I took a cold, bitter sip. "Why does it always have to be a joke? What the hell did I ever do that everything has to be a joke on me?" Chilled suddenly, I reached over and shut the door next to me, killing the light. "I don't try to be some damn comedian. I don't represent the lollipop guild; I don't know Santa Claus personally. Do I hang out with Keebler in a damn tree and make cookies all day? Hell no! Do I shit skittles? No. And I sure as fuck don't wear white overalls and work in a fucking chocolate factory. So why fucking me? Huh, God? I'm asking you a fucking question already?"

Sitting there on the cold kitchen vinyl tile, knowing that unless I was willing to hurt my own possible future I was going to have to take this damn practical joke that Gracie "fucking" Carmichaels thought up. Take it in the damn teeth. Just because ... just because ...

"Because I'm a fucking midget? Is that it God? I'm your great Joke? What? Do you want me to be like Wee Man from Jackass? Go around kicking myself in the head so others can laugh at me? Well, fuck you." I drained half the bottle, wiping foam off my mouth. "Just fuck you already."

Sitting there on the floor, a drunk little man, the butt of God's joke yet again. My eyes finding all the things I have to make life normal. Grabbers to help me get things I can't reach. Stepstools and stepladders so I can reach the top of the counter. Stepladders. So many damn stepladders.

My mind went back to last year, my own prom. I didn't bother to try and take a date. I spent the whole time running around with my Nikon camera, snapping pictures of all the guys in their rented tuxes, all the girls in their fancy dresses. The rented caterers. The rented limos. That's what prom is, a rented bit of life, and the paycheck comes due.

"I'm fucking graduated! Why the hell is prom any kind of worry for me? I'm an adult with my own place; why is this high school shit still doggin' me? Just call the bitch and tell her you're not going. Let her fall flat on her face trying to get her yet another date here two days before prom. Wouldn't that be the joke? Ha, Ha. It's all on you then, Gracie. Find you some other sucker. Some other --" Sip. "course, you're going to be expected to put out if you do that."

That hit me. Was that it? Was I a prom date she wouldn't be expected to have sex with? Maybe this wasn't a joke so much as I was a safe date, chosen to save her the need to spread her legs. To give her an excuse why she didn't act the part of prom date and blow her boyfriend in the back of that rented limo.

With my head propped there against the fridge, I slowly drifted to sleep, my mind playing over scenario after scenario as to why I was being picked on. At the last, I got to my feet and walked the short distance back to the couch and passed out there.

** ** ** ** ** ** **


Christ why did I give my mom a key?

"Drinking, Gordon? Drinking!"

Sitting up, I held my head and rode the nausea waves till they stopped. Opening my eyes, I saw my mom in all her demon-imp-from-hell glory. She looked at me for a moment, then huffed and stalked off to the kitchen. She came back with a bottle of water and thrust it at me. "Here. I swear, and I thought your father was bad about being an idiot with alcohol. How much did you drink? Never mind, I don't want to know. You do know you're underage, right?? Who's buying you alcohol?"

"I refuse to answer that on the grounds you will kill someone I know." Oh, how terrible water tastes when it rehydrates the swamp muck in your mouth.

"I can make some guesses."

"Can you make them quietly?" I muttered under my breath. Unfortunately, not quietly enough.


Oh, crap ... lurching off the couch, I stumbled past her and ran to the bathroom. Grabbing the hanging shower nozzle, I turned on the water and ran it over the back of my head not caring that it was ice cold. The pounding thunder of my head didn't still for several minutes. Finally, about the time the water began to warm, I felt a little better and shut off the shower. Drying my hair on a towel, I stood for a moment then with a sigh went back out to face my mother.

She was in the kitchen.

I stopped and stood there simply watching her, realizing that for as much as I loved my new independence here, I missed her. Her half-awake grumpiness as she hustled people off to work or school. The way she would hook a step stool with a toe and drag it around the kitchen to let her get to what she needed that was too high for her to reach. That slight prancing limp in her walk due to the fact one of her legs wasn't as straight as the other. Drying my palms on the towel around my neck, I realized that I was not hampered like that because of her. She had seen to it the doctors fixed mine with leg braces that I don't remember, surgeries I don't remember. She had also been the one to teach me so much about being a little person. Things I would have had to figure out on my own if not for her.

The way she had.


Mom took down a pan that a few weeks ago was one of her old ones and now was mine. "Don't apologize to me. I'm not the one whose life you're trying to wreck." She began to whip together a breakfast from my meager groceries. "A refrigerator full of beer and condiments. Really?"

"I've been eating out."

"Wasting money hand over fist, you mean. I taught you better." Mom flipped the eggs in the skillet, even though she knows I like them sunny side up. Old argument, which I lost, like most with her. "You can work yourself to death doing something you hate and live like King Midas, while trying to get to that dream job you want. Or, you can scrimp and save and, yeah, maybe not have takeout every night but you will have the money for the new software, or the new camera, or for the plane ticket to some distant place, where you might just take the photo that makes you a well-known photographer. Your choice. Order up!"

Wincing at her Waffle House scream, I took the plate. Two slightly over-cooked eggs and toast with butter.

Humph, I had bread? And when the hell did I get eggs? Butter?

Mom brought me some groceries.

Eating breakfast, feeling even more the little boy rather than the wise and self-confident adult I'm striving for at this age. I looked up when she sat down opposite of me. My eyebrow went up at the Hardees bag she plopped down and began to open. My mouth dropped open at the hypocrisy as she pulled out a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit and some hash rounds.

Looking at me, she shrugged at my expression. "What? I have the job I want. Domestic goddess. I take care of my children, clean my house, and make sure my beloved husband always has a hot meal and a beer when he walks in the door after a long day of earning me money to spend." She smirked her lips around her straw as she took a sip of her diet soda. "And I put out like a porn star so he has no complaints when I indulge myself."


"What? You're an adult now, Gordon. Knowing that your mother still has a sex life is a fact you just have to learn to live with." To took a bite of biscuit. Soft, buttery hot, fast-food-bought biscuit that made my rapidly getting cold toast seem inadequate. "I brought you your tux. Got a plan yet?"

"Mom, I'm not even sure this is an April Fool's joke. And, if it is, until I know what she has in mind, I can't do much to plan for it. I've got to be there to take the pictures, so I can't get out of going."

Mom sighed and shook her head. "Honestly, you would stick your head into a lion's mouth to take a good picture. Have you given thought to the fact that her prank could cost you work? Being seen by people as a joke is hardly going to be good for your business."

Pushing a forkful of egg on top of a bite of toast, I nodded. "Yeah, I've thought about that."


With a shrug and a shake of my head, I finished the last bite.

My mom sat there looking at me, just looking. "The days of me calling the mothers of people that are bullying you are long over, you know that right?"

"I know. I've got this."

"You've got this? Well alright, since you've got this, I'll let you handle it." She brushed the crumbs of her biscuit off the table onto the floor, wadded up the wrapper and dropped it, and the bag, right next to the crumbs. Then she hopped off the chair. "You need to clean your kitchen. Then maybe go get some groceries, or not. I guess I can't tell you what to do. You're your own man now it seems."

"Mom. Mom, wait!"

I followed her to the front door and caught up to her right by the couch. My legs are a little longer. My tux, I saw in passing, was in a plastic dry cleaner's bag draped over the nearby recliner chair.

"What?" She turned to look at me, disappointment making her blue eyes vivid.

From my earliest days when I began to understand that I was never going to be as tall as some people, or be able to do the things that they can do, I tried to not be too bitter. That attitude was mostly her doing. But there was one thing, and it's a simple one, that I resent the hell out of. I can't put my arms all the way around my mother when I hug her. Dwarfism sucks when it comes to hugs.

She was surprised at first but then I felt her arms on my side tighten. It was as close as we could come but to us, it had to be enough.

"I'll be okay."

Her voice was thick with emotion. "I know you're going to be okay. That you can take care of yourself and that you have to fall down to learn. But damn it." She poked me in the ribs to make me turn her loose. "I guess I still can't see you with a skinned knee and not want to fix it."

Smiling, I leaned my forehead in against hers. Something I did as a little kid. "Thanks."

"Go on. Enjoy your prom date." She gave me a smirk. "Maybe get laid."

I shook my head. "I'll try." This new adult mom/ son relationship was going to take some getting used to. Being a gentleman, I opened the door for her. She took a few steps out the door then turned on me suddenly pointing her finger.

"And wear a damn condom. I'm not ready to be a grandmother. Or talk her into anal or something."

Jaw on the floor, I watched my mom head to her car. I was still in shock when the blue Fiat Spider was out the parking lot.

Yeah. A lot of getting used to.

** ** ** ** ** ** **

I look good in my tux.

Given what it cost my parents to have one custom tailored for me, and to my mom's thoughtful practicality, it's really more of a classical suit than a prom style tux. Black -- so I can wear it to funerals -- with a simple white shirt and a sexy black silk tie, it's the add-ons that make it cool. Silver cufflinks, with an inset fake diamond and then a real diamond stud tie pin. It has a waistcoat-styled vest, with a silvery fleur-de-lis patterned back, so that even when I don't have the coat on I look good.

That morning I dragged myself across the mall --yes I had to work at the mall. I'm still an adult with bills to pay -- to the Coiffeur Embassy and had myself their French Ambassador Cut and Shave. I stepped out not only looking c'est magnifique but, due to the lotions and aftershaves they used, I smelled like I had spent the day at a New Orleans whorehouse.

I got a lot of attention after lunch, let me tell you. Even some of it was female.

Leaving early, I rode home with butterflies starting. Honestly, I had them. I mean I didn't take a date to my own prom so I've never had a ... "date to the prom" ... to be nervous about. So, I guess I can be forgiven.

My hair was as perfect as it was likely to get, so I did a quick clean up with a wet washcloth and a fluffy towel. A shower wasn't really needed, I took one this morning. Just a wash of pits and junk to make sure I didn't reek. A splash of my own cologne and a bit more deodorant to be sure I didn't sweat my way to a funky ass. Then I tackled getting into the tux.

Now, this is not an easy task when your arms are as long as mine. I mean I'm not, thankfully, one of those little people with T-Rex arms, but my arms are not completely proportional to my body. It's one of those things I needed to get used to as I grew up, and I have. I cope with day to day things just fine, but a tux ... well, that's a bit much. So, I was dressed and grabbing the camera bag with my Nikon when there came a knock at the door.

Have I mentioned how hot Gracie Carmichaels looks? Admittedly she is not as developed or matured into her looks as her mother, but still. There's a freshness and innocence about her that her mom lacks. Not that the lack of it in her mom is a turn off at all. In fact....

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