The Dreaded Fugu Fish
by Kate LeDew

Torent was two inches shorter today than he had been yesterday. Feet took longer to hit the floor by his bed. Couldn’t see the end of his tie in the hall mirror. Pant cuffs sat on his shoes like a hick in a deer stand. Torent’s wife didn’t balance on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. Didn’t notice. Torent noticed. It wasn’t much. Just enough.

The brake pedal of the company car was farther away, floor mat looking up like a confederate. His boss clapped him on the back with ease, and Torent lost the daily basketball game on a missed lay-up.

Torent took the long way home and squinted under the visor. His wife passed the pepper and Torent’s sleeve streaked a crease in the mashed potatoes. When he walked up the stairs he tripped more than twice, muttering silently, Torent’s wife kneading the line between her brows.

Torent’s wife believed she was less beautiful than necessary and never forgot her mother’s white teeth and slender fingers, perfect and small next to hers. Torent’s wife hid her hands in her pockets and only smiled when someone else did first.

Torent kicked at the tucked sheets, rolling over in the new room at his feet. He wondered if he didn’t need to see somebody.

The next morning Torent was four inches shorter than he had been the day before yesterday. Shirt draped over shoulders like false lashes on a lid. Mouth drooped, throat crunching under his tongue.  Torent faltered at the bathtub, knees skimming the stop. It was his calves getting shorter, he decided. And his forearms. Torso. It was only that.

Torent’s wife edged her way around him at the breakfast table, his eyes small and wandering.  Everything was different four inches down. Torent’s wife hid her hands under slim thighs and waited for him to smile.

His boss spoke to him too long, shook his hand too long, smiled too long. Coworkers eased whispering over unfair job promotions, more certain of being heard.

Torent wanted to enjoy his new office, but was claustrophobic in its emptiness. He curled up under the desk more comfortably than he would have liked and left before lunch.

His arms ached from stretching to grip the wheel and his neck craned dangerously, a slinky without the bounce.

Torent’s wife grasped him tightly and looked into his face from flat feet. He didn’t speak the rest of the night, staring at his hands and knees. He wasn’t sure he could bear a tomorrow.

Torent’s tomorrows came and went and whispers became fact. His boss stopped noticing him, his position was conspicuously unimportant, and the floor under his desk warmer than the chair above.

Torent’s wife stared at him with lighthouse eyes, moved the salt and pepper before he asked. His company parking space was in a competitive pool, along with fifty dollars and free lunch with coupon. The car sat motionless, an extension of the house, shiny and clean, tires crisp as cut apple as Torent faded away like a smile falling from a face.

When his wife woke up, she followed her eyes from room to room, repeating his name softly. She cried the rest of the day and returned no calls.

When asked, she said Torent forgot how to love her and found a girl of compromised morals with big white teeth and hands small enough to hold tightly.



Jackie Rhoadesshapeimage_8_link_0