Tara Isabel Zambrano

Hum

The first time the tall girl brings a dwarf home, she’s unsure. But the purpose is to get away from exotic, immaculate men and ordinary routine of sex and breakups. She is an executive in an Ad agency, kohl lined eyes and shoulder length hair, has a taste for fancy things. Together, the girl and the dwarf walk hand in hand into her living room― bold and messy with high ceilings, heaps of leggings and flared tops on the leather couch, mismatched socks and size nine shoes scattered on the hardwood floor. 

The bed is too big for the dwarf so the girl places pillows at the periphery. He talks dirty in his thick, deep voice, his tongue occasionally swirling around her neck, his head settled between her breasts like a new planet, listening to a humming inside her body: louder, ecstatic. She grows wet as he circles his middle finger around her navel; calls it the center of the universe. When he lifts his face to watch her, she gasps and pushes his head back as if she’s breathing through his mouth between her legs. She wakes up hungry―for him, for food.

The dwarf has ocean-sized, brown eyes, his disheveled hair makes him look like a ball of storm moving from one room to another. The girl tells him about her recent romances― men who complimented on her athletic body, later complained about her long legs and short torso. Men, who straightened and winced, talked about sports, technology, politics, their voice hammer against steel. Men, who like sand, kept shifting under her shadow. The dwarf leans forward as he rubs oil on her back, his nose a massage stone, his prickly bread a loofah. “All you need is a little unconditional love,” he whispers, and climbs on her. They press their bodies― he tugs her earlobes, she pinches his nose, they sleep tangled up like necklaces in a jewelry box. In the following weeks, the girl’s body grows and gleams; her skin bright and hypnotic, soaking sunrays, the humming inside her―a flap of butterfly wings.

Months fall and the girl delivers a star with a blazing tail, its edges sharper and brighter than anything she’d ever seen. Together, they plant it in their yard. The girl goes to work, and the dwarf sweeps the floor and scrubs the sinks, folds the laundry, waters the star.

Over years more stars are born, all rooted outside, some died young from fast combustion, others shimmering with kindling warmth, tiny darts of lightning around them― a twenty-four-hour glow.

While they are happy in a dreamlike life, the girl realizes the dwarf has leaked into her ―her hair wiry and unruly, her voice a deep rumble. He has faded― his clothes two sizes too big for him. A shudder runs the length of her enormous body. Catching her breath, she asks what’s happening to them. “My love we’re becoming one. Everything is connected to everything,” the dwarf answers, his sound a miniscule noise. She smiles thinking he still has a way with words. Until she can’t move and swoons in her bed all day, calling his name, a piercing sad hum picking up inside her. Now a wandering speck because he has nothing left to offer, the dwarf stands at her eyelash or hangs by the long nail of her index finger, holding up to the pull of life, trying to find meaning in their perfect companionship. Sometimes he lets go to float in the space, unleashed. Later, tired and bored, he curls inside the well of her naval or edges himself into her dimpled cheek―eyeing the glistening orbs outside, his heart a blank horizon― empty of stars.

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Tara Isabel Zambrano moved from India to the United States two decades ago. She works as a semiconductor chip designer and lives in Texas with her husband and two kids.

Her work has won the first prize in The Southampton Review Short Short Fiction Contest 2019, been a Finalist in Bat City Review 2018 Short Prose Contest and Mid-American Review Fineline 2018 Contest. A list of her published stories can be found at https://taraisabelzambrano.wixsite.com/website