The Shrinking Husband by Dara Elerath

My husband is shrinking. He seems to get smaller each day and we both pretend not to notice, for to notice would be to draw attention to the fact that he may grow too small to make love to me, then I will be forced to carry him like a child. No one wants to carry their husband like a child. I keep trying to understand what’s happening without directly asking. I skirt the question as I can see he feels ashamed. He looks down at the table during dinner and grimaces when I touch his shoulder; it swims, now, in his formerly fitted shirts. I want to turn him over like a doll and tell him I’ll still care for him, but he covers himself with a blanket. Sometimes, covered this way, I mistake him for a homeless man and hand him a dollar, then I watch him shrink before my very eyes with embarrassment. He is starting to resemble the leaves on the sidewalk: shriveled and riven by cold. When I hold his hand within my own it feels as if it might crumble. I wonder, idly, if there is room to place him in the glass cabinet that holds my mother’s ceramic collectables. His penis is now the size of a grain of rice, and I smile slightly thinking of the many times he used it to please other women behind my back. He always used to complain I was harsh—bitchy—as he put it, because of the times I’d bemoaned his womanizing and drinking, but now I know he will never complain again. Today, it is raining outside and were I to put him in the rain he would drown, but I don’t do this because, at heart, I am a kind woman; compassionate, sensitive, forgiving. I decide I’ll wait for him to shrink down to the size of a microbe, and on that day I’ll place him in the tear that will slip down my cheek so he can swim in the salty liquid he was once so capable of eliciting. When he swims in my tear it will be glorious. I’ll congratulate him on each lap he makes, I’ll give him a tiny medallion that says winner on it so that he’ll be able to read it once or twice before his eyes grow so small they vanish and the need to read vanishes too. Then the little medallion will cease to be needed and I’ll flick it off my finger easily, like a flake of ash or a speck of dust.

Dara Yen Elerath is the author of Dark Braid (BkMk Press), which won the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry. She is the recipient of the 2021 Bath Flash Fiction Award and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her work has appeared in journals such as The American Poetry Review, AGNI, Boulevard, Plume, Poet Lore, and The Los Angeles Review, among others. She received her MFA in poetry from the Institute of American Indian Arts and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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