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By David Somerville
“Have you got anything about giants?”
“Giants, huh?” the librarian closed the copy of Gulliver’s Travels he’d been perusing and examined the boy over smudged glasses. “What kind of giants?”
“Oh, I’ll read anything with giants in it,” the boy assured him, right toe kicking the heel of his left foot. “Mean giants, nice giants, smart, stupid, I don’t care. I just like a good giant story.”
“Follow me, then,” said the librarian, rising to his full height of five-foot three and edging out from behind the desk. “We should have something in fantasy.”
The boy followed eagerly, but with some hesitation. “I’ve pretty well cleaned through there,” he said. “I come here a lot.”
“I’ve noticed. Often you’re the only one in here.”
“I like reading,” said the boy. “Especially about the giants.”
The librarian cast a glance over his shoulder at the boy. He wasn’t tall or short – about normal for his age, thought the old man. He was heavy, though, and a thick mop of hair flopped around his face in a haircut that made him look like a round-bellied mushroom. “Why giants, in particular?”
“Oh, I dunno,” said the boy, bobbing behind in a clumsy, somewhat off-balance way. “They’re big, and they can be funny or scary or just normal.” He paused, and then concluded, “It’s the normal giants I like the best.”
“Like stories where kids get turned into giants, but they’re just kids, and they’re just trying to figure out what to do now that they’re so big. And their friends try and hide ‘em sometimes, or sometimes they’ll go after the bullies, or even just wander around and do nothing, just get looked at and look in the top windows of buildings right at their nose-level.” He raised a flat hand to his nose. “I like those stories.”
“You like the stories where the giants wander around and don’t do anything?”
“Sometimes,” said the boy. “I mean, if you got turned into a giant, what would you do?”
The librarian chuckled, “I couldn’t say.”
“No,” said the boy, stopping. The librarian turned and looked at him. “Really,” said the boy, mouth set in a line, his tone urgent, insistent. “What would you do if you got turned into a giant, right here in your real life, today?”
The librarian thought about it. He was an ordinary man with an ordinary life, a creature of habit and simple pleasures. Going from bed to breakfast to working among books to relaxing among books and back to bed was all he had aspired to since he was a young man. He couldn’t remember what he had aspired to as a child. He lived alone in an apartment building next to a 7–11.
He looked down. The boy was still waiting for his answer.
“I’d hide until it was night,” he finally said, “because I wouldn’t want to make a scene. And then I’d go to the house where the woman who almost married me lives. I’d find a way to call her first, so I wouldn’t scare her out of her mind. But then I’d sit outside her house, and hold her in my hand, and we’d talk until I understood why she left me alone.”
He was surprised to hear these words, these thoughts he’d never allowed himself to think, coming off his tongue — especially to a mushroom-haired ten year-old in the fantasy section of the library where he worked. He coughed, embarrassed, but the boy nodded knowingly.
“Giant stories are lonely stories,” he said.
“What would you do, if you were to turn into a giant?” asked the old man.
A flock of emotions flew across the boy’s face, a pack of secrets in his eyes. “I don’t know,” he said. “Nothing much.”
David Somerville is a living, breathing person who writes, thinks, draws, and listens to music. He is currently the Design Director at Government Executive Media Group in Washington, DC, and can be found and followed at smrvl.com and @smrvl. More of his fiction can be read at scribd.com/smrvl.