All things counter, original, spare and strange in Khujand, Tajikistan


Dialogue may be my favorite part of prose.  That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m good at it, but I wrote this story consisting entirely of dialogue.  I think I’m happy with it.  Here goes:

The Little People


Who are you?


Who am I?

The Fairy Prince.

What is our relationship?

I guess we’ll have to find out.

Are we playing Dungeons and Dragons?

What do you think?

I don’t know—look out!!

It’s coming, draw your sword!

What?  I don’t—what is this? (I don’t know what to do…if I brace myself and jab it in the throat…)

Shlurkt, snap!

Run!  The hilt broke!

Graowl, grunt, gurgle, shlump.

It’s dead.

Ugh, let’s get out of here.

It’s just an old rat’s carcass, you baby.

Why are we so small?

Oh, don’t ask that question.

Why?  Tell me.

Well…I think we might be being punished.


I don’t know.  It’s just a theory.

Why are you called Thumbelina? 

It’s a story.  I like stories.


Because stories are big.


I think I know what we should do.


We should tell a story.  I’ll start: “Two young people had just met, a ravishingly beautiful young woman named Thumbelina, and a somewhat dense young man known as the Fairy Prince–”


You called me that.

Ahem.  “A somewhat dense young man known as the Fairy Prince.  As I was saying, they had just met when a savage monster burst out from underneath the cupboard.”  Now your turn.


I don’t want to.

You have to.

Why?  I’d rather forget about the whole thing.

That’s stupid.  If you forget about it it’s like it never happened and you’re just the same as before, without blood on your sword.


Maybe I don’t want blood on my sword.


Well, if you forget, how will you know how to change things the next time?


Ok.  Here goes: “The beast charged and the Fairy Prince pointed his sword at its throat.  He braced the sword against the ground, but the beast came so fast he snapped the blade from the hilt.  The beast screamed and gurgled in pain, and the Fairy Prince was sorry he’d stabbed it.  Finally it died, but that didn’t help.  The end.”  Is that good enough?


I think so.


Look!  The rat’s gotten smaller!


No.  We’ve gotten bigger.  I told you it would work.


We still seem very small.


But look, now we’re big enough to climb up the handles on the desk over there.  We can get off the floor away from the rats.


Hey look!  Fountain pens!




I love fountain pens.  I have very good handwriting.


You are a talented Fairy Prince!


Should we write something?


Here, let’s drag over this legal pad.


What should we write?


Perhaps we should write down our story.


Ok.  But it should be bigger this time, since we are bigger.


The story should be longer? 


No, not longer.  Bigger somehow.  It’s hard to explain.  Help me hold the top of the pen and I’ll guide the tip.


Once upon a time, a Fairy Prince and a young fairy woman named Thumbelina were condemned to live in very small bodies because they had always been selfish and never thought about anyone other than themselves.  They had just met each other in their new small bodies when a rat attacked them.  The Fairy Prince didn’t know what to do.  It’s easy to avoid fighting when all you care about is yourself.  He could have just run, but Thumbelina wasn’t moving so he had to do something or she would be eaten.  He knew he didn’t have the strength to stop the rat himself, so he braced his sword’s hilt against the ground and prayed it would stop the rat.  The blade broke off and stuck in the rat’s throat, killing it eventually.  The Fairy Prince felt remorse for the first time, but there was nothing he could have done.  As he and Thumbelina told the battle story he realized that sometimes you have to do things you’d rather not do because that’s the way the world is. 


Now it’s your turn.


When Thumbelina heard the Fairy Prince recite the story of his battle with the rat, she began to understand why he would rather have just run.  It would have been easier, less complicated.  As this realization filled her, she began to grow.  It was as if she’d received a bit of him and he’d received a bit of her, but somehow neither had lost anything.  They were bigger.  They decided to climb up a nearby desk to escape the rats and there they found pens and paper.  Again they recorded their adventures so they wouldn’t forget.


Why aren’t you helping me hold the pen anymore?


Because you can do it by yourself now.


Hooray!  We’ve gotten bigger again!


But are we as big as we’re supposed to be yet?


I don’t think so, but we’re definitely too big to be sitting on this desk.  Let’s get down and tell someone our story.


Who shall we tell?


I know!  Mother!  Mother!  Where are you?


We have a mother?


I think so.  Oh, there she is!  Mother, listen to this!  We just wrote a story.


Once upon a time…


Oh my children.  Look at you.  You’ve grown up!  What will you do now?


Well, now that we’re big we can do anything.  Can’t we? 


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