woman's backbone
[ This image is in the public domain. ]

Myra walks in wearing a backless dress. That is just like her. It makes me think I know her in a deep way that I can say it like that. I keep it to myself, because I suspect she feels it, and that is more romantic than spelling it out. The spelt-out thing is never romantic, unless it’s a comment between lovers who have already established the romantic element. Myra and I have not established the romantic element.

“Myra,” I say. She looks bored, but that is her angle. When she is deep in her sexiness part, she forges ahead with one angle or another, or so I believe.

“Yes,” she says after a long pause.

“I want to ask you a favor. It’s very personal.”

“Favors usually are,” she says.

“I want to pretend that I’m really small and you are a giantess, and then I want to do something with you.”

“Like what, go to a movie?”


Myra is funny but also insightful. She is like a teacher who slips in knowledge in-between being desirable. It makes her more desirable, but also scary, like if she lets you come really close, you’d better be prepared, and if you are not fully taught yet, you may be in the dark as to what prepared entails. I feel like I am pretty much in the dark.

I’m taken with Myra’s backbone, maybe to a degree that exceeds normal standards of appreciation. It sticks out like a toy ladder and I have this wish to climb it. Obviously, I can’t do that at my regular height of five feet, ten inches.


The way I think of Myra is like this: I think of Myra going to the Oscars, or to an Oscars party, but she never does either one. What she does is come over here to my place and order take-out, mostly Thai food. It takes a lot of nerve to ask a woman if she will let you clamber up her backbone. There’s the danger that she won’t take you seriously. And Myra would never consider that your question might be metaphorical, which I’m glad about, because it isn’t. I don’t launch into my request right away, waiting instead to see what will come out of the silence. Something always comes out because silence is not the preferred condition in the world of Myra. She sits down on my only chair, and throws one leg over the other.

“So, what the fuck is it?” she says, sounding impatient, but not impatient as in irritated, more like impatient as in she really wants to know. Her being impatient in that excitable way sends a surge of hope through me. If you could keep a feeling you have in a special safe at the bank, that’s a feeling I would put under lock and key. The only hitch being I still have to answer her, which might produce a whole new feeling right in the middle of me enjoying this one.

“How would it be if I found a mad scientist who was able to shrink me down real small? Would you then let me climb up your backbone and plant my flag in your beautiful auburn hair, when I got all the way the top?”

My heart is beating a mile a minute as I wait for Myra’s answer.

“What’s going to be on the flag?” she says.

“I’m not sure yet,” I say, stunned by her easy-going response, and surprised that it centers on the design of the flag. She continues sitting right where she is, on my only chair, swinging her left leg up and down, something I would never, in my whole lifetime, get tired of watching. I realize I’d better start thinking about the flag design without delay. I’m going to need two important new people in my life, a mad scientist and a graphic artist. I figure it’s too much to hope for both in one person. I’m not delusional.

“Myra, can I ask you another question?”

“Shoot,” she says.

“Do you think I should find the mad scientist first, and then the graphic artist for the flag, or the other way around?”

“Mad scientist first,” she says with the confidence of someone who knows how to get stuff done.

I start to fret, realizing I don’t yet know where I’m going to find a mad scientist, because scientists, even of the mad variety, probably prefer to think of themselves as sane, and you can’t insult the very person you want to temporarily shrink you down real small. I begin biting my nails, a habit I thought I’d kicked months ago.

“Get your hand out of your mouth!” Myra screams. Her rage-filled outbursts have a motivational purpose and I appreciate that. I get my finger out of my mouth double-quick.

“I guess I’m a bit worried about how I’m going to track down a mad scientist. Sometimes I do put the cart before the horse,” I say.

“Just go on the dang internet, you dope,” she says, flashing me an affectionate smile. “And,” she adds, “don’t go hiring no mad scientist who don’t have his picture posted. On that dang internet, you’ll find a mad scientist in a jiffy,” she says.

Myra makes going out-on-a-limb feel like the most natural activity you might ever engage in. If her life hadn’t revolved so much around backless dresses and Thai food take-out, who knows how great her impact on humanity may have been?

“Problem is Myra, I don’t own a computer,” I say.

“Don’t you know nothin’ ’bout life in modern times? Everybody but us two has one. Let’s just find ourselves a person who has one.” she says.

“I don’t know as much as I should about modern times Myra, I guess it’s moving faster than I am.”

“You bet your life it is,” she says. “C’mon, let’s go out and track us down some internet.”

“Okay,” I say, and off we go.


Out in the street I see a lot of people. I see a laundromat. I see a bookstore. I see a bakery with a depressed looking man behind the counter which saddens me because to my mind contentment and baked goods should go hand in hand. I see a shoe repair store which reminds me of the hole I have in my left shoe. I wear wing-tips because they give me the idea that I’m going somewhere in this world, but wing-tips with a hole in them kind of runs counter to that aspiration. That’s a little demoralizing since I like to think of myself as a real aspirant. I think my plan to get shrunk down super-small and then climb up Myra’s back lends weight to the me-as-aspirant argument. I see a massage parlor with an intensely pink sign and black letters spelling out the word: massage. I come somewhat unglued when confronted with a very pink sign. I feel like I just have to enter any place like that. My breath gets short and my heart races, and for those reasons I never do get all the way into places with very pink signs. I’m sure it has a deep meaning that I could explore with a mental health professional. I never seem to have enough money to visit one of those. Perhaps if there was a mental health professional with a very pink sign, I’d be motivated to get a better paying job. Something to think about.

Myra is walking ahead of me at quite a clip. On account of her remaining several steps ahead, I am treated to an ongoing view of Myra’s backbone. I can’t help but picture myself making the slow, savoring ascent I have dreamed of. I have a sudden optimistic feeling, the kind of feeling that makes me think this is what I was born for. I was born to feel just like this I think to myself. It’s like everything is making the kind is sense I always hoped it would. I’m lost in this feeling and have a new spring to my step when Myra says, “let’s go the fuck in here.” It’s a coffee shop with a person and a laptop computer at every table. Myra plops herself down next to a young man, who doesn’t seem to mind, and whispers something in his ear. “Of course, be my guest,” he says. He has a happy look and I feel jealous. I’d like Myra to whisper in my ear sometime. Myra beckons me over and the young man pulls a chair out for me. Myra starts banging away on his keyboard, pulling up everything there is to pull up on mad scientists. She gets excited about this one guy’s website, and points her finger at it in a very vigorous fashion, like she’s hit the jackpot, and wants me to pay attention. This guy sure does have his picture posted. About ninety percent of the page is devoted to pictures of him. Pictures of him in tight jeans and form-fitting tee shirts, pictures of him in his Speedos at the beach, pictures of him on his couch with a big furry dog. I ask Myra where exactly are his mad scientist credentials listed? She points to a small picture of him over in the bottom right-hand side of the screen, where his hair is all gelled up big and crazy. A note below the picture says: “Sometimes I feel like a mad scientist.” My heart sinks. I can tell from the expression on Myra’s face that this guy is top on her list of mad scientists. It’s going to take a real leap of faith on my part to believe this fellow has the skills to shrink me down real small.

“Myra,” I say, “he says he sometimes feels like a mad scientist, which means there may be a lot of other times when he doesn’t, like for instance anytime his hair isn’t gelled up like that.” I’m trying to appeal to her logical side, but I can see from the wild look in her eye that her logical side is on vacation some place far, far away.

“Sweetie,” she says, “sometimes is plenty good enough. We’ll just have to get him in one of his mad scientist moods, and have him get to work right away on sizing you down.”

Myra calling me sweetie overrides any rational thinking on my part. I accept the fact that the mad scientist selection has been made, and feel like I should start keeping my fingers crossed, and maybe purchase a rabbit’s foot for extra luck. The truth is I don’t know where to purchase a lucky rabbit’s foot any more than I knew where to go and fire up some internet.

I begin to get the idea that my goals may exceed my capacity, which is a phrase I first heard at a self-improvement seminar some years back. I’m not sure I’ve undergone much improvement. You never know I suppose. What I do know is that Myra is now fully on board with the plan to have a mad scientist whittle me down real small.

“Let’s go back to your place sweetie and call him,” she says. Myra is talking a lot more than usual. And she has called me sweetie twice. Being called sweetie by Myra is a whole new thing and impossible not to be happy about. More than happy actually; whatever the step is that’s up from happy, that’s what it feels like. On a normal day Myra’s number one interest is when the Thai food take-out is going to arrive. I feel emboldened enough to reach for her hand the way a person would when he’s letting his girlfriend know he’s ready to head home and get that mad scientist on the line.

She lets me take her hand which is a huge deal because I’ve never touched any part of her before, and she’s not my girlfriend. She winks at me which has an impact on my body that I don’t want to talk about, and then lets go of my hand. I suppose I should be disappointed, but given that she has called me sweetie twice, taken my hand for a minute, and winked at me makes it awful hard to feel let down. Also, what’s going on with my body does not lend itself to sadness. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

“I’m ready,” I say, by which I mean all sorts of things, but I’m guessing Myra is only clued into the one meaning: that I’m ready to head back to the apartment. For now, I’ll settle for that I tell myself because one step at a time is progress’s natural path.


Myra and I walk inside my apartment together. She has the mad scientist’s name and phone number written on a napkin she took from the coffee shop.

“Call him,”  she says excitedly.

“Okay,” I say, and dial his number hoping for voice mail and not an actual live unlikely-to-be-authentic mad scientist.

“Hello,” a deeply masculine voice on the other end says. I feel stumped. I’m pretty sure it’s not a good idea to start right off asking him if he can shrink me, because that might sound like a crank call, and he might hang up. That would take the twinkle right out of Myra’s eye. It’s time for me to be imaginative, use my wits, and reel this ‘sometimes’ mad scientist in.

“Hello, sir,” I say, wanting to sound strictly above board, “there’s a beautiful woman in my life who’d like to meet that part of you that’s skilled in mad science.” I congratulate myself on the deft way I put it, and can tell from his pause, and the sound of his breath that I have his attention.

“Put her on,” he says. I don’t care for the firm, determined way he says it.

“He wants to talk with you,” I say. Myra leaps out of her chair and I hand her the phone. She’s on the phone a long time, but all she says, with some frequency, is: “Yes, I’d like that.” The whole rest of the time she’s just listening. He must be quite a talker. After what feels like a half an hour or more, she hands me the phone. In his intensely masculine voice, he asks me for my address. I give it to him.


He’s here in a flash like he lives next door or something. I look up at him which I kind of have to do given how tall he is. He stands in the middle of a room I’d always thought of as mine. Until now. He looks at Myra intently like it’s her he’s supposed to perform his mad science on. I know I need to set him straight in a hurry so I tell him I’m the one in need of his services. He looks at me like I’m crazy and I haven’t even told him yet what services I’d like him to perform.

“It might seem unusual to you,” I say, as he stares at me like I’m a bug who makes a lot of noise, “but I want you to put your talents toward shrinking me down a whole lot, so I can climb up Myra’s backbone.” I’m expecting him to laugh, or maybe swat at me like you would at a noisy bug, but he doesn’t.

“She does have an intoxicating backbone,” he says, with the air of someone who has studied these things. Suddenly and quite to my surprise I feel like we’re kindred spirits.

“Yes, she does,” I say.

“How small do we need to get you?” He asks with utmost sincerity.

“About like a toy soldier,” I say.

“Used to love my toy soldiers,” he says.

Myra swings her right foot up and down, gazing at the tall, handsome mad scientist like he’s a dream come true. I feel jealous but I’d be feeling a lot worse if he hadn’t turned out to be somewhat of a kindred spirit.

“Well,” he says, “I think what we need here, in order to make this shrinking a reality, is a meeting of hearts and minds.” I’m struck by the poetic nature of his proposed solution although I’m not sure it falls under the heading of science as we usually understand it. And I’m not sure how hearts and minds meet, or exactly whose hearts and minds he’s referring to. I have an inkling that he’s including his. Myra’s beaming like a ship she’s been waiting for all her life has just come in. The handsome mad scientist takes mine and Myra’s hand with the graceful ease of a gentle giant and leads us into my bedroom. I’m feeling shy for two reasons. The first reason being that my bedroom is full of clutter, and the second being that I have never been taken into my bedroom in a party of three, or a party of two for that matter.

“I want everyone to feel at ease,” the mad scientist says, “and don’t worry, this is not going in a sexual direction,” he adds. Myra’s face drops.


Before long I am very small and taking my first tentative steps up Myra’s backbone. The mad scientist has hold of her hand, perhaps to reassure her that my ascent will go well. She likes that, and kind of tugs on his hand, pulling it, it seems to me, toward her breast. He passes me a piece of paper in the shape of a flag. I recognize it as the Thai food take-out menu. I’m relieved. We never did need a graphic artist. We are the perfect team. I will reach the top.