Opal was certain of one thing — she was shrinking. She wobbled over to the wall and leaned her back against it, touching her finger to the wall right above the top of her silver-white head. She turned around to look. “Sure enough, one notch down from Monday’s mark.” She took the pencil out from her apron pocket, made a new notch and wrote Tuesday.
Just as she dropped the pencil back into her pocket, Jules came in, the screen door slamming behind him. Opal jumped. After 42 years, Jules could still unnerve her. “Another inch lost. At this rate, I’ll be gone before you know it!”
Jules squeezed her shoulders.“Nonsense, Opal. Whoever heard of someone shrinking down to nothing. It’s normal to lose a few inches at your age. After 42 years, Jules also always made her feel better, sort-of.
Opal went back to fixing supper. Although when she went to eat it, the fork seemed bigger in her hand. And that night, the bed seemed bigger to her.
Jules snored as Opal lay sleepless in the bed, eyes wide open. She tried to remember just when the shrinking had begun. At first she hadn’t noticed it at all. Osteoporosis the doctor had said. You’ll notice some height loss, minimal. But that was 2 years ago. Opal had taken her calcium pills and gone to that silly Yoga class with all the vegan millennials. She had done her part. So, why was she shrinking? She stayed up late into the night Googling: shrinking, bone density, calcium deficiencies… until her eyes became heavy and she fell asleep on a pillow that was too large for her now child-sized head.
Wednesday was Opal’s beauty shop day. When Melba pulled the dryer down over her head, Opal had to stretch her neck up to reach. And when she went to the grocery store on the way home, she had to ask a young man to help her get a can of beans off of a low shelf. She wasn’t sure he heard her “thank you” over his headphones.
That night, when Opal took her bath she noticed her feet did not even reach halfway when she stretched out in the tub. And the towel was way longer than she was. Before getting into bed, she made another notch on the chart in the kitchen, a lot lower- Wednesday.
Thursday came and Opal could barely reach the kitchen counter to fix breakfast. She stomped her little foot and wrinkled up her little mouth as a sleepy headed Jules came in. “Hon, your tossing and turning kept me up,” he said, rubbing his eyes.
Opal narrowed her eyes at him. “Look at me!” She stood on a stool at the counter to pour his coffee. Jules watched her silently. He wasn’t sure what to say. She was obviously a lot smaller and whatever he said would probably be the wrong thing.
That night, Opal backed up against her wall chart as Jules marked Thursday, significantly lower down on the wall.
By Friday, Opal had to stand on a step ladder to reach the kitchen counter. “How am I supposed to fix supper?” she fumed. Jules placed the takeout pizza menu in her tiny hands and walked away shaking his head.
Jules woke up to a panic Saturday morning. He could not find Opal!
“Opal? Where are you?” Jules called and a tiny voice responded from under the covers. Jules’ mouth fell open. He wasn’t sure what to say. His wife was toy- sized.
They sat together the rest of the morning, Googling: Osteoporosis, shrinking, reversing shrinking… until Jules declared himself ready for a break. He said he needed some air and left Opal sitting on the table.
He returned with a big smile and a big bag. “Looky, Hon. Got a surprise for you,” he said placing a Hobby Lobby bag in front of her. She was still sitting on the kitchen table. Opal poked her tiny head down into the bag.
Hobby Lobby? Opal couldn’t believe Jules went to Hobby Lobby. He had only been once or twice with her over the years and had complained the whole time she tried to shop. He was observant though and apparently remembered the dollhouse section. He grinned as Opal took a tiny bed out of the bag.
“Well, it’s just my size,” she said, misty-eyed. She wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.
Jules spent the rest of the day setting up Opal’s tiny house. He had even bought her a little window box with plastic flowers for the front of the dollhouse. That night, Jules tucked Opal into her tiny new bed and kissed the top of her tiny head.
She was so far off of the wall chart, there was no need for a Saturday mark.
When the Sunday morning sun woke Jules, he threw off the covers and ran to check on Opal. He peered into the dollhouse.
“How’d you sleep in there, Hon?”
“Oh Jules! I missed you last night! But it was nice having a bed my size and I do love the little house.” Jules tenderly sat Opal on the kitchen counter so she could watch him make breakfast. He placed a piece of egg on one of the dollhouse plates and handed her a doll-sized cup of coffee.
That afternoon, Jules placed Opal in his shirt pocket and took her outside for their usual Sunday “sit” in the sweetheart swing. He moved the dollhouse to the living room mantle so Opal could better see what was going on during the day, but he placed her tiny bed on his own bedside table. Jules took down the wall chart.
As time went on, he grew accustomed to doing all the things Opal normally did. Jules puttered around the house taking care of everything while Opal sat there on the mantle watching the world go by.