The Prince Phillip Movement

dancer

            Jamie is a midget – not really a midget, but close. This hasn’t hampered her life in the slightest, but she’s always aware of where she stands relative to everything around her: she’s constantly in a state of comparative analysis, assessing objects as they relate to her stature. Some are three-times-Jamie; others are half-Jamie or quarter-Jamie. And every now and then, an object shows up that is exactly-Jamie: four foot one on the dot.

            Anne is like that, four foot one, at least in certain positions. In bed, Jamie’s catalogued Anne’s length, scrolling over her black body with a mathematician’s precision, ensuring that no angle or dimension is ignored. Anne seems to like the thoroughness of Jamie’s attention, but there’s one particular morning when they wake up in bed that alters Jamie’s view on things.

            “I’m walking to the corner store in a towel,” promises Anne, hung over. She coughs, a splash of coffee gone rogue in her esophagus. “If I choke, you better help me.”

            “No one chokes on coffee,” Jamie tells her.

            Anne swings out of bed. Naked next to the window, she doesn’t care if the world sees her. Jamie would love to take a protractor to her body and figure out the equation that links all those limbs and features together. “You know,” says Anne, “there isn’t a thing I don’t like about you. I know that sounds like a negative way to say something positive, but it’s true. I mean, I wish you were a bit taller, but otherwise… bang!”

            “Bang?”

            “Yes, just that. Dare me about the towel?”

            But Jamie wouldn’t dare dare her to do anything, because she would always lose. Anne picks a beach towel from the closet. Laughing, she throws on her sandals and opens the door. A ten dollar note in hand, she’s gone.

            “Taller,” says Jamie. She puts hands on her body, measuring. She hasn’t grown in five years. In that time, she’s finished college and secured a job. Moved three times, vacationed in Europe. Wrecked a car and discovered public transit. Shaved her head and plastered herself with three tattoos. But grown? That she hasn’t done.

***

            Jamie is half-Yaohnanen, on her father’s side. He’d actually been in Vanuata in 1974 when Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip had visited. There’s a little-known story about how the Queen had gotten diarrhea on the trip, and a local doctor had insisted on dancing nude on the hotel roof until the Queen’s shits had solidified. Hotel staff, apparently, had even confirmed this by penetrating the room’s plumbing to survey the situation, sending progress reports to their man on the roof. The doctor had been refused admittance to the Queen’s banquet the last night of her visit, but Jamie’s father had been there, serving pickled lap-lap while wearing white clothes brought in from New Zealand. Jamie can picture this in her mind, but she herself has never been to the South Pacific.

            “Wish fulfilment is one of the primary benefits of the Prince Philip Movement,” says her father on the phone. “Prince Philip, bless his body and spirit, alluded to this on his trip.”

            “I don’t care about Prince Philip.”

            “Blasphemy!”

            “Dad, come on. Prince Philip is not a mountain spirit.”

            “No? Then why are you calling me, daughter?”

            “Well, I am interested in the wish fulfilment part…”

            “Oh ho! So my daughter’s lesbian lover wants her to be taller so daughter calls father who tries to tell her about Prince Philip’s divinity but she’ll have nothing of it!”

            “Sort of, Dad. Okay, fine. Bless Prince Philip and his mountain spirit thing. How does the wish part work again?” Dad starts singing verses, then explains what substances she’ll need to grind into a poultice.

            “Are you sure about this?” he asks. “I like your lesbian lover. I also like saying ‘lesbian lover’. But she’s just a girl, daughter. And you are pretty much perfect.”

            “You’re a charmer, Dad. Thanks for the info. Cheers to Prince Philip and all that.”

            “Bless him.”

            “Yes,” she returns, surveying the list of ingredients. “Bless him.”

***

            The poultice tastes like porridge but looks like congealed gravy. Jamie washes it down with a beer, then sits near the window and repeats the verses that Dad taught her. It’s a surprisingly-cute invocation whose flowery prose manages to withstand the introduction of Prince Philip’s name at various stages. In her mind, Jamie replaces ‘Prince Philip’ with ‘Anne’, believing this to be more to the point anyway.

            “Hi, what are you doing?” asks Anne.

            Jamie finishes up. “Meditating. Yoga. Exercise.”

            “Right. I got curry. You get plates.”

            When they’re finished eating, they walk along the Danforth and ouzo-hop. The restaurants and bars pass in a blur, each a destination for the liquor they shoot down their throats. Mostly-drunk in the August heat, they pull up to a patio and order saganaki, instantly regretting it when the burst of heat from the flaming cheese smashes them in the face.

            “Ouzo!” cries Anne. “Ouzo will make this better!”

            Four shots arrive. Jamie knows, when two of them pass her lips, that these little vials are a determining factor today. She stares at Anne. “I want to go home now.”

            “I bet you do.”

            You can’t get lost on the Danforth, thinks Jamie, as she drags Anne by the hand. The apartment door is barely closed before Jamie loses her clothes and pushes Anne to the bed.

            “Easy!” cries Anne. “Easy, babe!”

            “I’m not easy, or a babe,” growls Jamie. She can still taste ouzo, but is going to make that go away. Anne curls up on the bed, pretending to resist. When Jamie unravels her, Anne tries to use her longer body to take control, but that doesn’t work either.

            Later, Anne is smoking at the window. Music is playing outside. When she finally comes to bed, she cuddles close.

            “What the hell?”

            “Huh?” asks Jamie.

            “What is this?”

            “What do you mean?”

            Anne pulls back the covers. “Look for yourself.”

            Jamie stares at her body in the dim light. At first, she looks for wounds or a lump, but then starts to measure herself, one hand at a time. Anne has never seen her do this before, and Jamie moves quickly. When she’s done, she adds up the hands in her head: five foot four.

            Jamie runs to the bathroom and turns on the light. In the mirror, she calculates her dimensions, arm-span to torso, leg-to-body ratio, quick assessment of waist circumference. Her proportions are fine. There is nothing wrong with her at all. But she is taller. Previously, she had to tip-toe to see her chin in the mirror. Now her entire head is comfortably in the frame.

She spends a moment recalculating her growth, back to the last perceivable moment that she actually grew – it was a long time ago, so long that she doesn’t recall what she was doing exactly when she realized that she’d stopped. But then Anne’s behind her.

            “How did this happen?” she asks.

            “Ouzo?” suggests Jamie.

            “Not fucking likely.”

            “Does it bother you?”

            Anne puffs on the cigarette, a deep drag that she holds in for a long time. “I don’t know,” she says, after she exhales.

***

            Jamie walks down the middle of the road. There are people everywhere: food stalls crowd the sidewalk, and she almost walks into a tent giving away orange juice. A taste of Greek yogurt rests in her mouth.

            “Daughter!” says Dad on the phone. “It’s so loud there!”

            “Street festival. Big one.”

            “I hope you have a good time. I’ll see you in two weeks! In the meantime, be sure to offer blessings to Prince Phillip, body and soul, eh?”

            “Sure Dad. In two weeks, Dad.” She hangs up and throws the yogurt cup into a recycling bin. Her sandals slap the asphalt.

In front of her is a stage. Music is playing, Greek style, a warm song that makes her want to snuggle with the crowd. A little boy steps on her foot and yells ‘sorry’ as he rushes away.

            Jamie reaches the hard plug of crowd around the stage. She catches a snatch of conversation: “belly dancing is sick!” Through limbs and heads, she can see someone on stage. They are moving around and around, in a big even circle. She calculates the circumference, the diameter, the surface area of that skin – there are proportions there that have been measured by a power that she can’t begin to understand.

            Silks are flying. The dancer’s skin is dark and inky, and the sight of it sends a thrill through her. Jamie pushes against the crowd to get a better look, because Jamie has a feeling inside her, a pure endless feeling that she’s never really been without. But no matter how hard she tries, she just can’t get through the crowd. Can’t see around it, can’t see over it. She wishes, for one moment before she can stop it, that she were a bit taller. Just a bit. But this is a silly thought, and she knows it, because while Jamie is not exactly a midget, she stopped growing a long time ago.

72 thoughts on “The Prince Phillip Movement

  1. Hmm… I’m wondering if I should look up the Prince William movement and see if it can help me from shrinky as I age… or maybe overcome the growing bald spots on my head.
    I like these characters. I want to know more about them.

  2. I think that the story wouldn’t end here. Either Anne wrangles the secret out of Jamie and decides to get taller too, or Jaime eventually realizes that while 5’4″ is taller than 4’1″, there’s still plenty of tall people looking down on her.

    • I think poor Jamie has been long since dumped by the end there. But I think she’ll be fine, at whatever height.

      By the way, did you know that X’s are the tallest most frame-filling letters in the alphabet?

  3. Cool Trent.Love the way this story travels horizontally high through the mountain range of reality – now in rock, now in air , now back in rock. The veins and marbling inside the rock in great contrast to the clear air.

    • Thanks much Paul – meant to be a strange urban fantasy, grounded in normal stuff but clearly not about normal stuff. Love your comment about the veins and the marbling – not only does that make me slightly hungry, but immensely proud. I thank you again.

  4. Nice flow with the dialogue, pal. I thought you made up both the Prince William Movement AND the Yaohnanen people. Having a fertile imagination is nice, but knowledge of minutia is nicer. Is the Queen’s bathroom issue a movement, too.

    I call for a Trent Lewin Movement. Can the initiation involve girls in cheerleader outfits?

  5. Trent. Another great story. I read these stories where you pull something obscure from another part of the world and always wonder if you’re making it up, or if the obscure thing is real. Seems they are real. You have a talent for turning those obscure tidbits into real stories about real people.

    One edit. “but Jamie’s father had been there, serving lap-lap in white clothes brought in from New Zealand.” This sounds like the lap-lap is in white clothes, when I think the intent was that Jamie’s father was wearing white clothes. If I’m wrong about the intent, never mind.

    And I’ll tell you what you told me about my last story and what many people say after reading one of my short stories. What’s next? What does Anne do with this new, taller Jamie?

    • Bits of both, Mark. Fuzzy memories of things I’ve heard, but don’t know much about, so I take those snippets and build them into a world that makes sense to me (or not). The basis of this one is factual, but the execution not so much. Plus I had a fun Thursday morning and was thinking about my bud Catastrophe Jones (incredible writer, by the way) and had a flash image of her that got wrapped into this story. So it’s kind of about her.

      Good one on the edit, I’m going to correct that in a second.

      I think Anne had dumped Jamie by the last passage, which is why she’s so intrigued with the belly dancer. The getting taller rapidly thing didn’t work out well for them, I’m afraid.

    • I love em too – thanks Jaded! And I agree that ouzo is the devil’s brew, especially when it’s coming back up and you taste it all over – it’s the type of liquor that no amount of stomach acid can mask.

  6. Most intriguing story, Trent. Hey, what are all these cheerleaders doing on your blog? Am I in the right place? Where are the belly dancers? Haha. I want to believe everything that you write. I appreciate that you wrote about a lesbian relationship, too. Shall I start drinking that Ouzo stuff now?

  7. Ah, the Danforth. You certainly brought back some fond memories of the Danforth, Ouzo hopping and Saganaki. I was never short, though. I was always the tallest kid in the class and a girl, so I stuck out like a sore thumb. If I’d known about this Prince Philip Movement I’m sure my wishes to be small and petite would have come true. Unless, of course it only works for lesbians because then I’d be screwed.

  8. I’m beyond touched. You have a way with words that is satisfyingly ephemeral, reaching down in to the warm core of people’s hearts and heartache, pulling things up to put them on display.

    Your characters always resound in living color. I find myself falling in love with them every time we meet, no matter who they are, from the psychopathic narcissist to the martyred saint.

    I absolutely love this story — it made me laugh out loud. It made me blush. It made me cry. It made me want to call my father for advice. It made me want to kiss my wife with ouzo on my tongue.

    It made me want to be taller. It made me want to embrace being short.

    You’re brilliant, Lewin. You’re brilliant, and I am humbled by your talent.

    • Jones, getting you to laugh and cry – that’s gold to me. But this story wouldn’t have existed without you as the inspiration. I know it’s not necessarily about your life, but I see you as incredibly vibrant just on the strength of your writing, so this is where my head went.

      I am soooo glad you liked it.

  9. It’s insane over here once again, I see! Afraid I could get hit in the head with a football or something from where the comments were going up top… I liked this story – full of palatable weirdness and innuendo as usual, Trent, but in the name of love and acceptance, I cannot understand why you used the term “midget,” when of course the PC term is “little person.” So I think you need to issue a public apology to the dwarf community as soon as possible for your insensitivity. lol
    I became deathly ill from ouzo some years ago, and haven’t touched the stuff since. And I was a cheerleader in high school, by the way, but got kicked off the squad my senior year for drinking beer – sad but true – and don’t tell my mom. 🙂

    • Sorry I missed this comment Kelly, I’m slow that way. I hope the dwarf community is not upset with me, but this story is really about love.

      So from this post I take it you were once a very drunk cheerleader? Do tell.

      • I understand! If and when I comment anywhere and don’t receive a response, I figure the person is busy or just doesn’t respond or that I might have offended them – but that would be hard to do with you, Trent! lol
        And yes, a very drunk cheerleader – a time of risk-taking and discovery – and lots of stupidity along the way. My best friends from high school and I keep in touch via LinkedIn and still can’t believe the stuff we did – don’t know who that person was back then, really, and they say the same thing!

  10. I enjoyed the story but lost my comment because I was so busy laughing at the other commenters that it dropped out of my mind by the time I reached the comment box. Ha ha, such is life.

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