Branded Shrinkee

by Timothy lacey

"Branded! Marked with a coward's (sign). What do you do when you are branded and you know you're a man? Where ever you go for the rest (shrunken life) you must know---your a man." from the song Branded.

The clock struck six. It was morning. Paul slowly climbed out of his bed. Today was the day. His heart was heavy.

Steve instructed Adam to call the Shrinkee community outside to the north gate. "Attention, attention all Shrinkees to meet out in North Yard in twenty minutes." This was one instruction by Steve that Adam found hard to follow.

Steve followed by Skippy waited outside for the community. "You sure about this Steve?" asked Skippy.

"What do you expect me to do? You were one of the judges,who found him guilty." Steve lowered his voice. "What else can I do? You think this gives me pleasure."

"No Steve," replied Skippy; "I know it doesn't. I just wish we didn't have to do this."

"Yeah, samehere old friend."

The sun had fully risen over the desert. It was a clear blue sky. It betrayed the events that were about to transpire in the secret Shrinkee community.

The entire Shrinkee population had gathered outside. Coming out last was Paul Stowe, who was flanked by two men. Giant guardians Marc and Mike stood at one end of the yard. The two men brought Paul before Steve. "My dear Shrinkees you know why I have called you all here. Ex Shrinkee member Paul Stowe has been found guilty and sentenced to expulsion for his crime." Steve stepped up to Paul and ripped off a purple badge that had been given to Paul in reconition of his contribution to the Shrinkee community. Steve tore it in two and stuffed it down Paul's shirt pocket. Face turning red Steve, struck Paul in the face, "Coward." Steve stepped back.

Paul remained silent. He had during his trial, tried to explain his innocence.

Skippy gave a signal to two young Shrinkees, who opened the gate. Paul was lead out. He was given supplies to take with him. Paul took a few steps toward the gate. He stopped. Looking back at the Shrinkee community he sighed. Paul turned toward the gate and walked through.

The gate thundered closed behind him. Marc climbed over the wall of the yard and picked up Paul. He was going to take him a few miles away from the Shrinkee complex.

Steve went back to his room and sat down at his desk. He started rubbing the sides of his temples with his fingers. It pained him he had to banish another person. He went through his head again,like so many other times the evidence that was gathered. "Blank it!" shouted Steve outloud to himself, as he kicked over a thimble. "Why Paul? Why did you do it?"

After Marc had placed Paul on the ground, Marc slowly walked away. He wanted to say something to Paul, but he could find no words to articulate.

Paul watched Marc walk off into the distance. Now all Paul had on his mind was survival. There were many dangers in the desert for a four inch person. He felt the bulge in his shirt pocket that contained the torn merit badge now a sign of his cowardice. Paul was going to keep it. It reminded him that at least he knew he was no coward.

Several hours later Paul felt a thumping beneath his feet. It became louder. Coming from behind a cliff of red rock (cliff to Paul) was a young girl around thirteen. Her long blond hair was matted and dirty. Paul observed the girl's face was one of anguish and fright. She was coming in his direction. Paul was in the process of moving out of site when the girl fell. The impact of her giant body against the ground cause a shock wave sending Paul to the ground.

The girl started to sob. Paul rose to his feet and slowly walked toward the gigantic girl. He was wondering what a young girl was doing alone in the desert. Several yards from her face, Paul hollowered, "Are you ok?"

The girl gave out a gasp and started to turn her head in every direction. "No down here infront of you," shouted Paul.

The girl looked straight at Paul with her big blood shot brown eyes. "What? Who?"

"Its ok. Your not nuts. I am a tiny person. But why are you here. Are you lost?"

After several minutes for the girl to realize she was listening to a tiny man, she replied in a scared and tired voice, I escaped...two men. They grabbed me at school..." The girl broke into tears.

"Its ok now. What's your name?"

"Kathy. And-and you are real?"

Paul was about to respond when the sound of a motor commenced...

Coming from behind the outcrop of red rock was a dune mobile. The girl turned with fright toward the oncoming vehicle.

As the girl started to rise, Paul made a dsah for the pocket of her brown wind-braker. Paul didn't know what he could do for the girl at his size, but he couldn't just leave her.

Paul heard to girl scream as the men grabbed her. In the darkness of Kathy's pocket, Paul could only wait.

The girl was brought to a beat up cottage outside of a small desert town. From inside the pocket, Paul heard a gruff voice telling her not to runaway again or she was dead. The loud sound of a door shutting was next.

Thinking the cost was clear, Paul climbed out of the pocket. He found himself on a brown surface. It was a beat up yellow blanket. He was on a bed. Towering up like build next to him was Kathy. He started to jump up and down and shout. Kathy turned around. "You!"

Paul signaled for her to keep quiet. Kathy placed her hand down before Paul. He jumped on to the giant hand. Kathy explained what happened. "I was on lunch brake yesterday at school."

"Wheres your school Kathy?"

"I go to Dry Creek Junior High. I was just out for a couple of minutes. Walked over to trash can near the parking lot when a smelly guy in black leather jacket grabbed me. I-I don't remember the rest."

"Thats ok. We have to figure how to get you out of her. And because of my size, alot will have to depend on you. Are you up to it?"

"I think so."

For the next half hour Kathy and Paul searched the room for anything they could use as a weapon. Finding some old electrical wire and pieces of wood, they came up with a plan.

The knob to the old wooden door started to turn. The latch worn from years and dry from lack of oil squeaked. One of the men, whose face needed a good shave and green work clothes a good cleaning, stepped through the door. Failing to see the copper wire tripped. Kathy smashed a lamp over his head before he could get up.

"Great work Kathy. Now for part two....." Part 2

Kathy quickly picked up a piece of wood she had taken from one of the planks supporting the mattress. She then started to scream. The other man rushed in. He looked down at his fallen partner then at Kathy, who was screaming and pointing. The man turned to what Kathy was pointing at. Near the shoulder of his partner was Paul, who kept jumping up and down. "What the blank?"

Starting to stoop and reach for Paul, Kathy swung a board into the side of the man's head. The man fell on top of his friend. Kathy dropped the board on top of the man and said in the process, "Idiot."

She stepped over the men and picked up Paul. Kathy ran out of the cottage with Paul in hand. She spotted a state trooper's vehicle. As she ran over, Paul told her please Kathy, "Don't tell anyone about me."

"I won't Paul," she said, looking lovenly down at Paul. "I owe you that. My tiny hero." Kathy placed Paul back in her pocket, when she saw the state trooper sitting in the car. She went up telling him what had happened. The officer called for his partner, who was in the general store. The officers instructed Kathy to stay in the store. She watched them pull out and drive toward the cottage. She went out of the store and sat down. Paul slowly climbed out of Kathy's pocket. And seeing the coast was clear ran down the wooden gray planks of the make- shift sidewalk.

Kathy put her hand in her pocket. finding it empty, Kathy stands up. Looking around, she spots the tiny figure of Paul going around the corner of the store. She starts to go after him. Going around the corner, she finds Paul is nowhere to be seen. Her first though is of going after him. Kathy, however, goes back to the front of the store and sits down. "I guess I should let him go. I have to respect what he wants. I hope he'll be ok. I would have loved to have looked after him. I wonder where he came from? And where is he going?" She then rested her chin on her knees.

Yes Kathy where is Paul going? What lies in store for him?

Ten miles south of the town, a blue SUV has just pulled off to the side of the road. A young dark haired Mexican boy climbs out of the van. He thanks the driver. The SUV leaves and vanishes down the highway. A hot wind blows sand and bits of brush across the road. The boy buttons up his coat and starts walking north.

The Adventure Continues.