Interview with 36 Inch Shrinking Man

by Bob "Shrinkingman" Nelson

He stood at the doctor's office next to a height measurer--the bar on top of his head stood between 36 and 37 inches up. He looked up at me, a reporter who was told to drop by Dr. Silver's office as he was scheduled for a checkup. I was told that before his shrinking began, he was just over 6 feet tall--a few inches taller than me. Now he was a couple inches shy of my belt buckle.

Not much taller than a 2 or 3 year old child, and he looked so thin and weak. Maybe about 25 pounds or so. The shrinking has stopped, I was told, but there was doubt as to whether or not he could grow again.

By now the world has heard about Scott Carey, the "shrinking man". His unique problem began, it's thought, when he was exposed to a pesticide a few months back. That, and a strange mist he encountered while on his brother's boat with his wife Louise. It was those two factors, perhaps augmented by his genetic makeup, that caused him to slowly dwindle. A very rare condition and he apparently is the only one.

Scott walked into a separate room with me. I opened the door and he glanced up at me as if to say, "Thanks, but I can still reach the knob." Well, I just wanted to help. Then he went over to a chair, its seat level with his waist, and he sat on it, legs dangling over the side. A moment later, uncomfortable with that, he sat back on the chair and crossed his legs. He's wearing a T-shirt and pants but is barefoot; a nurse hands me Scott's socks and sneakers which I then hand to him. They're toddler sized.

"How tall are you, Mr. Nelson?," he asks, as if to just make conversation. "6 feet?"

"5-nine," I replied. "I was 5-10 but I shrank--". Oops. "Well, er, I kind of lost an inch with age..."

"It's OK. You lost an inch, I lost thirty six. But what happened with you is normal, while what happened to me..."

"I heard the doctor say that you might be able to grow again."

Scott nods. "They're working on it. I'm not happy being this size and I hope to heck I won't stay this way. Can't exactly get a job at three feet tall--well, maybe as a dwarf actor or something. My wife had to go back to work to help us keep up the payments on the house. That, and money from interviews..."

My newspaper syndicator is helping Scott out a bit, I'll admit that. I feel good helping out the little guy.

"I talked with some dwarfs at the Little People of America convention," I told him. "So I can kind of visualize the problems you have. Of course they've always been short while you used to be average sized, so I know it must be different."

"Yes. It's frustrating to see the world get larger--well, now I've stabilized, at least. I still have a man's body and brain but I'm the size of a little boy, and some people mistook me for being one. In fact when I was about half a foot taller, a man gave me a ride and--" (he suddenly stopped) "well, he thought I was 12 or something. I ran away from him. Thought he wanted to kidnap me." I got the feeling there was more to the story than that but he didn't elaborate.

"I'm having trouble reaching some things, like light switches. Even if I jump they're too high. Louise puts a stick down near them and I can flick them on or off. We have step stools."

"I, uh, imagine you're too small to drive now."

"Yes, way too short and thin. As it is I have to ride in a child's seat. People see me and Louise and think we're mother-and-son. And when Beth is with us--she's 5--they think she's my older sister."

"How is she taking it--Beth, I mean..."

"It puzzled her at first. Why was daddy getting smaller? Before long I wasn't the authority figure she knew. I was her size, and then a few inches shorter. Louise keeps her in line these days. I'm too small to be the father figure anymore. She runs and plays with me in the yard or at a park. I can't keep up with her--she's so fast and energetic."

"But she's accepted your shrinking?"

"Yes. Louise told her that I had an illness and it made me smaller but soon I would be Big Daddy again. And, as if dealing with one kid bigger than me isn't enough, sometimes my brother Marty brings his 9 year old son to me so I can kind of babysit him. He used to be as tall as my armpits. Now it's the other way around. And the boy, Terry, is a lot heavier and stronger than me. He wrestles me down on the floor and I can't get up, not with some 80 pound kid holding me down."

"How about your relationship with your wife, Louise?"

Scott Carey sighs. "We're doing better. At first she couldn't believe my shrinking--neither of us could. But she stood with me and supported me. But one time last week, I snapped at her. You see, the media was pounding down our door and she was trying to cancel the phone service. And I didn't help. I started to get mad--'why didn't you tell them you're married to the shrinking freak? Look at me, I'm a man in a child's body. LOOK AT ME!' And the phone started ringing off the hook again, people pounding on the door. She broke down."

I felt like the neighborhood bartender hearing Ordinary Joe's story about a clash with the Missus. But Scott was certainly not ordinary.

"I apologized. You know, I told her it must be hell for her, too." She dried her eyes and gave me support. 'One of these days they'll find the anti-toxin."

"She must be a giantess to you."

"Yeah. That was a weird moment. I looked up at her, all crying and emotional--and I felt like a little 4 year old boy whose mommy was having a tough time with something, and I was too small to do much to help. She seemed so huge--it would be like having a 12 foot, 1,000 pound wife...and I just felt so small. Well, I went over to her and tried to hug her. It isn't easy when your arms and hands are so small. But we still had that bond between us."

And by the way, in case you're wondering, Scott and Louise no longer share the same bed but there's a good reason: she's so much bigger than him that she's afraid of rolling over on him during sleep. So he has a twin sized bed in a nearby room.

I didn't expect Scott Carey to be so open and honest about his life, but I guess he just wanted to get it off his little chest. I put one hand on his shoulder for support. My hand seemed absurdly huge.

So what is a typical day like for a 6-footer who is now 3 foot even and a half?

"Louise makes breakfast and a neighbor takes Beth off to kindergarten, then goes to work. I'll get on the computer, or watch TV, or maybe go for a walk. I still can't get used to being this small. Barrels are my height. I have to stand on tip toe at water fountains. Kids'll walk or skate past me and they can somehow tell I'm not a 3 or 4 year old--for one thing, I'm walking alone, not with a parent, and they know 'that shrinking guy' lives in their neighborhood. They tease me but thankfully they haven't really pushed me around. Imagine seeing 10 or 11 year old boys who seem 9,10,11 feet tall to you. Anyway, later on, Louise, Beth, and I will have dinner together (I'll babysit Beth for awhile) and we'll have family time. I'd like to carry Beth to her bed but she's bigger than me now. But I can still tuck her in.

"My nephew Terry took me to school as his show and tell project. My uncle, the shrinking man. The teacher had to keep telling them not to call me a midget or a freak. Some of them backed away from me, thinking the shrinking might be contagious. But the teacher wanted to show them to respect people, no matter what size."

I suddenly remembered an old Dr. Seuss TV special. "Oh yeah, like the little microscopic Whos in 'Horton Hears a Who'. 'We are here, we are here.'"

Scott chuckles a bit. "Well, thank God the shrinking has stopped. If it didn't I might wind up that small!"

Well, let's all hope that they can find a way to bring Scott back up to normal size again. In the meantime, a child-sized man is showing the world how to make the best of a bad situation.

"Yes, it can be bad," he told me. "But I can sit on Louise's lap and we can hold each other tenderly--she's careful not to squeeze too tight. I've still got her. Now there's a lot more of her to love."