Daddy's Little Girl

by Micromegas

Clarice Stein drove her red Saturn along Interstate 280, looking forward to spending summer vacation with Dad. The exams at the Polytechnic Institute were tough, but she passed with a decent 'B' average. One year closer to electronics engineer, she thought. Dad would be so proud of her.

Dad's full name was Josef Nicholas Stein. Some called Dad "Dr. Frankenstein."

"I'm working on my fifth monster right now," he'd joke right back.

Or, if Clarice was with him--"How do you like this monster? Just finished her last night."

"Da-a-a-ad," she used to protest. Until she and her sense of humor matured, and then she would say, "Now if only he can get those angry villagers with torches to stop chasing me..." And leave the sentence dangling while they cracked up.

Like Dad, Clarice Stein wore sharp contrasts. Today it was black jeans with white topstitching, black suit jacket and white cowl neck shirt. Dad and daughter sported the same sharp angular style of nose, only Clarice's was a bit smaller. She pushed her glasses up that nose as she caught her exit and headed for the commercial park which was on the way home.

For in that commercial park, shaded by oaks and poplars and flanked by other businesses, was Modern Innovations Laboratory. Huge profits from several Josef Stein patents had built the white-washed laboratory and kept it lavishly state-of-the-art.

Her watch said four fifty five. Almost time for Dad to leave work.
Clarice pulled to the back of the lab where butterfly bushes and vegetables brightened the landscape, and parked her red Saturn. Finding the key Dad had entrusted her with, she let herself in the back door. She looked around the back hallway. Over to her right was a room that used to be an ordinary lab six months ago, but some changes had been made. The door had been raised and there was a step up to the room, now.

Clarice mounted the step into the room and wondered what Dad was up to this time. The lab was lined floor, walls and ceiling with white glass two-inch squares set in black. The room still looked somewhat like a lab, with a wooden table with a cage on top, two chairs, some electronic equipment, and other odds and ends. "Is Dad running a flea market or what?" she wondered as she walked by the items. A concrete lawn statue of an angel. A bundle of peacock feathers. On the table old pots and pans of tin, iron, aluminum, brass, copper, and stainless steel and several drinking glasses. And odd mismatched dishes. A pile of used clothing. Lots of items of different kinds of molded plastic. She looked into the cage on the table and laughed. A white mouse leaned up on the side of the cage and twitched its whiskers at Clarice while a brown mouse napped curled up in the wooden shavings.

Clarice only half-paid attention to the voices she heard approaching. One of them Dad's.

"Well, goodnight Dr. Stein," she heard Royce say.

"Goodnight," said Dad.

Clarice expected Dad to come into the room. Instead, she heard the door shut. She wasn't too worried.

Until a moment later when every little square in the room lit up with a peculiar blue light.

That was when she realized this room was designed to bombard objects with light or radiation. Dad had bombarded objects with radiation before--but always before with a single beam from one source. This bluish light came from everywhere and bathed everything.

"Dad!" she called, stepping to the--where was the door? All she found was a doorframe set with more little white squares glaring blue at her. "DAD!!!!" she cried out in alarm. And for once cursed the fate that had given her a soft, melodic voice instead of a loud fisherwife's one.

"DAAAAAAAAD!" she screamed again. Not loud enough. After several minutes, she knew he must have gone out to his car and left this experiment to run overnight. He'd never see her car. He was parked in front while hers was parked out back. What could she do? She could identify several sorts of radiation, but this mystery radiation Dad had developed was something she had not learned about at Polytechnic.

She covered the squares under the table with a neat bed of objects. Going over to the pile of clothes, she piled them beneath the table, too. She put as many objects on the table as possible to shield her from rays coming from above. Then she covered herself with a sheet and laid on her lumpy makeshift bed under the table. And prayed that whatever this radiation was, that it wasn't deadly. She waited in an agony of fear with her watch ticking in her ear.

After a couple of hours she did not feel any different than before. She looked out. She looked at her hands, which seemed no different than before. The white squares still cast a veil of shimmering blue over anything and everything in the entire room. Crawling out from under the table, Clarice dug her nails into the crack between door and frame. Looking up, that was when she noticed something peculiar. The top of the doorframe seemed higher than before. She looked around. The objects in the room, though they seemed the same size to her, seemed farther apart and did not fill the room as they had before. The entire chamber, in fact, looked bigger.

She looked over everything again. Yes, compared to the chamber, everything in it DID look smaller. Including her. She was originally 5'10". The squares looked about two inches square. Measuring herself against them and making calculations in her head--"I'm only five feet tall! Oh, no!" she cried. And again, "Oh, NO!! Oh, gosh!!! I've shrunk! I'm turning into Daddy's little girl again!"

More than one aunt or uncle, or even her Dad himself, joked about what a Daddy's little girl she was. She could live with that. She loved Dad and enjoyed his company more than most young women enjoyed the company of their parents. She was fortunate to have so much in common with her Dad. But she didn't want to be Daddy's little girl, literally! No! She dug her nails into the frame again, and pulled away mightily at it, but no go. The door wouldn't budge.

Leaning heavily against the door, and wondering how long Dad had set the timer for this miniaturization session, she wailed, "You've REALLY created a monster this time, Dr. Frankenstein!"

Dad loved tuning in to giant monster movies like Godzilla and King Kong. And, come to think of it, his TV viewing included quite a few shows featuring great contrasts in size and scale. But she never DREAMED her Dad would become a Dr. Szalinsky or a Dr. Shrinker himself! "Dr. Shrinker, Dr. Shrinker, he's a madman with an evil miiiiind," she sung to herself. But, she thought sadly, Dad was no evil madman. He was simply a kind and gentle soul who was fascinated with science. And with doing the seemingly impossible with it. If he knew what was happening to his daughter right now, it would break his heart.

She considered smashing as many of the glowing white squares as possible to stop the shrinking process or slow it down--but the possibility of freeing deadly radioactive isotopes therein stopped her from doing it. At ten o'clock, she WAS 'Daddy's Little Girl" again. She measured four feet 2 inches, about the size of a five-year-old. The mice in their cage went about eating, sleeping, and scampering on their exercise wheel, oblivious to what was happening to them. Clarice was NOT oblivious to what was happening to her. Time and again, she measured herself against the glowing squares. And time and again the number of squares became less. And less. She continued to shrink. And shrink. And shrink.

"How small did Dad plan to make everything anyway?" she worried as she watched the concrete lawn angel shrink to a mantel decoration. At two o'clock in the morning, she measured about nine squares plus the space between them, or 21 inches, which had been her length as a newborn baby. Her small feet only covered one square at this size. The miniaturization chamber had grown vast as an auditorium, and all the objects within looked lost in it. The table was only a foot tall, the mice no bigger than cockroaches.

At three o'clock in the morning, she was sinking below a foot tall herself. "I'm so small now I'll have to shop for clothes at the toy store," she said as she restlessly strode around the vast chamber. "I wonder what Barbie's wearing this year." She stood upon the table, which was down to six inches. The ceiling looked so far away, the chamber vast as a gymnasium, the real world looming so far out of reach now.

At four o'clock the top of her head sunk down below three squares. About seven inches. "When is it going to stop!" she yelled out loud. "Dad! If it doesn't stop, I'll disappear! Please!" The chamber had become unbelievably vast, like an airport hangar. Going to the wall, she measured herself again even as she had done many, many times that night. She was down to two and a half squares tall.

"Six inches," she said in despair. "I'm a Lilliputian, now. And everybody's going to look as big as Gulliver to me. Unless Dad's set the timer to make me even smaller, and then I'll be Daddy's Microscopic Girl! He'll be as big as---as--as big as--" Then the lights suddenly went out. "Finally!" she squeaked in the pitch-dark.

Exhausted, she lay down on the floor. Yet, agonizing about her altered state, she could not sleep a wink.

Five o'clock ticked by. Then six. Seven. Eight. She heard signs of life outside as the lab opened for business. At last the knob outside turned and the humongous door opened. And a great and mighty gigantic Dr. Stein stepped into the chamber. Though peppered at the temples with grey, his black hair was as curly as his daughter's. He always wore a white lab coat over a black business suit. His great black shoes shone like twin mirrors. He glowed with that aura of success as he looked over the tiny objects he had created--until he cast his gaze down her way. Dad gasped, choked and turned white.

"Oh, no--no----Clarice!" He feared the miniaturization process had killed her. To allay his worst fears, she shyly waved at him. "Can you say anything?" he begged, slowly stepping forward.

To the tiny Clarice, her Dad's voice rumbled like rolling thunder, the most incredible bass possible.
"You know I feel awkward in front of big audiences." To Josef Stein, his daughter's voice was the thinnest, tiniest squeak imaginable. He could hardly understand her.

Clarice had rarely seen her Dad cry before. Now his chin trembled and he sobbed. "--no--" He took several giant steps toward her, then sunk to his great knees a pebble's throw away and buried his immense face in his big hands and sobbed some more. Even kneeling, her sobbing Dad towered over her like the three-story Youncy Foods building down the street. "Oh, no! If your mother were alive, she would kill me! I'm sorry, Clarice. I'm so sorry. Why didn't I check before I closed the door first? It's always that one time when you get careless--I'm so sorry--sorry..." Dad looked down at her again. He reached out a hand only slightly longer than a king-size bed.

Clarice tried to make a joke of it. "Oh, dear," she said, shrinking back in an exaggerated quaver. "It's the Attack of the Giant Dad!"

Pausing, he told her in a gentle voice, "Clarice, I am no more inclined to hurt you now than when you are full-sized. Six inches or six feet, you are my daughter and I love you."

"Okay, Dr. Shrinker, c-can you fix this?"

Clarice already knew the answer from the way Dad lowered his head. "Not yet."

"What'll we do?" she wailed.

"It looks like we will have to step up the development of the Enlargement Chamber. I was originally planning to wait two years, but I'd better alter my plans. I have done some experiments, and it's on the drawing ready to be turned into reality, but I'm not ready to try anything on YOU, yet," he said.

"What will I do in the meantime?" asked Clarice. Tenderly, Dad picked up one of her tiny hands with the tip of his forefinger. "With your marvelously minute fingers, you could do quite a bit. Want to work here in my lab for the summer?" offered Dad. Now that the shock of seeing his daughter so tiny was wearing off, he was already figuring out to help her feel better about her new size until he found a way to restore her to normal. "You could help make microcircuits and chips. You can even help with the circuitry of the Enlargement Chamber. You know we have quite a bit of fussy little work to do here. And I'll pay you to do it."

"I'm not even as big as a dollar bill, now." Clarice stood and craned her neck up at her mountainous Dad. "Well, you know I've always looked up to you, Dad." She added, "But I never dreamed I'd be looking up to you this much."

Josef Stein chuckled through his tears. "I'd rather you not have to look up to me this much. I love you, little girl." Offering both hands for her to step on, he brought her up to his eyes.

Trying to keep her balance, for his big hands were still shaking a little, she fretted, "Dad, what if I'm still like this when school starts next year?"

"I'll have to take you to your classes," he said decisively. "You can do your homework on twelfth-size pieces of paper, then read them off to me and I'll transcribe them onto full-sized paper. I won't do your homework for you, understand. That would be cheating. But I'll help you get it done. I'll get you through Polytechnic somehow," he promised.

Clarice looked through Dad's silver-rimmed glasses into his sad brown eyes. "Thanks, Dad."

As she rode around in Dad's vest pocket for the rest of the morning, Clarice thought of the dollhouse that was still set up in a corner of her room. "Looks like I'm going to be sleeping in it for a while," she thought.

At lunchtime, Clarice ate a pieces of tomato, ham and bread from Dad's sandwich, and nibbled down a barbecue-flavored potato chip the size of a hubcap. Then, telling his employees to be sure and lock up the building when they left, Dr. Stein took the afternoon off. First, he arranged to have one of his sisters, Hannah, take care of their two cats. Once the cats were safely away at their new temporary home, he set Clarice down in their living room. "Much bigger than you remember, eh?" he said sadly.

At her new size, she didn't sink into the tan carpet.The big fibres felt bouncy under her feet as she walked to the fireplace. Clarice looked up at the flagpole-tall brass poker, broom and shovel in their brass rack beside the yawning rock cave of their fireplace. "Everything looks so huge from down here," she agreed. It was so weird and strange to see her familiar home in such an unfamiliar way. And it was going to be such a nuisance to be unable to do things around the house she could easily do before. Getting a drink of water or a snack from the fridge. Pulling out a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica and looking something up. She went over to the towering monolith that was the bookcase. Each volume of their encyclopedia was a mammoth monolith twice her height.

Dad leaned forward in his recliner."Want something to drink?"

"Sure," said Clarice.

Dad came back with a bottle of Coke for him, and a bottlecap of Coke for his daughter.

Clarice drank, wincing at every big fizz bubble that burst in her face. "This is drinking a wad of Coke, not a glass of Coke. The surface tension at this size is something else," she commented before pulling at her drink again.

When she finished, she handed the bottlecap to Dad's big fingers, and climbed up on the rock hearth. Then she climbed up into the log carrier and climbed up rough bark to the top log and straddled it like a huge horse.

Once again, Dad's face crumpled. "I'm so sorry." Then the grieving scientist took several deep breaths to bring him to himself again.

Clarice tried some levity. "You don't fool me one bit, Daddy! You're enjoying this, aren't you?" Then she bit her tongue at saying the childlike "Daddy" instead of the more mature "Dad."

"Oh, Clarice," he mourned. "I've fantasized about this sort of thing, yes. But some things are better left as fantasies." He glanced over at her in an apologetic way. "Shrink things, yes. That has been fun. But people? I would never shrink people on purpose. Not like that mad scientist Dr. Shrinker." He motioned at her. "Look at you. I've rendered you unable to live a normal life. You can't go out in public by yourself without risking being kidnapped or crushed underfoot. You can't go shopping or to a restaurant by yourself."

"That's the bad part," Clarice agreed. At six inches, she really was Daddy's little girl again. He would have to take her everywhere like a little bitty toddler again. How embarrassing.

She climbed back down the logs onto the rock hearth, and to the carpet again.

"Where are you going, dear?" Dad asked tenderly as she walked past his shoes.

"Upstairs to my room," she answered.

"Want me to help you?"

"That's okay, Dad. Let's see if I can make it myself," she answered as she passed the couch. The stair were carpeted, so though they seemed eight feet tall to Clarice, she could climb the mountainous stairway by grasping bundles of carpet fibers in her hands and hauling herself up. "Climbing is easier at this size," she said.

Halfway upstairs, she heard Dad's heavy tread, and low-pitched kitchen rattles as he started supper.

Finally, she made it to the second floor. She crossed the great floorboards to her bedroom down the hall.

The door, which towered up lighthouse-tall, was closed so she slid underneath it. And here was her familiar three-windowed childhood room greatly magnified. To her left a great two-story tall bed with two-story tall cedar chest at its yellow footboard. "Watching TV is going to be like going to the movies," she said of her now-giant entertainment center on the other side of her room from her bed. Her giant bureau, her giant chest of drawers, were as she remembered--only giant, of course. And her giant closet full of giant clothes and shoes that no longer fit her.

Climbing was easier at her small size, so she climbed up to her bed by handfuls of its rose-covered comforter. "Gosh. My bed's the size of a tennis court, now," she remarked. "It's 'The Marvelous Land of Counterpane," she said, remembering an old children's poem. On a youthful whim, she bounced up and down on the bed, and bounced higher in proportion to her height than she had ever bounced before. In three bounces, she reached the pillow hill, and plopped herself down against it.

The quilted stitches of the comforter looked two inches long. The comforter itself seemed as thick to her as a mattress. "To think that my feet used to reach almost all the way down there from here," she said, staring at the faroff footboard. "And to think my dear old Dad undid twenty-one years of growth overnight!"

Lying back against the pillow, the next thing she heard was, "Hello, Sleepyhead. Time for supper."

A fingertip the size of a big loaf nudged her shoulder. Smiling pleasantly, Dad crouched beside the bed. "May I take you downstairs?" he rumbled gently. When she nodded, he slid both his hands under her and lifted her up. The warmth of his hands surrounded and comforted her. "You were sound asleep," he told her. "I'm not surprised. I didn't sleep a wink when I was trapped in your Shrinking Chamber," she told him.

"Well, we start work on the Enlarging Chamber tomorrow. That's a promise," said Dad.

Supper was a piece of steak, a piece of carrot, and a green bean. Dessert was a dab of ice cream served with two or three drops of chocolate sauce. Dad had thoughtfully brought home some of the tiny dishes from the Miniaturization Chamber for Clarice to eat from, and tiny utensils for her to eat with. She dined at an upside-down glass on the kitchen counter, away from where Dad might sneeze on her or upset the kitchen table. The odds against either happening were small, but Dr. Josef Stein wasn't taking any chances.

After supper, Dad and Clarice watched a Star Trek rerun. She watched the big-theater Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy match wits with the Vians from the edge of the couch. Dad watched from his recliner. Then in the kitchen they played a game of Scrabble that lasted until ten. Clarice walked down garden paths of words on the gameboard, holding her letter tiles like books. At the end, Clarice stood over Dad's writing hand while he totted up the score. "You won," he smiled down at her. "I'm glad your intelligence is still normal-sized."

"Dad, will you do me a favor? I'm tired so I'd like to turn in," she said. "Will you take me upstairs?"

"Of course, dear," he said tenderly. Letting her step into his hand, he carried her up to her bedroom. Dr. Stein had also brought home the pile of discarded clothes that had shrunk with Clarice, and they found a baggy striped pair of men's pajamas that she could wear.

Dad placed her on the porch of her dollhouse, and she went in to change.

Dad's thunderous low-pitched rumble came in through the windows. "How is it in there?"

"Typical cheap dollhouse constuction," answered Clarice as she walked across the simulated-floorboard plastic pasted to the floor. "The interior looks really crude at this size," she continued as she walked up the stiff uneven stairs clotted with dried paint.

Dr. Stein's only comment was, "Um-hm."

Clarice let herself into her tiny dollhouse bedroom by a door with a crude knob with oversized hinges that stayed closed by friction instead of a real catch. The room itself was only lit by light streaming in through the window from the ceiling light in her giant bedroom outside. "This place could sure use some electricity," said Clarice of the tiny room with no light fixtures and no electrical sockets. The bedroom could also have used a back wall. Like nearly all dollhouses, this dollhouse had no back wall. There was the tiny bed with the eyelet cotton ruffles around the edges, and the tiny red flowered quilt as thick as a gym floorpad on top. Many a doll of hers had slept in that bed. Now it was her turn. She peeked out the front window. Even crosslegged on the floor, dear old mountainous Dad loomed a third higher than the roof. His back turned to the little house, he rested his great head in his hand.

Clarice changed into her pajamas, and went outside to say goodnight.

"Tomorrow, we'll shrink your clothes so you'll have something of your own to wear," he told her. "Nobody has access to the Miniaturization Chamber controls except me, so the settings should be the same, and your clothes should shrink to your exact size."

"Thanks, Dad," she said.

"Goodnight kiss?" he asked gently. When she nodded, he picked her up gently in his two big hands and carefully kissed her tiny forehead with his large lips.

"I'm sure glad you give dry kisses," she commented, then stood up in his cupped hands and gave her giant Dad a kiss on his massive cheek.

Dad chuckled. "A wet kiss from a giant would be gross." And he shuddered all over.

"Blech," she agreed.

Cupping her in his big hands, he told her, "I must admit that while I'm horrified at what I've done to you, I love you this way. I've always liked stories about little people, and here you are a very little person of my very own."

Clarice blushed. She also felt a bit alarmed. "You will try to restore me to normal, won't you, Dad?"

"Of course!" he said truthfully. "I want you be a mature adult, not my baby forever. If you have to be my baby forever, so be it, but that's not natural. And I may not always be around to take care of you. It's natural for a young adult like you to want to grow and develop and progress, not regress, so I am doing everything I can to restore you to young adulthood again. Meanwhile, as long as you're Daddy's Little Girl again, we'll both make the best of it. Agreed?" Clarice relaxed. "Agreed."

Then Dad put her back on the dollhouse porch, and she went back to the dimly lit bedroom. Dad left on the light in her real bedroom in case she needed to get up. When she pulled aside the stiff quilt on the doll bed and lay down, the mattress felt hard. The quilt, when she tried to drape it over herself, was stiff as a gym floorpad and refused to drape like a regular-sized quilt. Only the pillow, which seemed to be stuffed with cotton padding, approached the comfort of its full-sized counterpart. Nevertheless, she was determined to try to fall asleep here. "Dad's enjoying this, but he's not enjoying this," she decided. "And he's right. Some fantasies are better left fantasies. My shrinking is Dad's dream come true. My shrinking is Dad's nightmare come true. Oh, man. What if I have to stay little my whole life? What if Dad died on me before he got the Growth Chamber finished? That would be awful. And if I have to stay little forever, I can forget a regular career, or getting married, or having children. Of course, there could be a great career waiting for me in microelectronics, microsurgery, or hiring myself out for commercials featuring little people. With me, they wouldn't have to use camera tricks or anything." Full of such rambling ruminations, she tossed and turned, and finally she did fall asleep.

When Clarice next opened her eyes, faint morning light came in the window. Clarice got up and looked out. A long rectangle of light from a real window near her dollhouse laid across the floorboards below. She went downstairs to find that pile of old clothing from the Miniaturization Chamber piled up on the right side of the porch. Sounds from the real downstairs said Dad was up, too, and getting breakfast ready. Clarice picked over the old clothes, and found a green sweatshirt and blue jeans that looked like they would fit. Both turned out to be a little big when she tried them on, but they would have to do. She also put on a pair of dull green men's socks from the pile, too.

Dad had left her bedroom door open. Clarice could smell the eggs and bacon as she started climbing downstairs. Coffee, too. When she had climbed down halfway, here came Dad's heavy footfalls, and he appeared at the bottom of the stairs.

"Happy to see you getting around so well," he smiled sadly. "Want help?"

"I've done half the work of getting to breakfast, so you can do the other half if you want," she called to her giant Dad. "Being small is a workout." Clarice stood there on the landing and panted heavily to emphasize the point.

"I'm not surprised." Dr. Stein came partway up to the landing. His hand stretched out over the remaining steps to come down at her feet. She stepped onto his fingers, and into his palm, and they both went to breakfast.

Later, at his office, Josef set up a tiny workstation for Clarice in a steel box that was HER office. A tiny spot welder such as his assistants used she could handle with ease. She didn't even have to use a microscope like they did. Dr. Stein had her work on the circuitry for his Enlarging Chamber. And so Clarice eagerly began work on her means of salvation from hopeless littleness. Being tiny was like being trapped in a deep pit she could not climb out of. Joseph Stein locked the door of his office whenever he was out and about in the laboratory. He didn't want anyone else to know what happened to Clarice, or decide to steal her.

Over the next several days, Dr. Stein shrank many things to twelfth scale for his daughter's convenience. The very first to shrink were her college suitcases and five extra bags of clothes, plus three boxfuls of the Encyclopedia Britannica he took over to Innovative Laboratories. "They're the size of postage stamps!" exclaimed Clarice, looking over a newly-shrunken volume. Dad got a kick out watching her flip through the tiny pages.

The second evening after shrinking Clarice, he also bought several miniatures magazines for them to look through.

"I like the big fairy house," said Clarice.

But when Josef Stein called the miniaturist who had created it, it turned out the furniture was not functional. Drawers were mere facades, not drawers. Ditto with cabinet doors. Eventually they picked the biggest and best dollhouse they could find from a miniaturist who prided herself in fully featured functional miniature masterpieces. Drawers and cabinet doors that were really drawers and cabinet doors. Sinks that really worked, fed by a water tank hidden in the attic. Electrical outlets in every room. Clarice could turn on a tiny lamp with a seed lightbulb and read her tiny books in her tiny bed. In short, this miniaturist's houses were tiny-person friendly. The house, which was more like a finely-detailed Georgian mansion, would be a vast improvement tiny-person-wise on her old dollhouse when it was finally shipped to their door a week later.

Dr. Stein had the shippers place the house in its box in an out of the way corner of her bedroom. Then Clarice watched as Dad opened the box and dug packing materials and little boxes full of dollhouse furniture away. To reveal the elegant miniature Georgian mansion with its white-columned porch. This one was almost as tall as Dad sitting down on the floor. He smiled down apologetically as Clarice approached the porch. "I realize it's not as good as being your own right size, but it's the best I can do for you now. Go on in and take a look."

Clarice went up the steps, and turned the doorknob.Which had a real catch to hold the door closed. She stepped into a velvet-carpeted hallway. An elegant chandelier strung with crystals and budded with seed lightbulbs hung from the ceiling. A polished wooden staircase to the right led upstairs. A great drawing-room lay beyond an archway on the left, and there were more rooms toward the back. "I can still see signs of sloppy construction by giants," called Clarice to Dad outside, "but overall it's IS a lot more like a real house than my old dollhouse. That lady knows her business."

"For what she charged for this, she ought to," Dad chuckled. Low thuds came down from above as he patted the roof. "This little house cost almost as much as a real one! But after accidentally shrinking you down to sardine bait, it's the least I could do. And this fine little place is all yours after you're full-sized, too."

"Thanks, Dad!" Clarice walked further back. "Hey! This one is even closed on all sides!"

"Not for much longer. The back wall is removable. Watch out. I'm about to move this house so I can do that." Clarice held onto a doorframe as giant Dad rotated the entire house one quarter turn. Then off came the back wall. Dad laughed as he unpacked the tiny furniture that came with the house. "My colleagues would laugh if they could see me now. But I don't care. This is fun," he said as he placed an elegant tiny bed in the finely wallpapered master bedroom. Clarice walked all the way to the back of the house to watch Dad place the entire bedroom set onto the second floor. "This is your fondest dream and your worst nightmare all rolled up into one, isn't it, Dad?"

Dad looked down with a sad smile. "I'm afraid it is, Clarice."

The expert miniaturist had cleverly joined and handcrafted the 12th-scale home well. Clarice felt more at home in the well-detailed mansion than in her more sloppily-made old dollhouse--though she still enjoyed sleeping in the crude canopy bed of the old one from time to time. A few nights, she peeled back the cover of her great bed and slept in that. But that night, Dad plugged in the new improved dollhouse, and they both cheered when the chandeliers in the entire house lit up. Clarice put away her shrunken clothes and other things in the tiny wardrobes and bureau and chest of drawers in her master bedroom. She turned aside the covers of the bed, which were made of fine materials like silk and flannel, and which draped over her more like full-sized covers than that stiff doll quilt. The Encyclopedia Britannica and other miniaturized books Dad put into the miniature bookcase for her. When all was in place, Dad put the back wall on the house and rotated it back into place again.

Much later, Clarice plugged in a miniature lamp and read a book in bed by its light. Yes, there were socket in the little mansion, though they were too big to plug in miniaturized electrical gadgets. Which was why Dad did not bother to shrink Clarice's CD player or her TV. When she was through reading, she went into the bath and brushed her teeth with shrunken toothbrush and shrunken toothpaste, and rinsed her mouth by drinking straight from the tap. Earlier she had taken a bath in a big soap dish Dad had filled with hot water, so now she felt cleaner than she had been in a couple days.

At Modern Innovations Laboratory, Dr. Stein put his employees as well as Clarice to work on the Growth Chamber, too, though he did not tell them what the items they were assembling were for. Clarice turned out the parts Dad assigned her to work on as fast as she could. Week by week, more and more squares and circuitry were assembled in a room near the Miniaturization Chamber. Week by week, Clarice's salvation drew closer as the Growth Chamber was completed.

Finally, at last, a week before classes were to begin at Polytechnic, the chamber was finished. After several successful tests on miniaturized objects and laboratory mice, Dr. Stein declared himself ready to try it on Clarice.

"But I won't be Daddy's Little Girl anymore," she jokingly protested as he set her into the chamber with all her other shrunken items.

"Thank goodness!" he declared as he winked down at her.

Then he closed the chamber door, the squares in the chamber lit up, this time in bright yellow, and Clarice, when she went to measure herself against them after an hour, was four squares tall. "Nine inches! Hooray! I'm nine inches!" she squealed, jumping up and down.

This time, Dr. Stein stayed near the controls of the Growth Chamber as it continued humming into the wee hours of the morning. The scientist kept his ears pricked for any distress calls from inside the chamber. He didn't want anything going wrong this time! Finally, at four -forty six am, the chamber timer reached the limit Dr. Stein had set, and the hum ceased. Dr. Stein hurried to the Growth Chamber door, and opened it.

Clarice came out with open arms and hugged Dad ecstatically. "Thanks, Dad! You're the best!"

"Let me look at you," said Dr. Stein, relieved and happy to see his daughter full-sized now. "Oh, my!" he said as he compared his own height to hers. Clarice had gone into the chamber at dollhouse scale. Clarice strode out of the Enlargement Chamber a statuesque Amazon measuring six feet 2 inches.

"Oh, my," said Dr. Stein. "Now you're Daddy's Big Girl. I'll fix that for you if you want. Just an hour in the miniaturization--"

"No, that's okay. I noticed by comparing myself to those squares that I was getting bigger than my original size, but I've always wanted to be a little taller, so I didn't yell out to you. I'll keep the extra four inches," she said, smiling down on him. "Look at me! I'm two inches taller than you, now, Dad! The guys who've been harassing me at Polytechnic had better watch out!" Dad grinned.

Later that Saturday morning, Clarice sat with her Dad beside the fancy dollhouse she had called home for this summer. "It's hard to believe only yesterday I fit in here," she said, delicately opening the front door with her fingers. "Hey, if you shrunk me down again--"

Dad put out his arms. "Oh, no, you don't! Now that you're life-size again, and then some, I am a respectable scientist again, and I plan to stay that way! No more mad scientist Dr. Shrinker! You hear me?"

Clarice laughed, "Yes, Dad!"

Then father and daughter went down to breakfast.

The End