My story is short. I am insignificant. I am little known. The passage of my life is writ in letters three feet tall. Just three feet tall. Towering to a mouse. Mouse-ish to a man. Just three feet tall in my stockinged feet. For a time, I wore a stove pipe hat and elevated shoes; sat on high stools and ledges; climbed the church tower and stared down at the city with the eyes of a giant. But no longer. Why dress a robin as a crane? It is ridiculous. I am ridiculous.
I am ridiculous to you — deformed, abnormal, inhuman. Why do you see me as a beast? I am a man. My appetites and passions are undiminished. I have big ideas, though my horizons are small. Consider the ant. Observe its moods, its patterns and societies — the delicate interactions that span its life like a spider's web. The fascination that can be derived from this observation is of no credit to the ant, but to ourselves. Crush it! There are no signs of life. I am not an ant — I am a man. I am a man, I say. It is of no matter now. This dog has had his day and snuffed the cat's miaow.
It happened in The Noble Unicorn. It was Whitman that overstepped the mark. He had been warned. They had all been warned. I would permit it no longer. They went too far. They could not help themselves — the belittling of the abnormal was commonplace to them. But what is average is mean. The pack thinks nothing of the prey but only bays for blood. That night, I was their quarry.
Whitman loped towards me and ruffled my hair with his clumsy paws as if I were his pet.
“Minimus. There's someone I'd like you to meet.” The braying ass could barely speak through his giggling fist. His face was bloated with drink; his eyes bulged with glee and menace. From the back of the room was dragged a cage. Freaked and flailing at the bars, there was a monkey. They had dressed it in lace. Its face was covered by a veil. I cringed. It was a wedding dress. I looked into its fear-filled eyes.
Whitman cackled, “Love at first sight!” The whole room was roaring and howling — a cacophonic slop of unintelligible shrieks. This was their idea of variety.
“To the church!” shouted Whitman. He scooped me up in his arms and pinned me to his stinking chest. I was as powerless as a kitten in the grip of a gorilla. I felt the panic and frustration of the prison cell. The terror that comes from the uncontrollable termination of your destiny.
The crowd swarmed, raucous, out into the yard and there the ignominy was complete. They had dressed a pig as a vicar. Never mind how! I know you are laughing. They are laughing. Whitman was laughing. He is not laughing any more.
Whitman began the service, speaking in turns for the pig vicar and the monkey bride. Since my participation was restricted to a mortified silence, Whitman also read for me, his voice assuming a grotesque falsetto:
“I, Minimus, take thee, Chimpetta ...” I will cut this short; there is no need for the transcript — it is too humiliating to repeat at length. Let me say only this: there and then, I ended the prank that Whitman found so very funny. How? I challenged him to a duel. They had been warned. Repeatedly, they had been warned.
“Don't you want to be alive for your honeymoon?!” squawked Whitman.
“So, you refuse.”
“No, I accept your challenge, tiny knight. Let our weapons be blades of wheat and our steeds, the harvest mice. We will ride amongst the toadstools by the light of the moon.”
“Pistols. On horseback. In one hour.” I stared into his eyes and saw the spark of fear. He understood it was not a joke. The air that so recently churned with merriment was shot with tungsten malice; the ribaldry had condensed instantly into a fever of steel. From the quick silence, a confounded chattering rose — a babbling of outrage and excitement. But I was in earnest and could not be swayed. They had been warned. Whitman and I observed each other. One of us would die that night. I am here to tell the tale. It was him.
My dwarf pony was saddled and readied by my reluctant second whilst I loaded my pistol. Whitman began to puff and strut, making a display for the crowd, but there was a bovine meekness in his eyes. The carefree bull had caught a snort of the abattoir on the evening breeze.
The night was moonless. It was only when he charged towards me that Whitman realised the size of his disadvantage. To him, I was insignificant — an ant scuttling through the vast darkness on a field mouse steed. To me, he was an ape charging through an open plain on the back of an elephant. And nothing more. I cut short his life with one shot from my pistol.
Why did I go to such lengths? Knowing the law. Knowing the consequences of the law. To increase my stature? To be held in high regard? My life has been a joke — badly told, too short. But let me at least not outstay my welcome. I will cut to the punchline: The span of my life is at an end. Soon, too soon, the dawn will come, the priest will read the rites, the rifles will be raised and I will be Minimus no longer. But, for now, I am no more and no less than a man.