Reading Time: ~5-10 minutes
“Oscar,” Jacob repeated. The shift in the tension in the air was palpable. Even though the little guy was curled up warily on the table, getting a name out of him felt like a step forward. A tiny step forward, but it was better than watching him cry and not knowing if he was hurt. Knowing he caused those tears had sent Jacob reeling.
“I’m Jacob,” he replied, allowing the faintest smile to cross his face. “Where, um, where did you come from, Oscar?”
Oscar shrugged, the tiniest little shoulders Jacob had ever seen, and wiped at his eyes with the heels of his hands. “I always lived here,” he replied. His voice was still rough from his crying, but it wavered less than before.
“And you came to get food,” Jacob mused. Holy shit. He couldn’t help but think of how desperate Oscar must have been to climb his backpack for food, if someone Jacob’s size inspired this much terror. Was the little guy living out of that bag with nothing else to his name?
“I did,” Oscar interrupted Jacob’s thoughts. His voice was a higher pitch now, wound up with nerves again. “I-I only take what I need, I swear.”
Jacob’s heart faltered again. He still terrified Oscar, and the little guy looked like he might cry again. “It’s okay, Oscar, I really don’t mind,” he said, knowing it probably wouldn’t convince him.
Jacob had a sudden idea for what might, though.
He pushed his chair back from the table abruptly, which prompted Oscar to duck his head and let out a quiet squeak of fear. I’m not a mouse echoed in Jacob’s head in that little voice, and he couldn’t help but think that there were similarities no matter what the little guy said. “Just a second,” he told him, before turning hastily away from the table.
Jacob strode back to where he’d left his bag and stooped to grab the handle. Hope that his plan would work spurred on his movements, and he patted the outside pockets of the backpack until he found what he was looking for. The crinkle of plastic wrapping greeted him and he drew out the bag of trail mix in one hand. There was enough food to fill Oscar up several times over; his stomach couldn’t be any bigger than a bean.
“Why don’t you take some more, I kinda owe you after …” Jacob turned back towards the table and saw nobody on it.
For one confusing moment, Jacob thought he’d imagined finding a tiny man on his bag and terrifying him. Then, as he took a few more steps towards the table, he saw a glint of silver at the edge. A safety pin. Walking around the table revealed that there was some black thread connected to that pin, and at the end of the thread …
Oscar was staring up at Jacob with wide eyes, dangling from that thread like a professional. Aside from the light sway that swung him back and forth over a two-foot drop, he was frozen in place. Those little hands gripped the thread tightly.
“J-Jacob,” he called up. “I’m-” His excuse cut off into a squeal of fear when Jacob knelt next to the table, his huge form settling close by.
“If you’re gonna leave, I don’t think I’ll stop you,” Jacob told him. Even as he said the words, he stared in awe at the fact that, to Oscar, he hung over several stories in the air. His hands clutched the thread and his feet pinched it steadily between them, like he’d done this a million times before. He probably had.
Jacob couldn’t let his own fascination cloud the fact that Oscar was just a guy trying to get by. “But before you go, you should take some more of this trail mix. It’s probably more useful than an apology.”
Oscar glanced around, still dangling from his thread, as if he expected someone to pull a curtain back. “A-are you sure?”
Jacob smiled. “Yeah, I’m sure.